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These are all the Blogs posted on Friday, 29, 2006.
Friday, 29 December 2006
There is no escape from the Isle of Wight,

according to Hugh, here.

Of course there is.

Q What is brown and steaming and comes out of Cowes?

A The Isle of Wight ferry.

Posted on 12/29/2006 1:27 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 29 December 2006
Sword-swallowers find that work can be a bit of a pain
It might seem like a statement of the obvious, but sword-swallowers are prone to suffering from sore throats. However, practitioners of the art can suffer more serious injuries such as perforated intestines, internal bleeding and even major haemorrhages.  These occupational hazards have been brought to light by a consultant radiologist, who studied the range of injuries sword-swallowers suffered.
Brian Witcombe became fascinated by the subject after seeing an X-ray of an injured sword-swallower’s throat.  “I see patients with swallowing disorders and was sent an X-ray of a sword-swallower, which got me interested in what medical side-effects they have,” he said.  “I started to wonder how it worked, like does the sword go right through to the stomach, whether they get injured, and it went from there.”
Mr Witcombe based his findings on questionnaires and medical notes from about 60 sword-swallowers.  After a year of research the results are published in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal.
Mr Witcombe concluded that professional sword swallowers usually only suffer significant complications when they get distracted from their task.
Unsurprisingly, he has discovered that the most common complaints are sore throats.  He was impressed with the sword swallowers’ rigorous training — and found most professional performers only injured themselves when others got involved.
“Dan Meyer was injured while he was filming for the David Letterman show — because the macaw on his shoulder started misbehaving,” he explained.  “A belly dancer, swallowing a sword, lacerated her gut when a man tried to attach some notes to her belt.”
He said: “They have a better recovery rate than other patients who suffer from perforations, because they tend to be young and fit otherwise.”
Fire eating can also be hazardous. I had a lecturer when I was a student, a young woman not much older than we students, who belonged to a feminist workshop collective type thing, as was de rigueur in the 70s. They decided to do some empowerment, conscious raising, confidence building by taking fire eating lessons.  Unfortunately my lecturer breathed the paraffin fumes in when she should have breathed our, scorching her lung. She was in hospital for some weeks, suffered painful pleurisy and was warned that there was permanent damage. I think that was the beginning of my disillusionment with organised “feminism”, I come from a line of East End matriarchs who breathed fire without the aid of paraffin. I didn’t need fire breathing lessons to tell me that a woman’s place is in charge.
My husband went on a first aid/health and safety course at his place of work last year. The course was run by outside consultants who ran such courses part time. By night they were a troupe of cabaret fire eaters.  I couldn’t have made that one up.
Posted on 12/29/2006 6:07 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 29 December 2006
Israel escorts Egyptian arms delivery to Abbas

Interesting story from the LATimes:

JERUSALEM — With Israeli and U.S. consent, Egypt has shipped a cache of weapons through Israel to bolster the security forces of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his increasingly violent struggle with the militant Hamas movement, Israeli officials said Thursday.

Four trucks containing 2,000 automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips and 2 million ammunition rounds crossed from Egypt into Israel on Wednesday and were escorted by Israeli military police to a crossing into the Gaza Strip, bound for units of Abbas' Presidential Guard there, the officials said.

Although the shipment was part of a U.S.-backed effort to upgrade the 6,000-member guard, it was the first in more than six years to be publicly authorized and assisted by Israel, which had balked at enabling any Palestinian faction to receive arms that might eventually be used against the Jewish state.

That concern faded last week as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert embraced Abbas as a partner for peace talks. Details of the weapons delivery were worked out here Saturday during the first formal meeting between the two leaders, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

The shipment was first reported in Thursday's editions of Haaretz and later confirmed by Israeli officials in an unusual and risky public display of support for Abbas' effort to unseat the Hamas-led Palestinian government by forcing early elections.

"The assistance is aimed at reinforcing the forces of peace in the face of the forces of darkness that threaten the future of the Middle East," Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic and security policy office, told Israel Radio.

Egyptian officials made no comment on the shipment.

Hamas is supported by Iran and Syria in its refusal to recognize or negotiate with Israel. Iran has been sending as much as $15 million a month to the Hamas movement, Israeli officials say, enabling it to build a paramilitary force parallel to Abbas' security apparatus.

