Thursday, December 28, 2006

Pictures: Kitchen Beauty

Sometimes something just happens, like these bowls, just lands perfectly without help and waits patiently for you to notice how lovely it is.

Sometimes there's a bit of intervention: we got a bunch of fair trade grains for Hanukkah, which we've been enjoying. This is the Purple Jasmine, and it tasted great (sweet, but not sticky) and came out almost entirely purple (if you're looking to weird out your dinner guests).

Quotations #091

"If a lot of cures are suggested for a disease, it means that the disease is incurable." -- Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard (1904)

"Not many sounds in life, and I include all urban and all rural sounds, exceed in interest a knock at the door." -- Charles Lamb, "Valentine's Day" (1823)

"Man is to be held only by the slightest of chains, with the idea that he can break them at pleasure, he submits to them in sport." -- Maria Edgeworth, Letters for Literary Ladies (1795)

"The three most important things a man has are, briefly, his private parts, his money, and his religious opinions." -- Samuel Butler (late 19c), Further Extracts from Notebooks (1934)

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his." -- Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Thursday Lyric: Presidential Rag

For Hanukkah, my spouse got me a CD of an old favorite, Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie, "Together in Concert" and I was struck by how apropos this Watergate-era song is for today. Think about the scandals and the administration's failure to respond to them, and the utter wrongness of the overarching policy which the scandals support....

Presidential Rag
by Arlo Guthrie

You said you didn't know,
that the cats with the bugs were there,
and you never go along with that kind of stuff no where,
but that just isn't the point man,
that's the wrong wrong way to go,
if you didn't know about that one, well then what else don't you know?

You said that you were lied to,
well that ain't hard to see,
but you must have been fooled again by your friends across the sea,
and maybe you were fooled again by your people here at home,
because nobody could talk like you,
and know what's going on

Nobody elected your family,
and we didn't elect your friends,
no one voted for your advisors,
and nobody wants amends,
You're the one we voted for, so you must take the blame,
For handing out authority to men who are insane

You say its all fixed up now, you've got new guys on the line,
but you had better remember this while you still got the time,
Mothers still are weeping for their boys that went to war,
father still are asking what the whole damn thing was for,
and people still are hungry and people still are poor,
An honest week of work these days don't feed the kids no more,
Schools are still like prisons,
Cuz we don't learn how to live,
and everybody wants to take, nobody wants to give

Yes you will be remembered, be remembered very well,
and if I live a long life, all the stories I could tell,
Of men who are in poverty of sickness and of grief,
Hell yes, you will be remembered,
be remembered very well

You said you didn't know,
that the that the cats with the bugs were there,
You'd never go along with that kind of stuff no where
But that just isn't the point man,
That's the wrong ,wrong way to go,
You didn't know about that one,
well then what else don't you know.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Quotations #090

"The cure of a romantic first flame is a better surety to subsequent discretion, than all the exhortations of all the fathers, and mothers, and guardians, and maiden aunts in the universe." -- Fanny Burney, Camilla (1796)

"They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me." -- Nathaniel Lee (late 17c), cited in R. Porter, A Social History of Madness (1987)

"Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true." -- Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic (1918)

"One must divide one's time between politics and equations. But our equations are much more important to me." -- Albert Einstein, cited by C.P. Snow.

"God and I both knew what I meant once; now God alone knows." -- Friedrich Klopstock (late 18c) [also attributed to Robert Browning]

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Thursday Lyric Addendum: Ballad of The Carpenter

Apparently some of my friends didn't feel this was in the proper spirit; it does represent a heretical tradition, and it's by the same man who wrote about this Christian movement. In fairness, it represents one of my many feelings about the history and theology of Christianity, and, given the current discourse of traitorousness in this country, needed to be aired.

I've always thought it would be an interesting exercise, in an intro history or historiography course, to pair "Stand Up For Judas" with the following, the leftist revisioning of the Gospels I grew up with. Hope this helps.

The Ballad Of The Carpenter
by Phil Ochs

Jesus was a working man
And a hero you will hear
Born in the town of Bethlehem
At the turning of the year
At the turning of the year

When Jesus was a little lad
Streets rang with his name
For he argued with the older men
And put them all to shame
He put them all to shame

He became a wandering journeyman
And he traveled far and wide
And he noticed how wealth and poverty
Live always side by side
Live always side by side

So he said "Come you working men
Farmers and weavers too
If you would only stand as one
This world belongs to you
This world belongs to you"

When the rich men heard what the carpenter had done
To the Roman troops they ran
Saying put this rebel Jesus down
He's a menace to God and man
He's a menace to God and man

The commander of the occupying troops
Just laughed and then he said
"There's a cross to spare on Calvaries hill
By the weekend he'll be dead
By the weekend he'll be dead"

Now Jesus walked among the poor
For the poor were his own kind
And they'd never let them get near enough
To take him from behind
To take him from behind

So they hired one of the traders trade
And an informer was he
And he sold his brother to the butchers men
For a fistful of silver money
For a fistful of silver money

And Jesus sat in the prison cell
And they beat him and offered him bribes
To desert the cause of his fellow man
And work for the rich men's tribe,
To work for the rich men's tribe

And the sweat stood out on Jesus' brow
And the blood was in his eye
When they nailed his body to the Roman cross
And they laughed as they watched him die
They laughed as they watched him die

Two thousand years have passed and gone
Many a hero too
But the dream of this poor carpenter
Remains in the hands of you
Remains in the hands of you

Classic Rock Veteran, Highly Logical, ISO Big Gun

I'm suprised, and pleased, that I scored as high as I did on the first quiz; there are musical fields in which I am a pretentious geek, but this isn't one of them. The second quiz was a bit of a throwaway: logic puzzles like that are what made the GRE fun, and I'm an old-fashioned Enlightenment Rationalist. The third quiz was interesting: I really didn't know how it would come out, but it makes sense, even the three-way tie (except for the assault rifle bit, though I'm not averse to winning...).

