Pantagruel among the Pomos


Upon a certain day, I know not when, Pantagruel walking after supper with some of his fellow-students… encountered with a young spruce-like scholar that was coming upon the same very way, and, after they had saluted one another, asked him thus, My friend, from whence comest thou now?

The scholar answered him, From the alme, inclyte, and celebrate academy, which is vocitated Lutetia.

What is the meaning of this? said Pantagruel to one of his men. It is, answered he, from Paris.

Thou comest from Paris then, said Pantagruel; and how do you spend your time there, you my masters the students of Paris?

The scholar answered, We transfretate the Sequan at the dilucul and crepuscul; we deambulate by the compites and quadrives of the urb; we despumate the Latial verbocination; and, like verisimilary amorabons, we captat the benevolence of the omnijugal, omniform and omnigenal feminine sex.

Upon certain diecules we invisat the lupanares, and in a venerian ecstasy inculcate our veretres into the penitissime recesses of the pudends of these amicabilissim meretricules. Then do we cauponisate in the meritory taberns of the Pineapple, the Castle, the Magdalene, and the Mule, goodly vervecine spatules perforaminated with petrocile.

And if by fortune there be rarity or penury of pecune in our marsupies, and that they be exhausted of ferruginean metal, for the shot we dimit our codices and oppignerat our vestments, whilst we prestolate the coming of the tabellaries from the Penates and patriotic Lares.

To which Pantagruel answered, What devilish language is this? By the Lord, I think thou art some kind of heretick.


Book II, chapter 6. You’ll be glad to know the soi-disant Parisian gets his comeuppance, and lapses at last into his native dialect.

When I hear the word rigor…


… I reach for my emollient.

I get occasional emails from the professors’ trade journal Inside Higher Education (which really ought to be called Higher Education: On The Inside. A prison movie, y’know.)

The experience is a lot like getting Tweets from people on the deck of the Titanic: the whole elephantine sector seems to be eating itself alive.

I was delighted the other day to see an item in this dismal journal calling for more rigor — and ‘intentionality’, a very dated corporate buzzword — in study-abroad programs. Now this seems to me a lot like calling for ‘rigor’ and ‘intentionality’ in frat-row toga parties.

There seem to be two reasons why people go to college: to get their ticket punched for a career, and to have a good time. Take away the good time, and it’s a bit like McDonald’s not using salt on the French fries. People will go to Burger King.

The article, to its credit, recognizes the problem, up to a point, anyway. Some academical burger-flipper is quoted:

Our aspirations are weighed down by deeply rooted consumer values, tacit agreements, let’s call them, which are abundantly visible throughout the wider American educational system, but which arguably do not serve desirable learning outcomes in study abroad.

Well, desirable for whom, exactly? The kids go on these jaunts for the same reasons that the English gentry used to go on the Grand Tour: first, to say they’d been there, and second, to get laid by somebody who speaks a different language, uses a different perfume, might have slightly different manners in the sack. From what I’ve heard, by these standards, the ‘outcomes’ are generally pretty good(*).

Professor Burgerflip, according to the article, went on deplore “the field’s emphases on student satisfaction as opposed to measurable learning and growth, on inclusive access versus selectivity and merit.”

Very divided in mind, these people. They want to market their product to anybody and everybody; but not only do they want to go easy on the salt, they want to give you a spanky every time you walk in the door.

How do you combine these two goals? Conscription?

(*) For the record: I myself did not do a ‘year abroad’ as an undergraduate; too poor. In grad school I finally got a fellowship that took me out of the country — to Ireland, a place where in those days nobody got laid. I must have some huge karmic debt to pay from a previous life.

Speaking of dancing on people’s graves…

The Antichrist

… when is this schmendrick going to die? There is a grave I would dance on.

I say this as person whose nice old Linux laptop just died, and who is now trying to do some of the same stuff on a Windows machine. With a deadline, yet.

It’s interesting — though maddening — to note that Linux has also become less usable over the years, because it’s trying to be like Windows.

So who’s worse, Maggie Thatcher or Bill Gates? Over to you, God.

Lady Margaret in hell

Lady Margaret in Hell

… where no doubt she will be batting her rather striking eyes at Don Juan. She was quite a flirt, or so one is told. That other late unlamented, Christopher Hitchens, tells a droll story about her.

All my lefty mailing lists are full of abuse for old Lady Margaret. I suppose it’s understandable, in a way, since everybody who is anybody, from the God-Emperor on down, is hastening to lay posies on her grave, even before she’s in it. The impulse to set the record straight is elevated and correct.

And yeah, sure, she was a bad person, no doubt about it; as bad as you like. Lay on the untiring minions of Tartarus, with their incandescent whips, to the top of your bent; she deserved it all, and more than your punitive imagination can begin to frame.

