Some Good Country Songs

More younger stuff, since you won’t find it on the radio. 

Axe-Throwing Bars

Prima facie this concept sounds both dubious and awesome; it is in fact awesome.

My son has a good arm for it. We didn’t keep score, but halfway through I started throwing left-handed and racked up several bullseyes. I quoted The Princess Bride to him, but he was too young when he saw it to remember. Another worthy thing to do, then!

Up Helly Aa

The Viking fire festival in Shetland looks to have been a success this year. But look at this version in Ramsden, West Yorkshire! Apparently a community of Shetlanders there does it up right. 

UPDATE: Or maybe it was just an AI picture. Too bad; we could all use a Viking fire fest around February. 


Technically yesterday, the feast of Brigid: Saint or goddess is still debated. Of old it was called Imbolc. 

Lex Victoriam

Ironically I was just discussing this idea in the comments of the last post. Richard Fernandez links to an essay on the subject this afternoon. I was calling it Right of Conquest; this author prefers “Law of Victory.”

Its absence, we seem to agree, creates permanent conflict instead of an end to war. 

Wartime Definitions

I remember my father complaining that Congress had never had the courage to pass a declaration of war in the Vietnam Conflict, preferring the fig leaf of calling it "a police action." It certainly was a war, fought between two hostile foreign powers -- Ho Chi Minh's and ours, with his side backed by China and the Soviet Union. A police action would seem to be an internal use of force, which might be quite violent but which happens in a territory over which one claims sovereignty. A military action to counter an actual insurrection could plausibly be a police action rather than a civil war; the debate Tom mentioned below over whether "the Civil War" was actually a civil war is one that remains hot among historians.

That makes what is going on in Israel a debatable case. Is it a war or a police action? On the one hand there is no actual Palestinian state, only a notional one with divided leadership; Israel is said to be occupying parts of, well, Israel, parts that notionally belong to a proposed Palestine but that are actually within Israeli borders. The action in Gaza is similar to a counter-insurrection action over a part of the territory where sovereignty is being contested by a hostile army (and an irregular one, also, guerrilla and without uniforms or other distinguishing marks that attend to regular military forces).

On the other hand, there is a substantial amount of diplomacy across decades that has treated Palestine as an entity that exists at least potentially, and that they were trying to create actually. It has a notional territory even if it has not actually been agreed to by anyone yet, and a notional government even if it is divided and mutually internally hostile, and people who claim to belong to it as citizens. It is treated as if it were a nation for diplomatic purposes, even though it has never had full control over any territory; the United Nations deems it a "non-member observer state," emphasis added, since 2012. 

If so, it might demand to be treated according to the laws of war; that would make things like this Israeli raid on the Ibn Sina* hospital an act of perfidy that would be prosecutable. Police can put on disguises and conduct such raids, but soldiers can't -- not if they are fighting other soldiers in a lawful war.

Of course, in order to demand such things Palestine would have to start adhering to the laws of war itself. That would be a tremendous step forward and not one anyone actually expects to see: Hamas' raid was intended to violate the laws of war, and the humanity of its victims, as much as it was possible to do. They aren't about to abandon acts of perfidy, hiding among civilian populations, and the like. That makes the issue somewhat moot according to the basic law of (human) nature: "Turnabout is fair play." 

* Ibn Sina, better known in the West as Avicenna, is a titanically important philosopher. Though Muslim, his metaphysical account of the universe ended up being largely incorpoated into Catholic theology by, inter alia, Thomas Aquinas. 

How did that hapapen? Avicenna was a genuine expert on Aristotle, and -- the story goes -- was mystified when he received a book entitled The Theology of Aristotle (that was actually a collection of works of Plotinus, founder of the Neoplatonic school). He had his doubts about it because he'd read and understood the Metaphysics, which doesn't sound anything like anything Plotinus ever wrote. After thinking about it for a long time, though, he came up with a way of making the two approaches compatible, which turns out to be his own novel metaphysical view.

When his view and other Islamic philosophy came into the hands of the Catholic Church via the reconquest of Spain, it answered a big problem that Aquinas and his contemporaries were facing. They wanted to incorporate the thinking of Aristotle into their world, as it had been lost and was much stronger than anything they had to go against it. However, many early Christians had been at one point Neoplatonists -- including Augustine -- and therefore Aristotle's basic view of the universe was not compatible with the one they had inherited from earlier saints. Not being saints themselves yet, they could hardly go against those who already were. 

Yet here comes Avicenna with an answer to that problem: he had made the Neoplatonic and Aristotelian views compatible! All that they needed to do was work in his explanations, which they did -- chiefly without mentioning him, as it would be embarrassing to admit that they were borrowing large parts of their theology from a Muslim. Aquinas does mention another Muslim philosopher often, Averrores, but only as 'the Commentator,' i.e., one who commented on 'the Philosopher,' i.e. Aristotle. Avicenna only gets one mention from him that I'm aware of, but if you've worked through the two thinkers' metaphysics the influence is obvious. 

Plagarism wasn't looked down on as much in the medieval university, I guess. Well, even today the standards are only enforced under duress. This footnote is now longer than the original blog post, but Ibn Sina merits extended attention. I should note that he thought of himself chiefly as a physician rather than a philosopher; his metaphysics is contained in the thirteenth book of a larger work called Healing (usually translated as 'The Healing,' but Arabic like Romance languages just likes to stick articles in front of everything: thus, as La France is just 'France' in English al-Shifā is properly just Healing). It therefore makes perfect sense that a hospital is named for him.

The End Is Nigh

In a further sign that the end times are near,* Ben Shapiro raps.

I'd never heard of Tom MacDonald before this, but apparently he's an independent rapper who's been hitting the top 10 in digital sales reasonably regularly for the last 5 years.

It's an interesting synergy. Both have very different audiences, but they share an anti-woke sentiment, so this is getting a bunch of cross-audience exposure.

So how did this happen?

The Grey Mouser

His name is actually Gandalf. Last night he caught a mouse and brought it to my wife, alive, and dropped it in her lap while she was reading in bed. 

She recovered admirably from the experience, during which the mouse’s escape was foiled by the cat. She then brought the mouse to me, holding it by the tail. I offered to kill it, or to feed it to the chickens, but she wanted to release it safely in the wild instead. 

Good kitty.