Category: bush leagues

Plato’s Dialogues: Cratylus

Hey, remember this series? Honestly, I’m rather proud of having kept up this web log on a regular schedule despite starting graduate school and working a full-time job. Unfortunately, though doing fairly short posts isn’t too hard, a series that demands more attention like Plato’s dialogues is significantly more difficult. I read Cratylus about a month ago. I barely remember what it’s about at this point. I’m not 100% sure who Plato is. He might’ve been a geek?

Okay, that’s only half-serious, but this series is still on, and we are indeed talking about Cratylus today. I’ll be briefer than usual on this one, for two reasons. One is that it’s becoming clear that I’m either going to write about it quickly, or it’ll never get finished. The other is that most of the dialogue is a discussion of the etymology of Greek words. Now, the etymologies aren’t the main point, exactly, but it is tedious reading about a language one doesn’t understand, so I was more interested in the conversation that took place before and after the bulk of the work. What I’ll do, then, is go through and share a few individual points that stood out to me as I was reading (fortunately, I do annotate my books somewhat, so I can find interesting passages even when a book isn’t fresh in my mind).

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A Confucian Notebook

At a glance, Edward Herbert’s short book A Confucian Notebook looks promising. I’d never heard of it until I ran across it in a used bookstore, but it’s intended to serve as an introduction to Confucianism through a series of thirty-three “notes,” each of them two, sometimes three pages long. Each offers a few brief observations or explanations on a given theme, varying from the Confucian use of prehistorical figures, Confucius’ favourite disciple, Mencius and Yang Chu, Mo Ti’s doctrine of universal love, etc. Unfortunately, it only partially succeeds.

First, I’ll give credit where it’s due. I do know a little more about Confucianism now than when I started, and someone new to the philosophy will find several helpful pieces of information that will make some aspects of the canon easier to understand. One of the most interesting notes, for example, was on Mo Ti. Mencius speaks of him and his doctrine of universal love scornfully, but doesn’t go into much detail. Herbert gives a summary of Mo Ti’s doctrine, and adds this observation:

But the principle [of universal love] is recommended, not so much on account of its goodness and naturalness, as on the ground that the exercise of it “pays.” The practitioner of filial piety, who extends this duty to include other people’s parents, is promised a dividend int he form of reciprocal attention by the latter to his own parents. It is further intimated that the social obligations generally, if universalized, will operate in this way, yielding a return to the community in benefits of greater safety, more creature comforts. “Master Mo,” who was a utilitarian at heart, seems not to have minded debasing his lofty ethic by linking it with the prospect of gain; nor to have realized that the effect of so doing was to encourage the self-love which he condemned. It escaped him, too, that it was incompatible with the high purposes of Universal Love to suggest imposing it by means of rewards and penalties.

That’s all good, but the book does have some shortcomings. One is that the book isn’t systematic, but tends to meander from topic to topic. That is implied by the title, of course, but it feels more like a series of short blog posts written for people who are already familiar with Confucianism. The preface sells this book as an introduction, but an introduction needs to be more systematic, like Xinzhong Yao’s. Also, much of the discussion on terms doesn’t provide any more information than is already found in the introductions or annotations to most editions of the AnalectsMencius, etc. So, even if you are new, why read this? Why not just read the introduction in the book you already have by Arthur Waley, James Legge, or whoever?

Worsening matters further, much of the book is strangely off-topic, since just over 1/3 of the notes spend most of their time discussing Taoism, usually (though not always!) in relation to Confucianism. Herbert, for what reason I don’t know, seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with Taoism and tries to use it to illuminate Confucianism. Some of that material is fine, and a note or two on the topic would be reasonable. Most of it, though, should’ve been cut and possibly used in a separate A Taoist Notebook.

So, is A Confucian Notebook bad? No, not really, but even at a mere eighty-four pages, it’s not worth the effort to track down and read. What Herbert set out to do has been accomplished much more successfully elsewhere, whether by Yao or even by many of the translators of the Confucian canon.…

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Against James Burnham’s Interpretation of Dante

Back in 2015, I wrote a commentary on Dante Alighieri’s political treatise Monarchia, in which he argues in favour of a universal monarchy. Though Dante’s ideal has never been attainable, his basic arguments are interesting and applicable to monarchism in general, which is why I believe it’s worth reading and was worth writing about. My commentary is undoubtedly the longest and most involved thing I’ve ever written, and because of this I occasionally get questions about it on ask.fm and Curious Cat. In particular, on CC I received this question a little while back asking about James Burnham’s interpretation of Monarchia, given in The Macchiavellians and reproduced at the blog Unqualified Reservations.

