June 2004


30 Jun 2004 11:36 pm

At LutherDog’s suggestion, I have “read” Jack London’s Sea Wolf. (I actually listened to it; I borrowed the audio book from the local library.)

There were a couple passages I thought were striking, and so I share them here with some comments.

Chapter 4

Childish and immaterial as the topic was, the quality of [the seal hunters’] reasoning was still more childish and immaterial. In truth, there was very little reasoning or none at all. Their method was one of assertion, assumption, and denunciation. They proved that a seal pup could swim or not swim at birth by stating the proposition very bellicosely and then following it up with an attack on the opposing man’s judgment, common sense, nationality, or past history. Rebuttal was precisely similar. I have related this in order to show the mental calibre of the men with whom I was thrown in contact. Intellectually they were children, inhabiting the physical forms of men.

Doesn’t that describe the caliber of most of what passes for political discussion? Substitute “weapons of mass destruction” or “links between Iraq and al Qaeda” for the proposition that “a seal pup could swim or not swim at birth”, and it is what you hear all the time, particularly (though not exclusively) from the Left.

Now for a second passage.

I’ve always found it amazing that authors and movie makers claim they need to use foul language to make their work authentic. Perhaps within their own circles they never experience language in any other way, and so they think that everyone else talks that way. Perhaps they just don’t know any better.

But perhaps they are just taking the easy way out. It is possible, although difficult, to write in a way that clearly gives the feel of people who talk in a rough way without actually lowering yourself and your audience to their level. Admittedly, this is more difficult this is more difficult to do in the movies, but I contend that it is still possible.

Jack London does just this, showing just how salty a sailor’s language can be, but without making you feel like you have to take a shower afterwards.

Chapter 2

Then a most surprising thing occurred. The captain broke loose upon the dead man like a thunderclap. Oaths rolled from his lips in a continuous stream. And they were not namby-pamby oaths, or mere expressions of indecency. Each word was a blasphemy, and there were many words. They crisped and crackled like electric sparks. I had never heard anything like it in my life, nor could I have conceived it possible. With a turn for literary expression myself, and a penchant for forcible figures and phrases, I appreciated, as no other listener, I dare say, the peculiar vividness and strength and absolute blasphemy of his metaphors. The cause of it all, as near as I could make out, was that the man, who was mate, had gone on a debauch before leaving San Francisco, and then had the poor taste to die at the beginning of the voyage and leave Wolf Larsen short-handed.

It should be unnecessary to state, at least to my friends, that I was shocked. Oaths and vile language of any sort had always been repellent to me. I felt a wilting sensation, a sinking at the heart, and, I might just as well say, a giddiness. To me, death had always been invested with solemnity and dignity. It had been peaceful in its occurrence, sacred in its ceremonial. But death in its more sordid and terrible aspects was a thing with which I had been unacquainted till now. As I say, while I appreciated the power of the terrific denunciation that swept out of Wolf Larsen’s mouth, I was inexpressibly shocked. The scorching torrent was enough to wither the face of the corpse. I should not have been surprised if the wet black beard had frizzled and curled and flared up in smoke and flame. But the dead man was unconcerned. He continued to grin with a sardonic humour, with a cynical mockery and defiance. He was master of the situation.

Now that is good writing that I can share with my children.

30 Jun 2004 10:24 am

Headline Washington Times: Cigarettes sold in N.Y. must be ‘fire-safe’

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Smokers who linger between drags on their cigarette may need to be a tad more careful in New York. Their smokes will self-extinguish if not puffed on regularly.

New York became the first state yesterday to require new “fire-safe” cigarettes to be sold. The law is meant to cut down on the number of smoking-related fires.

For the past several months, companies have rushed to meet the deadline to supply vendors with the new cigarettes, which are wrapped in special ultrathin banded paper that essentially inhibits burning.

Why stop with fire inhibiting paper? Woody’s coming with a better idea.

From the movie version of Finian’s Rainbow:

Woody: “Now Howard here is the first man in history to mate the mint plant with the tobacco plant. You realize what that means?”

Sharon: “No.”

Woody: “You are looking at the mentholated tobacco plant. There, smell. Smell the mint julep nicotine.”

Sharon: “Mmmm. That’s nice. It really smells lovely.”

