July 31, 2023
This week's Monday Column borrows from Taki Mag's feature, "The Week that Perished," which offers aggressive and humorous prose on the week's news items. "The Month that Perished" offers (slightly) aggressive and (hopefully) humorous prose on a handful of the month's Scrolling Blog posts. With any luck, I'll run such a piece on the last day of every calendar month, but no promises.
July 30, 2023
A Contemporary Manifestation of the Historical Development Traced in Existence Strikes Back Part II
July 29, 2023
Unfortunately, it doesn't work in the modern world without big government, and big government is the celebration of the left hemisphere.
Still, it's worth pondering, just as I think it's worth pondering anarchism. Neither will be attained in my lifetime, but I think such ponderings train the brain to rebel against modernity's poisonous perceptions, premises, and presumptions.
July 28, 2023
Brews You Can Use
July 27, 2023
Foucault: Monster Mastermind?
July 26, 20023
It also killed Polish, Maltese, Italian, and pretty much every other ethnic neighborhood.
"Dwight Eisenhower, who had admired Hitler's autobahn and got one of his own: the tellingly titled National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Cohesive working-class neighborhoods in countless American cities were sacrificed to the Road Warriors." Bill Kauffman.
E. Michael Jones was one of the earliest writers to point out that the construction/destruction was purposefully aimed to disrupt ethnic neighborhoods in the federal government's ongoing attempt to eliminate every mediating institution between it and the people.
July 25, 2023
STOP THE PRESSES! HUGE TOLKIEN NEWS (Well, kinda huge)
Are you one of those contemptible sorts that can't penetrate The Silmarillion? Do you struggle with that opening of beautiful music but dissonance? The amorphous nature of it all? The narration-heavy prose?
Well, I pity you, but I think I have a solution:
Audible has just dropped a recorded version of The Silmarillion and it is narrated by Andy Serkis. Serkis played Gollum in the Peter Jackson trilogy and has already narrated The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. His reading (really, probably a performance) of The Silmarillion came out three days ago. I've already burned one of my treasured Audible credits on it and will start listening to it soon.
If no one can focus long enough to read it, no one is going to pay for it. If no one pays for it, no one can write it. That, I believe, is the steady theme of this lovely literary essay that doesn't merely lament the state of our distracted culture. It explores the importance of literature in a manner that Joseph Epstein would applaud.
James Shapiro, an English professor at Columbia, has only owned a smart phone for the past year. And yet his literary life has radically altered. “Technology in the last twenty years has changed all of us,” he tells Nathan Heller in a New Yorkerpiece about the diminishment of English majors in college. “…I probably read five novels a month until the two-thousands. If I read one a month now, it’s a lot. That’s not because I’ve lost interest in fiction. It’s because I’m reading a hundred web sites. I’m listening to podcasts.”
Will readers like us therefore need to become the literary equivalents of the Amish, living peacefully and slightly outside the technological world? Can reading and writing literature become our version of riding in horse-drawn buggies cantering peacefully down a car-jammed highway? Or do we simply need to accept new forms of art, whatever they might be, as when Bibles were first printed by the Gutenberg Press back in 1455, and a new bright vision arose from reading?
The very act of reading literature, the anticommunalism of it, the slow drift into reverie, the immersion into the charismatic black-and-white grids of the page—all of this emphatically unplugs us from that other grid, that beeping, noisome electronic grid that attempts to snare us in a web of reflex, of twitch and spasm. Does this make the pursuit of literature a Luddite maneuver, with all the shadowings of melancholy and futility attendant on such rebellions? I suspect that to the contrary, passionate reading will become a form of permanent opposition…
July 24, 2023
Don't worry. TDE isn't becoming a gardening blog, but until I get through my project of harvesting 1,200+ stems of flowers for my daughter's wedding in early August, I'm afraid gardening will be on my mind.
And note: This is really a hemisphere hypothesis piece, not a gardening.
July 23, 2023
I told a friend about my huge slug and bug problem this year.
He recommended I attract toads to my garden. He said they'd crush the slug population quickly.
I stored the advice away, then I ran across someone on the Internet enthusing about garden toads and how they eat a hundred bugs every night and if you attract a small army of them, every harmful bug in the garden would be eliminated, etc.
So I've decided to try it, especially given that the effort is pretty easy: broken clay pots tipped upside down and little pools of standing water from lids.
