Repost-Roger Sandall’s Blog: What Are Right And Left Anyways?

Here’s Roger Sandall’s blog (smart arguments against Romanticism, among other good ideas).  I’ll snag two quotes:

His own description of his essays:

They attack modern decadence, defend science, and laugh at academic follies. Sometimes controversial but never party political, they might praise the Pope in one place and Al Gore in another.”


“His [Sandall’s] guiding philosophy is suggested by the saying that life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel.”

Reading his blog reminded me of the differences between John Stuart Mill and Thomas Carlyle as expressed in this New Yorker article.

What struck me most is that Mill applies highly rational thinking to liberal principles.  This seems strange in light of our current two-party split, where liberalism is too readily associated with “feeling.”  It’s odd to think that of the two men, Carlyle (who grew more conservative) is the more choleric, intuitive, and less rational in many ways, and Mill the more tempered, logical and rational.

I could be persuaded that investigation into liberal, rational principles wouldn’t hurt right now, and of course, I’m not the first nor last to think such thoughts.

See AlsoChristopher Hitchens’ long arc from committed Trotskyite to anti-religious atheist…but maybe what I’m noticing here is that habit and one’s relation to the passions (artististic or otherwise) die hard.  I was glad that the Independent noticed it too.

Addition:  Review of a new Mill biography here.

My belated condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Roger Sandall, who passed away on August 11th, 2012.  He was an Australian thinker and critic of cultural relativism, romantic-primitivism and the Noble Savage.  He was a keen observer of the ways in which certain strains of Western thought interact with the non-Western, and often, tribal worlds.

NPR Slightly Critical Of Obama’s Contributions To Political Climate Change

NPR on Obama’s ‘chiding’ of the media:

‘President Obama delivered a stern rebuke to the media, for their role in the 2016 campaign and, as he sees it, not holding candidates accountable for “unworkable plans.”

Unworkable plans,’ you say?

Perhaps NPR is being a little skeptical of the current administration’s words and deeds, despite being apparently sympathetic to many of his ideals and principles.

Either way, we can probably all agree the political and media scenes are quite the clusterf**k right now.

NPR in my experience (it’s usually 1968 and should you read this you are a devoted reader indeed): Notions of radical & revolutionary freedom, the stuff often pushed by the harder Left (with generally authoritarian and totalitarian consequences), doesn’t tend to make NPR prime-time, but the showcasing of activist concerns and the consultation of ‘experts’ is quite common.

Sometimes, these experts are folks in the sciences going where the math and data lead, people well-aware of the limits and depths of their work and who don’t mind speaking to a broader public.  Science can be fascinating, after all.

Other times, social-scientists are consulted:  People who often consider themselves adding to a body of knowledge capable of improving society/humanity/the public.  Though, to be fair, these are people who often follow the data where it leads, too, just with less math.

Different fields in the social sciences have differing levels of empirical rigor, and different people in the social sciences have differing levels of personal/professional achievement and investment in any sort of policy recommendations favorable to NPR.  Generally, though, the leap from the social sciences to public policy, law, politics (actually shaping lives) tends to be a less of a leap to make.

***Various and sundry other guests on NPR often have achieved some success in music, the arts, or pop-culture, but to my mind, a certain framework is often followed: They were less free and less wise (due to religious belief, ‘patriarchy’, tradition, etc) and are now more free (less religious, less ‘patriarchal,’ less traditional).

Maybe they’re playing a concert for equality and/or peace.  Maybe they’ve just gotten back from a secular mission in the Global Village. Perhaps they’ve finished a book containing a rather clear feminist, environmental, or civil-rights theme.

It’s not race, but class!

More freedom, equality and solidarity are next, you know.

Monticello.  Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-F8-1046
Monticello. Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-F8-1046

Repost-A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

How Many Techno- And Bureaucrats Are Enough?-David Greene At NPR: ‘Rochester Focuses On A New Piece Of American Manufacturing’

Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic-‘Technology Is Taking Over English Departments’

Full piece here.

What to take, and what to keep?  How to teach?

Worth a read:

‘Both of these errors derive from a false analogy between the humanities and the sciences. Humanistic thinking does not proceed by experiments that yield results; it is a matter of mental experiences, provoked by works of art and history, that expand the range of one’s understanding and sympathy.’

Related On This Site: Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

From Scientific Blogging: ‘The Humanities Are In Crisis-Science Is Not’

Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’…

Repost-Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy: Charles Sanders Peirce

Some People Have Had Grand Plans For The Future-Technocratic Utopianism Runs Deep

Michael Lewis at The New Criterion: ‘The Architect Of The Reich:’

‘Albert Speer (1905–1981) was born in Mannheim, Germany, the son and grandson of architects. Pushed by his father to study architecture, he studied first in Karlsruhe, then Munich, but he only became serious after he transferred to Berlin. There he applied to study with Hans Poelzig, the brilliant expressionist architect of Weimar Germany, who rejected Speer as an inferior draftsman. Disappointed, he turned to the man who was Poelzig’s polar opposite, Heinrich Tessenow, a reform-minded architect with a love of simple, clear volumes and neoclassical clarity—the ultimate basis of Nazi architecture. Speer, who all his life knew how to ingratiate himself, sufficiently impressed Tessenow to become his teaching assistant.’

