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Posts Tagged ‘H. L. Mencken’

It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.
  —  H. L. Mencken
[Mencken was a satirist and cultural / social commentator who passed away before the invention of the birth control pill and Roe v. Wade.  Do we want to go back?
I remember growing up and hearing the name used to describe Catholic women who practiced “the rhythm” method of birth control.  It was “mother”.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2017 Neutral
Family Over Ego
2016 Hard Learners
2015 Goals
2014 Switch To Dogs…
2013 Times Change
2012 Ashes Not Dust
2011 A Handful From Saudi
None Of This Happened
Take Responsibility

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Book Review:
Last Thursday, I accompanied my wife downtown.  She likes to go to the Farmer’s Market and I like to go to the used bookstore.  While there, I picked up a copy of the book: “Inherit The Wind”  (1955©), written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, which I found on the $1 shelf.
The book is essentially the script of the play by the same name.  The story is a dramatization (fictionalized) of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee.  Although the book / play is arguably about the conflict between the theory of evolution and the creation of the universe as stated in the Book of Genesis, the authors claimed the play was actually about the conflict between freedom of speech / thought and “McCarthyism” in the United States in the 1950’s.  (McCarthyism is here defined as the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence.  It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”  In this case, a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution without accounting for the substantial scientific evidence supporting evolution and an absolute dearth of evidence supporting Creationism / Genesis.)
The book is barely 100 pages and is a VERY fast read. It effectively points out the difficulties of trying to use a book of faith as a wall against scientific progress.  Essentially, you end up with a ridiculous speed bump instead of a barrier.  Although I found the book less powerful than the movie, it is still very engaging.  Final recommendation: highly recommended.
Movie Review:
Having read the book, I felt compelled to re-watch the movie: “Inherit The Wind” (1960).  The movie stars Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond (Clarence Darrow) the defense attorney, Fredric March as Matthew Harrison Brady (William Jennings Bryan) the prosecutor and Gene Kelly as E. K. Hornbeck (H. L. Mencken) the out-of-town-journalist.
This is a “classic” black and white movie and one of my favorite works starring Tracy.  I have watched this movie well over a dozen times in my life and continue to watch it through to the end whenever I stumble on it playing on the TV.  Two other points bear mentioning…  This is my defining memory of March as an actor, which is both good and bad. Good because he is fantastic in the role.  Bad because he is SO good it has biased me against him in the few other roles I’ve seen him in.  March is so good, you almost think he is playing himself – much like John Wayne in “True Grit“.  It is only in seeing him in other roles that you realize it was all an act.  This is, I believe, the classic definition of a great actor.  As much as I love Tracy in this film, I am almost magnetically drawn to viewing and listening to (studying) March when I watch this film.  My second point is for those of you who think of Gene Kelly as purely a gifted “hoofer” (i.e. “Singing In The Rain” and many others), watch this film.  Kelly can act!  His face speaks a million lines and his sarcastic / comedic / cynical timing is impeccable.
Needless to say, the play the movie is based on is a fictionalized version of a real trial and the movie is a dramatized version of the play.  I first saw this movie as a youngster (probably pre-teens) and it had a profound impact on my life as I wanted to become a scientist and discover “Natural” law.  I wanted to be a “free” thinker.  Raised a Roman Catholic, this movie made me question at an early age – not my faith – but the Church and those who proposed an absolute belief in the Church (any church) and the Bible (any “holy” book).  It is only now, years later, that I realize the conflict between faith and science was not the basis for the movie.  As mentioned above, placing the film in historical context, it is actually about the fight against bullying and ostracism of those who are able to (and choose to) think for themselves and who wish to discuss their thoughts openly without fear of harassment (prison).
This is a powerful movie and is well worth watching and discussing with family and friends – at multiple levels.  This is particularly true in an age where there is a new law (wall) being discussed to protect us (America) from the threat of terrorists (“illegals” taking our jobs for lower wages).  As fundamentalists (Christian, Muslim or any other faith) cannot halt the progress of science, American reactionaries cannot halt the progress of macroeconomics.  Left to its own devices, corporate socialism / monopolistic capitalism will drive down the cost of labor just as water seeks its own level unless we, as a people decide as a matter of public policy that enough is enough.
Okay, climbing down from my high-horse, final recommendation: this is a very highly recommended movie.  An excellent story, told with great actors.
Movie Review:
My second movie review today is for: “Reign Of Fire” (2002).  This is a dragons destroy humanity movie starring: Christian Bale as Quinn Abercromby, Matthew McConaughey as Denton Van Zan, Izabella Scorupco as Alex Jensen and Gerard Butler as Creedy (Bale’s character’s best friend).  As a lad, Bale discovers a dragon buried under London.  Somehow, the single dragon begets a million other dragons and they, more or less, destroy human civilization.  There are a few pockets of survival and Bale and Butler are the bosses of one.  Along comes McConaughey, who proposes to destroy the dragons, not merely out-last them by hiding.  And, so, off we go to London to slay the dragon…
This is not a movie which bears much thinking about.  You either watch it and enjoy it, or you think about it and don’t.  I have chosen (frequently) to watch and enjoy.  It is what it is and it’s pretty good at being just that.  As an aside, the most interesting thing from my latest viewing is the way this movie presages “Batman Begins” with the fluttering birds and dragons in Reign being reminiscent of the fluttering bats in Batman and then the dark tunnel / the Bat Cave.  On the other hand, it could just be my recent marathon session of the “Dark Knight Trilogy” has me seeing things which really aren’t there.
Anyway, while it doesn’t stand much thought, it’s a surprisingly viewable movie.  Final recommendation: Strong.
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On This Day In:
2015 Natural Shapes
2014 Seeing The Light
2013 Requirements
2012 Tricked Again
2011 Liberty And Justice For Earth
2010 Home Again, Home Again, Jig-A-De, Jig…