I built an entire condo development in less than 30 minutes.
Now I'm just waiting for the toads to arrive.
July 22, 2023
The Flower Gardener and Electric Kool-Aid
I'm trying to grow 2,000 flower stems for my daughter's wedding in August. It has been a trial . . . and time-consuming. This morning, I set aside an hour for fertilizing . . . and came in two hours later after fertilizing, staking, and cutting off zinnias who collapsed under their unstaked weight.
As a result, I'm a bit pressed for time, so I dusted off this piece from a few years ago. I hope you enjoy it.
I've been greatly enjoying the audio version of Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test while flower gardening. The narrator is almost perfect: animated, but without going over the top.
"Going over the top" means (i) ridiculous highs and lows: saccharinic, melancholic, or histrionic, or (ii) adding intonations not justified by the text. I've listened to over 50 audiobooks and am getting a pretty good feel for what makes an audio version a separate piece of art, and not just a reading of an piece of art. This audio version of Wolfe's great book is a work of art.
I will be writing more about Kool-Aid later. It has quite a few hemispheric and Existence Strikes Back implications.
July 21, 2023
Brews You Can Use
July 20, 2023
Return of the Idiot
One of my favorite features returns this morning: The Unsound and Little Fury.
If you couldn't figure it out, I'm "W. James," which refers to "William James," the great philosopher/psychologist who coined the phrase "Stream of Consciousness."
That's one benefit of reading this "Scrolling Blog": You get the inside scope that the unwashed shmoes miss.
Maybe I should make the Scrolling Blog "Members Only." I'll mull that over.
Anyway, I wrote this piece awhile back, read it back through this morning, and slayed myself. Demented and sad of me, perhaps, but slayed I was, so I've run it. In the words of the great Ricky Nelson, "You can't please everyone, so you gotta please yourself."
July 19, 2023
Claes Ryn, from Catholic University. A collection of his essays have just been published.
The collection appears largely to recount the problem that conservatives have long been aware of: they abandoned the cultural field to the enemy.
Shortly after World War II (others might date it back to 1900; others, to the 1960s), conservatives abandoned the arts and literature to the Left, and have accordingly been facing strong headwinds, as the younger generations' second-tier personality development are filled with liberal presumptions and attitudes (disdain for tradition, suspicion of loyalty and obedience, high time-preference inclination, belief in experts, excitement with new things, the goodness of assertiveness and even aggression, a sense that society oppresses its victims, etc.).
Conservativism has long tried to address the problem, but at best, it has only accidentally penetrated the culture here and there (e.g., C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Flannery O'Connor, Ray Bradbury . . . none of whom wrote with a conservative agenda but wrote with conservative hearts) or launched small cottage industries with parochial reach (e.g., the youth fiction Ignatius Press started publishing in the 1990s).
But conservatism has begun to knock on the door of the mainstream, both by pushing back against Disney and other woke entertainment ("Go woke, go broke") and launching its own entertainment venues (The Babylon Bee and Daily Wire come immediately to mind).
The conservatives have a long ways to go, but at least the battle is now, finally, fully engaged.
Whew. It has been another whirlwind. We got back from Alpena on Thursday, then had to turn around and host 40 guys for my son's bachelor party. It's now Wednesday and I'm just getting back into my normal morning routine: short working walk in the garden, prayer, deep work session, exercise, shower, office. It feels good to get back into a routine after two weeks.
I started a new tag yesterday: Idiosyncratic. It's kind of my "lazy" or "indulgent" tag. I find all sorts of stuff interesting, even if it doesn't fit into normal TDE fare. When I do, it'll go under Idiosyncratic.
July 17, 2023
Abbreviated Monday Column this week.
July 16, 2023
"Who'd I vote for?" I found myself pondering in the garden recently, "if it's RFK v. a pro-life establishment Republican?"
Kennedy is pro-choice. He is clear about that, but it also seems clear to me that abortion is low on his list of priorities. And if the establishment keeps winning, we'll soon be at a place where we have no voice to fight for the unborn: dissent squashed, made illegal, the slaughter of the unborn accelerated.
The establishment is also practically forcing me to vote for RFK, given its relentless unfair attacks on the man. The MSM's raving dishonesty has given rise to a new paradoxical political prism:
The worse a politician is, the better he is.
