Thursday, June 30, 2011

* Soul Seizing

The Champs Elysee (the presidential palace) in France--and possibly M. Strauss-Kahn's future residence -- was, ironically, built as  the residence for Louis XV's royal mistress, Mme. de Pompadour.

                                Tyranny of the Press

The stunning news that the case against Mr. Strauss-Kahn is falling apart due to the manifest lies of the accuser, leads one to wonder at the soul-searching engaged in by  the French people about their own libertine attitudes toward promiscuity. 

Was soul-searching even in order?

It seems that what Mr. Strauss-Kahn had to undergo  was the opposite of what the French people rather masochistically engaged in after Mr. Strauss-Kahn was vilified world-wide by the Press.  His ordeal was not soul-searching at all; it was  soul-seizing.  

The Press and the public and an INVASIVE judicial system ( French laws prohibiting the  photographing suspects in arraignment hearings ought to make Americans engage in soul-searching from this moment on) seized upon this man's spirit and systematically tore it apart in what may come to be seen retrospectively as a misguided act of culturally subconscious expiation:
Expiation for decades of  culturally sanctioned sexist oppression in literature, politics, industry,  the church, and  academia.

Two items seemed dubious from the start. 

  • The suggestion that the accuser, a housekeeper/ maid in the hotel which charged Mr. Strauss-Kahn $3000 a night, did "not even know who he was."  That may be technically accurate, but one thing is for sure:  She KNEW she was about to enter and clean a $3000 a night suite and that if it was occupied, the chances were the occupier was well-heeled.

  • The second dubious assertion was that  Strauss-Kahn "forced the maid to engage in oral sex". Unless one wanted to risk becoming the next Mr. Bobbitt (remember this reluctant conjugal amputee?), such physical coercion would be extremely hazardous to a man who was unashamed of his interest in the pleasures of carnal knowledge and presumably wanted to continue those pleasures for many years to come, pleasures which require, shall we say, certain unimpaired physiological equipment.

Like the hysteria fifteen years ago across America when a few children falsely accused child-care workers of sexually abusing them, this rush to judgment might have destroyed Strauss-Kahn's reputation as it did  the reputations of  the falsely accused child care workers.

Instead, it may make him the next President of France

And  his loyal wife will well have earned the title "First Lady" if that election comes about.

* War as Shopping

I receive emails from something I would usually boycott: The Imperial War Museum (link above). I joined their list because they maintain the Churchill War Rooms (underground bunkers from which he conducted the War when London was being bombed),  and  because when I was 16 years old (50 years ago) I had managed to wangle my way into Sir Winston Churchill's entourage and  obtained one of his hand-made Cuban cigars (you can read the story in my original 16-year-old prose --lumps and all -- at I n other words, I joined for nostalgic not philosophic reasons.

What prompts my post today is the Imperial War Museum's latest solicitation which has among other things a rotating slide show featuring "shopping" opportunities in the Museum's store, even opportunities for children to purchase toys!

Need I say more?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

* Our World of Dorian Grays

"He grew more and more enamoured of his own beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul." (Wilde, p. 93)  The Picture of Dorian Gray

“Among the many lessons that I’ve learned from this whole experience is to try to speak a little bit less,” Mr. Blagojevich said [after his conviction on 17 of 20 federal charges of influence pedaling]. (N. Y. Times, 6/27/11)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

* Split-level Poverty

One of the damning  statistics of my youth sounded like this: For the price we paid for the Viet Nam war we could have built every citizen of North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam a  9-room, air-conditioned, split level house.

Similarly, Mr. Kristoff's heart-rending story  of a  starving African mother and her children (link above to today's NYT article), raises  equally disturbing questions:  For the price of one application on every cell phone in the world,  could we  feed the starving?

The problem  now is not war, it is greed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

* Brain Bingo

Young people’s brains are developing while they are immersed in fast, multitasking technology. No one quite knows what effect this is having.
The culture of childhood is being compressed. Those things that young people once knew at 18, they now know at 10 or 12. No one quite knows the effect of that either.

David Brooks

The Saga of Sister Kiki

Sunday, June 19, 2011

* Hate as Faith

"You don't arrest Voltaire."

