None the Wiser

"Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think." --J.S. Mill

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Friday, July 25, 2003
What He Said

Pretty good "glass half full" round-up of events--and our present circumstances--by Victor Davis Hanson. Quotable:

These are still perilous times. But if anyone on September 12, 2001, had predicted that 22 months later there would still be no repeat of 9/11; that bin Laden would be either quiet, dead, or in hiding; that al Qaeda would be dispersed, the Taliban gone, and the likes of a Mr. Karzai in Kabul; that Saddam Hussein would be out of power, his sons dead, and an Iraqi national council emerging in his place; that troops would be leaving Saudi Arabia, Arafat ostracized, and Sharon seeking negotiations; that new Middle East agreements under discussion — and all at a cost of fewer than 300 American lives — then he would surely have been written off as a madman.

All that and more were no mere accidents. They were the direct result of the work of thousands of brave and astute Americans who were as likely to be slurred during their risky ordeal as they were to be third-guessed in its successful aftermath — and predictably by the same opportunistic bystanders.

There's much, much more.

Thursday, July 24, 2003
Slow Day, and a Splatter Flick Revisted

Yesterday was Melody's birthday, so it's been a little bit slow around here in terms of news-gathering and what-not. We spent most of the day linging around yesterday, and I gave her the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. Anyone who knows me knows I loathe that show, so it was truly an act of generosity to be seen purchasing it at my favorite bookstore.

On the other hand, we did get to rent a movie, and since she was (inexplicably) interested in seeing a horror film, I picked out something I've not seen in ages: Evil Dead.

I'm not a big fan of splatter films, and the spectacle of people watching images of other human beings getting chopped screaming to little bits, and laughing at it the way they would Chevy Chase falling down a flight of stairs, has always turned me off. But even I have to admit that as horror films go, Evil Dead was a masterpiece. In fact, it doesn't matter what you think of horror films in general, the cinematography was unimpeachably brilliant.

Maybe the thing I like about it is that it's true to the genre. Horror flicks are almost like porno: some of the worst ones try to make themselves into serious art. In Evil Dead, we never find out why these kids are going to an incredibly spooky, ramshackle cabin in the middle of the woods. It just doesn't matter, or advance anything that Sam Raimi is trying to get accomplished. The imagery, camera work, make-up, and such tiny little plot devices as do exist do all the work needed to keep the tension relentlessly high throughout. We don't have to see the worried faces of their parents seeing them off, saying "You kids be careful now." In short, it's honest. Lots of gore and gratuitous close-ups, no sex in the backs of cars, etc.

What occurred to me last night while watching it was that it was original where it counted, and true to the genre where that counted as well. The girl-turned-goul staring out Linda Blair-like from under the baseboards throughout 3/4 of the movie was just horrifying, and an ingenious way to keep the terror at a constant, shrieking pitch. But the young victims were requisitely stupid and unfazed.

The best part of it was its simplicity, as is always the case with shoestring budget projects. To this end Raimi actually seemed to borrow not one, but several pages from H.P. Lovecraft's continuum. The "Book of the Dead" was an obvious tip to The Dunwich Horror's Necronomicon. The tape recording that served as an eerie testimony to the past exploits of a mad scholar-warlock, the bizarre tongues and incantations, even the old abandoned cabin just beyond the rickety bridge, all indicate Lovecraft's twisted influence. And since Lovecraft is one of very few horror writers I really admire, I was always a sure sucker for Evil Dead.

Even the gratuitousness of the violence strikes the right note of absurdity, a subtlety that is definitely lacking in the more recent teen slasher monstrosities (yes, even attempts as valiant as Scream 2). I suppose I think it superior to slasher movies generally, since the villain is a completely intangible army of wicked spirits, rather than a pointlessly cruel person with a vengeance complex. I admit, at any rate, to a few guilty giggles at the sheer wantonness of the carnage in Evil Dead. Today, that typically just translates into an attempt to shock (which more and more is dependent upon as much casually-presented sex, between as many 15- and 16-year-olds, as can be crammed into one house).

So I enjoyed a deplorable hack-and-slash gut festival for the first time in a while. Oh, and I made a citrus mustard pork roast that was, if I do say so myself, heavenly. Not a bad day.

Back tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
The Envy of the Free World!!

Per Henrik Hansen has the goods on Denmark's unraveling social welfare state.

The final bit is of particular interest to me:

One option for young people is to leave. It was recently proposed by one of the three economists from the Danish Economic Council that if young people in Denmark wish to move abroad after they have completed their education, they should first have to pay back the costs of their education. Only when they have paid enough taxes to cover all the expenses of their education, would they be able to move abroad without having to pay the government first.

