Essays in Idleness


Month: October, 2012

Aphorisms of Don Colacho

Here are some aphorisms of the Colombian thinker, Nicolás Gómez Dávila (“Don Colacho,” 1913–1994), whose compendium, Escolios a un texto implícito, is among the significant documents of the 20th century. His work had been translated into many European languages, but not English; a gentleman named “Stephen” in Irving, Texas, is remedying this defect by posting […]

The open pit

In the future, anyone opposed to the open society will be arrested, in the West. In the Middle East, perhaps only those who oppose the Islamic open society will be arrested; & in China, only the opponents of the Politburo’s. A big talk piece by David Rieff in National Interest has prompted this observation. Rieff, […]

Jacques Barzun

One hundred & four is not a bad age for a human to attain, though it seemed to us that Jacques Barzun was much older. America’s leading public intellectual was, from what we can make out, already quite mature when he came to the U.S. at age thirteen — put into prep school there by […]

A car or a baby?

Given the choice between a car & a baby, which would gentle reader pick? We are supposing, of course, the “right to choose,” & it is your call entirely. Let us try not to be too utilitarian about this, for use is often in the eye of the beholder; let us consider the matter in […]

The culinary symbolist

An aspect of cookery we think indefensibly neglected, is the symbolism of ingredients. This is of course vastly too large a topic to be more than touched upon; but up here in the kitchen of the High Doganate, where we try to maintain the liturgical attitude, we allow the ingredients to speak to us. For […]

Violence around women

Men are more violent than women. That is the conventional view, at least among men, & radical feminists. But those familiar with women will know the case is not secure. True, we have met women who were to appearance of a pacific nature, but then, we have met plenty of harmless men. (More, probably.) The […]

The majestic plural

We have been asked, by correspondents twa, to abandon the pluralis maiestatis. Both queries were from Americans who find the practice unbearably arch. It was abandoned two Popes ago at Rome, & by the present Queen in England soon after she ascended (only then to be parodied for, “My husband & I”). It is condemned […]

Manuscript extractions

We share Robert Bork’s view of the Israeli Supreme Court — that it is the most liberal, activist, interventionist thing in the Orion-Cygnus Arm of the Milky Way — & stood ready to condemn it with a jerk of our knee, until we realized that the offending Judgment came from the Tel Aviv district family […]

Bats & the philosophers

Thomas Nagel’s latest work must have some merit: it has created a stir in the belfries. The book is, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. The author is the celebrated, John Rawls-trained, atheist and empiricist perfesser of philosophy and law at New York University. I last checked […]

From Paul, via Ephesus

There is so much said in the six short chapters of the Epistle to the Ephesians, that we cannot pretend to understand it all. Yet in outline, and essential message, it is plain sailing. There is an intense prologue, in two extremely long and involved Greek sentences, amounting to a hymn. This recounts the Blessing […]

Up & about with Bill Tilman

One of the greatest pleasures in life, for those who were taught to read in childhood, is falling upon an unread book by a much-loved author. This happened to me, and if I add the scrupulously bibulous celebration of an old friend’s seventy-fifth birthday (now ten years retired as the last competent drawing master in […]

Why bats are often happier than poets

“We are using our own skins for wallpaper, and we cannot win.” This was among the quotes we had on our office wall, in the old days at the Idler maga. Since media mediocrities are currently obsessed with issues of attribution and plagiarism, let me quickly admit that I knicked this line from John Berryman […]

Comparative intelligence

Crows are very clever; laboratory bird testers, not so much. Here, a simple case of correlation is presented as inference of a hidden causal agent. Crows have been acing correlation tests since the day God created them. (One indication of how intelligent they are: I have never seen a crow reading Discover magazine.) They can […]