Plumb Lines

May 29, 2009

No Two Things Are Alike Bonus Round: The Young Con Anthem

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael E. van Landingham @ 5:00 pm

I know I’ll be writing a regular edition of this feature on Monday, but I couldn’t resist. No, Stiltz and Serious C, the Young Cons, are not the hottest new rap group with a variant of “young” in their name since Young Jeezy or Yung Joc. They do have a rap video out, though. I figured I’d tackle this pitiful attempt at hip-hop conservatism since I enjoy constructing discourses on the issue and because part of the writers on this site care about conservatism.

I certainly don’t know who these fellows are, but I believe they have more of a future at the Heritage Foundation than in the rap game. I am hesitant even to place the Anthem’s beat into a genre, because its sweeping scale yet minimal scope confine it within a genre of introductory tracks to mix-tapes not seen since 1999. If I had to date it, I would say turn-of-the-century Mannie Fresh vintage with a bit of Scott Storch flair. From a technical perspective, too, their rhymes are lazy, sloppy, and poorly doubled to render a richer sound. Since the two recorded in a bathroom, however, it cancels out the exaggerated effect that hip-hop has pioneered. The pair’s delivery is off, rhythm is horrid, and at best they rise to a level of pedestrian rap only rivaled by “Do da Stanky Legg.” I think the best moment is when the tall gentleman, Stiltz, raps about being a tall gentleman.

Artistic concerns aside, these two are ideological dilettanti. It is quite clear they are being ironical—the blazers give that away. They are denigrating rap  instead of trying to use it as a means to communicate with youth. The video attempts to present tired planks of the GOP platform as attractive to young people, letting us know that Republicans can joke around, too. Yet their serious raps about abortion, the “blood of the troops,” and supporting torture are out of place in an otherwise whimsical medium. Also, they repeat “socialism” like a rapper might interject an epithet. Kind of like if Mark Levin wrote a rap and Rush Limbaugh composed the beat.

Something could have saved this (apparent) joke. Better verses and a sense of humor would have helped. In its current state the video represents the contemporary Republican party as a whole: tired, uncreative, and dizzyingly repugnant. Play them off, keyboard cat!

-Michael E. van Landingham


Why Gay Marriage Opponents Don’t Seem to Have Any Arguments

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 2:54 pm

Jonathan Chait has written a piece on opponents of gay marriage that departs refreshingly from the usual self-satisfied tone of such pieces:

The ubiquity of this hollow formulation tells us something about the state of anti-gay-marriage thought. It’s a body of opinion held largely by people who either don’t know why they oppose gay marriage or don’t feel comfortable explicating their case.

Chait pinpoints what has been the most interesting feature of the gay-marriage debate, namely the inability of opponents to articulate their reasons for opposition. Chait doesn’t try to psychologize gay-marriage opponents, which is a welcome relief from those who assume that bigotry — or fear, as Andrew Sullivan believes — entirely explains the oddness of anti-gay-marriage arguments — or non-arguments, as they may be. Chait’s next sentence hints at the real source of the oddness, which is our odd political system:

In a liberal society, consenting adults are presumed to be able to do as they like, and it is incumbent upon opponents of any such freedom to demonstrate some wider harm.

Marrying someone isn’t quite the same thing as doing what you like. The Supreme Court has ruled that consenting adults can do whatever they want in the bedroom, homo- or hetero-, and most Americans, I think, have no problems with this freedom. Marriage is different. It is a cultural and legal artifact. Same-sex couples who seek to marry are not seeking freedom to do whatever it is they consent to do as a couple, but recognition that their union is worthy of public affirmation by means of a cultural construct designed exactly to recognize some sexual unions as worthy of public affirmation.  Recognition really is the central issue, as Prop 8 demonstrated. In question was not the civil-union arrangements that duplicate the substantive state benefits of marriage, but the word “marriage” itself.

