Captive Minds: the war on totalitarianism

“Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein: And whoever recommends and helps an evil cause, shares in its burden.” – Holy Qur’an 4:85

There is no possible way to love your neighbor by killing him, yet radicalized “Orthodox Christians” are killing their way westward across Ukraine. There is no way to do good to the traveller by taking him hostage, yet this practice is routine in the “Islamic” State.

In an explosive performance art video, two Russians are seen dousing the doors of Lenin’s Mausoleum with holy water, chanting “rise up and go,” a twist on the resurrection of Lazarus, except the deceased is no friend, but a haunting. It’s an exorcism.

Isn’t it odd that the Donetsk Ukrainian airport and the Maiduguri Nigerian airport are so strategically important to these rag-tag bands of crusaders? Almost as if they were taking orders from the same general who is terrified of an impending airlift.

Do you really believe Africans don’t know about Ebola? As they say in France, c’est raciste. There have been twelve major outbreaks since 2000 AD, all of them in Africa, yet the people are incredibly suspicious of the unarmed doctors and aid workers. Who has been telling them that Ebola is a hoax? Continue reading

In Golden Gai

A “Tokyo Panic Story” far removed from Middle East politics…

I once tripped through these lands like a god,

like the pure embodiment of all the liquor

the Allies ever drank in Tokyo.

It is quiet here now,

and the Americans are gone,

but I know these streets.

Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

Horace II: more rambling, this time about the Satires…

Horace uses satire in a gently amused (and bemused) way to point out the foibles of human nature. He’s not so much wanting to tear people a new one for being the way they are as he is interested in a thoughtful, even academic way in why we do the foolish things we do to ourselves.

Horace, by an unknown Roman sculptor (image courtesy crystallinks.com)

This second essay on the Works of Horace in the Christopher Smart prose translation looks at the great poet’s satires. Horace wrote two books of satires, a total of 18 poems. These satires were his first great successes as a poet and signaled that Horace was one of the great poets of the Augustan Age. on His influence on this genre of literature was so great that his style of handling the genre is known in literary/scholarly circles as Horatian satire.

Before we dig into the works themselves, however, it might be good to make clear what’s meant by “Horatian.” Horace’s greatest rival as a satirist is a Roman poet named Juvenal who lived roughly 100 years after Horace. Where Horace is gentle and good natured in his criticisms of the foibles of his fellow Romans, Juvenal is biting, even bitter in his attacks on human frailties. Where Horace hopes to see better from people, Juvenal demands that people should behave more acceptably. Continue reading

RIP Mr. Cub: Ernie Banks dead at 83

Let’s play two.

I have one core rule: respect the game. Not only did Ernie Banks respect the game, in every moment of his illustrious career, in every second of his life, he played with more verve and sheer joy than perhaps any player in history.

Already this morning I see people on my sports lists debating whether Ernie was better than Honus Wagner, but it’s hard to argue the fact that he embodied, in just about every possible way, the essence of what baseball should be.

WordsDay: Literature

Volsungs and Nibelungs and Huns – Oh My…!

The Saga of the Volsungs and The Song of the Nibelungs share source material, to be sure, but it is the cultural ethos that they share that makes them fascinating – and appalling, in a heroic culture sort of way….

The Song of the Nibelungs, i.e., Das Nibelungenlied (image courtesy Goodreads)

As promised, we come now to a pair of works that share a common story ancestry as well a commonalities in cultural ethos. Heroic epics and sagas reflect a culture based on power, strength, violence, and what Frank Zappa famously called “a great deal of personal hurt.” Most readers are likely familiar with at least one of the heroic epics (these are sometimes called national epics because there seems to be one for each major European country – Das Nibelungenlied for Germany, La Chanson de Roland for France, El Cid for Spain, and, of course, Beowulf for England), so dust off those memories of, you know, that class you took that time where you read that loooong poem….

While both works tell the story of a hero murdered through treachery and his beloved’s revenge on the murderers, there are significant differences between The Saga of the Volsungs and The Song of the Nibelungs. A look at those differences might be a good place to start and can lead us into a discussion of the similarity in, to use the German term, the weltanschauung of heroic culture. Those similarities are valuable to note, for some of the assumptions of heroic culture still pervade our own world views. Continue reading

CATEGORY: ScienceTechnology2

Microsoft’s HoloLens corporate communications are the reason the world is a better place today

I was shaking and weeping by the end of the advert for Microsoft’s new HoloLens technology.

Maybe you don’t like Microsoft? Or galloping consumerism? Or corporatism, or the wealth of the elite, or whatever. You’re a jaded cynic and such things serve to feed your rage.

I understand.

Put that aside for two minutes and twelve seconds and remember what it was like being five years old, when the world was new, and watch this:

Continue reading

Is it time for drone coaching in the NBA and MLB?

The New York Knicks are one of the worst teams in the NBA. They’re in desperate need of many things, including a great coach who can successfully explain the complex offensive system they’ve tried (without success) to implement. The good news is they have the greatest coach in NBA history on the payroll. The bad news is he doesn’t coach, because he doesn’t want the wear and tear associated with an NBA travel schedule. In August 2010, baseball’s Chicago Cubs had a similar problem with Lou Piniella, who resigned to take care of his 90 year-old mother.

Pro sports are a grind. Continue reading

By Otherwise Posted in Sports

DeflateGate: a few quick thoughts for the no harm/no foul crowd

I’ve spent the past couple of days listening to pundits, casual fans and Patriot-backers emphasize, in the strongest terms possible, that it didn’t change the outcome. Some go a tad further, suggesting that it doesn’t matter if Belichick tried to cheat, so long as the outcome wasn’t unaffected.

This line of “reasoning” is at once mind-boggling and completely predictable here in post-sportsmanship America. So let’s take the principle and test it by applying it to other situations. Continue reading

CATEGORY: Sports

NFL head coach Mt. Rushmore: who’s on it?

I love this game, but have never written about it. So here goes. They’ve decided to erect a Mt. Rushmore for pro football coaches. What four legendary figures are on it?

The way I see it, three men are automatics.

  • George “Papa Bear” Halas more or less invented the NFL, coached nearly 50 years and won six titles.
  • Vince Lombardi: They didn’t name the trophy after him for nothing. Won five titles.
  • Bill Walsh: Reinvented pro football, creator of the West Coast offense, father of the modern game, and his legacy includes one of the two most prolific coaching family trees in history. Won three titles in eight years, then handed over the reins to protege George Seifert, who won two of the next six.

So really, the question boils down to who gets that fourth spot. There are a number of candidates.

  • Chuck Noll: The only coach to win four Super Bowls.

Continue reading