The Hollow Men (Podcast)

A reader from Italy writes to say he is frustrated and angry with the deceit and fraudulence of a certain political figure on the world stage. We explain why it is best to take a detached, philosophical view of such men, since experience shows that they eventually bring about their own ruin. What matters is to be a man of substance, not a man of straw, a hollow man.  We close by reading T.S. Eliot’s immortal poem, “The Hollow Men.”

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The Linguistic Ideas Of J.R.R. Tolkien

We have often discussed language-related subjects here.  Readers interested in language acquisition may find it beneficial to hear something about the language ideas of one of the twentieth century’s most influential fiction authors, J.R.R. Tolkien.  Everyone knows him as a founder (perhaps the founder) of modern fantasy writing; few, however, are aware of the depth and breadth of his linguistic knowledge.  Tolkien himself once said that he considered his books as little more than vehicles for the expression of his language interests:  meaning that for him language was far more important than storytelling.

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C. Licinius Macer’s Advice To His People

I recently came across a passage from a speech appearing in Sallust’s Historiae (III.48).  The oration is put in the mouth of the popular tribune Caius Licinius Macer, who was battling the influence of the Roman patricians.  It purportedly was delivered in 73 B.C.; Macer’s intention was to rouse the common people to action against the venality and greed of the elites who controlled Rome and who refused to listen to the will of the people.  A continuous theme in the era of the late republic was the constant attempt by the elites to prevent economic reforms that might benefit the state as a whole, rather than just them.  We this same motif, of course, played out again in our own day.

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Resources Can Come In Unexpected Ways: The Bounty Of Imad al-Dawla

Imad ad-Dawla Ibn Buwaih (A.D. 891-949) was the founder of the Buyid Dynasty in medieval Persia.  His name in Persian is given as Ali Ibn Buya, but he is more commonly known as Imad al-Dawla (“pillar of the state”).  Ibn Khallikan’s short sketch of his life contains the story related here; this story in turn is taken from the historian al-Mamuni.  It reminds us of the fact that, sometimes in life, a bit of good fortune can provide us with all we need.  The world, somehow, has its own way of providing for us; and if we persist long enough, some problems eventually solve themselves.

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François-René de Chateaubriand: The Apostle Of Romanticism

The nineteenth century literary, artistic, and intellectual movement we today call “romanticism” is not easily defined, but is generally acknowledged to embrace the following sentiments:  an idealized view of the past, the emphasis of feeling and sentiment over rationality, a preference for exotic locales and peoples, and the primary of emotion.  One of the founders—perhaps the founder—of romanticism in French literature was François-René de Chateaubriand, whose memoirs I have just finished.  He titled his book Memories From Beyond The Tomb, since they were specifically intended to be published after his death.

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Joseph Persico’s “Infamy On Trial” (Book Review)

We live in an age of power without responsibility, an age where ambition and hubris are too often permitted to run roughshod over institutional controls and the dictates of common decency.  We are too often made to feel helpless in the face of power exercised so far beyond the reach of accountability that many of us have simply given up, and abandoned hope of calling to account those who abuse the trust of the people they were tasked with serving.

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