President Charles DeGaulle, commenting on his pardon of Jean-Paul Sartre

From Wikipedia
"The anti-Semite has chosen hate because hate is a faith." He has escaped responsibility and doubt. He can blame anything on the Jew; he does not need to engage reason, for he has his faith.
The anti-Semite is a prime example of a person who has entered into bad faith to avoid responsibility. He attempts to relinquish his responsibility to anti-Semitism and a community of anti-Semites. He "fears every kind of solitariness… however small his stature, he takes every precaution to make it smaller, lest he stand out from the herd and find himself face to face with himself. He has made himself an anti-Semite because that is something one cannot be alone." (p.22.) Anti-Semitism is a way of feeling good, proud even, rather than guilty at the abandonment of responsibility and the flight before the impossibility of true sincerity. The anti-Semite abandons himself to the crowd and his bad faith, he ‘flees responsibility as he flees his own consciousness, and choosing for his personality the permanence of the rock, he chooses for his morality the scale of petrified values.’(p.27.) [1] He pulls down shutters, blinds, mirrors and mirages over his consciousness to keep himself in his bad faith away from his responsibilities and his liberty. The anti-Semite is afraid "of himself, of his own consciousness, of his own liberty, of his instincts, of his responsibilities, of solitariness, of change, of society, and the world – of everything except the Jews." He is "a coward who does not want to admit his cowardice to himself." (p.53.)[1] The anti-Semite wallows in the depths of an extreme bad faith. "Anti-Semitism, in short, is fear of the human condition. The anti-Semite is a man who wishes to be pitiless stone, a furious torrent, a devastating thunderbolt – anything except a man." (p. 54.)[1] This is his bad faith.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011


No "shit" in Amy's speech at Harvard.


Both Conan at Dartmouth and Tom at Yale managed to weave the word "shit" prominently into their speeches.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

* The New Frontier: Thanatos

Internationally renowned conductor, the late Sir Edward Downes, and his late wife of 54 years, Joan.

Monday, June 13, 2011

*Confusion Now Hath Made His Masterpiece

Narcissistic Networking: I have supp'd full with self

(for the dangers of raising a generation of  narcissists see NYT article 6/14/11)

Reflecting" implies asking questions of ourselves about why we do what we do. If you did that, you might stop the endless auto-biography and self-promotion. Being endlessly fascinated with ones self is a normal phase of life... for an adolescent. Posted by Attila

Attila: Ross Douthout in today's NYT puts a finger on your irritation. My self-absorption in these posts and The Anti-Yale blog is a groteque exaggeration , a prescient warning, of what your generation will become as it turns into botox-worshippping wrinkle-bags:
 COLUMNIST The Online Looking Glass By ROSS DOUTHAT Published: June 12, 2011 According to a variety of sociologists (San Diego State’s Jean Twenge, Notre Dame’s Christian Smith, and others), younger Americans are more self-absorbed, less empathetic and hungrier for approbation than earlier generations — and these trends seem to have accelerated as Internet culture has ripened. The rituals of social media, it seems, make status-seekers and exhibitionists of us all.

This guy gets PAID? 

I said this in a post here [Yale Daily News posting board] for free YESTERDAY! . 
"The Anti-Yale is little more than a digital mirror, a kind of vox clamantis is deserto before I expire."

 (Paid Knothing)

NB: The Anti-Yale is a bit more than self-promotion.  It is a recapitulation, with reflections. It is a farewell to the world as I have known itover the last 66+ years, a farewell through the solipsism of my keyboard.

Posted by The Anti-Yale on June 13, 2011 at 5:26 a.m.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

* Amorphous Conan at Dartmouth: LOL

In his Commencement Address at Dartmouth a few moments ago (this morning) , Conan O'Brien saluted those who embrace change, including those who have changed their sexual orientation since entering Dartmouth. He quickly added, including "some of  you  who have changed your sexual orientation since this speech began -------I know I have.  At least once."

