The Wandering Minstrels
In London on [February 25,] 1871 an audience gathered in the newly-finished Royal Albert Hall to attend the first-ever concert to be performed there. This occurred a month before the official opening of this famous Victorian edifice as a special thank-you for the workers who constructed the building.
The orchestra that played that concert was famous in its day – though now totally forgotten. It was called The Wandering Minstrels and its players were all British aristocrats – Lords, Right Honourables, and senior military – who from 1861 to 1896 played exclusively for charity events. One strict rule of membership was that only amateur musicians were allowed. If you earned even one penny as a professional, you were out.
That happened to one member, the composer Frederick Clay, who had to leave The Wandering Minstrels when music he wrote for the stage started to pull in a few pennies. Clay even collaborated with W.S. Gilbert, the famous librettist for Sir Arthur Sullivan, who himself occasionally performed as a guest with The Wandering Minstrels.
And yes, it’s likely that the Gilbert & Sullivan song A Wandering Minstrel I from The Mikado was an in-joke reference to the aristocratic orchestra, especially since Nanki-Poo, who sings it, was (after all) a nobleman in disguise.
Is Fred Phelps the father of cancel culture?
“Part of the reason you don’t hear as much about Westboro [Baptist Church]anymore, is that the tactics that made us infamous are now used by so many people on all sides,” – Megan Phelps-Roper, former cult member of Westboro Baptist Church.
(Quoted by Andrew Sullivan)
Mary Harrington reports from her hairdresser conversation that “Joe Biden being a deepfake (you have to look at his ears, apparently).” I hadn’t heard that one, but it reminds me of the flake who insisted that Michelle Obama was a guy (“just look how wide her shoulders are” or something like that).
Of modern conspiracy theories she has much to say, but I’d distill it to “stereotype accuracy” or (my words) “true enough.”
Why, despite so much, I still read him
To understand the Fox News phenomenon, one has to understand the place it occupies in Red America. It’s no mere source of news. It’s the place where Red America goes to feel seen and heard.
Harry Potter orders a black coffee
Alex Wicker is used to odd looks from baristas when he stops by his local coffee shop. His order is unusual: black coffee.
“Asking for just ‘coffee’ with no added context, without going through a round of 20 questions with the server, has become impossible at this point,” said Mr. Wicker, a 23-year-old student from Shelbyville, Ind.
In a nation awash in Pistachio Cream Cold Brew and Iced Chocolate Almondmilk Shaken Espresso with Chestnut Praline Syrup, black-coffee drinkers like Mr. Wicker are becoming a rare breed.
Hold the extras. Yes, really.
What lovers of straight black consider simple, easy-to-pour orders can wind up stuck behind a jam of customized, multipump concoctions, they said. Sometimes their pristine black joe is lightened with sugar or cream anyway. Some baristas seem bewildered by the concept of coffee taken plain.
Mr. Wicker said his purist take on coffee makes him feel like an outcast. “I don’t know a single person within my age range that enjoys drinking black coffee,” he said.
Ticket for Coffee Shop Frustration: Ordering Black Coffee – WSJ
A tip for Mr. Wicker. I have finally watched a Harry Potter movie and I can report that the proper Starbucks incantation is and long has been “Venti bold, no room.” If they’re out of “bold” (dark roast – which they tend not to brew in the afternoon), they’ll tell you and you can get a Pike Place — or you can wait for a “pourover.”
I know no further incantation for getting your coffee quickly, ahead of all the frou-frou drinks of people who don’t really love coffee and who drink it only for fashion. But there’s no reason why the person who takes your order can’t fulfill it on the spot.
Or just order this and make it at home.
Cuts both ways
“No, I can’t believe this. No. My ancestors did not come here on the Mayflower,” – Angela Davis, being told exactly that by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
I suspect my readers are old enough to remember Angela Davis, but in case I’m wrong, see here.
I’ve seen people “cancelled” over respectable conservative opinions or fairly anodyne statements. Scott Adams, Dilbert creator, is not one of them.
Scott Adams somehow foresaw that Donald Trump would win the Presidency and went on record with that prediction — at first, noncommittally (I had no idea that word had so many double-letters). He went on to become a Trumpist in his activities outside of Dilbert, so I’ve been leery of him personally. And now he seems to have gone into racially divisive advice.
But if my local rag drops Dilbert, I’ll continue reading it on the web here until the strip itself becomes toxic.
Nevertheless, this breaking commentary, directed at those complaining that Adams is a victim of cancel cultue:
[T]he writer Thomas Chatterton Williams dealt with that complaint elegantly. When we think of “cancel culture,” he said, we think of people being ostracized for violating social norms that haven’t been broadly agreed upon. That’s not what Adams did. Advising white people to “get the hell away from black people” has been pretty well settled as Bad for, oh, 50 to 60 years.
For the record, I presume (and have presumed since the earliest days of the pandemic) that Covid resulted from a Wuhan lab leak.