So yes, at this juncture, I'm inclined to pull the lever for a pro-choice Kennedy, and there are many others like me.
"Strange days indeed/Most peculiar, mama." John Lennon
July 15, 2023
Mr. Counter-Conduct Himself
July 14, 2023
Brews You Can Use
July 13, 2023
The Return Eudemon
Vacations 2023 end today. After a short trip to Houghton Lake in late June, I've now spent the last eight days on the shores of Lake Huron, at my family's ancestral cottage (it has been in the family since 1946), about five miles south of Alpena, Michigan.
I plan to post more about Alpena later, but it appears that it is rapidly positioning its downtown as the hipster outpost of northern Michigan. It has the "decayed urban" feel that hip communities like to appropriate, plus the Thunder Bay River and Lake Huron. Storefronts are nearly full (something I've never seen in 50 years of coming to Alpena) and every little nook and turn is "crafty" in some manner. There were a lot of people downtown, too.
For today, something new: a "Members Only" post under "Latest." I'm not sure it made sense for me to have posted this article for members only, since it already comprised an earlier OtML newsletter, but oh well. Vacation gave me a lot of time to experiment with the blog software and to spruce things up (I can do such things while still "interacting" with my kids and grandkids). You can expect further tweaks and features in the coming weeks.
"[P]eople who look too long at Lake Michigan tend to grow sad."
That's Joseph Epstein, recounting a rumination by the Chicago writer Ben Hecht back in the early 1900s. After spending a week on Lake Huron, I can confirm: looking at the great lakes makes one, if not sad, at least melancholy.
July 12, 2023
All of which is to say that while I do not expect Day’s cause to proceed, not only because of her support for Castro but because her writings are unlikely to be found free of doctrinal error, I do not think it likely that she will fade from memory. Instead, she will remain as she is today: an interesting byway in American ecclesiastical history, sometimes embarrassing to her fans, occasionally a stumbling block to her would-be enemies, and a reminder that the Church’s claim to universality is not easily undersold. A body in whose loving embrace Day can pass into eternity alongside John Wayne and Buffalo Bill Cody is certainly a catholic one.
July 11, 2023
A fun piece from Joe Serwach today.
July 10, 2023
Another chapter of the Tao as Modem.
July 9, 2023
Norm Macdonald Jokes
My apologies for the lascivious thumbnail pic below (TDE isn't known for honey shots, much less such revealing ones), but this selection of Norm Macdonald lines from Saturday Night Live is good and worth watching if you appreciate his humor. Note: Many of the jokes are "period" pieces, so if you weren't alive during the Clinton administration, you might not appreciate them.
Norm, if you didn't know it, was one of the last conservative SNL actors. I've heard on podcasts that he was a pretty serious Christian, but I haven't been able to verify it online.
Funny aside: When Norm Macdonald was approached about writing a celebrity memoir, he refused, calling the genre "one step below instruction manuals."
July 8, 2023
Attend to the world with your left hemisphere: get a left hemisphere world.
Attend to your word and writing syle sloppily: get sloppy thinking.
July 7, 2023
It's National Dive Bar Day!
Today, just this excellent overview of some really rough bars in Detroit. The first ten are pretty interesting, especially when you reflect that they're in bad neighborhoods (hence the lack of windows and "armored tank" exterior). After the first ten, the rest of the list is pretty dull: just suburban bars, most of them with none of the history or grittiness that make the first ten interesting (if scary).
July 6, 2023
July 5, 2023
I frequently wondered what happened to Jody Bottum. I hear he was forced out of First Things after Fr. Neuhaus died. Wikipedia says it was an argument over funding and the direction of the journal. I've liked to speculate it's because he wrote a surprising piece about the compatibility of Catholicism and postmodernism. It was one of the first essays I turned to when I started exploring Derrida and Foucault and wondering why their theories were so opposed by Catholics when, from what I can tell, they criticized modernity, not Catholicism. Moreover, I thought, because modernity tore down Catholicism, the postmodernists might be allies, albeit of a queer sort. Bottum corroborated my hunch.
In any event, the man is back in his home state of South Dakota, teaching classics and apparently writing great stuff. The most recent publication: a collection of his poetry. I haven't read it, but in light of my ongoing counter-culture conduct of promoting right-hemispheric propensities like localism and poetry, as well as essays from outlets like University Bookman, here's an essay about it.