Opposition to gay marriage, inarticulate though it is, stems from this fact. The inability to articulate any reasons why same-sex marriage should not be institutionalized  is due to the inability of our political system to understand cultural institutions. We are capable of arguing about whether our government should treat everyone with merely formal or fully substantial equality — this is what arguments about affirmative action are about — but we are not capable of arguing about institutions that are simply ours — ours to destroy, modify or preserve, because they are part of our culture, and belong to us. And so when one side stakes out a claim that makes reference to fairness, equality, and liberty, the other side, inarticulately uncomfortable, unable to make arguments about cultural artifacts, is tongue-tied.

David Schaengold

May 28, 2009

Confessional Politics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 9:50 am

Michael has pointed out that some abuse photos show acts never before seen and wonders how this affects my earlier argument against their release. In response, I would say that while the Muslim world does not in many respects resemble a crowded theater,  releasing these photos would be like entering one and yelling “Fire!” At the same time, I continue to think that perpetuating lies will not, in the end, save lives. The truth about American misdeeds should be outed.

How to balance these imperatives? The solution I would favor would have President Obama or a military official issue a report containing a fairly detailed catalog of the types of abuses and crimes depicted in the unreleased photos but not containing the photos themselves.  The advantage, of such an approach is that it shows America’s readiness to admit what went wrong but also respects the prudential concern to not incite violence against Americans. This American confession would mirror the practice of reconciliation employed in the Catholic Church. Sinners can inform the priest of the type and number of their sins, but they usually won’t find it necessary to offer extensive graphic detail. This might not lead to emotional catharsis, but it can promote the truth without precluding reconciliation.

-Matthew Schmitz

The Unreleased Abu Ghraib Photographs, Ctd.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael E. van Landingham @ 6:46 am

According to The Telegraph, some of the Abu Ghraib photos that the Obama administration is refusing to release contain images of rape and sexual assault. Matt?

-Michael E. van Landingham

May 27, 2009

Sacred Chelsea

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 4:00 pm

Matthew Milliner writes a charming account of a recent trip to Chelsea’s art galleries:

Duane Hanson’s painstakingly crafted trompe l’oueil mannequins of life-sized overweight American tourists stood in blank white rooms, complete with floral pattern shirts, dangling cameras and uneven patches of sunburn. The exhibit served as a sort of art world threshold, marking a border between profane and sacred as clear as any Byzantine iconastasis. The sculptures seemed to suggest that by strolling the Manhattan gallery scene, you—art lover—are leaving such uncultured creatures behind.


Where Art Occurs

Milliner’s point about the sacralizing effect of the exhibit space is tremendously important. I sometimes feel that visual art since Duchamp has been living a curiously dual existence. On the one hand, Duchamp was famous for work that drew attention to the sacralizing effect of museums. Merely by placing objects in museums, I can make them art, his readymades say, which is tantamount to a practical deconstruction of museums as institutions. Foucault could scarcely have done better in a thousand painfully researched pages. On the other hand, while contemporary artists are indebted in every way to Duchamp, the effect on the contemporary art world has been not the destruction of the sacralizing art-space but its vindication and triumph. Visual art has become not less but more architecturally situated — which, since we are bodily beings, means socially situated. Contemporary art could very nearly be defined exhaustively as “that which happens in contemporary art galleries.” The significance of the work is provided not by any inherent quality, but by its social and architectural situation. It happens in Chelsea, and is enjoyed by artsy types, and is therefore given the holy name of art.

David Schaengold

Star Trek Individualism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 2:05 pm

Writing in the comments of my previous Star Trek post, Tracy Altman has made an observation that may pain some fans of Trek:

Six or eight months ago, I started toying around with the idea that Star Trek was both paradigmatic and symptomatic of an individualistic society in which commitment to any kind of traidtion is eschewed. Think about it: where does Trek find its ideal society? Not on any particular planet–the planets are invariably the locations of primitive, corrupt, and/or dysfunctional societies, and often of repressive regimes–but rather on a free-floating starship, with (literally) no ties to any of the planets it encounters. It’s a literal utopia, located in the literal no-place of space. It has little if any history to which it has to answer, and little if any posterity for which it has to plan. The starship is just the modern “self,” and the society on board is the contemporary ideal of a society in which everybody is merely free to “be him/herself,” wherever and whenever.