From the looks of it, there’s some serious neo-classicism going on; deep Greco-Roman influence.

The thing likely would have been built if it weren’t for WWII:

So, what about neo-classicism mixed with ‘technocratic utopianism,’ or the rather suspicious desire to centrally plan, control, and organize everyone’s lives on the way the Glorious Future?:

Robert Hughes saw echoes of this technocratic modern utopianism in Albany, New York.  It really may not be that far from Mussolini to the bland bureaucratic corporatism found elsewhere in the West:

‘…classicism with a pastry-cutter,’

And as for the fascists having:

…a jackboot in either camp, one in the myth of ancient Rome, one in the vision of a technocratic future.

Some photos of Albany here (from Althouse).  It doesn’t exactly blend-in with the neighborhood.

Should you disagree, you are worse than Hitler:


As previously posted:

A reader sends a link to a bad public art blog.

From Buzzfeed:  The 7 Ugliest Government Buildings In Washington D.C. (Via Althouse)

From an article in Der Spiegel on the Bauhaus, where modernism got its start:

‘The real feat achieved by Gropius and his cohorts was to have recognized and exposed the sociopolitical and moral power of architecture and design. They wanted to exert “effective influence” on “general conditions,” fashion a more just world and turn all of this into a “vital concern of the entire people.”‘

I’m always a little skeptical of such grand visions.  Utopianism runs deep.


What if there was a Wisconsin motor court/supper club with global ambitions?  What if you fused a local motel with the U.N. internationalist style, you ask?

Click here to experience ‘The Gobbler.

After taking the photo tour, I remain convinced that ‘The Gobbler’ exists in its own realm of awesome badness.  Such a shag-covered, abandoned love-child of the late 60′s and early 70′s is challenging just what I thought I knew about American culture.


Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism.  From the banner of his blog:

The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

Check out the ‘Socialist Cybernetics‘ of Salvador Allende.

In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage.  Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos.  You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.

Via A Reader Via Youtube-Christopher Hitchens: The Lessons Of 9/11

~20 minutes (Hitchens was often engaged with many people on the ground in the places about which he speaks, and while there’s some anti-establishment, post-Trotskyite hyperbole at the beginning, he gets rolling).

Found in some quarters of Europe: The desire for cheap labor + lower birth rates + more stratified, ethnically based societies + larger Welfare States and slower growth economies + Muslim immigrants often living as ‘European-Muslims’ in poorer enclaves + continued conflicts between the post-Enlightenment West and Islam over a longer period of time.

These factors and more = a population of radicalizing home-growns, unifying with various groups across the Muslim world, in both ideology and practice.  In this case, with IS and its operational theater.


There don’t seem to be many immediate plans to question the ideals around which many Europeans are uniting, nor the basic apparent failures of the political leadership to address these problems.

Reasonable people can conclude: A more practical balance of security/freedoms, political courage, and more competent management of the realities of Muslim conflict, economic migration and social integration is not forthcoming.

What’s the plan, here?

Even the NY Times noted that Western fighters heeding the jihadi call into Syria pose a risk upon return.

All that righteousness, criminality and fighting experience with nowhere to go.

Michael Moynihan

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”And:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

Thanks For The Memories, Mattress Girl

It was going to be like 1968, all over again.

The NY Times:

‘It is so simple: A woman with a mattress, refusing to keep her violation private, carrying with her a stark reminder of where it took place. The work Ms. Sulkowicz is making is strict and lean, yet inclusive and open ended, symbolically laden yet drastically physical. All of this determines its striking quality as art, which in turn contributes substantially to its effectiveness as protest.’

It’s good to know her parents stood by her (something here is…wrong), if only for a while.

Add your own:

-Disturbing levels of narcissicism and a questionable relationship with the truth-

-Making a sad spectacle of yourself and a mockery of normal, healthy relationships-

-Making life potentially more difficult for actual rape victims-

-Making life potentially more difficult for those unjustly accused of rape, likely including the accused-

-Making the graduation of many other students about you-

-Likely creating more incentives for legal and moral intrusion into all of our personal lives by eroding the distance between private/public-

-Undermining even the credibility of other purveyors of bad art, emotion and ideology by likely lying about what happened-

-Likely creating less respect for art in general-

-Likely creating less respect for other postmodern performance artists, who are just trying to make a buck with their unmade beds

Thanks for the memories, Mattress Girl:

I do think that nowadays, art pieces can include whatever the artist desires, and in this performance art piece, it utilizes elements of protest, because that is what’s relevant to my life right now.’

Some details here (pretty graphic and pretty sad).

Cathy Young At The Daily Beast-‘Columbia Student: I Didn’t Rape Her’ Cathy Young At Minding The Campus: ‘The Brown Case: Does It Still Look Like Rape?