Location: Iowa, United States

61 years old (pretty old for a blogger) proud to be a grandpa

Thursday, January 27, 2005

George F. Will: Harvard president pays high price for his hypothesis - pretty interesting assessment

George Will - George F. Will: Harvard president pays high price for his hypothesis - sacbee.com

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Worth Reading

The following is taken from a recent issue of "First Things" in turn, quoting an article in American Enterprise. Some good points are made -- I'm not sure, however, that I agree with all of it. In particular I don't think that "moral decadence is a MAJOR source of rage". I think anti-American feeling is deeper seated than that and is to some extent simply fostered somewhat mindlessly from the cradle. Still this is worth pondering.

“Why do you hate us?” That, says Mustafa Akyol, writing in the American Enterprise, is a question frequently put to Muslims by Americans. “The first answer from someone like me, who is repulsed by terrorists who kill in the name of Islam, is that most of us do not hate you. Yet it must be acknowledged that radical Muslim rage is real in many countries.” A major source of such rage is the moral decadence of American society as communicated by Hollywood and other media. Akyol writes: “This distaste derives not only from culture but also from ideas. When ‘Western ideas’ are mentioned, many Muslims think not of Jefferson, C. S. Lewis, Lincoln, or Burke, but rather of Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, and Carl Sagan. The behavior of some Westernized local elites in Muslim countries makes the situation even worse. In my country of Turkey, one popular stereotype of the Westernized Turk is of the soulless, skirt- and money-chasing man drinking whiskey while swearing at Islam. Although a caricature, it carries enough truth to further a bad image of the West. . . . Obviously, that is a distortion of the truth. America stands out in the Western world as ‘a nation under God,’ particularly compared to ‘Old Europe.’ The aggressive secularism of Europe is one reason why European Muslims are especially radicalized. (Another spur is the lesser opportunities for upward mobility in Europe as compared to America.) As a Muslim, I feel at home in America when I see people saying grace at the table, praising the Lord, filling houses of worship, and handling currency inscribed ‘In God We Trust.’ When I’m in Europe, on the other hand, with its empty cathedrals, widespread atheism, and joyless cynicism, I feel alienated.” So what is to be done? “To erase this false image, America must help Muslims see that it is indeed a nation under God. The culture it exports should celebrate more than materialism, disbelief, selfishness, and hedonism. America must do a better job of portraying the principles of decency that undergird its society. Otherwise it will be despised by devout Muslims throughout the world, and radicals will channel contempt into violence. Of course, avoiding radical Islamist rage is only one reason for Americans to resist empty materialism. A deeper reason is that materialism is a mistaken philosophy. If they will save themselves from its disappointments, Americans will enjoy many benefits—including a better chance to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, and avert a clash of civilizations.”

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Commentary - The Intifada Comes to Duke

Commentary - The Intifada Comes to Duke

Friday, January 14, 2005

Gosh, what should I wear?

So as I understand it, Prince Harry, in line to the British throne and one of most visible people in the UK, is invited to a costume party and after thinking it over and knowing that his family is going to be participating in a Holocaust Memorial Day later this month, says to himself, "I know, I'll wear an arm band with a swastika on it--that would really be neat." Question: Is there a dumber guy on the planet?

