Muslim men hate women

28 August, 2009

That muslim men hate women is the only conclusion I can arrive at, based on things I’ve heard in passing, and this nauseating article (I mean that the subject is nauseating, not the prose). Really, what benefit is there to society, by letting these ways take hold in the West? How long will Europe remain tolerant – until there is a sufficient Muslim vote to introduce sharia law? We can’t fight this awful trend until we have the courage to stop demeaning ourselves and praising other, more “authentic” cultures. We need to be proud of (and indeed more fully aware of) the Western virtues of freedom of thought, expression, and the search for knowledge, which we take for granted but which arrived only by centuries of struggle. Otherwise, just as a person with low self-esteem will always become a victim, all that is of worth in the West will be suppressed and trodden underfoot.

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Why clowns are evil

1 May, 2009

Edit: With belated apologies to Moo.

Here are results of some Googling I did today.

“i hate clowns” 52,700
“clowns are evil” 14,200
“i don’t like clowns” 4,930
“people who like clowns” 776
“i really hate clowns” 264
“who likes clowns” 254
“i really don’t like clowns” 157
“who the hell likes clowns” 134
“people who like clowns are” 4
“why do people like clowns” 1

“i like clowns” 7,580
“i love clowns” 6,530
“i like clowns” -padilla 5,700
“why do people hate clowns” 433
“why do you hate clowns” 219

As you can see by this rough study, clown haters by far outnumber clown lovers.

I think it’s perfectly normal to hate and fear clowns. How can you like or trust someone who wears a mask, who pretends to be exaggeratedly happy, who demands that you smile at him? By this argument, people who like clowns are “tone deaf” in their understanding of human relations – they think a “smile” must mean a smile, and they can understand no deeper than that.

I think clowns may have their roots in shamanic practices, in which the shaman would wear a mask to represent a spirit. These old spirits were not figures of unalloyed joy, of course, but they were powers with whom we would prefer friendly relations. As Christianity became dominant, pagan practice lost its power to impress as a spiritual exercise, and became instead a charming folk ritual. From the charming folk ritual, it is only one easy step to make it an entertainment for children. So the spirit of fertility becomes an animated child’s toy. But the smart kids know not to trust this deception.

Warn your children! “Stay away from that clown – he’s dangerous!”

A very interesting article by Roger Scruton, tackling something I think important, which is the question of how the West can rise out of nihilism, be proud of itself, and live up to its best potential.

An interesting examination of Barak Obama’s inaugural speech, by Jonathan Raban.

Just a couple of things to mention: Roosevelt’s Depression-era first inauguration speech contained a condemnation of bankers and financiers, with a strong allusion to Jesus driving the corrupt money changers out of the temple. Raban says this was an unconscionable antisemitism, which FDR must have overlooked or else agreed with. It is a shame that he should make this association, which is not forthcoming from the biblical story, in which the money changers were indeed Jewish, but so was everyone else in the temple, including Jesus himself.

Raban looks askance at the use of “forbearers” in the sentence “we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers”. However, while it is true that “forbear”, when it doesn’t mean ancestor, generally means endure, withstand or put up with, it should also be usuable in its most literal sense, “to carry before”. While it is most likely that “forbearers” is simply an error, it also has a perfectly acceptable alternative meaning as a reference to those who previously maintained the ideals of the United States.

The sentence “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America” contains a musical reference I haven’t seen noted elsewhere: the song Pick Yourself Up, by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, as first heard in the Fred Astaire film Swing Time (1936). Was this a conscious reference to the spirit of the Depression, a sly pointer to a love of Broadway tunes or Astaire films, or mere coincidence?

Obama gives an historical quote from “the father of our nation”, who listeners naturally assumed to be George Washington, but who was actually Thomas Paine. But would anyone refer to Paine as “the father of our nation”? Rather than a subtle piece of historical knowledge, this attribution may actually be a simple mistake.

Finally, Raban says the most unusual thing about this speech is that, for all its deference to archaic forms and niceties, it strongly condemns the inauguree’s predecessor. I think history will say that the real innovation is that the speech was addressed not just to America, but to the citizens of the world. In a way, this globalised address out-Bushes Bush, and his pretentions to be the teacher of the world. At the same time, it matches Obama’s revolutionary use of new communication methods to build popular support. I think this may be the first time the inaugural ceremony has been broadcast live around the world (following a similar precedent for the presidential, and, indeed, vice presidential debates). It may not be the last, and if it is not, Obama’s reign may see the dawn of what the neoconservatives have been calling for, “the new American century”. (Which will, of course, be nothing at all like “the thousand year Reich”!)

Thought for the day 11/11/08

11 November, 2008

Strong principles are no substitute for common sense.

(Inspired by this confused, “funny” rant by PJ O’Rourke.)

In Australia we don’t get the blanket electoral coverage the citizens of the US are subjected to, but every few days a news show will run a story on the latest trends. The last few stories of this kind I’ve seen have involved canvasing the opinions of stupid rednecks (as opposed to the smart sort, of whom I’m sure there are a few). From them, we hear such gems as: “He’s a socialist – he’s practically a communist!”, “We know he’s a Muslim, why doesn’t he just come out and say it?”, and “He was friends with terrorists a few years ago – he can’t just say that doesn’t matter anymore.” Yes, from the Republican Party propagandists to your ears, via the hollow heads of these empty vessels, they are talking about Barack Obama.