Rival agendas and patrons have turned the armed clashes between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement into a proxy battle between Iran and Syria on the one hand and the Bush administration, European Union, Israel and moderate Arab states such as Egypt and Jordan on the other.

The Bush administration is seeking congressional approval of $100 million to bolster Abbas' guard in the West Bank and Gaza and expand its control over Gaza's border with Egypt to stop the smuggling of weapons and cash to Hamas.

Posted on 12/29/2006 6:34 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 29 December 2006
Old And New

"London is what prevents me getting to London." - Toby Litt

Though it is about all kinds of other things, including no doubt the traffic (“My dear – the Noise! The People!), that is the embouteillages or bottlements that become battlements in the daily Struggle for Life that now requires soul-consuming crowd-control, the line nonetheless calls to mind a hendecasyllabic sonnet by Don Francisco Quevedo, the Siglo-de-Oro poet with the celebrated spectacles (which see, which do indeed see), who wrote about another famous city that was no longer what it once had been, so that the person seeking old Rome could find only a quite different, new Rome. And if one were to elaborate upon that, it is also true that a mental memory of a particular place’s past can prevent one from seeing it in the present, and the implied reverse – being completely familiar with it in the present can hinder a sense of its past.

Here is how that sonnet by Quevedo starts:

"Buscas a Roma en Roma, O Peregrino

y a Roma en Roma misma no la hallas…”

Quevedo’s sonnet was a Spanish version of a French original by Joachim Du Bellay, in which French original the alexandrines were on occasion achieved by counting the “e” muet as a syllable, just as in the Spanish version the hendecasyllables were at times achieved by not counting as syllables vowels that could be elided into air, thin air.

The Du Bellay sonnet begins:

“Nouveau venu qui cherches Rome en Rome

Et rien de Rome n’apperçois….”

Long before Miss Otis got it into her melancholy head, Du Bellay began to send the world urbi et orbi (he was in Rome at the time and wanted to do as at least one privileged Roman could do) --indeed, he keeps sending us to this day – his Regrets, his undying Regrets.

Posted on 12/29/2006 6:44 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 December 2006
On despair
 
To choose despair is to choose for the last time.  Despair allows us no other companion, darkness not even mention of light.  Even to say one despairs is more than despair permits, for despair is anti-verb,
anti-noun, a lie, a negation, a call to blind silence.  We can suffer loss and defeat; despair can not suffer us.
Posted on 12/29/2006 7:02 AM by Robert Bove
Friday, 29 December 2006
On one of the great strategic retreats in cultural history

From Hugh's library:

Kafka to Milena: "Do not despair, not even over the fact that you don't despair." That should put a bounce in one's step, a smile on one's face. At least, it does for me.

I had been thinking of despair, or rather the lack thereof, because I was contemplating the collapse of the West circa the 5th and 6th Centuries A.D. and the crucial role Cassiodorus played therein:

He spent his career trying to bridge the cultural divides that were fragmenting the 6th century, between East and West, Greek culture and Latin, Roman and Goth, Christian people with an Arian ruler. He speaks fondly in his Institutiones of Dionysius Exiguus, responsible for the Anno Domini dating system.

In his retirement he founded the monastery of Vivarium on his family estates on the shores of the Ionian Sea, and his writings turned to religion. The twin structure of the Vivarium was to permit coenobitic monks and hermits to coexist. Cassiodorus also established a library where, at the very close of the Classical period, he attempted to bring Greek learning to Latin readers and preserve texts both sacred and secular for future generations. As its unofficial librarian, Cassiodorus not only collected as many manuscripts as he could, he also wrote treatises aimed at instructing his monks in the proper uses of reading and methods for copying texts accurately. In the end, however, the library at Vivarium was dispersed and lost, though it was still active ca. 630, when the monks brought the relics of Saint Agathius from Constantinople, to whom they dedicated a spring-fed fountain shrine that still exists [1]. By then, however, Theodoric's Gothic kingdom was undermined by Christian forces from within and Lombard invaders from without.

That is what I already knew of Cassiodorus.  But I didn't know this:

In his work on the liberal arts (De Artibus ac Disciplinis Liberalium Litterarum) Cassiodorus writes of music under the heading, Institutiones musicæ, and this latter treatise has been reprinted by Gerbert (Scriptores eccl. de mus. sacr., I) and is particularly valuable for the study of the early beginnings of the music of the Church. Cassiodorus did not go to the original sources–the Greek theoricians–for his knowledge of the Greek system of music, which was the only one then known and which he taught his monks. He borrowed from the Roman author Albinus, whose works are now lost. Cassiodorus, with Bœthius, is the chief exponent of the theory of music between antiquity and the early Middle Ages. For this reason his writings are of great assistance to the many students who are occupied in restoring the chant of the Church, especially as to its rhythm, in accordance with the oldest tradition. His works also contain instructive information about musical instruments in use in his time, namely the flute, shawm, bag-pipe, pipe of Pan, and the organ.

It is remarkable, to me at least,  that he wasn't made a saint, considering the miracles he helped set in motion.  (For further reading on Cassiodorus and his times go here.)
Posted on 12/29/2006 7:22 AM by Robert Bove
Friday, 29 December 2006
The Isle of Wight

"My family bought me a box set - Jethro Tull live in 1970 at the Isle of Wight" --Emerelda Weatherwax

Vectensian themes emerge at this website.

There is no escape from the Isle of Wight.

"Of course there is." - EW

God is not mocked. Nor is Hodge the Cat. Nor is the Isle of Wight. Think of the great English writer who was inspired by the Isle of Wight. Think of the great American writer who was born on the Isle of Wight.

Posted on 12/29/2006 7:35 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 December 2006
Subliminal connections

Hugh says:

Subliminal connections to previous comments will go unremarked, if not unnoticed.

My lips are sealed.

Posted on 12/29/2006 7:46 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 29 December 2006
Verbal sox

Regarding Hugh's "different point" in this post, don't you "pull your socks up" rather than "pull up your socks"?

On reading Hugh's comment, I thought immediately of Chomsky, a linguist who made a distinction between performance and competence. This had always slipped through my fingers, but now I have grasped it.

Posted on 12/29/2006 7:56 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 29 December 2006
'Terror' charity faces third probe
From the website of the London Evening Standard
A London-based charity providing aid to Palestinians is under investigation again over alleged links to militant Islamist group Hamas.
The Charity Commission has launched a formal probe into Interpal, which supplies relief and development aid to Palestine and its refugees. Respect MP George Galloway picked Interpal as his chosen charity when he appeared in Celebrity Big Brother and raised £1.3 million. The Charity Commission confirmed that an investigation began earlier this month to look at any "indirect and inappropriate" links between the charity in north-west London and supporters of Hamas.
The new investigation follows claims made in a BBC Panorama programme in the summer.
Posted on 12/29/2006 8:32 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 29 December 2006
Re: The Isle of Wight

"Think of the great English writer who was inspired by the Isle of Wight. Think of the great American writer who was born on the Isle of Wight." - Hugh Fitzgerald 

The English writer could have been Tennyson who wrote The Charge of the Light Brigade there, Dickens who wrote much of David Copperfield there, Hardy who wrote A Singer Asleep while sitting next to Swinburne's grave there, or Keats who resided at Eglantine Cottage (now known as Keats Cottage) in Shanklin and wrote the Sonnet On the Sea and part of Hyperion and began writing the poem Endymion there. Since On the Sea was undoubtedly inspired by the place, my vote is for Keats.

ON THE SEA

It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often 'tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be mov'd for days from where it sometime fell,
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vex'd and tir'd,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinn'd with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody -
Sit ye near some old Cavern's Mouth, and brood
Until ye start, as if the sea-nymphs quir'd!

But an American writer born there? I'm well and truly stumped or at least google-thwarted.

Posted on 12/29/2006 8:15 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 29 December 2006
Time to move the Capital?

I'm no fan of the ACLU, but Andy McCarthy's bit of news about the latest episode in the caving of American government to jihad is enough to make this citizen demand the White House remove all evidence of Christmas from its premises.  Next thing you know, the Government Printing Office will be ordered to publish and have shipped copies of the Qur'an to every household in America.

Which actually wouldn't be a bad idea, would it?
Posted on 12/29/2006 9:27 AM by Robert Bove
Friday, 29 December 2006
The Flying Imams Stoke Fear, So Naturally the Problem Is ... Lack of Cultural Sensitivity at DHS
This, from PR Newswire, will make your day:

 

CAIR Welcomes TSA Hajj Sensitivity Training

 

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 ... The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed an announcement by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that it has provided special training about Islamic traditions related to the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, to some 45,000 airport security officers.  The TSA cultural sensitivity training includes details about the timing of Hajj travel, about items pilgrims may be carrying and about Islamic
prayers that may be observed by security personnel....


