Friday, September 28, 2007

Parenthood at VMI

The Virginia Military Institute is one of those places that holds onto tradition like it's going out of style (which, in most places, it is). One of the most famous features of VMI is their honor code: "A cadet does not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do." For those who violate the code, there is only one punishment: a midnight expulsion ceremony known as a 'drum out.' The entire student body assembles on the parade ground and it is announced that the offender has chosen personal gain over the good of the institution and its honor. They then depart, never to return, their name never to be uttered in its halls again. Serious business...

While poking around on the internet about the Honor Code, I discovered an intriguing article written last year. A certain Nicholas Provenzo complained that VMI's throwbackishness is even more pervasive than previously thought. As the Student Handbook explains:
All VMI cadets must live in Barracks and participate in a demanding and rigorous military program that does not permit attention to the duties implicated by marriage or parenthood. Pursuant to the policy adopted by the Board of Visitors, any cadet who marries or becomes a parent is expected to resign from the Corps. Absent voluntary resignation, should the Institute confirm that a cadet is married or the parent of a child, such cadet shall be separated from the Corps for failure of eligibility at the end of the semester in which the information is received and confirmed. For the purpose of the policy, the responsibilities of parenthood are deemed to begin upon a cadet’s learning that a child has been conceived as a result of his or her conduct.

Yes, that's right. It is official VMI policy that marriage and parenthood involve duties. What's more, parenthood - and by extension, life itself - begins at conception. The tone of Mr. Provenzo's article is livid:
VMI’s policy is nothing more then a cheap way of smuggling anti-abortion policy into the Institute.
He goes on to complain,
I think VMI’s current anti-abortion policy is even worse that its previous refusal to grant admission to women. At least that policy could be defended, however benightedly, on the grounds of long-held tradition.
And belief in life from conception is not traditional? The way St. Luke writes at the beginning of his gospel you sort of get the suggestion that maybe John the Baptist and Our Lord were persons even before they were born...

In any case, props to the Virginia Military Institute for getting this one right.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Art and Culture in the War of Ideas

Supporters of the Iraqi insurgency have begun producing Hollywood-style movie posters, most based on horror or action movies, satirizing the American military. While the precise origin of the posters is unclear, Britain's Sky News, the only media outlet to cover the matter, reported this summer that the images are proliferating on Islamic extremist websites, which attribute them to the insurgents themselves.

One blogger who picked up the story noted that the insurgents "show a native fluency in American popular culture." This indeed raises a variety of questions about culture, popular or otherwise.

Is culture the type of thing that can be used or abused?

Is art merely techne, the ability to craft something well? In that case, might we call this latest propaganda campaign by these mufsidun "good art"? Or does art necessarily have a moral dimension?

Finally, do cultures have an innate value, or are all equal? As a practical matter, should we be studying the enemy, in order to bring this sort of propaganda to his camp, or is there something inherently wrong with this, if his culture is intrinsically disordered? Is his culture so disordered?

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Monks lead largest Burma protest

This just in from the BBC:

Tens of thousands of monks and civilians around Burma have held the biggest protest marches against the military government yet. Eyewitnesses say up to 100,000 people marched peacefully through Rangoon with monks demanding better living conditions and national reconciliation. The military government has so far showed restraint over the protests. Monks are highly revered in Burma and any move by the junta to crush their demonstrations would spark an outcry.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Hobbit: Not Human?

Discovery Channel :: News - Archaeology :: The Hobbit: Not Human?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Very Cool Music Video

I love the song and the video--well, it speaks for itself.

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Human tragedy and inhuman acts

Can bimbos become Bernhardts? A gasp of consternation went out from cinemagoers on first learning that the lead role in A Mighty Heart, the screen adaptation of Mariane Pearl’s memoir of her husband Daniel’s kidnapping and killing, would be played by Angelina Jolie. Lara Croft in a reality-based political tragedy? Tinseltown’s top siren, the much-buzzed diva with the hornet-stung lips, as the widow of a beheading that set the benchmark for barbarity in an early chapter of present-day jihad?

Rest reassured. That Jolie can act is proved by this moving and modulated performance, as the woman whose husband became a casualty on the motoring map towards Middle East conflict resolution. Jolie’s French accent is a convincing start; the curly black wig and brown contact lenses help; the immersion in the role’s emotions is the clincher, an empathy possibly helped by the actress’s own friendship, preceding the film, with Mariane Pearl.

Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, The Road to Guantanamo) is a savvy guide through the political jungle. Here he makes a virtue of information overload. Too many facts, not too few, feed this drama and its frustrations. The rumour mill, the real news, the disinformation of officials: Mariane tries to connect the dots on the chaotic wall chart in her home, but their prolixity keeps defeating her.