The one major check on this, of course, is the Prime Directive, which is a purely negative command: DON’T impose our society on other societies; DON’T interfere. It epitomizes what has become the cardinal virtue of contemporary ethics: not the positive virtue of love (caritas), but the purely negative one of harmlessness.

The only thing I would add is that in almost every episode the crew of the Enterprise ends up breaking the Prime Directive. Captain Kirk is the great interplanetary rule-breaker, someone who represents our society in his unwillingness to make sacrifices or to recognize the existence of no-win situations such as the “Kobiyashi Maru.” This is why he’s such a classically American character. He’s a product of a society that wants low taxes and a broad social safety net, traditional community and huge box stores.

Trek’s individualist tendencies are tempered a bit in The Next Generation. In that installment of the series, the starship is a floating colony accommodating whole families, not just a ship of hyper-individualists in tights and mini skirts.

Update: Tracy has some more great observations in the comments on this post.

Matthew Schmitz

If You Really Hate Rush, Stop the Attacks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 10:07 am

You may remember the White House’s strategy of purposefully engaging and provoking Rush Limbaugh in order to make him the public face if not the actual head of the Republican Party. This has sparked a rather involved and nasty exchange between, on the one hand, David Frum, Conor Friedersdorf, and Rod Dreher, and, on the other hand, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin. To get a sense of how involved this has become, see Friedersdorf’s summary of the latest round:

It began when I criticized Mark Levin, prompting David Frum and Rod Dreher to pile on. Enter Dan Reihl, who defended Mr. Levin. Incredulous, I challenged Mr. Riehl to a debate, offering an opening salvo here, and welcoming his rebuttal.

That’s when things got interesting . . .

If the goal of Conor and others who have attacked talk radio is to save the Republican Party,  I’m at a loss as to how this helps. By going after these talk radio personas, they are merely raising their profiles as the embattled defenders of “authentic” conservatism. Having Rush’s face on the cover of Newsweek, especially for a very negative article, only increases his reputation among his supporters and his legend among media types. It does much, much less to help the Republican Party, conservatism, or anyone else other than David Frum, who can build a reputation as the anti-Rush.  If Frum and Friedersdorf do want a conservatism that can win again, I think they would be well-advised to find enemies who do not have everything to gain by being attacked.

-Matthew Schmitz

May 26, 2009

Is Star Trek the First Movie About the 2008 Election?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 4:31 pm


A series of cataclysmic events leads to the annihilation of a war-mongering elite. All that remains is a rogue group of working-class types who are motivated by racial resentment, obsessed with drilling, and led by a balding, blue-collar spokesman. Not only does this describe the 2008 GOP — the party of Joe the Plumber, “Drill, baby, drill,” and supposed anti-intellectualism — it also describes the Romulan villains of the latest Star Trek film.

In the movie the Romulan home world is blown up by a supernova, a cataclysm that recalls the successive electoral defeats of 2006 and 2008 that destroyed the Republican elite and allowed blue-collar avengers like Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber to take up its cause. The film’s villain is cast from this mold. He fights like a professional wrestler and talks like a truck driver. The most painfully obvious reference to the 2008 election is the fact that this villain decides to get back at his enemies–those damn liberals like the half-breed Mr. Spock and the hippies of the San Francisco-based Starfleet–by drilling to the core of Earth and Vulcan.

Star Trek has always been a political show, with the crew of the Enterprise an ideal of humanitarian liberalism. The original series showed a cold-war-style battle between the Federation and the Klingons, while The Next Generation depicted hopes for an end-of-history pax Americana. Gene Rodenberry, Star Trek’s creator, not only crafted a vision of the future, he helped create it by showing the first interracial kiss on American television.

