13 Dec 2017

Es ist ein’ Ros’ Entsprungen

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Es ist ein’ Ros’ Entsprungen is an early German Christmas carol and Marian hymn performed in a harmony written by Praetorius in 1609 by the Dresdner Kreuzchor.

13 Dec 2017

The Humanities and the Modern University

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Yale in Winter

Justin Stover contemplates the diminished role of the Humanities in the modern University, but he takes a very long view, shrugging off the rise of fads and ideologies. He believes that, in the long run, both the Humanities and the University will not only survive, but continue to perform the same function of building and credentialing Western Society’s elite that they have always done.

We began with the crisis of the humanities and ended with the survival of the university itself. This is no accident. The heart of the university is the arts, understood broadly. For the first centuries of the institution’s existence, every student had to traverse the arts curriculum before they could go on to achieve an employable degree in law, medicine, or theology. At any given time, the arts faculty and students would have formed by far the largest bloc in any university. The fact that students are still awarded BAs and MAs is a distant echo of their centrality. The arts they taught were in theory the seven liberal arts, although in practice primarily grammar (which included almost everything we would now call literary studies) and logic. But the formulation of the seven liberal arts permits a wide mandate covering most of what we consider the humanities—everything connected with the understanding of what’s written down—as well as the first and last letters in STEM, mathematics in all its branches, the physical and natural sciences. …

The contemporary university is a strange chimaera. It has become an institution for teaching undergraduates, a lab for medical and technological development in partnership with industry, a hospital, a museum (or several), a performance hall, a radio station, a landowner, a big-money (or money-losing) sports club, a research center competing for government funding, often the biggest employer for a hundred miles around, and, for a few institutions, a hedge fund (“with a small college attached for tax purposes,” adds one wag). Unbundling may well happen. If it does, where will the university be found amid the wreckage? …

We cannot attribute the present decline to some change in historical circumstance. Writing a commentary on Virgil is just as useless now as it was in the year 450. The reality is that the humanities have always been about courtoisie, a constellation of interests, tastes, and prejudices which marks one as a member of a particular class. That class does not have to be crudely imagined solely in economic terms. Indeed, the humanities have sometimes done a good job of producing a class with some socioeconomic diversity. But it is a class nonetheless. Roman boys (of a certain social background) labored under the grammaticus’s rod because their parents wanted to initiate them into the wide community of Virgil readers—a community which spanned much of the vast Roman world, and which gave the bureaucratic class a certain cohesion it otherwise lacked. So too in the Middle Ages: it is no accident that what we might think of as the scholastic and the courtly are so often linked. Reading Virgil, commenting on Aristotle, participating in quaestiones disputatae, writing chansons de geste and romances—these made scholars, bachelors, masters, and doctors alike, set apart as an international community embedded in but separate from the international community of the Church, the religious orders, and the waxing national powers. …

It remains true today. Deep down, what most humanists value about the humanities is that it gives them participation in a community in which they can share similar tastes in reading, art, food, travel, music, media, and yes, politics. We might talk about academic diversity, but the academy is a tribe, and one with relatively predictable tastes. It does not take a particularly sharp observer to guess whether a given humanist might be fond of some new book reviewed favorably in the LRB or some new music discussed enthusiastically on NPR. The guess might not always be right, but if even odds are offered our observer could get away with a tidy sum. If the bet were on political affiliation, the payoff would be almost guaranteed.

As teachers, what humanists want most of all is to initiate their students into that class. Despite occasional conservative paranoia, there is not some sinister academic plot to brainwash students with liberal dogma. Instead, humanists are doing what they have always done, trying to bring students into a class loosely defined around a broad constellation of judgments and tastes. This constellation might include political judgments, but is never reducible to politics. It is also very susceptible to change. For two hundred years or more, European universities were deeply enmeshed in the pernicious stupidity of Ramism, with Ramist professors installed across Europe in any number of the humanistic disciplines. Eventually the fad dissipated, and today, the celebrated method of Petrus Ramus holds little more than antiquarian interest. We should not assume that the current modes and fashions of the academic class are permanent. But if they are to change, that change will come from the inside.

A must-read.

13 Dec 2017

Peter Salovey’s Christmas Card

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If you were a member of the Yale community, you received this Christmas card (carefully designed to avoid so much as mentioning Christmas) from Yale President Peter Salovey.

13 Dec 2017

Rejection Letter

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12 Dec 2017

Obstruction

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12 Dec 2017

Karl Marx Resigns

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Front Page has the story:

The father of scientific socialism and an inspirational figure to many leading Democrats, Karl Marx has announced that he is resigning as a seminal thinker and is asking all his followers, especially women, to forgive him and forget his doctrine of class conflict and communist internationalism due to allegations of sexual abuse of his female aide and a criminal conspiracy to cover it up.