I was aware of Burnham’s essay while writing my commentary, but after some consideration decided not to bother even addressing it because, frankly, Burnham’s interpretation sucks. However, since Burnham and Unqualified Reservations are well-known in Right-wing circles, there are probably more people around this part of the world who’ve read Burnham’s essay than have read Monarchia, and so may have an inaccurate impression of Dante’s book. Several people in the UR comments do point out the essay’s flaws, but there’s more to say and not everyone reads comments. So, since I was directly asked about it and to offer a defense of Dante, I’ll go ahead and expand on my previous answer here. Note that I will assume that you’ve read the essay.

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New at Thermidor: “Stately Bawdiness: The Poetry of Catullus”

I have a new post over at Thermidor Magazine, this time on Catullus’ poetry. If you’re not familiar with Catullus, note that parental guidance is recommended, since about 2/3 of his poetry is either obscene or abusive.

I’ve covered a number of works of Greek literature, but this will be the first Roman. Sallust will also be coming up fairly soon, but I’m not sure about after that. Probably Horace or something from Ovid other than Metamorphoses, because I’m already working on the Iliad and can only handle one epic at a time.…

Read More New at Thermidor: “Stately Bawdiness: The Poetry of Catullus”

A 2017 Book Report

Every year I like to take a look back on what I’ve read and size up my literary diet for the past twelve months. Normally I do this on Twitter, but I’m going to start doing it here instead so it’s more permanent. Self-indulgent? Yes, but I don’t care. I’m the absolute monarch of my web log.

According to LibraryThing I’ve read forty books this year, but that’s not quite accurate because it doesn’t include Frankenstein, which I got via Project Gutenberg, nor does it count any of Plato’s dialogues. Few of those are book-length anyway, though, so I’ll set them aside. There were also Edgar Allan Poe’s poems, which may not quite add up to a book anyway, and the Book of Documents, which was too old for LT to have. So, we’ll say forty-two books for 2017.

Of these, five were novels, with Tim O’Brien’s The Things they Carried being the best, though it’s also one I’ve read previously.

Another five were collections of poetry, by Sappho, Pindar, Hesiod, Catullus, and the anonymous authors of the Book of Odes. Hesiod was my favourite, and probably best, as well.

Twenty-two were non-fiction of one sort or another. Five were history, albeit somewhat broadly defined, including Xenophon’s Anabasis, Yuri Pines’s The Everlasting Empire, Pat Buchanan’s Nixon’s White House WarsThe Book of Documents, and Rodney Stark’s God’s Battalions. All are very good, but Xenophon was my favourite new (to me) author of the year, so I’ll give him the prize. If we count that more as a memoir, which admittedly may be more reasonable, anyway, then give the prize to Mr. Stark.

Of the non-fiction odds and ends, they can’t really be compared together, but Arika Okrent’s In the Land of Invented Languages was the year’s surprise hit and the most enjoyable.

I read six graphic novels, all of them simply volumes in continuing series: Suetsugu Yuki’s Chihayafuru, Koume Keito’s adaptation of Spice & Wolf, and Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken: Second Season. Though all three are decent enough that I’ve continued to follow them, I’d only recommend the first unless you’re a fan of the other two franchises.

That leaves two art books, The Art of the Wind Rises and Groundwork of Evangelion 2.0, of which I’d recommend the first, and the second only to the type of person who’d buy it regardless of recommendations (though it’s not bad). That leaves one book of divination and commentary in the Book of Changes, which I admit I’ll have to revisit later, and the neat novelty purchase The Nintendo 64 Anthology.

Finally, since I do have a Letterboxd account and can thus easily keep track of these things, I also watched twenty-seven films this year, including a few rewatches. Yeah, not all that many, but that’s why this is primarily a book blog that only covers movies on a whim. Anyway, award for the best new (to me) movie goes to… let’s go with The Hobbit, mostly because I’m going to give this award to an animated film 90% of the time, with honourable mentions for The Kingdom of Dreams and MadnessThe Last Unicorn, and Throne of Blood for having the most metal title.

So, there you have it. I reviewed most but not all of what I read this year, but you can find a round-up of the year’s reviews in my previous post. There’s also, of course, the Highlights and Reviews Index, or if you’re just looking for something to read yourself and want to stick with the best of the best, try out the Recommended Reading page.…

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2017: The Speed at Which Cherry Blossoms Fall

What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that he hath rendered to me? Things continue to improve here at Everything is Oll Korrect! This is the third year in a row that views have been up, and quality, if I may say so myself, has held up pretty well. I wrote forty-six posts this year, which is the most since 2012, when I had a weekly schedule. There’s also a major change up ahead for me personally, but we’ll get to that.

