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  1. Peikoff on the coming election

    I am curious to know why you think this has changed.
  2. Peikoff on the coming election

    I know that's your position, Betsy. But just to be clear, my response to Jason had a broader context. It could be recast this way: "It does not follow that because [insert any intellectual movement] are not likely to bomb people, then they are not a "real threat"; in fact, they may be an even greater one." If this were not a true statement, then there would be nothing to debate. Peikoff's comments about the Right would simply be wrong on their face, and that would be the end of it.
  3. Peikoff on the coming election

    Jason, Did you intend to convey the idea that only those who engage in "ravenous and indiscriminate use of violence" are a "real threat"? That is how your statement reads. Perhaps you meant that American Christians "do not engage in a ravenous and indiscriminate use of violence" unlike Islamists. If that is what you meant, then I would say that this is a non-sequitir. It does not follow from the fact that few American Christians are likely to bomb people that they are not a "real threat"; in fact, they may be an even greater one. Certainly that is Peikoff's claim.
  4. Racism in the News

    True. I suppose I just haven't seen it written so brazenly in the news before, as in "Is it OK for white families to raise African children?" Here's a more appropriate headline for CNN's front page: Self-induced blindness: The power of epistemology
  5. Racism in the News

    As I expected, the headline and its associated byline have already been changed.
  6. Racism in the News

    Today, CNN.com's front-page headline reads, "A Mother or a Motherland?", a reference to the adoption of children in Africa by the likes of Madonna and Angelina Jolie. The byline for the story reads in part: Good God! How small can the multiculturalist's fig leaf shrink before he finally sees himself as the nakedly racist person that he is. At least at CNN, one might expect an experienced editor to have peered past the frilly edges of the journalist's little fig leaf and said, "No way can we headline with that statement!!" Notice that the byline does not ask if it is OK for Americans to raise African children, which would include black Americans. Instead, it asks only, "Is it OK for white families to raise African children?" Apparently it would be OK for black Americans to adopt African children because they, well, have black skin. (!) I wonder how long it will be before multiculturalists finally just come right out and say it: "We believe that blacks are a separate species of homo sapiens." It's just gross.
  7. Greenspan discusses economics, and Ayn Rand

    Somehow chatty and Greenspan just don't seem to go together in the same sentence.
  8. Greenspan discusses economics, and Ayn Rand

    Whatever Mr. Greenspan's errors may be, I nevertheless appreciate the respect that he always seems to show for Miss Rand. I have never heard of him denigrating her or even focusing on any particular area of disagreement with her. I have become so used to her detractors -- especially among some of her alleged "fans" -- spending so much of their time criticizing her banally, that I feel a certain benevolence toward Greenspan for that reason alone. I'm sure someone here will correct me if I am wrong about him in this regard, but that's my 2 cents. Thanks, Stephen, for this interesting quote.
  9. Freewriting

    Bryan, is this is an English Literature class (say, English 101) or is it a Writing class which happens to be taught by the English department? In the U.S., these courses are usually taught separately. The first exposes you to literature and (ostensibly) teaches you how to appreciate it. The second teaches you how to gather your thoughts and put them on paper. Writing courses are further divided into two types: basic composition, which is a core requirement for all freshmen and sophomores, and Fiction Writing, which is an elective. If this is your setup there in BC, then I would say that your basic composition courses (or Writing 101/201) will be the better place for you to learn more about what interests you: writing nonfiction essays. During my own university studies of English Lit and Writing, the only so-called freewriting I ever encountered was in an English Literature class, not in a Writing class. Not only was it harmless, but I benefitted from it. The content wasn't graded, so I could say whatever-the-heck I wanted to. I would put my willpower in gear, give myself about a minute to compose my thoughts, then proceed to learn how to dash off some pretty gratifying essays on the fly. I'm a writer now — fiction writer by plan, technical writer by necessity — and I do not "free write". But no harm ever came from that one experience, so I'd say just go with it. I bet that you'll find other, better opportunities to learn real writing skills in some other class. You might also ask your professor what he's aiming for with the exercise. It may have less to do with the writing itself and more to do with something like "opening your mind to your critical and creative self", or in other words, being a more thoughtful reader and critic.
  10. The Sound of Music (1965)

    I doubt that I've ever evoked that many emotions with one of my short stories before.
  11. The Sound of Music (1965)

    This is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's the first VHS movie I ever bought, and the first DVD. Here's a funny story about my love of Julie and the songs in this movie: I had a routine surgery several years ago, and it required the kind of general anesthesia that leaves you alert but makes you silly and prevents you from remembering what happened. I knew the nurses fairly well from several visits. After the surgery and after the drugs had started to wear off, the nurses were all smiles. They couldn't wait to tell me what happened when I was "under". They said that I had declared emphatically to everyone in the operating room that I planned to watch this movie over and over again. They said that I told the doctor that the movie would help people recover better from surgery. I also gushed about how much I loved Julie Andrews. But that's not all. Supposedly I sang to them -- quite enthusiastically! -- at least a few selections from the movie. I can't imagine what was going through the minds of the people in the waiting room while I was back there belting out "How do you solve a problem like Maria...” and "My Favorite Things". From what I could tell, my surgery was one of their more memorable ones.
  12. What is naturalism?