    Earlier this month, CAIR advised those going on Hajj to be aware of their civil and legal rights as airline passengers. CAIR's "Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim" pocket guide states: "As an airline passenger, you are entitled to courteous, respectful and non-stigmatizing treatment by airline and security personnel. You have the right to complain about treatment that you believe is discriminatory." 


    "We welcome the fact that airport security officers nationwide will now be better informed about Islamic traditions relating to Hajj," said CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. "This proactive effort on the part of the Transportation Security Administration demonstrates that there is no contradiction between the need to maintain airline safety and security and the duty to protect the religious and civil rights of airline passengers."


    Hooper said representatives of CAIR chapters nationwide have met with TSA, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials on issues related to cultural sensitivity and national security.

 

The State Department's site corroborates the report.  (See here.)  Worse, State confirms something even CAIR's commentary did not suggest but which should have been pluperfectly obvious to the rest of us:  "The training comes just one month after Department of Homeland Security personnel came under criticism for removing six imams from a domestic flight for what one passenger considered suspicious behavior."

 

Great.  A bunch of imams transparently set out to provoke an incident and incite  understandable fears of passengers and crew stuck in the already anxiety-ridden nightmare that is post-9/11 American air travel, and the administration's responsive message is ... there must be something lacking in the sensitivity of our security officials. 

 

(For contrasting views, see, e.g., the Opinion Journal account of the flying imams' behavior by Debra Burlingame (whose brother was the pilot killed in the suicide hijacking of Flight 77, which jihadists crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11), or this recent observation by Newt Gingrich:  "Those six people [i.e., the imams] should have been arrested and prosecuted for pretending to be terrorists. And the crew of the U.S. airplane should have been invited to the White House and congratulated for being correct in the protection of citizens." (Hat tip to Power Line). 

 

The sensitivity training order is, of course, is of a piece with the Danish cartoons fiasco in which, with the opportunity to take a stand in favor of the centrality of free expression in the democratic societies it purports to be cultivating, the State Department instead chose to putter about "press responsibility" and blast the cartoons (some of which depicted Mohammed, who was a warrior, as a warrior) as "indeed offensive to the beliefs of Muslims."

 

We have met the enemy, and he is us. 

Posted on 12/29/2006 9:05 AM by Andy McCarthy
Friday, 29 December 2006
State of the information war

Belmont Club yesterday presented a first-rate (and lengthy) analysis of the blogosphere as weapon (h/t: Gates of Vienna).  Says Wretchard:

One of the most interesting properties of the blogosphere is that its information collectors -- the bloggers -- are sometimes significantly better at gathering certain signals than professional reporters with the mainstream media. This is often the result of the Day Job Effect. A blogger, by definition a part time writer, can sometimes more accurately recognizes the significance of an event because his professional training prepares him to notice something that would be ignored by the generalist reporter. Bloggers who are lawyers, doctors, engineers or soldiers, for example, are sensitive to issues in their area of expertise in ways a layman could not match. Also working in the blogosphere's favor is the sheer number of bloggers -- 55 or 100 million, whichever number one prefers -- which statistically ensures that a blogger will often be present when a professional reporter may be absent. The potential for signal reception -- the crucial first moment at which new information becomes visible to the rest of the information processing system -- is inherently high in the blogosphere. It defines the Event Horizon of the system, a boundary traditionally marked by the first wire service report that carries the first news to the world. In the blogosphere the Event Horizon is marked by the first post that recounts an event.

Wretchard cites several examples to illustrate his points—and provokes astute comments, including this one from TigerHawk