Focusing in the blog for now, the first half of the year was more or less business as usual; I’m mostly happy with post quality, but, though I didn’t have any long hiatuses, articles came rather irregularly. There was a turning point halfway through, though, when I made “An Ascent with Xenophon.” In that post, which mostly draws from Bl. John Henry Newman, I pledged to aim for more depth in my reading and writing. That is, though I’ve always had a great breadth in knowledge, like Cardinal Newman’s example of a bright but unexemplary student I didn’t hang long enough on any one idea. So, I redoubled my efforts to make the most of the reflection and analysis of my books that this blog affords me, and I think post quality reflects that. My one fear was that this would slow down my pace of writing even more, but in fact, the opposite happened. For the past few months I’ve had a new post almost every week, and sometimes two in a week. Now, several of those were short reflections on single poems, but nonetheless, it’s a pace that matches the 75 Book Challenge in 2015, and is close to my aniblogging days in 2012.…

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I’ll Hang Around as Long as You Will Let Me

So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by- wait, that’s a different story. Mine’s a little less exciting than that, I’m afraid.

It’s still exciting to me, though, because as of today, Everything is Oll Korrect! is ten years old. There are a few ways I considered marking the occasion, and I was originally concerned, as I usually am, not to be overly self-indulgent. However, for a once in a decade event, I’m going to set that aside, mostly, and do something that’s become rare on this web log and talk about myself. Now, much of Everything‘s history is in the year-end reviews in the last section of the index page, which cover 2011 on. Before that, the whole blog was something of a mess, but I suppose we can take a moment to run through it quickly.

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An Ascent with Xenophon

I first heard of Xenophon and Anabasis while at college, in Bl. John Henry Newman’s great book The Idea of a University. In this particular essay, Newman gives an illustration of a poor applicant for university studies by giving a dialogue between a student and a tutor. This student does indeed stumble through the interview, able to give a basic summary of events in Anabasis but unable to answer questions about the etymology of the title and its significance, basic Greek grammar, and other such things. What struck me, though, was that Newman assumed that even a poor student will have read Anabasis, among other works from the Classical world, and have some basic knowledge of Greek and Latin. Indeed, in the printed essay, Newman does not even transliterate Greek words; he merely assumes that anyone reading would know the Greek alphabet.

Yet, here I was, a year or two into university studies, and I was clearly far less competent than even this student Newman describes as “below par.” I knew no Greek at all, and the name of “Xenophon” was merely a foreign sound to me, though I was at least aware of the other authors Newman mentions in the passage.

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Link: The Stupid Objections to Reaction

As a general policy, I firmly believe that it’s best to focus on an opponent’s strongest arguments and their best representatives, not their weakest and dumbest. However, there are a handful of arguments, or rather, non-arguments, leveled against the Right on a regular basis that are particularly stupid and pernicious. So, even though they’re low-hanging fruit, I decided to write up a brief rebuttal of them, which I’ve posted to the main site, On the Origin of Fire… It’s called, straightforwardly, “The Stupid Objections to Reaction.”

One reason for posting it as a static page is that it’ll stay in one place, and I can fairly easily go back and update it over time. I’d like for it to be as useful as possible, so constructive criticism and suggestions are welcome; you can leave them either in the comments section below, or contact me via Twitter.…

Read More Link: The Stupid Objections to Reaction

2016: A Human Work

The first really successful year for Everything is Oll Korrect! was back in 2012, and going into 2013 I had a lot of momentum built up with the weekly posting schedule and generally improving post quality. I had high hopes, but that year turned out to be the Agincourt of web logging (from the French perspective), and in 2014 it really came tumbling down. So even though 2015 was Everything’s best year, I was only cautiously optimistic about how 2016 would turn out.

Well, post views are up significantly from last year, but more importantly, if I may give myself a pat on the back, post quality is up – and so is post length. Four of my five longest-ever articles were written this year, and in a highlight reel of Everything, 2016 would certainly be the best-represented single year.

I began the year planning on going back to a weekly schedule, but couldn’t keep that up and nixed that idea in late March. As fruitful as weekly posting was from late 2011 through early 2013, that was much easier to do when this was effectively an aniblog; I could knock out a volume of a graphic novel or a movie in an afternoon and have a short review ready to go in a day or two. Now that I’m mostly reviewing books of prose and some poetry, though, there’s no longer an easy way to whip up a post that’s worth sharing on short notice. I did, however, manage to post thirty articles this year.

The most popular of those posts was my article on Robert Lewis Dabney’s book A Defense of Virginia and the South. This was also the most ambitious of the year and the most difficult to write because it took me a while to decide how to approach a book so wildly politically incorrect. I decided to give a brief introduction and conclusion, but mostly let Dabney do most of the talking for himself as I go through chapter-by-chapter. At 5,556 words it’s also by far the longest I’ve ever written, over twice as many as the second-longest’s 2,180 words. That second-place finisher was also the third most-popular of the year, “Why Do You Not Study the Odes?” This was my call to everyone, but especially those on the Right, to focus on the beautiful and not get caught up in outrage porn and degeneracy. In my opinion, these two are my best posts of the year, though I slightly prefer “Odes” because it’s on a subject I’ve always cared a great deal about but haven’t addressed adequately before. I’d give a bronze to “Is There a Hierarchy Among the Arts?” This also addresses a topic I’ve touched on previously, but this is easily the best expression of it.…

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