Friday Roundup

Friday, December 16, 2005

No! Not another recurring feature! Just a rather prosaic title from someone who has had a load to do over the past couple of days and very little sleep....

Well, the last sentence of this Onion article was wrong. The below -- um -- storm landed on my desktop ("X" at upper left) Wednesday and pretty much took me out of action until just now.

Unsurprisingly, I have the following test score to announce.

Pre-Hypnotized Peter
What Office Space character are you?
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Oh dear!

As always, when I find myself unable to blog, about a million blogworthy things happen and I find myself wishing -- even on those occasions when I'm a little fed up with the enterprise -- I had time to do each of them justice. Today is no exception. I probably won't get to blog beyond this today. Tomorrow, my usual day off anyway, is out: I do my annual morning dash to the mall, where I will do about 75% of my Christmas shopping before the rest of the world wakes up. Sunday is dubious. So I'll make a few notes now.

Thank you, Mr. Freeman!

Morgan Freeman, one of my favorite actors, has said that it's time we bury the racial hatchet once and for all. I'm with him. (HT: Myrhaf)
Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous." "You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Sunday (7 p.m. EST). "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history." [link deleted]
(And he could have replaced "relegate" with "segregate" to quite good effect there.)

Amen to that!

Christmas and Caroling

Two bloggers I follow had some unorthodox thoughts about Christmas that landed on my sympathetic ears. Eric Scheie comments on the stressfulness of the season and on Christmas cards.
I've long suspected that there are a lot of people who inwardly hate Christmas for the same reason people used to complain about it when I was a kid, because it is such an immense obligation. But they're afraid to acknowledge this lest they be considered antisocial or Grinch-like. My parents are dead and I don't have kids, which means my family obligations are minimal, but it's still a big hassle, and I can only imagine what it would be like if I did have kids, inlaws, parents, grandparents. (It's almost scary to contemplate.)
I always get stressed out over Christmas until the shopping is done and I've gotten to forget about my normal routine for a couple of days. Then I start to enjoy it. There's a bit of Santa and the Grinch in me. And what do I find most stressful? You'll laugh at this, but it's coming up with gift ideas for myself when I'd rather contemplate something else. I am quite content with my own thoughts for the most part, and always have been. For that reason, my mother used to call me "the monk" when I was a kid.

In an update, Scheie also has the right answer to all those self-appointed Christmas Card PC Enforcers out there.
[I]f someone is kind enough to have gone to the trouble of sending you a card (and it's a lot of trouble, at least it is for me), the idea of getting offended by the card and sanctimoniously demanding corrections is just plain rude. I think it borders on the despicable. Many years ago, way before this "War On Christmas" was discovered, my father used to worry about offending people he didn't know that well, so he tended to use cards that said "Seasons Greetings." He wasn't trying to be PC; he was just trying to be nice. No one was offended by his well meaning attempt not to offend. Nor was he (or anyone else I knew) ever offended by receiving cards saying "Merry Christmas." Each year I send out cards, and I receive cards.

Never, ever, would I dream of hurting someone's feelings by being such an ass as to complain about a card!
And over at Literatrix, Jennifer Snow discusses Christmas carols songs. (And she makes me think of Christmas music in general when she does.)
I am rapidly nearing critical mass on Christmas song repetition, but while I'm still enjoying them I have to say my two favorite songs (songs, not instrumental pieces) are "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" and "Please, Christmas, Don't Be Late"--yes, the one performed by the Chipmunks.

The reason I like those songs, although they don't possess a lot of artistic merit, is that they are lively, upbeat, clever, and selfishly benevolent.
I like a lot of the religious Christmas music because it is beautiful. I do have one major exception: The Little Drummer Boy. Senselessly repetitious. Mawkish. Meek. Call me a grinch all you want, but that one I can't stand.

Iraqi Elections Smooth

Publius Pundit seems confident that the Iraqi elections, going more smoothly than expected by all accounts, will also end well.
[P]erhaps the most interesting story has been the rise of ex-PM Allawi's new secular coalition that has seen itself surging in strength over the past few months. His list includes both Sunnis and Shiites who are secular and focus more on policy than religious or ethnic ties. It is proving to be a popular mix.

