Sunday, May 31, 2020

Order and astronauts

I like David Warren's cogent take on current events, one of which is the SpaceX + NASA Demo-2 mission with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

Six days later but in keeping with the theme in the heading for this entry, Neo turns a nice double play with help from the ever-reliable Thomas Sowell. And (as Neo also noted) David Horowitz remains a formidable thinker, so he's worth reading, too.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Music for Memorial Day

A twofer, just because.

First the Marine Band honors our country by playing the national march, which (as the conductor's introduction notes) was written by its most famous director, "the March King."

Second, the British a capella octet Voces8 covers Enya's hauntingly beautiful "May It Be," which was also a main theme in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movies

The New Neo also has a wonderful musical Memorial Day tribute song posted.

And the PowerLine blog dusted off a beautiful essay about why we observe what we do.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The cult of expertise

Extreme reluctance to lift lockdown orders unless or until Wuhan coronavirus risk seems vanishingly small is not "following science," I don't think, even if our governor dresses it up that way.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Swinging for the fences

We're not yet back to normal baseball yet, so I've had to content myself with people who swing metaphorical bats. Jules Gomes, Roger Kimball, and George Neumayr are formidable sluggers:

Gomes has had it with the way Pope Francis obfuscates:

When a girl told Francis she wanted to invite her unchurched friends to church, Francis grabbed his interfaith fire extinguisher and hosed down her evangelistic brio.

"It is not licit that you convince them of your faith; proselytism is the strongest poison against the ecumenical path," he chided. Then, with Jesuitical equivocation rivaled only by the Weird Sisters in Shakespeare's Macbeth, he added: "You must give testimony of your Christian life ... But without wanting to convince."

Kimball is working to keep miscreants from being dropped down our collective memory hole:

Let’s talk about John Brennan a bit. You remember John Brennan. He was Barack Obama’s director of the CIA. Once upon a time, he was an enthusiast for Gus Hall, the Communist candidate for president, for whom he voted in 1976. I can’t think of any better background for the head of the country’s premier intelligence service under Obama. In 2014, having put childish things behind him as St. Paul advised, Brennan spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He denied it indignantly. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t do that. That’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we’d do.”

But that was before irrefutable evidence of the CIA’s spying transpired. Then Brennan apologized, sort of. Senators were outraged. They shook their little fists. “What did he know? When did he know it? What did he order?” asked one of the Lilliputians.

Guess what happened to John Brennan for spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee?

If you said “Nothing,” go to the head of the class and collect your gold star.

George Neumayr is relentlessly logical:

How exactly do “believers of every religion,” which means believers of contradictory religions, those who accept Jesus Christ and those who reject him, unite themselves “spiritually”? The pope didn’t bother to explain. Past popes would have regarded such an instruction as jaw-droppingly scandalous. But for Pope Francis, “human fraternity” is more important than orthodoxy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Thanks, Mike

Mike "Dirty Jobs" Rowe is my generation's Eric Hoffer.

Dave Rubin got Rowe to talk about the unintended consequences of making a fetish of safety.

Mr. Rowe has also been kind to many different podcasters, including Lewis Howes.

I like the fact that Rowe says his career started at age 17, when he was failing out of high school shop classes. I also like that he has a bit of experience singing opera (!). Rowe's fascinating conversation with Howes makes me want to look up the work of bass baritone James Morris. Rowe is also familiar with Aristotle's definition of tragedy, and the problem with focus grouping everything ("you eliminate really bad ideas, and really good ones").

Words to live by: "Run toward the thing that makes you uncomfortable."

More detail: confront, get good at, then find a way to love it. Note that this is deeper than "follow your bliss." Rowe says you don't follow your bliss, or wonder what you're passionate about. The trick is to take your passion with you wherever you go -- and don't be so damn picky about what you apply it to.