How does the new film compare to the franchise’s past aspirations for relevance? The most striking thing may be the narrowing of the show’s ambition. Rather than provide an allegory for world affairs, the new Star Trek merely delivers a parsing of electoral politics. Perhaps its new motto should be: to timidly go where many pundits have gone before.

-Matthew Schmitz

The Modernist Mistake

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 1:58 pm

I have been reading Lewis Mumford columns in the New Yorker, which have been happily collected into paperback form. Mumford’s aesthetic judgment is always keen, but sometimes he uncritically accepts the modernist philosophy of building then regnant too uncritically. He writes approvingly, for instance, of a house built with windows flush to the outside wall, because this arrangement “maximizes interior space.” There is no pause to consider that it does not require modern technology to build a window flush with a wall, and therefore it is supremely unllikely that windows had been placed on a plane a few inches interior of the wall for centuries without any reason at all (the reasons are that windows don’t leak so easily when they’re inset, and more importantly that lips around window edges shade the interior in the Summer). Mumford’s failure to think this through was typical of his age, but we are still living with the costs of that age’s failure.

David Schaengold

A Polaroid Comeback?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael E. van Landingham @ 6:38 am

Hipsters worldwide rejoice.

-Michael E. van Landingham

May 25, 2009

Sympathy for the Debtor

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael E. van Landingham @ 8:59 am

There was a gripping article in the New York Times Magazine last week about economics reporter Edmund Andrews’ rapid descent into debt after the purchase of a dream home in the DC suburbs with his (second) dream wife. A preview of his upcoming book, Andrews gives a careful accounting of things we would be loath to disclose to the world—our salary, child support payments, clamoring need for cash, even our marital difficulties. One cannot help but be astonished at how this seemingly responsible, educated man let himself sink so low, nor get rid of the nagging feeling that if it could happen to him it could happen to anyone with the best of intentions. Beyond that, he arouses anger at the bankers who allowed him to spend money like Poe on payday.

In the careful picture he paints of how his new life with his new wife took a turn for the worse, leaving him reliant on credit cards and “really ugly” mortgages, Edwards leaves out one huge detail. His wife had filed for bankruptcy. Twice. Megan McArdle of The Atlantic got the scoop, and explains why this is a big deal:

This is really highly unusual.  For starters, the overwhelming majority of people who file bankruptcy do not make anything close to $100,000 a year–the standard estimate when the 2005 bankruptcy reform was passed was that about 80% of filers had household incomes below the median income in their state.  The number of affluent people who file twice is even smaller, and has presumably gone down since the 2005 filing largely eliminated abusive serial Chapter 13 filings, which used to be used, often by quite wealthy people, to forestall evictions or foreclosure.

The bankruptcy code requires filers to wait 8 years after a previous Chapter 7 discharge.  Barely four months after she became eligible, Patty Barreiro filed again.  And the filing shows some suggestion of strategic debt management.

Andrews wants us to feel bad for the plight of his new blended family, but this fact confirmed a strange feeling I had while reading his narrative. Throughout the excerpt, he portrays himself as hysterical over finances and his wife as rather blasée. He comes up with numerous excuses for her, that she “was a stay at home mom for awhile and out of the work force,” or that she lovingly buys Edwards new shirts. This exchange between the two of them also raised some questions on my side of the computer screen:

We were broke.

My stomach churning, I reached Patty on her cellphone as she was running errands. “We are out of money,” I snapped, skipping over any warm-up chat.

“What do you mean, we’re out of money?” she asked in bewilderment.

“I mean, I just checked my bank account, and we are out of money,” I repeated, my voice rising in panic. “We can’t buy anything!”


“How the hell could we have run through so much money so quickly?” I asked her accusingly.

Patty wasn’t sharing my shock. “I don’t know what’s going on,” she responded. “Let’s talk about it when you get home.”