The Veteran
You scored 72%!
You've picked up the majority of the classic rock basics. You probably have a classic rock collection and can sing along with most of the songs on your local radio station. This is not the highest score, but it is arguably the best: that subtle combination of impressive knowledge and not being a pretentious geek.

Link: The BASIC classic rock Test written by allmydays on OkCupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test [via]

You Are Incredibly Logical
Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic! You think rationally, clearly, and quickly. A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

You scored as Sniper Rifle. You like sharpshooting. Stealth, accuracy and range are your best friends. So you need sniper rifle (if you don't already have one).

Assault Rifle


Sniper Rifle






What Firearm Fits You Best?
created with [via]

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thursday Lyric: Stand Up For Judas

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 87%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Apparently this score was lower than my friends thought proper. In a spirit of redemption, I offer this song.

(Leon Rosselson)

The Romans were the masters when Jesus walked the land
In Judea and in Galilee they ruled with an iron hand
And the poor were sick with hunger and the rich were clothed in splendour
And the rebels whipped and crucified hung rotting as a warning
And Jesus knew the answer
Said, Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, said, Love your enemies
But Judas was a Zealot and he wanted to be free
Resist, he said, The Romans' tyranny

So stand up, stand up for Judas and the cause that Judas served
It was Jesus who betrayed the poor with his word

Jesus was a conjuror, miracles were his game
And he fed the hungry thousands and they glorified his name
He cured the lame and the lepers, he calmed the wind and the weather
And the wretched flocked to touch him so their troubles would be taken
And Jesus knew the answer
All you who labour, all you who suffer only believe in me
But Judas sought a world where no one starved or begged for bread
The poor are always with us, Jesus said


Now Jesus brought division where none had been before
Not the slaves against their masters but the poor against the poor
Set son to rise up against father, and brother to fight against brother
For he that is not with me is against me, was his teaching
Said Jesus, I am the answer
You unbelievers shall burn forever, shall die in your sins
Not sheep and goats, said Judas, But together we may dare
Shake off the chains of misery we share


Jesus stood upon the mountain with a distance in his eyes
I am the way, the life, he cried, The light that never dies
So renounce all earthly treasures and pray to your heavenly father
And he pacified the hopeless with the hope of life eternal
Said Jesus, I am the answer
And you who hunger only remember your reward's in Heaven
So Jesus preached the other world but Judas wanted this
And he betrayed his master with a kiss


By sword and gun and crucifix Christ's gospel has been spread
And 2000 cruel years have shown the way that Jesus led
The heretics burned and tortured, and the butchering, bloody crusaders
The bombs and rockets sanctified that rain down death from heaven
They followed Jesus, they knew the answer
All non-believers must be believers or else be broken
So put no trust in Saviours, Judas said, For everyone
Must be to his or her own self - a son

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pictures: Unnatural Beauty

There's beauty everywhere.

Can you guess what this is?
The car's fixed now. I know it was pollution, but I kind of miss the colors.
In the tradition of my unexpected faces series, on meditation I believe this particular oilspot (not mine, this time) is evidence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Happy December!

Quotations #089

"None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but licence." John Milton, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649)

"The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke, attributed (1784)

"Men will not be content to manufacture life; they will want to improve on it." -- J. D. Bernal, The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1929)

"I bet you if I had met him [Trotsky!] and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn't like." Will Rogers, 6 November 1926

"Love, in the form in which it exists in society, is nothing but the exchange of two fantasies and the superficial contact of two bodies." -- Nicolas-Sébastian Chamfort, Maximes et Pensées (1796)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ping Me!

Fastest Meme in the West. Maybe.

Scott Eric Kaufman is trying to measure the speed of a meme. Play along, and you'll be part of academic history! [via]

Monday, November 27, 2006

Quotations #088 and a technical change

"The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star." -- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du Goût (1826)

"Written laws are like spider's webs; they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful." -- Anacharsis (6c bce), in Plutarch's Parallel Lives

"Just as every conviction begins as a whim so does every emancipator serve his apprenticeship as a crank. A fanatic is a great leader who is just entering the room." -- Heywood Broun, 6 February 1928.

"The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on." -- Walter Lippmann, 14 April 1945

"It was Einstein who made the real trouble. He announced in1905 that there was no such thing as absolute rest. After that there never was." -- Stephen Leacock, The Boy I Left Behind Me (1947)

Due to the increasing frequency of automated spam comments, and the now-accessible changes to the human identification system, I'm dropping comment moderation and switching to verification. We'll see. If anyone has trouble with it, let me know.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thursday Verses: Love's Been Linked to the Blues

This has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, though I wish everyone a joyous (or at least non-traumatic) day, with appropriate gratitude all around. It's not great poetry. But it's a very fun blues tune, and I was listening to Garnet Roger's rendition tonight while I made chocolate chip banana pecan bread.

Love's Been Linked To The Blues
David Olney © 1991

It was in the morning papers, the evening papers too
And I saw it on TV, so I know it must be true
This is no idle rumor, they've got the cold hard facts
They've even checked it out on little mice and rats

Just in case you haven't heard, I'll give you the bad news
Love's been linked to the blues

You start out feeling happy but then love brings you down
You're acting like a hero; you end up like a clown
In study after study, it's the heart that gets broke
They're working 'round the clock searching for the antidote

Well it's true that its sad, but it's sadder that it's true
Love's been linked to the blues

So you've got to be real careful, and always on your guard
Falling in love, you know it's harmful to your heart
It's worse than they suspected, it's as bad as it gets
The surgeon general says you're better off with cigarettes

If you must have your bad habits, why don't you stick to booze
'Cause love's been linked to the blues

Well it's true that its sad, but it's sadder that it's true
Love's been linked to the blues

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gender Behavior Quiz: Neither, or Either....

