Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The hat tip, as they say, goes to Jim West.
Update: You can read a response to this article from National Geographic here. (thanks again to Jim West)
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
"There is little danger that people engaged in the conflicts of active life will be too much addicted to general speculation. The opposite vice is that which most easily besets them. The times and tides of business and debate tarry for no man. A politician must often talk and act before he has thought and read. He may be very ill informed respecting a question; all his notions about it may be vague and inaccurate; but speak he must; and if he is a man of ability, of tact, and of intrepidity, he soon finds that, even under such circumstances, it is possible to speak successfully. He finds that there is a great difference between the effect of written words, which are perused and reperused in the stillness of the closet, and the effect of spoken words which, set off by the graces of utterance and gestures vibrate for a single moment on the ear. He finds that he may blunder without much chance of being detected, that he may reason sophistically, and escape unrefuted. He finds that, even on knotty questions of trade and legislation, he can, without reading ten pages, or thinking ten minutes, draw forth loud plaudits, and sit down with the credit of having made an excellent speech.
Lysias, says Plutarch, wrote a defence for a man who was to be tried before one of the Athenian tribunals. Long before the defendant had learned the speech by heart, he became so much dissatisfied with it that he went in great distress to the author. "I was delighted with your speech the first time I read it; but I liked it less the second time, and still less the third time; and now it seems to me to be no defence at all." "My good friend," says Lysias, "you quite forget that the judges are to hear it only once." The case is the same in the English Parliament. It would be as idle in an orator to waste deep meditation and long research on his speeches, as it would be in the manager of a theatre to adorn all the crowd of courtiers and ladies who cross over the stage in a procession with real pearls and diamonds. It is not by accuracy or profundity that men become the masters of great assemblies. And why b e at the charge of providing logic of the best quality, when a very inferior article will be equally acceptable? Why go as deep into a question as Burke, only in order to be, like Burke, coughed down, or left speaking to green benches and red boxes? This has long appeared to us to be the most serious of the evils which are to be set off against the many blessings of popular government.
It is a fine and true saying of Bacon, that reading makes a full man, talking a ready man, and writing an exact man. The tendency of institutions like those of England is to encourage readiness in public men, at the expense both of fulness and of exactness. The keenest and most vigorous minds of every generation, minds often admirably fitted for the investigation of truth, are habitually employed in producing arguments such as no man of sense would ever put into a treatise intended for publication, arguments which are just good enough to be used once, when aided by fluent delivery and pointed language. The habit of discussing questions in this way necessarily reacts on the intellects of our ablest men, particularly of those who are introduced into parliament at a very early age, before their minds have expanded to full maturity. The talent for debate is developed in such men to a degree which, to the multitude, seems as marvellous as the performance of an Italian Improvisatore. But they are fortunate indeed if they retain unimpaired the faculties which are required for close reasoning or for enlarged speculation. Indeed we should sooner expect a great original work on political science, such a work, for example, as the Wealth of Nations, from an apothecary in a country town, or from a minister in the Hebrides, than from a statesmen who, ever since he was one-and-twenty, had been a distinguished debater in the House of Commons."
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
"I find it hard to respect a poet who has no command of the classical languages. He had better be Shakespeare or he had better stop trying."
Interlocutor: "But surely you would agree that Poe's jingling is as bad as Whitman's formlessness?"
Rivera: "I certainly would not! Poe's verse is merely bad; Whitman does violence with his poems."
Thursday, May 8, 2008
A high profile campaign from The Round Mound would also probably mean this gem hits the airwaves more often, which, for my taxpaying money, is hardly a bad thing.
Monday, May 5, 2008
The term seems now to have made its way even into the sports page, if this article by Yahoo Sports' Adrian [why didn't this get changed at Ellis Island?] is any indication. We encounter the term near the end of the article:
"LeBron James has done a masterful job of setting the stage for the Celtics series, conspiring with his coach, Mike Brown, to make the world believe he had been pummeled in the Washington Wizards series. The Wizards rate as one of the softest defensive teams in the Eastern Conference, but between James’ bellyaching and Brown pounding podiums, the Cavs had referees and league officials treating the Wiz like the Bad Boy Pistons.
For them, it’ll be fascinating to see if they can carry that narrative into the Eastern Conference semifinals. This was effective against the Wiz and privately the Celtics wonder if the precious treatment of the Cavaliers’ superstar gets transferred to them now."
Post-modernity seems now to have convinced sportswriters that rhetoric is actually winning basketball games. Of course, time will only tell if Lebron James' discourse of the hard foul is a sufficient technology of power to control the Celtics, or if he'll need to make some shots as well.