Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra

Sometime in the early 1940’s, Bela Bartok emigrated to the United States.  He was broke, and, what is worse, sick.  Serge Koussevitsky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, commissioned him to write  a piece, which he composed while lying sick.  The result was his concerto for orchestra, a magnificent piece human ingenuity.  In it is all the angst and hope that one would think a suffering man might have.  Sometimes the worst circumstances in life produce the most amazing and surprising things.  That’s comforting when times are tough.  When times are good, it’s a frightening thought.

Here’s the first movement:

Language, one of my favorite things

I’m about to head into center city today to recover from a long but fulfilling weekend.  I want to do some writing.  I think I’ll take just a pen and paper.  Sometimes the old fashioned way works best.

These plans got me to thinking some random thoughts about language:

Most school students are taught countless things about writing style—how to make the writing more interesting, etc.  But I’m not sure how many of us are taught how to bring more substance to our writing, to our ideas.  I know I’m still working on this.

When I was in school we had teachers who seemed to be more concerned about certain pet peeves, e.g. words that are to be avoided.  Two of these words have turned out to be some of my favorite.

“Is” is the first.  “Well it depends upon what the definition of ‘is’ is,” infamously said Bill Clinton in his deposition which might well have been little more than an elaborate set-up.  Beyond this freak show from the 90’s, “is” doesn’t get much thought or attention.  “Is” is boring, said my teachers.  But I say that on this word hinges so much.  With “is,” writers declare where they stand.  When Murray Rothbard wrote that “the State is a parasite,” he was making a very clear, very daring statement.  “Is” gets at the essential nature of ideas; it makes arguments from definition, which Richard Weaver said is the foremost kind.  I love this word.

The second word is “thing.”  Some teachers say, “Tell me what it is.  What kind of thing?”  But there is still great delight in this word.  A thing is something that is, or something like that, and I think that’s very neat.  Around the word “thing” revolve all the mysteries of existence, from the sensate level on up.  To say “thing” thoughtfully is to be in constant wonder.

That’s all for now.  File this one under “fragmented obsessions,” and note that Richard Weaver is likely more responsible for this post than I am.

Jury acquits cop of shooting defenseless woman and boy

From LRC we have this story.  William Grigg has said everything that needs to be said, so I’ll only add that my dislike for the police is now principled.  There have been too many incidents like this, and the only time MSNBCCNNFOX seem to take any notice is when the story has the potential to stir up wider-ranging strife, such as when race is a factor.  Other than that, they have no interest in whether or not the cops are actually respecting the rights of the citizens.

China calls for global currency…

…but you’re only surprised by this if you haven’t been paying attention.

Of equal if not greater interest, the linked article makes mention of the high rate of personal savings that has ensued since the economy tanked.  This is considered by clowns and economists (but I repeat myself) to be a bad thing.  Experts tend to think that spending is better for the economy than saving, and while it is of course necessary for spending to happen in order that an economy can exist, a low rate of savings is nonetheless to be avoided.  However, this is not obvious in an economy that has come to depend on deficit spending.

Modern economists often say that credit is the key to success in the “free” market. An older school of economics, however, would say that capital is the basis of the free market.  An entrepreneur saves up capital, or finds investors, and starts a business.  It is not spending, as such, which gets this operation going, but rather accumulated savings.  Whether the savings is the entrepreneur’s or someone else’s matters not; the money has been piling up due to the intelligent action of far-sighted people.

These days even our banks are too short-sighted to save, and so the Federal Reserve just prints money for this and for that, even to rescue individual businesses who’ve mismanaged their assets.  This calamity results from thinking that credit is the yellow brick road to wealth and happiness.  Alas, it is rather a copper path to hell, paved with the cheap metals that the central bank uses to make our “money.”

I am so fed up with the cab drivers in this city

Here’s an example of how cabbies drive in Philadelphia.  I myself have had my life flash before my eyes in the vicinity of one of these maniacs.  There are good cab drivers, though, too.  Many of them are quite bright and a real pleasure to converse with.  I just wish their colleagues would not be so aggressive.

On Fathers

Young curmudgeons like me often get wound up about certain pop icons in such a fashion that it would seem that we think that people like Britney Spears portend the end of the world.  In reality, at least in my case, it’s just that her music sucks, and I’m always looking for a chance to say so.  If there is a person who is popular that represents the disintegration of society, then my vote would actually go for someone that does not attract attention for being “bad,” which in America always has something to do with drugs or sex—or, in some cases, working hard and earning a living.  For the dubious honor of Icon of Western Disintegration my vote goes to…….Ray Romano.