[...] the ultimate effectiveness of the blogosphere turns on the size of its primary audience, the people who have blogs bookmarked and read them daily. Yes, bloggers detected, analyzed, and amplified Hezbollah's disinformation during the summer's war, but they failed in the information war, insofar as political opposition grew until Israel decided it had to stand down. Why? I think because the readership of the blogosphere is still too low, at least with regard to any given story. Look at the total traffic of the big Linkers at the time that Green Helmet Guy was exposed. If you add together all the traffic of Reynolds, Johnson, Malkin and Power Line and assume that (i) there was no duplication (an absurdly conservative assumption, I'm sure) and (ii) people averaged one visit every two days, you probably had around 1,000,000 people who knew about that story. At most. Now, that readership is undoubtedly very influential, and it ultimately drove the story into the more serious newspapers and even television, but it did not do it quickly enough to destroy Hezbollah's credibility with the great masses of, well, European voters. All of this leads me to wonder whether the blogosphere can truly be useful as a tool of information war until the primary audience for "general readership" political blogs is substantially higher than it is today. When Glenn Reynolds has a million readers a day or five, then -- I speculate -- the speed of the transmission from the top of the blogosphere's food chain into other media will accelerate dramatically. The question is, how to get there?
Posted on 12/29/2006 9:06 AM by Robert Bove
Friday, 29 December 2006
I have also had to resort to Google

I knew Dickens visited, but he got everywhere in his time.  According to this site Macauley and Longfellow took holidays there.  But so did my family and half England.

But, and this is a big but, Robert Benchley gave his birthplace as the Isle of Wight in a spoof biography given here.  There is also an Isle of Wight in Virginia, which I didn't know until today.

Otherwise, Hugh has stumped me yet again. Curse the mud, curse the rain, and curse you Red Baron.

Posted on 12/29/2006 8:56 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 29 December 2006
Googlers
There are two kinds of people: people who have to google to find Robert Benchley - and Hugh.
Posted on 12/29/2006 10:10 AM by Mary Jackson
Friday, 29 December 2006
The Correct Answer Is: Robert Benchley
Esmerelda, you are correct. Robert Benchley is indeed the "great American writer who was born on the Isle of Wight." I expected it would take a little longer, and am impressed. I trust you did not use any mechanical aids, such as Google.

While visiting my parents last week, I was handed Benchley's brief autobiographical note, with my mother suggesting "go thou and do likewise." I wasn't sure what she meant, but I hope it didn't mean go and be buried right now in Westminster Abbey, the way Robert Benchley was. I know she couldn't have meant I should go and be born on the Isle of Wight. She of all people should know why that's impossible.

Here's Benchley's autobiographical note:

"Robert Charles Benchley, born Isle of Wight, September 15, 1807. Shipped as cabin boy on the Florence J. Marble, 1815. Arrested for bigamy and murder in Port Said 1817. Released 1820. Wrote Tale of Two Cities. Married Princess Anastasia of Portugal 1831. Children: Prince Rupprecht and several little girls. Wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin 1850. Editor of Godeys Ladies Book 1851-1856. Began Les Miserables in 1870, finished by Victor Hugo. Died 1871. Buried in Westminster Abbey."

"Sorry Hugh, I was quite open in my heading that I had to resort to using google this time. I have a reasonable knowledge, and library of English writers but very little of Americans." - EW 

Oh, I did not look at the title. Well, I'm afraid, then, that I cannot give full marks. Still, you deserve credit for having worked within the system to find the correct answer. But please, next time do not work within the system. Think outside Pandora's temptingly technological box.

Posted on 12/29/2006 10:34 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 December 2006
The Other Correct Answer Is: John Keats
Rebecca, you are correct. You are even more correct, possibly, than you know. Here is the first part of a letter from Keats to Reynolds, written on the Isle of Wight, noting that every prospect pleases, especially that of the sea, and including in the letter itself a copy of the inspired-by-Wight Vectensian verse "On the Sea":

Carisbrooke April 17 th 1817

My dear Reynolds,-

Ever since I wrote to my Brothers form Southhampton I have been in a taking, and at this moment I am about to become settled, for I have unpacked my books, put them into a snug corner - pinned up Haydon - Mary Queen Scotts, and Milton with his daughters in a row. In the passage I found a head of Shakspeare which I had not before seen. It is most likely the same that George spoke so well of; for I like it extremely. Well - his head I have hung over my Books, just above the three in a row, having first discarded a french Ambassador - now this alone is a good morning's work.