I’ve seen footage of McCain saying, “Now we know what he really wants – to ‘spread the wealth around’!”, which is code for “he’s a communist”. Never mind that Obama was referring to his plan to repeal Bush’s tax cuts for Americans making over than US$250,000 a year (the great majority of Americans make less than that). This came out when Obama was talking with the now-famous “Joe the Plumber”, who misrepresented himself as being about to buy a company making over $250,000. In response, McCain has said, “[Obama] wants government to take Joe’s money and give it to somebody else.” Specifically, though McCain won’t go into specifics, income over the threshold will go back to being taxed at 39% rather than 36%. Income received before the threshold is reached is still taxed at the lower rate. But anyway… now Obama’s a Red, apparently.

The terrorist connection? Obama served on the boards of couple of community organizations at the same time as William Ayers, who is a professor of education at Illinois U, but who had previously been a member of terrorist group the Weathermen 1969-1972. (Ayers was never convicted and didn’t kill anyone; Tim McVeigh was a terrorist who killed a lot more people, but he’s pretty popular with the “base”.) So there you go. I’m betting he once walked past a pedophile on the street – see, he must be a pedophile! And his pizza delivery guy is gay. Wow, all the pieces are falling into place now. So Obama must be a terrorist.

Obama must be a Muslim – after all, he has such a strange, foreign name. Never mind he’s been going to church all his life. Never mind the same people who say he’s a Muslim will also condemn him for the out-of-context sayings of his Christian minister, the “crazy” Rev. Wright. Remember, Obama is black, which means he’s not a proper American, which means he probably worships the devil or something.* And don’t think Obama’s being a black Muslim will stop the same accusers from saying he’s really a rich Jew. That’s about the level of intelligence and moral integrity we can expect from these people.

I wonder how McCain feels about the lies he has to tell. I think the guy does have some decency in his heart, so surely he’s not so power-crazed as to be oblivious to what he’s saying up there. He knows that Obama is not a socialist, or a terrorist, or a Muslim. But maybe he’s been brainwashed by the Republican machine. This crazy degraded circus is Karl Rove‘s ultimate legacy to the American Republic.

Compare this campaign with the previous few, each of which seemed more appallingly bottom-scraping than the last. We all thought, “Well, at least nothing can be worse than Bush”, but imagine if this new crew of wackos got in! There’s no real policy there, just “personalities”; no debate, just these mean, crazy lies.

What would it say about America if McCain won? Well, it would say “America is doomed”, for one thing. A bunch of “mavericks” fueled by delusion and paranoia…. The US would be the next Russia. Oh dear.

(Further reading)

* I find I agree with Gore Vidal on this one – the only religion for a person of intelligence and taste is paganism (no wonder all those Oxbridge dons loved their Classics). Paganism (at its best) is truly a personal religion, as opposed to the requisite monolithic mentality of the monotheisms. Paganism is a way to understand the world, not a dogma. It allows for the existence of conflict and even of evil, and says that people are not superior to the world in which they live. I’m not a pagan, but I enjoy the idea of the world being full of spirit, as a metaphor for the way we should live.

The Pilgrim’s Progress

24 October, 2008

Pilgrim's Progress CD cover - Boult EMI

I recently took receipt of the 30 disc Ralph Vaughan Williams Collector’s Edition, and last night I listened to the Pilgrim’s Progress for the first time (Boult/EMI). (I was minded to buy this set after hearing a moment of the opera (during an interview with Hickox) on the Gramophone cover CD, which for once was useful!) I’m not an opera fan, and whenever I decide to explore the operas of a favourite composer, I usually find they have changed to an “operatic” style, but my hopes were high.

The first act of Progress seems to be the source of most of the music from his 5th symphony; combined with singing, it reminded me of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’, and I wondered if RVW had heard this work. The second and third act were much more in a standard oratorio style, a method of choral drama which to be honest I find rather kitschy. I also began to weary of the recitative, and wish the opera was as melodic as his symphonies. And I began to wonder why an atheist would write a major work based on a religious tract – was it ultimately due to childhood nostalgia? I found I greatly sympathised with mild-mannered Mr. By-Ends, by the end of the “Morality” (that’s what RVW called it instead of an “opera”).

There seemed to be a certain musical monotony which made it difficult to sustain interest, and I think, in listening to the ‘out-takes’ on the second disc, I discovered partly why. When the orchestra was playing its parts alone, I found the music very colourful and interesting; same with the choral parts (although written in quite a churchy style). The problem was when the soloists came in – they swamped the soundstage. (And, as I said, didn’t have much of melodic interest to sing.) As I said, I don’t listen to much opera, but I have the feeling that spotlighting of vocal soloists is standard practice – ironically, it’s also a standard practice in the worst popular music, and I’m really sad that classical music producers don’t have higher standards.

So, apart from the problems of this unique work, I’m wondering: does the Hickox recording have a more natural soundstage? If so, I would certainly be interested in investigating that alternative. Can anyone compare the two recordings? Thanks.

(Another thought – how would Pilgrim’s Progress compare with Messaien’s St. Francis of Assisi?)