That implies or is adjacent to a lot of other things, such as our government lying to us about the likely source, and more specifically, Anthony Fauci lying about U.S. involvement in gain-of-function research.
One reason I haven’t taken up arms against the liars is the paucity of honest replacements.
It’s not inconsistency, it’s hierarchy
In response to those who complain that different treatment is meted out to those on the Left or the Right for what is essentially the same behaviour, legal scholar Adrian Vermeule is fond of saying ‘It’s not inconsistency, it’s hierarchy’. Some groups, that is, receive more favourable treatment than others because they rank higher. The always perspicacious NS Lyons sums this view up here.
So some groups are preferred over others. What about ideas, though? Why should we be encouraged to deconstruct one generalisation on the basis of a few outliers, but castigated for employing the same critical attitude toward a different generalisation on the basis of outliers? It’s either faulty logic, or there’s an implicit hierarchy that isn’t being spelled out.
I think it’s the latter. And the governing principle isn’t logic but constraint. For the new faithful, ideas aren’t evaluated on the basis of being true, or even reasonable, but on how much they constrain desire. This explains why sex dimorphism is considered ‘outdated’, despite its features being consistent across a great many species, including humans, and (among humans) all but a very small number of outliers. Nonetheless, it must be deconstructed, because the reality of living in a sexed body constrains the things any given individual can desire. We see this in Marsh’s ‘no such thing as boys or girls’ video, which suggests that a few outliers render sex dimorphism meaningless, and concludes triumphantly: “Where does this leave you? Free!”
I hate it when Adrian Vermeule makes an observation that’s so powerful and so undeniable. Especially since it pushes me toward Harrington’s conclusion, in which “howling fury” may be more than verbal:
There is, in fact, no resolution, save insisting that human life cannot proceed without some constraints, and insisting on their imposition, and weathering the howling fury this will inevitably cause.
Once again, I’m in turmoil about whether it’s time to forsake the center-right for the postliberal right.
Is it is or is it ain’t a hate crime?
Schroedinger’s Hate Crime – Mary Harrington’s coinage for the ritual of trumpeting accusations that some mass murder was the consequence of right-wing “stochastic terrorism,” followed by the sotto voce revelation that the murderer had no right-wing affiliations.
(I realized after writing this that Harrington only addressed one incident, the Colorado Springs gay club mass shooting, but I trust that she is aware of this repetitive pattern.)
Even more than I tend to forget that there’s a porn pandemic do I tend to forget that academic cheating is epidemic:
Professors describe feeling demoralized—“I didn’t get into academia to be a cop,” a CUNY professor in the English department told me. Faculty at other schools likewise describe feeling helpless when it comes to calling out cheating, or even catching it. There’s always another app, another workaround.
Plus, it’s not necessarily smart to report bad behavior.
“Nontenured faculty have no real choice but to compromise their professional standards and the quality of the students’ own education to take a customer’s-always-right approach,” Gabriel Rossman at UCLA told me.
That’s because lower level courses, where cheating is more rampant, tend to be taught by nontenured faculty with little job security—the kind of people who fear getting negative student evaluations. “Students can be tyrants,” the CUNY English professor said. “It’s like Yelp. The only four people who are going to review the restaurant are the people who are mad.”
Suzy Weiss And you’ve got to keep the customers happy when, as at several top universities, administrators are roughly as numerous as undergraduates.
Many now herald “lab-grown meat” – that is, animal protein unmoored from the living form and telos of an actual animal … But it felt stomach-churningly apt to discover recently that this product is produced in laboratory conditions thanks to the use of ‘immortal cells’: that is, cells that don’t stop growing when they’ve done their job, which is usually to grow some part of an animal body. And the other word for cells that don’t know when to stop proliferating is “cancer”. To put it another way: “lab-grown meat” is a polite way of saying “edible vat-grown tumours”.
Mary Harrington, Culture as Metastasis
Not at all sure I believe this …
Simply put, the FBI is full of people who would prefer not to investigate Donald Trump. He remains under federal investigation only because of his own inability to stop criming.
DeSantis or Trump?
Damon Linker wrote an NYT Op-Ed about Ron DeSantis and then referenced it on his Substack. Substack reactions include:
- [H]e would bore enthusiastic visitors to the Nixon museum — and he wholly lacks Trump’s entertainment skills This is a big deal when you’re in the grievance-feeding business, and you’re looking to bring out the fringe element that was hiding before 2016. He has a bit of Trump’s shamelessness, but notwithstanding the Martha’s Vineyard stunt, it is blatantly imitative, and for the true believers, ultimately unsatisfying. I can’t imagine him inciting a riot in any capital, any more than I could see him selling out a medium size venue for an hour of spritzing insults and comedic asides. (J Dalessandro)
- I’m surprised that you rarely mention something that bothers even a diehard fan like me about DeSantis. That is, he constantly sets traps for the left, and my side finds so much joy in it, because they usually do walk right into them. (Tony)
My current stance on DeSantis: very unlikely to vote for him in a primary or general election. 2024 might just be the first time I’ve ever sat out an election. But if there’s a Trump-DeSantis primary contest in Indiana and it appears close (and Indiana’s late primaries are not already irrelevant to the nomination), I’ll gladly vote for the lesser evil.