In his remarks, the author of the Communist Manifesto stated, “This decision is not about me. It’s about the workers of the world. It’s become clear that I can’t both continue to deal with my history of sexual misconduct (some of which I remember differently) and at the same time remain an effective messianic leader of the oppressed in their struggle against capitalist exploitation.”

Marx continued, “As a white cisgendered heterosexual male, I have cheated on my wife, sexually assaulted my subordinate, and otherwise abused my power and privilege to hurt and victimize women. I therefore feel that I no longer have the right, nor the moral authority to defend my philosophy of class victimization, to incite class hatred, provoke violent anti-bourgeois revolutions, and establish proletarian dictatorships.”

The pressure on the leader of the exploited masses to step down has been mounting for days, ever since the New York Times broke the story about how Mr. Marx, a husband and a father of three, sexually exploited his longtime family maid, Helen Demuth. Fearing to lose her job in a volatile capitalist economy, Ms. Demuth yielded to her employer’s sexual harassment. What started as inappropriate touching and groping, soon escalated into what legally amounts to sexual assault in the workplace, which continued daily for years in Mr. Marx’s home, where Mrs. Marx and their daughters also resided.

RTWT

12 Dec 2017

Shameless Warmist Sob Story With Dying Polar Bear from National Geographic

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According to National Geographic, you killed this particular polar bear with your CO2 emissions, you heartless creep.

Of course, polar bear numbers are up, not down. And that video maker and his agitator organization did not autopsy the bear or do anything else to establish factually why it was emaciated. Polar bears, like all other living things, do get sick and get old and die of natural causes with no connection whatsoever to ice or the weather.

In reality, the whole dying-polar-bears meme was invented by Charles Monnett, a whale researcher, who took a plane ride, looking for whales, and saw three deceased polar bears directly after a terrible arctic storm.

Never even having landed on the ground, just like the National Geographic video-maker, Monnett simply assumed that climate change was responsible, that the bears drowned due to lack of ice. He then took the quantity of deceased bears (three, rounded up to four) observed flying over 11% of his 630-kilometer-wide study are, and proceeded to project that equivalent quantities of dead bears were distributed over the whole area.

Now, that’s what you call scientific rigor!

Zoologist Sarah Crockford debunks the new sob story:

One starving bear is not scientific evidence that man-made global warming has already negatively affected polar bears, but it is evidence that some activists will use any ploy to advance their agenda and increase donations.

The photographer talks about polar bears.

In an interview yesterday, published in the Victoria Times-Colonist (my home town), photographer Nicklen stated…

    “Nicklen is careful about drawing conclusions from his pictures, noting that many people look to poke holes in what’s being said about things like the disappearance of sea ice from the North. …’Ice is melting earlier every spring and freezing later every fall,’ Nicklen said. ‘Bears are designed to go as much as two months without ice, but they are not designed to go four or five months without ice. “Well, this [the video] is what it actually looks like when polar bears are stranded on land.'”

Nicklen should do a bit more reading: polar bears in Western Hudson Bay routinely go four to five months without ice. Four months was normal in the good old days (ca. 1980) and almost five months in some recent years (Castro de la Guardia et al. 2017; Cherry et al. 2013; Ramsay and Stirling 1988; Stirling and Lunn 1997). WHB pregnant females spend 8 months or more on land with no ill effects that can conclusively be blamed on a slightly longer time without ice (Crockford 2017). Southern Hudson Bay polar bears spend a similar amount of time without ice (Obbard et al. 2016), see this post (with references).

12 Dec 2017

Tom Mix, 1880-1940

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Wikipedia entry

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11 Dec 2017

“That’s Why I Toured Yale”

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Alumni cringed back in 2010 when the Admissions Office released its execrable “That’s Why I Chose Yale” recruiting video. (Reviled here and here)

Well, Time replaces the jejune just as it does the superb, and the Yale Admissions Office (seven years later) has issued a brand new video with only a slightly modified title.

The guides are computer major Simone (who needs to wash her hair) and double major Classics and Political Science Sam (who seems a little gay). From the very start, biases toward the demotic and the “diverse” are pronounced. As the tour begins moving away from Phelps Gate on the Old Campus, guide Sam calls for musical accompaniment and a string quarter batting out “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” appears out of nowhere, only to be rejected in favor of “something with a beat.”

We had already previously been promised that, at Yale, one could study with “a renowned Shakespeare scholar” and “perform slam poetry at a cultural center.” When we get to the libraries, we are informed that Beinecke contains “one of the world’s largest collections of rare books and manuscripts, including ancient Egyptian papyrus, one of Beethoven’s original scores, and (inadvertent crashing anticlimax) manuscripts written by Langston Hughes.” (!)

Clearly, we are being given to understand that Yale is a fashionista establishment institution, only too eager to reject standards and judgment, trivialize the canon, and concede equality of cultural prestige to tokens. “We don’t want Mozart, we want something with a beat.” “Shakespeare wouldn’t do without some slam poetry on the side.” “Langston Hughes is purportedly somehow on a par with Beethoven.”

