Wars of the Roses Trilogy at ASF

Wars of the Roses at ASF

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival has decided to show, all in one season, Shakespeare's plays dealing with the Wars of the Roses.

The problem this presents is simple enough - Richard III, the last play in the series, is one of Shakespeare's most popular; Henry VI, Part I is one of his worst and least popular (Joan of Arc is the villain). But showing Richard III by itself is dramatically incomplete, because the main characters all appeared in the previous two plays, and are continually making reference to them. Laurence Olivier's movie solved the problem by lifting a few speeches from Henry VI, Part III and simplifying the plot somewhat. The ASF solution was to collapse the first three plays into two, which they call "Henry VI, Part A" and "Henry VI, Part B." This evening, Mrs. W. and I went to see "Part B." It starts roughly in Act IV of Part II. There is some cutting and simplifying, but the best speeches are all there and the events make sense as presented.

I do recommend the production to those in striking distance of Montgomery - I would not cross the country to see it. Most of the performers pull it off. The costumes are a little strange (in particular, when fighting, the characters wear very obvious "white" and "red rose" emblems on their breasts). As of March 18, tickets are still available to all three plays (to talk to the box office, you'd think the productions were all packed; but we saw plenty of empty seats). I strongly recommend against attending the "bard talk" half an hour before the show; it contains very little to help a newcomer understand the play, the tone is condescending, and, worse, has a jolly-you-along flavor that detracts from the tragedy.

17 Mar

Happy St. Patrick's Day:

I've a post at BlackFive on the subject of an old song.

Ides of March

The Ides of March:

Today was my grandfather's birthday. He's been gone for quite a while now, long enough that I'm not really sure which birthday it would have been for him -- somewhere in the nineties. I'm going to put on his old Stetson, and repost a piece on the glory of Westerns from back in 2004. You'll see why.

Times change. The cowboy doesn't. While our culture might sell out; the cowboy stays true to his values (and his horse). Rock stars, rap stars, movie stars come and go--loudly. The cowboy remains--quietly. When our children watch the Twin Towers crumble on CNN, they worry for our security, our future, our very foundation. The cowboy represents that foundation, that self-reliance, survival instinct, and integrity. We know that he'll ride out of that dusty ruin and survive, and with the grace of God he'll get the cattle to Amarillo. There's a little bit of him in every American. That's why we need him.
John Fusco, Screenwriter; Hidalgo

My father liked to watch Westerns when I was a boy. He was a big television watcher when he was home, which was only on the weekends. His job had him up and gone before the sun rose, and the only time of the year you'd see him before sunset was the summer -- because the day was longer in the summertime. On the weekend, though, he'd be at home, working at home and car repair, and serving as a volunteer fireman, instead of doing his regular job.

He would usually find some time on Sunday afternoon to watch some television. The TV was always on when he was home, and it would usually show one of three things: a football game, a NASCAR race, or a Western movie. These were dependable features.

I had no time for Westerns -- I very much preferred Star Wars movies, more progressive, not mired in the past. We lived out on the edge of civilization, it seemed, although I knew that there was more civilization if you just kept going: run far enough from Atlanta and you'll hit Chattanooga. But there was a large swath of country that lay out beyond the uttermost suburb where you'd find cattle country and timberland. North Georgia ground isn't very good, so other forms of farming don't work well. But you can raise cattle, and you can raise short needle pine for pulpwood. This all felt very far from the action, to a boy; I recognized Luke Skywalker's complaint about being on the planet farthest from the bright center of things, and greatly admired Han Solo.

So, I would usually leave my father to his Westerns. I still spent a fair amount of time with him when he was home, though, helping him work on the cars and with other tasks around the property. He spent a lot of that time telling stories, one right after another. Almost all of them were about growing up with my grandfather, who had run a body shop and service station for long haul truckers on I-75. In the imagination of youth, it sounded a great deal like Mos Eisley: there was a cantina filled with dangerous, armed men where my young father sometimes had to go to get and carry back family friends, and which produced occasional fights and drawn guns. Hot rods as finely tuned as any starfighters had occupied my father's free time as a young man. Freightliners paused there to gas up, seeming like smugglers, hauling over their limit, often running on amphetamines as much as gasoline. High stakes poker games ran in the back, while mechanics fixed up the rigs in the bays.