While I have no doubt that his wife was certainly well-intentioned and extremely caring, that does not mean she was good with money. And the fact that she had a bankruptcy in her past, despite the reasons he misdirected to PBS in response to McArdle’s scoop, means he should have been cautious to trust her with any kind of debt. Indeed, even if the first bankruptcy was about taxes, you cannot get those discharged in the event they went unpaid for fraudulent reasons. Even if unable to pay for good reason, a tax court will most likely restructure your payments to the IRS. Furthermore, the second bankruptcy on her record, in which Andrews is not included, discharges more than just lawsuit debt.

So the bankruptcies are relevant for a conversation about how Andrews got up to his eyeballs in debt. He was no doubt encouraged by the “magical thinking” of his new wife who spurred him to spend recklessly despite his $3,000+ monthly alimony and child support payments from his previous marriage. Husbands and wives get each other into debt all the time, and while the credit crisis may have exacerbated the situation by permitting them greater access to credit the story is not one of someone getting lost in the sub-prime shuffle. He knew full well what he was getting into, but ignored the danger. My fiancée and I had to discuss finances as part of our Episcopalian marriage counseling, and I’m fairly confident she knows a great deal about my finances and fiscal savvy, as I do about hers.

I hope Andrews survives his foreclosure and his marriage is strong. I really do wish anyone struggling with debt well, especially those on the edge of losing homes. No one should go through that. But at the same time one shouldn’t try to discharge responsibility like so much unsecured debt in Chapter 7. At least he doesn’t live in Dubai; they have debtors’ jail there.

-Michael E. van Landingham

May 22, 2009

Why John McCain Would Have Been a One-Term President

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael E. van Landingham @ 3:04 pm

As a Bildeberg-Trilateralist he knew the world was going to end in December 2012 in accordance with the Mayan prophecy. David’s interesting post on the mysterious waste of money that are the Georgia “Guidestones” mentioned how some conspiracy theorists think the secret society that (obviously) created them will induce cataclysm in 2012. Honestly, I can’t fathom how people believe this stuff, but then again I’m an Illuminatus. Just in time to respond to the Guidestone schlock is a Slate article by Ron Rosenbaum about the whole end-of-the-world idiocy. Rosenbaum says this about appropriating pre-Columbian end-time prophecies:

The best cultural explanation I found for this flowering of idiocy said that New Age fads like the Hopi prophecy and [Mayan] 2012 are a kind of cultural colonialism in which white people endow the minorities they have wiped out or repressed with mystical powers made more mysterious by their virtual vanishing.

We killed them so that they live on in our memories, frightening the most gullible amongst us.

-Michael E. van Landingham

Awaiting the Apocalypse

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 11:33 am

If the survivors of the apocalypse speak Swahili, we’re in luck:

The strangest monument in America looms over a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia. Five massive slabs of polished granite rise out of the earth in a star pattern. The rocks are each 16 feet tall, with four of them weighing more than 20 tons apiece…instructions appear in eight languages ranging from English to Swahili and reflect a peculiar New Age ideology. Some are vaguely eugenic (guide reproduction wisely—improving fitness and diversity); others prescribe standard-issue hippie mysticism (prize truth—beauty—love—seeking harmony with the infinite).

David Schaengold

May 21, 2009

I Wish the Vatican Had Placed “Angels & Demons” under House Arrest

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael E. van Landingham @ 3:41 pm

Angels & Demons (2009)We’re not the type of blog to do film reviews. Sure, David reviews stills from the cinema, but that’s because he sees everything in such detail that a single movie review would take seven volumes in folio. I figure that since Angels & Demons is about cities, religion, and science, I might as well try, though. We did make reference to a Slate column discussing why the Vatican has had trouble ridding itself of the Illuminati conspiracy theory (permanent disclosure: I am an Illuminatus). E.D. Kain has some things to say about the novel, which is better than the Da Vinci Code, the sequel Dan Brown produced in order to recapture some of the heat he lost with the wickedly bad Deception Point.

