My biggest collection of links and excerpts ever!
*ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT*
“In my view there is nothing in opera – not even Don Giovanni or Cosi and certainly not the vulgar, strangulated hernia operas of the 19th century – that even comes near the greatness of Figaro which is a torrent of wit, melody and human sympathy….All great music is religious.”
Choral music not heard since era of Henry VIII has been played for first time in 500 years
The concept of different “learning styles” is one of the greatest neuroscience myths
The elephant in the room: illiteracy.
Unmentionable, perhaps, but evident. Everyone knows that students read less and less, but few wish to speak of it. Professors in book-lined offices are prudish about uttering the I-word: To admit that our students are not fully literate undermines our sense of status and importance as professors. Administrators and departmental chairs seldom read course evaluation forms that state, “I found the course reading difficult because I am functionally illiterate.” Educational leaders are not commonly informed that reading a book from cover to cover is beyond the powers of many students.
Mark Bauerlein on teaching the humanities:
Only the actual materials will sustain the humanities, but we have to believe in them enough to say so. We need more conviction than this. We need to be able to say to incoming students, “In this course, you are going to encounter words and images and ideas that are going to change your life. We’ve got Hamlet and Lear, Achilles and David, Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Bennett, Augustine’s pears and Van Gogh’s stars—beauty and sublimity and truth. If you miss them, you will not be the person you could be.”
And another great thought from the great Mark Bauerlein:
“A mere diversification of the curriculum, without dishonoring traditional authors, is the result, a reform which pacifies almost every one. This is the new dispensation in literary studies, a turn from the Canon Wars of the 1990s to today’s bountiful inclusivity. Twenty-five years ago we had an ideological battle over the tradition, but professors learned that no skirmishes had to happen, only an expansion of the domain. Indeed, from this vantage point, it looks as if the radical critique was only a provisional offensive, a middle-stage before a liberal modulation arrived to accommodate both sides. It’s a workable compromise that retains the old and recognizes the new, and it has the rhetorical advantage of stamping both those who decree, ‘You must require more Shakespeare!’ and those who complain, ‘You’re teaching too much Shakespeare!’ as extremists.
“We should recognize that this flexible diversity signifies not only a socio-political standpoint—call it ‘curricular liberalism’—but also a slackened measure of devotion. To level Paradise Lost with The Joy Luck Club, you cannot worry much about distinctions of greatness. If you believe that the Great Books comprise human thought and creation in their highest expression, it’s not enough to preserve them as an option on the menu, where they might fall alongside courses in robots on TV and Harry Potter (yes, juniors and seniors studying English at Emory last semester are enjoying these classes). Your conviction demands more than inclusion. A heterogeneous jumble of classic and contemporary, traditional and multicultural, Eurocentric and ‘otherly,’ sounds like a positive expression of enlightened liberality, but in truth it is a confession of apathy. They just don’t care.”
*LANGUAGE & LITERATURE*
Poem: “Home Improvements”
Poem by Dana Gioia: “Meditation on a Line From Novalis”
Amen! “If you know the Koch brothers, can you please tell them that a $500,000 gift to start a book award that honors actual literary merit, not identity politics, would do America a hell of a lot of good?” –Micah Mattix
Codex Gigas: the devil’s Bible
Irrelevant reading is the sort of reading you do when you pick up a book that, you fear, has nothing whatever to say to your present concern, the thing that’s driving you to want to read in the first place. Say you’re a teacher and you want to learn more about your craft. You may pick up Ken Bain’s marvelous book What the Best College Teachers Do and read it dutifully, annotating the margins and writing pieces of advice to yourself about next year’s lesson plans. But then, on your nightstand, say, you plop Chaim Potok’s novel The Promise down, since you’ve told yourself you’d read it ever since finishing its prequel The Chosen a couple of years ago. Late one night, you stay up and finish it. And you read that gripping scene in the yeshiva where the protagonist Reuven is quizzed mercilessly about arcana from the Talmud, and suddenly, you see not only the kind of teacher you need to be (Socratic, inspiring, relishing the mysterious complexity of your subject) but also find the inspiration you need to finish that next lecture. Your supposedly irrelevant fiction reading becomes more, or at least as, important to you as your allegedly more relevant textbook. And you grasp intuitively what my friend Luke Neff once put into a pithy saying: “Cultural omnivores make the best teachers.”….
This is what broad, indiscriminate reading of interesting texts does—it furnishes the raw materials for unexpected correlations and associations to spark. It’s often the irrelevant reading that does this, the reading you’re not supposed to be doing, the reading that’s not related at all to that project you’re meant to be completing.
