09 Jan 2019

She Should Run For Congress as a Democrat

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09 Jan 2019

“Turn Left!”

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09 Jan 2019

The Ugliest Color

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Pantone 448 C “The ugliest color in the world”
is a colour in the Pantone colour system. Described as a “drab dark brown”, it was selected in 2016 as the colour for plain tobacco and cigarette packaging in Australia, after market researchers determined that it was the least attractive colour. Since 2016, the same colour has also been used for plain cigarette packaging in France, the United Kingdom, Israel and Norway.

07 Jan 2019

There is No Ideal Reality…

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Karl Notturno looks on the bright side and argues for putting in the work.

The free market exists all around us. It is continually playing its role in how government works. Libertarians don’t seem to grasp that the government is a solution that communities have put together to address some collective needs. And globalists don’t seem to grasp that international order already exists to facilitate cooperation between countries. Now, both of these institutions could be a lot better. But improving these institutions requires a lot of hard work—thankless, low-paying work.

Improving government and international relations is not glamorous. In fact, it’s very tedious. There are many entrenched interests that will fight you and try to destroy you—after all, many special interests want to control where the people’s money is going. Because, especially in this country, that’s a lot of money. People are happy to spend billions of dollars to try to control the flow of trillions and few citizens are impervious to corruption.

Typically, one can find many ideological shills in this group. They are the snake-oil salesmen who claim they have a system that can run perfectly and needs very little oversight. In the case of the libertarians, the salesmen need a lot of money to educate people about the free-market and freedom and to lobby for lower taxes. In the case of the globalists, they have an entire governmental system that is very complicated and must be run by experts (who, not coincidentally are themselves and their friends)—after all, it’s too complicated to be understood by commoners.

Now these machines can continue to make terrible decisions and produce mediocre outcomes, but they will tell us that it just needs to be recalibrated and that the outcomes are actually not that bad, because . . . well, because we’re experts and we say that it’s good enough, so shut up.

Many people are happy to spend money with these salesmen because very few want to work in public service at all. They are all looking for the miracle pill, the perfect system that will solve all of our problems without civic involvement.

This system does not exist. There are things that societies can do to make their governments better and there are structural features of bureaucracies that can facilitate this betterment, but there’s no way to get around the difficult civic work that citizens must do in order to make sure that our representatives do the job we’re paying them to do and to keep them from wasting our money.

We should think of our government as we think of hiring a contractor—the less you oversee their work, the more they can rip you off. And if they can convince you that you need to be an expert in order to paint a wall, then they’ll really fleece you.

RTWT

07 Jan 2019

Dumber Every Decade

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Audacious Epigone points to the combined ills of inflated credentials and the plague of student debt. In large sections of today’s America, everybody expects to go to college. Everybody expects to be an upper middle class boss of something. But not everybody is actually all that smart.

Today’s bachelor’s degree is the equivalent of a high school graduation certificate from fifty years ago, and today’s graduate degree falls short of a bachelor’s degree from a generation ago.

This is an inevitable consequence of increasing the share of the population that attends college. In the sixties, 10% of American adults had college degrees. Since then that figure has more than tripled, to 34% today.

To say we’re well into the territory of diminishing returns is to understate the problem–-we’re past the point of negative returns. Most Americans in college today are not benefiting from being there. They’re foregoing work to accrue debt for degrees that, if they increase earning power at all, do so only marginally and they’re picking up an unhelpful sense of entitlement in the process.

RTWT

06 Jan 2019

Dream of the Three Kings

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Dream of the Three Kings, from ‘Salzburg Missal’, Regensburg ca. 1478-1489 (München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 15708 I, fol. 63r).

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Dream of Three Wise Men. Capital from Autun cathedral. Sculptor: Gislebertus, circa 1120-1135 A.D.

