Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Go to hell.

Go to hell.

My New Years' Resolution is to say "Go to hell" more often.

Go to hell.

Monday, December 29, 2008

On Nina Myers

I started watching 24 this past summer, reluctantly, at the suggestion of a friend. I dilgently plowed through Day 1, hoping that I could just drop the whole project, but finding that the end of each hour forced one, as if by logical compulsion, to go on to the next hour. Furthermore, it was emotional torture to watch, because it just seemed so hopeless. It seemed such an impossible situation. I wanted it to stop. But I couldn't stop.

Thus, after watching five more seasons--less torturous to me, more torturous to the villians on the show (hoo-haa)--I avoided rewatching Day 1. Until now. And it is probably the best season of all. Granted, I love Day 4; really like Day 3; and think Days 2 & 5 are laudably epic. But Day 1 is so conspiratorial; so impossible; so personal. Apparently that's something they're going to go back to for Day 7; the personal element.

As much as I could say about any of the main actors, I find myself perpetually intrigued--knowing what I know now, post-Day 1--by Nina Myers, portrayed by the lovely Sarah Clarke. I cannot think of a more duplicitous con artist, a more amoral, dastardly sociopath, than this unholy villianness in the history of film. At least, not in any of the films I've seen. She has absolutely no redeeming qualities. She is as mephistoclean as they come.

Indeed, most characters of whom we say "she plays both sides against the middle" are not actually out for themselves alone. They are in it, often, for what they perceive to be a Higher Purpose; like Communism, anarchism, vengeance, or something. Nina Myers has no underlying motive. She is duplicity itself, greed itself. If you offer her more money for the same job as her present client, she will murder that client and ask you to keep talking: and if someone else comes along who offers her more than you can, you will certainly get the worst of it. As her archnemisis, Jack Bauer, says to her on Day 2: "You're worse than a traitor. You don't believe in anything."

I could say even more about her, but I won't, for now anyway. All I wanted to say here is that Sarah Clarke constructed not a brilliantly evil character: Sarah Clarke constructed a brilliant Evil.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

stupid cops

Sometimes I wonder whether, in the end, the police punish anyone but the innocent. Smart criminals know how not to get caught; that is why they remain criminals. It is the people who break a law in some desperate attempt of self-preservation, who otherwise do no wrong, who are the ones unlucky enough to get caught and persecuted. It is easier to punish the innocent than to punish the guilty. At any given moment, any one of us is breaking any handful of the thousands of idiotic laws on the books, and if some expert in law enforcement analyzed all our actions throughout a day, any of us could probably be found to break dozens of laws for which we might be arrested. Hence the crackwhore gets arrested while the high-priced call-girl lives it up; the guy who just needs to forget gets busted for possessing heroin while his supplier kicks it in Miami half the year; a pathetic 9-to-5 employee who lifts a fifty out of the cash register gets reported while the career thief who works only a few hours a month sits comfortably on the profits from his latest score.

And don't even get me started on how many assholes get by because of mere political correctness...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I have tried again and again to like T. S. Eliot, but I just can't do it. Not only am I not a great fanatic about poetry (and his poems are the closest thing I've found to accomodate a steady diet of poetry) but even when it comes to his prose I know of people who say the same things he says and say it better, and certainly with more humility. Alas it doesn't take a lot of humility to come off as humbler than Eliot, at least in his writing (the man, I understand, was much different). He has his moments, but on the whole, I think he's a preening culture-monger.

Postscript on "culture": People who talk about "culture" are never going to have it. "Culture" comes from cultus, and consists literally in a cult of worship. Disconnected from religion, culture is an illusion. And that, I believe, was one of Eliot's points. However, it you know what culture actually means, I don't see what good it does to then go on and talk of culture as if it were something in and of itself. If one wants "culture," one focuses on the arts and sciences; if one wants "religion," one does not think of religion, but of God; if one wants to be "a philosopher," he mustn't think of "philosophy," but of truth. Culture is a stupid word anyway. It always comes out of the mouths of English professors who say it with such glee as they speak through their nose. And idiotic liberal politicians only stand up to cheer a president in his State of the Union address when he throws the word "culture" in there somewhere. That is, by the way, the secret to success in academia and in other liberal circles: say "culture" a lot, with as much emphasis as possible--with as much nasal quality as possible--and indeed as if it very much meant something in and of itself.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I seem to enjoy many things that other people enjoy, but largely for different reasons. So it always turns out I'm embarassed to let other people know I like these things, because I do not want them to think that we really have all that much in common. Because we really don't.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the other hand, when it comes to being stuck with one good book by a particular author, I am fond of these two kinds:

- The short book of profound meaning (these are usually novels)

- The fat book of thorough exposition and definition (these are usually philosophical or scholarly)


I never really read books growing up. In high school it was music. It wasn't until I started college that I started reading, that I even wanted to read. But because I had no lifelong habit of reading, I had to make myself.

