Commonplace Book: Hypocrisy and the Culture War, Rabbits, "Original Intent" and the Constitution, and Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta

“Of all wars, only culture wars offer the hope of sheer, unadulterated hilarity. Sex and hypocrisy were staples of farce long before America became a nation, and they never go out of style.”
(Frank Rich)


"We Maltese — we bichon maltais, the Roman Ladies' Dog, the old spaniel gentle, the Maltese lion dog, or Maltese terrier – are suffered to know ourselves to be the aristocrats of the canine world."
(from the novel # The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog, and of his friend Marilyn Monroeby Andrew O'Hagan)


“[T]he constitutional doctrine of original intent has always struck most historians of the founding era as rather bizarre. ... The doctrine of original intent rests on a set of implicit assumptions about the framers as a breed apart, momentarily allowed access to a set of timeless and transcendent truths ...

... [T]he doctrine requires you to believe that the "miracle at Philadelphia" was a uniquely omniscient occasion when 55 mere mortals were permitted a glimpse of the eternal verities and then embalmed their insights in the document. Any professional historian proposing such an interpretation today would be laughed off the stage.”
(Joseph J. Ellis, “Immaculate Misconception and the Supreme Court”, The Washington Post)


"Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did beyond amendment....
Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs . . . Each generation is as independent of the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before."
(T. Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816)


“Rabbits are clever about manipulating humans and can seem stubborn about learning how to live in our homes. It helps to see things through rabbit eyes: a wire is root that needs trimming, a piece of furniture is a tree, a household is a rabbit warren with strict hierarchy and rules.

Rubbing chin on things, such as houseplants, priceless armoires, Italian leather shoes.

What it means
A great misconception: It does NOT mean marking territory. It is a rabbit custom, like saying grace before a meal. In short, "One day I will eat you."

What you should do
Give your bunny more sticks and branches, keep your stuff off the floor, and kiss the antiques goodbye.”

(from Rabbit Language , or: "Are you going to eat that?" by Carolyn Crampton)

From Peasant to Yeoman to Peasant Again, in Three Generations

“We’re becoming peasants again. Most of us. There’s the money people and the people around them, and then there’s you. But the rest of us, we’re peasants.” (A character in Adam Haslett’s short story “Night Walk”)

As the Man with No Name told Tuco, “there's two kinds of people, my friend: those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig." If Great-Granda couldn’t afford the suit of armor, or wasn’t ruthless enough to take it by force, you probably belong to a peasant family. Sharecropper grandparents, in my case, first generation to go to college.

Most of us were peasants, peons (a painfully acute sobriquet), and then the Black Death killed so many of us that our labor had to be paid for, and some of the peasants became yeomen, and things got marginally better. We were no longer subject to the random cruelty of the baron’s bastard sons or the droit de seigneur , and even a cat could look at a king. Small scale, the craftsman selling shoes or ironware, started lifting us out of peasantry.

By the time Adam Smith noticed the phenomenon, religious dissenters from the Church of England-- unable to send their sons to the posh Oxford and Cambridge—started technical schools. The new technologies made their children better skilled and more valuable than any spare aristocrat. The stout yeoman bought respectability by marrying aristocrats, as sure as Jenny Jerome’s American father married her off (with substantial dowry) to Lord Randolph Churchill.

A specter was haunting capitalism— not the specter of communism, though that would have its day as a way for the more rapacious peasants, like Stalin and Mao, to prey upon their own kind. No, this was the specter of the corporation: a moneyed collective that will prove every bit as destructive to our species as Mao and Stalin’s collective farms were to the individual.

These business cooperatives-- call them “corporations”-- are mercantile guilds gone mad. Corporation is to small businessman as labor union is to laborer. It seems an obvious corollary-- but instead, corporations paint themselves as defenders of individual liberty, while the labor union-- defender of a peasants’ fair share of profit and health-- is a tyrannical, slovenly mob. And the peasants ate it up, repeated it among themselves, voted against their own self-interest. If the corporate paradigm said shit was sugar, then crackers would be asking for a spoon.

Remember Heinlein's novel Friday in which corporations replaced the nation-states, even waged war on one another? I remember shaking my head at how far out the old man had become, almost as goofy as that time he predicted a religious dictatorship scrapping the Constitution of the United States.

Now I’m wondering if the modern corporation and the Corporate Man signal a return to the days of the pyramid builders. They’re all very proud of the culture that they’ve built, a cathedral built for no god but Mammon. Humans don’t like admitting they’re being played for a sucker, so the pyramid builder, he who sells his labor to a corporation, romanticizes his raison de’etre like a man romanticizes his mistress.

Lena Horne

I'm guessing most tributes to Lena Horne will include the 1943 version of "Stormy Weather", but it's interesting to compare that young girl's intuitive understanding with a bluesier version sung later in life. Not a false caesura in either version, by the way, which ought to teach pop idols the difference between genuine emotion and sentiment, but probably won't.

The other two songs, "Moon River" and "It's Not Easy Being Green", I posted for myself. I'd like to know what went through her head while rehearsing "Green". With that voice and those impossible cheekbones, this woman could have run the table as Hollywood's Cleopatra, Shakespeare's Dark Lady, Sally Hemings or the Queen of Sheba-- but in that benighted time, she couldn't even hang on to the part of Julie in Showboat. The studio cast Ava Gardner in the "controversial" role of a "high yellow gal" passing for white in order to marry the man she loved.

So Lena finally said to hell with Hollywood, went home to New York and became a chanteuse instead. Ironically this was a winning decision: Hollywood discards its leading ladies quickly, whereas jazz and blues singing, like painting, rewards longevity and depth.