What is knowledge anyway? the film asks. Is it the “knowledge” of one character here, a Zionist-conspiracy theorist, that 4,000 Jews who normally worked in the Twin Towers did not turn up there on September 11? Is it the facts or half-facts gouged from men under torture (an instrument of persuasion used here by both sides)? Is it the news stories filed every day under restraints, constraints or, just as bad, the propagandist colouring of a writer and his newspaper?

Winterbottom and scenarist John Orloff resist an enactment of Daniel Pearl’s own ordeal. That would be their colouring-in of history. Instead the Wall Street Journal reporter, played by Dan Futterman, is seen mostly in flashbacks. These become poignant memory-retrievals for Mariane as she learns, scene by scene, to convert hope to realistic despair.

Could the story have been given a bigger acoustic? Should it have dared to give offence to westerners by letting the terrorists articulate, at greater length, their cause? (The Road to Guantanamo allowed Islam its say.) Probably not. The world is still too young to treat Pearl’s death as anything but the inhuman act that to feeling human beings it was. The film opts to depict a single but reverberant tragedy and does so with force, skill and a memorable central performance.

-Nigel Andrews, FT

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Have more babies, please

UCAN: Have more babies, bishops urge families, seeking Catholic baby boom to halt population slide

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Founders Would Have Been Proud

The UD in DC community had their second annual Constitution Day celebration at Quincy last night. It may have been one for the ages. Quincy alumnus Sean Lewis gave the opening address and lead this music with a variety of piano, guitar and banjo. By the time Battle Cry of Freedom came along the assembly was giving new meaning to the term "gusto."

For those interested, the keynote address is reproduced below:

During my recent travels in the Middle East I was able to visit Syria for a couple days. The Syrian Arab Republic holds the somewhat dubious distinction of being the first police state I’ve ever visited. Needless to say, this was an interesting experience.

Our Syrian adventure began by spending five or six hours waiting at the Syrian-Lebanese border in order to obtain entry visas from the Syrian government. This was partly an effort to spite the Americans – all other nationalities got through in a matter of minutes – but, as a friend in Lebanon explained, this delay also allowed the border guards to fax our information to Damascus, where surveillance could then be organized before we got there. In the short two days we were in the capital we found ourselves repeatedly approached by friendly Syrians who seemed to materialize out of nowhere and who were quite inquisitive about our travel details. Overly-friendly locals? Perhaps. Or Syrian security agents? Perhaps. We had, after all, been warned ahead of time that anyone might be working for the government.

Our paranoia went further. On arrival at the hotel our passports were confiscated. There was “paperwork” to be filled out, we were told. When asked if we could see the form, the answer was an emphatic “no.” Between our first and second nights there, the hotel encountered “issues” with our room and, after a considerable delay, we were relocated. To a bugged room? Perhaps. You see, we had been warned about this as well. To be on the safe side, my traveling companion and I spoke in code regarding touchy subjects, never naming President Assad, the Syrian regime, the State of Israel or anything else that might get us in trouble.

Was this paranoia all in our heads? Perhaps it was. But then again, maybe that was precisely the point: creating a climate of fear. Biographers of and commentators upon the late John Paul II – of happy memory – point out that his 1979 visit to Poland was extremely significant because it destroyed a crucial myth of the Communist regime: the myth that you are alone.

By silencing dissent and flooding the nation with propaganda supportive of the regime, the Communist Party had managed to control all social dialogue above the most minute levels, creating the impression that dissidents were utterly alone in a sea of support for the state ideology.

On his June 3 visit to Gniezno, a town of 60,000 people, John Paul drew a million Poles to himself; a week later the mass at the Krakow Commons was attended by the largest crowd in Polish history, between two and three million people. All told, some thirteen million Poles, more than a third of the population, saw John Paul in person. For the first time in decades, Poles discovered in a powerful way that they were not alone, that the ‘us’ of society far outnumbered the ‘them.’ It was the beginning of the end for European Communism.

What I learned by study in regards to Poland and by personal experience in Syria, is that regimes are about far more than political parties or tax law or the latest public opinion polls. A political regime is both a product and a source of the society that surrounds it, imbues it and in turn is imbued by it.

Thus, what we celebrate tonight is not simply a form of government. Nor do we even celebrate the fact that this particular form of government is one of the most stable and long-lasting of the modern age. Rather, we celebrate the free society that this regime has allowed. We celebrate a society were men may pursue justice by mutual consent, where the truth may be sought in open dialogue and where a false imitation of virtue is not imposed, but men are free to seek true virtue in accordance with the laws of Nature and Nature’s God.

