Friday, January 02, 2004
AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI: THE BRAINS OF AL QAEDA? This fine, historically-informed profile was done by Lawrence Wright, one of the best of the staff at the New Yorker. It is essential reading.
ISRAEL'S OTHER BIG PROBLEM. Herbert London, President of the Hudson Institute, ran into it at a recent conference in Hertzliyah--and it is the same as the spectre that is haunting (western) Europe. For elucidation see this unmincing commentary from the Town Hall site.
AND IT IS NOT A NOVEL BY EVELYN WAUGH! Though he surely would have had a great time with contemporary Haiti, still miserable after all these years (200)of independence. This report is by the Times's woman in Port-Au-Prince.
CHICAGO AIN'T READY FOR REFORM...so said a corrupt politician of an earlier era. Apparently, it ain't quite ready for civility either. But we do have the Cubs, the Bearz and the best Patagonian restaurant in the upper midwest!
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES...in Toronto last year. It is rather voyeuristic but with this link we look in on a fellow who practices the same trade (radio show) in the other city on the lake...and examine what solaced and annoyed him in 2003.
PERHAPS IN THIS CASE "NIL NISI BONUM" DOES NOT APPLY. A power has passed from the scene in San Fancisco...and whetever else might be said about Yusef Bey (there is in fact a great deal that should be said) we can all agree that he will remain memorable. The coverage is from the Los Angeles Times.
WHAT HAPPENED TO LENI RIEFENSTAHL'S GYPSIES? The leading Nazi filmaker died last year at the age of 100. A few months before her demise this article appeared in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. Despite her denials it does appear that Riefenstahl borrowed some gypsies to act in her last film and then stood by as they were shipped off for extermination. This important article has not had the attention it merits.
THERE'S A PLACE FOR US...ELSEWHERE IN THE GALAXY, MAYBE! The news is just out today that three Australian astrophysicists have concluded that it is likely that life does exist elsewhere in the "Galactic Habitable Zone." As e.e. cummings said: "There's a great universe out there. Let's go!"
THE ORIGINS OF ACTIVIST MESSIANISM...or, what inspired David Koresh and Timothy MacVeigh? Here is a scholarly review of a scholarly work that attempts to search the religious origins of apocalyptic terrorism.
WHAT DID $200,000.000 BUY? That's what has been spent so far by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (It's your money: the NCCAM is federally funded.) The results so far? Zilch. Read on in this important report from the Skeptical Inquirer.
THE GREAT UNFINISHED...symphony by Schubert. A particularly sonorous performance by the Philharmonia conducted by Dohnanyi.
Thursday, January 01, 2004
WHY SADDAM MUST BE TRIED IN IRAQ BY IRAQIS. The position is well argued by one of the top hands at the Hudson Institute in this article just published by their journal, American Outlook.
STRONG FOREIGN POLICY, STRONG ECONOMY...and a weak opponent. That, says George Will is what a president seeking reelection needs. Bush, he says in his column today, has the first two and Governor Dean will help him complete the trifecta.
RICHARD PERLE STIRS THE POT! In a book about to be published, he and David Frum answer the critics of the "hard line" by getting still harder. According to this preview from an Australian newspaper they call for decisive action against North Korea, Syria, the Iranian regime and at least a rap on the knuckles of France. Perle will be discussing these matters with us on our program on the night of January 13.
WHO DISLIKES US (THE U.S.) AND WHY? This sort of self-sensitive question is often asked by pollsters working for American research centers. Do the respondents give honest answers? This methodological problem haunts all such surveys. But, with that in mind, the recent report from the Pew Center is worth some close consideration.
WHEN VON CLAUSEWITZ WROTE ABOUT "THE FOG OF WAR"...he didn't know the half of it. According to this historian, in a book excerpt published by the Boston Globe, we still don't have a proper understanding of the Battle of Gettysburg...and the same is, perhaps inevitably, true of more recent battles and wars.
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MARS LANDINGS. Spirit is scheduled to land on January 3rd and Opportunity a few weeks later. Meanwhile, where is Beagle II? What's the instrumentation--and what is the scientific relevance of it all? For these and any other conceivable questions, the answers are to be found on the links provided on this great site.
A CONTEMPLATION OF SPACE, TIME AND THE PARADIGM-SHIFT TO COME...and all of this is prompted by the transition from '03 to '04 and in the New York Times, of all places! Physicist Brian Greene, the author, has been--and soon will again be--a guest on our program.