You scored as Neither. You think neither like a man nor like a woman. What you are you may decide for yourself. Most people will consider you strange, alien, weird or funny. You are probably quite interesting.


Should you be MALE or FEMALE?*
created with

Bonus fun: Wondering where you'd end up if you dug straight through the earth? No? Well, if it comes up sometime, go here and they'll tell you. [via]

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Image: Rainbows

Some fun with my photo editor. It came along with my first digital camera, so it's pretty old, but it's useable without special training, which is more than I can say for anything more recent that I've seen.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wisdom of the Ancestors: Scholars as Public Figures

David Rosenfeld on The Torah Way" (no, he didn't call it that....)
(26) Making a "fence" for one's words: This expression means to limit in some way one's speech. (The term "fence" is often used by the Sages metaphorically, as a safeguard. See for example 3:17) The precise meaning and ramifications are not entirely clear, and the commentators offer a number of explanations.

Some commentators (Midrash Shmuel) understand this to be a general injunction to limit one's speech, as excessive talk leads to empty if not sinful speech. (See earlier, 1:17.)

R. Samson Raphael Hirsch explains in a manner more pertinent to scholars: A scholar should not be too vocal or outspoken. Although he should be prepared to speak out against injustice and take what are usually unpopular stands for truth, he should not force his views upon others. He will preface his statements as being his own understanding of the matter. Likewise, the scholar should not cheapen his words by talking too much. His words should be limited and well-chosen; when he does speak, it should be worth listening to.

Another interpretation (Machzor Vitri, Ya'avetz) is that the scholar must safeguard his words from misinterpretation. His words must be clear and unambiguous. Being a person who studies Torah and teaches it to others, he must be aware of the impact his words have upon others. If his words are misheard or misinterpreted -- whether innocently or wantonly -- it will influence others and will reflect on the Torah and Judaism accordingly.

In this regard, the scholar must see himself as somewhat of a public figure, under public scrutiny and ideally, one from whom others will learn. And of course, there are always those who are all too eager to find faults in leaders, especially religious ones -- perhaps in the interest of somehow justifying their own religious laxity. (Notice how focused the media always is over priestly misconduct (apart from society's general infatuation with such topics).) Rabbis, like political leaders, will always be quoted out of context and will have their words either naively or willfully misconstrued. (I'm sometimes amused after sending a class to be told by readers exactly what I said. ;-) Thus, the scholar should be prepared to speak out firmly and unequivocally when necessary, but should ever be aware of the consequences of errors and the potentially malicious intent of his detractors.
No matter how wise and knowledgeable a scholar you are, it might all go to waste if you're not a good politician -- or at least a good public speaker.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thursday Lyric: Alleluia, The Great Storm is Over

This is the song that was going though my head this morning, and it's going to be going through my head tomorrow, too, so here it is. The first version of this I'm familiar with is the Garnet Rogers version, which is wonderfully heavy-handed and anthemic (it leaves out the more biblical third verse); my spouse is partial to the more complete and gospel-like John McCutcheon version (which also, if memory serves, refreshingly replaces "lame" with "lost"). Bob Franke has a blog.

Alleluia, The Great Storm Is Over
Words & Music by Bob Franke
©1982 Telephone Pole Music Publishing Co(BMI)

The thunder and lightning gave voice to the night;
the little lame child cried aloud in her fright. .
"Hush, little baby, a story I'll tell,
of a love that has vanquished the powers of hell.
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
"Sweetness in the air, and justice on the wind,
laughter in the house where the mourners had been.
The deaf shall have music, the blind have new eyes,
the standards of death taken down by surprise.
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
"Release for the captives, an end to the wars,
new streams in the desert, new hope for the poor.
The little lame children will dance as they sing,
and play with the bears and the lions in spring.
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
"Hush little baby, let go of your fear:
the Lord loves his own, and your mother is here."
The child fell asleep as the lantern did burn.
The mother sang on 'till her Bridegroom's return.
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Go Vote!

I love this country.

Join me in celebrating its most ancient and significant ritual, its most enduring tradition and its source of strength: vote or be damned.
Update: Thank you all. Voter turnout was up in something like 46 states.

Here, in honor of the day, is a special "Freedom and Democracy"-themed collection of quotations:

"Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." -- H.L. Mencken

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it." -- George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)

"Liberty does not consist merely of denouncing Tyranny, any more than horticulture does of deploring and abusing weeds, or even pulling them out." -- Arthur Bryant, 24 June 1939

"The enemies of Freedom do not argue; they shout and they shoot." -- William Ralph Inge, End of an Age (1948)

"Liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or human happiness or a quiet conscience." -- Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty (1958)

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." Thomas Jefferson, 13 November 1787

"Only reason can convince us of those three fundamental truths without a recognition of which there can be no effective liberty: that what we believe is not necessarily true; that what we like is not necessarily good; and that all questions are open." -- Clive Bell, Civilization (1928)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wisdom of the Ancestors: Evil in the world

Quoth David Rosenfeld:
The amount of suffering we witness in this world, both individual and national, just does not lend itself to rational thought or explanation. The world as we see it is not an understandable place, and very few of us -- being the truth-seeking, concerned Jews we are -- possess the mindset to accept that. When we see what appears to man senseless tragedy, the success of evil so twisted as to glorify suicide for the expressed intent of killing and maiming as many innocents as possible, our minds and hearts cry out. And it is not only a cry for revenge. It is something much deeper. It is a cry for truth -- and for reality. The world is too dark and too painful, and it just does not make *sense*. Should not the world be a place of truth and goodness -- a reflection of the all-good and benevolent G-d who created it? But instead we see evil, suffering and distance from G-d, and our very faith in the world and humanity is shattered -- along with the shattered glass, bones, and lives in a world in which evil reigns.

And yet our mishna's words cry out.We must accept such givens -- that we cannot make sense of the world. For only then may we begin to study Torah.

