Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Royal Case of the Munshis, or Knight Court

Queen Victoria and her servant Abdul Karim, "the Munshi", 1885 (inset photo added)
From "Often amused", a review by Dinah Birch, in the TLS for December 19-26, 2014, of Victoria: A Life, by A.N. Wilson:
Servants also supplied her emotional needs. Wilson handles the delicate question of her relations with the Scottish ghillie John Brown with careful tact. Victoria's family, and those who tried to manage her image (never a straightforward task), were appalled by the unseemly closeness that developed between the lonely Queen and her forthright servant. Brown was a threat to the respectability of the Crown. But he was what the Queen needed. His affection was utterly dependable and authentic, and he was not afraid of her. Dismissing the warnings of her advisers, Victoria reciprocated with her own devotion. His death did not hit her as hard as that of Albert, but it renewed her sense of loss and solitude. Her final favourite, an Indian servant she knew as the Munshi, went some way to filling Brown's place. An outsider in the court, as Brown had been, the Munshi owed his position to Victoria's partiality. He responded with fidelity of the kind that his Queen could lean on, and she rewarded him with a gratitude that some found yet more alarming than her earlier reliance on Brown.

These eccentric relationships reveal Victoria's susceptibilities, and also her strengths. She was self-willed to an extent that would sometimes put her own public position at risk, but she was not a cold or calculating woman, and finally she valued personal warmth more than political advantage. She was never snobbish, or racist. She was not in the least troubled by the facts, scandalizing to many in her circle, that Brown was not a gentleman, and the Munshi was an Indian. She was the Queen, and she made her own decisions. Her power arose from an arbitrary accident of birth, rather than any special accomplishments. But for Britain, the chance turned out to be a lucky one. With all her faults and follies, she was a magnificent monarch.

The Electoral Kool-Aid Acid Test

 Howard Dean Yeah
And then we're going to La Honda to take back Ken's house YEAH!
From "Bragging Writes: How presidential candidates try to impress reporters with their reading lists" (April 2003) by Brent Kendall:
In this presidential election season, everything is happening faster... 
So it's no surprise that there's also early interest in candidates' answers to the question, "What's your favorite book?" This may seem an innocuous query, but it's actually one of the more treacherous a candidate can answer. In January, for instance, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. John Edwards to name his favorite book. Edwards replied that it was I.F. Stone's The Trial of Socrates. On the surface, that seemed to hit just the right note. It's plausible that an ex-trial lawyer like Edwards would enjoy a book about the ultimate historical trial, and by choosing that particular title--a serious inquiry written for a popular audience--Edwards conveyed a sense of weightiness without appearing snobbish. But the choice also opened him up to criticism. Conservative commentator Bob Novak fumed on CNN's "Capital Gang": "That's incredible! Did Senator Edwards know that Izzy Stone was a lifelong Soviet apologist? Did he know of evidence that Stone received secret payments from the Kremlin?" Novak's rant illustrated how the slightest stumble on the book question can come back to hurt a candidate.
What a candidate chooses to read may seem like a small thing. Yet a person's literary tastes can be very revealing, as anyone who's ever scanned a stranger's bookshelf can attest. Book choices are especially prized by reporters, who use them as material for the narratives they write--narratives that often define candidates in the eyes of voters. Remember Michael Dukakis? His phlegmatic 1988 campaign was perfectly symbolized by his choice of vacation reading: a book entitled Swedish Land-Use Planning. Even if you knew nothing else about the Massachusetts governor, this tidbit suggested he was solution-oriented, practical to a fault, and probably not the sort of guy who'd be a lot of fun to have a beer with. Which is, of course, exactly the person the Democrats got...
Americans are often derided for valuing style over substance. In the realm of politics, however, it can make sense to do so. As political scientist James David Barber noted in his classic work from 1972, The Presidential Character, personality is a strong predictor of White House performance. Barber argued that to understand how a candidate might act in office, voters must "see the man as a whole," a prescription that made reading material--and the conclusions reporters extrapolated from it--fair game.
During the 1988 presidential race, the book question became de rigueur. After Shapiro exposed Dukakis's soporific choice, reporter Brit Hume asked Republican vice-presidential candidate Dan Quayle to identify any work of literature, art, or film he'd experienced in the previous two years that had had a particularly strong effect on him. Quayle rattled off three books, Richard Nixon's 1999: Victory Without War, Sen. Richard Lugar's Letters to the Next President, and Bob Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra, about the fall of the Russian empire. Fine books all. But rather than impart to Quayle the mien of wisdom he'd no doubt hoped for, his choices, which seemed several grade levels beyond his intellect, telegraphed his very desperation to be taken seriously--the need for which was underscored later when Quayle remarked that Paul Johnson's Modern Times was "a very good historical book about history."...
But the prize for the most interesting favorite book has to go to former Vermont governor Howard Dean. His choice of Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes a Great Notion is surely the bravest. After all, in this poll-tested, consultant-driven age, how many other candidates would confess--much less volunteer--to reading the work of an acid-dropping '60s counterculture hero? Here's hoping that the choice boosts Dean's emerging image as the straight-talking honest candidate, and that this diminutive liberal Northeastern governor doesn't wind up like the last one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