SHAKESPEARE, SEX AND THE STATE. Measure for Measure has finally found its audience says Theodore Dalrymple (a former guest on our program) because it bears directly on a very present question: Does the state have a right or duty to impose a code of sexual morality? This cogent essay is from the current issue of City Journal.
IN THE COMING CULTURE WAR CHRISTIANITY WILL BE REPRESENTED BY THE PENTECOSTALS!! So argues David Belden, a sociologist of religion, who may be (we're not sure) a Pentecostal himself. A rather startling representation of things to come--but vividly written and worth thinking about.
LORD BLACK OF CROSSHARBOUR IS IN HOT WATER...over some financial shenanigans but, the reviewer for the UK Guardian likes his just published biography of FDR. Another instance of the relevance of the maxim: you've got to take the bitter with the better.
AND TEN YEARS EARLIER, IN NEW YORK. More great--and sometimes comedic--jazz from Fats Waller. Don't miss The Minor Drag and Won't You Get Off It Please.
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
WHO IS HUNT LIEBERSON AND WHY DOTH CHARLES MICHENER COMMEND HER? According to the latter--in this article from the New Yorker--the former is the leading soprano of our time...at least when it comes to performing Baroque operas and oratorios. Go know! And also go read this vivid and appreciative profile.
THINGS TO COME (SOON!) ACCORDING TO SAFIRE. His annual predictions for the coming year are given in today's column from the New York Times. Item 12 is the one that Drudge chose to headline. If Safire's right on this it may yet be an interesting presidential election.
IF YOU WORSHIP WRONG THEY JUST MAY KILL YOU! Religious freedom is not--in case you were wondering--equally available in all parts of the world. The State Department tries to monitor this one of the "Four Freedoms" and here's what they have found, circa 2003.
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES YOU EXPECTED, MAYBE, THE SKELETON IN THE CLOSET? Today the gray lady of 43rd Street gave us its official version of the life story of Governor (they, too, are now using "Dr" alternatively) Dean. Here it is.
THE CLOSE LINK BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND TEMPLE JUDAISM. Margaret Barker has put forward a strong hypothesis about the close continuity between the liurgies of the Jerusalem Temple and of Orthodox Christianity.This Times Literary Supplement review summarizes and evaluates her fascinating argument.
DE MORITURI COMEDICA NIL NISI BONUM. Tony Blankley, in this column from today's Washington Times, memorializes all the funny people who departed this year. A good list but it leaves out Tavor Yakabelian!!
I'LL NEVER FORGET WHATSHERNAME. Memorable things are happening in the neurophysiological search for memory itself. Here's a great--and quite comprehnsible--summary of some of the most important recent findings as given by a leading researcher in a Scientific American interview.
MANY FEET IN MANY RESPECTIVE MOUTHS. We all say things we regret. One wonders whether the notable utterers singled out by the Media Research Center yesterday are regretting those utterances today.
A JAZZ MASTER (COURTESY OF THE NEA) REMEMBERS. Nat Hentoff is probably our greatest jazz critic and historian. (He is also a colleague of mine on the Board of Advisors at FIRE.) Here, in a splendid reminiscence from yesterday's Wall Street Journal, he lovingly remembers Willie the Lion Smith, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Lester Young.
AND SPEAKING OF FATS WALLER...here are some great performances recorded in London in 1938. Be sure to hear Ain't Misbehavin, That Old Feeling and I Can't Give You Anything But Love.
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
HOW MUCH LONGER CAN THIS GO ON? Saudi Arabia is living in the middle of a paradox...or perhaps it should be designated as a crisis that will lead to a catastrophe. This knowledgeable article is from the current issue of Foreign Affairs.
A TALE OF TWO EARTHQUAKES. The difference in fatalities between the California earthquake (Richter 6.5) and the Iran earthquake (Richter 6.6) is in the ratio of 2 to 40,000! Why? Tom Sowell in his column at Town Hall has a compelling answer.
NO PULITZERS FOR THESE FOLKS! What were the ten worst journalistic goofs of the year? trying to avoid blaming only the New York Times, this reporter for the Los Angeles Times comes up with some dreadful blotches on the visage of the contemporary American press.