But really — doesn’t all this posthumous vindictiveness make us Lefties seem a little … small?

Surely here if ever was a foe worthy of our steel — worthy, and then some, since she whupped us six ways from Sunday. She, and Richard Nixon, seem like the only halfway interesting political figures to bestride the world stage in my lifetime. Come on. Credit where it’s due.

This is not about being nice, or respecting the dead, or any such Pecksniffery as that. There are graves on which I would cheerfully dance — though I seldom dance, and don’t do it well.

But somehow, Tricky Dick’s and Lady Margaret’s graves are not among the ones I would dance on, though they themselves, in life, were the worst of the worst. They were so bad that they attained a kind of diabolical dignity, which it’s simply vulgar not to acknowledge.

It’s as if one were sent as ambassador to the court of Beelzebub. Who wouldn’t want to meet the old arch-reprobate? And who wouldn’t be polite to him, once met?

Dancing with the stars

I used to have the picture above taped to my refrigerator door — it was clipped originally from Le Monde, which had really witty photo editors back in the day. It shows Maggie Thatcher dancing with Kenneth Kaunda. The version shown here is so over-contrasty that I don’t know whether you can see the lily-white hanky that the grocer’s daughter has draped over her hand before entrusting its Saxon pallor to the African strongman’s swarthy grasp.

I was reminded of the picture today when I read Barack Obama’s treacly, fulsome eulogy of the inimitable old bat. For sheer dog-faced shamelessness Obie, in his funereal mode, is hard to beat. Here’s the whole thing — really, trust me, you don’t want to miss a word:

With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher(*), the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend. As a grocer’s daughter who rose to become Britain’s first female prime minister, she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered. As prime minister, she helped restore the confidence and pride that has always been the hallmark of Britain at its best. And as an unapologetic supporter of our transatlantic alliance, she knew that with strength and resolve we could win the Cold War and extend freedom’s promise.

Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history—we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will. Michelle and I send our thoughts to the Thatcher family and all the British people as we carry on the work to which she dedicated her life—free peoples standing together, determined to write our own destiny.

Not just freedom, not just liberty, but freedom AND liberty. A twofer. And an example to our daughters, God help us. I don’t think my own daughter particularly admired Maggie, but perhaps she wouldn’t have told me if she did.

And ‘passing’? Fuck, can’t anybody say ‘death’ any more?

All the things that my Obamaphile friends value about Obie come down, in the last analysis, to things he has said, since none of them are right-wing enough to like anything he’s actually done. (Apart from the two or three dedicated Zionists, who strongly approve of his sedulous fellation of Israel.)

But even on the plane of mere words, some of what he says seems to matter to my Obamaphile friends, and other stuff gets swept aside. This paean to one of the most horrible political figures of our time — a real Horsewoman Of The Apocalypse — clearly went into the liberal Memory Hole even before it was uttered.

Now anent Maggie herself, let the record show there was something rather likable about her on a purely personal level, leaving the politics out of it. She always did seem to be having a whale of a time, particularly in the House of Commons — whereas most liberals, and most especially Obama, always have a pinched pained expression, as if they needed a laxative. Badly. But Maggie, in her own carnivorous way, was a good-time girl. One can — well, this one can, anyway — watch old clips of her baiting and being baited at Question Time with real pleasure. And she and that giddy airhead Reagan always looked like teenagers on a joyride as soon as they got into a golf cart together.

I think they were both rather uncomplicated personalities, and neither of them had a shred of conscience. Of course one entailment of this happy state is that you can’t suffer from bad conscience, as liberals chronically do.

(*) By the way, am I correct in believing that this phrase is a solecism? You could say Lady Margaret, with or without the Thatcher, or you could say Baroness Thatcher, or Lady Thatcher. But this overstuffed form just sounds ignorant and wrong to me. I will defer however to those better acquainted with the Sassenach toffery than I.

Quis custodiet?

Put that thumb up your ass, will you?
I am amazed, amazed, at the outpouring of grief this poor gnome’s passing has evoked. Really, is there any occupation more loathesome than ‘critic’? Who needs these people? Can’t we see a movie, or read a book, and experience our pleasure or displeasure on our own?

The history of criticism has probably been written, though I haven’t read it. I suspect the genre arises from bourgeois status anxiety — the same source that gives us etiquette manuals. But correct me if I’m wrong.

Nowadays, of course, ‘criticism’ is also a kind of muted, muffled, bloodless blood sport, like American Idol. Siskel and Ebert even made the blood-sport parallel explicit with that horrible thumbs-up, thumbs-down thing they did: Rogere atque Eugiene Caesares, morituri vos salutamus!

