For the Times Literary Review, Robert Irwin writes: The title Reading Darwin in Arabic notwithstanding, most of the men discussed in this book did not read Charles Darwin in Arabic. Instead they read Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Ernst Haeckel, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Huxley, Gustave Le Bon, Henri Bergson and George Bernard Shaw in European or Arabic versions. They also read popularizing accounts of various aspects of Darwinism in the scientific and literary journal al-Muqtataf (“The Digest”, 1876–1952). The notion of evolution that Arab readers took away from their reading was often heavily infected by Lamarckism and by the social Darwinism of Spencer. Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859, but Isma‘il Mazhar’s translation of the first five chapters of Darwin’s book into Arabic only appeared in 1918.
For a long time, the reception of Darwinism was bedevilled by the need to find either neologisms or new twists to old words. As Marwa Elshakry points out, there was at first no specific word in Arabic for “species”, distinct from “variety” or “kind”. “Natural selection” might appear in Arabic with the sense “nature’s elect”. When Hasan Husayn published a translation of Haeckel, he found no word for evolution and so he invented one. Tawra means to advance or develop further. Extrapolating from this verbal root, he created altatawwur, to mean “evolution”. Darwiniya entered the Arabic language. Even ‘ilm, the word for “knowledge” acquired the new meaning, “science”. With the rise of scientific materialism came agnosticism, al-la’adriya, a compound word, literally “the-not-knowing”.
[Robert Irwin is the author of "Visions of the Jinn: Illustrators of the Arabian Nights" (Studies in the Arcadian Library) and "Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, mystics and the sixties" both available at Amazon]
Theories about evolution had circulated widely in Britain and France from the late eighteenth century onwards. In the nineteenth century the work of Georges Cuvier on the reconstruction of creatures from fossil remains and of Charles Lyell on the geological evidence for the great age of the world and its slow transformation had prepared the ground for consideration of Darwinism.
Female lust is normal: Now that the consensus is finally established, we’ve been hit by a tidal wave of confessional sex memoirs…
Claire Dederer writes: Maybe you remember the old joke: “Why do dogs lick their balls? Because they can.” Here’s a new one I just made up: “Why do women lie about sex? Because they can.” It’s not really funny, I admit, but it does have the benefit of being true. Women are anatomically secretive. Our stuff is neatly tucked away, and the obvious signs that connote female arousal—arching, gasping, and so on—are secondary and unreliable. They might be genuine, or they might not be.
Image source: turnbuckleblog
Men are all evidence. A character in Sophie Fontanel’s new memoir of celibacy, The Art of Sleeping Alone, succinctly describes the male dilemma. Carlos has ended his marriage because he no longer wants to have sex with his wife. Fontanel asks him whether he has told his wife the true reason he left. Carlos replies: “How could I have lied to her? With love, you can always get out of a bind because you can’t see it, but getting a hard-on, or not, you can’t wriggle out of that; might as well be frank about it.” When your hard-ons are invisible, there’s room for lots of wriggling.
By now, of course, it’s difficult to think of female desire as in any way hidden. The cultural speculum has been firmly inserted for a good look around. Women have long since learned all about how our tucked-away stuff works, with pioneers of second-wave feminism as our guides: Our Bodies, Ourselves was practically standard-issue along with the dorm-room furniture when I arrived at my very liberal college in 1985. Meanwhile, female lust has been thoroughly documented (or at any rate, endlessly and theatrically depicted) by the adult-film industry. How would porn get along without horny females? Science, too, has lately been busy substantiating the existence of girl lust. In his recent tour of burgeoning research into female desire, What Do Women Want?, Daniel Bergner reports a current verdict: women are at least as libidinous as men.
“…I read Nin in college, and more than a few of you probably sampled her unforgivably arty, but also truly dirty, prose too…”
There it is. We can finally all agree that women want to have sex. Variously portrayed in the past as tamers of men and tenders of children, we’re now deemed well endowed with horniness. But does that mean we experience desire in the same way that men do? My lust tells me we don’t. Mine, I confess, isn’t blind or monumental or animal. It comes with an endless internal monologue—or maybe dialogue, or maybe babel. My desire is always guessing, often second-guessing. Female lust is a powerful force, but it surges in the form of an interrogation, rather than a statement. Not I want this but Do I want this? What exactly do I want? How about now? And now?