Howard: “It’s … it’s a whole new form of tobacco life. It only has one drawback.”

Sharon: “What’s that?”

Howard: “Well, it doesn’t burn.”

Sharon: “It doesn’t burn?”

Woody: “It’s worse than asbestos. Actually it puts fires out.”

Now there’s a tobacco designed just for New York!

29 Jun 2004 10:54 am

Headline Washington Times: Metal men mark meeting

Who would guess it is an article about the Lewis and Clark bicentennial? From the headline, I thought it was about C3PO and the Terminator.

29 Jun 2004 10:50 am

Shot in the Dark reports this sentence from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who as a legislator opposed the rail line, said that the opposition is water over the bridge….

Mangling metaphors (and similes) is like falling off a bicycle. Once you learn how, you never forget…. Or it it elephants never forget how to ride a bicycle…. Oh well, half of one; six dozen of the other.

29 Jun 2004 04:16 am

Headline Reuters: Hangover Cure May Be Hidden in a Cactus

27 Jun 2004 11:42 am

Q.96. What is the Lord’s Supper?

A. The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament in which bread and wine are given and received as Christ directed to proclaim His death. Those who receive the Lord’s Supper in the right way share in His body and blood with all His benefits, not merely physically but by faith, and become spiritually stronger and grow in grace.

27 Jun 2004 06:19 am

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Chapter VI: Pig and Pepper

"…I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make on quite giddy."

"All right," said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

Reuters Photo:

Caption: "Tammy, a 16-year-old domestic cat, relaxes after participating in the Hawaiian Humane Society’s annual Petwalk around Magic Island and Ala Moana Park in Honolulu, Hawaii, June 20, 2004. Tammy is owned by Grace Yoshioka, 76, of Kaneohe, Hawaii who carried her pet cat on her shoulders during the entire walk for their annual participation in the fundraiser. Animal lovers and pets from all over Oahu came out for the for leisurely walk, costume contest and tail wagging competition. REUTERS/Lucy Pemoni"

27 Jun 2004 02:56 am

Reuters: Mr. Whipple is a Democrat

Headline Reuters: Democrats Decry Middle Class Squeeze

27 Jun 2004 02:47 am

Stephen Moore writes in National Review on how the government can actually cut spending and bring some fiscal sanity to the federal government.

It used to be that Republicans had an excuse for runaway budgets: They didn’t control the purse strings. Now the bloated spending is on their watch. In their decades of dominance, Democrats changed congressional processes to enhance their policy goals. Republicans have so far failed to do the same. Unless their talk about smaller government is so much eyewash, they should embrace this budget reform.

Currently, the deck is stacked against those who wish to reduce expenditures and/or cut taxes. The lesson from the states is that budget rules that deny lawmakers the power to spend and tax recklessly can be quite effective deterrents to fiscal irresponsibility.

The Democrats did a much better job of putting in a structure that perpetuated a growing federal government. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much from the Republicans about cutting government since the mid-nineties when they were still in the minority position in the house. Now that they are the majority in both House and Senate, there is no move to actually cut government power and spending.

Veronique de Rugy also writing in National Review makes the point that special interest groups and the media are going to scream if Congress does reduces the rate of spending increases (they call these smaller spending increases “cuts”, and talk about how your grandmother will be thrown into the street). So, since they are going to complain anyhow, go ahead and make real cuts. You might as well get something for your grief.

Here are some of the suggested cuts.

Abolish the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce. Make cuts in the Departments of Defense and Homeland security to get rid of waste and inefficiency. Reform Social Security and Medicare.

Not bad for a starter. I wonder what we could do after we get warmed up with those cuts?

Republicans should be bold. It does not matter how big proposed spending cuts really are — $2 billion or $300 billion — because the media and the Democrats will go into a contrived panic no matter what. Republicans may as well get some real government in for the criticism. We know the media isn’t serious, but we can’t take the administration seriously either if they choose $2 billion worth of “cuts” rather than $300 billion.

Unfortunately, these ideas are not coming from the Bush administration. There is little support for them in Washington D.C. from either party. Government is not going to stop growing larger every year any time soon. But it is encouraging that some people are actually thinking and writing about how we could cut government. We can always dream.

27 Jun 2004 01:21 am

Headline Reuters: Mars Was Once More Watery Than Thought -Scientists

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