Caesar in this case is not of course Caesar himself but rather some fairly quick-witted drone in a cubicle whom Caesar employs to provide a kind of second-order entertainment, deriving its livelihood from entertainment proper, like a lamprey in the trout fishery.

A kind of court jester, and therefore of course, the funnier-looking the better.

Salami tactics

Slicing the salami

White House Budget to Include Social Security Cuts

This is something we’ve never seen from a Democratic president: An official White House budget that includes cuts to both Social Security and Medicare.

White House officials say the budget the president will unveil next week will include proposed cuts to Medicare (by increasing premiums for wealthier retirees) and Social Security (by reducing annual cost of living increases).

The proposals themselves are not new — they were part of the ill-fated offer the president made [last year] — but they are now part of the official White House budget. And that is a significant change that will open the president up to criticism from liberals and put pressure on Republicans to offer a response.

These proposed cuts will infuriate liberals, but in the budget plan — as in the offer made last year to Boehner — the cuts will be paired with $580 billion in tax increases. Without the tax increases, there would be no cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

The writer seems to be suggesting that the tax increases will at least help assuage the liberals’ pain. How nice for them. One might ask however whether the tax increases will do much to assuage the pain us oldsters will be feeling from the Medicare and Social Security cuts.

As usual with Barack ‘Catfood’ Obama, those who couldn’t see it coming have only themselves to blame. He’s been quite upfront about this, and everything else.

American as apple pie

Happiness is a warm... gun

Is anybody else as tired as I am of the phrase ‘gun violence’? Is gun violence worse than other kinds of violence? If I club a guy to death, is that somehow not quite so bad as shooting him?

Of course the phrase is meant to engender support for gun control laws — not abolition, of course; hell, the cops and the soldier boys and the people with enough political juice to get pistol permits clearly need them, right? How would they shoot us, otherwise? But control. Ordinary crazy people shouldn’t have guns. Only official crazy people should have guns.

Personally I’m fairly unexcited by guns, one way or the other, though I grew up in a gun culture, and learned how to shoot quite early, and was rather good at it, oddly enough. Guns don’t scare me, and they don’t much excite me, though there is a certain pleasure in the sounds they make — not so much the final bang, but the complex many-voiced click of the round being chambered, for example.

Even so, if I were Emperor For A Day, and could indulge myself, I’d prohibit all guns except single-shot bolt-action rifles and double-barrel shotguns, suitable for hunting venison and duck, and for dispatching varmints.

I would, of course, completely disarm the cops. Heh. Bottom rail on top dis time, Massa.

But what deplorers of ‘gun violence’ seem to miss is that the abundance of guns here in the City On A Hill is in fact one of its few triumphs of electoral ‘democracy’, as that phrase is understood on these shores. If you like legislatures, and elections, and so on, then you’ve got to accept your creepy neighbor’s arsenal of a dozen assault rifles as an entailment of our extravagant Ptolemaic system of elections: community boards, school boards, city council, not one but two houses of the state legislature, ditto for the federal.

Gun nuts are a minority; but they are more committed to having guns than non-gun-nuts are about taking them away. Consequently the gun nuts are more powerful, electorally speaking, than their neighbors who would only sorta kinda rather people didn’t have guns. This is the way electoral politics works. And it’s the reason why, if you’re going to go in for elections at all, you should decide what your single issue is, and not vote for anybody who isn’t good on your issue. Take a lesson from the gun nuts.

My issue is imperial war. I won’t vote for anybody who’s for imperial war. Of course in New York, where ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ both love imperial war, this means I don’t have anybody to vote for. Therefore I don’t vote.

Other kinds of democracy are not only envisionable, but historically attested. There is, for example, the scheme of picking legislators by lot from among the public, and dispensing with elections altogether.

I’m liking this one more and more. One of the things we would certainly get out of it is gun control; and I bet we’d have less imperial war, too.

By indirection find direction out

The yellow peril

North Korea nuclear threats prompt US missile battery deployment to Guam

The Pentagon ordered an advanced missile defence system to the western Pacific on Wednesday, as the US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, declared that North Korea posed “a real and clear danger” to South Korea, Japan and America itself.

The deployment of the battery to the US territory of Guam is the biggest demonstration yet that Washington regards the confrontation with North Korea as more worrying than similar crises over the past few years. It also suggests the Americans are preparing for a long standoff.

Well, shit, look at a map. Surely this has nothing at all to do with that comic-opera outfit in North Korea, and everything to do with encircling China?

I love the idea that ‘the Pentagon’ took this step — who would have thought an ugly satrap-style building could show such geopolitical finesse? One wonders whether ‘the Pentagon’ might have stirred one of its five cement arms and picked up the phone and consulted with another ugly building across the river, to wit, the White House?