TEARS (INSTEAD OF CHEERS) FOR ALMA MATER...that's Brooklyn College where, a long time ago, the proprietor got his BA. But PC and "diversity" have long since transformed the place and now a new chapter in the lowering of higher education begins. This article from the current Weekly Standard is by an embattled professor on the scene.
AND, SPEAKING OF "DIVERSITY"...here's something that does almost defy comprehension. What is the Ford Foundation doing as it supports a program to teach (and endorse?) a militant version of Islamic Sharia in American schools? This disturbing report appeared today in Front Page.
IN LANGUAGE NOW, ALMOST ANYTHING GOES...and, according to linguist John McWhorter, writing in the Washington Post, the "almost" is almost gone. Putting all this another way: when public discourse lapses easily into the scatological, what sort of people will we have become?
AND SPEAKING OF THE LANGUAGE. Would you be able to handle Singlish or any of the other English-based patois now evolving at the "fault line" locations where two linguistic tectonic plates collide? This article from Walrus magazine presents an interesting sampler of the neologistic results.
COULD WE STAND ABSOLUTE TRUTH BETWEEN FRIENDS AND/OR LOVERS? The question is brilliantly raised and dissected by William Ian Miller in his recent book, Faking It. Just as we enjoyed our conversation with him a few months ago on Extension 720, we also enjoyed--and are happy to pass on to you--this review of the book from the UK Independent.
HOW DID YOU DO THAT? To this usual question from a dazzled observer of a magical feat the usual answer is "very well, I thought." But here's a magician who gives it all away in a new book, just now reviewed in the Baltimore Sun.
A CURIOUS MEMOIR OF DICKENS AND DOTHEBOYS HALL. In this recent feature from the Times Literary Supplement, a contemporary of Dickens remembers him and the school he immortalized in Nicholas Nickleby. This is, to put it simply, fascinating stuff.
FUNEREAL AND TRIUMPHANT MUSIC...from the symphony of the same name by Hector Berlioz. He was born two hundred years ago, yet much that he wrote sounds like the post-serial (i.e. melodic) music that is being written today. This is a stirring and startling performance.
Monday, December 29, 2003
IT GOES TO YOUR HEAD.....big money, that is. And, according to the National Review's man in Washington, that's what has happened to George Soros who is spending millions (for him a few pennies!) to defeat George W. in the hope of turning the war on terrorism into a matter for the police. This op-ed is from today's Wall Street Journal.
KASS, PANGLE, STRAUSS AND THE POLITICAL MEANINGS OF THE BIBLE: That seems a quite large assignment for a book review. But this is an exceptionally fine review/essay worth close reading and reactive thought. It appeared recently in the Claremont Review of Books.
THE "DEATH" OF POSTMODERNIST LITERARY THEORY? This reporter for the Boston Globe thinks that the demise was evident at the MLA meeting over the weekend. If so, t'were a consummation devoutly to be wished.
PEDAGOGIC PECULIARITY PERSISTS AND PROSPERS...but at what cost to the standard of free speech (and the virtue of intellective inquiry) on the American campus? This list of academic pc horrors of the year is from Front Page magazine.
MEANWHILE OVER IN THE ART HISTORY DEPARTMENT...political correctness is exceeded only by Lacanian obscurantism and Derridaist nihilism. That's the way Roger Kimble, brilliant essayist and rather frequent guest on our program, calls it in this essay from the current issue of New Criterion, the magazine of which he is managing editor.
IN THE WAKE OF BEAGLE II: The American Mars Rover, Spirit, will land in a few days and--if all goes well--will be able to do the job that was also assigned to the apparently lost British rover, Beagle. And yet a third rover is due to set down soon. The question of water and life on Mars remains to be answered. This useful account is from today's Washington Post.
JUMPING FROM A VERY HIGH PLACE...namely, from 130,00 feet and going over five minutes in free fall before the parachute opens. Who is scheduled to do this and why? Cheryl Stearns who explains it all in a just-published interview from New Scientist.
THE SPAM PLAGUE: IS THIS THE ANSWER? Probably not, but something must be done and the sooner the better. This article from the BBC News site is informative--as are the many other linked stories.
C'EST DROLE, MAIS ON NE RIT PAS! There is indeed something different about French humor--it does not generate much strong and spontaneous laughter. Why not? This essay from The Economist is, we think, onto something true if interesting.
MORE GREAT SWING! This collection features Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller--and the music is as heartening now as it was then. Particularly, don't miss Basie's One O'Clock Jump and Goodman's These Foolish Things.