In the center of it all was my grandfather, a great and heroic figure, always armed with his revolver, so fearsome that none of the dangerous men who occupied the fringes of the story ever dared to trouble him. This part of the story I knew to be perfectly realistic, for I'd met the man myself. He had no exact Star Wars comparison. Star Wars would have been a different movie with "Jack T." in it. He was big, and strong, and fearless, hard-drinking but not controlled by the whisky, dangerous but kindhearted to the weak. He took care of his family and his friends, kept the peace among those who were passing through, and ran off the ones who wouldn't abide by his rules.

I always wanted to grow up to be just like him. He was the best man I'd ever heard of or met, so I thought as a boy.

Of course you've realized by now what kind of movie features a man like that.

You never know, with stories, exactly how much is an expression of the great archetypes. A lot has been written about Star Wars archetypes: Han Solo the pirate, Obi-Wan the Wizard, Luke as the Young Hero. The most resonant fiction is built on these archetypes, which speak to the depths of the human heart.

It happens with true stories too, though. Jack T. was the Sheriff, or the Marshall; but the Sheriff in the Western is also the King. Like all of these archetypes, he can be good or bad. The Bad King is a tyrant. The Good King keeps order in the world, upholds and cares for the weak, looks out for the poor, drives off the vicious. He has the power to punish and to pardon, which is seen in every Western: the bandit is run off or killed, but the harmless town drunk is endlessly forgiven and helped in his times of particular adversity.

The world can be violent and cruel, filled both with lawful and the lawbreakers. But the stories tell us that it can also be a good place, a happy place, if there is a good King. If this is the story of the Western, it is also the story of the Beowulf, whose time as king is peaceful in spite even of the existence of dragons. His death brings wild mourning, and the folk expect both death and slavery to follow, even though the dragon was slain.

Americans don't want Kings, but we still need the man even if we don't want the office. We want a free-born man, chosen by his equals rather than by his birth -- and in this, it happens that we are following precisely in the footsteps of the Geats, whose kings were elected by the folk.

I inherited my grandfather's Stetson after he died. I wear it often, when I don't wear my own. I carry a revolver, legally and licensed in several states. I find, when I have time that I don't have to spend working, that there's little I want more than to settle in with a good Western. In this, I am just like many Americans, apparently including Doc. We are seeing in our own way the same, ancient things:
It was decidedly cool for Houston, a harbinger for the frost that would set in that night. Anyway, I was walking along in the cool of the evening with a Justin cowboy hat on my head, and Alice on my hip, when I looked up and I saw a most amazing sunset. It was all gold and burning over the rooftops. Little broad streaks of copper and gold clouds fixed high above in a sea of ultramarine blue, while I was drowned beneath in a cool breeze. It was just gorgeous. I paused from my errand for a minute, awed by a beauty that must have awed man in discrete moments throughout the ages, from ancient Greece to a greek eatery in modern Texas.

In the end, I suppose I did turn out to be just like my grandfather. I'm old enough now to know that he wasn't exactly the man who was painted for me. Having become him, I can see only too clearly some of the flaws he must have borne, which now I bear.

Also, I realize -- not quite too late -- that Jack T. was not the best man I've ever known. My father is. I wanted to be like his father not because his father was better than him, but because his father was the man he most respected and admired in the world. All I wanted was for him to respect and admire me just like that.

If the stories proved not to be completely accurate, they were nevertheless perfectly true. I may not always succeed at being a good man, but I know how. I know how to be a good man because my father told me. He told me about his father. Now I have a son, and I have to tell him. Nothing can capture the value of this gift, or the weight of this duty. I have heard only too often the laments of those who did not receive what I was given, who do not know how to pass on what I must.

