Speech Is a Uniquely Human Quality

Max Muller, a pioneering 19th-century linguist at Oxford, read Darwin’s work and declared that the use of language was the gift that definitively separated human beings from the animal kingdom. It was, Muller said, “our Rubicon, and no brute will dare to cross it.” Nowadays, neo-Darwinians would dismiss mulish Muller as a “speciesist.”

Andrew Ferguson summarizes and reviews Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Speech for sympathetic readers. He condemns scientists who argue against non-scientists asking awkward questions they’d rather ignore and claim to deserve a respect they have yet to earn.  “Evolutionary theory is no closer than it was in Darwin’s day to explaining in materialist terms how traits like self-consciousness and language came to be.” (via Prufrock News)

Friday Fight: Battle Axe

They no longer teach axe skills in high school, but thankfully the Internet has it covered. This is a longer video than we normally post for the Friday Fight, but it will give you an idea of how demonstrators need to practice in order to fight each other safely.

Compare this to the fighting we see in these videos:

‘Vikings’ unearthed

I think I’ve written about the old TV show, Tales of the Vikings, here before. It formed the spark that first roused my interest in the Vikings. Judging by the clip below, which recently appeared on YouTube, it was about as cheesy as I figured.

According to the link, there are six extant episodes available on CD now from this site. I had been given to understand that all episodes had been lost forever. So this is good news. Except that I’m reluctant to order from an unknown site.

I probably will, though.

How Media Bias Influences Americans

Professor Tim Groseclose released a book in 2011 with his eight years’ of research into political biases in newsrooms and communities. He pushed for a way to quantify someone’s ideology–to slap a number on it–with as much accuracy as possible. As a result, he developed the political quotient (PQ).

” A person’s PQ indicates the degree to which he is liberal,” Groseclose explains. “For instance, as I have calculated, the PQs of Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) are approximately 100. Meanwhile the PQs of noted conservatives Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) are approximately 0.”

The main point of his book is that most media outlets are liberal, far more liberal than their readers and viewers. Naturally, their PQ comes through in their reporting, and their perspective is moving Americans in a liberal direction. Get a rather detailed overview in this lecture to an audience at the Cato Institute.

Media bias, he says, is largely in what is not reported, “true statements they are leaving out, not false statements they report.” He illustrates this by recalling a report on voter limitations, saying nothing in the article was a lie, but there were several things that should have been stated to give proper context for the truth. Also what the press chooses to report on and what to ignore shows their biases (Van Jones being a communist, for example).

If it were possible to remove the influence of media bias on Americans, what would the result be? Continue reading How Media Bias Influences Americans

‘Poisonfeather,’ by Matthew FitzSimmons


Gibson stopped him. “What do you think will happen now?”

The fisherman considered the question for a moment. “In Mandarin, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

“Is that true?”

The fisherman shook his head. “No, not exactly. It is just something that John F. Kennedy repeated because it sounded inspiring.”

I had read Matthew FitzSimmons’ The Short Drop, and enjoyed it. So I bought the sequel, Poisonfeather. But I’d forgotten what a really fine writer FitzSimmons is. Poisonfeather was a pleasure to read from front to back.

The villain this time out is Charles Merrick, a fallen Wall Street wizard (think Bernie Madoff but even nastier) now residing in a fairly cushy federal prison. He’s been in for eight years, and is due to be released soon. Many people were shocked at his short sentence, but there’s a secret explanation. Merrick knew the identity of a CIA mole working in China, which gave him leverage to do a deal with the feds.

Many people, some greedy, some Merrick’s victims, suspect he still has a lot of money squirreled away somewhere (they are correct). A large number have gathered in the moribund town of Niobe, where the prison is located, to intercept him when he goes free. Continue reading ‘Poisonfeather,’ by Matthew FitzSimmons

How the Normans Ruined the British Isles for a Thousand Years

Battle of Hastings reenactment 2006

October 14 was the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. Peter Konieczy of the University of Toronto offers three reasons why this was not a typical medieval battle. One reason was that the Normans and the English were evenly matched.

We can read some of the battle’s details in this post on a French poetic account, Estoire des Engleis History of the English, by Geoffrey Gaimar. It includes a part about a Norman juggler who demonstrated his spear skills before the English army.

Konieczy also touches on how the Normans meddled with the Irish several decades later, never fully conquering them, and by 1180, “would leave the island unstable and divided.”

Sacramone on the calendar.

Our friend Anthony Sacramone has mostly “gone dark” on the World Wide Woof these days, but occasionally he pops up to trouble our peace. I was directed to this article which appeared at The Federalist today. In it he describes the Gregorian calendar reforms, in terms sometimes reminiscent of his glory days at “Dr. Luther at the Movies”:

Many people thought their lives were being shortened by 10 days and started doubling up on their retirement contributions. The pious worried that saints might not listen to prayers that came 10 days “later” than the traditional saints’ days (saints being a petulant and petty bunch). Everyone’s birthday moved to a calendar date 10 days later, ruining party plans like nobody’s business. Rents, interest, and wages had to be recalculated for a month that had a mere 21 days. Boy, people were stupid back then.

The stalwart Prots in Britain and the Colonies held out for the old ways until 1752, at which point everyone woke up 10 days late for work. And those dentist appointments it took so long to book? Well, these are Brits. What dentist appointments?