06 Jan 2019

We Three Kings

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06 Jan 2019

Epiphany, or Twelfth Night

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Twelfth Night
Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Feste

(From Robert Chambers, A Book of Days, 1869)

Born: Richard II, King of England, 1366; Joan d’Arc, 1402; Peter Metastasio, poet, 1698; Benjamin Franklin, philosopher, Boston, U.S., 1706; David Dale, philanthropist, 1739; George Thomas Doo, engraver, 1800.

Feast Day: St. Melanius, bishop, 490. St. Nilammon, Hermit. St. Peter, abbot of St. Austin’s, Canterbury, 608.

TWELFTH-DAY

This day, called Twelfth-Day, as being in that number after Christmas, and Epiphany from the Greek ‘‘ΕπιΦáνєια”, signifying appearance, is a festival of the Church, in commemoration of the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; more expressly to the three Magi, or Wise Men of the East, who came, led by a star, to worship him immediately after his birth. (Matt. ii. 1-12.) The Epiphany appears to have been first observed as a separate feast in the year 813. Pope Julius I is, however, reputed to have taught the Church to distinguish the Feasts of the Nativity and Epiphany, so early as about the middle of the fourth century.

The primitive Christians celebrated the Feast of the Nativity for twelve days, observing the first and last with great solemnity; and both of these days were denominated Epiphany, the first the greater Epiphany, from our Lord having on that day become Incarnate, or made his appearance in “the flesh;” the latter, the lesser Epiphany, from the three-fold manifestation of His Godhead—the first, by the appearance of the blazing star which conducted Melchior, Jasper, and Balthuzar, the three Magi, or wise men, commonly styled the three Kings of Cologne, out of the East, to worship the Messiah, and to offer him presents of “Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh”—Melchior the Gold, in testimony of his royalty as the promised King of the Jews; Jasper the Frankincense, in token of his Divinity; and Balthuzar the Myrrh, in allusion to the sorrows which, in the humiliating condition of a man, our Redeemer vouchsafed to take upon him: the second, of the descent of the Holy Ghost in the form of a Dove, at the Baptism: and the third, of the first miracle of our Lord turning water into wine at the marriage in Cana. All of which three manifestations of the Divine nature happened on the same day, though not in the same year.

    ‘To render due honour to the memory of the ancient Magi, who are supposed to have been kings, the monarch of this country himself, either personally or through his chamberlain, offers annually at the altar on this day, Gold, Frank-incense, and Myrrh; and the kings of Spain, where the Feast of Epiphany is likewise called the “Feast of the Kings,” were accustomed to make the like offerings. — Brady.

In the middle ages, the worship by the Magi was celebrated by a little drama, called the Feast of the Star:

    ‘Three priests, clothed as kings, with their servants carrying offerings, met from different directions before the altar. The middle one, who came from the east, pointed with his staff to a star. A dialogue then ensued; and, after kissing each other, they began to sing, “Let us go and inquire;” after which the precentor began a responsory, “Let the Magi come.” A procession then commenced; and as soon as it began to enter the nave, a crown, with a star resembling a cross, was lighted up, and pointed out to the Magi, with, “Behold the Star in the East.” This being concluded, two priests standing at each side of the altar, answered meekly, “We are those whom you seek;” and, drawing a curtain, shewed them a child, whom, falling down, they worshipped. Then the servants made the offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which were divided among the priests. The Magi, meanwhile, continued praying till they dropped asleep; when a boy, clothed in an alb, like an angel, addressed them with, “All things which the prophets said are fulfilled.” The festival concluded with chanting services, &c. At Soissons, a rope was let down from the roof of the church, to which was annexed an iron circle having seven tapers, intended to represent Lucifer, or the morning star; but this was not confined to the Feast of the Star.’ — Fosbroke’s Antiquities, ii. 700.