The Western is our national epic. It is the way in which Americans, the ones who still remember how, pass on the eternal truths to the next generation.
Happy birthday.


In Which Doc Russia Wonders if he is a Coward:

I simply can't see it, but he seems concerned. As far as I can tell, Doc is a good man and a brave one. No doubt he is honest, however, about the reasons for his fears. I gather he and I are roughly of an age; Daniel and Eric, here, I think are as well. It is natural to have volunteered and done little enough -- myself less than any of you, due to being medical'd out straightaway -- and now watch these young Marines serving three and four tours, and wonder.

Would we have done as well, had circumstances been different, and war come in our time instead of theirs? I think the only honest answer is: I hope so. Indeed, to speak for Doc Russia, I believe so. I have no doubt of it. It is natural, though, to wonder.

UPDATE: A response to an early comment from Joe (excerpt in italics) is perhaps more useful than the original post. I trust that Doc won't take offense at my using him as a subject for philosophical inquiry; it is not meant unkindly. Insofar as he joins John Wayne and Theodore Roosevelt, perhaps he'll take it as I mean it: a recognition that I think his character is worthy of study as a useful example.

"I'm not entirely clear why that bothers him. This relates to your most excellent post on John Wayne. A brave man doesn't do things "because he is brave" -- that seems literally impossible to me -- and certainly shouldn't do them to "show that he is courageous." He does things for other reasons; but his bravery shows up in how he deals with fear and danger."
That's Aristotelian -- if you fear no danger, according to Aristotle, you're not practicing the virtue of bravery but a vice that arises from an excess of bravery (just as cowardice is the vice of having an insufficient amount of bravery). This was one of two kinds of vice he thought could arise from an excess of courage, the other being rashness:

"[H]e would be a sort of madman or insensible person if he feared nothing, neither earthquakes nor the waves, as they say the Celts do not; while the man who exceeds in confidence about what really is terrible is rash."

I'll argue that there is a sort of sacred madness at work here, of the sort also practiced by the beserker in other places and times, and which I think Doc can speak to somewhat, as you may find if you read his piece on 'the Machine.' It's something I can attest to as well -- many of us can. It isn't the normal virtue, and perhaps Aristotle is right to say it is a sort of madness. But there it is.

This is why I say I am sure Doc is no coward -- I can see from his writing that he has lived both the virtue you describe, and the madness Aristotle did. He is not apt to have forgotten either.

What I think he has is that sense of shame that arises from (as someone once said) realizing that you are limited -- there are two different things you should be doing, but you can do only one. Though you may succeed at the one you choose, that can't help but feel like failure. Indeed, you do fail one of the two duties; but you would have failed one or the other.

The Elks in Montana

The Elks in Montana:

A longtime milblog reader wrote me to ask for some help getting the word out about a war memorial his Elks lodge is building. BlackFive was kind enough to put up a post about it, which you can see here. The multimedia parts of it were a bit beyond me -- I only just figured out how to post pictures.

It's good to see the soldiers being honored in this way. Have a look.

On Consciousness:

The American Scholar has a piece in defiance of science.

While I was sitting one night with a poet friend watching a great opera performed in a tent under arc lights, the poet took my arm and pointed silently. Far up, blundering out of the night, a huge Cecropia moth swept past from light to light over the posturings of the actors. “He doesn’t know,” my friend whispered excitedly. “He’s passing through an alien universe brightly lit but invisible to him. He’s in another play; he doesn’t see us. He doesn’t know. Maybe it’s happening right now to us."
There's a lot more.
The Beautiful Eighth:

I'm starting to think the Eighth district down here in Georgia must be a fine place full of good people. My brother Southern Democrat Jim Marshall turns up again, this time on a MyDD hit list.

That's got to be a comfortable place for a Georgian to sit. I see Congressman John Barrow is on the list too, from the 12th. He didn't stand up against the "nonbinding resolution," but Jim did.