Anna Karenina‘s lessons about love:
“Oprah Winfrey, who chose Tolstoy’s novel for her book club, followed many others in viewing Anna Karenina as a celebration of its heroine and of romantic love. That gets the book exactly wrong. It mistakes Anna’s story of herself for Tolstoy’s. Just as Anna Karenina imagines herself into the novel she reads, such readers imagine themselves as Anna or her adulterous lover Vronsky. They do not seem to entertain the possibility that the values they accept unthinkingly are the ones Tolstoy wants to discredit.”
Theodore Dalrymple on book inscriptions: “there is nothing quite like an inscription in a book no longer owned by the dedicatee to capture the melancholy, the bittersweetness, of the passage of time, to recall us to our own mortality and to remind us of the vanity of so much of what preoccupies us.” http://bit.ly/115lHTJ
“Toad-stranglers,” “Whoopensockers” and Other Findings from the Dictionary of American Regional English
The relevance of John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces
Poem: “Song For An Unborn Brother”
Poem: “Living Room”
The greatest buildings you’ll never see: 20 priceless monuments lost in conflict
Wildfire Smolders in Spectacular One-of-a-Kind Wedding Photos
The Last King of the American Middlebrow: Alex Trebek
Appendix N Survey Complete: Report on reading all the books that inspired Dungeons and Dragons
Set Your Kids Free: 10 Things They Need to Be Able to Do on Their Own by Middle School
*POLITICS AND SOCIETY*
An excellent review of how and why conservatives lost the culture war: “That the liberal ethos would claim so much territory so quickly was beyond imagining in the 1990s.”
On the surprising diversity of America in the 18th and 19th centuries
Surveying the cultural battle over transgenderism:
It also tracks the career of Fallon Fox, a 39-year-old mixed-martial-arts fighter who was a Navy man and father named Boyd Burton until undergoing genital surgery in 2006. In a September 3, 2014, cage fight that lasted just over a minute, Fox delivered an orbital bone fracture and a possibly career-ending concussion to lesbian fighter Tamikka Brents. GenderTrender commented: ‘[A] crowd gathered to watch something that happens thousands of times a day worldwide: a man battered a woman.’
Turning Green Lantern gay (or Green Arrow – I can never remember) and Superman anti-American and making Spider-Man black and Robin the Boy Wonder trans and Dr Strange Muslim is what the left in other circumstances would call “cultural appropriation”. If these guys were to create Gay Lantern or Trans-Girl from scratch, nobody would care. Their only value is as established cultural icons from the pre-identity-group era, and their enforced conscription to the cause is an act of cultural vandalism.
Another brilliant survey of the political landscape today:
What the New Left has mastered most, Scruton argues, is the ability to transform political language, its meaning and its use. It has created an imaginative narrative where abstractions such as “bourgeois” and “capitalism” are pilloried, while the “workers” are invoked — even when most of these workers have actually ceased to exist. Instead of trying to understand and describe how capitalism really works, how the classes are really constituted, and how people live, develop customs and use institutions, the New Left deals with a world without any substance. Some of these thinkers have even decided to exclude the use of argument and reason. When Scruton quotes Lukàcs, Althusser or Deleuze, it is absolutely clear that most of their sentences make absolutely no sense. And when Lacan and Badiou pretend to use mathematics as a proof for their crazy systems, it is not in order to save reality but to bury it.
As a matter of fact, reality is what they want to escape. According to Lukàcs, empiricism is “an ideology of the bourgeoisie”. That’s why, as Scruton explains, “anyone who actually consults the ideas of ordinary working-class people commits a heinous communist error, the error of ‘opportunism’.” Here lies the deep negativity of the dogmatic Left. It explains how and why a large part of the leftist intelligentsia was reluctant to condemn the crimes of Communism, despite its millions of deaths. It explains also why the New Left still manages to attract people despite the lessons of experience. It is because its ideal is not supposed to be realised: it is here to be dreamed about, and so never to be questioned. These thinkers will never describe anything practical that they wish to achieve. They will cast spells, as in the sentence attributed to Stalin that “the theories of Marx are true because they are correct.” These ideas meet a desire that lies in every human being: the need for religion and for an eternal justice that will compensate for all the perceived injustice in this world….
I don’t see how the New Left faithful can answer all the arguments deployed in these pages. But they are rarely asked to defend any of their views, as their prose has often been taken for granted, at least in the intellectual arena. Conservatives are always asked to justify their conception of life, to defend what already exists. The Left is rarely asked to do so, even though it wants to disrupt many things — including things that are cherished by ordinary people.
The most comprehensive survey of the political landscape today! When Social Justice Isn’t Justice
Economics: The New York Times Is Dumber Than I Thought
The General Conference Odyssey: 14 years of bloggers studying old General Conferences
I learned that we are never more like the Savior than when we willingly and vulnerably enter the self-created pain of another person’s life. I saw that if we enter their world without succumbing to its evils we can be granted enormous influence to lift and love that person. Godly intimacy is influence.
Poem by Dana Gioia: “The Burning Ladder”