Commonplace Book: The Music of O'Carolan, What Art Students Really Need, Bullies, the Perils of "Self Esteem" and Reckless Women

"This next one's called 'Fanny Power'. Fanny was the daughter of O'Carolan's patron and he wrote this piece for her wedding. I wanted you to hear it because I didn't want you to think there was only one perfect melody in the world."
.... Sarah was surprised to see that his eyes were moist. "She must have been very beautiful."
He looked at her. "Who?" And his voice was suddenly wary.
"Why, Fanny." Sarah sighed. "Three is magic in the old man's music, if it can move us to tears for the beauty of a woman two centuries dead."
"Ah, yes, Fanny." There was a distant look in Red's eyes and she sensed the sadness in his voice. "I suppose she was. Beautiful, that is. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you know; and O'Carolan was blind."
(In the Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn)

“We live in a country where a black who wants to help poor people buy insurance is regularly referred to as a Nazi, so I guess anything is possible.”
(Comment on Wonkette)

“For a student, creativity should be the last lesson. If it’s there, let it be, but for the moment learn—look—absorb—study.... A discipline achieved early on should be as automatic as breathing or talking. And the discipline of drawing is the finest. A savage two or three years is imperative. No creativity. Drawing forces you to look and an artist needs to do that more than anything short of thinking... Then give yourself a break and waste a year in total anarchy. ... Is it not possible for art schools to re-establish themselves as protectors of values? ... Purity of intention should be a guiding maxim. The moment we decide to enter an art school, we should feel that we have taken our Hippocratic oath to see it through. We are doctors of the spirit—and if an operation is necessary, then it must be performed. “ (Ralph Steadman, Comics Journal interview)

“The Chicago pol in the Oval has had to learn one of the great American truths: You’ve got to slap the bully in the face.”
(Maureen Dowd)

“Sex diarist Belle de Jour has claimed that nothing in her background had any bearing on her decision to become a prostitute. On her website her father's recent public admission that he'd slept with dozens of prostitutes during her adolescence was denied any importance. The facts were not disputed. She just doesn't want anyone thinking they impaired her ability to freely choose sexual slavery, à la Susan Street, while still calling the shots. This belief has made women reckless. Belle's assertion in one of her memoirs that she became a prostitute because she "couldn't remember the reasons not to" suggest that she has forgotten, or more likely repressed, the physical and psychological risks. Paradoxically, this generation of women is more vulnerable than any of its forbears. Women's refusal to acknowledge any weakness has made them easy prey.”
(Charlotte Raven, “How the New Feminism Went Wrong”)

“... Although it is ironic that for a guy [David Frum] who was wrong on pretty much everything and still kept his job, the one time the guy gets fired, it is because he is right.”
(Comment by “Manchu Candidate” on David Frum’s resignation from the American Enterprise Institute, at Wonkette)

“One has only to go into a prison, or at least a prison of the kind in which I used to work, to see the most revoltingly high self-esteem among a group of people (the young thugs) who had brought nothing but misery to those around them, largely because they conceived of themselves as so important that they could do no wrong. “
(Theodore Dalrymple)

V for Valerie, V for Vendetta

"It seems strange that my life should end in such a terrible place, but for three years I had roses and apologized to no one."

The character of Valerie answers the question "Why we fight" in Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V for Vendetta, dramatized here:

If Valerie is the heart of the thing, my other favorite scene never appeared in the film -- a film Alan Moore sniffed at as "a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neoconservatives— which is not what the comic V for Vendetta was about."

My other favorite is a sequence showing V speaking over a pirate broadcast to the audience of a fascist "news" program. As he speaks, the screen shows scenes of human misbehavior, some straight to the point, some ironic. It's more Jonathon Swift than Orwell-- it's Alan Moore, actually, and it might be the kind of literature you can only pull off in a comic, giving you time to consider the justapostion of word and image. It's the kind of dark laughter Twain used to pull off in The War Prayer and Letters from the Earth, and the kind of thing I don't ask anyone but myself to laugh at, but you might:

Good evening, London. I thought it time we had a little talk. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin... I suppose you're wondering why I've called you here this evening. Well, you see, I'm not entirely satisfied with your performance lately... I'm afraid your work's been slipping and... and well, I'm afraid we've been thinking about letting you go.
Oh, I know, I know. You've been with the company a long time now. Almost... let me see. Almost ten thousand years! My word, doesn't time fly? It seems like only yesterday... I remember the day you commenced your employment, swinging down from the trees, fresh-faced and nervous, a bone clasped in your bristling fist... "Where do I start, sir?", you asked, plaintively. I recalled my exact words: "There's a pile of dinosaur eggs over there, youngster", I said, smiling paternally all the while. "Get sucking".
Well, we've certainly come a long way since then, haven't we? And yes, yes, you're right, in all that time you haven't missed a day. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
Also, please don't think I've forgotten about your outstanding service record, or about all of the invaluable contributions that you've made to the company... Fire, the wheel, agriculture... It's an impressive list, old-timer. A jolly impressive list. Don't get me wrong. But... well, to be frank, we've had our problems too.
There's no getting away from it. Do you know what I think a lot of it stems from? I'll tell you... It's your basic unwillingness to get on in the company. You don't seem to want to face up to any real responibility. To be your own boss.
Lord knows you've been given plenty of opportunities... We've offered you promotion time and time again, and each time you've turned us down. "I couldn't handle the work, Guv'Nor", you wheedled. "I know my place".
To be frank, you're not trying, are you? You see, you've been standing still for far too long, and its starting to show in your work... And, I might add, in your general standard of behavior. The constant bickering on the factory floor has not escaped my attention... nor the recent bouts of rowdiness in the staff canteen.
Then of course there's... Hmm. Well, I didn't really want to have to bring this up, but... Well, you see, I've been hearing some disturbing rumors about your personal life. No, never you mind who told me. No names, no pack drill... I understand you are unable to get on with your spouse. I hear that you argue. I am told that you shout. Violence has been mentioned. I am reliably informed that you always hurt the one your love... the one you shouldn't hurt at all.
And what about the children, its always the children who suffer, as you're well aware. Poor little mites. What are they to make of it? What are they to make of all your bullying, your despair, your cowardice and all your fondly nurtured bigotries? Really, its not good enough, is it?
And its no good blaming the drop in work standards on and management either... though to be sure, the management is very bad. In fact, let us not mince words... The Management is terrible!
We've had a string of embezzelers, frauds, liars and lunatics making a string of catastrophic decisions. This is plain fact. But who elected them?
It was you! You who elected these people! You who gave them the power to make your decisions for you! While I'll admit that anyone can make a mistake once, to go on making the same lethal errors century after century seems to me nothing short of deliberate.
You have encouraged these malicious incompetents, who have made your working life a shambles. You have accepted without question their senseless orders. You have allowed them to fill your workspace with dangerous and unproven machines.
You could have stopped them. All you had to say was "No". You have no spine. You have no pride. You are no longer an asset to the company.
I will, however, be generous. You will be granted two years to show me some improvement in your work. If at the end of that time you are still unwilling to make a go of it... you're fired.
That will be all. You may return to your labors.

(Alan Moore, V for Vendetta)

"It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said." (Twain)