These boys are making me proud. It's good to know you're not alone in holding the line. There are a few of us left, damn few -- but a few.


Ok, its apparently my turn to pick a film. Although I think Joseph was angling for Conan the Barbarian, Conan is pretty much a fantasy, and really can't be taken that seriously, however much it is enjoyable. Plus, the the review that J.W. linked to pretty much sums up the movie, to point that it almost isn't worth watching.

Instead, I'm actually going to pick Zulu, the movie that dramatizes the action at Rourke's Drift, during the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879. This is one of those films you of which you can honestly say "They don't make them like that anymore."

When made in 1964, the British Empire was barely a memory. There were enough people who actually knew the various Victoria Cross winners from this action to get miffed at some of the dramatic license take with the characters.

When I first saw this movie as a child, I was very much impressed, not just by the story, but by the movie's treatment of both the British Soldiers and the Zulus. Plus, the production was great, what with the solid acting, great costumes and John Barry's soundtrack. Although you are obviously supposed to root for the British, the Zulus are not treated badly, though the story necessarily keeps them at a distance. There is definitely some sympathy for them.

The movie does contain what I'd call a "post Imperial" subtext running through it. See if you can pick up on this.

As an added feature, I'm adding a "Read more about it" section. The links are to very good works on the Zulus and the 1879 war.

The Washing of the Spears
Brave Men's Blood

The movie should be commonly available. Look for the widescreen format. It must have been quite impressive on the wide screen.

The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch:

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a new batch of horses:

One of them in particular, named Sherlock, really does not like to have his feet messed with. Even now that he has shoes on, you have to rope him three different ways to clean his back feet, and he still tries to get you.

They were at one point or another broken to riding, but, ah, not all of it stuck with them all the way down to Georgia. We train horses both for Western trail riding and various English sports, and so we have several trainers who work with the animals. Our top dressage trainer got bucked right off the new mare last week, which is always hilarious as long as nobody really gets hurt.
It's getting to be a little less hilarious as time goes along. That trainer I mentioned got thrown again by one of the others, and I got bucked off one that spooked because of a dump truck. He dumped me the small of my back, right on a big chunk of quartz. After eight or ten X-rays, the doctor decided nothing was broken, but he mentioned that this was somewhat surprising under the circumstances. This is the other reason I mentioned for not blogging much last week -- I was busy taking opiates.

The thing is that these are all draft crosses. They're tall and very heavy, every one of them at least sixteen hands and 1200-1400 pounds. When they start to buck, it's almost more like bullriding than bronco riding. Getting these horses rebroken to saddle is proving to be exciting.

Here's the one I was riding today, whose name is Delaney.

Doesn't he look like a sweetheart? And he'd better behave like one, too, because he's a little bit big:

The dog's name is Penny. She really is a sweetheart.

Shadow Wolves

Shadow Wolves in Afghanistan:

You may have seen this story from the Australian, which notes that US Customs' band of Native American trackers, the Shadow Wolves, is being sent to hunt al Qaeda:

An elite group of Native American trackers is joining the hunt for terrorists crossing Afghanistan's borders.
The unit, the Shadow Wolves, was recruited from several tribes, including the Navajo, Sioux, Lakota and Apache. It is being sent to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to pass on ancestral sign-reading skills to local border units.
In recent years, members of the Shadow Wolves have mainly tracked smugglers along the US border with Mexico.

But the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan and the US military's failure to hunt down Osama bin Laden - still at large on his 50th birthday on Saturday - has prompted the Pentagon to requisition them.

US Defence Secretary Robert M.Gates said last month: "If I were Osama bin Laden, I'd keep looking over my shoulder."

The Pentagon has been alarmed at the ease with which Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters have been slipping in and out of Afghanistan. Defence officials are convinced their movements can be curtailed by the Shadow Wolves.

The unit has earned international respect for its tracking skills in the Arizona desert. It was founded in the early 1970s to curb the flow of marijuana into the US from Mexico and has since tracked people-smugglers across hundreds of square kilometres of the Tohono O'odham tribal reservation, southwest of Tucson.