* John Deason Ogden, Poet (1913-1998)


Thrust upon the lighted stage by hands
He could not see or name, the frightened boy
Looked back into the wings to seek a cue.
But only shadows gestured in the dark;
He didn’t understand, and what was he
Supposed to do in this blind masquerade?
Who were these people, why did they behave
So oddly?  But he could not grasp the plot.
He was in part afraid and part too proud
To run away.  Covertly he watched
The others in their roles; uncomprehending
Went through the motions seemed to be required.
Is this alright?  He wondered. Will someone
Tell me if I go wrong?  Someone must care.
How did this start?  Is this the final act?
Maybe it’s nearly over and the applause
Will free us soon, although the others seem
To know what they are doing and know why.
He saw no sign of progress and no change
Of pace or tone.  The unemphatic lines
That built to nothing droned along. The play
Seemed endless. Will there be an intermission?
If only he could get off stage a while
And study the part or maybe get some help
And ask his questions. But the play dragged on
And no one else seemed baffled. He had heard
Of Chinese operas that went on forever
Or very nearly.  Maybe he was trapped
In such a scene. I’m not sure of my role.
I don’t understand the story, he complained.
Who is that man in gray, is he the villain?
Is he my father?  That woman, who is she?
Is she the Queen. Although he did not dare
Cry out or stop the show. And then The Girl
Came towards him, clearly expecting some response.
He didn’t know what to say. He tried to smile
But she was gone. Did I do something wrong?
Surely this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
Won’t someone tell me? Who am I anyway?
What are we doing here? But still the curtain
Would not descend; the lights stayed as before.
And still those figures gestured in the wings.
What did they mean? He could not understand . . .

Saturday, June 11, 2011

* A Family Full of Famous Physiognomies

Walter Cronkite after retirement.

My father and mother, 50th Anniversary 

Walter Cronkite as a young reporter.

My father on his wedding day, during the Depression.  He was so poor he had to borrow this suit for the occasion, like Wilson in The Great Gatsby.

My family didn't have a plug nickle most of their lives, but boy did they have faces.

My father (1913-1992) looked like Walter Cronkite, both as a young man and an old man. As a labor relations expert, he was often in airports catching a plane until he retired at 70. When he was in his sixties, a man approached him in the airport and asked him if he was Walter Cronkite.

This confirmed my lifelong hunch that my father resembled the guy I took the news from on television every night, a hunch I never expressed outside of my family until that occasion.

My maternal Grandmother  (1891-1981) bore a striking resemblance to  Congresswoman Clare Booth Luce and Lady Clementine Churchill.

My Grandmother in her Rebekah gown.  She worked as a receptionist for a dozen doctors in the Professional Building (site of the current Shubert Theater) until she was 70. She never owned  or drove a car. She lived a block from Yale in a third floor walk-up with no hot water.

And my mother (1911-1985)  looked like Katherine Hepburn , both young and old.

My mother was so poor when this photo was taken (circa 1930) that she had no suitable dress to wear and had to settle for the photographer's drape over her shoulders.

And me?

 I look like nobody in particular.

In Connecticut Governor's Footguard uniform I inherited 50 years ago and now don every Halloween.

* Forty Years of Projects and Pamphleteering

A recent exchange on the Yale Daily News' posting board got me to reflecting on my four-decade history of creating projects and pamphleteering for their benefit.  Here is a chronological list I came up with:

(Note: I created the NAABP, irate after I was turned down for a teaching job in Auburn, New York.  The rejection letter said, and I quote, "Your BEARD [my emphasis] would create a community problem."
 This is a supremely ironic bit of cultural myopia, since Auburn touts itself as "The home of William H. Seward' Secretary of State to the most famous beard in American history: Abraham Lincoln.)

•           NAABP (National Association for the Advancement of Bearded People) 1968, Ithaca, NY

•           Teach-In on Racism, 1969, Ithaca, New York

•           Kent State Petition for a Federal Grand Jury, 1971-73, Kent State University and the White House

•           Pop’s Snow Squad 1971-73, Kent, Ohio  (Charles Kuralt "On the Road" , CBS Evening News, 12/ 25/ 72)

•           Douglas Clyde Macintosh Centennial at Yale, 1977

•           Holy Smoke: Opinionation from Holy Hill, Yale Divinity School, 1976-83 

•           Thornton Wilder Memorabilia Acquisition, Mayor’s Bicentennial Commission,1976-85, Hamden, CT

•           AIDS Information Dissemination Service (A.I.D.S.) 1981

•           First Documented Heterosexual Transmission of AIDS uncovered at Yale-New Haven Hospital ( 60 Minutes, 1984)

•           The Anti-Yale (and 50 other blogs) 2009 - present

Artist Clarence A. Brodeur and I unveil Brodeur's portrait of Douglas Clyde Macintosh at Yale Divinity School (1979) depicting Macintosh's famous Supreme Court case for "selective conscientious objection" United States v. Macintosh, 1931