Arimathea
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Philosophy
All wisdom begins in wonder, and this delight kindles a desire for truth that leads us on a quest for the really real -- the source of being itself. Hence, the philosophical impulse, albeit often manifested in atheistic and irreverent stumblings in the dark of human ignorance, begins and ultimately ends in theology -- communicating and communing with our origin and goal. We men are rational animals who seek to know. We are agents of truth who want correct answers to questions that we must ask. From the noblest objects of contemplation to the seemingly insignificant everyday trivialities of life, we attempt to unravel perplexing knots. Limited, blind, and distracted, we nevertheless struggle for wisdom. This is our lot, and it is also our glory.
Wednesday, April 27, A.D. 2011
An Old Bench

Happy Bright Wednesday! Christ is risen!

The Associated Press published a story a few weeks ago that made me smile. U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown, a Kansan at one hundred and three years old whom President Kennedy appointed to the federal bench, exemplifies old school values as he continues to work every day:

Of the 1,294 sitting federal judges, Brown is one of 516 on “senior status,” a form of semi-retirement that allows a judge to collect his salary but work at a reduced case level if he chooses. They handle almost a quarter of federal district trials.

And no one alive has logged more service than Brown, who took senior status in 1979 but still worked fulltime until recently. In March, he stopped taking new criminal cases and lightened his case load a bit. He still takes his full share of the new civil cases.

“I do it to be a public service,” Brown said. “You got to have a reason to live. As long as you perform a public service, you have a reason to live.”

Brown gets a ride to the federal courthouse at 8:30 a.m. every workday from the assisted living center where he lives. Until he was in his 90s, he climbed the stairs to his fourth-floor chambers. He works until about 3 p.m. presiding over hearings, reading court filings and discussing cases with his law clerks who handle the legal research.

We hear so many tales of public workers who fleece the body politic, it is refreshing to see men with true civic dedication. Read his story on N.P.R., “Federal judge, 103, still hearing cases in Kansas.” Many years, Judge Brown, many more years to you!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, April 27, Anno Domini 2011
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Tuesday, April 26, A.D. 2011
Faces of Man

Happy Bright Tuesday! Christ is risen!

The Postnational Monitor has posted several entries on “face averages.” I do not know how it works, but there is computer software that combines pictures of human faces and “averages” them. You may evidently average any facial set that you wish, and the posts mostly deal with national sets. The results are rather attractive, as the averaging process smoothes out the blemishes and facial assymetry that we usually find ugly. By considering national sets, we are able to see the facial particularities of the different ethnicities. In the following posts, you can see the composites for various nations of the continent or region listed.

Europe

The Americas

The Middle East to the Subcontinent

The Orient

Africa

Dienekes’ Anthropology blog has scores more posts about facial averages.

You may also see composites for more selective groups. Consider the average modern actor:

Or the “hot celeb”:

Or the average Bollywood actress:

All facial composites are average, but some facial composites are more average than others.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, April 26, Anno Domini 2011
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Tuesday, April 12, A.D. 2011
Jay Nordlinger’s Impromptus

Like many conservatives, I have been disappointed by the slow slide leftward of the National Review. I do not know if Buckley’s spiritual children have gone native among the Leftists who dominate the media, the academy, and the state or if those wily former Trotskyite neocons have infiltrated and transformed the erstwhile conservative publication from within. It could just be a case of a loss of vigilance, thereby ironically manifesting O’Sullivan’s First Law. Nonetheless, I still find many jewels among the mire. I appreciate Andrew McCarthy’s refreshing honesty and insight, I devotedly listen to John Derbyshire’s weekly webcasts, and I enjoy Jay Nordlinger’s “Impromptus.” These are interesting, short notes that often relate to recent headline stories but sometimes offer a needed respite from l’idiotie quotidienne. Last month, for instance, Nordlinger wrote:

Not long ago, I was in Norway, talking with some politicos — right of center. (Well, in Norway, you could be a socialist, and still be right of center. I mean “right of center” even in American terms.) I said, “Obama is the perfect American president for the Norwegian political culture, isn’t he? I mean, no wonder they gave him the Nobel prize. He’s left-wing, he apologizes for America, he wants a more Norwegian-like state, he’s pro-abortion, he’s anti-Israel, he venerates the U.N. — he’s even black. He’s perfect.”

One of the Norwegians said, “No, he could be gay. Then he’d be perfect.” I said, “I stand corrected, my friend.”

and

In a recent column — or some Corner posts, or both — I spoke of graciousness among colleagues (basically). Tell you what I mean. I recalled what the pianist Gilels said, when he first toured the United States: “Wait’ll you hear Richter.” And I told the story about Caruso and McCormack. (One says, “It’s an honor to meet the world’s greatest tenor.” The other says, “I was just going to say the same thing.”)

My friend Robert Marshall, the eminent musicologist, sent a note about Haydn and Mozart. They admired each other tremendously, and praised each other to the skies. Marshall thinks there may be nothing else quite like it in history. Often, a big artist feels comfortable praising someone long dead — not someone alive, kicking, and working.

Marshall writes,

You remember Haydn’s famous praise of Mozart, expressed personally in 1785 to Leopold [Mozart’s father] (who naturally — and surely expectedly — passed it on to Wolfgang): “Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me,” etc. That same year, Wolfgang published those six incredible string quartets, accompanied by a most flattering dedication to Haydn — the kind of public tribute musicians typically addressed to patrons and aristocrats, not to colleagues.

I then recalled something Lorin Maazel said to me, in an interview. (Maazel is one of the leading conductors in the world.) (Not talking trains.) I forget how this came up. But Maazel said, “At the highest level, there is no envy or rivalry, only mutual esteem.” Marshall then remembered a colleague of his at the University of Chicago: Edward Lowinsky.

The issue was faculty recruitment (which can be very, very touchy). Lowinsky said, “First-rate people want first-rate colleagues; second-rate people want fifth-rate colleagues.”

That strikes me as very true.

Nordlinger always informs and often delights. He represents conservatism well in that he frequently addresses larger cultural issues; man ought not to be reduced to homo electorus. Small minded partisan fever is indigenous to the ideological Left; let us always breathe fresh air and remind ourselves that “politics” in its mean, American sense is not worth the full attention of decent human beings.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, April 12, Anno Domini 2011
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