Saturday, August 30, 2014

The ODD Award Nominees

Dear reader(s?): I would like to formally call for nominations for the first ever Only Decent Dude Award-- ODD for short-- to be hosted by Six Foot Turkey. (It will probably also be the last ever.) This is your chance to nominate, or to select from our list, those individuals who have distinguished themselves in recent history by persistently being the Only Decent humans around.  (Note: I use the word "Dude" in the title for the sake of the acronym alone. Nominees and ODD laureates may be Decent people of any gender or none).  Please cast your vote(s?) or offer your own list of nominees in the comment thread below.  Ultimately, of course, there can only be one Only Decent person, else the title would mean very little, so choose carefully.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Vocation and Self

It occurs to me I was pretty hard on William Deresiewicz last week-- somewhat unfairly so.  It's just that I always turn red and apoplectic when I read a certain type of self-criticism from Ivy Leaguers that is really, I take it, self-congratulation, and I suppose I found William D.'s essay a convenient shorthand for the whole phenomenon.  I think that now, however, having fully exorcised the specter of God and Man at Yale, I can turn back to the original essay in a kinder spirit-- and see what D. was actually trying to say.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Zola in the West Bank

I've already inflicted on you my post for the week, so I'll try to make this one relatively brief.  I felt the need, however, to draw some further attention to a story from Israel's Occupied Territories that is not likely to gain much notice in the Western media, but that I find very difficult to get out of my mind.  It is the story of the families of the two people suspected of killing three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.  Human rights watchdog B'Tselem reported on Monday that the Israeli military has proceeded with the demolition of the homes of both families, as it had been threatening to do for weeks, in retaliation for the murder of the three Israeli youths.  This means that two entire families, 13 children and 10 adults, according to B'Tselem, have been rendered homeless, because two of their members are suspected of murder.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Less Than Sheltered Groves

I guess William Deresiewicz's advice to the nation's rising college class of 2018 is old news by now.  For those of you who missed it, you can follow the link, read the title, and fill in the blanks yourself. The article is another entry in the genre of plangent wails about the corruption of elite universities, written (as usual) by someone who received his entire education from and spent his entire career in such universities-- and which  will be read (again, as usual) exclusively by people who attend, have attended, long to attend, or long for their children to attend these same universities.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Or Is Liberal Zionism the Problem?

Since my last post on the subject of liberal Zionism appeared on this blog, most of the individuals I discussed there have had a chance to address the latest violence in Gaza, whether in print or in interviews.  So far, they have justified most of my fears and very few of my hopes (tentative and watery though these were) about liberal Zionism.  Remember for instance my judgment about Leon Wieseltier? "The most one can say for [him]," I wrote, "is that there are brief moments in reading his articles when one almost thinks he is going to say something, before he elephantinely demurs[.]"  Witty or not (I guess I was hoping to make a pachyderm put-down along the lines of H.G. Wells' assessment of Henry James-- that the latter was like an elephant trying to pick up a pea), the judgement has mostly been borne out.  Wieseltier has offered at least a partial condemnation of Israeli actions in the war in Gaza, but he has done so amidst a great deal of throat-clearing and long rhetorical querying.  The equivocal tenor of his response is well captured by the lines the New York Times chose to quote from it: “A provocation does not relieve one of accountability for how one responds to it [...] For this reason," says Wieseltier, "[…] the war has filled me with disquiet, which my sympathetic understanding of Israel’s position has failed to stifle.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Review of "Lolly Willowes" (1926)

D.H. Lawrence once urged in a poem: “Don’t be a good little, good little boy / being as good as you can,” and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s 1926 novel, Lolly Willowes, in essence offers the same consoling advice to the "good little girls" of the world—especially those of the grown-up variety.  It is the story of these women's unending struggle for solitude and spiritual power, which they must ultimately purchase at the cost of their reputation for goodness and littleness.  It is a detailed record of troop movements and flash points, in the eternal campaign of the church-mousy, English, forgotten-except-for-Christmas, confection-dispensing Auntie, to be either left alone, or else endowed with the authority she deserves—but for once no longer to be both in the constant company of others and eternally neglected by them.  If that sounds like a field of human experience that has little relevance to you, just stay with me.  Because Warner’s book, though intimately tied to her own society, epoch, and experience, has a message for us all.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Dazed and Confused (1993): A Review

Dazed and Confused is one of those great and beloved movies whose greatness I can perceive, but whose beloved-ness is lost on me.  It's a 1993 movie about a 1976 crop of high school students, and I suppose part of its emotional appeal at the time it was released derived from the fact that, for audience members who were old enough to have graduated the year it is set, the film was both close enough to and far enough from their high school reality to make for pleasant viewing.  The depiction of its Ford-era teenagers seems to have struck members of that generation as realistic enough to call back memories, but also as concerned with a distant enough time and phase of life that the memories no longer stung.