With this election, it might be well and due to begin thinking of Iraqi politics in terms of actual politics instead of ethnic and religious divides. When the results are counted, I bet we will see a spectacular drop in the prominence of the Shiite religious parties, a major showing by the united Sunni parties, a split between the Kurds (except on major issues like autonomy), and a rise of secular and liberally minded parties like Allawi and Chalabi's lists.
Smooth Sailing for Iranian Nuclear Program

Unfortunately, as Charles Krauthammer points out, events in Iran are going to get our attention later if we don't give them our attention pretty bloody soon.
Everyone knows where Iran's nuclear weapons will be aimed. Everyone knows they will be put on Shahab rockets, which have been modified so that they can reach Israel. And everyone knows that if the button is ever pushed, it will be the end of Israel.

But it gets worse. The president of a country about to go nuclear is a confirmed believer in the coming apocalypse. Like Judaism and Christianity, Shiite Islam has its own version of the messianic return -- the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam. The more devout believers in Iran pray at the Jamkaran mosque, which houses a well from which, some believe, he will emerge.


And as in some versions of fundamentalist Christianity, the second coming will be accompanied by the usual trials and tribulations, death and destruction. Iranian journalist Hossein Bastani reported Ahmadinejad saying in official meetings that the hidden imam will reappear in two years.


It gets worse. After his U.N. speech in September, Ahmadinejad was caught on videotape telling a cleric that during the speech an aura, a halo, appeared around his head right on the podium of the General Assembly. "I felt the atmosphere suddenly change. And for those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink. . . . It seemed as if a hand was holding them there, and it opened their eyes to receive the message from the Islamic Republic."
Can we say "Attila and the Witch Doctor"?

Did Bush Cave on Torture?

Bush, who started out threatening to use the first veto of his presidency against McCain's amendment, has now agreed to it. He is either capitulating or hoping to weasel around this. Only time will tell which of these bad alternatives he took. I admire neither. From the last link above:
[McCain] and other lawmakers are concerned that other additions to the Army's Field Manual on interrogations -- specifically, 10 new classified pages -- may open a back door to condoning practices that McCain is trying to prohibit.
This is pragmatism triumphing over principle -- for the moment -- in a war about principles.

From Dean Scream to Pelosi's Dream

The Democrats, quickly learning how stupid it is to run on an anti-war platform in a time of war, have decided to bank on outright fantasy: The party will have an "issue agenda" that pretends that one really big issue, the war, does not exist!

[House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq. There is consensus within the party that President Bush has mismanaged the war and that a new course is needed, but House Democrats should be free to take individual positions, she sad.
They look like they are about to ignore the elephant in the room only to be trounced by another one at the ballot box.

No wonder the Republicans can get away with just about anything!

Maybe this is a clever way to get the all-powerful Karl Rove to retire....

Big Brother Says "No Smoking!"

If you had any doubts that the anti-smoking crowd would invade your own home, you weren't smoking tobacco.
Anti-smoking activists who are driving cigarettes from public places across the country are now targeting private homes -- especially those with children.
For the children, eh? I've heard that excuse before.

The Left Paves the Way for Religion, Part 1,000,006

This editorial in the New York Times has a stunning bit of evasion within.
The destructive potential of modern nationalism should not surprise us. Traditional religion hardly played a role in the unprecedented violence of the 20th century, which was largely caused by secular ideologies - Nazism and Communism. Secular nationalism has been known to impose intellectual conformity and suppress dissent even in advanced democratic societies. In America, it was at least partly the fear of being perceived as unpatriotic that held back the freest news media in the world from rigorously questioning the official justification for and conduct of the war in Iraq.

As for traditional religion, outside Saudi Arabia and Iran and Afghanistan under the Taliban it has rarely enjoyed the kind of overwhelming state power that modern nationalism has known. Then why reflexively blame religion for the growth of intolerance and violence? Perhaps, because it is easy - and useful. Certainly, all the talk of Enlightenment, Reformation, a clash of civilizations and the like does help build up ideological smokescreens, obscuring the more complex political and economic battles of the world.
First things first. "[A]ll the talk of Enlightenment, Reformation, a clash of civilizations and the like does help build up ideological smokescreens" (!?!?!) only a short while after, "[O]utside Saudi Arabia and Iran and Afghanistan under the Taliban [religion] has rarely enjoyed the kind of overwhelming state power". Really? Has this author ever heard of the Middle Ages?