Harold Thompson, a Navajo Indian, and Gary Ortega, from the Tohono reservation, are experts at "cutting sign", the traditional Indian method of finding and following minute clues from a barren landscape. They can detect twigs snapped by passing humans or hair snagged on a branch and tell how long a sliver of food may have lain in the dirt.
Ahe'ee, gentlemen. Good hunting.

Name Newspaper

Wanna see your name in the Newspaper?

If you're a reader of this blog, and a resident of Virginia, I'll bet you can find your name printed here in the Roanoke Times.

That's because they've taken it upon themselves to print the whole list of people with concealed carry permits in the state. Want to know if that girl you were stalking carries a gun? No problem! The Roanoke Times is there for you.

Christian Trejbal, a reporter with the Times, thought it was important. You can read his explanation here. He's right to say that it's a matter of public record, of course. Whether it exposes anyone to a greater chance of being visited by burglars (if they are reported to be gun owners) or rapists (if they are reported not to be) is of no concern; he has only printed the truth.

As he says:

A state that eagerly puts sex offender data online complete with an interactive map could easily do the same with gun permits, but it does not.
Indeed, it's easy to see the connection between sex offenders convicted by a jury of their peers, and people who have undergone a background check that has determined they have never committed any crime.

The Times does offer contact information for their editors. If you have an opinion about having your name made available to wary criminals (or the fact that you don't carry a gun made available to them) -- you can write them here.


Bravery, Bravado, and John Wayne:

I was struck by this rant against bravado that arose in response to a piece in the NYT on barbecue joints. Both were linked by Ann Althouse, sitting in at InstaPundit. The piece is essentially irritated by a mode that tries to portray things as more dangerous than they really are:

Why does everyone in this country have to brag about how tough they are, how hip they are, how mean the streets are down which they walk? When did it start? With Brando in 1954, vrooming through town in leather bomber jacket and shades and never imagining how he would end up? Or John Wayne, who didn't serve in World War II but could beat up anyone on the screen? Or Hemingway, who advised Midwesterners where to eat in Madrid after paying to watch other men risk their lives?

We've been copying those acts for almost a century, and it's bullshit, Americans, it's just a load of it. It's damaged the national character, all this vain posturing. It's why some of the most gifted craftsmen in the nation spend their careers making the same gangster movie over and over, saying millions of dollars' worth of nothing. It's why the most popular genre of music in the past generation, hip-hop, is based almost entirely on empty, juvenile boasts of sexual prowess.
I'd like to suggest that this isn't an "American" thing so much as it is an urban thing -- I've seen it most often from New York City residents living or traveling elsewhere, and trying to impress the locals with the fact that they're from NYC. (Indeed, the stupidest words I ever heard a man say were of this ilk, passed out of the mouth of a man who didn't understand that he was in a bar in North Carolina and being overheard by numerous other patrons. They were addressed to a local young lady at whom he'd taken offense, and were: "Listen, b***, I'm from the Bronx and..." at which point in his sentence he was 'overtaken by events.')

I've a friend from Chicago who is similar on these points, so I won't say it's a NYC thing; and the fellow is right to point to hip-hop culture.

He is wrong, however, to try and tarnish John Wayne with it just because he wasn't in the service in WWII. This happens to be the year that would have marked John Wayne's 100th birthday; that means that in 1941 he was thirty-four, well past the age of the draft, and fully sixteen years past the normal age for enlistment. He might have been especially praiseworthy for enlisting in spite of being sixteen years older than the young men he'd have served beside; but he is hardly blameworthy for having chosen to serve in other capacities. If our current Hollywood crop served their country at this time as well as he did in his, we would be far better off as a nation.