“A radical is one who advocates sweeping changes in the existing laws and methods of government.”
- Hillary Rodham (Clinton) in her 1969 thesis “There Is Only The Fight : An Analysis of the Alinsky Model”
As voters stagger through the long hot summer of the 2012 Presidential campaign, activists who want to defeat President Obama are fighting an uphill battle to help their fellow citizens get an honest assessment of who Barack Obama is and what he believes. The mainstream media are certainly no help in vetting Obama, having proven themselves both as slippery and as shallow as a puddle of bacon grease.
Obama’s past matters because it isn’t just his past. As author Stanley Kurtz shows in his upcoming book Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, the President’s background past is relevant today because it leads directly to his wealth redistribution policies and other radical plans to reshape America.
Because of the Fourth Estate Fail, it’s incumbent on conservative activists and citizen journalists to do the job of explaining to voters the truth about Barack Obama. This article is the first in a series that uses Kurtz’s Spreading The Wealthas a jumping off point to lay out in stark detail how President Obama has practiced distinct brand of Chicago-style politics has had implications for every aspect of his policy, from Obamacare to the housing crisis.
The plain truth is that President Barack Obama has operated in a manner completely consistent with his political roots as a Alinsky-style community organizer. That simple assessment is accurate but useless as an explanation. Most voters have no idea who Saul Alinsky was or even what being a “community organizer” means. Ironically, this ignorance is especially acute among liberals.
The good news is that understanding Alinsky and his profound impact on Obama’s policies & political operation can be simple.
Alinsky’s manifesto Rules For Radicals lays out the principles of community organizing and the blunt, modern language makes it an easy read. Yes, it’s evil–but it’s seldom pedantic.
However, I think an even better place to start is the astounding, in-depth interview that Playboy magazine did with Alinsky in 1972. The entire interview at the link is from a political website and there isn’t a NSFW photo anywhere.
Josephine County isn’t a monster, it’s just ahead of the curve
J Ciaramella writes: On the evening of Oct. 30, 2013, a car traveling down a highway south of Cave Junction struck and killed Jarred Houston, 21, and Robert Calvin, 41. Four months later, their case remains unsolved.
A week after the hit-and-run, Aaron Clouser, 39, was stabbed to death and left in the middle of the street. His case remains unsolved as well.
“Who else is going to protect you when your government can’t?”
The murders have left the small town seething with anger, but there are barely any detectives around to work the cases.
Economic woes have forced county governments in rural Oregon to slash law enforcement budgets to the point where police are almost non-existent. In Josephine County, where Cave Junction is, there are two patrol deputies tasked with covering 1,600 square miles.
The sheriff’s office issued a warning last year for those in “potentially volatile” situations, such as those protected under a restraining order, “to consider relocating to an area with adequate law enforcement services.”
The Oregon State Police have shifted resources to the area to try and fill in the gaps. Some citizens have banded together into armed watch groups.
The rural areas in southern Oregon are lawless.
Ed Driscoll writes: “Bachelor Pad Economics,” Aaron Clarey tells me about his new book in our latest podcast interview, is focused upon “maximizing your amount of time on this planet to spend on you and leisure and not be slaving away eighty hours at the office and just so you can afford that big mansion in the suburbs or the BMW SUV.”
Clarey stresses the importance of minimalism in his financial planning…
[Be cool and get the book "Bachelor Pad Economics: The Financial Advice Bible for Men" from Amazon]
“I’m the biggest capitalist there ever was. But truthfully, the only thing that really matters, the true source of happiness is other humans. And the great thing about humans is they’re free.”
Is it possible to enjoy America’s decline from your swank bachelor’s pad, knowing that you’re financially prepared to ride out the worst of the remaining years of the Obama era?
True beauty pleases the eye and the mind – but can it help us to become better people?
John Armstrong writes: The only popular thought about beauty today, the one that has the widest currency in the world, is the idea that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. It’s a kindly notion. It seeks to make peace between people who have very different tastes. People are delighted by wildly variant things and that’s how it should be, the thinking goes – so don’t get worked up trying to figure out which things are beautiful.
