Monthly Archives: September 2009

William Chung, 1935-2009

It is with the profoundest sorrow that I must mark the death of Grandmaster William J. Chung, who was my kung-fu master for many years. He had been suffering from cancer, and collapsed at his home in New Jersey a few days ago. Attempts to revive him failed. Related content from Sphere

Peeing And Becoming

There was an amusing anecdote in my family about my long-departed Scottish grandmother, who, in the course of helping to potty-train one of her grandchildren (indeed I think it might have been yours truly), attempted to stimulate the “wee bairn” by running the water in the sink. The plan, however, immediately backfired, and she ended […]

Race To The Bottom

A reader emailed me a link today, and asked: “Ought the government prosecute?” The story in question is a distasteful one: apparently somebody set up a poll on Facebook that asked the question “Should Obama be killed?” According to the linked item, there were three options: “Yes“, “No“, and “Maybe, if he cuts my health […]

O Beautiful, For Spacious Skies, For Empty, Wasted Brains

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about how stupendously ignorant most Americans are about science: one in five Americans thinks the sun revolves around the Earth, for example, and almost half of us believe the Earth itself is less than 10,000 years old. But utter benightedness about basic science isn’t nearly enough, as it turns […]

William Safire, 1929-2009

I was startled a few hours ago to hear that the grand-daddy of political “pundits”, William Safire, whose outstandingly informative columns on politics and the use of language educated, persuaded and entertained so many of us for so long, has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 79. I didn’t even know he was […]

High Achiever

I’m off to a concert tonight, and traveling tomorrow, so I may not have much time for blogging over the next couple of days. For tonight, then, here’s an engaging biographical sketch, from Tuesday’s New York Times of one of my favorite scientists: astronomer Dr. Carolyn Porco, who is best known for her long association […]

Come To Papa

I speak up for Western society often, and consider its defense important, but I have to wonder sometimes if it’s really worth it anymore. There may indeed be barbarians at the gate, but the accelerating putrescence of our popular culture reminds me daily that we have an ample store of them right here at home. […]

The Army of Sisyphus

The situation in Afghanistan is very bad. If we leave, the consequences will be dire, not least for the many hopeful and trusting Afghans who have taken our side against the monstrous Taliban; those who have cooperated with us will surely be slaughtered. And if we give up the fight, it is not hard to […]

The Forgotten H.G. Wells

Today marks the 143rd anniversary of the birth of H.G. Wells, and Google has marked the occasion with one of those curious UFO banners they’ve been featuring lately. Wells is best known today for his immortal contributions to science-fiction — such classics as The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, and The Invisible Man […]

Irving Kristol, 1920-2009

The enormously influential conservative thinker Irving Kristol (who defined a neoconservative as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality”) has died at the age of 88. His New York Times obituary is here, and an informative Wikipedia article, with many quotes, is here. Related content from Sphere

This Would Be Funny, If It Weren’t So Sad

If you’ve been paying attention to the news this weekend, you’ve heard that President Obama — who, having apparently run out of things to take over at the federal level, now seeks to expand his suzerainty to state governments as well — has told New York’s dismally feckless governor David Paterson not to run for […]


In case you didn’t know, there’s another mystery-creature story making the rounds. This time it isn’t a pulsating blob in the sewer, but a large, glabrous shmoo-like critter (perhaps some sort of defective sloth?) allegedly stoned and beaten to death by some Panamanian teens. (The whole thing may be a hoax, of course.) Being dead […]

E Pluribus Pluribus

Readers may have heard, by now, about former President Jimmy Carter’s wise and helpful comment that “an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he is African-American.” In today’s Best of the Web newsletter (second item), James Taranto has […]

Under New Management

The U.S. has decided to abrogate its agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic to deploy advanced missile-defense systems in those Eastern European nations. This sort of inconstancy is a well-known issue with democracies such as ours, where the internal balance of power shifts every few years, but the Poles and Czechs — who, having […]

Mary Travers, 1936-2009

We note with sadness the death of singer Mary Travers, of complication from leukemia. She was 72. I spent some time with Ms. Travers many years ago, in the course of mixing two albums for Peter, Paul, and Mary, and it was a pleasure getting to know her. She was cheery and affable, with a […]

It’s A Trap!

