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Clinging, &c.

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama

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I have asked a question for as long as I can remember: Why do individuals in police states act with reckless bravery? Why do they stick their neck out? Why do they risk imprisonment and torture — even ensure it?

These questions swirled again as I read this story: which tells of an artist in Beijing, Liu Yi, who has devoted himself to a series of portraits of those Tibetans who have immolated themselves.

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Why does he do this? Why doesn’t he paint flowers or something? Doesn’t he know the possible consequences? Yes, he undoubtedly does — but he paints those portraits anyway. He can do no other, apparently.

A marvel.

Let’s have a little language. One of the things a writer ought to pay attention to is the placement of “only.” This has been a bit of a cause of mine for many, many years.

The other day, I saw a headline in a British publication: “Face it, we only matter to Obama as part of the EU.” Oh, what a better headline with the “only” placed before “as part of the EU”!

A little more language? Not long ago, people made fun of a TV personality for mispronouncing the name of a Gershwin song. He said “Ess Wonderful.” Not “S’Wonderful,” but “Ess Wonderful.”

I thought of this when going to a new eatery near National Review’s offices. Formally, it is Sarita’s Macaroni & Cheese. Informally, it’s S’mac. Not Ess Mac, mind you, but “smack.”

I’m not sure I can blame the TV personality all that much. Sometimes the title of the song is written “S’Wonderful.” Sometimes it’s “’S Wonderful.” The second is a little hard to read, for the untutored (i.e., for those who don’t know the song).

(Not knowing the song is a whole ’nother problem.)

Speaking of music: My latest column in CityArts is here. It’s a preview of the New York concert and opera scene, but it may be of interest to those outside the city nonetheless . . .

More music, in a way? This is a true tale from Sunday school. From yesterday. The class is of four- and five-year-olds.

Teacher: “Elliott, what’s a hymn?”
Elliott: “A boy?”

Ah, homonyms . . .

Kind of related: “US tax code longer than Bible — without good news.” The best headline I’ve seen in many a moon. And from the Associated Press! (Article here.)

A little baseball? Our Jack Morris has once more failed to be elected to the Hall of Fame. And when I say “our,” I mean, of course, the Detroit Tigers’. (Pardon me for assuming that all of you are Tiger fans.) For a fascinating article on his wait — his “ordeal,” as he says — go here.

If he were elected, he’d have the highest ERA of any pitcher in the hall: 3.90. Morris says interesting things about this — including, “When did we decide that earned-run average was more important than wins?” Morris was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s.

Anyway, a most interesting article, which I commend to you, no matter whom you root for.

Let’s end with Yale — with the William F. Buckley, Jr., Program at Yale. The Buckley program had a conference on the last day of November. (I mean, the conference wasn’t about the last day of November. It was held on November 30.) I wrote a little about it in a December Impromptus. The theme of the conference was Whittaker Chambers’s great book, Witness — which was published 60 years ago. (Anniversaries are irresistible to organizers of all types.)

There was a slew of top-notch speakers, including Norman Podhoretz, worth the price of admission all by himself (not that tickets were sold, to my knowledge). The conference had three panels, three speakers each. I was on a panel with Elliott Abrams and Max Boot.

At the Buckley program’s website, you will find videos of all this. Knock yourself out, here.

And thanks for joining me. Have a good week!
 

To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.



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