"There's this narrative that goes on in the world today -- I'm generalizing -- that says if you're happy in your personal relationships, it's because you found your soul mate, and if you're happy in your professional relationship, it's because you found your dream job, and if you're happy in both, it's because you followed your passion. And I think all of that is a big steaming pile of crap."

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Alas! 'Tis no more

Pandemic response claimed a great little neighborhood pub, which will not be reopening its doors after North Carolina's restaurant restrictions are lifted sometime down the road.

I had a handful of friends who worked there, all of them aces at customer service.

It was also an honor to be fondly acquainted with one of the owners and his wife, and to see a favorite local band -- the Gravy Boys -- play regularly there.

It's not every pub that attracts two generations of the same family into the ranks of its employees, or hosts monthly jam sessions for students of Irish music.

The menu was limited but savory and seasonal. Beers on tap encouraged exploration, not least because bartenders like Kim and Sean understood their clientele. There were three large TVs in the pub, but they never dominated the space, because it was a watering hole rather than a sports bar (unless Irish football was making a run at one of the European championships).

You could eat there by yourself and not feel alone, or bring a loved one and be certain that the meal and the atmosphere would be memorably good. Regulars included people of all ethnicities and walks of life.

UPDATE: Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation (Raleigh) will also miss this place.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Because words mean things

The use and misuse of language (more specifically, American English) has been a favorite theme of mine over the years. I was fortunate to have both high school and college teachers who emphasized precision, and were vigilant about exposing smoke and mirrors before grading down for it (remember Mark Twain's quip about the difference between lightning and "lightning bugs"?).

Here's a bookmark for variations on the theme of words meaning things in a clear and commonly understood way, rather than as Lewis Carroll's version of Humpty Dumpty or a rousing game of "Calvinball" would have it:
  • Lots of people are writing about "lockdown," but the linked essay is the pithiest I've seen
  • Maureen Mullarkey tackles love and hope to wonderful effect in one ambitious essay
  • Dennis Prager has some wise words about the difference between ignorance and evil
So much for the heavy lifting. There's fun to be had on the lighter side of the ledger, also:
Remember Janis Joplin singing "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" in that great old song by Kris Kristofferson? Well, she was wrong, and Kristofferson wrote that evocative line as something that Bobbie (or Bobby) McGee's paramour would say while looking backward with regret.

A parting thought on this subject: With the exoneration of General Michael Flynn in (some of) the news as I write this, the redoubtable Katie Pavlich took issue with former president Barack Obama's oft-repeated claim that his administration was scandal-free. Her objections to that are reasonable, but it turns out that what Obama actually said was "We didn't have a scandal that embarrassed us." And if he learned to parse words as carefully as we might surmise, then his statement leaves wiggle room: who's to say Obama was embarrassed by things like Fast & Furious or Benghazi or the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS? He might not have been, either by temperament or because he knew that allies in the media were willing to carry water for him.

UPDATE. May 30: Voice matters, too. And when passive voice is used to obscure agency, it can be dishonest. Look no farther than the New York Times for examples of that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Judge got all of it wrong

Dallas, TX hair salon owner Shelley Luther has run afoul of the law because she reopened her salon in defiance of edicts from local elected officials and Judge Eric Moye. Worse, she hurt the judge's feelings, and so was lectured in court to the effect that "you owe an apology to the elected officials who you disrespected by flagrantly ignoring, and in one case defiling, their orders you now know obviously apply to you."

Luther is now serving a week in prison.

If we knew nothing else about Judge Moye, we'd know from that statement that he's full of himself, and wants to appear smarter than he actually is. You can't "defile" a cease-and-desist order (even if you rip it up in pubic, as she did), because court orders are not sacred.

English 101, judge: "Defy" and "defile" are not the same thing.