For the most part, we study Torah in order to make sense of the world. Torah study is perhaps the surest manner of infusing our lives with meaning and understanding, of bringing G-d's light to an otherwise dark and terrifying universe. The more we study, the more everything fits in, and G-d's plan for the world and for each individual within begins to make sense and form a pattern.

But there are limitations. We cannot go into Torah study assuming that it will answer all of our questions -- at least in a manner we can understand. Even worse, there are those who -- millennia after the Torah was given -- attempt to "judge" the Torah's wisdom, even making their own observance dependent upon what makes sense to them, as if advanced and sophisticated 21st Century man can behave as arbiter over all which preceded him.
Not all. I still think the idea of "God's plan" is one of the most corrosive in all human theology. Nor do I think that the Torah is sufficient as a source for our ethical and practical morality. But I'm willing to grant it much more leeway than some....

Friday, November 03, 2006

Actually, I liked him more in the 90s

Your 80s Heartthrob Is
Michael J. Fox

One thing I don't like about blogthings is that there doesn't seem to be any way to see the other options. The other results I've found (Bill Gates, Jason Bateman, John Stamos) are definitely NOT it, though.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pictures: Ghostly Toast, and other unexpected faces

Yes, I ate him.

But perhaps I shouldn't have, because a few days later I saw...

And then, after another ill-fated meal....

What does it mean?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Oh, that smarts....

You scored as A college textbook. You're an authority on something, you just know it. Everyone else does, too, but that doesn't mean they like you. Since you think very highly of everything you say, you charge a pretty penny to entertain your listeners. Those forced to pay do so grudgingly and try to defray the costs of learning from you by selling portions of their access to your charms to others. As a result of this speedy dissemination of your knowledge, you constantly add to your repertoire--and then hike your price. Despite your usefullness, which is rarely in doubt, nobody likes you. They find you didactic, boring and irrelevant--but still necessary.
A college textbook
A classic novel
A coloring book
The back of a froot loops box
An electronics user's manual
A paperback romance novel

Your Literary Personality
created with [via]

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fifty Foods Meme

via. Bold the ones you've eaten and italicize the ones you didn't like.

American diner breakfast
Australian meat pie
Chinese food
Clam chowder (Manhattan style)

Cornish Pasty
Cream tea
Durian fruit
Fresh fish
Greek food
Guinea pig
Ice cream
Jerk chicken/pork
Lamb Kebab
Mexican food
Moreton Bay Bugs

Roast beef
Thai food

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Toy; New Bug Pictures

I got a new camera this week. Still getting used to it (it's a pretty good step up from what I had, and it handles very differently) but, as always, I'm happy to share bug pictures here!

The common black fly is one of the hardest things to catch on film....

I was surprised how fierce ants can look from from the right angle.

I think it's time to dust.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Quotations #086

"The day of small nations has passed away. The day of Empires has come." -- Joseph Chamberlain, 12 May 1904

"We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations, far away. We have learned that we must live as men, and not as ostriches, nor as dogs in the manger. We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fourth Inaugural Address (20 January 1945)

"We hope the world will not narrow into a neighborhood before it has broadened into a brotherhood." -- Lyndon B. Johnson, 22 December 1963 (national Christmas Tree lighting)

"The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes." -- Stanley Kubrick, 5 June 1963

"It is well to observe the force and virtue and consequence of discoveries, and these are to be seen nowhere more conspicuously than in those three which were unknown to the ancients, and of which the origins, though recent, are obscure and inglorious; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the mariner's needle [the compass]. For these three have changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world." -- Francis Bacon, Novum Organum (1620)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Official Seal Generator and Nietzsche Family Circus

Official Seal Generator

If you don't want all the decision making trauma, how about pairing random Nietzsche quotes with random Family Circus cartoons? Try it!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Quotations #085

"Rabbi Elazar ben (son of) Shamua said, the honor of your student should be as dear to you as your own; the honor of your colleague should be as the fear of your [Torah] teacher; and the fear of your teacher should be as the fear of Heaven." -- Pirkei Avot Chapter 4, Mishna 15(a)

"No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require to have their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense." -- Lord Salisbury, 15 June 1877

"An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less." -- Nicholas Murray Butler, Columbia U. commencement, attributed. [concludes in some versions "until he knows nearly everything about almost nothing."]

"I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor hate them, but to understand them." -- Baruch Spinoza, Tractatus Politicus (1677)

"Silence is the most perfect expression of scorn." -- George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah (1921)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Quotations #084

"Speech is civilization itself ... It is silence that isolates." -- Thomas Mann

Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976) (or not, it's hard to tell. HT to Scott McLemee), on the meaning of the French Revolution: "It's too early to tell."

"Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want? What do you live for?" -- J. Michael Straczynski

"Of all our studies, history is the best qualified to reward our research." -- Malcolm X (Al Jajj Malik Shabazz, 1925-1965)

"History is the discovering of constant and universal principles of human nature." -- David Hume (1711-1776)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thursday Lyric: Montreal, December '89

True stories make the most powerful songs. Obviously, this one was brought to mind by recent events.
[Sorry, but the lack of punctuation marks drives me nuts. I'm gonna put them in.]

Montreal, December '89
by Judy Small

It was a cold December afternoon, the line stretched round the block,
And some of them were weeping and some were still in shock.
Seven thousand came that day to pay their last respects
To fourteen women slaughtered for no reason but their sex.
And the cameras and the mikes were there to record the grief and fear
Of the ordinary people who worked and studied here,
And a woman in her fifties in a gentle quiet tone
Summed up her sisters' outrage at the murder of their own.

She said, "I wonder why, as I try to make sense of this,
Why is it always men who resort to the gun, the sword and the fist?
Why does 'gunman' sound so familiar while 'gunwoman' doesn't quite ring true?
What is it about men that makes them do the things they do?"