Wayne was certainly no coward, in spite of having not been a veteran. Michael Pate, who played the Apache chief Vittorio in 1953's Hondo, noted in his interview on the DVD version that Wayne had exhibited a number of feats of horsemanship that were both dangerous and impressive. Most particularly, Wayne had ridden behind Pate during his own most dangerous scenes, just far enough outside of the camera to avoid being in the picture, but close enough to dash forward and help control Pate's horse if it had panicked or gotten out of control. Pate, no horseman himself, said that Wayne was right there with him at every take to make sure he came out all right.

Horses are huge and powerful, and they are also prey animals and herd animals in nature. This means they spook and frighten easily, as nature has bred it into them by destroying those who did not; it means also that they pick up clues of fear from each other very readily. It takes a certain courage to ride a horse at the gallop at all. To be prepared to charge into a panicked horse with your own, both of them running headlong, to try to win control of the reins and save a companion -- that's courage worth the name.

Wayne at his best shows us what is the natural and right expression of the confidence that comes from learning to face danger. He had bravery, not bravado. It carries through on the screen, and is why he remains an inspiration to us all. John Wayne will be America's contribution to the world's literature: when even Hemingway is forgotten, a few of Wayne's films will remain. In a real sense, he is America's Shakespeare -- he didn't write the lines, but like the Bard, he used the stage to show us something about both the national character and human virtue.

Bravery and courage were a topic of great interest for Aristotle and Plato; both discuss it at length. The Laches has Socrates engaged in a discussion about how (and if) it can be encouraged and developed. Could practice fighting in armor help young men develop it? We, as a culture, certainly could use a movement from bravado to bravery -- although, as our servicemen have shown in Iraq and elsewhere, we have quite a few truly brave men and women.

What makes the brave? Two things: learning to overcome danger, and the guidance and example of older men. This means that it is necessary to expose oneself to real danger to become brave. Yet, as brave men are necessary to creating a safe society, there is a paradox: exposure to danger helps create safety. It is only the man who has learned to fight that can protect his home. By becoming more dangerous, he makes everyone safer. The more men who become more dangerous in this way, the safer is society as a whole.

Mr. Cohen, the author of the original rant, is right to point to juvenile behavoir as the problem. What is necessary is to have old men who are examples for the young, men of the type that the young wish to emulate. I discussed this problem separately and at some length in Social Harmony (you will have to scroll down in that archive -- New Blogger has broken the permalink).
The secret of social harmony is simple: Old men must be dangerous.

Very nearly all the violence that plagues, rather than protects, society is the work of young males between the ages of fourteen and thirty. A substantial amount of the violence that protects rather than plagues society is performed by other members of the same group. The reasons for this predisposition are generally rooted in biology, which is to say that they are not going anywhere, in spite of the current fashion that suggests doping half the young with Ritalin.

The question is how to move these young men from the first group (violent and predatory) into the second (violent, but protective). This is to ask: what is the difference between a street gang and the Marine Corps, or a thug and a policeman? In every case, we see that the good youths are guided and disciplined by old men. This is half the answer to the problem.

But do we not try to discipline and guide the others? If we catch them at their menace, don't we put them into prisons or programs where they are monitored, disciplined, and exposed to "rehabilitation"? The rates of recidivism are such that we can't say that these programs are successful at all, unless the person being "rehabilitated" wants and chooses to be. And this is the other half of the answer: the discipline and guidance must be voluntarily accepted. The Marine enlists; the criminal must likewise choose to accept what is offered.

The Eastern martial arts provide an experience very much like that of Boot Camp. The Master, like the Drill Instructor, is a disciplined man of great personal prowess. He is an exemplar. He asks nothing of you he can't, or won't, do himself--and there are very many things he can and will do that are beyond you, though you have all the help of youth and strength. It is on this ground that acceptance of discipline is won. It is the ground of admiration, and what wins the admiration of these young men is martial prowess.

Everyone who was once a young man will understand what I mean. Who could look forward, at the age of sixteen or eighteen, to a life of obedience, dressed in suits or uniforms, sitting or standing behind a desk? How were you to respect or care about the laws, or the wishes, of men who had accepted such a life? The difficulty is compounded in poor communities, where the jobs undertaken are often menial. How can you respect your father if your father is a servant? Would you not be accepting a place twice as low as his? Would you not rather take up the sword, and cut yourself a new place? Meekness in the old men of the community unmakes the social order: it encourages rebellion from the young.

