A Word to the Wise

A Greek Classics scholar wandered into our scotch club a few months ago, an aging fellow, tall, quick with a smile, very intelligent. He quickly earned the moniker, “The Professor.” When I discovered that he could read the Philosophers in the original Greek, my heart quickened with delight. “A fellow-traveler!” I thought. “At last, someone else who has gone through the skein of the institution to find himself enjoying the good life on the outside, without the travails of publish-or-perish!”

I’ve been writing for a blog called Sweet Talk, an homage to Deirdre McCloskey, making friends with a handful of guys who are exploring the virtues of Virtue Ethics as it applies to our Information Age. I play the curmudgeonly Wise Man to their Idealistic Philosophers, the yang of decadence to their yin of advancing human civilization. To wit: I’m translating Heraclitus and commenting on it in a kind of pastiche dialogue. Tons of fun.

I printed out my original Heraclitus post and brought it to the last scotch club meeting for The Professor to read. He glanced over it, handed it back to me and said, “Cute.” I was devastated.

Truly, I was hurt–and surprised.

I thought about it for a day until it finally occurred to me: I was usurping his happiness. I should have known in advance that he would not appreciate my overtures for an academic bromance because Resident Academic is his gig; who am I to make a claim to that throne? After years of “professional critique” and “peer review” (read: cutthroat competition), he is finally enjoying a retirement of warm adulation, performing to half-drunk hangers-on.

Rebuked, I have learned something this day.

Blessed Are The Meek

Today I found myself in Canada, as is usual for a Tuesday, and I was discoursing amidst a group of elderly people about leadership–not that Nachmu was lecturing them (may it never be!), but, in the course of the conversation, I had asked them if they had ever met a leader who would have been considered meek. I was thinking to explore the nature of things, namely that leaders are generally not meek, but that an extraordinary leader might be extraordinarily good because he or she became a leader in spite of his predilection to wilt under the hot lights. Continue reading

In From the Cold?

On Richard Burton

He fascinates me, this Welshman. In interviews later in his life, after he was confronted by the destructive nature of his behavior, not the least of which was his dependence on alcohol, he mentioned that he hated being an actor. He didn’t want to be an actor, but he was an actor. The biographical documentary referenced in the title of this post included interviews from those who were close to him; Mike Nichols, the director of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, said that Burton struggled, as a man who was an actor who didn’t want to be an actor, with a life of “seeming” versus a life of “being.”

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I Need An Adult!

Deconstructing Banished

It’s a silly subtitle, I know, but I like to be upfront about my own biases. I have a tendency to “read” video games, looking for significances and meaningfulnesses. Banished is a peculiar little game which I bought because of the hype surrounding it, thinking that it was a grizzled veteran already, but it was brand-new, and I think, still, without a patch. It doesn’t really need a patch, other than a few UI gripes. Those gripes I will forgo, leaving that to those nerds more uber than I. Besides which, when one scours for significance and meaningfulness, one can just plain be wrong. I might even be mistaken about the mechanics of the game! Oh, well. On to the meaningfulnesses. Continue reading

Mama Bear and Her Enforcer

It is possible sometimes, thankfully, to learn something by observation instead of cold, cruel experience. When the cubs are playing, for example, it is best to let them play, and if you simply must watch them play (they are so cute, after all), it is best to make some considerable distance between your person and those cubs, being content to watch through a powerful lens, because Mama is nearby. She does not bother to ask if you are benevolent or illintentioned, or even if you are a neutral observer. Since it is so difficult to be a bear, why bother with formalities?

This we have learned by observation, at the expense of a very few. Today I learned an advanced lesson in the same vein: what if Mama brings an enforcer?

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Come On Pilgrim was a pass that hit me in mid-stride when I was sixteen years old, and I ran with it all the way to…

Well, that’s the problem: it’s the occasion of my forty-first birthday, and I, like many men approaching middle age, find it to be an occasion made for nostalgia, of what I wanted to be and could have been and am not. I remarked to myself, upon waking up to the depression of another milestone on the way to that cold, open, worm-filled hole, “I’m so disappointed: I figured the world would be fixed by now, and that I would have played a notable part in fixing it.”