    Here is my longer response: But first, I should mention that it is very difficult to have this discussion without bringing in specific examples. Unfortunately I don't have many to offer, partly because this subject has not come up recently in conversation and because I don't have time to pore over a stack of stories just to find them. So I'm writing here only to those who are already familiar with a variety of both naturalistic and Romantic stories. Now there's a sharply focused image! We see an essential aspect of Francon's office in sharp relief. Henry James would have written something more like, “Guy Francon loved the accoutrements of his office, and it showed.”And I think this is basically the limit of the difference between the two camps stylistically. Most other aspects of style — tone, rhythm, length of sentences, register of language, narrative technique, and so on — are not necessarily tied to any one camp. Additionally, I don't think that the act of overwriting a scene, meaning rendering it with too many details, is an essential aspect of naturalism. Some noted naturalists do it, such as Henry James, but others do not, for example, Ernest Hemingway, who is capable of severe austerity, and Sinclair Lewis, whose prose would work perfectly well for a romanticist if not for its mild subjectivity. Ascribing naturalism, then, to an overly detailed scene in an otherwise Romantic novel can be problematic — at least from my point of view. I look forward to hearing others.
  13. What is naturalism?

    In the process of trying to respond to your questions, Burgess, I've discovered a more narrow issue that interests me, so I'm going to just dive right into it: While reading an otherwise Romantic work of fiction, if I encounter a scene that is subjective (i.e., out of focus) or one that is overly detailed for my taste (i.e., reportorial), I usually just assume that it's a mistake, or I wonder about the author's purpose. I don't assume as a rule that it's a sign of latent naturalism. (Burgess, this came up when we reviewed The Enemy by Lee Child, among others, but I don't remember which passage.) Sure, a would-be romanticist who is steeped in a world of naturalistic literature may pick up some bad habits by cultural “osmosis”, and because writing springs so deeply from the author's subconscious, he may have trouble recognizing and dealing with these influences. In that case, it may be true that a seemingly “naturalistic” passage is just that. On the other hand, the writer may simply have made a mistake for any number of reasons, including inexperience, rushing too fast, trying to convey an abstraction that is beyond his skill to convey, being so familiar with the material that he fails to be objective as a reader and he lacks the editing skills to catch the error, and so on. Also, the range of individual styles open to both naturalists and romanticists is vast. In fact, their styles may overlap. For example, some readers love to get mountains of details in their descriptions. The effect of this style can be an almost hyper-realism. So-called "hard science fiction" is written this way. While it's usually too detailed for my taste, and it may even be a misuse of the art form in some cases, I'm not convinced that its always naturalism. (By the same token, when Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea using a severely austere and mostly concrete style, I do not believe that he was somehow betraying any latent romanticism. To my eyes, that story is purely naturalistic.) So, locating examples of naturalism from the style of a particular passage alone can be challenging. Maybe the issue is semantic. Maybe when we say "naturalistic touch", we are not saying, "He is being a naturalist." Nevertheless, this is confusing to me. I'll dig into the issue a bit deeper in a follow-up post.
  14. Contradictions in Islam

    This is very interesting. I have not heard Mr. Lewis's course. However, I have a similar understanding of Islam. When I was a divinity student some sixteen years ago (yes, that's a different story), I read the Quran and selections from various Haditha. The impression that I took away from that experience was that although Islam comprises a confusing mix of airy, contradictory metaphors, its most essential, defining characteristic seemed to be: conquest. Conquest of souls, conquest of land, conquest of other gods, conquest of men, conquest of women, conquest of families, conquest of self, conquest of offenders...the list goes on. It would seem that Mohammed was a kind of all-consuming conquistador, a man of action in this life as much as a source of inspiration for "the next". The various Haditha really drive this point home. In this sense, Islam's holy books resemble the Old Testament of the Bible in which most of "God's messengers" were political leaders (King David, Solomon, Moses, etc.). Christianity (in which the Old Testament is "done away with") is quite different from Islam in this very important sense. By and large, it reduces spirituality to a private relationship between a single man and (his belief in) a god. Even associations of Christians (churches) are meant to aid the believers in their own spiritual quests. Christianity is decidedly a-political, a-racial, a-familial, and a-historical. Mine is not an academic perspective, just an informed impression. I recently re-read parts of the Quran, and my impression hasn't changed much. Elizabeth's idea of Muslims worshipping that which is "bigger" fits just fine with my impression. It adds an interesting nuance, in fact.
  15. Seeking Assistance

    Ray, this is a profound insight. Well done. Anyone and everyone reading this thread would do well to contemplate your insight, if only to be reminded of its value. As my very wise partner likes to say, "I'd rather be pulled away by something that I want to do than pushed away by something that I don't." Thanks, Ray.