A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, June 20, 2019


Yes, sports fans! It's tabclearingday, when the gallimaufrey of tabs accumulating on the TOFian browser gets blown off with short shrift.

1. Quotes of the Day

a) Our [religion] is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world. Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think.
-- Voltaire, Letter to Friedrich II, k.von Preussen
b) The clergy successfully preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity; the active virtues of society were discouraged; and the last remains of military spirit were buried in the cloister: a large portion of public and private wealth was consecrated to the specious demands of charity and devotion; and the soldiers’ pay was lavished on the useless multitudes of both sexes who could only plead the merits of abstinence and chastity.
-- Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch.38.

And how will the New Republic treat the inferior races? How will it deal with . . . those swarms of black, and brown, and dirty-white, and yellow people, who do not come into the new needs of efficiency? Well, the world is a world, and not a charitable institution, and I take it they will have to go. . . . And the ethical system of these men of the New Republic, the ethical system which will dominate the world state, will be shaped primarily to favor the procreation of what is fine and efficient and beautiful in humanity — beautiful and strong bodies, clear and powerful minds. . . . And the method that nature has followed hitherto in the shaping of the world, whereby weakness was prevented from propagating weakness . . . is death. . . . The men of the New Republic . . . will have an ideal that will make the killing worth the while.
-- H.G. Wells  The New Republic

 Voltaire pointed out that enlightenment was only for the enlightened, like himself; not for the basket of deplorables unworthy rabble. More than a tough of Hegel, there.

Gibbon was evidently a proto-Nietzsche, based on what he praised and what he disparaged. Patience, chastity, charity... Boo. Military spirit, Yay!

Neither of them yet had the vocabulary to evoke the Superman or the Woke. but the thought-cliche of the special aristocracy -- the Enlightened, the Illuminati, the Brights, the Vanguard -- runs through it. As for the rest of us, remember that phrase "apt for every yoke" and bend over to welcome your new masters.  In the end, though, the Morlocks eat the Eloi. (Remember, Wells thought that a bad thing; but I hear they taste like chicken.)

2. Food for Thought
Speaking of chicken. At the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America, the Middle Ages were roundly defended from the Dead White Males like Voltaire and Gibbon, who had relegated them to the 'midddle' between the enlightened ancients and the enlightened 18th cent. (i.e., themselves). However, that defense was mounted without a single reference to Christianity, let alone to Catholicism; so it appears the likes of Voltaire and Gibbon have been victorious after all.

But the vanishing of theology from the schools has not led to 'no theology,' but to 'bad theology,' and as Chesterton noted, the man who believes in nothing will eventually believe in anything. Or as Midgley said, those who claim no metaphysics are usually enslaved to some outdated form of it. It is no surprise then that the absence of virtues so derogated by Gibbon -- charity, above all -- has ended with road rage, school shootings, and campus riots against heretical speakers. The surprise rather is that no one has remarked that these things are connected.

3. And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side

An essay on the destructiveness and irrationality of the latest fascination to sweep the intelligentsia, reminding one of the Tiptree story,

4. Intension and Extension

What a term contains differs from what it covers. Siris considers the matter here, using the term "teacher" to show the difference. It might be that much of the current rancor in the public square stems from a failure to appreciate the distinction.

5. Blind Spot

A couple of physicists and a philosopher walk into a bar.... and notice that science has a great big blind spot. There are things that it just cannot see. Just as a person who relies exclusively on a metal detector will never find wood.

6. Speaking of Physics

Sabine Hossenfelder wonders at the reasons there has been nothing really new in basic physics since the great paradigm shift of the turn of the last century. It's all i-dotting and t-crossing. So far, the Standard Model stands strong!

7. What to Do with Surprise Medical Bills.

The Manhattan Contrarian says: Don't pay 'em.

8. Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are.

Several of the swarm of Democrats vying to challenge the Donald have promised to implement Health Care For All, for example by extending Medicare to everyone.  TOF thought this had been settled by the Affordable Care Act, but no one seems to want to mention it any more. ACA is in hiding. This Act, in the spirit of all slapdash government 'programs' has made health insurance less affordable, hurting the poor most of all, as usual, The Manhattan Contrarian notes that these new proposals will work for sure, no foolin'.


  1. Just had an ER attempt the "oh, yeah, we're in network...but our doctors aren't. Even though the entire chain of hospitals has a big deal about how all doctors are in network.

    Second bill was submitted two weeks after the first one was paid, and was amazingly the same cost as what wasn't paid per the insurance agreement.

    When we called attention to this, it was amazingly all cleared up and they would not be sending us a bill for the balance.

  2. Re 5: 100 years or so later and they are finally catching up with Whitehead...

  3. In re: Quote 1.2:
    "Middle" always a subtle pejorative -- implies the thing so named can't be better identified except as being between two name-deserving things.  Among those who come to praise the Middle Ages, not to bury them, what better name than "Middle Ages" do they propose to designate the era?  Early Eurowest?  Insula Europa? (hemmed in on all sides til 1492ish)  Maybe Hothouse Europe or Pressure-Cooker Europe would serve to set the stage for the succeeding outgrowth/explosion.

      -- Occasional Correspondent
      (misposted this to the wrong thread earlier)


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