Yet the success of this generous approach keeps attention away from deeper, more important questions. Whether it is a Baroque Cathedral, the face of a child, or the coast of Sweden seen from a plane window, we have all had the mysterious experience of finding something beautiful. But what is actually going on when we find these things beautiful?
[On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters (English and German Edition) at Amazon]
In 1795, the German dramatist and poet Friedrich Schiller published a book with a fearsome title – On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters. It has never become well-known, which is a pity, because it contains some of our most useful insights into the nature and value of beauty. Schiller’s starting point is an analysis of the human condition. He wants to understand our delight in what we find beautiful. Instead of asking which things are beautiful, Schiller is curious about what is going on in us when we respond with this distinctive, intimate thrill and enthusiasm that leads us to say ‘that’s beautiful’. Different things might provoke this response in different people. But why do we have it at all?
How Did an Essential Figure in the Modern Revival of Liberal political Philosophy End Up Pondering Issues of Theology?Posted: February 15, 2014
Beyond Naturalism: On Ronald Dworkin
For The Nation, Michael Rosen writes: The Battle of Kolin is not much remembered these days, although it was a brutal, bloody slaughter. It was fought between Prussia and Austria on June 18, 1757, as part of Frederick the Great’s long campaign to extend his territories at the Austrians’ expense. This time, however, he found the Austrians well prepared and well led. His army was outnumbered, and nearly 14,000 of his 32,000 men lost their lives. At the height of the fighting, Frederick is supposed to have screamed at his troops: “You scum! Do you want to live forever?”
The story became notorious around the German-speaking world. Many years later, Goethe said he was reminded of it when he read the first German translation of Lucretius’ famous Epicurean poem, De Rerum Natura. The association was to the point, for Frederick was an avowed Epicurean (as an absolute monarch, he could afford to be open about his lack of religious faith). He had even written a poem (in French) “in imitation of the Third Book of Lucretius,” whose subject was “the vain terrors of death and the fear of an afterlife.” No doubt, Frederick was an aggressive, ruthless militarist, but if he was a tyrant, then he was a tyrant of a particularly modern kind—one who claimed to be pursuing the common good as “the first servant of the state.”
For Enlightenment materialists like Frederick, the idea of the immortal soul was no more than superstition. Without it, there was no reason to give human beings any special status in the universe. As Jeremy Bentham said, “call them machines: so they were but happy ones, I should not care.” Now, two and a half centuries later, the fear of God handing down rewards and punishments in the next world has shrunk dramatically, and Frederick’s angry accusation points toward a more modern dilemma. Once human beings lose their fear of death, what becomes of the value of human life?
Gerald Howard writes: As a young literatus in training, I got myself early and often to the Lion’s Head, a legendary and now-extinct writers’ bar on Sheridan Square. Lined with the framed covers of books by its denizens, it offered an atmosphere of boozy bonhomie and the opportunity for literary stargazing of a special sort. (Hey, I’m urinating right next to Fred Exley!) And it didn’t take long before I was told that gin mill’s trademark anecdote: A nonscribbling civilian drops into the Lion’s Head for a couple of beers. After taking in the scene for a while, he remarks to the guy on the barstool next to him, “There sure are a lot of writers here with drinking problems.”This elicits the swift reply: “Wrong. There are a lot of drinkers here with writing problems.”
The same conundrum informs Olivia Laing’s heartfelt and melancholy alcoholic travelogue: Why, in America especially, are the production of literature and the consumption of destructive quantities of alcohol so intimately intertwined? Which came first, the bottle or the typewriter? While this condition has abated quite a bit in our more abstemious time (it’s been many years since I’ve seen anyone come back loaded from a publishing lunch), for much of the twentieth century, literary distinction and alcoholism were strongly linked. An oft-cited fact is that five of the first six American Nobel Prize winners—Lewis, O’Neill, Faulkner, Hemingway, and Steinbeck—were alcoholics, and the list of other notable writers who suffered from the disease would more or less fill the allotted word count of this review.