This is what we celebrate. But our gathering this evening is more than celebration. As we begin to glimpse on the horizon the prospect of a quarter millennium of American government, let also recommit ourselves to upholding this Constitution. For just as it allows free expression, governmental checks and balances, and the consent of an informed citizenry, so too does it require these things in order to last. And thus we find ourselves entrusted with the future of this nation. In the way we live and work, study and teach, write and vote and dialogue with one another, it is we who must now defend this Constitution of the United State of America.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Little Encouragement

Ever have those mornings where you can hardly look yourself in the mirror? You wonder, "What's become of me?"

Friend, worry no more. You have NOT yet bottomed out. Unless your name is Debra Jackson...

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's Gone

Quite recently, after a long break from riding the metro to work, circumstances have found me walking the familiar path to the train in the morning. On my morning trek the other day I noticed that finally the rusted piece of metal had disappeared from the spot where it had lain for many a month. I suppose nothing lasts in this world, and indeed part of the beauty of that old metal piece was the ongoing process of its own decay. Nonetheless, it was sad to see it go.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Note on Textual Analysis

Today I was reading a book by a fellow named Rex Mason and I came across this passage:
It is difficult to know exactly how the 'kingship' to which Saul was appointed was understood. There are conflicting accounts of how he came to be made king. In 1 Samuel 8, the people come to Samuel and demand a king, much to Samuel's displeasure. In 1 Samuel 9.1-10.1, Samuel, the prophet, is directed by God to anoint Saul, who turns up at his house asking for an oracle to guide him to his father's lost sheep. In 1 Samuel 10.17-25, Saul is chosen by lot at an assembly of the Israelites convened by Samuel. In 1 Samuel 11, Saul is designated because of his military prowess against the threat of the Ammonites and is 'made king' at Gilgal.

In the midst of all this confusion, Mason concludes that this jumble results from pro-David, anti-Saul propaganda cranked out by the Davidic court, obscuring the truth about how Saul really became king.

I find this sort of interpretation terribly aggravating not because Mason ignores the claims of Scripture as God's revelation and in the process badmouths one of my favorite Old Testament figures. No, I find the interpretation of Mason and those like him aggravating because it's so darn uncreative. Are they so naive as to believe that coronations are always cut and dry affairs, and any other sort of account must have been manipulated?

Let us assume that years from now a Masonite analyst is reading over an account of our own times; his commentary might run something like this:
It is difficult to know exactly how the 'presidency' to which George W. Bush was elected was understood. There are conflicting accounts of how he came to office. In 1 Linderman 8, a faction of the people come to Bush and 'nominate' him president. In 1 Linderman 9.1-10.1, Bush loses the popular vote of an election, and presumably the office. But in 1 Linderman 10.17-25, Bush wins the votes of a body known as the 'Supreme Court,' which does not make him president, but allows him to win an election in one particular state, called Florida. In 1 Linderman 11, Bush wins yet another election, this one in a body called the 'Electoral College'. Then in 2 Linderman 1 Bush is 'sworn into office' by a judge, election by yet another means.

Clearly, nothing that complex could ever have really happened...

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Monday, September 10, 2007

half your age plus...

I know that we just had one of these a few posts ago, but this comic was too good to pass up. I've been saying this for quite some time now.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Help a house member find a job

I heard that one of our house members may be looking for employment, so I thought that to be helpful it might be worth posting a few ideas out there. If you have any good ones, please add them in the comments.


A wine store with 300 wines and over 50 beers from around the world. Can you say employee discount...


Shampoo is a vital part of most of our days, and I imagine assisting with its application is a very honorable way to pass one's time.


Hey, someones got to do it. And the add says that "you’ll experience everything that makes the District remarkable." How can one pass on that?


Did you think that weird monsters just appeared out of thin air?


They pay for your training, and you get to play with vacuum cleaners. Does it get any better?

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's Tomorrow

I know you can hardly wait...

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Monks seize troops in Burma town

Yes, folks, you read that headline correctly. The BBC reports:
Twenty Burmese security officials who were taken captive for several hours by Buddhist monks have been released. The officials arrived at the monastery in the town of Pakokku to apologise for injuries caused during a protest on Wednesday... but angry monks set fire to their vehicles and refused to let them leave.... The officials were freed after a senior abbot intervened.

Reality is far stranger than fiction.

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Monday, September 03, 2007


If you haven't been keeping up with the house, we recently said farewell to our Canadian house member Mr. F. J. Roderick. We were all sad to see him go. In his place we have added a new house mate to the distinguished ranks of Quincy.
Mr. EB joins quincy from the far off land of Ohio. For more info on him check out his entry in our about page. You can also read his brand new blog (just don't let it cut into your regularly scheduled quincy blog reading time).

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