Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tom Wolfe on conservative monkeys

Hoyt's strong suit was humor, irony, insouciance, and being coolly gross, Animal House-style. In the American lit classes, they were always talking about The Catcher in the Rye, but Holden Caulfield was a whining, neurotic wuss. For his, Hoyt's, generation it was Animal House. He must have watched it ten times himself ... The part where Belushi smacks his cheeks and says, "I'm a zit" ... awesome ... and Dumb and Dumber and Swingers and Tommy Boy and The Usual Suspects, Old School ... He'd loved those movies. He'd laughed his head off ... gross, coolly gross ... but did anybody else in the house get the serious point that made all that so awesome? Probably not. It was actually all about being a man in the Age of the Wuss. A fraternity like Saint Ray, if you truly understood it, forged you into a man who stood apart from the ordinary run of passive, compliant American college boys. Saint Ray was a MasterCard that gave you carte blanche to assert yourself--he loved that metaphor. Of course, you couldn't go through life like a frat boy, breaking rules just for the fun of it. The frat-boy stuff was sort of like basic training. One of the things you learned as a Saint Ray--if you were a real brother and not some mistake like I.P.--was how rattled and baffled people were when confronted by those who take no shit.


Everywhere you looked at this university there were people knocking "the frats" and the frat boys--the administration, which blamed them for the evils of alcohol, pot, cocaine, ecstasy ... the dorks, GPA geeks, Goths, lesbos, homobos, bi-bos, S and Mbos, blackbos, Latinos, Indians--from India and the reservation--and other whining diversoids, who blamed them for racism, sexism, classism, whatever the fuck that was, chauvinism, anti-Semitism, fringe-rightism, homophobia ... The only value ingrained at this institution was a weepy tolerance for losers ... The old gale began blowing, and the concept enlarged ... If America ever had to go to war again, fight with the country's fate on the line, not just in some "police action," there would be only one source of officers other than the military academies: frat boys. They were the only educated males left who were conditioned to think and react ... like men. They were the only--

The concept would have grown still larger had not a boy named Hadlock Mills--known as Heady, which was short for Headlock--come in from out of the entry gallery and said with a slight smirk, "Hoyt, there's a young lady here to see you."

Tom Wolfe, I am Charlotte Simmons

Friday, April 17, 2009

A change of heart?

Alas, no. Still, it seems an unlikely argument from a man so convinced of his inalienable right to an abortion:
The case against [gender reassignment surgery] is usually made by Catholics, but nothing about it depends on any religious premise. It boils down to this: Gender reassignment constitutes the irreversible surgical mutilation of a healthy body — and thus violates the traditional prime directive of medicine — in the effort to correct a delusion, one which may be reversible.
Couldn't agree more.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Apocalyptic Bushwa

Is it possible that there is an alternative English language that I'm unaware of? One that uses all the same words, but in which sentences like this have an obvious--and non-preposterous--meaning?
Given current economic realities, this is no longer a utopian proposal, but an urgent necessity. (Toronto Star)
God I hope that's what it is.

That being said ...

Now I know that I've said a lot of mean things about Jian Ghomeshi in this space, but credit where credit's due: the guy handles himself pretty bloody outstandingly in the face of this sulking, beetle-browed prima donna:

Pretty impressive--as I'm fairly certain that if I was in Jian's shoes I would've been incoherent with terror. Hell, I'm fairly certain I would've been crying.

Still ... If, say, I wasn't a congenital coward, and found myself in Jian's shoes, I imagine being a little less restrained:

BBT: Would you say that to Tom Petty?

EMG: Would I say that to Tom Petty? Sorry, Tom Petty? As in Tom Petty?

BBT: Would you--

EMG: Sorry! Sorry! If I can just interrupt: are you comparing yourself to Tom fuckin' Petty?!

BBT: You--

EMG: I tell you what, you jumped-up Jed Clampett, why don't you just get the hell out of my studio!

BBT smacks microphone away from face. Rises (with some difficulty) from chair.

