Category Archives: Culture

Culture for the cultured and uncultured alike.

Rule Five I, Claudius Friday

National treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson presents an interesting historical comparison to President Trump.  Excerpt:

Claudius was an unusual emperor, the first to be born outside Italy, in Roman Gaul. Under the Augustan Principate, new Caesars—who claimed direct lineage from the “divine” Augustus—were usually rubber-stamped by the toadyish Senate. However, the outsider Claudius (who had no political training and was prevented by his uncle Tiberius from entering the cursus honorum), was brought into power by the Roman Praetorian Guard, who wanted a change from the status quo apparat of the Augustan dynasty.

The Roman aristocracy—most claiming some sort of descent from Julius Caesar and his grandnephew Octavian (Caesar Augustus)—had long written Claudius off as a hopeless dolt. Claudius limped, the result of a childhood disease or genetic impairment. His mother Antonia, ashamed of his habits and appearance, called the youthful Claudius “a monster of man.” He was likely almost deaf and purportedly stuttered.

That lifelong disparagement of his appearance and mannerisms probably saved Claudius’s life in the dynastic struggles during the last years of the Emperor Augustus and the subsequent reigns of the emperors Tiberius and Caligula.

The stereotyped impression of Claudius was that of a simpleton not to be taken seriously—and so no one did. Claudius himself claimed that he feigned acting differently in part so that he would not be targeted by enemies before he assumed power, and to unnerve them afterwards.

Contemporary critics laughed at his apparent lack of eloquence and rhetorical mastery, leading some scholars to conjecture that he may have suffered from Tourette syndrome or a form of autism. The court biographer Suetonius wrote that Claudius “was now careful and shrewd, sometimes hasty and inconsiderate, occasionally silly and like a crazy man.”

Sound familiar?

It is an interesting comparison.  I’ve read a fair amount of Roman history myself, although most of my reading has to do with the Republic, not the Empire, as in prior to the second Roman Civil War.  But I agree that there are parallels between President Trump and Claudius.

Both were/are political outsiders.

Both were/are considered rude and uncouth by the political elites of their times.

Both were/are the subject of relentless attacks by those same political elites.

Of course, there is one major difference; President Trump was elected to office by the citizens according to a republican Constitution in place for nearly two hundred and fifty years.  Claudius was installed in office by the Praetorian Guard, over the objections of the Roman Senate, who were the last badly weakened vestige of the old Republic.

No comparison is perfect.  But this is an interesting one, and it’s important to note the road the Romans went down – and it’s not dissimilar (especially in fiscal matters) than the road the United States is on now.

Animal’s Daily Icons of Rock News

Genre music has always been a thing.  One of my favorites, country rock, had its roots in the Cajun music of Louisiana, in blues and jazz from all over the South.  But it took the artists of the Sixties and Seventies to make Southern Rock great.

One of the pioneers was Tony Joe White, a purveyor of what was then known as “Swamp Rock.”  Here’s his best-known work, Poke Salad Annie.

The Sixties gave way to the Seventies.  Southern Rock exploded onto the scene, and one of the pioneers was Black Oak Arkansas.  Here is their iconic Jim Dandy.

Another pioneering group was The Allman Brothers Band; here, from a 1970 show, is their song Whipping Post.

As the Seventies progressed, more and more examples cropped up.  Here are two; first, Molly Hatchet and Dreams I’ll Never See.

And one of the greatest, of course, was Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Here they are in 1977, performing what is perhaps their best-known tune, Sweet Home Alabama.

Enjoy!

Animal’s Daily Icons of Rock News

It’s become apparent that it’s time for another Icons of Rock post (because I decided it was) and for this one, the theme is going to be, well, sort of a best-of collection.  These are well-known and talented artists, and the videos presented represent works that are (in my opinion) the very best of their portfolios.

Enjoy.

First up is an artist that I generally don’t listen to much.  Billy Joel is an undeniable talent, but his normal style doesn’t appeal to me as much as some other rockers; I’m more the head-banger type.  But Piano Man is undeniably a masterpiece, and undeniably his best work.

Next up; Bob Dylan is best known as a folksinger, and in these virtual pages is generally (and justifiably) referred to as America’s Songwriter.  But he could turn in some pretty good rock & roll when he put his mind to it, as he did in his 1976 Rolling Thunder Review.  Here, from that bicentennial summer, is one of my favorites; Shelter From the Storm. 

