A sunny Sunday is too much of a challenge for me. A grey one makes it easier to stay home and veg out with a clear conscience.
A former student recently asked me about campus radicalism, and here is how I replied:
The far-outness on campus is real and has been at least since the 80s, when I attended [my alma mater]. It was 99% a left-wing phenomenon, but some ‘conservatives’ got in the act too by pretending to be victims and marginalized on campus. Most of the stuff that happened at school back then would count as funny and charming today.
As to how this has happened, there are many explanations. My theory is the hormonal theory, which calls attention to social and sexual factors. Essentially, leftism is much cooler and sexier than conservatism or moderation or classical liberalism. As a result, the most radical people on campus will tend to attain social prominence. At [my alma mater], the ‘in crowd’ was composed of radical lesbian feminists. Conversely, heterosexual white males found themselves on the wrong side of history and thus could never be cool. As compensation for this uncoolness, the heterosexual white males had to present themselves as supercommunists in order to get any attention and acceptance at all. In my case, having crushes on the lizzies made the problem worse. (Actually, it goes back farther than that. Even in high school, I found that the more radical I sounded in class, the more attention I would get, from girls and also from teachers. Either way I was greatly encouraged.) The male college student trying to get laid by lesbians writes paper after paper, each more pinko than the last. If he becomes an academic himself, he’s already developed habits of thinking and an academic specialty that cannot be so easily changed. On campus or off, if there is any kind of lefty ruckus going on, I guarantee that at the bottom of it is a middle-class, heterosexual, white male trying to get a feminist in the sack.
Heartfelt praise and gratitude, thou saucy soul who affixed the upside-down penis sticker to the mailbox down the street. You give me strength. You give me hope – hope that, even in these debased and conforming times, even as the road before me narrows, straightens, and becomes ever more monotonous, even as each day’s food and music tastes and sounds the same; still there frolics the subtle prankster, still there sports the creative, visionary vandal. You render the common unique. You alter the uniform, making it irregular and baroque. With you lurking, I have no fear. With you on the loose, I might relax. Bless thee, Holy Pervert, for by you, we are all saved.
Writing on flags is an underrated pastime. The American flag lends itself to sloganizing, owing to its college-ruled design; and the experience can be philosophical and meditative.
My favorite personalized flag is the Spinoza flag. Pictured above is my current version, finished today. It replaces one done a few years ago (pictured below), which became frayed. I found that the gold lettering didn’t show up very well.
The translation is “The purpose of the republic is freedom.” (Spinoza put in a few extra words.)
My wife, a superior artist, produced the following design on canvas:
The inscription comes from the Greek statesman Cleisthenes and is an injunction “Not to Notice the Tribes.”
The missus also is a better forger of Abraham Lincoln’s signature than I am:
By some miracle, a bookmark that I acquired in Taiwan in 1989 has remained in my possession, showing very little wear and tear, in spite of my indifference to it. I always thought it was cool – Its character style and the fact that it contains a quotation from Socrates are very evocative of Taiwan – but I never took any care of it. (After all, it’s just a bookmark.) Over the years, I occasionally employed it in its intended capacity, paying it no more mind than if it had been a shop receipt or piece of Kleenex, and then, the book read, I would leave it lying around for the next time. I don’t know how many places I’ve lived since 1989, but the bookmark survived them all.
Recently, while reading Jonathan Manthorpe’s Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan, I remembered the bookmark and decided that it would complete my experience. Then, after enjoying both book and bookmark, I resolved to make the latter a mandatory accompaniment to my upcoming immersion in Taiwanese fiction. With my determination fixed, I sought for the bookmark, to make sure everything was prepared; but I could not locate it. It was on no dusty nightstand or bookshelf, where it always was, where all the other bookmarks were. I checked my office, my car, and even less likely places, in increasing despair. I realized that it was an irreplaceable antique, of tremendous personal value, the central artifact of my youth. I felt bereft and aggrieved, like a man missing a limb. I slept very little.
The following morning, I dashed to my car and arrived at the library, well before opening. As soon as the door was unlocked, I charged inside and implored the young man at the circulation desk to search every cart where a book returned the previous day might be. Finding the Manthorpe on the fourth or fifth cart, I flipped through the pages and there found the object of my quest, preserved as though in amber. I returned home and, at the foot of my bed, wept tears of gratitude.
Here is what it says:
“The most promising successful people are not those who possess uncommon talent but are, rather, the ones who are most adept at exploiting every opportunity for self-development and discovery.”
1989 Campus Career Fair
Yesterday was the start of a new semester, a fact which would have dismayed me, were it not for the darkened sky and cold winter rain which blessed it and made it holy. I was so grateful for it I almost cried, and I embraced the day with hope and joy.
Listening to the lovely pattering on the roof of my car, it struck me that the rain is spiritually centripetal, drawing all who are affected by it into a community, gathering all of humanity under an umbrella. The dreadful sunshine, contrariwise, is centrifugal, casting us outward, atomized, each to his lonely own.
Blade Runner 2049 is as thought-provoking as the original and has already sent me to the Internet to test a few theories.
I think Philip K. Dick would have loved 2049, because it explores one of his signature concepts: the fake fake.
Of course, as good as 2049 is, it can’t, ah, replicate the feeling of being back in 1982, getting dazzled and mindfucked as only a sixteen year old can. I wonder what younger folks will make of it, whether it will become the film of their generation, as the original was to mine. I doubt that it will. The whole concept of a sequel is fake, and although 2049 is trying to be a fake fake, I suspect it will only succeed by a half, both for the Nexus 80s like me and for the Nexus Millennials.