And the man behind her in the line, he started getting steamed.
He said, "It wasn't because he was a man, this guy was crazy, mad, obscene."
"Yes he was crazy," the woman replied, "But women go crazy too.
And I've never heard of a woman shooting fourteen men, have you?"
And all those other times came flooding back to me again:
A hundred news reports of men killing family, strangers, friends.
And yes I can remember one or two where a woman's hand held the gun,
But exceptions only prove the rule and the questions still remain.

And don't you wonder why, as you try to make sense of this,
Why is it always men who resort to the gun, the sword and the fist?
Why does "gunman" sound so familiar while "gunwoman" doesn't quite ring true?
What is it about men that makes them do the things they do?

And I know there are men of conscience who aren't like that at all,
Who would never raise a hand in anger and who reject the macho role.
And if you were to ask them about the violence that men do,
I know they'd say they hate male violence too,

And so we wonder why, as we try to make sense of this,
Why is it always men who resort to the gun, the sword and the fist?
Why does "gunman" sound so familiar while "gunwoman" doesn't quite ring true?
What is it about men that makes them do the things they do?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Image: Bumblebee

Another in my continuing series in which I get really lucky with inadequate equipment and preparation, and actually take an interesting insect picture.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thursday Verses: In Broken Images

(Yes, it's only Wednesday when I post this, but it'll be up all through Thursday and beyond)

Perhaps it dulls the effect of the poem to admit this up front, but this is the loveliest descriptions of skeptical epistemology I've ever seen.

In Broken Images
Robert Graves (via)

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Aphabetical Meme

  • Accent: hardly any.
  • Booze: Irish Coffee; dark beer
  • Chore I Hate: refrigerator cleaning.
  • Dog or Cat: neither. If I had to pick one, it'd be the smart one, the one I'm not allergic to.
  • Essential Electronics: digital camera
  • Favorite Cologne(s): flowers
  • Gold or Silver: silver, mostly.
  • Hometown: my parents still live there, but it's changed so much....
  • Insomnia: Not once I lay down.
  • Job Title: probationary phronetic pontificator
  • Kids: One Little Anachronism
  • Living arrangements: single-family dwelling
  • Most admirable trait: intelligence?
  • Number of sexual partners: low single digits
  • Overnight hospital stays: no
  • Phobias: not really.
  • Quote: "In a word, in history, as elsewhere, the causes cannot be assumed. They are to be looked for. . ." -- Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft, p. 197.
  • Religion: Liberal Judaism
  • Siblings: Smarter than me.
  • Time I wake up: 6-ish
  • Unusual talent or skill: modular origami
  • Vegetable I refuse to eat: brussel sprouts are pretty much the only vegetable I've managed to avoid eating ever. Not sure why, to be honest.
  • Worst habit: blogging instead of working
  • X-rays: not in a long time.
  • Yummy foods I make: chocolate fondue. Also chicken soup.
  • Zodiac sign: western: Sagittarius; Chinese: sheep.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blogging is like playing chess against yourself. And everyone else. At the same time.

I haven't done a quiz in a little while. I haven't played chess in even longer....
A Black Knight
You scored 3 Power-Finesse, 2 Leader-Follower, 3 Unique-Ordinary, and 0 Offense-Defense!
The rules don't really apply to you, do they? Impediments for you are opportunities, not obstacles. You are dashing and flamboyant, and you like to be right in the middle of the action. You like to protect your team and your King and Queen, by fighting off those who would dare to threaten them. In the long run, however, you cannot win the game alone. It is impossible for you to checkmate your opponent all by yourself, so you appreciate and value your teammates.

Link: The What Chess Piece Are You Test written by Gundark27 on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test [via]

Monday, September 11, 2006

Modern Amphibians

Frogs in Concrete Contexts

Disclaimer: These pictures have nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11/01, terrorism, politics, memory or policy.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Thursday Lyric: Stormfront

This is a particularly powerful piece. It's more of a spoken-word verse than a song as such, but the powerful music doesn't hurt. I got the text here, but I heartily recommend the album Sparrow's Wing.

Garnet Rogers

As silent as the voice of God
these empty barren hills
they hover above the dry plain
they shimmer in the distance
I feel a sudden chill
The ground is dry and cracked
like an old mans skin stretched across the plain
Lightning flickering across the thunderhead
Empty promises of rain

Some kind of stormfront on the move tonight
Feel the tension in the air
Dust devils dance on the side of the highway
Leaves and garbage everywhere
Mothers call their kids from the door
"C'mon get inside, shut the windows, lock them tight"
The sun has burned its bridges
plunged into the mountains in a sea of steam
and poison light
I hear thunder bumping boxcars in the valley
the wind is laughing up my sleeve
the cars have turned their headlights on
It's way past time-- I should be gone
We've turned our towns into a filthy joke
like a theme park built for swine
We bulldoze farms, fields turn them into strip malls
Nobody seems to mind
Who elected these cheap hustlers anyway?
This worthless pack of pimps and whores
The developers come smiling with their pockets jingling full of change
We get down on all fours

And I don't want your Black Hills gold
Not at any price
we built a trail of tears and broken trees through here
then swarmed the earth like lice
Townhouses, casinos and trailer parks
Cheap neon light up the falling night
I saw the Four Horsemen ride through here about an hour ago
They were sickened at the sight

These highway signs are full of bullet holes
Burnt rubber cross the road
Someone's angry about something somewhere here
They're just waiting to unload
We're putting bombs in buildings
Bombs in letters, bombs in trucks
We're drowning kids in the backs of cars
We're dressing killers in Armani suits
We turn them into TV stars

We become a race of leering voyeurs
We're big on Progress Sex and Death
Something evil is lurking in the darkness here with me
and I can smell its stinking breath
It's in the blankness of our children's stares
It's in a courtroom in a suit
It's in the hand that holds gun that made these bullet holes
It's a secret pocket filled with loot
It's the soft white faces of these soft white men
with their soft white grasping hand
who laugh and sneer at those who have to stand and wait in line
and never got their chance

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Quotations #083

"In The Cycle of Juvenile Justice, historian Thomas J. Bernard shows how over the past 200 years each generation has believed that juveniles were committing more frequent and more serious crimes than juveniles 30 or 40 years ago." -- Mara Dodge, Z Magazine, 3/2000.