Now I have such interests--all bookish--that I almost have to discipline myself in the other direction. I'm going to have to start organizing my reading.

The problem is I might read A for one reason, and B for a totally different reason. Reading is never entirely about leisure for me, nor is it entirely about edification. I suppose one might put it this way: for me, leisure should be edifying, and edification should be leisurely. I do not buy in to this modern idea of making study just one more form of work. Nor do I buy into the modern idea that work ought to be one more form of learning. Work is one thing and learning is another thing. Traditionally speaking, leisure is learning. Our contemporary notion of leisure as mere "recreation" or "play" is flawed. That is not what leisure meant to Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, et al.--it didn't even mean that to T. S. Eliot (the bastard).

I used to go to the cafe with a whole pile of books; I would seriously be reading between four and seven books at a time, on average. Now I am more about authors than about topics. It is particular minds that intrigue me. And, just as I don't see why one should read a book once that shouldn't be read over and over again, I also don't see the point in reading any author all of whose books I would not eventually read. Often, if only one or two of his books are good, it's not even worth reading those.

Given the latter point, I almost have a medieval sense of reading. Authors are not just (our conception of) "an author"--but the medieval sense of auctores, i.e., authorities. That's right: there was a time--so long ago--when people used to actually believe that the person read was smarter than the reader.

And that is what I believe. Reading books should be about conforming to the authors. If you don't want to conform to that author, you shouldn't read him. If you don't like him, deep down, if you keep reading him, at some point he's going to slip into your subconscious and contaminate it. If you want to think like him, that's one thing. But if you find him contemptible, beware. He will get in, especially if he's good (and why on earth would you bother reading him if he wasn't good?).

O Reason, O Truth

One of the problems that I do have with old-school conservatives like Russell Kirk is their suspicion or skepticism about human reason. It is the liberals and ultra-moderns, they say, that put all their faith in reason, and it was reason that crucified Christ, that executed Socrates, that led to the French Revolution. They hold that transcendent Justice is higher than reason.

I would submit, however, that those who were there and witnessed those sacred historical events did not see it as reason: they saw it as justice. Reason had nothing to do with it; reason would have said, of Christ, "Well, of course he is not God Himself"--and it did. Still the Law demanded they put blasphemers to death--that is only just. The Divine Reason, however, saw the logic and the justice in all of these events. All of God's attributes are one with His Being. In God, therefore, Reason and Justice are one in the same; it is only in our materially-bound intellects that we see the distinction. Thus, ultimately speaking, errors of reason are errors of justice. Likewise: if justice is equal to reason, then reason is equal to justice. Therefore it makes no sense to talk about justice being "higher" than reason.

The problem with skepticism about reason is that skepticism itself is one of reason's functions. Without reason, skepticism would be impossible. Thus is suspicion about reason nearly an internal contradiction. You can be skeptical about emotions, you can be skeptical about a person--you cannot be skeptical about your own reason. That is not to say that errors in reason do not occur. They do, and frequently. But to even perceive the error requires reason, and to correct the error requires more reason.

Indeed, it takes reason itself to recognize the necessity of preserving tradition. To me at least, conservatism is not an affair of the emotions; it is given force to action by the emotions (like everything which requires action). But in relation to reason it is more like a conclusion to a long argument than a prejudice which has determined that argument's course. If I listen to the political instinct of my emotions, in fact, all I find is violence and anarchy; no mere "humane sentiment" suggests conservation to me at all. I fancy that I would have been pleased at life in the Old Northwest, in some lawless mining town, like Deadwood or Butte. No: it is my reason and conscience that declare the dictates of Order. And only in my best moments--few, and far between--do I obey.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The liberal and The conservative

"The American mind has certain archetypes. Of these, I think, two represent the old New England breed of men.... One of these two types of New England intellect is that which I call the mind of Emerson. It is fond of alteration and tinkering, convinced of the inevitability of beneficent progress, unable to credit the reality of sin, inclined toward levelling, contemptuous of the past, and bent upon dissenting from all things established.