Since I’m disclosing shocking secrets, here’s another one: I have read all of Dan Brown’s novels. He gave a gripping assembly my freshman year of boarding school, his alma mater, in which he played up the conspiracy and adventure of Angels & Demons but failed to mention that its prose makes R.L. Stine look like Dostoevsky.  So you can understand that a lot of us bought the book. He even used to come to the art openings at the gallery where I worked on campus. Then a few months after his last novel, a rip off (in spirit) of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, he became mega-famous and super-rich, moving out of his modest condo to an undisclosed beach house in New Hampshire like he was Salinger. (If anyone’s looking for signed first editions, I’m offering his complete oeuvre for a low price.) Disclosures are boring, and this is supposed to be a movie review, so onward!

Last night I decided that I didn’t need two hours of life, and Russian roulette has all but lost its charm after 9 months here. It was in that spirit I came to watch Angels & Demons. I was immediately pleased to see that Brown had impressed upon Ron Howard, the adaptation’s director, the need to hang “Exeter” over the fireplace in Dr. Robert Langdon’s Harvard office along with all manner of other symbolical trinkets from around the world. This was the last time I was pleased.

You see, Langdon (played by Forrest Gump alumnus Tom Hanks) is whip-smart because he reduces religion to symbols and compares those symbols to paganism and other cultures. And did we mention he’s a Harvard professor who went to Exeter? There’s also a lady scientist with an Italian accent who holds an advanced degree in fancy energy studies. She doesn’t really do much the whole film except mutilate a priceless copy of a Galileo work. Apparently she’s part of this because some anti-matter, like the kind that powers the Enterprise, was stolen from a Swiss lab. The pope is dead, too, and the old cardinals have to elect a new one. And did I mention that the Illuminati are really angry with the Vatican due to the fact it killed a bunch of scientists and oppressed them four hundred years ago? Langdon gets in on the action because he writes books about the Illuminati—a dubious way to get tenure, but you never know these days.

Just as in the Da Vinci Code, Langdon tears around an Old World city with a foreign lady academic in tow while he solves puzzles. Elsewhere, cardinals keep trying to elect a pope without their favorite candidates who have the unfortunate luck of being killed on the hour by a Turk (you have to read the book to figure out what vague accent he has). Langdon gets trapped in archives, people die, and then Obi-Wan Kenobi (a.k.a. Ewan McGregor) saves everyone in a helicopter. Religion lives. Science lives. They should be friends.

As you can tell I thought the film was both utterly trite and boundlessly puerile. Hank’s character goes off at the mouth about Catholicism every five minutes and the Catholics make themselves look like fools in every scene. Formless as the novel, the whole point of the movie is to move you forward until the film ends in a lame dénouement leaving you confused as to why exactly you didn’t play Russian roulette. The film doesn’t even work as mindless entertainment for me. I have this problem with how in every “academically-minded” action film at least 30 priceless objects and wonders are destroyed and lost forever thanks to the characters’ idiocy. I’d avoid paying for this turnip.

-Michael E. van Landingham

Newgeography Same as the Old Geography

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 3:05 pm

It has become clear that is a broadly anti-urbanist site. This bizarre post is a mixture of inventions and distortions of “Smart Growth and New Urbanism.” Exhaustively cataloguing its fallacies would be time-consuming and hopefully unnecessary. Some of the highlights:

Smart Growth planners advocate short blocks in a grid pattern to distribute traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) evenly within a development. These short blocks produce a multitude of 4-way intersections, and add a multitude of those trendy “turnabouts,” to make a bland site plan look more interesting.

I am actually unsure what he’s getting at here. I have no idea what a turnabout is, or how they could make bland site plans look more interesting.

To make matters worse, the majority of vehicular vs. pedestrian accidents occur at intersections. Smart Growth designs have many more intersections than conventional suburban plans . Even more dangerous, Smart Growth walkways are placed close to the where the cars turns.

So, pedestrians would be best served if all our roads were highways? This might have been written by le Corbusier (though he would have written it more felicitously).