Commenters over at the Ace of Spades blog -- like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and some other people, both famous and obscure -- quickly noted Moye's judicial arrogance. Yes, the pouncing ("conservatives pounce") devolved into a "gotcha" game, and I'm sure there are people who now bemoan the coarsening of public discourse. But -- as even the Texas AG now acknowledges -- a proper understanding of American rights and freedoms is at stake, and I especially appreciated the following reactions:

"Did the judge strap a cage with rats in it to her face first?"

"Appointed by [former TX governor] Ann Richards. Of course."

"Rosa Parks and them fellas at the lunch counter would like a word."

"It's always important in Communist Show Trials that the accused admit their 'error' and 'selfishness' and affirm the correctness and legitimacy of the state. This clown needs to be disbarred and removed from office."

UPDATE, late on May 7: A happy ending, thanks to the Texas Supreme Court

Monday, May 4, 2020

My Pandemic Pals

A nice gesture from the USN and the USAF over NYC

These are the people whose YouTube videos helped make social distancing and other lockdown measures --including chemotherapy precautions -- easier (albeit not easy) to take.

Knowing they're out there helps keep me going until the end of sweetie's chemotherapy and the not-a-minute-too-soon return of live music, library hours, professional haircuts, pub food served on dark wooden tables, elective surgeries, community theater, road trips, baristas who work counters rather than drive-up windows, and hot / olive / salad bars in better supermarkets:
  • Matt and Savanna Shaw: The father-daughter singing team was new to me, and immediately showed itself worthy of a subscription. Two great voices in one household! Three cheers for family bands!
  • Rick Beato: His 'crazy musical uncle' shtick still works, even when I disagree with some of his choices (e.g., there's no way that John Lennon's pretentious "Imagine" or Sting's criminal-minded "Every Breath You Take" should be on ANY list of 'Top 20 Rock Ballads,' much less in higher positions than "Let it Be" and "She Talks to Angels")
  • Mary Chapin Carpenter: Songs she sings from her kitchen introduced the rest of us to Angus, the mellow golden retriever, and White Kitty, the striking feline whom Angus keeps company with. And she still sounds as resonant as she did when making hits in the Nineties. Artistry without artifice -- gotta love it.
  • Local talent Jonathan Byrd is an old hand at livestream video concerts, but where he really comes into his own is in the "Byrd Word," his thoughtful weekly email to fans.
  • Billy Strings: I found this guitar wizard via Tommy Emmanuel, himself a grandmaster on that instrument, and wow! But Strings can sing, too. As one fan noted, "He's like a cross between Roy Rogers and Stevie Ray Vaughan." 
  • The winsome  "MonaLisa Twins" have covered both Pink Floyd and David Bowie to very good effect.

I would be remiss if I didn't also note a few filmmakers, because I enjoyed the following movies on a little screen:

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Tom dismantles the Karens

They had it coming, and (as noted approvingly by Mr. Vanderleun) Mr. Luongo is a sharp observer:

A Karen is a person, usually [but not always] a woman, who is never satisfied with the service she’s receiving and demands to talk to the manager. It doesn’t matter if Karen’s complaints are valid or not.

This is because Karen has been incentivized by cowardly corporate officers and government officials (but, I repeat myself) to get something she doesn’t deserve simply because they want her to shut up and not disturb everyone else.

It was one thing to indulge Karen her entitled behavior when she was getting a free order of fries or month of cable. It’s quite another when Karens become the State’s target audience for public policy.


...when we really look at how we’ve responded to COVID-19 it’s clear that the people behind the lock down of hundreds of millions of people knew they would have an army of Karens screaming on Twitter to ‘flatten the curve’ and quote bogus statistics they don’t understand from official smart people to justify giving full flower to their inner harpy.

You know who I’m talking about. These are the suburban women ratting out their neighbors for not social distancing, for *gasp* walking their dog or *gasp gasp* letting their kids play in the yard!

And that has enabled the worst people in the world to destroy the global economy because a bunch of frightened Karens can’t cope with the stress of living. The State cannot have people engaging in peaceful noncompliance with their edicts.