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We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the same sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
    —  Henry Louis Mencken
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On This Day In:
2014 Enduring
2013 Tell Me More…
2012 Passing…
2011 Fake It ‘Til You Make It

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To the man with an ear for verbal delicacies  —  the man who searches painfully for the perfect word and puts the way of saying a thing above the thing said  —  there is the constant joy of sudden discovery, of happy accident.
  —  Henry Louis Mencken
From “A Book of Prefaces
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On This Day In:
2013 Powerful Substitute
2012 Heroes Restored
2011 As You Should

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Civilization, in fact, grows more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.  Wars are no longer waged by the will of superior men, capable of judging dispassionately and intelligently the causes behind them and the effects flowing out of them.  They are now begun by first throwing a mob into a panic; they are ended only when it has spent its ferine fury.
  ―  H. L. Mencken
From his book: “In Defense Of Women
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On This Day In:
2012 Got Sleep?
2011 Not Another Barren Corner

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A woman, if she hates her husband (and many of them do), can make life so sour and obnoxious to him that even death upon the gallows seems sweet by comparison.  This hatred, of course, is often, and perhaps almost invariably, quite justified.  To be the wife of an ordinary man, indeed, is an experience that must be very hard to bear.  The hollowness and vanity of the fellow, his petty meanness and stupidity, his puling sentimentality and credulity, his bombastic air of a cock on a dunghill, his anaesthesia to all whispers and summonings of the spirit, above all, his loathsome clumsiness in amour — all these things must revolt any woman above the lowest.
 ―  H.L. Mencken
From his book: “In Defense Of Women
[As I mentioned in prior posts, less a defense of women and more an indictment of the “ordinary man”.  —  KMAB]
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On This Day In:
2012 Three Words
2011 Know Anyone Like This?
2010 Apoplexy??
When Breaking Up Is Hard To Do…
Sibling Awareness

