Clinging, &c.

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama


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.

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.