Yesterday I went to Shanklin, which occasioned a great debate in my Mind whether I should live there or at Carisbrooke. Shanklin is a most beautiful place - sloping wood and meadow ground reaches round the Chine, which is a cleft between the Cliffs of the depth of nearly 300 feet at least. This cleft is filled with trees & bushes in the narrow parts; and as it widens becomes bare, if it were not for primroses on one side, which spread to the very verge of the Sea, and some fishermen's huts on the other, perched midway in the Ballustrades of beautiful green Hedges along their steps down to the sands. - But the sea, Jack, the sea - the little waterfall - then the white cliff - then St. Catherin's Hill - "the sheep in the meadows, the cows in the corn."- Then, why are you at Carisbrooke? say you - Because, in the first place, I should be at twice the Expense, and three times the inconvenience - next that from here I can see your continent - from a little hill close by, the whole north Angle of the Isle of Wight, with the water between us. In the 3rd place, I see Carisbrooke Castle from my window, and have found several delightful wood-alleys, and copses, and quick freshes. As for Primroses - the Island ought to be called Primrose Island: that is, if the nation of Cowslips agree thereto, of which there are diverse Clans just beginning to lift up their heads and if an how the Rain holds whereby that is Birds eyes abate - Another reason of my fixing is that I am more in reach of the places around me - I intend to walk over the Island east - West - North South - I have not seen many specimens of Ruins - I dont think however I shall ever see one to surpass Carisbrooke Castle. The trench is o'ergrown with the smoothest turf, and the Walls with ivy - The Keep within side is one Bower of ivy - a Colony of Jackdaws have been there many years. I dare say I have seen many a descendant of some old cawer who peeped through the Bars at Charles the first, when he was there in Confinement. On the road from Cowes to Newport I saw some extensive Barracks which disgusted me extremely with Government for placing such a Nest of Debauchery in so beautiful a place - I asked a man on the coach about this - and he said that the people had been spoiled - In the room where I slept at Newport I found this on the Window "O Isle spoilt by the Milatary!" I must in honesty however confess that I did not feel very sorry at the idea of the Women being a little profligate - The wind is in a sulky fit, and I feel that it would be no bad thing to be the favorite of some Fairy, who would give one the power of seeing how our Friends got on, at a Distance - I should like, of all Loves, a sketch of you and Tom and George in ink which Haydon will do if you tell him how I want them - From want of regular rest, I have been rather narvus - and the passage in Lear -"Do you not hear the sea?"- has haunted me intensely.

On the Sea.

It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often 'tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be mov'd for days from where it sometime fell,
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vex'd and tir'd,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinn'd with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody -
Sit ye near some old Cavern's Mouth, and brood
Until ye start, as if the sea-nymphs quir'd -

April 18th

Primroses, and cowslips, and "the sea, Jack, the sea."

Posted on 12/29/2006 10:40 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 December 2006
Which Grinch Stole Christmas?

The UN Security Council decision to place sanctions on Iran has "ruined Christmas," according to Iranian state media. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) said in an editorial on Tuesday: " On the eve of the auspicious birthday of Jesus Christ when all Muslim and Christian believers extend best wishes to each other on the onset of the new year, leaders of Christian states took an unacceptable action toward Iranians by passing a resolution against (Iran's) national nuclear program which surprised every individual in Iran." --from this news item

But the sanctions had not yet taken, or more exactly had, an effect. And the sanctions are in any case nothing at all. It will take a bigger Grinch than that to spoil Christmas in Iran.

What could that bigger Grinch be?

"My first is myself. My second is a poetry-recital in Brooklyn or Soho."

Or, to put it otherwise, what's a five-letter-word that begins with "I" and ends with "M" and is the biggest anti-Christmas Grinch of all?

"On the eve of the auspicious birthday of Jesus Christ when all Muslim and Christian believers extend best wishes to each other on the onset of the new year..."-- from the Iranian government statement

Stop. A little close reading, please. Note how cleverly the impression is given to Christian readers that Muslim believers apparently wish them a happy, or a merry, or a good Christmas. But you, dear reader, know that that contradicts the prohibition (except in cases where it is most useful to the cause of Islam) against recognizing the religious holidays of non-Muslims. So you do a double-take, and you read the sentence again.

And what does that sentence really say?

It says that "all Muslim and Christian believers extend best wishes to each other on the onset of the new year...."