Nobody can argue against the character of a tree-lined street… no one, that is, except the city Public Works department that must maintain structures being destroyed by trees growing in close confines to concrete walks and curbs. Smart Growth/New Urbanist compact front yard spaces are typically 10 feet or less. This simply cannot provide for enough room for tree growth when there is a 4’ wide walk typically a few feet away from the curb, the area where street trees grow. Without trees to define the street, these solutions have very little organic life to offset the vast volume of paving in front of each porch.

Is he seriously suggesting that New Urbanists are opposed to trees?

Not all of’s posts have been equally absurd, but the site certainly does seem to have an agenda, and not a good one.

David Schaengold

McGonagall Thursday!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Keith Staples @ 2:47 pm

This week’s poem, “Hanchen, the Maid of the Mill,” warrants republishing in full.

Near the village of Udorf, on the banks of the Rhine,
There lived a miller and his family, once on a time;
And there yet stands the mill in a state of decay,
And concerning the miller and his family, attend to my lay.

The miller and his family went to Church one Sunday morn,
Leaving behind their darling child, the youngest born,
In charge of brave Hanchen, the servant maid,
A kind-hearted girl and not the least afraid.

As Hanchen was engaged preparing dinner for the family
She chanced to turn round, and there she did see
Heinrich Bottler, her lover, and she sincerely loved him,
Then she instantly got him something to eat and bade him begin.

And in the midst of her business she sat down beside him,
While he did justice to the meat and thought it no sin,
But while he was eating he let fall his knife,
Then he commanded Hanchen to pick it up or else he’d take her life.

Then as she stooped down to pick up the knife,
The villain caught her by the throat, and swore he’d take her life,
Then he drew a dagger from under his coat,
Crying, tell me where your master’s money is, or I’ll cut your throat.

And still he threatened to kill her with the dagger in his hand,
If the poor girl didn’t comply with his demand,
While in his choking grasp her breath was fleeting faster and faster,
Therefore she had no other choice but to die or betray her master.

Then she cried, mercy, for Heaven’s sake let go thy hold.
And I’ll tell thee where my master keeps his gold;
Then he let go his hold without delay,
And she unto him thus boldly did say.

Here, take this axe and use it, while I run upstairs,
To gather all my money, besides all my wares,
Because I’m resolved to fly along with you,
When you’ve robbed my master of his gold and bid France adieu.

Then deceived by her plan he allowed her to leave the room,
Telling her to make haste and come back very soon,
Then to her master’s bedroom she led the way,
And showed him the coffer where her master’s money lay

Then Heinrich with the axe broke the coffer very soon,
While Hanchen instead of going upstairs to her room,
Bolted all the doors upon him without dismay,
While Heinrich was busy preparing to carry her master’s money away.

Then she rushed to the mill to give the alarm,
Resolved to protect her master’s money, while she could wield an arm;
And the only being in sight was her master’s boy of five years old,
Then she cried, run! run! and tell father there’s a robber taking his gold.

Then the boy did as she bid him without any doubt,
And set off, running on the road she pointed out;
But at this moment, a shrill whistle made her stand aghast,
When she heard Heinrich, crying, catch that child that’s running so fast.

But still the boy ran on with might and main,
Until a ruffian sprang up from the bed of a natural drain;
And snatching the boy in his arms, and hastening towards the mill,
While brave Hanchen was afraid the boy would he kill.

Then the villain came rushing with the boy towards the mill,
Crying, open the door, or the child I’ll kill;
But she cried, never will I open the door to thee,
No! I will put my trust in God, and He’ll save the child and me.

Then the ruffian set down the child, for a moment to look about,
Crying, open the door, or I’ll fire the mill without doubt;
And while searching for combustibles, he discovered an inlet to the mill,
Saying, my pretty maid, once I get in, it’s you I will kill.

Then he tied the hands and feet of the poor child,
Which caused it to scream with fear, very wild;
Then he stole back to the aperture to effect an entrance,
And when Hanchen saw him, she said now is my chance.