Alas, not. We were in high school, training away to win the big game (and I did and did not), to hit the high note in the big finale (and I did, sorta kinda, when I held my arms out just so), and training to pass the big exam (I won the big scholarship by means of which, life’s Raison d’être). And then: Pixies, a screaming rage. A song about caribou? It was exactly right.

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Catching Up

I’ve been saving topics upon which to pontificate because, well, you know, I’m lazy. Who saves topics? I have a list of them in iTunes, downloaded from my phone (in which the spirit of Steve Jobs surely lives, hence the reticence of the Apple company to actually innovate; if they were to, his existence would at least be threatened, if not terminated). Last September I forayed into obituary writing, a heartfelt adieu to an era through a beloved dog. Since then: nada.

Writing is a discipline, and I write for a living. Recreational writing becomes a drag. Nevertheless, most of my professional writing ends up cutting so many whimsical notes, asides, quotations, citations, discoveries, etc., that it seems wise to develop a further discipline for recreational writing. For example, the 1500 year old basilica discovered submerged in a lake somewhere in Turkey: Continue reading

Cosmo the Wonderdog, RIP

Cosmo the Wonderdog is Jonah Goldberg’s dog, a good doggie who died yesterday. I feel like I knew Cosmo almost as well as I know Jonah Goldberg. Did he mention Cosmo more than he wrote on anything else? Is it possible that he even could write about anything else as much as he wrote about Cosmo the Wonderdog?

I remember a year or two ago, when Jonah mentioned the good dog was beginning to show signs of age, how the death of Cosmo would bring the end of an era, an absolute end to an innocent age. I had a Mindspring account, you see, back in those heady days of competing dial-ups, at the very beginning of the dot-com boom. Mindspring was how I dialed in to greet Jonah Goldberg hello on the wonderful, brand-spanking new NRO, the National Review Online, which put a stake in the heart of its vampire father, National Review On Dead Tree. Jonah Goldberg was its editor-in-chief, and everyone who came over to see the new digs was greeted by a very happy and sociable Cosmo the Wonderdog, who probably knew every fiber of The Couch and the interwebs.

The era wassimply, Jonah’s G-File, read voraciously and avariciously by G-Philes like myself, a coeval of Jonah’s. Is it possible that we were still in our twenties? Is it possible that Cosmo the Wonderdog was only Cosmo the Wonderpuppy? The G-File is gone, now, produced as an e-mail newsletter once a week, functioning in the same way as a Pixies reunion tour. It’s still great after all these years, but it’s not nearly as hip as it was when it was me and Jonah and Cosmo and a handful of other web-savvy young conservatives. Instead of e-mail exchanges, the occasional one of which might be quoted, to this author’s never-ending ecstasy in the early manifestation of The Corner, whatever the NRO’s blog might have been called back then– I don’t even remember. I can’t even remember Cosmo as a puppy.

I had no children; now I have two, and they both play hockey and ride their bicycles and disappear into the neighborhood unsupervised for hours at a time. Jonah, I think, has one who is the same age as my older son. That’s right: Jonah Goldberg, who hacked out the G-File on some early Mac product while consumed by The Couch, has a tween-aged girl-child. Indeed.

Now, even after I have matured as a thinker and as a writer, it is highly unlikely that even the wittiest insight, the cleverest riposte, the snazziest snark, will ever make the cut to be included in The Corner; only the other established bloggers of conservative renown are honored thus. Alas.

It was Cosmo, though, whom I knew as a puppy (even though I can’t remember him as a puppy), who kept me in communion with those flush and heady days of NRO. Now he is gone, and those days are gone.

All flesh is grass, even doggie flesh, even good doggie flesh. Let it be true, then, that at the Resurrection of all flesh, doggies rise with their masters to everlasting bliss for the purpose of chasing squirrels and fetching tennis balls. Let Cosmo rise with all faithful dogs to run without panting, to bark without annoying, to lick without ever slobbering.