But even if such a practice were true (and it isn't), that is, even if "all Muslim and Christian believers extend best wishes to each other on the onset of the new year:" that is not the same thing as everyone saying "Merry Christmas"; they are saying, instead, something like “Happy New Year." It is worded so cunningly, that an innnocent American naturally comes away from it thinking that "all Muslim and Christian believers" are so busy wishing each other "Merry Christmas" that one half expects Jimmy Stewart to come ambling along at any minute, his arm around Donna Reed's shoulder, and for the carollers to break out in song, and the eggnog to be passed around, and here is some for Ernie the taxi-driver, and another cup for Bert the policeman (you heard right: Ernie and Bert), and the spirit of roly-poly angelic Clarence makes itself felt along the snow-lined streets of It's a Wonderful Life. Even right here, in this Christian suburb of tolerant Teheran.

No such luck.

Posted on 12/29/2006 10:55 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 December 2006
The Robert Benchley Fan Club
"There are two kinds of people: people who have to google to find Robert Benchley - and Hugh." -- Mary Jackson
Flattering, but false. Remember that line in Beaumarchais' Figaro, used as a motto by the French paper of the same name, something about "eloge flatteur."

This is not a set of which there is only one member. First, there are my parents, who first introduced me to Benchley, as to almost everything else, and who supplied me with his autobiographical statement. Then there are assorted siblings, and other relatives, also Benchley-aware. There are all the members of the Robert Benchley Fan Club (headquarters: Pickpocket Woods, in Exeter, New Hampshire). There are a great many members of associated clubs, such as the Bix Beiderbecke Fan Club, the Ruth Etting Fan Club, the Nathanael West Fan Club, the Damon Runyon Fan Club, the Al-Bowlly-and-Jack-Buchanan Fan Club, the Ruth Draper Fan Club, and many others, waiting for their hero's hour to come round again at last.

And I haven't even mentioned those fans, and fanners of long ago, on the barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, while it burned on the water, and what they undid, did.

Posted on 12/29/2006 11:02 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 December 2006
No Joke
Just something to consider: It is a crime to joke about bombs, terrorist attacks etc at airport check-in counters. If you make such a joke, no matter how unthinkingly, they can cart you away on the spot. But when six individuals plan on making people believe there's a terrorist attack in the offing while on an actual plane, the response is "more sensitivity training." Something's out of joint. --Jonah Goldberg
Jonah, that is a great question ... and not an unprecedented one.  Recall the antrax attacks right after 9/11.  They sparked a number of copycat-type acts — people (including some teenagers) who thought it would be effective (or humorous) to put baby-powder and the like in envelopes as threats or pranks against the targeted victims.  In the atmosphere of the time, these episodes not only frightened the recipients but cost the authorities involved lots of money — causing first responders to come out in force (and, of course, making them potentially unavailable, or at least late, in the event there had been a real emergency).

In trying to figure out what to do about these (it's not instantly clear, by any means, that there is even federal jurisdiction over, let alone a federal crime involved in, these types of acts), I came upon a provision in the anti-terrorism legislation enacted in the mid 1990s, Section 2332a of Title 18.  This makes it a felony not merely to use, conspire or attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction, but even to threaten to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The few faux-anthrax prosecutions that actually resulted were not very successful.  When these things first happen, you want to wring the neck of the offender.  But months later (cases usually get decided long after, when passions have cooled), the charge looked like overkill to a lot of people.  It's obviously intended to nab real terrorists:  the potential penalty is "any term or years or for life, and if death results, [offenders] shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life."  Also, if the "attack" (including a threat) is directed at persons within the U.S., you have to show at least a potential effect on interstate commerce.

Nevertheless, with the flying imams, I sure think it would be worth seriously exploring this kind of prosecution.  It was done with such deliberation by mature (chronologically, at least) persons in a way patently designed to instill in passengers and crew the fear of 9/11 — to be specific, the threat that the plane was about to be used as a weapon of mass destruction, gravely endangering them as well as thousands of other potential victims.

Of course, such a case could only be brought by a government not in mortal fear of being accused — during a war with Islamic terrorists, no less — of anything remotely resembling the profiling of Muslims ... even Muslims who consciously ape Islamic radicals (and then — to complete the perfect circle — presume to complain about being profiled!).  Thus, I am not holding my breath.  Such an indictment would no doubt mean sensitivity training for the entire Justice Department, to say nothing of the grand jury.

Posted on 12/29/2006 11:19 AM by Andy McCarthy
Friday, 29 December 2006
Fathers In The Home

"A study of 2,000 US college girls published in the American Journal of Human Biology in July 2006 shows that daughters who grow up without their fathers tend to have their first period earlier than those who blossom under their dad's wing."