At Milan, in 1336, the Festival of the Three Kings was celebrated in a manner that brings forcibly before us the tendency of the middle ages to fix attention on the historical externals of Christianity. The affair was got up by the Preaching Friars. The three kings appeared, crowned, on three great horses richly habited, surrounded by pages, body guards, and an innumerable retinue. A golden star was exhibited in the sky, going before them. They proceeded to the pillars of St. Lawrence, where King Herod was represented with his scribes and wise men. The three kings ask Herod where Christ should be born, and his wise men, having consulted their books, answer, at Bethlehem. On which the three kings, with their golden crowns, having in their hands golden cups filled with frankincense, myrrh, and gold, the star going before, marched to the church of St. Eustorgius, with all their attendants, preceded by trumpets, horns, asses, baboons, and a great variety of animals. In the church, on one side of the high altar, there was a manger with an ox and ass, and in it the infant Christ in the arms of his mother. Here the three kings offer Him gifts. The concourse of the people, of knights, ladies, and ecclesiastics, was such as was never before beheld.

In its character as a popular festival, Twelfth-Day stands only inferior to Christmas. The leading object held in view is to do honour to the three wise men, or, as they are more generally denominated, the three kings. It is a Christian custom, ancient past memory, and probably suggested by a pagan custom, to indulge in a pleasantry called the Election of Kings by Beans. In England, in later times, a large cake was formed, with a bean inserted, and this was called Twelfth-Cake. The family and friends being assembled, the cake was divided by lot, and who-ever got the piece containing the bean was accepted as king for the day, and called King of the Bean.

In England, it appears there was always a queen as well as a king on Twelfth-Night. A writer, speaking of the celebration in the south of England in 1774, says:

    ‘After tea, a cake is produced, with two bowls containing the fortunate chances for the different sexes. The host fills up the tickets, and the whole company, except the king and queen, are to be ministers of state, maids of honour, or ladies of the bed-chamber. Often the host and hostess, more by design, than accident, become king and queen. According to Twelfth-Day law, each party is to support his character till midnight.’

In the sixteenth century, it would appear that some peculiar ceremonies followed the election of the king and queen. Barnaby Goodge, in his paraphrase of the curious poem of Nagcorgus, The Popish Kingdom, 1570, states that the king, on being elected, was raised up with great cries to the ceiling, where, with chalk, he inscribed crosses on the rafters to protect the house against evil spirits.

A Twelfth-Day custom, connected with Paget’s Bromley in Staffordshire, went out in the seventeenth century. A man came along the village with a mock horse fastened to him, with which he danced, at the same making a snapping noise with a bow and arrow. He was attended by half-a-dozen fellow-villagers, wearing mock deers’ heads, and displaying the arms of the several chief landlords of the town. This party danced the Hays, and other country dances, to music, amidst the sympathy and applause of the multitude. There was also a huge pot of ale with cakes by general contribution of the village, out of the very surplus of which ‘they not only repaired their church, but kept their poor too; which charges are not now, perhaps, so cheerfully borne.’

On Twelfth-Night, 1606, Ben Jonson’s masque of Hymen was preformed before the Court; and in 1613, the gentleman of Gray’s Inn were permitted by Lord Bacon to perform a Twelfth-Day masque at Whitehall. In the masque the character of Baby cake is attended by ‘an usher bearing a great cake with a bean and all with good will have spared unto your lordship, please.’

On Twelfth-Day, 1563, Mary Queen of Scots celebrated the French pastime of the King of the Bean at Holyrood, but with a queen instead of a king, as more appropriate, in consideration of herself being a female sovereign. The lot fell to the real queen’s attendant, Mary Fleming, and the mistress good-naturedly arrayed the servant in her own robes and jewels, that she might duly sustain the mimic dignity in the festivities of the night. The English resident, Randolph, who was in love with Mary Beton, another of the queen’s maids of honour, wrote in excited terms about this festival to the Earl of Leicester.

    ‘Happy was it,’ says he, ‘unto this realm, that her reign endured no longer. Two such sights, in one state, in so good accord, I believe was never seen, as to behold two worthy queens possess, without envy, one kingdom, both upon a day. I leave the rest to your lordship to be judged of. My pen staggereth, my hand faileth, further to write.’