Yes, him.  It’s not because of his whiny voice (not so much, anyway), but rather because he portrays a character that represents the complete absence of leadership.  The show “Everybody Loves Raymond” did a great job of portraying fathers as dumb, indecisive, weak, and utterly lacking in leadership.  It is not the only show that does this or has done this, but it would seem to be one of the more popular, and certainly the first that comes to my mind when I think about these things.

It is not uncommon for critics and commentators to wax eloquent about the eclipse of the Occident.  Everyone proposes a diagnosis and solution to this problem, and variety is not lacking in this.  Some people, like Pat Buchanan, see a role for the State in mending these problems, but even the most skeptical Statists believe that the apparatus of government is an outgrowth of society, which means that there must be a bona fide culture before a good order can be established.  Others say that it is all about religion, that the world will be intolerably flawed until everyone joins the one true religion of x, whether that be Methodism, Catholicism, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  Then, they say, everything will be okay.  Return the Hohenzollerns to power, and then the world will spontaneously sing, “Ecce quam bonum, et jucundum, habitare fratres in unum!”   I have known too many well-adjusted people of varying religions, and even of no religion at all, to fall for this claptrap.  Yes, it is necessary to have a grand discourse to function well in life.  But no, it is not necessary that everyone have the same grand discourse.  To insist on this is to beg for ceaseless warfare.

What is it that is missing that has our society in such a shambles in the early morning of the 21st century?  It seems to me that it is the disappearance of fatherhood.  I really think this is true.  Permit yourself to be a bit proud for a moment.  What are the things you know that you wish other people knew?  It doesn’t have to be anything complicated.  For me, I wish people knew not to stand in doorways, not to be late for work (or anything else), and not to poke around while other people are waiting.  The list could go on, but these things I learned from my father, and I suspect that most people who had good fathers feel the same way.  I think this applies to larger problems in life, too:  impulse control, generosity, service, and working with honesty and diligence are all things that fathers teach their children.

But our culture is presently lacking in these things.  An entitlement mindset has crept in, and I’m sorry to suppose that I think most of us have succumbed to it at one time or another.  We have embraced the opposite of what our fathers have taught us.  It is not, as some have opined, that our fathers have abandoned us; rather, we have divorced ourselves from our fathers.  “Be gone!” we say.  “We want nothing to do with your wisdom, which hampers our ability to live like spoiled brats.”  Isn’t it sick the way we treat them?  Every Mothers Day, people sweetly swoon over everything their mothers have done for them, and then when Fathers Day comes along, people say ridiculous things such as, “Some fathers are abusive and alcoholics, but not all.”  Some tribute!  (As a side note, would anyone dare to replace the word “father” in that sentence with any other category of people, say, for instance, a racial minority?)

There will be no doubt in the minds of my readership that I take some Schadenfreude in pointing out that the government has done more than its fair share in rewarding the existence of fatherless homes through welfare, which went a long way in destroying the urban family.   But this is not the only thing.  Our present “culture” is youth-obsessed, to the point of ignoring the wisdom of the old.  It is not that there is nothing to be admired in youth; rather the energy and beauty of youth must be balanced with the gray hairs and hard-won experience of those who’ve been here longer than we have.  I have a friend who constantly says things like “…..this is what my religion and my ancestors have taught me.”  I like to kid him about it, but there is a great reverence in his approach that is missing in too many of us today.

I suppose that for the more thoughtful people among us, they value the contributions of their fathers increasingly as they age.  Even a jackass like me has had some experience with this.  In my own mind, my father got a lot smarter when I turned 30, although this was not an immediate epiphany but rather a gradual process.  Like many fathers, mine did not cram his wisdom down my throat.  “Ok you want to be a fool?  So be it.”  And then he’d leave me alone to learn from my mistakes what I had refused to learn from him.  There is an admirable quiet resolution in all of this.  I don’t even think it’s expected that I admit that he was right all along.  My father would seem to be content with simply knowing that I’m less of a nincompoop today than I was yesterday.

Until we start listening to our fathers again, all our efforts will be in vain; we will be searching for the living among the dead.  The State will never be able to replace them, and religions will never be able to thrive without their leadership.  Only from our fathers can we learn the vir-tue that chooses eggs over scorpions, competence over egoism, reverence instead of contempt, and quiet strength over empty chatter.

Congressmen ask Fannie and Freddie to relax loan rules, again

I’ve never been impressed by Rep. Barney Frank’s caterwauling.  It always smacked of being intellectually dishonest (like Keith Olbermann) with not a little economic ignorance thrown in.  Now there’s proof that I was right.  Frank, and one other congressman, have asked Fannie and Freddie to relax loan rules once again.   This is, of course, the very kind of policy that got us into this mess. “Insanity,” said Albert Einstein, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”