29 March 2009
Styles of clothing come and go, but one constant applied throughout all history until just a few decades ago: people always wanted to look their best to be seen in public. Now, by contrast, the object in dressing seems to be to get away with as much slovenliness as is socially permissible. (The phenomenon is not confined to the sphere of clothing, but extends also to the tacky fad of going unshaven—I refer to men, not to women, although, if women are shaving their legs less frequently, this would explain why they also wear trousers so often these days—and to the degeneration of our language into what I call Vulgar English. To elaborate fully on the second point would require another Fifth Column; let me say only that many of the best-educated persons of our day make syntactical and grammatical errors that would have embarrassed a college undergraduate in previous centuries.)
This doesn't mean that no sense of fashion exists, but the primary recent vogue (unless one counts the overdone-casualness itself), i.e., the baring of more and more flesh, certainly is a shoddy substitute for what was considered chic in former times. This is a kind of low comedy that elicits no laughter, but it's also lamentable: after all, wearing modest but aesthetically pleasing clothes adds charm and grace to life, and those are two qualities in short supply these days.
27 March 2009
As was true when Clinton was in the Oval Office, I find myself agreeing with much of what the President says, but none of what he does.
Usury (lending at interest) was formerly considered a sin, and perhaps it still ought to be; nonetheless, it's about time that we refrained from damning bankers as sadists who delight in foreclosing on retirement homes and orphanages. Commercial affairs hold little interest for me, but it's become clear that the fiscal fiasco that gave birth to this recession resulted at least in part from banks' being politically coerced by congressmen like Barney Frank, and bullied by community-organizing Nazis like the ACORNs, into riskily lending money to home-buyers with bad credit ratings merely because they belonged to ethnic minorities; when too many of these customers defaulted on repayment, the banks failed. The prime lesson that we ought to have learned, therefore, is that one can deny a loan for a reason that has nothing to do with greed or heartlessness. Reviving—note that I didn't say "stimulating"—the economy, along with desisting from judgementalism about those who have more money than we, is in our own interest as well as that of bankers.
24 March 2009
Here's an important page that everyone ought to see; to go there, "clicquez-vous" (as French-speakers say) the title of this posting. Heroes are not really lacking in the world today; one just has to know where to look for them.
13 March 2009
Contrary to the current priggishness in pursuit of gender-neutral language, there's no reason to constantly be writing or saying "his or her," "he or she," &c., when referring to a mixed crowd or to someone whose sex is unspecified. If you bother to look up "he" in a dictionary, you'll discover that it applies not only to a male, but also to (quoting the specific edition that I own) "the person; the one; anyone." (Whereas "him or her," et al., are merely cumbersome, "they," "their," or "them" is misused in this context. In a commonly-heard sentence such as "Everyone brings their pet bandicoots," "everyone" is singular, but "their," which stands for the same noun, is plural, and thus wrong.) Similarly, at the same dictionary's entry for "man," you have to go down to definition 3a before finding "an adult male human being." (Interestingly, the etymology section states that the Indo-European base of this word may be akin to the reconstructed root "men-," meaning "to think," whence such English words as "mental" and "mind"; therefore, if you insist upon using "man" only for the masculine sex, you could be literally saying that a woman is not a thinking being.) Again, as a suffix, "-man" is listed as "a combining form meaning man or person…."
English is already one of the most gender-neutral tongues that there are, which makes the mania for inclusive terminology all the more bizarre. "Political correctness" should never trump grammatical correctness.