Well, same answer as always to these things:  What's the methodology?  Without knowing that, you can't judge the value of the study. 

The relevant meta-fact here is that much of the time—more often than not, in fact!—the methodology in these dev-psych studies stinks.  Whether it stinks in this particular case, I have no idea, since I haven't read the study, and have no time to do so right now.

The kind of thing that might be wrong with it is:  Not correcting for race.  Age of menarche is distributed differently for different races—that is a very well-established fact.  So is number of biological parents in the household.  So it might be—again I emphasize that without looking at the methodology I don't know, I'm only saying that this kind of thing happens a lot with these studies—that black girls (early mean age of menarche, high proportion of fatherlessness) account for the entire effect.

Why is there so much stinky methodology in this field?  Well, the previous paragraph tells you.  It's important for researchers to take account of race and heritability when doing these studies.  If you believe the PC dogmas that THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RACE! and that heritability is inconsequential by comparison with home-environment effects, then your study won't be worth a damn, because both those beliefs are false.  A surprising number of dev-psych researchers do believe them none the less, and so their studies aren't worth a damn. 

Again again, whether this particular study falls into that category I don't know, and can't budget the time to find out; but taking dev-psych literature as a whole, the probability is depressingly high.

If any expert in the field has looked at the AJHB study and is willing to be quoted, please email me c/o NER.

Posted on 12/29/2006 11:34 AM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 29 December 2006
Your starter for 10
Hugh, a story about Robert Benchley that I didn’t have to find via google.
 
BENCHLEY: Have you heard the one about the little boy on the train?
KAUFMAN (who’s heard it twenty times; for some strange reason it’s Benchley’s favourite joke) : No.
BENCHLEY: A man gets on the train with his little boy and gives the conductor only one ticket. “How old’s your kid?” the conductor says, and the father says he’s four years old. “He looks at least twelve to me” says the conductor, and the father says “Can I help it if he worries?”
 
Who is the author of the anecdote and what book does it come from?
Posted on 12/29/2006 12:05 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 29 December 2006
Cheers For The Victor

Somali troops enter Mogadishu to cheers - A victory for the free world, and for Somalia -- if they can make it stick. (comment by Robert Spencer)

Those local cheers mean nothing. They are cheers for the victor, cheers that would be offered any victor, and a half-year ago were offered to the so-called "Islamists" (i.e., those who took their Islam completely seriously, when it comes to women's dress, soccer games, and music, rather than those who take their Islam slightly less seriously, when it comes to women's dress, soccer games, and music -- but in both cases the heart of Islam -- the uncompromising division of the world between Believer and Infidel, is maintained).

As for "the free world" -- that's a phrase that came in with the Cold War. It would not have been used by Roosevelt and Churchill during World War II, when the enemy of Hitler that inflicted the most damage was the unfree Soviet Union. Is the menace of Jihad directed only at what might be called the "free world" or is it directed at all Infidels, whether they inhabit liberal democracies or something not quite so free?

Posted on 12/29/2006 12:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 29 December 2006
Pub quiz

I bet even Hugh doesn’t know the answer to this one.

 

Recently I walked past the London street where I used to live. On the corner is a small, old-fashioned pub called, as so many London pubs are, The Lord Palmerston. This is no gentrified gastropub serving overpriced beer and tiny portions of salad. Nor is it – horror-of-horrors – “child-friendly”. It has not yet been bought by a chain and scrubbed clean of its atmosphere, or turned into one of those risible Irish theme bars called Filthy MacNasty. No, the Lord Palmerston is a proper boozer, a good old rub-a-dub, where people still smoke, where you can buy decidedly inorganic crisps, where they have lock-ins after hours and where, on special occasions, they actually have a sing-song round the piano, or “old Joanna”, as the Cockneys once called it, and perhaps still do.

 

Or so I thought. Here is a picture:

 

 

Can you see anything odd about the sign? And, if you look closely, there is a similarly incongruous picture on the lamp. That is not Lord Palmerston, is it? That’s Che Guevara. Why?

 

The pub was closed, unfortunately, so I couldn’t go in and investigate. But the incongruity jars almost as much as the toy crucified Santas said to be on sale in Japanese department stores.

 

Suggestions on a postcard, please.

Posted on 12/29/2006 2:00 PM by Mary Jackson
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