Edwardian Ghost Stories

Nicholas Lezard recommends the ghost stories of EF Benson (1867-1940).

When I reread “Caterpillars”, for the first time in four decades, I very quickly regretted that I had chosen to do so at night. Gatiss, in his introduction, says that it is “perhaps a ghost story like no other”, and he’s not wrong: it’s the kind of story that leaves one feeling almost unclean, checking clothes and body for vermin.

(via Prufrock News)

‘Darkest Fear,’ by Harlan Coben

Darkest Fear

Her blue-black hair fell in big, loose curls, like thermal fax paper fresh out of the machine.

This is more like it.

I positively reviewed Harlan Coben’s latest Myron Bolitar novel, Home, a few days back. My only real quibble with the book was that the author seemed to be taking particular pains to virtue-signal – to demonstrate very obviously his politically acceptable views on gay marriage and cultural appropriation.

This earlier novel, Darkest Fear, avoids most of that. It’s just a fun mystery/thriller.

This time out, Myron is contacted by an old girlfriend, to whom he has no desire to talk. Not only did she break his heart years ago, but she broke it in favor of the guy who was responsible for the knee injury that ended Myron’s basketball career before it started. But now she insists on seeing him. She has a teenaged son who suffers from a fatal bone marrow disease. Only a marrow transplant can save him. One genetic match has been found in this country, but that person has inexplicably dropped off the grid.

Oh, and one further thing – Myron is actually the boy’s natural father.

Myron picks up the quest, which leads to a wealthy and secretive family, and to a series of unsolved serial killings. Several people may be the real killer – and the killer may even be the donor.

Darkest Fear is a fun story, full of excitement, humor, and heart. I enjoyed it immensely. Language is relatively mild, and adult situations not too extreme.

The ‘Well-listened and Well-read’ Diana Krall

In 1995, Terry Teachout wrote the first article for jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall for a national publication. He talks about it and shares his thoughts in a post today.

Twenty years after we met, Diana sent me an e-mail thanking me for writing about her in the Journal. “Of all the many pieces I’ve written through the years, I think I might just be proudest of that one,” I replied. “It means the world to me to know that I was able to help when it mattered.”

From that piece, Teachout offers a reason for calling Krall “well-listened and well-read.”

Like so many younger musicians, Ms. Krall is intensely aware of jazz’s rich tradition, and knowledgeable about it. “My idea of a fun evening,” she says, “is to just sit around with my records and put on one after another: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Miles Davis—anything I can get my hands on, really.”

Black Preaching Transformed America

The genius of African American preaching, I have learned, can transform not only individual believers but our entire country.”

I’m sure Frank Thomas could makes many good points on how “African American preaching, in all of its beauty, depth and history, can once again change the perspective of this nation,” but I fear we may have fundamental disagreements–particularly how it isn’t the style but the Word of God itself that transforms. Still, I don’t doubt that if the Lord would lift up many Black pastors to proclaim the gospel to our nation, we would be renewed.

Perhaps, this message from Pastor H.B. Charles Jr. would be a good example of the style Thomas is talking about.

Christopher Robin Made Peace with Pooh

Gyles Brandreth wrote about his friendship with Christopher Robin a few decades ago. He says it was boarding school bullying that put Robin off of his childhood fame, at least at the start, but many years later, he made peace with it.

“Of course we must talk about Pooh.” He had a mischievous twinkle. “It’s been something of a love-hate relationship down the years, but it’s all right now.”

“Now we are sixty,” I said.

He laughed. “Yes, believe it or not, I can look at those four books without flinching. I’m quite fond of them really.”

It’s Winnie-the-Pooh’s 90th anniversary today, and for the occasion, four new stories have been written and new illustrations drawn, some of which include a new character in the Hundred Acre Wood. (via Prufrock News)

The Real Nat Turner

Justin Taylor explores many details in the true story behind the new movie The Birth of a Nation, which one history professor called “a deeply flawed, historically inaccurate movie that exploits and distorts Nat Turner’s story and the history of slavery in America.”

According to his own testimony, Nat Turner appears to have been a strong, intelligent man who could not be subdued by a slave economy. He was gifted and believed he was called by God to lead a righteous war against slave owners. Reading his spiritual account, you could say he was powerfully deceived, but you might also say a brilliant and spiritually sensitive man can be twisted and perverted when shackled by oppression. Not that any motive or character study would justify the murder he and his allies committed, but the slavery in which they lived cannot be justified either. Four times as many slaves were murdered in retribution to Nat Turner’s revolt as whites were murdered by the revolt, which speaks to the war-like nature of the whole affair. This wasn’t a just war nor was it followed by a just condemnation.

Recommended reading ends the post.

History professor Vanessa M. Holden, in the past linked from Taylor’s, says, “Parker’s movie is important. Its independent roots and blockbuster distribution deal are significant in an industry that still grapples with racism. It also draws the public’s attention to a history that has no white saviors or triumphant endings. The character Turner is not long suffering; he springs into violent action as soon as he becomes aware of slavery’s brutality and validates his claim to humanity and freedom, just as the historical Turner did, through a radicalized Christianity. But the license that Parker took in an effort to craft his heroic version of Turner ultimately strips away too much valuable context.”


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