Thus do we have proposed the social-democratic version of the Berlin Wall, an economic barrier to prevent emigration so that the state can continue to tax people to sustain a system that is unraveling. The mere suggestion is a telling sign that Denmark has nearly reached the end of the road.

I say "particular interest" because I have the hardest time impressing on people why it is that the welfare state is a bear trap--that it is a sure route to arbitrary and tyrannical government. Read the entire article, for in it Hansen describes the way that "free" higher education (supported by a not-so-liberating 70% tax burden) has meant that people can no longer even pursue the careers of their choice, and that "free" health care has lead to shortages, delays, and preventable deaths (just as it has everywhere else it's been tried, and just as sensible free market theory predicts it will).

Once can rest assured that despite its social-libertarian reputation, Denmark also labors beneath the yoke of outrageously expansive anti-discrimination law, and that in very short order (if this is already not the case) every last thing the people do with their bodies will be thoroughly regulated by the state--which, after all, has such a keen interest in their well-being that it sees fit to ration life and death in the name of "social justice."

Do not envy those fools. But do read all about them at Mises.

A Little Reality

OK, so let me get this straight:

Hamas, the PIJ, and other terror gangs devoted entirely and without reservation to the destruction of Israel, are demanding the unilateral release of hundreds of convicted murderers of return for nothing. This is not stipulated by the "road map" at all, even by implication.

Abu Mazen, meanwhile, categorically refuses to make any move to disarm or dismantle Hamas, the PIJ, etc. This is specifically mandated by the roadmap as the Palestinians' first obligation, before any other "confidence-building" measures can be taken.

As always, the world demands results, concessions, and still more concessions, from Israel. From the Palestinians it expects, and accepts, only excuses.

Thanks to Charles at LGF for reminding us that the situation is proceeding...normally.

Got Scorn?

If, not, Kate O'Beirne's got you covered. Her remarks at NRO's The Corner:

There should be some embarassed blushing in the senior ranks who watched Pvt. Jessica Lynch's short remarks. Do they really believe that our defense should rest on the shoulders of this little girl? You can't begrudge her family and neighbors the joyful homecoming by Army helicopter, but it does contrast with the recent Washington Post story about a young male soldier, now an amputee, waiting for his cab, upon being released from Walter Reed, for his solitary trip to the airport.

I assure you, Kate isn't the only one who noticed the disparity. I've said from the start that this story might be great press, but it's no good for morale, for a number of very different reasons.

In other news, it appears we've nailed both Uday and Qusay. If so, that's just a massive blow for the coalition, and for the future of Iraq. We've been burned by identical reports before, but if I'm not mistaken this is being confirmed as I type. I'll wait until it's been really, really confirmed before I pop open a bottle of suds to commemorate the occasion.

Okay, it occurs to me that commemorate isn't the right word, but "celebrate" is a bit of a stretch. So I'll just say "celebrate" and drink a little more.

Art and Censorship--The Most Tired of Conversations

I think the conversation is so tired because we incessantly hear the same platitudes about it, from the artists themselves, rather than any real discussion of the role of restraint in aesthetics.

I'm something of a free speech absolutist, so by and large I don't have any truck with censors. They aren't my kind of people, and I find the arguments favoring censorship circular and self-serving. However, I also find the following passage genuinely insightful, and worth a moment's thought:

It is, of course, a common prejudice that censorship is bad for art and therefore always unjustified: though, if this were so, mankind would have little in the way of an artistic heritage and we should now be living in an artistic golden age.

It's hard to argue with his reasoning, unless you're to accept the premise that we are, in fact, living in an artistic golden age (something I think is open to considerable doubt, to say the least).

I think the paragraph that precedes it is nothing short of inane. But the column, Theodore Dalrymple's latest for City Journal, is worth a read anyway. I especially agree with his assessment of Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover--a barbarically shallow and vulgar tale, devoid of stylistic or intellectual merit of any sort, endlessly promoted by the kind of pseudo-sophisticates whose only available means of proving their own intellectual credentials is a sophomoric attatchment to things thier parents wouldn't approve of.

[link via Armavirumque]

Monday, July 21, 2003
Simply Astonishing

That's the only way I can characterize this letter to Ward Connerly, posted on Congressman John Dingle's (D-Mich) website. The Orwellian hypocrisy, historical obtuseness, and arrogance of this letter cannot be overstated. They speak for themselves.

Here is Ward's response.

Shaking my head in disbelief.

UPDATE: Erin O'connor has more.