Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
September 1, 2007 - August 25, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Drooling for Nano-Cars?

The bad old days were Satanic. But great.

ADAM.31. It's good to be a pygmy. Pretty soon they'll be handing out prizes to kids who are shorter than their parents because littler people produce less carbon dioxide. Fortunately, those littler people will have nice little luxo cars to drive:

Luxury auto makers have typically offered vehicles in three sizes: medium, large and extra-large. Beginning this fall, they're adding a new one -- small.

Environmental concerns and high fuel costs have given diminutive, efficient vehicles a boost in the size-obsessed U.S. marketplace as consumers begin to swap their large, thirsty vehicles for alternatives such as the Mini Cooper. In the past year or two, Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. have all introduced new, low-cost subcompacts to satisfy the perceived demand.

Now AG's Audi, BMW AG and Ford Motor Co.'s Volvo are getting into the act. Those high-cachet brands are lining up products that will test American tastes for small vehicles with outsize performance, posh amenities and premium price tags.

Other manufacturers, like GM's Saab unit and DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes-Benz, have similar models in development that could make the leap to North America.

Little pictures of little cars.

Personally, I can't wait. Because, boy, are they ever going to have to get out of my way when I come cruising by in my Satanic Cadillac. We'll scarf up those little babies like peanuts.

Who do you want to ride with? Them or me?

Well, okay. But you bring the suntan oil. SPF 2. I go for the tropical look.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

In Memoriam.

COMINGS AND GOINGS. What with all the bad weather and the bad news and everything, we completely missed the sudden demise of the website on August 13, 2007. We tried belatedly to put in our two cents, but, well, you can see for yourself how things went after we tracked them down.

We're going to miss them.

I'm just saying...

INSTAPUNDIT CARES ABOUT MEANING NOW. And here I thought he just cared about linking Lileks, Althouse, Kaus, Dr. Helen, and his favorite legal drones every day, plus every new science fiction novel released and every new digital gadget that gleams or clicks or has "nano" in its name. It turns out that he also cares about the meaning of life. Who knew?

IN THE MAIL: Tony Kronman's new book, Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life.

It looks like a very interesting and important book.

I was so impressed I looked up the book at Amazon and discovered that the early reviews are indeed glowing:

"In a brilliant, sustained argument that is as forthright, bold, and passionately felt as it is ideologically unclassifiable and original, Anthony Kronman leaps in a bound into the center of America's cultural disputes, not to say cultural wars. Although Kronman's specific area of concern is higher education, his argument will reach far beyond campus walls.

-- Jonathan Schell, author of The Unconquerable World: Power Nonviolence and the Will of the People

"Just when we need them most, the humanities have relinquished their role at the heart of liberal education -- helping students reflect on what makes life worth living. In this bold and provocative book, Anthony Kronman explains why the humanities have lost their way. With eloquence and passion, he argues that departments of literature, classics, and philosophy can recover their authority and prestige only by reviving their traditional focus on fundamental questions about the meaning of life."

-- Michael J. Sandel, author of The Case against Perfection and Public Philosophy

Cool. And you know this one has to be really good because it's published by Yale University Press, which has always been my sole source for the latest info about what's "interesting and important."

Obviously I haven't read it yet because it's still "in the mail," but I do have certain reservations about how "original" it is if its primary claim to fame is a rediscovery that the humanities should be concerned with "the meaning of life" after a long period of treating this concept with murderous contempt.

I've only been concerned with this problem for 30 years or so. Specifically and in detail. Then, again, I never went to Yale. For those who are interested, though, here's a link to excerpts from a manuscript I wrote after The Boomer Bible was published, explaining how and why it was fundamentally related to "the meaning of life" and the apparent obsession of the intelligentsia to prevent us from pursuing it.

Apologies, Glenn. But I am older than you, I was a computer diarist before you, and I was a cultural critic while you were still in middle school. Not all worthwhile commentary originates at Yale or in the law school faculty lounge. (And, yeah, I'm ticked off that you couldn't even deign to acknowledge the passing of the wittiest conservative humor site on the web, Wuzzadem.)

Boolah boolah.

Or words to that effect.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Monday Night Vickball

Go to hell.

THE SECOND SHOE DROPS. I'll begin with a personal anecdote, because I'm not pretending to be objective here.

One of the places I grew up in was my grandfather's house. A large Victorian thing on two and a half acres that backed up to a creek. The garage -- two bays and a stall for the pony, and cart, my grandparents used as transportation during the gas-rationing of World War II -- was far removed from the house. When my parents took it over during my teenage years, the tennis court next to the garage had gone fallow -- a flat expanse of clover behind overgrown hedges past which there was nothing but a dip in elevation before the reed wall of the creek to remind anyone of the pony's paddock. I was the only one who used the old garage; a new one had been built closer to the house. I was working on my old convertible down there one day when I became aware of flies -- a lot of them, fat buzzy, annoying. I wandered out onto the old tennis court. The flies were coming from closer to the creek. There was a big mulberry tree on the dividing line between the tennis court and what had been the pony's paddock. That's where the flies were centered. I approached the tree. And then I saw it.

I had to tell my mother why I needed to call the police. I couldn't keep her away. When she saw it, she dissolved. Someone had hanged a Dalmatian in the mulberry tree. It was no longer a beauteous white and black. It was gray, bloated, teeming with flies and maggots, a horrid stench that exploded when the shocked policemen cut it down. It landed with a thump you can't imagine and don't want to. We were all horrified beyond our expectations. It wasn't an animal carcass. It was a body, brutally murdered. The noose was a leash.

The two sagging policemen helped me bury it. My mother couldn't stop crying. I couldn't cry. I was in some kind of zone between loathing and rage that wouldn't permit me to shed tears. The police never found the perpetrator. After a day or two, my mother and I never spoke of it again. We seemed to agree without words that it had never happened. If it had, you'd have to cut down the tree and dynamite the paddock.

Which brings us to Monday Night Vickball. I'm giving Ron Jaworski a provisional pass because he's brand new in replacing the appalling Joe Theisman as a color announcer. He doesn't want to get embroiled in anything like a racial controversy, and so he gave his mealy-mouthed assessment that maybe Vick has embarked on a path of atonement that will ultimately be successful. Uh-huh.

I'm not giving a pass to Tony Kornheiser or the Other Guy, or to the ESPN post-game show, all of which were focused laser-like on the idiotic question of what Michael Vick has to do to return to NFL stardom. The Atlanta Falcons played the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason game. Kornheiser never paid the slightest attention to the game and never stopped talking for a moment about Michael Vick and what it will take to bring him back to fan and league acceptance. He waxed eloquent about the importance of Vick as the primary face of Atlanta sports, about the poverty of Georgian life if Vick were (gasp!) permanentlyy exiled from the NFL. The post-game show (Sportcenter?) picked up where Kornheiser left off, offering us apologists like Emmitt Smith, who assured us of the sincerity of Vick's vapid, lawyer-scripted apology, and images of Atlanta fans still wearing their Number 7 jerseys as if athletic ability really were some kind of divine dispensation for every kind of failing. The word 'mistake' was used so often by fans and ESPN sportscasters that one could almost be forgiven for believing that Michael Vick had simply forgotten to pay a vet not to kill his dogs.

Two points. First, Michael Vick is a substantial corporate asset of the NFL and ESPN. Corporate employees will be employed to rehabilitate his image as much as possible before he gets sentenced.

Second. And pay attention to this one. Financing a dog-fighting kennel and executing dogs who don't fight well enough are not mistakes. Deliberately killing even one dog is not a mistake. We're not talking here about the careless driving habits of Paris Hilton or Lindsey Lohan. We're talking about the cold-blooded cruelty required to participate in a sport which compels one dog to kill another dog or be killed by his master if he fails. Try to imagine yourself hanging a dog. Watch it jerk and shriek at the end of its leash. Watch it die. Can't imagine it? Join a very large club. But a very few people CAN imagine it. They can actually DO it. We're talking about something missing in the makeup of a human being. That something missing is not something you suddenly discover is missing when the government indicts you. It's just missing. It's an essential part of humanity you'll never have. Getting caught is not an opportunity for confession, redemption, and forgiveness. It's just exposure.

It's also not something that fundamentalist Jesus-ism can fix. If there's one area where fundamentalist Christians are most vulnerable morally, it's in their view of animals. They insist that dogs and cats have no souls. (Catholics and Episcopalians know otherwise; indeed, we count on it.) Who's more likely to forgive Michael Vick than these folks? Even Air America is quite properly offended.

The truth is, all corporate interests aside, Michael Vick is done. The mouthpieces of the NFL and ESPN just don't get it. He will never play in the NFL again. The national NAACP had it right. Michael Vick has to take responsibility for what he has done. And sometimes, taking responsibility means taking responsibility for acts that cannot be forgiven by men, but only God.

There are a lot of us who will never forgive Michael Vick. He killed dogs and he made them suffer. That's not a mistake. It's a sin. If the NFL and ESPN and all its announcers and publicists can't understand this, I pity them as much as I pity Michael Vick.

And Tony Kornheiser? Go to hell.

UPDATE. Thanks to Dean Barnett and welcome to Hugh Hewitt readers. For a moment as hopeful as this post is dark, go here. You'll feel better. I guarantee it.

UPDATE 2. It's interesting and educational to read the first half two dozen or so comments on the Dean Barnett post that links to this one. They seem to reflect a consensus that the outrage about Michael Vick's dog-killing is hyperbole. After all, they're JUST dogs, right? Is anyone else uncomfortable about associating with conservatives of this stripe? Is there some kind of Maslow's hierarchy of cruelty out there which enables people to distinguish one act of brutish inhumanity from another and thereby dismiss the unimportant and irrelevant ones? Or are we hearing finally from the secret sadists among us who go out of their way to run down cats on the road and yet congratulate themselves for their love of children? By all means, tell them what you think. UPDATE 2A. Who are these people? If we kill chickens or beef cattle to eat or hunt deer to control their populations, what's so bad about killing dogs? (And don't get me started on the "dominion" quote from the Bible...) These are the same people who contemn the kind of moral equivalency practiced by liberals. I don't want any of them near my life or near anyone I care about.

Here's a fact you won't like: If you can drown a puppy or a kitten, you can kill a human child. The only thing that stops you from doing the latter is the fear of getting caught. The act itself involves the same callousness about the pain and suffering of a helpless creature. Morality does involve the ability to discriminate, which is not the dirty word todays's illiterates have been taught to believe it is. If you had to choose -- in some bizarre circumstance -- between the life of a human being and the life of a dog, I would expect you to choose the human being -- and then take a long time getting over the cost of your decision. Dogs are different. They are not cattle, pigs, sheep, deer, chickens, or insects. (Although I will note that society used to look askance at children who enjoyed pulling the wings off flies. And btw, a great many dog people also don't hunt or pull the wings off flies.). Some anthropologists even date the beginning of civilization to the initial partnership between men and dogs. In fact, serious academic arguments have been made that dogs played a major role in the development of human consciousness as we think of it today. Dogs are capable of virtues fundies would like to consider solely human -- love, altruism, sacrifice, and forgiveness. They also have emotions, a sense of humor, intelligence, problem-solving ability, better cross-species language-learning skills than humans have, and even a capacity for deception. They are, to a significant degree, conscious creatures. No, they are not human, but if your definition of humanity does not include the ability to distinguish between a dog and a chicken in moral terms, I'm not much interested in what you have to say about anything.

How dare you protest the outrage civilized people feel about the barbaric behavior of Michael Vick? How dare you.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Remembering Sport

The Steelers' Willie Parker moments before his end-zone dance.

PSAYINGS.5S.1-11. I probably shouldn't lead with this, but here in the Delaware Valley the 'Battle of Pennsylvania' between the Eagles and the Steelers is a noteworthy event, even when it occurs during the preseason. There's a lot of ugly out there in sports at the moment -- Vick, Donaghy, Bonds et al -- and it's supposed to be reassuring when the focus moves from hearing rooms and law courts to the field of play. But early on the game struck a sour note with me. Not because of the indifferent play of the Eagles, which may or may nor portend anything about the upcoming season, but because of what happened after the first Steeler touchdown. Willie Parker ran hard and well. He scored. Then he felt compelled to perform a clownish strut through the end zone. I should be used to it by now, but this time I felt a faint disgust.

The disgust had nothing to do with my Eagle partisanship. It had to do with what I'd witnessed earlier in the day and, probably, the gradually increasing childishness of the behavior I've observed in professional sports for a long time now. The NFL and the NBA are the worst offenders. They're already macho sports, requiring strength, speed, toughness, and skill. Why do they also suddenly require the deliberate taunting of opponents and the choreographed self idolatry of a bullying seventh-grade jock? Only a boy needs to loudly proclaim his manhood, and only a jerk thinks an achievement is somehow enhanced by festooning it with extravagant self-flattery.

It may seem a petty complaint in the grand scheme of what's wrong with sports, but I believe there's a link between the crimes of a Michael Vick and the graceless showboating that's become commonplace on court and field. If one were to draw up a list of the selfish egotists who flout team rules and delay games with their preening theatrics, my bet is that the overwhelming majority of them would be the product of single-parent homes, specifically fatherless homes. They don't know what it is to be men, and so they distort, and sometimes ruin, their lives by disguising their insecurities with over-the-top parodies of manhood  -- guns, groupies, posses, roosterish clothes and antics, and, yes, fighting dogs.

What would a real dad -- or the right kind of early male role model -- have done for them? Well, that's exactly what I'd seen earlier in the day at the finale of the Little League World Championship in Williamsport, PA. Most of you have probably seen the headline that matters most at ESPN: GEORGIA BEATS JAPAN WITH 8TH INNING WALK-OFF HOMERUN!

Photo by Jason Vorhees

But if you didn't watch the contest itself, you missed all the important stuff. You missed an incredibly well played game on both sides, featuring extraordinary pitching, heads-up fielding and base-running, and wise coaching that corrected mistakes without punishing them. You missed the moms and dads and brothers and sisters in the stands who agonized through all the suspenseful moments, hardly daring to look at times but having to look, cheering the great plays, and wincing at the letdowns. You missed kids who cared so much about the game and each other that they see-sawed between beaming smiles and the struggle not to give in to tears when they felt they'd let down the team. You missed the elation of the winning homerun, and you missed the heartbreaking collapse of the Japanese pitcher who had thrown the fatal pitch. It was as if the ball had physically knocked him to his knees.

And you missed what to its enormous credit, the Macon Telegraph did not, a display of graciousness by 12-year-old kids that would put most professional athletes to shame. Here's the Telegraph's headline and story:

It's all about class: 'WORLD CLASS'

What happened in Williamsport, Pa. Sunday can be summed up in one word: Class.

Already one of the best teams in the world as they entered the Little League World Series tournament, all of Middle Georgia was rooting for the team from Warner Robins before the first pitch was thrown. As they progressed through the field of teams, losing only once, they made us proud. But no prouder than their last act of sportsmanship.

As Dalton Carriker rounded the bases after hitting a walk-off home run to win the game and capture the crown in the bottom of the eighth inning, there was, of course, a thrill of victory, agony of defeat moment, but the kids from Warner Robins, instead of the traditional high-fives to the opposing players - without hesitation or prompting - went to the distraught players from Japan and started hugging them.

Dry eyes were impossible.

While there was great play, competitive fire and spirit, the boys from Warner Robins left a lasting impression of their inner character for the world to see. They proved again, it's not whether you win or lose that counts. It is, how you play the game.

Go to the site and take advantage of the opportunity to see the whole series of evocative photographs taken by Jason Vorhees. Here are a couple we borrowed just to whet your appetite:

The last one is of the Georgia coach consoling the pitcher who lost the game. A man knows when there's no need to strut and thump his chest. His players obviously learned that lesson before they took the field in Williamsport. They're only 12 years old, which means you can learn it young.

But how old can you be and still learn it? A question for Michael Vick and many many others to ponder.

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