At Yale, the sciences we learn are “hands on,” and you won’t just sit through lectures, struggle through your labs, and get hammered with quizes and exams, no, no no. Why Yale science students “innovate solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.” Back in my day, all we did was try to pass the exams. We did, however, avoid the joke explosion ending the laboratory portion of the tour.

It gets painful to watch when they start touting the Yale residential college system. Today, college assignment, we are assured, is totally random. But residential colleges all have individual distinctive identities and traditions. (Presumably random ones.)

The college we get to see is Silliman, infamous site of the Christakis lynching and the shrieking student. There is no Master of Silliman now. The title of Master was deemed offensive and changed to “Head.” In the old days, college masters were male, aged, and distinguished scholars. Silliman’s “Head” these days is Laurie R. Santos, obviously a two-fer token (female and Hispanic), barely 40, and a canine cognitive studies specialist from the Psych Department. The video assures us that she ensures that each student feels welcome and gets to know every single one of them personally. She even apparently beats them at chess. In my day, most of us were on nodding-and-saying-hello terms with our College Master. He never specifically made any of us “feel welcome” nor did he tuck us in at night.

The residential colleges seem even more loaded with amenities today. They still have pool tables and ping pong, but there was no mention of squash courts. Colleges seem to have in-house non-dining hall after hours food facilities, which they call butteries. In the old days, there was one Buttery, on the ground floor of Durfee, which sold candy and such like during very limited evening hours. The colleges now all have their own work-out rooms, the Yale Gym clearly being too far to walk.

And so on.

This video is not as actively embarrassing, I suppose, as its predecessor, but it still leaves the alumni viewer slightly nauseated.

It is so offensively self-congratulatory, politically correct, and millennial-ish. One sort of feels like alien beings from the Planet of PC Tools have taken over Yale. They smile all the time. They think all the right thoughts. They worship materialism and success, but they are strangely empty. They have no dignity, no gravity. Ideas, Art, Culture are all just names and baubles to these people, ornamental trinkets lying around a grand nest of human magpies.

There is all this goody-goody-ness, but there is no sense whatsoever of Tradition, History, Duty, Honor, or Respect for the Past.

If I’d seen this video in high school, I would not have wanted to go to Yale.

10 Dec 2017

Will SCOTUS Revive Freedom of Association?

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Zman thinks a major blow to the Custodial State may be in the works.

[T]he Left is in something close to a full panic over the oral arguments in Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The reason for this is the way Judge Gorsuch questioned the attorney for the homosexuals. He correctly pointed out that the “remedy” for the alleged discrimination, is to force the baker to say things in public that he would never say and that he finds offensive. Gorsuch did not say this, but this is how Chinese communists punished heretics in the Cultural Revolution.

Put another way, the “remedy” for those not wanting to associate, in this case do business with, another group of people, is to frog march them into the public square and force them to say things they think are false and possibly evil. Of course, it is the only remedy, short of genocide, that is possible in a society without freedom of association. Once the state can force you to be around other people, people you may not like, they have no choice but to supervise your speech, your thoughts and your every move. You are a slave.

That is the reality of the custodial state. The people in charge see themselves as your caretakers, like a baby sitter or care giver. In reality though, you are their slave, because like a slave, you no longer control your body. They control where it is and what it is permitted to do. In this particular case. the state is trying to force this baker to perform his services for the homosexuals. The efforts to punish him are no different from a slave master flogging a runaway slave. It’s to send a message to the rest of the slaves.

RTWT

10 Dec 2017

Before The Cops Made Them Take It Down

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09 Dec 2017

“A Most Remarkable Year”

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Richard Fernandez gloats:

In the last 12 months, U.S.-backed combat operations drove ISIS from its last bits of territory. America withdrew from the Paris agreement on climate change, UNESCO, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The House and Senate have come within sight of overhauling the tax code and dismantling Obamacare. Most recently, Donald Trump — in a spectacular departure from his predecessor’s Middle Eastern diplomacy — has moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

It is as if a hurricane has swept through Washington. Each fallen pillar represents a very deliberate reversal of the status quo ante policies of Barack Obama. The entire edifice the former president erected in his eight years in office is in the process of being systematically demolished.

RTWT

09 Dec 2017

Helicopterism

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General Augusto Pinochet

I have to agree with Thales that General Pinochet had the right idea. He just didn’t get enough of them.

Helicopterism: the idea that someone who actively attempts to install a tyrannical, murderous ideology in your country is due a free, one-way helicopter ride with a destination somewhere over the Pacific.

On my honor, sir, I thought commies could fly. It’s certainly more likely than the notion that Socialism could ever work.

HT: Vanderleun.

09 Dec 2017

SNL Mocks Liberals

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HT: Derek Hart.

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