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I am wholly devoid of public spirit or moral purpose.  This is incomprehensible to many men, and they seek to remedy the defect by crediting me with purposes of their own.  The only thing I respect is intellectual honesty, of which, of course, intellectual courage is a necessary part.  A Socialist who goes to jail for his opinions seems to me a much finer man than the judge who sends him there, though I disagree with all the ideas of the Socialist and agree with some of those of the judge.  But though he is fine, the Socialist is nevertheless foolish, for he suffers for what is untrue.  If I knew what was true, I’d probably be willing to sweat and strive for it, and maybe even to die for it to the tune of bugle-blasts.  But so far I have not found it.
  ―  H. L. Mencken
From his book: “In Defense Of Women
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On This Day In:
2012 Just Like Bubbles
2011 Caring and Driving
Achieve Greatly
2010 Unwise To Trust
Attitude
If The Mind Is Not Tired
Irrationally Crazy
2nd Pair – Shoe Review
Ahnu – Gesundheit!
 2009 As for me…
Health Care Reform Now!!

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If the work of the average man required half the mental agility and readiness of resource of the work of the average prostitute, the average man would be constantly on the verge of starvation.
 ―  H.L. Mencken
From his book: “In Defense Of Women
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On This Day In:
2012 Dew Drop Secrets
2011 Champion Freedom

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Last night I completed, “In Defense Of Women“, written by H. L. Mencken and originally published back in 1918. The book took me about thirty-five years to finish (well, to start and finish).
I purchased this book as one of a series of titles under the banner of Time-Life Books. Part of the Time Reading Program Special Edition.  This just means I bought two books a month for a couple of years.  Way back when I got out of the Army, I decided I wanted to become more “learned”, more sophisticated, so I thought I would accomplish this by reading great books or great literature.  I couldn’t afford the “Great Books” series itself, so I decided to settle for some lesser works.  Hence, this series.
Each month I would dutifully receive them and then place them on my bookshelf, quite proud of myself that I was starting my own library.  Now the books were sold (advertised) as secondary works of great authors.  You weren’t reading their “acknowledged” best work, but you were reading something which had been deemed close.  This attitude of, “No, I haven’t read that, but everyone has…  Have you read this other work by him (/her)?”  seemed to feed easily into my ego.
To make a longer story shorter, I’ve never read any of the books.  More precisely, I have read one of them, but that was before buying it as part of the collection and that was back in my high school days.  So, about three months ago, I decided to crack into one of them.  There was no particular reason to choose this one over the other 30 or so except that my journal has a few quotes from the author (Mencken).
So, what do I think of the book?  Despite the fact it was written almost 100 years ago, it remains remarkably relevant.  It is, however, incredibly non-PC (politically correct).  The author has a fairly low opinion of humankind in general and men in specific.  Compared to men, Mencken finds women to be more than capable in most things.  In those things which Mencken finds tiresome (business and politics), he believes women can do no worse than men, but should not try as this will only lower them to the status of men, not raise those functions to a status worthy of women.
Mencken is a terrific (if flowery) writer of prose and the book is both funny and easy to read.  By easy to read I mean his ideas seem reasonable and coherently presented.  The topics are wide ranging – from marriage, to sex, to suffrage, to roles in modern society.  The only problem I had was sometimes the writing was so flowery, it was almost like walking through treacle – sweet, sticky and almost sickly.
I believe many who read this book will find it objectionable, but there is much to be said for any series of observations which can still raise ire even after this much time.  They each contain the kernel of truth upon which both good writing and good comedy depend to make their audience uncomfortable.  This is a classic and it is free to download from multiple sites.  Highly recommended!!
In case you’re wondering what’s “special” about the Special Edition, the books are published in fake leather red binding.  They are actually cardboard, but with gold lettering and trim, they appear quite a proper addition to a personal library.
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On This Day In:
2012 Brain, n.
2011 Styles Of Leadership
2010 Face Front!

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