♫ Egos His Own Way (Goes His Own Way ... ♫)
Engels's rendering, from memory, of the Young Hegelians; the posture of Edgar Bauer is priceless - as is the relative slightness of Stirner
Update: I looked first as I captioned at the figure beneath Stirner's name before seeing the familiar-from-Engels-elsewhere likeness leftward, though the larger point, retained hence, still stands
befitting his proverbial duality as the most incendiary of room-clearing rebels in doctrine - and the most anodyne imaginable in biography and personality​
Recognition, what there was of it, of Pankaj Mishra's nod in the NYTBR to The Ego and Its Own by the "notorious" German egoist philosopher Max Stirner (Johann Kaspar Schmidt, 1806-1856; German: Der Einzige und sein Eigentum - literally in English The Unique One and His Property)
Outside of my post on it (second item), which in a standard Google search briefly scooped, before vanishing from the results entirely, the original NYT article, whose resulting 135-comment thread, save for my brief self-reprise within, fails to Free the Stirner One from His Own Property as apolitical prisoner of the United States of Amnesia
came in the form of (1.) a Tweet by Michael Orthofer​, the Austrian-born New York international-fiction blogger whose acclaimed site The Complete Review and its blog The Literary Saloon aggregate worldwide reviews of hundreds of authors annually:
Michael Orthofer ‏@MAOrthofer

Best-book-you-read-in-2014 list that includes Max Stirner (Pankaj Mishra's selection)? I approve! … Via @PamelaPaulNYT
and of (2.) a post at Max Stirner's "own", as it were, Facebook page,
One of three such Facebook pages, as it happens - looks like you're not quite the Unique One, after all, Max, that the literal translation into English of Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum would indicate ...
whose six commenters include two who interpret Stirner in ways I find rather authoritarian ​ -​

Saturday, December 13, 2014

They De(a)fen(e)d Me - With SCIENCE!  
Free: The Jackson 4
A retrospective Meritorious Public Service Pullet, Sir, goes to The Jackson 5, on whose back-of-the-Alpha-Bits-box 45s, as with those of Bobby Sherman, I cut my musical cereal-and-milk teeth some forty-plus years ago, for the nod to the advancement of general knowledge of the titans of science and invention and exploration implicit in "The Love You Save":
[Michael:] Isaac said he kissed you
Beneath the apple tree
When Benjie held your hand he felt
When Alexander called you
He said he rang your chimes.
Christopher discovered
You're way ahead of your times!
Gerry Aire
i've always thought it was so clever the way they worked the names of isaac newton, benjamin franklin, alexander graham bell, and christopher columbus into this song without being obvious... i didn't even notice it until i heard the song, like, a billion times
Tony Gilder
Oh come on.  You guys did not know that at all.  This song came out when I was about 14 and absolutely nobody ever said anything about this.  I mean nobody.  It IS a fascinating fact but come on, you did not figure this out for yourself.  I just do not believe it.

Gerry Aire +Tony Gilder
for the record, i did actually notice this all of a sudden one day...don't know why, but i do tend to examine things (even trivial things) in more detail as i get older... as yogi berra might put it, the more you look, the more you see
Tony Gilder +Gerry Aire 
It's cool Gerry.  I know what you mean.  Peace.
Gerry Aire +Gerry Aire
why, just the other day i heard "break my stride" playing in a mall and i thought, "oh... chinese laundromat" (after all these decades)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Egos His Own Way