"The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr" -- Mohammed

"History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten." George Santayana

"The First Amendment recognizes that a certain amount of expressive disorder not only is inevitable in a society committed to individual freedom, but must itself be protected if that freedom should survive." Iowa Superior Court Judge Rosemary Sackett.

"Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization" -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

We have failed

We have lost in Iraq, and no gradualism, no untethered optimism, no good intentions will suffice at this point. We must either win, properly, or admit that we have lost.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled hiatus.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Quotations #082

"The best argument is that which seems merely an explanation." -- Dale Carnegie

"The various admirable movements in which I have been engaged have always developed among their members a large lunatic fringe." -- Theodore Roosevelt

"In formal logic, a contradiction is a sign of defeat; but in the evolution of knowledge it marks the first step in progress towards a victory." -- Alfred North Whitehead

"The old nobility would have survived if they had known enough to become masters of printing materials." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

"I'd rather be caught holding up a bank than stealing so much as a two-word phrase from another writer; but ... when someone has the wit to coin a useful word, it ought to be acclaimed and broadcast or it will perish." -- Jack Smith

Friday, August 18, 2006

Quotation and Six Random Things Meme

Normally I don't do meme-tag requests, but this one includes a citation to a huge collection of epigrammatic wit and wisdom.

Go here and keep clicking (you may want to check the boxes for expanded quote collections at the bottom) until you find five (or six, I never was good at numeric memes) quotations that represent you.
  1. "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal." -- Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)
  2. "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." -- Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967), (attributed)
  3. "I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969)
  4. "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." -- H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)
  5. There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance." -- Hippocrates (460 BC - 377 BC)
Second meme: Six random things about me.
  • I often go too long without changing the oil in our car: it's been eight months
  • I had ingrown toenails as a youth
  • I have become very fond of crystallized ginger in dark chocolate
  • Given time to kill (very rare) in a properly equipped bookstore (less rare), I will read graphic novels (i.e. comic books with proper conclusions) at length
  • My sibling and I both eat M&Ms so that the colors come out even in the end (and I'm holding out for Dark Chocolate Mega M&Ms)
  • I like short poems. Writing and reading them, both. Long poems bore me, though there are a few epics which are just plain fun to read. [ed. - tanka, anyone?]

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Quotations #081

"Just as a tree without roots is dead, so a people without history or culture is a dead people." -- Malcolm X

"If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past." -- Baruch Spinoza

"How many disputes could have been deflated into a single paragraph, if the disputants had dared to define their terms." -- Aristotle

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no use being a damned fool about it." -- W. C. Fields

"Methuselah lived to be 969 years old ... You boys and girls will see more happen in the next fifty years than Methuselah saw in his whole lifetime." -- Mark Twain

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Shoot the Moon....

If you take a cheap digital camera (fixed lens, 4Mp) set on macro, and put it up against the eyepiece of your telescope on a full moon....

I know I could get better, if I was a bit more careful with focus and steady. But this was more of a "test of concept" and I'm thrilled.

Back to your regularly scheduled hiatus.... (actually, I'm gonna start doing more of the quotations file soon, just for fun. Not really blogging, so much as finishing something I started a long time ago.)

Update: You just can't win sometimes. Cool.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

1001 Ahistorical Posts

In honor of this, my 1001st post and the beginning of my first official hiatus, here is a review of some of my most notable work here. I posted a few of these in response to this survey, but this is more comprehensive and categorized.

Significant StatementsRegular FeaturesHumorAs for the hiatus (which has nothing to do with my parents discovering this site; sheer coincidence) I will continue to post quotations, maybe an odd quiz or meme or picture, irregularly until I decide I have the time and energy to come back to this, my least professional outlet. I'll still be around -- I'm not giving up blogging or commenting, just trying to focus my energies. Any future posts worthy of note will be collected elsewhere, though the indexes on the sidebar will continue to be updated as appropriate.

Doing Something Right? Thanks...

There are bloggers out there who like this blog enough to link here, though most of them never link to specific posts nor leave comments.... I'm grateful, but a bit mystified. The order is (roughly) the same order in which I noticed the linkage.

David at Life After Breakfast is a veteran teacher of what my school called "Language Arts" (that probably dates me very specifically) with a progressive Quaker perspective and healthy attitude.

Brandon at Julius Speaks is the proprietor of the Radical Progressive Carnival and, like me, an incorrigable poster of song lyrics.

Jefe at (formerly here) is a witty and warm-hearted sort, Christian and hip. Something like that, anyway.

Jeremy Boggs at Clioweb (also Revise and Dissent) is one of those people redefining the cutting edge of technology in history pedagogy. Nice guy, too.

Jon Swift does great satires. Every day. I'm lucky if I'm funny once in a while....

Paktorowicz and Levery at 91st Place have a strong interest in Jewish history and anti-semitism. Not a fast-paced blog, but substantial.

Jonathan Wilson, aka the Elfin Ethicist, is one of the more interesting historical/theological bloggers out there. Very smart fellow, with a great eye for material.

Finally, as a thank-you to all those other folks who's blogging has informed, inspired, entertained or productively infuriated me, a gratuitous but obscure repetition of my blogroll.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Lost Words

Pre-feature advertising: History Carnival's up! And now, on with the show....