Power grabbing from the right is not fascism
Damon Linker got a lot of flak from extremely contentious progressives for the above-referenced NYT Op-Ed.
The flak included the customary drumbeat of the “f-word,” but Linker’s having none of it:
Ronald Reagan was not a fascist.
George H. W. Bush was not a fascist.
George W. Bush was not and is not a fascist.
John McCain was not a fascist.
Mitt Romney was not and is not a fascist.
But what about Ron DeSantis? To answer that question, we first have to ask if Hungarian president Viktor Orbán is a fascist.
That’s because DeSantis is clearly modeling some of his culture-war initiatives on things Orbán has done in office. Yet I don’t think it’s accurate to call Orbán a fascist. He’s some kind of soft authoritarian or illiberal democrat—both of which are very bad. I think, likewise, that much of what DeSantis is doing in Florida—for example, his moves to severely restrict academic freedom at public universities in the state—is atrocious. But using a landslide victory in his re-election bid as leverage to impose a conservative clampdown on publicly funded universities is not fascism. It’s a power grab from the right that liberals should be fighting hard. But reaching for the most hyperbolic epithet they can think of and hurling it at him and his supporters on social media isn’t fighting hard. It’s a panic attack.
I think Linker is spot-on about this. It has occurred to me that if I had given up on liberal democracy (I’ve only come close to giving up so far), DeSantis would probably be my man, because he’d be far likelier than Trump to realize a tolerable illiberal democracy.
I think there should be a statute of limitations for calling a person a legal conservative. Show me what you’ve done lately.
Josh Blackman, reacting to J. Michael Luttig’s NYT Op-Ed Mike Pence Should Drop His Grand Jury Subpoena Gambit.
Luttig was considered conservative when he was a Federal Circuit Court judge, but then he left for a gig at Boeing, and his conservative credentials haven’t been renewed.
I’ll go Blackman one better, though: I think there should be a statute of limitations for calling a person any kind of conservative. I say that because the popular usage of “conservative” has shifted so much that I’m not sure I qualify any longer, whatever my reflexes may say about my place on the spectrum.
Good news from Congress?!
Kevin McCarthy has formed a decent working relationship with minority leader Hakeem Jeffries:
The parties have big differences on major issues, and each has its share of loudmouths who see taking cheap shots as the shortest route to a cable-news appearance. But the parties’ leaders are trying to find ways to mitigate dysfunction where they can.
It seems that the Michigan GOP has some problems:
“There’s no way in hell you can look at the state party apparatus as a stock and say: ‘Gee, I want to invest more in that stock.’ Just the opposite,” Jimmy Greene, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, told The Dispatch. “The party is a grievance driven party and not one to be taken seriously.”
[I]nterviews with several well-placed Michigan Republicans revealed widespread pessimism about the party’s prospects after grassroots delegates to the state GOP’s mid-February convention elected Karamo the new chairman. They say Karamo can’t raise money or manage a multimillion dollar organization, claim she is a poor communicator and repels swing voters by denying her loss to Benson, and argue she is hostile to traditional Republicans.
“It is a disaster and there’s no way to overstate what a disaster it is,” said Jason Roe (no relation to Jamie Roe), a Republican strategist in Michigan and former top aide at the state GOP. “It’s embarrassing. The media is going to love to turn to Karamo and hear her say things that make us look insane.”
“We’re going to lose elections,” a longtime Republican operative in the state said flatly, requesting anonymity to speak candidly.
Even Trump spurned Karamo in the chairman’s race, backing Matt DePerno, who lost the race for state attorney general last November. He too promoted Trump’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
Republicans opposed to Karamo emphasize the biggest casualty of her reign will be the party’s ability to raise and maximize resources. Whatever windfall in small donations that might pour in from grassroots contributors enthusiastic about Karamo’s election, it’s unlikely to compensate for the millions of dollars from wealthy financiers her chairmanship costs the state party. There’s also the issue of discounted rates for bulk, direct-mail political advertising available to state parties but not individual candidates or the national party committees.
Michigan Republicans Fear a Split Ahead of 2024 – The Dispatch
I’m not closely familiar with the situation, but I’d wager that the populist “grassroots” who elected Karamo would defend the choice by noting that “traditional Republicans” never cared about them and would ignore them again if back in power.
It’s not clear when Team Trump, promised that they were going to win so much they’d cry for mercy, will get so tired of losing that they move on or learn that politics requires compromise. They don’t show much sign of letting up yet.
Tradition is a bulwark against the power of commerce and the dissolving acid of money, and by removing these, all revolutions in the modern period have ended up accelerating the commercial and technological shift towards the Machine.
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