Nathaniel and Barbara Branden at their 1953 wedding with Ayn Rand, right, and her husband, Frank O'Connor, left.
Nathaniel Branden, a Partner in Love and Business With Ayn Rand, Dies at 84
Nathaniel Branden wrote Ayn Rand a fan letter when he was a teenager in Canada in the 1940s. He wanted to tell her how much he admired "The Fountainhead," her novel about a brilliant architect's proud resistance to what he perceived as the world's inclination toward collectivism and mediocrity.
Ms. Rand did not respond, but Mr. Branden did not give up.
A few years later, while attending college in California, he wrote to her again. This time she did respond, and then some...
Cf. noted libertarian economist/US federal employee David Henderson at Library of Economics and Liberty, October 24, 2014 ("I'm 90 Percent American and 10 Percent Canadian"):
I know that among many of my libertarian friends, it's not "cool" to have any nationalism or even any patriotism in you. But one of the hardest lessons I learned early in life was not to disown my feelings. Under the influence of Ayn Rand's weird ideas about love, I told my brother that I didn't love him, in the last real conversation I had with him before he committed suicide. Of course, I did love him, but I had adopted Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's idea that you couldn't love someone who didn't share your philosophical views. And, boy, did my brother ever not share my philosophical views. 
Happily, that grim Rand/Branden desideratum is susceptible to dissolution even among the Objectivist ultraorthodox, if​ the experience of a friend of mine​ is any indication, suggesting as it does that in an age in which you are presumed, beyond categorical possibility otherwise, to be either for or against any given Galahad and his One True Faith in accepting that The Pants of Dogma Make the Man, there is at least one among us capable of offering himself as a copper-plated counter-instance of, to borrow the title of the new novel by Ali Smith, How to Be Both (or rather, and better by far, Neither). 
Pankaj Mishra
To confirm what a surpassing back-of-the-book pre-1900 nerd I am, I nominate this item as an instant Top Story of the Year in my (decidedly one-man) household; from "What's the Best Book, New or Old, You Read This Year?" in the NYTBR for December 14, 2014:

This One Game Show Explains Everything About The Dumbing Down of America
From "The Last King of the American Middlebrow" by Noreen Malone: 
In their early years, quiz shows were a platform for striving immigrants to show themselves as the intellectual equals of establishment WASPs, or at least gain some recognition for their smarts. “Jeopardy!” came out of that tradition, and as mass culture coarsened, it stood as an archipelago of aspirational dweebiness in a sea of hair-metal music videos and prime-time soaps. But if “Jeopardy!” once stood athwart history yelling, “Stop!”—and rewarded those able to recall who originally coined that phrase—there is plenty of fodder for declinists in the gradual devolution of what the show considers cultural literacy. 

Today’s games feature far fewer questions in subjects like philosophy or classical music, statistically the most difficult categories. A recent Time study plumbing the trove of “Jeopardy!” data maintained on a fansite called J-Archive showed that references to Albert Einstein peaked 15 years ago; newer episodes reference Justin Bieber more than twice as often. During the tapings I watched, there was a question about twerking, which Miley Cyrus had just weeks earlier brought into the boomer vernacular via her performance at the Video Music Awards. No contestant got a question about Samuel Coleridge correct, which might have been less noteworthy if they hadn’t been so quick to buzz in with “Who is Dan Brown?” on the clue directly preceding it. A recent category—“It’s a Rap”—required Trebek to spit verse: “Ain’t. Nuthin.’ But. A. Gee. Thang,” he gamely recited, his diction as sharp-cornered as ever. It was funny. For the viewer, anyway. 

According to head writer Billy Wisse, “Jeopardy!” is merely adjusting along with the evolving canon. His team needs to write the games so that contestants will still have a shot at knowing the answers; just as important, they have to ensure that the people playing along at home still get to feel good about their intellects. “They don’t know as much about Theodore Dreiser as they used to,” Wisse said. “It’s sad, but it’s so big that it seems a shame to mourn for it. There’s not much anyone can do.” 
Full disclosure: in the 1996, 1997 and 1998 seasons, I was in the Jeopardy! contestant pool after having passed the in-studio test, played a mock round against two other aspirants, and delivered unto the cameras, yea, a required "amusing anecdote" worthy of Army Man; I put my failure to get a callback to some combination of (1.) the fact there are far fewer slots to fill each season than there are such contestant-pool qualifiers, (2.) my berserk wild-man demeanor, or (3.) the fact that the BBC's answer to Jeopardy!, University Challenge, demanding as its level of median questioning does a prior auditing not so much of the polymorphous perversity that denudes Miley Cyrus as of the polymathic university that includes Magdalen College - far less of twerk than of Burke, if you like - may, in a future life in which I come back as a Cadbury-addled scholarship lad, prove the one venue in which the bitch-goddess of quizmastered karma chooses at the last to wink at my superannuated ghost.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Unsorted Bookmarks

Anarchy in the Monarchy Card Game (

The 10 most shocking books for children
Following the Carnegie Medal award to Kevin Brooks for the deeply disturbing The Bunker Diary, here are 10 children’s books that definitely don’t have happy endings

2014 National Geographic Photo Contest: Part I and Part II

2014: The Year in Photos: January-April, May-August, September-December

Acts of Treason
For Rian Malan, seeking atonement doesn’t necessarily mean one will attain it.