Via Mutantfrog and Ralph Luker, I found the Compendium of Lost Words, OED entries which have fallen out of use. Here are my nominations for "words we need now more than ever (except the last one)." I have replaced the original sample sentences with ones more relevant to modern life, to give a sense of just how useful these words might be.
  • A through E
  • agonarch n 1656 -1656
    judge of a contest or activity
    I've often wondered how I could get a job as a Reality TV agonarch.
  • aquabib n 1731-1883
    Since I gave up coffee, I've become a boring aquabib, but my seltzer budget has skyrocketed.
  • caprizant adj 1730 -1736
    of the pulse, uneven or irregular
    Syncopation in music is much more fun than caprizant EKGs.
  • circuland n 1821 -1821
    that which is to be circulated
    Most of what we call "memes" -- internet quizzes and the like -- we really should call "circulands" because they're not just free-floating ideas but are deliberately spread by "tagging."
  • F through M
  • hymnicide n 1862 -1862
    killing of hymns through alterations
    Modern churches seem to have no alternative to hymnicide, as newer liturgical music is often even worse than modifications to older stuff.
  • jobler n 1662 -1662
    one who does small jobs
    One of the problems of academia is over-production of PhDs, leading to a proliferation of joblers.
  • modernicide n 1774 -1774
    killing or killer of modern people
    Many anti-intellectual movements -- Khmer Rouge, jihadists, etc. -- engage in modernicide as policy.
  • N through R
  • odynometer n 1889 -1893
    instrument for measuring pain
    Without an odynometer, doctors must rely on patients' subjective reporting.
  • phlyarologist n 1867 -1867
    one who talks nonsense
    So many bloggers are phlyarologists that I fear for the future of humanity.
  • pudify v 1656 -1656
    to cause to be ashamed
    Though he had a respectable professional identity, he knew the revelation of his "sex-life/weight-loss" blog would pudify him.
  • S through Z
  • quibbleism n 1836 -1836
    practice of quibbling
    Among bloggers, many heated debates devolve into quibbleism, particularly linguistic.
  • schismarch n 1657 -1657
    founder of a schism
    There are no mediocre schismarchs, I think: either they are wildly successful and their followers venerate them for generations, or they are short-lived, pitiable failures.
  • speustic adj 1656 -1658
    made or baked in haste
    Much of my cooking is speustic, and modern prefabricated food and cooking ingredients make it easier than ever.
  • stagma n 1681 -1820
    any distilled liquor
    Though we are a long way past legal Temperance, and beer and wine are common accompaniments to food, there is still a stigma to stagma, particularly unmixed.
  • tortiloquy n 1656 -1656
    crooked speech
    The trick to political speechwriting is to clothe tortiloquy in hallowed images and insulate promises with conditions.
  • uglyography n 1804 -1834
    bad handwriting; poor spelling
    My policy is to take off points for uglyography only when it thoroughly obscures the meaning of the text.
  • vampirarchy n 1823 -1823
    set of rulers comparable to vampires
    I think vampirarchy is a much better description for our current administration than kleptocracy, because it is something inherent in their nature, rather than a character flaw, which is draining us dry.
  • venialia n 1654 -1654
    minor sins or offences
    We have replaced the traditional venalia -- dishonesty, cupidity, lechery -- with modern flaws such as "failure to diet," "impolitic expression" and "slow responder to electronic communications."
  • weequashing n 1888 -1902
    spearing of fish or eels by torchlight from canoes
    I suspect that weequashing is today more common among Pacific Island cultures than it is among Atlantic coastal communities.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ahistoricality Alert Index

Every so often I run across some terribly abused historical analogy or argument. It offends me. This, of course, is nothing compared to the Carnival of Bad History, but it's my small contribution.

2008 May 2: Hilary Clinton compares globalization to Holocaust
2006 May 11: Right-wing commentators drastically underestimate Gandhi and channel Father Coughlin
2006 March 20: Secretary of Defense claims unwarranted virtue for US throughout history, calls for continued unwarranted virtue (follow-up)
2006 January 25: The cost of wars, compared, without any reference to context.
2005 December 4: Right-wing blogger ignores centuries of assymetrical warfare to make cheap political attack
2005 December 2: Not my catch, technically, but it does illustrate a common fallacy.
2005 September 12: An interesting discussion of "rules of war" under Lincoln.
2005 May 5: What is "America" and how did it do all that stuff?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It takes a worried man....

Bush is largely blameless for all these troubles.... so says David Broder about our deteriorating relationships with Canada, Mexico, Russia, Iran, the WTO, and most of East Asia. What a load of ... narrow vision. The current problem with Canada is pointless nitpicking (will our security really be improved along 3000 miles of mostly open border by more paperwork?); the problem with Mexico is Republican (and I'm pretty sure the President has some influence there) anti-immigrant hysteria; the problem with Russia is most of our foreign policy; the problem with Iran is one area where I think the administration is more or less doing the right thing as long as they aren't actually planning an invasion; the WTO is the result of hypocrisy and spinelessness in Congress; and the North Korean issue should have been dealt with before the Iraq invasion started.

Broder does make an exception for Iraq, which is pretty clearly the Administration's albatross. Impeachment, anyone?

Wonder how you compare to the fascists of yesteryear? I think this test needs a little updating, but I'd be happier if it needed a lot more.... Anyway, I got an unsuprising dead-center "liberal airhead" score, 2.53. [via]

Penny Richards found some great signage.

Sarcasm can get you fired, at least if you're a Singaporean blogger/journalist.

Two-Thirds Loser... Matey

First, the Carnival of Satire is up, and I think, given how little satire was submitted this week, he's right to give it a break next week. Ringxiety was good, though, and Chainik Hocker's riff on a headline is fantastic.

Speaking of losers.... [via] The last question in the quiz is whether, if you get a loser result, you will actually share it. What I want to know is whether that increases or decreases your loser-quotient....

I am 66% loser. What about you? Click here to find out!