Laing, a British editor and critic, battens on to six of these sad, brilliant cases, all men, in an attempt to solve, or at least shed light on, the paradox that their desolate and haunted lives yielded “some of the most beautiful writing this world has ever seen.” Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Berryman—ransacked souls all who drank like fish and wrote like fallen angels.
How Iowa Flattened Literature
Yet once upon a time (1967, to be exact), Paul Engle, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, received money from the Farfield Foundation to support international writing at the University of Iowa. The Farfield Foundation was not really a foundation; it was a CIA front that supported cultural operations, mostly in Europe, through an organization called the Congress for Cultural Freedom.
With CIA help, writers were enlisted to battle both Communism and eggheaded abstraction. The damage to writing lingers.
Seven years earlier, Engle had approached the Rockefeller Foundation with big fears and grand plans. “I trust you have seen the recent announcement that the Soviet Union is founding a University at Moscow for students coming from outside the country,” he wrote. This could mean only that “thousands of young people of intelligence, many of whom could never get University training in their own countries, will receive education … along with the expected ideological indoctrination.” Engle denounced rounding up students in “one easily supervised place” as a “typical Soviet tactic.” He believed that the United States must “compete with that, hard and by long time planning”—by, well, rounding up foreign students in an easily supervised place called Iowa City. Through the University of Iowa, Engle received $10,000 to travel in Asia and Europe to recruit young writers—left-leaning intellectuals—to send to the United States on fellowship.
‘Neoliberalism’ – A Term Both Ubiquitous and Ill-Defined – is an Evolving Body of Market-Driven Ideas. Or a Conspiracy by Elites to Torment the Poor…Posted: February 10, 2014
Spontaneous Order: Looking Back at Neoliberalism
Tim Barker writes: “The owl of Minerva,” Hegel famously wrote, “flies only at dusk”: historical events can be theoretically comprehended only in retrospect. Is this the case with neoliberalism? A term ubiquitous in the academy but scarcely used outside it, the concept is difficult to define with precision. A common shorthand identifies it as the economic and philosophical ideology behind the Reagan-Thatcher revolution; it is also often agreed that this ideology contributed somehow to the financial crisis of 2008. Now, with the recession technically over but recovery still ambiguous, two recent books attempt to describe neoliberalism’s historical origins and explore its current political implications.
by Johanna Bockman
Stanford University Press, 2011, 352 pp.
Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics
by Daniel Stedman Jones
Princeton University Press, 2012, 432 pp.
In Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics, Daniel Stedman Jones charts the rise of neoliberalism, which he defines as the “coherent, if loose, body of ideas” that underwrite our contemporary “market-driven society.” He begins with the intellectual biographies of three exiled Central European thinkers—Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Karl Popper—who challenged the industrial West’s consensus around social welfare programs, full employment, labor unions, and state intervention. This first, émigré generation (joined by kindred Americans and West Germans) were “neoliberal” in their opposition to central planning, but also “neoliberal” because they sought a reformed liberalism for the middle of the twentieth century, not a simple return to the laissez-faire of the nineteenth. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, for example, countenanced significant departures from laissez-faire, including universal health care.
“People who spend every day in the week making money, and the Sunday in going to Church, have nothing to invite the muse of Comedy.”
— Alexis de Tocqueville
A history of American humor finds liberation in the horselaugh
Ben Schwartz writes: Who gets to be funny and who gets made fun of? Americans never get tired of that question. At least, we Americans in the think-piece-writing business don’t. Are women funny? Are fat jokes cruel playground humor or legitimate satire in an increasingly unfit culture? Did that comic you’ve never heard of before go too far on that talk show you never watch? Is that black comic who puts on a dress funny, or a demeaning Jim Crow minstrel? Is there such a thing as a man telling a funny rape joke, and if so, why hasn’t it been written yet?
Judging by most late-night talk shows, sitcoms, and stand-up clubs, we go about distributing the cultural authority to make fun of us in much the same way that we’ve gradually doled out other kinds of authority—to vote, own property, run Fortune 500 companies, or sit in the White House. Mainly, it’s been white men kidding, if not ridiculing, us and defining what’s supposed to be funny and what isn’t.
Rome (AFP) – A virtually unknown novel by Charlie Chaplin — the only book the silent film comic ever wrote — is being made public for the first time.