The traditional martial arts tend to teach young men to undertake flashy and impressive, but not terribly effective, fighting techniques. Only as you grow older do the masters of the art teach you the real secrets--the subtle, quick, physically simple ways in which the human body can be destroyed. In this way, the old retain their power over the young--although they lack the speed and strength, they have in discipline in training more than enough to maintain the order. Social harmony is maintained in the dojo: the young revere the old, and seek to emulate them. Your father may be a servant, but he is still a warrior--and a more dangerous one than you. The father, being past that age in which biology makes us vicious, guides the son or neighbor to protect society rather than to rend it. It is not particularly different in the military.

If we would have a stable society, we must have dangerous old men. This means that, if you are yourself on your way to becoming an old man, you have a duty to society to begin your preparations. The martial arts are not the only road--my own grandfather did it through a simple combination of physical strength, personal discipline, and an accustomed habit of going armed about his business. There was never a more impressive figure--or, at least, there was never a boy more impressed than was I.

The martial virtues are exactly the ones needed. By a happy coincidence, having a society whose members adhere to and encourage those virtues makes us freer as well--we need fewer police, fewer courts, fewer prisons, fewer laws, and fewer lawyers.
John Wayne was an example like that, and is still. He is there for every American, pointing the way. We are lucky to have him, and in this of all years, ought to take some time to appreciate what he offers us.

Leather Care

Leather Care:

Leather care is an important part of the outdoor life, although many good synthetics exist now that don't require much care at all. I've become a believer in synthetic materials on saddles and bridles, for example -- the leather ones look a little nicer, and feel better in the hand, but they require so much more care and replacement. Still, I do have and use quite a bit of leather, whether boots or vests or holsters/scabbards or other similar things.

I find that there are basically three kinds of leather goods in terms of care. There are leather goods you need to have waterproofed, which are a separate type. Then, of goods that don't really need to be waterproof, there are those you don't care if they darken, and those that you would prefer did not darken.

For waterproofing leather, I use mink oil. It can completely reject water once it is worked into the leather (or across the surface of the synthetic). It creates a fairly ugly, waxy buildup over time and numerous applications, but this too can be a minor advantage if you are in a really damp climate or get wet regularly: any mold or mildew will grow in that waxy buildup, which can be scraped off and a fresh coat reapplied. This is much better than having it grow within the leather itself.

For working leathers that don't need to be waterproof, I use neatsfoot oil. It creates a soft, supple leather (that is also somewhat water resistant). Leather treated in this way will be stronger than untreated leather, and the neatsfoot oil penetrates into the leather better than anything else I've found. However, it darkens leather quite a bit even with the first application.

For leather you'd rather keep the same color it is right now, I've tried several things. I normally use Bick-4 for these things, as it doesn't darken the leather, penetrates moderately well, and does show some decent results.

However, I've recently discovered that Armor All's leather wipes work wonderfully. I hadn't thought of using them because they are made for automotive leather; but one day I tried them out on that vest I mentioned a while back. The formula they use penetrates well, makes the leather very soft and supple, and doesn't darken at all.

I have only two complaints about it: it takes five or six of the wipes to finish off the vest, which is just because it soaks into the leather so quickly and well that the wipe is dry before you know it. The only other thing is that you have to reapply it somewhat often by comparison to neatsfoot oil to retain the suppleness.

Still, it works as well as anything I've yet discovered. I thought I'd pass that along while I was thinking about it.

Dalrymple on Neuroscience:

The man begins a good piece, on a problem we've discussed here from time to time:

I attended a fascinating conference on neuropsychiatry recently. Neuroscience, it seems to me, is the current most hopeful candidate for the role of putative but delusory answer to all Mankind's deepest questions.
He asks a few questions out of experience, which might be informative to those of you thinking about the issues.