And second, what ties all dictatorial regimes together is the political idea -- not unique to religion, but universal to religion -- that the individual is subordinate to the collective. Religion further supports this political ideal with its moral exhortations to self-sacrifice.

Aussie Riot Update

Robert Tracinski at TIA Daily made a couple of good points I missed when I discussed the Australian riots recently. His analysis of this story bears repeating.
For the past few days, Australia has been convulsed by ugly race riots between Muslim immigrants and native-born Australians, some of whom are white supremacists. Part of the cause is a phenomenon similar to that of the French banlieus--the welfare-state suburbs that erupted in riots last month. In Australia, the problem is a wave of unassimilated immigrants raised in the primitive thuggishness of the Islamic world.

Thanks to the dogmas of multiculturalism, Australia cannot assimilate these immigrants. Moreover, Australia has neither America's long tradition of immigration--it has only taken in large numbers of non-British immigrants in recent decades--nor the distinction of having been founded on explicitly stated ideas. Hence, the only response to Muslim culture comes from nativist thugs.
If so, my optimism about Australia may be a have been a little stronger than warranted.

That's a wrap.

If the shopping runs through Sunday, I'll be back Monday.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Ugh, Christmas carols. Now, mind you, not carols as such, but the pop carols overplayed in commercial and public spaces. I must be on permanent overload, because there's not one I can think of without my ears vomiting. "Winter Wonderland" lingered on a while, but finally even it overstayed its welcome. Well, there is that good one by Tom Lehrer, now that I think about it. These days the only Christmas music I like is along the lines of Thomas Tallis' Missa "Puer natus est nobis," Bach's Christmas Oratorio, and Arthur Honegger's Cantate de Noel.

Gus Van Horn said...

Pop carols. Forgot about those since I usually don't listen to the radio and I haven't done much shopping yet. Don't care much for those, for the most part, either.

And then there's the appropriately named Mannheim Steamroller, who electronically flatten all sorts of classics. Blecch!

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, the good ol' Mannheimlich Maneouvre--sneak up behind the old masters when their backs are turned and then force them to pump out the Christmas spirit, as it were. Now if someone put together a collection of Christmas music by the Mannheim School, that would be something else entirely. I might even pay full price for it!

Anonymous said...

My wife works part time at a department store, so I get to hear her complain about hearing the same Xmas songs played over and over again, but by different people. It must be quite a racket to get into, to release a Xmas album--all the songs are already written, and if you're halfway decent, you've got guaranteed sales and royalties from people who crave novelty within the bounds of Xmas music.

Anonymous said...

David Arceneaux writes: "My wife works part time at a department store, so I get to hear her complain about hearing the same Xmas songs played over and over again, but by different people." Ooh, I feel sorry for her there! I remember a couple of Thanksgivings ago, the only place open for an afternoon cuppa joe was Starbucks, and they had already started the Christmas music. They were playing one of their own collections, I guess, which was filled with late-40s and early-50s Christmas songs. Not the ones that became famous, but the ones that lost out to Bing Crosby and Co. It included three different versions of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," none of them any good. It was quite an accomplishment--I was out-Scrooging Scrooge a week before December even started!

Jennifer Snow said...

I said songs, not carols. They're only carols if you can reasonably expect to go around singing them with a large group of people in front of someone's house without them braining you with a rock.

Gus Van Horn said...


I know. I caught myself shortly after I wrote this and added a clarifying slash and extra sentence. (Though I did not change the title). My apologies for slipping into "stream of consciousness mode".

You got me thinking about, carols though.

As for me, any singing would likely get me brained with a rock! So perhaps in my case, it is impossible to speak of carols! :->


Jennifer Snow said...

You could try the Chipmunks song. Artistically, it's so bad anyway that no one could tell the difference. :)