"The other principal type of New England intellect is that which I call the mind of Hawthorne. It is suspicious of change, skeptical of Progress, convinced of the terrible power of sin, in favor of human nature (flawed though it is) in its present state rather than some radical revision of human character upon a Utopian design; it is reverent toward the past, mindful of the universe as a realm of mystery, and cognizant that proliferating variety is the mark of a healthful society, while uniformity is decadence." + Russell Kirk

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Narcissism by proxy

I mentioned before that I think blogging is stupid. There are probably many reasons to say this, but here is one of them:

Blogging is stupid for the same reason that the preacher on the corner of a metropolitan city is stupid. For the same reason that egalitarianism is stupid. For the same reason that people who think "their vote counts" (and that they should even be entitlted to that vote) are stupid.

That is to say, blogging is stupid because of its "Hey-Look-At-Me!" presupposition. We blog because we think--or at least want--people to notice and to pat us on the back. And then there are people who think that everyone is equal; naturally these people also think that everyone has equal intelligence, that each person has just as much a right to say something as someone else. And that is just stupid in and of itself. That's right, I said it: democracy is stupid. People are created equal, but they don't stay that way.

Now one might ask, well then why am I blogging? I am blogging--as with nearly everything else I do--not because I think it's not stupid--and most everything else one does is equally meaningless--but simply because there's nothing else to do.

Which means: so long as everything I might choose to do is stupid, at least I know how to write, and since I know how to write, I may as well do something stupid that involves writing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

And now...

Once upon a time, I had a blog. Then, another time, years later, I deleted all that shit. Probably the main reason I did this was simply because I suddenly decided blogging is stupid. I still think it's stupid.

The other reason I deleted it was I realized I was repeating myself. Thus, now that my interests have changed somewhat--not so much in content, as in form--I have new things to talk about. I must talk about these things in order for any thought to develop. I fancy that most people do in their own minds what I do by writing. That's right: I don't think these things up, I don't come up with them. They just come out. I don't know where to find them. Frankly, I would rather think of them then write them down. I like the idea of thinking better than the idea of writing. But evidently I am better at the act of writing than I am at the act of thinking. Or, I should say: I think-by-writing better than I am able to be conscious of my own thoughts.

In short: blogging is stupid, but it's better than feeling stupid.

Certain things I will probably be talking about more often now are the following:

1) The nature of Burkean conservatism, as it has been transmitted to our epoch by Russell Kirk. In this tradition, tradition is what matters. A conservative is a conservator; a guardian; a protector of ancient heritage; of what is truly and fully real, truly and fully human. Conservatism, in this sense, should not be confused with most contemporary conservatives, though there are areas of overlap. True conservatism is opposed to all ideology, for ideology tries to press man into inhuman shapes, tries to use the law to force man to conform to abstract theories that man was never meant to emulate. Conservatism is the absence, the negation, of ideology.

2) On the other hand, I find myself more and more attracted to some form of anarchism. At the same time as I am orthodox, I am also of the opinion that the best times were ruled by the Sword, and that the pansy-assed pussy-footed generation we live in is corrupting the inherent Fight in mankind.

3) Benedictine monasticism(s) is of growing interest. St. Benedict has most definitely saved my intellectual life. To me medieval studies is irrelevant if it is not centered on the monasteries. At any rate, I find monks interesting and the remainder of the Middle Ages boring. Moreover, monasticism has proved to be a fascinating juxtaposition to scholasticism, which I have been studying for years.

4) Another thing that I have flirted with, in fiction, is old-school horror stories. A good example of this is H. P. Lovecraft. But I have a severely ambivalent relationship with that fine writer. Some of his older stories are great; they are like a Tim Burton movie of the written word. Poe really has nothing on him (though he is greatly indebted to Poe). This is all to say that I enjoy the macabre aspect of Lovecraft's work. What I cannot stand, however, is what he is most known for: the Chthulu mythos--that monstrous idea of a Great Race who once dominated the earth with their absurd octopi-heads, tentacles abounding. Some relief, or rather a supplement, to this I am hoping to find in Russell Kirk's ghost tales. He seems, on the surface, rather like a Christian Lovecraft.

5) My interest and love of C. S. Lewis is in a springtime. He is probably the only thing from my earlier studies that I have a serious desire to maintain. Though, I do still find his fiction not so much to my liking. His scholarly writing, however, is a growing concern. I do look forward to reading his Preface to Paradise Lost, in which one chapter debunks the outrageous notion of the epic being some obnoxiously "heretical" document.

6) In fiction, I remain intrigued and entranced by Dashiell Hammett. He still represents what, to me, is most important in attitude, atmosphere, life itself. The study of his protagonists is the study of sprezzatura. And, as before, the only other hard-boiled fiction I have found that comes anywhere close to being viable is The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I've tried his other books, but they just don't work. They just don't have that flavor. The only name for it is noir.