May 31, 2005
Maverick Merchant

My latest Brainwash column examines the legacy of film producer Ismail Merchant, one half of the legendary Merchant-Ivory Productions, who died last week at 68.

I'm still catching up on correspondence, writing projects, and items I plan to post here. Going out of town again hasn't helped. But I will be posting more updates soon.

May 25, 2005
On Books

My latest American Enterprise Online books column examines how teachers are giving up on exposing their students to the classics. It also notes an interesting feature of a controversy surrounding a used copy of the Koran sold through Amazon.com.

Thought for the day

"I always have a quotation for everything—it saves original thinking."

—Lord Peter Wimsey in Dorothy L. Sayers' Have His Carcase

May 17, 2005
Thought for the day

The Composer

All the others translate: the painter sketches
A visible world to love or reject;
Rummaging into his living, the poet fetches
The images out that hurt and connect,
From life to Art by painstaking adaption
Relying on us to cover the rift;
Only your notes are pure contraption,
Only your song is an absolute gift.

Pour out your presence, O delight, cascading
The falls of the knee and the weirs of the spine,
Our climate of silence and doubt invading;
You, alone, alone, O imaginary song,
Are unable to say an existence is wrong,
And pour out your forgiveness like a wine.

—W.H. Auden

May 16, 2005
Thought for the day

"Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love."

—Erich Fromm

May 15, 2005
Thought for the day

"As bad as the priggishness of the self-righteous is the whine of the self-pitying."

—Sidney Hook

May 11, 2005
On Books

I am back, tanned (perhaps for the first time in my life) and rested. Nothing like a long vacation to make you realize what's really important and what isn't. Whether one will act on that knowledge is another question.

Although it was my original intent, I didn't avoid work entirely. Look in this space for some new publications very soon. The first is my latest American Enterprise Online column, a review of a very good book on the hyper-medicalization of American society:

Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna, ran nursery schools in London during the Blitz of World War II. Very few of her charges needed psychiatric help. As Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel relate in their new book, One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance (St. Martin's Press), Freud found that even children who remained with their parents and were bombed repeatedly showed “no signs of traumatic shock…little excitement and no undue disturbance.”

What a long way we’ve come. Today, grief counselors rush in at the first sign of a “tragedy”—as when they comforted librarians upset over ruined books when the Boston Public Library was flooded in 1998...

May 08, 2005
Thought for the day

"As an aside, I can tell you that if there's nothing wrong with you except fat it is easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half. If you are handed a plate of food, leave half; if you have to help yourself, take half. After a while, if you are a perfectionist, you can consume half of that again. On the question of will-power, if that is a factor, you should think of will-power as something that never exists in the present tense, only in the future and the past. At one moment you have decided to do or refrain from an action and the next moment you have already done or refrained; it is the only way to deal with will-power. (Only under sub-human stress does will-power live in time present but that is a different discourse.) I offer this advice without fee; it is included in the price of this book."

—Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington