Elegance and freedom

The ballroom dancing of the baroque era is restrained and rational.  It is as far remove as can be from the dancing that results from the injunction to "let it all hang out, baby" that insinuated itself in the sixties.  Here is a move from that dancing.  The move is called doing a reverence, or bowing.  Note that it is mutual: both partners must participate. And what they participate in is an art form where nature is constrained and restrained and forced by human will to conform to ideal patterns. A complicated reverence requires presence of mind and self-control.  It cannot be performed by, say, someone in the grip of road rage. 

In such a move we see tradition, order, rules, restraint and training at work.  Indeed, at the end of the video we hear the voice of the teacher, the dancing master of those days.  Dancing was something you learned how to do, not something that was inside you automatically and merely needed a steady rhythm and a few pops to come out. It was the epitome of being civilized.  The puritans could sniff at dancing but society, both high and low, enjoyed it in a good spirited way.  Whether in the manor house or in the barn, the dancers, the musicians, the dancing-masters, the onlookers knew good form when they saw it.

Romanticism smashed all that.

Macauley on the Puritans with reading by JV

The Whig historian Thomas Babington Macauley explains why the Puritans, ridiculous and ridiculed, deserve our respect and admiration. You may notice the irony of his attacking the Catholics for lack of tolerance, when he treats them to very little of it himself.  This is an excerpt from his essay on Milton, the greatest of Protestant poets.

Chesler Chronicles » The Steady Erosion of Women’s Rights in Egypt: A Photographic Story

The Steady Erosion of Women’s Rights in Egypt: A Photographic Story

January 28, 2010 - by Phyllis Chesler

These photos, sent by my good friend Tareq Heggy, speak volumes about the politicization of the Islamic Veil. In the 1950s, Cairo University graduates were not veiled. By the twenty first century, the veiling of educated women was fully underway.

Class of 1959

Class of 1978

Class of 1995

Class of 2004



YouTube - Republican Response to the State of the Union 2011- VIDEO analysis

Republican Response to the State of the Union 2011- VIDEO analysis

The linked video shows an analyst reviewing Paul Ryan't response to the State of the Union Address by the President.  Click the link to the critique.  My critique of the critique:

Paul Ryan is the father of three children and the Chairman of the Congressional Budget Committee. He is no kid or gawky office manager. The analyst here is a media consultant, however, and not interested in substance at all. He is all about image. It is true that Ryan looks young.

The anlaytic tradition of our speaker goes back to the sophists by way of Machiavelli. For them, it is silly to worry about what is right or wrong.  What matters is results.  The sophists claimed that everything is opinion.  If so, truth does not matter.  Persuasion and persuasive technique do. Power is everything.  In this case, I believe every individual point made is valid. This is a competent analysis.  But it is what is chosen to analyse that troubles me some.

The analyst assumes that Ryan shares his professional cynicism, butconsider that Ryan was  saying that if our government keeps borrowing as it is, disaster is inevitable. Disaster means deep austerity and slow growth, which translates to a lower standard of living for everyone. If he is right, his message is urgent., His style or haircut, not so much.

Thus media analysis even though correct on every point may still, by its choice of the terms of reference, end up trivializing everything. And in the process, the citizenry become merely members of a vast audience.


Belmont Club

January 22nd, 2011 2:14 pm

Never Smile at a Crocodile

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea argues that if Hezbollah takes over Lebanon it will become another Gaza, at war with Israel and isolated from the Arab and Western worlds. That takeover is being openly practiced by black-shirted Hezbullah groups who gathered in groups of 30 at strategic points of entry into the city, including points near the capitol. Hezbollah spokesmen denied the gatherings had any significance.