The queen of the bean was that day in a gown of cloth of silver; her head, her neck, her shoulders, the rest of her whole body, so beset with stones, that more in our whole jewel-house were not to be found. . . The cheer was great. I never found myself so happy, nor so well treated, until that it came to the point that the old queen [Mary] herself, to show her mighty power, contrary unto the assurance granted me by the younger queen [Mary Fleming], drew me into the dance, which part of the play I could with good will have spared unto your lordship, as much fitter for the purpose.”

Charles I had his masque on Twelfth-Day, and the Queen hers on the Shrovetide following, the expenses exceeding £2000; and on Twelfth-Night, 1633, the Queen feasted the King at Somerset House, and presented a pastoral, in which she took part.

Down to the time of the Civil Wars, the feast was observed with great splendour, not only at Court, but at the Inns of Court, and the Universities (where it was an old custom to choose the king by the bean in a cake), as well as in private mansions and smaller households.

Then, too, we read of the English nobility keeping Twelfth-Night otherwise than with cake and characters, by the diversion of blowing up pasteboard castles; letting claret flow like blood, out of a stag made of paste; the castle bombarded from a pasteboard ship, with cannon, in the midst of which the company pelted each other with egg-shells filled with rose-water; and large pies were made, filled with live frogs, which hopped and flew out, upon some curious person lifting up the lid.

Twelfth-Night grew to be a Court festival, in which gaming was a costly feature. Evelyn tells us that on Twelfth-Night, 1662, according to custom, his Majesty [Charles II] opened the revels of that night by throwing the dice himself in the Privy Chamber, where was a table set on purpose, and lost his £100. [The year before he won £1500.] The ladies also played very deep. Evelyn came away when the Duke of Ormond had won about £1000, and left them still at passage, cards, &c., at other tables.

The Rev. Henry Teonge, chaplain of one of Charles’s ships-of-war, describes Twelfth-Night on board:

    ‘Wee had a great kake made, in which was put a beane for the king, a pease for the queen, a cloave for the knave, &c. The kake was cut into several pieces in the great cabin, and all put into a napkin, out of which every one took his piece as out of a lottery; then each piece is broaken to see what was in it, which caused much laughter, and more to see us tumble one over the other in the cabin, by reason of the ruff weather.’

The celebrated Lord Peterborough, then a youth, was one of the party on board this ship, as Lord Mordaunt.

The Lord Mayor and Aldermen and the guilds of London used to go to St. Paul’s on Twelfth-Day, to hear a sermon, which is mentioned as an old custom in the early part of Elizabeth’s reign.

A century ago, the king, preceded by heralds, pursuivants, and the Knights of the Garter, Thistle, and Bath, in the collars of their respective orders, went to the Royal Chapel at St. James’s, and offered gold, myrrh, and frankincense, in imitation of the Eastern Magi offering to our Saviour. Since the illness of George III, the procession, and even the personal appearance of the monarch, have been discontinued. Two gentlemen from the Lord Chamberlain’s office now appear instead, attended by a box ornamented at top with a spangled star, from which they take the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and place them on an alms-dish held forth by the officiating priest.

In the last century, Twelfth-Night Cards represented ministers, maids of honour, and other attendants of a court, and the characters were to be supported throughout the night. John Britton, in his Autobiography, tells us he ‘ suggested and wrote a series of Twelfth-Night Characters, to be printed on cards, placed in a bag, and drawn out at parties on the memorable and merry evening of that ancient festival. They were sold in small packets to pastrycooks, and led the way to a custom which annually grew to an extensive trade. For the second year, my pen-and-ink characters were accompanied by prints of the different personages by Cruikshank (father of the inimitable George), all of a comic or ludicrous kind.’ Such characters are still printed.