But if I'm such a loser, how can I be:
You scored as Captain Jack Sparrow. You are definitely quirky and often mistaken for mad but if anyone is truly paying attention they can see there is method to your madness. You try really hard to be bad but in the end you tend to do the right thing.

Captain Jack Sparrow
Captain James T. Hook
Mary Read
Dread Pirate Roberts
Black Beard
Will Turner
Long John Silvers
Captain Barbosa
Morgan Adams

What kind of Pirate are you?
created with
Interesting result. Apparently my interest in Depp continues....

Non Sequitur: Caleb's moving haiku are quite good.

Argument for a draft?

This is a post I've kind of put off. There's been a lot of discussion (Orcinus, Cunning Realist, etc., etc.) about the problems being caused by weak recruiting and retention pressure: soldiers serving who would normally be discharged, or who normally wouldn't be allowed to join in the first place and whose military training and access could well be a threat to our own security in the years to come.

Many on "my side" of the political spectrum would argue that this is evidence in favor of immediate withdrawal; it's certainly evidence that our reach has exceeded our grasp at the moment, that the "planning" for the war and postwar was inadequate. Some have even suggested a draft in order to "share the burden" though my own impression and most statistics seem to suggest that the military is pretty representative (not perfectly, but that's what happens in real life and in a military that barely tolerates women and excludes homosexuals) of the population as a whole; anyway, the reality is that those advocating a new draft mostly want to scare people into backing away from the policies and politicians which have got us here.

But I've started thinking, given that what we're (supposedly) trying to accomplish is both worthwhile and an obligation which we have incurred, and given the fact that we might well have other obligations -- moral, political, etc. -- to follow through on while finish up what we set out to do in Afghanistan and Iraq, that a draft might be appropriate. As things stand now, it would not be a "total war" style draft in which a generation marches to war, but it would be a selective one. Not the "lets pick the professionals we need out of the economy" selective draft that some have discussed, but an truly random segement of the eligible population, with reasonable deferments. That would bring enough people to the table to allow the military to weed out its "weak link" soldiers and recruits and get the job done.

This is not just about "putting our best foot forward": it's about having national policy and national priorities that make sense within the context of what we're willing to do to accomplish them. It's also about self-protection: gang members, extremists, unstable personalities are bad enough without military training.

Here's the thing: if we're not willing to seriously consider a new draft, then I don't think we have any choice but to muddle on the way we've been doing or radically rethink our moral and tactical position.

We need, to be honest, a strategy, which is sorely lacking.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Bugs and Lust....

I'd been looking for some good reason to post these pictures, some "hook" to make them relevant. Finally, Natalie Bennett found a candidate for worst poem ever written in English, an elegy to a rotting -- yet oddly desirable -- corpse.

To add insult to elegy, The Little Professor alerts us to the 2006 Bulwer-Lytton Contest winners, those awful first lines for novels you're mostly glad were never written. As always, I pick my favorites from the runners up:
  • "It was a day, like any other day, in that Linus got up, faced the sunrise, used his inhaler, applied that special cream between his toes, wrote a quick note and put it in a bottle, and wished he'd been stranded on the island with something other than 40 cases each of inhalers, decorative bottles, and special toe cream." -- Chris Harget, Campbell, CA
  • "Christmas Eve fell upon the piazza, and the pealing, the tintinnabulous pealing, (perhaps not a pealing but an incessant tinkling, albeit an appealing incessant tinkling) of the street performers reached my ears, masking the shot, which would have rung out had not the tintinnabulations raised such an incessant tinkling that the sound died as dead as the musician who fell like Christmas Eve at my feet - his bell having been rung." -- Ben Ross, Lexington, NC
  • "Sex with Rachel after she turned fifty was like driving the last-place team on the last day of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the point no longer the ride but the finish, the difficulty not the speed but keeping all the parts moving in the right direction, not to mention all that irritating barking." -- Dan Winters, Los Altos Hills, CA
Finally, I note the nearly 200th Carnival of Vanities, very ably hosted (and I'm not just saying that because he liked my post!), though the cavalcade of business posts at the front suggests to me that there's a bit of spamming going on in the CoV and it's likely to get worse.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Historical and Psychological Facts

Historical facts, Marc Bloch said, are psychological facts, and it's very true that a great deal of what we study in history is actually about attitude and personality, even when it seems like it's about something else: social and political and intellectual (even economic) history are about the life of the mind and the heart. That said, some of the worst history ever written was deliberate attempts to apply psychological insights of the present to past historical figures or societies -- the aptly named "psychohistory" movement was short-lived and we learned a lot of valuable lessons from it, in spite of itself. We're more careful now.

So it is with cautious consideration that I pass on this interesting bit of psychohistory, John Dean channeling James Dave Barber and Richard Neustadt (via, who also points to this)
Bush has never understood what presidential scholar Richard Neustadt discovered many years ago: In a democracy, the only real power the presidency commands is the power to persuade. Presidents have their bully pulpit, and the full attention of the news media, 24/7. In addition, they are given the benefit of the doubt when they go to the American people to ask for their support. But as effective as this power can be, it can be equally devastating when it languishes unused - or when a president pretends not to need to use it, as Bush has done.

Apparently, Bush does not realize that to lead he must continually renew his approval with the public. He is not, as he thinks, the decider. The public is the decider.

Bush is following the classic mistaken pattern of active/negative presidents ["who actively pursued the job but had negative feelings about it"]: As Barber explained, they issue order after order, without public support, until they eventually dissipate the real powers they have -- until "nothing [is] left but the shell of the office." Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon all followed this pattern.

Active/negative presidents are risk-takers. (Consider the colossal risk Bush took with the Iraq invasion). And once they have taken a position, they lock on to failed courses of action and insist on rigidly holding steady, even when new facts indicate that flexibility is required.
Dean goes on to argue that the Administration has an "October Surprise" planned to redeem the mid-term elections for Republicans, which isn't terribly original (of them, or of him) but his thoughts on the matter are interesting.