Anarchy in the Monarchy Card Game
Who are you? A peasant who is struggling to rise to the next estate or a tyrant that is fighting to maintain his position of supreme authority? Anarchy in the Monarchy is an incredibly fun card game for 4-10 players between the ages of 10-120, with a play time of approx. 45 minutes.

Bernie Sahlins, Second City Troupe Founder, Dead at 90 [June 2013]
He discovered "SNL" stars including John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray and was co-creator of "SCTV"

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

*Geblendet Vom Lichtmusik* or, Eine Other Runner in the Night Music Camellia Sasanqua 'Early Pearly'Corgi 1/43 Cadburys Curly Wurly Transit 58111 You need a ride? - Early Pearly.

I wouldn't head out in this weather if I were you, Earl - have you seen the chart? - Go-Kart Mozart.

"Don't bring me downnnn ... BRRRRUCE!" - The Electric Light Orchestra* - and, one can only surmise, the calliope, just before crashing to the ground. 

*[JeffLynneSongs]The chorus [in "Don't Bring Me Down"] uses the nonsense word "grroosss" (as it is written in the liner notes) which has caused much confusion and amusement over the years. This word has no meaning and was simply a word that Jeff had made up on the spot as he was recording the vocals. While recording at Musicland Studios in Germany, Mack (according to Jeff) expressed his surprise at Jeff's use of a German word in his lyrics. The German word "Grüß" (written as "grooss" in the standard Latin alphabet) means "greeting" in German. It was totally by accident that Jeff's made up word "grroosss" sounded like the German word, but the decision was made to leave it in the song. Later, upon the song's release, many people misinterpreted this word as "Bruce" as if Jeff were singing the song to an imaginary person named Bruce (which would be odd considering that in the song, he is singing to a female). Somehow the rumor even started that this was a veiled reference in a lawyer for the band named Bruce, which is totally false. In any case, Jeff noted that during live shows, many fans sang the lyric as "Bruce" rather than "grroosss". Shortly afterwards, he began singing it as "Bruce" as well. This new lyric is quite noticeable on the Zoom Tour Live DVD concert. And Jeff sang the lyric as "Bruce" on the new solo version that he recorded in the 2000s, showing that he considers "Bruce" the more correct lyric now. Also of note, in an interview, Mack declared that the original lyric actually was "Bruce" in reference to an upcoming Australian tour, but the decision was made to change it to "grroosss" instead for the record. Mack is probably misremembering a few things here as there was no upcoming Australian tour and no other mention of it ever being "Bruce" originally has ever otherwise been made.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Hornymooners, with Ralph Crammed In
On the web site of the Washington Post, to the right, so to speak, of a column by George F. Will, an advertisement for Viagra targeted to women:
VIAGRA helps guys with ED get and keep an erection. 
Individual results may vary.
[Update] Good Lord - I should have known better when I titled this post:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

From Her Lips to Guy's Ears
A mother of five, married a quarter-century and feeling a bit slack Down There, decided to enlist a gynecosmetologist the better to restore her to the drumtight canal of pre-maternal Arcadia. 

Upon her awakening, her nurse alerted her to three roses set at the foot of her bed, and read their inscriptions in turn. 

The first was from the doctor, thanking her for having been such an agreeable patient. 

The second was from her husband, who said he could not wait for the aftermath in which they two might relive the taut passions of their youth. 

"And what of the third​ rose​?" she asked the nurse. 

"Let's see, the third​ rose​ is from Ed in the Burn Unit - he says thank you so much for his new ears." 

To which: 
From: a friend 
Subject: Re: From Her Lips to Guy's Ears 

meh, could've sent these instead.... 
Plant one on​ ​Psychotria elata
Here's a dumb question: if (the young) Mick Jagger was a plant, what would he be? 

Probably Psychotria Elata, commonly known as Hooker Lips or the Hot Lips Plant for the shape of its bright red bracts that resemble two luscious lips. This weird plant might look like the work of a photo editing software, but I can assure you those kissable lips are all natural. 
Psychotria Elata arba „geidulingosios lūpos

I imagine a summer-camp dorm for teenage-male bumblebees, where round midnight under the covers assorted campers with flashlights commence to "rhythmically admire" (Elvis Costello) the centerfolds in their tattered copies of Elata magazine.​

Cf. "The Bad News Bees" from Saturday Night Live, Season 4, Episode 7:
Raymond [Garrett Morris]: Hey, hey. What's that you're reading, Alan?

Alan [John Belushi]: Nothing!

Kurt [Bill Murray]: Whaddaya mean, nothing?! Hey, Charlie, look at this! A Playbee magazine!

[ everyone oohs and ahhs over the contents of Alan's dirty magazine ]

Artie [Dan Aykroyd]: Boy, I'd sure like to get into her honey sac!