EMG: Yeah! Off you go, fella. And try not to let the door smack the toupee off your wattled amateur head on the way out. [calling into hallway] And I think I'm gonna fill the next ten minutes of air--that nobody would've bothered paying attention to if I hadn't mentioned your goddam Hollywood credentials--with a little Tom Petty!

... Five minutes later I'd be kicking myself for failing to point out that even Billy Bob's little act here was stolen.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Metrosexual Metaphysician

A brand new episode of everybody's favourite narcissistic experiment, EMG and EMG!

This week's offering: EMG demonstrates the power of music to turn aspirational-class inanities into profundities. (Click image, press play)

Obiter dictum: it occurs to me that "cancer" could've worked just as nicely as the last word of the piece.

(Incidentals: no real swearing here, just one dickhead. A copy of the song in full can be found here.)

Play time is 9 minutes ... That's 9 laugh-packed minutes!


Proper Hitchens on the difference between conservative liberty and left-wing liberty

The problem with these declarations [i.e. such as the French "Declaration of the Rights of Man"], with their 'rights' to private life and their 'rights' to a fair trial and their 'rights' to everything else is that it all depends what you mean by private, and fair, and so forth. And what if these 'rights' come into conflict with each other? Who decides which is supreme? ...


"Bentham praised the traditional reluctance of the English Parliament to enact abstract propositions. Everyone in Europe agreed that in England was a free country; that there was, for example, freedom of speech although there was no law which expressly said so. To say that we enjoyed freedom of speech was a descriptive general-isation of particular English laws which limited the circumstances in which publications were actionable or the government could suppress them. It was these specific laws which gave people their rights.

It is in England, rather than in France, said Bentham, that the discovery of the rights of man ought naturally to have taken its rise: it is we - we English, that have the better right to it ... Our right to this precious discovery, such as it is, of the rights of man, must, I repeat it, have been prior to that of the French. It has been seen how peculiarly rich we are in materials for making it. Right, the substantive right, is the child of law: from real laws come real rights; but from imaginary laws, from laws of nature, fancied and invented by poets, rhetoricians, and dealers in moral and intellectual poisons, come imaginary rights."

Well, I agree completely with that. But Lord Hoffmann doesn't. He thinks these gas-filled documents are valuable because they "provide a standard for political criticism of institutions and officials". His only objection, as it emerges later, is to the abuse of such documents by foreign judges. He thinks the English courts, staffed by nice liberals like his good self, should have the exclusive right to rule on 'human rights'.

But why should such documents provide a standard? Who says that these ideas are right? How do we know what they mean anyway? Who decides what they mean when we disagree? This is why I described them as "atheistical." They are an attempt to replace the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes as the main texts by which right and wrong should be judged. And they raise the point, so tirelessly made by Theists such as me, that unless you have a set of founding rules which are universally believed to be divinely ordained, and which cannot be tampered with by governments, you have no reliable basis for deciding between right and wrong.

Despite this flaw, "Human Rights" have in effect become a replacement for religion. Why is that? I think it is because their supporters see that the problem of deciding what they mean will give them power. The elite increases its power by keeping the right to interpret and enforce these vague laws. It becomes the replacement for God, which is what it has always wanted to be.

Just look at the bizarre constructions placed even on the relatively clear bits of the US Bill of Rights by the American Supreme Court, which manufactured an abortion right out of nothing, drove prayer out of the schools on spurious grounds and for a while abolished the death penalty on an equally feeble pretext, then decided the penalty was all right after all. It is really hard to see how the same document can be read to say that execution is right one year, and wrong the next. It's clear that the real power comes not from the document, but from the court - and of course from those who appoint it.


That is why left-wing rights increase the power of the state. Conservative rights, as expressed in the hard, cool, terse language of the 1689 Bill of Rights, and its Scottish Equivalent the Claim of Right, and in the grand simplicity of the 1628 Petition of Right, concentrate on saying quite clearly what government cannot do. And in the space that is left, when the ruler is restrained by such things, free men can live, write, speak and think.

Peter Hitchens, "Conservative liberty and left-wing liberty"