Too much time on your hands? Try this little diversion.

The Lady Mondegreen

In a recent post we celebrated the healing power of music. But often, when a song touches our very plimsoul, the real baraka is in the lyrics. Here, with a hat tip to Ellisson by way of Kevin Kim, is a splendid example. Related content from Sphere

Railroad Days

An item in the news today about a D.C. Metro worker who was struck and killed by a train — the third fatality in that system in recent months — was a madeleine that brought back a flood of memories of my own fifteen months as a railroad worker, back around 1975. It’s a mighty […]

Tuts My Barreh

Ah, the healing power of music. Here.

Parallel Postulates

Lawrence Auster is a very smart fellow, and I admire his formidable presence on the ramparts of Western culture. But he has curious blind spots, for one so intelligent, and one of them has to do with Darwinism. Have a look at this exchange with a reader, one who patiently tries to explain, as I […]

How High Is It, Jimmy?

Tuesday is Primary Day here in Gotham, and as a subscriber to our fair city’s newspaper of record, I have before me the New York Times 2009 Primary Election Voter Guide. It’s very helpful. Among the positions up for grabs is that of Mayor, which has been filled for the past two terms by New […]

The Loyal Opposition

Ever since he first bestrode the national stage back in 2004, people have been swooning over Barack Obama (quite literally so, in fact, during last year’s campaign). Yes, yes, he’s handsome, articulate, intelligent, and all that — I get it — but there is also something else, a certain je ne sais quoi, about the […]

Bent Donut Hole

Poking around over at Normblog today, I found a link to something that I think is just brilliant: it’s a map of London’s Tube system, with all the station names replaced by anagrams. Have a look here (you can compare it with the real thing, here). Related content from Sphere

You Go, Girl

I do like that Camille Paglia. Though a liberal Democrat, she always thinks for herself — and what a lively and penetrating mind she has. In a recent column for, she offers some common sense about this excruciating national set-to over health-care. She begins: As an Obama supporter and contributor, I am outraged at […]

The Great Divide

I imagine most of you watched tonight’s health-care speech. My first day back at work was a long one, and so I missed almost all of it; I’ll have to find a transcript. From the post-mortems I did see on the news channels it seems the central issues linger, including perhaps the most central of […]

100%, in the long run

Well, we’re back. Being too weary from the packing, driving, and unpacking to do much here tonight (though if I had more energy I’d write something about the silly kerfuffle over Mr. Obama’s speech to the schoolchildren), here’s a tidbit from reader JK: a website that calculates your chances of dying sometime soon. Related content […]

Time In

All things must pass, and lazy summer vacations are no exception. A last perfect sunset over Duck Harbor having brought the curtain down on this year’s Wellfleet idyll, it’s back to Gotham, and back to work, for the lovely Nina and me. We’ll be getting back to normal operations here as well in the next […]

Probing the Dar-al-Harb

We haven’t linked to anything over at Gates of Vienna in a while, but here is an excellent overview by Baron Bodissey of the many fronts upon which the ancient struggle between Islam and the West is now unfolding. The is a great deal more to this conflict than flamboyant acts of terror and costly […]

Wake-Up Call

The New York Times columnist and W.F. Buckley protégé David Brooks has been, amongst influential conservative voices, on e of the most admiring of, and sympathetic to, President Obama. In his most recent column, however, his tone is somewhat less approving, and for exactly the right reasons. We read: This is a country that has […]

Not Forgotten

Here in Cape Cod, as everyone looks back on the life of Ted Kennedy, the tone, has been, to put it mildly, approving. It’s bad form to speak ill of the recently dead, so one has hardly heard a peep about the darker aspects of Mr. Kennedy’s life, or the skeletons in his closet (not […]