The celebration of Twelfth-Day with the costly and elegant Twelfth-cake has much declined within the last half-century. Formerly, in London, the confectioners’ shops on this day were entirely filled with Twelfth-cakes, ranging in price from several guineas to a few shillings; the shops were tastefully illuminated, and decorated with artistic models, transparencies, &c. We remember to have seen a huge Twelfth-cake in the form of a fortress, with sentinels and flags; the cake being so large as to fill two ovens in baking.

06 Jan 2019

This Tweet is Going Viral

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05 Jan 2019

“Pan Tadeusz”

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Someone shared with me today a nice review, published in the Spectator, by Boyd Tonkin of a new translation of the great work of Polish literature, Adam Mickiewicz’s Pan Tadeusz.

In remote Soplicowo, its flower-filled meadows, ringed by deep woods where bears, auroch and bison — ‘the forest’s emperors’ — hold sway, family quarrels echo in miniature the convulsions of Europe. Young Master (‘Pan’) Tadeusz returns from his studies in Vilnius to the manor where his uncle, the Judge, runs the estate. The fate of Tadeusz’s absent father Jacek, a fabled hell-raiser, casts a long thread of suspense that Mickiewicz spins at the close into a deftly-managed coup.

As the callow heir falls first for the sophisticated Madame Telimena and then her teenage ward, the garden-loving Zosia, a Romeo-and-Juliet motif sounds. A match between the pair might ‘reunite two feuding houses’. For now, the Soplicas — Tadeusz’s lot — and their Horeszko neighbours, Zosia’s clan, remain at daggers (and cudgels, broadswords and muskets) drawn.

The rough-hewn gentry let off steam through hair-raising bouts of scrapping and drinking. In these parts, ‘lawsuits will always be superfluous’. Vodka-fuelled posses enforce court orders in ‘forays’. Think Henry Fielding’s rambunctious squire-archy, with a steeper body-count, and higher alcoholic proof.

04 Jan 2019

J.D. Salinger Would Have Been 100 Tuesday

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Fred Lapides ripped off the commemorative screed from behind WaPo’s paywall for you and me.

[New Years Day was] J.D. Salinger’s 100th birthday, but Holden Caulfield is still 17. The iconic teenager of “The Catcher in the Rye” is forever suspended in the amber of our youthful alienation.

Although a few pious schools continue to ban Salinger’s only published novel, for millions of adults, a faded copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” is a sweet teenage treasure, as transgressive as a trophy from band camp. Ninth-graders who secretly read the book with a flashlight when it came out in 1951 are now in their 80s.

To read it again as an adult is to feel Holden’s pain lingering like a phantom limb. His righteous cynicism is adolescence distilled into a sweet liquor. But the novel also feels like revisiting your first house. The familiarity is enchanting but discombobulating. The story is smaller than you remember, and some details you had completely wrong. But what’s most striking is how common the novel’s tone has become over the intervening decades. Holden is Patient Zero for generations infected by his misanthropy. We live in a world overpopulated by privileged white guys who mistake their depression for existential wisdom, their narcissism for superior vision.

We have met the phonies and they are us. …

it’s not clear how Salinger’s reputation will evolve in the new century. As usual, time helps, e.g. we can ignore Ernest Hemingway’s behavior; we can’t ignore Sherman Alexie’s. The biographies have tended to leave two impressions: Salinger’s fiction is even more autobiographical than we thought, and Salinger himself was even loonier than we suspected. Homeopathy! Acupuncture! Dianetics! In 2013, David Shields and Shane Salerno suggested that Salinger’s undescended testicle could help explain his entire life. “Surely,” they wrote, “one of the many reasons he stayed out of the media glare was to reduce the likelihood that this information about his anatomy would emerge.” (Someone asked on Twitter, “Why didn’t he just wear pants?”)

RTWT

04 Jan 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Was Cute Back When She Was in College

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She’s one of the most prominent undergraduate dancers in this currently-going-viral video promoting Boston University.

Republican officials should pay attention. What if we got some hot ultra-conservative GOP chick to run against a fat elderly greasy democrat in an inner city district? I bet we could pull off some surprise wins, too.

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