Sunday, January 09, 2005

More Boxing -- True Stuff

In the summer of ’53 I became an amateur pugilist. The park system along the coast decided to offer boxing lessons to the local boys aged six to twelve. For some reason my parents signed me up. Everyday for two weeks or so I walked to the boardwalk where together with about 30 or 40 other kids, I fell under the dubious tutelage of a guy named Max, our aging but enthusiastic trainer and former boxer who appeared to have lost every one of his fights. Max had a cauliflower ear, nose, and mouth and he’d been hit in the face so often that his voice sounded as if his nasal passages had collapsed into a giant knot of mutilated cartilage. Everyday Max would put us through our paces. We ran, jumped rope, hit the bag, and shadow boxed. I was usually trailing the pack during the roadwork and on one occasion, Max approached me and told me that I should keep up the good work since I was “the champ.” Since none of us had really had a bout yet, his statement mystified me. Still, I reasoned, Max was the expert. Could it be that he with his practiced eye had discerned in me some special boxing prowess that set me above the other boys who were bigger, stronger, and faster? I concluded it was possible and so re-doubled my efforts to succeed. At home, my dad sparred with me on our living room rug as I rained roundhouse lefts and rights on his arms with the junior sized boxing gloves that hung from my spaghetti arms. The climax of the camp was the series of fights that took place in the evening on the last day of the camp. I was matched with a kid who looked as if he had recently been kicked out of reform school. As my family watched and cheered, I gamely threw myself into the fray and promptly got my clock cleaned; at least it seemed that way to me. Witnesses friendly to me testify to this day that I gave a good account of myself, but they weren’t the ones getting socked in the face. Not to my surprise the other kid was declared the winner. I felt pretty bad about the whole thing but came out of it with no lasting scars, physical or otherwise.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Sweet Science?

When I was 14 I watched a live TV boxing match between Emile Griffith and Benny Paret. In the 12th round, Griffith pinned Paret to the ropes and pummeled him senseless. I remember watching Paret’s arms being caught in the ropes and his head snapping from side to side as Griffith beat him to death (literally). After waiting way too long, the ref stopped the fight. Paret never regained consciousness and died 10 days later. The brutality of the experience has stayed with me. But here‘s the problem: I enjoy boxing. I like the drama of the whole thing, the guts and endurance and courage; the getting back on your feet, suck-it-up, end-at-any-second, one-on-one, crafty, noble, skillful, winner-take-all nature of the thing. I don’t enjoy the blood, and I can honestly say that I don’t want anyone to get seriously hurt, but I do like it.

I recently watched a tape of the Ali-Foreman fight. I hadn’t seen the entire thing before and had somehow convinced myself that had Foerman paced himself a bit and drawn the battle into the middle of the ring he could have won. I was wrong. While Ali did allow Foreman to punch himself out, he also out-boxed, out-foxed, and out-hit him. His hand speed was so fast it was nearly impossible to follow. The whole thing was remarkable. In the eighth round, Foreman floundered and fell, partly from a punch and mostly from fatigue. Ali had absorbed hundreds of punches, most of them skillfully softened by his gloves and arms. The punches he delivered were fast and effective. It was a matter of speed, experience, and cunning winning over raw power. It reminded me again why I like boxing.

A few years ago, I was talking to a friend about the Hollyfield-Tyson ear-biting incident. She said that seeing as how the larger objective of the match is to beat someone’s brains in, it was difficult for her to get worked up about a bite on the ear. She had a pretty good point. For the record, if there were to be a national referendum to outlaw boxing, I’d probably vote for it—but I’m afraid my heart wouldn’t be in it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Quote of the Day

You are not superior just because you see the world in an odious light. Vicomte de Chateaubriand
French author & politician (1768 - 1848)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

So, Have a Happy New Year?

So Have a Happy New Year?
I'm trying to find some significance to the recent practice of inflecting the ends of statements as though they were questions. As far as I can gather this is a phenonmenon of the last 10 or 15 years and is now so common that we don't even notice it. An example:
"So, I'm not sure I agree with that? We've got to consider other options? I've got some additional ideas?" Just about any declarative sentence can be treated in this manner. At the risk of committing sociology, I'll suggest that it's something we've developed in our touchy world to take way the edge of presumption from our speech, i.e. "I'm not really THAT convinced of what I'm saying, but here's something to consider--it's quite tentative--please continue to like me." On the other hand, I also seem to hear this technique used with the most innocuous statements: "So I went to the other store? And the same thing was on sale there too?" Maybe we're just pleading for attention and acceptance--"Please keep listening to me. I'll check in every other sentence with a question mark at which point you can confirm your continued interest with a nod of the head or....something." If you're reading this blog, your job, should you decide to accept it, it to take note of this practice when it occurs and to draw your own conclusions. "I expect you to do your duty?"

The Philosophers' Blog -interesting article

The Philosophers' Blog