Despite its growing problems, the USA is still the greatest country on earth. The problem is, it's getting depressingly easy to be the greatest country on earth because Hudge and Gudge (who come mostly from Great Britain and the United States) are killing the other countries, while the Gnostics in other countries like Canada, Australia, and Germany actively try to stomp out the Tao, making those countries terrible places to live if you value freedom.
That, in sum, is my praise and rant for this holiday.
If you want a better one, try this great 2,900-word tribute at UnHerd, a magazine that impresses me more every time I click on its masthead.
Today’s America, caught in a war between the demands of national coexistence and absolutist obsessions with racial sin, is a place that the country’s Puritan ghosts would easily recognise. . . .
The current American revolution, by contrast, represents another outbreak of the Puritan spirit, which is guilt-ridden and self-obsessed, and at the same time determined to realise the kingdom of heaven on earth. At once deeply and inherently American, it is also opposed to what has been the American social and cultural order of the past three centuries. It is a mistake to believe that the Puritan ghost can ever be satisfied, especially through compromise. Puritanism is a revolutionary, iconoclastic and totalising movement, whose truths are religious and uncompromising. The question for Americans now is which of the country’s two founding visions they will choose: that of the country’s rationalist Enlightenment Founders, whose imagination of a great, continent-sized American nation has already been achieved, or the wilder visions of its founding saints.
I really like that last passage. It makes a stark point I have increasingly been emphasizing: Modernity is, by definition, one where the left hemisphere holds hegemony.
But not all left-hemispherics are the same.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of left-hemispherics. The gnostic and the non-gnostic. All gnostics are left-hemispheric, but not all left-hemispherics are gnostics. That being said, because the left hemisphere is the psyche of gnostics, any person governed by his left hemisphere is "gnosticish."
I separate today's left-hemispherics into two categories: "political gnostics" and "cultural gnostics." The former were the Puritans and are the Marxists among us, the kind to be resisted with the fervor of a berserker. The latter are our neighbors and friends, unwitting dupes of the Marxists perhaps, but still our friends, just trying to make it in a world that has fed them a long line of left-hemispheric bulls*** all their lives.
According to this author, history and current affairs show that America has two options at this point: political gnosticism or cultural gnosticism.
I'm afraid he's right, but we need to prove him wrong. We need to re-establish the right hemisphere's hegemony in our own lives and maybe, just maybe, help instill it in those around us.
Only then can the true revolution occur, and if it's truly right hemispheric, we might be able to do it without violence.
July 3, 2023
Another installment in my chapter-by-chapter review of the Tao Teh Ching and its parallels to The Hemisphere Hypothesis.
Yes, I jumped out of order. The published installments: 1, 2, 3 . . . 47. The reason is simple: I wrote the essay first, then realized it fit well with points in Chapter 47, so I lined them up.
My original plan was to publish each chapter as a separate newsletter. That's not going to work. Some will be newsletters; some will be essays. At the end, I'll combine them all into one big document of some sort.
July 2, 2023
By writing a 35,000-word tribute
I typically read the essays I post or link to, but I haven't read this one: "Beyond the Scientific Revolution: Ian McGilchrist's The Matter with Things."
But I might be forgiven.
It clocks in at 35,000 words.
And based on the first 2,500 words, it's excellent. I'm grateful to VoegelinView for publishing it. I look forward to referencing the chapter summaries that Professor Cocks provides. (Oddly, he summarizes 25 chapters; the entire tome consists of 28 chapters; it seems odd he just didn't go ahead and add summaries for the other three, but no matter: his effort is greatly appreciated.)
The Matter with Things really is stunning. I say that even though I'm only 10% of the way through it.
Why has my progress been so slow?
Life happens, obviously, but there are other factors here. In particular, it's a lovely slog. Almost every sentence seems worth underlining. I constantly stop to jot down notes, which sometimes turns into a nascent essay or blog post. After an hour, I flip back through the pages and discover I've read three.
Joseph Epstein is fond of recalling the observation that one lifetime isn't enough to read all the books that ought to be read. I expanded on it to state that one lifetime isn't enough for me to finish all the books I've started to read. And now, I'm bemused to think the remainder of my life isn't enough for me to finish this one magisterial work.
July 1, 2023