Right on schedule

The people's paradise of Venezuela continues to follow the script with eerie faithfulness.  Control "abusive" prices, watch shortages develop, decry the shortages, punish hoarders, and finally:  nationalize the industry in the name of ensuring the people's right to access.  This week it's the manufacture of toilet paper.

Pythagoras Lives!

It's all math, maybe. Just like he thought.

Democracy and Modernism

The problem with modernism, in art, is that it's too hard:
Beckett wrote “unenjoyable” books, says Martin Amis. Paulo Coelho believes Joyce’s Ulysses caused “great harm,” while Roddy Doyle doubts any readers are “really moved by it.” “Shabby chic” is the Financial Times’ verdict on modernist architecture. You hear it often these days, this grousing about difficult, pretentious modernism: Woolf, Kafka, Stein, and Picasso come in for it too. The emperor has no clothes. The flight from modernism—we know the names but skirt the works—may be a sign of the cultural times, a symptom of our special mix of fatigue, cynicism, and complacency. And then, of course, the art can indeed try your patience and stamina. Its demands are relentless; these are creations that decline to traffic in reassurance or open themselves to clicks and scans.
It's the opening of a book review on works produced in 1922, when modernism was still a rising force. But I wonder if the real problem isn't the one the critics append. Maybe it wasn't that the art was so challenging, but that it wasn't beautiful. The True and the Beautiful share a link that somehow know at basic levels of our being. We work hard for the beautiful because we can see its value, we know there is something of worth that deserves the work. Even when it is beyond us, as Kant said of the sublime, we try to grasp its truth though we are doomed to fail.

With modernism the challenge is purely intellectual, and relatively few are interested in that kind of challenge. That's not hidden praise for the art, as it is often taken to be -- "Only a select few can understand." It's a kind of hidden criticism, a democratic one.

UPDATE: Link missing before, fixed.

"You Played Yourself"

We give the man a hard time, but Ice-T had something to say even twenty years ago.

A Good Essay

Sarah Hoyt writes on a familiar problem. The title of the article sounds like she might be taklig She manages to articulate something that I hadn't quite sorted out until I read it, which is contained here:
And yes, boys can be taught to act weak and much like the sob sisters. The problem is they aren’t. Not even when they’re raised to act that way. The end result is that they don’t know how to express their strength and they’ve never been taught to modulate it. Men who have only been taught to “act sensitive” but have no other discipline, no other moral, no other idea of what it means to be a man, will in fact hoist the pirate flag. Whenever a memoir surfaces from the sixties, the thing that always strikes me is how these men who were considered champions of women were in fact nasty little petulant creatures, taking advantage as much as possible. Say, the story of Ayers raping a girl and then making her sleep with someone she had no interest in, by bullying her with the idea that not to do so would be unenlightened.
This is really the problem, isn't it? Generally I don't have any problem with women I know who self-identify as feminists: in fact, usually I like them, as I usually like tough-minded people who will argue with me.

I may think they are wrong on the facts or wrong in interpretation. Yet in the last few years I've realized that the real feminists are working it out for themselves, and left to it will eventually come around. There's nothing I can say that will convince them, but the feminist historians working in (say) medieval studies are looking hard for examples of tough women making their own way in the world. And looking for them, they're finding them -- everywhere they look. It may take a while to turn over the old orthodoxy of 'the patriarchy,' and they certainly aren't trying to do it, but at some point the weight of the evidence they are producing day by day is going to force them to take a second look at their guiding mythology.

And that's good. It's great, in fact. It's a tremendous service to human understanding of the past, and I'm excited to see it flowering before us. I enjoy reading their articles, lit with the joy of discovering a kindred spirit in yet another one of their ancestors. It fills me with hope that, one day when they're ready, we'll be able to talk anew about the blessed legacy we received who were lucky enough to be descended from the Men and Women of the West.

So far, so good. But the men: or 'men,' more appropriately. They aren't worth spit. The only thing that keeps them from getting smacked in the jaws on a regular basis is the profound sense of pity you can't help but have for them. They are worthless, pathetic creatures -- until, like the Ayers of her example, they work out their sleaze on someone else.

The young women, I think, will work themselves out in time.

The young men need to come back in under the weight of the -- well, 'patriarchy' isn't quite right. The Brotherhood. They need to fall back in under the mastery of better men than they are, so they might become brothers and better men themselves. The best of their nature does not come naturally. It is a product of long and ancient art.

The Scarecrow

The new diplomacy

Handy expressions

From a 1922 Spanish-English dictionary being processed now at Project Gutenberg.  How impoverished English is, to lack a verb for the act of giving a blow with an aubergine.
berenjenaza, f. blow with an aubergine. 
buzcorona, f. playful buffet to head of one who is respectfully kissing the hand. 
candileja, f. oil receptacle of a lamp.--pl. foot-lights of a theatre; (bot.) willow-herb, deadly carrot. 
cartapel, m. memorandum filled with useless matter. 
cascapiñones, m. one who shells hot pine-nuts and cleans the seed; pine-nut cracker. 
cascaruleta, f. (coll.) noise made by the teeth when chucked under the chin. 
casiller, m. in the royal palace, servant who empties the close-stools. 
casorio, m. (coll.) inconsiderate marriage; informal wedding. 
cejijunto, ta, a. having eye-brows that meet. 
celia, f. beverage made of wheat; a beer. 
centímano, na a. (poet.) having a hundred hands. 
cigoñal, m. well-sweep. 
cimillo, m. flexible twig on which a decoy-pigeon is tied. 
cinca, f. any infraction of the rules of the game of nine-pins (ten-pins) 
cisque, (coll.) to besmear, to dirty.--vr. to ease nature 
coche parado, balcony over a street full of persons. 
codal, a. cubital, one cubit long: palo codal, stick hung round the neck as a penance. 
codazo, m. blow with the elbow; a hunch. 
cogotazo, m. slap on the back of the neck. 
cojitranco, ca, a. nickname for evil-disposed lame persons. 
cola de boca, lip glue. 
colear, va. (Mex.) in bull-fights, to take the bull by the tail, while on horseback, and, by suddenly starting the horse, to overturn him; (S. Amer.) to fell a bull by twisting his tail. 
colillero, ra, a. person who gathers cigar stubs for a trade. 
colmillada, f. injury made by an eye-tooth. 
cominear, vn. (coll.) to meddle in trifles or occupations belonging to women. 
componte, secret order by which an obnoxious person is done away with. 
consentido, a. applied to a spoiled child; applied to a cuckold by his own consent.

Autumn, Minus A Week

The summer is dying in front of our eyes.  Better times, friends.  Better times are coming.