Stolen* from author William Gibson’s not very lively weblog (like I’m one to talk), a prescient quote from H.L. Mencken, who was always happy to dump on the democratic process, but probably thought he was talking about Warren Harding:
In small areas, before small electorates, the first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide…the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre… The presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people… On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a moron.
—H.L. Mencken, writing in the Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920
*In standard weblog parlance, I should really say this post was yoinked, or ganked, rather than stolen. Both words mean “lifted from somewhere else.” Yoink is, like a good one-third of all communication between Generation Xers, a Simpsons reference. I don’t know the etymology of gank, though the handy Urban Dictionary confirms the definition and offers a few variants.
I’ve put up a list of my old papers and articles on the Research section of this site. Abstracts for many of them are on line, and I’ll get the others up soon. (If you’re looking for beach reading, all of the papers, even my dissertation, are available on request.)
I have to get some new content into the weblog part of this site too so it doesn’t turn into the “my grandfather died in World War II” website. But my mother and one of my cousins sent me a few more things about the story I posted for Remembrance Day, and I couldn’t help but mention them.
(Had it occurred to me that my parents would share the link to this entry with a bunch of our relatives, I might have left out the bit about Hitler’s lost testicle. Doesn’t seem like the most respectful digression. It could be worse, mind you: I could have linked to the picture from Garth Ennis’ off-color war comic, Operation Bollock, where the titular testicle, swollen with occult power, blots out the sun. Actually, who am I kidding? Most of my family would have loved that. The only real reason I’m not linking to that picture is that I can’t find it.)
Sometimes the story of a historical source is more interesting than the actual information it contains. Here are two little eight-page booklets, yellowed with age, that my parents received in the mail in January 2001. (Click on the booklets to see their contents.)
(Originally published on my old LiveJournal.)
I’m sorry, Mike, but everybody gets at least one dejected post-election post.
I am not surprised by the outcome. This is pretty much exactly what I’ve been expecting since Howard Dean screamed in Iowa, if not before. Which is not to say “I told you so”, because a) who needs that shit? and b) I tried to make a point of not telling anyone so. But no, I’m not surprised by the outcome.
I am surprised by how much it hurt. At some point in the last four years, without really realizing it, I must have started thinking of the United States as my country too. At some point, American politics became my own deal, and not just a zany Hollywood blockbuster action spectacle mounted for my wry amusement. “To the thinking man, life is a comedy; to the feeling man, life is a tragedy.” I envy my fellow Canadians back home that cozy Hudson’s Bay blanket of ironic detachment I misplaced somewhere along the way.
Yesterday was our weekly luncheon with various fellows of the Academy. Of course, we talked about the election. I note in retrospect that all the Academy postdocs (who are smart liberal 30-year-olds) were, at noon yesterday, pretty optimistic for a Kerry victory, thanks to exit polls and Zogby and ” promised!” But all the Academy fellows (who are smart liberal 80-year-olds) were decidedly not. There’s something to be learned there.
Ah, well. We find solace where we can: The long view (a historian’s best friend), silly role-playing games, and John Harvard’s tonight at 6pm. Be there!
Edit: God bless Jim Carroll, who just made me feel a little better. And I changed the wording above because it sounded like I wasn’t Canadian any more. I still am. More than ever.
As you might have guessed from the subtitle of this weblog, I am amused by declarations of the form “X is the new Y.” I have lately been informed, for example, that organic is the new kosher, Google is the new Netscape, quiet is the new loud, Clarendon font is the new Helvetica, chili fries are the new onion rings (Lisa rendered this verdict, but neglected to provide a link), Thursday is the new Friday, but Friday, once the new Saturday, is now the new Tuesday, and everything you can possibly think of, from anal sex to zombies, is the new black.
I was less amused to learn that, according to the Boston Globe, “getting organized is the new dieting.” I am pretty much immune to the siren song of dieting fads and gurus. But I cannot say the same thing about my resistance to the peddlers of organizational devices and schemes.