So the ruffian got safely in the great drum wheel,
Then Hanchen set on the engine, which made the ruffian reel;
And as he was whirled about, he screamed aloud,
And when Hanchen saw him like a rat in a trap, she felt very proud.

At length the master arrived and his family,
And when she heard his kindly voice her heart was full of glee,
Then she opened the mill door and let him in,
While her eyes with tears of joy were full to the brim.

Then the master set off the engine without delay,
And the ruffian was dragged forth while he shook with dismay,
And Heinrich and he were bound together under a strong escort,
And conveyed to Bonn Prison where villains resort.

So thus ends the story of Hanchen, a heroine brave,
That tried hard her master’s gold to save,
And for her bravery she got married to the miller’s eldest son,
And Hanchen on her marriage night cried Heaven’s will be done.

-Keith Staples

A Call for a Truce

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 9:02 am

Matthew Milliner makes a good point about aesthetics, and invokes Etienne Gilson along the way

David Schaengold

May 20, 2009

High Ceilings

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 4:06 pm


Are taller ceilings yet another example of wretched architectural excess? Not necessarily. In fact, it is low ceilings that are the aberration. Throughout the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, ceilings in middle-class homes, offices, and institutional buildings were 10-12 feet or more.

Mid-20th-century Modernism demanded flat roofs and low ceilings. In both cases, architectural theorists claimed that these prescriptions were merely pragmatic. The function of a building should dictate form, and no more building than was needed should be built. That flat roofs are in fact wildly impractical and expensive in most climes is now well known. That low ceilings are equally impractical should be more widely discussed.

Living and working in older buildings, people discovered that taller rooms simply felt—and looked—better. Builders were happy to oblige since tall ceilings didn’t cost much more, as Stern points out—but you could charge more for them.

This is a bit of a dodge. High ceilings, by this logic, are only practical because people are willing to pay more for them. A diversity of ceiling heights, however, with the height of rooms proportional to their width and breadth, has a much more concrete benefit. Because of the stack effect, differing ceiling heights naturally circulate air within a building.

David Schaengold

New York to Complete Its Streets

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 10:36 am

I’m happy to see that New York City is issuing a guidebook for street construction that suggests such pedestrian-friendly features as pedestrian bulb-outs (curb extensions that make pedestrians more visible to cars when crossing) and street trees. These kinds of best practices should be standard in all cities.

Somewhat galling is the Times’ description of the current system as

the utilitarian 1970s-style streetscape that dominates the city

A street that’s unsafe and unpleasant for pedestrians isn’t a “utilitarian” street, especially not in New York, where the majority of all trips are taken on foot while the majority of most streets is given over to cars.

David Schaengold

May 19, 2009

The Journalist’s Lifestyle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Matthew Schmitz @ 4:35 pm

According to John Podhoretz, journalists once lived like investment bankers:

Time Inc., the parent company of Time, was flush then. Very, very, very flush. So flush that the first week I was there, the World section had a farewell lunch for a writer who was being sent to Paris to serve as bureau chief…at Lutece, the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan, for 50 people.So flush that if you stayed past 8, you could take a limousine home…and take it anywhere, including to the Hamptons if you had weekend plans there. So flush that if a writer who lived, say, in suburban Connecticut, stayed late writing his article that week, he could stay in town at a hotel of his choice. So flush that, when I turned in an expense account covering my first month with a $32 charge on it for two books I’d bought for research purposes, my boss closed her office door and told me never to submit a report asking for less than $300 back, because it would make everybody else look bad. So flush when its editor-in-chief, the late Henry Grunwald, went to visit the facilities of a new publication called TV Cable Week that was based in White Plains, a 40 minute drive from the Time Life Building, he arrived by helicopter—and when he grew bored by the tour, he said to his aide, “Get me my helicopter.”

Needless to say, this is now unimaginable.

-Matthew Schmitz

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