“Footlights”, which will be unveiled in London later Tuesday, was written by Chaplin in 1948 and later transformed into his film “Limelight”, in which a washed-out clown saves a dancer from suicide.
The book is being published in English by the Cineteca di Bologna, an Italian film restoration institute which has been working with Chaplin biographer David Robinson on reconstructing drafts found in the Chaplin archives.
Charles Spencer Chaplin was born in London in 1889 to poor parents, who struggled to make a living as music hall entertainers. As an adolescent, he began working in music halls in Soho, before eventually becoming an actor with a theatre troupe.
From The Little Mermaid and Anna Karenina to Holly Golightly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Samantha Ellis examines the heroines written by men
I was delighted to see Truman Capote–the little freak was a genius–featured as an example of an author that excelled at writing woman characters. Holly Golightly is arguably one of the most compelling women characters in 20th century popular fiction.
Besides being a classic 1960s Hollywood movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a novella, a small book with a big character. Made famous, of course, by Audrey Hepburn. Which is unfortunate–many contemporary readers wouldn’t likely place Capote’s forgotten book on their must-read list. I came across it casually, in my 20s, and it was this exact thing that captivated me. The creation of this… indelible character. I almost felt like the detective in Laura, infatuated with a ghost. In this case, a fictional creation. The character is darker, more seductive, more melancholy, in Capote’s book, than the romantic, candy-coated version in the movie.
The other thing I found striking was that Capote was writing about himself. If we take the Holly Golightly character, and switch the gender, it’s a story of a young homosexual male from the south, hustling among the wealthy and famous in New York. Swinging between euphoria and depression, a sexual social climber, running from a troubled past. That’s a Truman Capote autobiography.
But we also know that Capote drew inspiration, like a reporter, from real women. One of Truman’s great talents was befriending talkative, wealthy, fascinating women. It’s said that he based the book on an actual young socialite in Manhattan (or a composite of a few women he knew) which involved discretion, misdirection, secrecy, and even threats of lawsuits, as the guessing game disrupted reputations and ignited rumors among New York’s elite. One wonders if the handful of society women in contention were insisting they were not her, or claiming that they were.
It’s also unfortunate that Capote was remembered more for his decadent celebrity, than his (regrettably thin) body of work. He was a writer of great promise who lost his way. After the obscenely-rewarding success of In Cold Blood (it made Truman literally the most famous writer on earth) Capote never wrote a serious novel again. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a forgotten little gem that gave us one of fiction’s great heroines.
Samantha Ellis poses a good question. She writes:
Can men write good heroines? Most of the heroines I write about in my book How to Be a Heroine are written by women. And most of the heroines I find most problematic are written by men. It’s very troubling to go back to Hans Christian Andersen‘s The Little Mermaid and find that it’s a story about a mermaid who gives up her voice for legs to get a man. And even as a girl, I was furious with Charles Dickens for letting Nancy get bludgeoned in Oliver Twist and, later, outraged that Samuel Richardson heaped pain and indignity on Clarissa and called her “an Exemplar to her sex” as though learning to suffer well made us exemplary.
It’s particularly distressing to see how male writers have punished their heroines for being sexually adventurous. Leo Tolstoy‘s Anna Karenina throws herself under a train; Gustave Flaubert makes Emma Bovary pathetic even before she poisons herself. It’s striking that when Erica Jong wrote about an adulteress in Fear of Flying, she gave her a happy ending, in which she is reborn in a hotel bathtub, and summons her adoring husband back.
A review of Yuval Levin’s Book The Great Debate
Jon Bishop writes: We too often assume that the left and right divide began with the eruptions of the ’60s or with the presidency of FDR. It is in fact much older — ancient, even, for it is not out of the question to assume that Greece and Rome faced similar questions. So Yuval Levin, with his The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, has done modern American political discourse an incredible service by reminding us to always consider the historical context.
Levin takes the reader on a guided tour of the Enlightenment-drenched late 18th century and demonstrates how Burke and Paine, who serve as Levin’s representatives for conservative liberalism and progressive liberalism, respectively, adapted the thinking of the age to their approach to political questions. He draws from both their letters and published works — which make for great reading, by the way. Both, after all, were wonderful rhetoricians.