Jim Croce was a musical talent that was taken from us far too soon.  Here’s what I think is his best tune, I Got A Name.

Moving back a little into head-banging territory; Foghat was a big deal when I was in high school, and they occasionally still pop up here and there at small venues.  Their best tune was undoubtedly the bangin’ Slow Ride.

Finally, from the folks who gave you the Armageddon soundtrack, comes one of their very best tunes – and this band gives you a lot to choose from.  Here is Aerosmith with a full instrumental cut of Dream On.

And on that musical note, we return you to her Tuesday, already in progress.

Rule Five Civilization Collapse Friday

Could Western civilization be on the verge of collapse?  It’s probably not imminent – but it could happen.  Excerpt:

The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter. Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group. Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.

Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end. Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora of factors that contribute to collapse. What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path – but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?

While it’s impossible to predict the future with certainty, mathematics, science and history can provide hints about the prospects of Western societies for long-term continuation.

The BBC article here points out the similarity of events today with the times of the fall of the Roman Republic, and that’s a fair comparison; but they (not surprisingly) get a few things wrong.  For example:

Meanwhile, a widening gap between rich and poor within those already vulnerable Western nations will push society toward further instability from the inside. “By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority,” Randers says. “What will collapse is equity.”

This widening gap in and of itself means little or nothing, except that it provides fat paydays for those in the business of promoting the politics of envy.  What matters is how that lower portion is living.  One of the things unique to Western civilization, at least the portion that still has more or less free markets, is that the it has produced the richest poor people in world history.  In the United States, for example, there is little or no abject poverty, only relative poverty.  “Poor” people in the U.S. have air conditioning, microwave ovens, cellular phones, automobiles and cable or satellite television – luxuries unheard of among the well-to-do only a generation ago.  And while this is the case, the gap between rich and poor really doesn’t matter a damn.

One more thing the BBC misses, and it’s a doozie; the BBC doesn’t mention the most virulently anti-freedom, anti-prosperity, anti-Western force afoot in the world today, that being fundamentalist Islam.

It’s amazing that the Beeb overlooks this – or maybe not, given their European location and the fact that Europe is well on its way to being assimilated into the Islamic world.   Maybe there is some self-preservation in play, although it’s more likely that it’s just run-of-the-mill political correctness.  But fundamentalist Muslims are the greatest existential threat the West faces today, especially for the slow-breeding Europeans.  Demographics, as they say, is destiny, and the destiny of ethnic Europeans appears to be to fail through apathy.

The article concludes:

“The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.

The biggest challenge will be dealing with the one thing – the one deadly, dangerous, civilization-destroying thing – that the BBC fails to even mention.

Absent that, Western civilization will go the way of the dodo.

Animal’s Daily Icons of Rock News

Thanks again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

It’s no news to any long-term readers of these virtual pages that I’m a fan of old head-banging rock & roll.  To that, here are a few songs that stand out in the rock & roll universe; unforgettable songs that will last for generations.

The first:  An American success story of six guys from the Midwest who realized the American dream, and made a great American classic rock song along the way.  Here is Kansas with Carry On Wayward Son. 

Next, a song that not only ended up on my list of icons of rock, but also in a scene immortalized in Wayne’s World.  This is Queen with Bohemian Rhapsody.

Next, from the album Bat Out of Hell, here’s rock big boy Meat Loaf with Paradise by the Dashboard Light.

One more; a while back I listed my top five guitar players.  I’m not as up on drummers, but I do know one thing:  Neil Peart stands alone.  Here he is with the rest of Rush with YYZ.

I’d like to do Icons of Rock once a month or so.  Suggestions are welcome.

Rule Five Polygamy Friday

This story in PJMedia last weekend got me to thinking about the whole topic of plural marriage – not the arranged, non-consensual type practiced in parts of the Middle East and Africa, but the consensual, between-consenting-adults type practiced in the Western nations.  The PJMedia article focused on a bill passed in Utah outlawing bigamy; here’s an excerpt:

Another family — one man and his three wives — has vowed to never leave Utah.

“My concern is all this is going to do is drive the good polygamous people who don’t have those abuses more into hiding,” Meri Brown, a plural wife, told the Salt Lake Tribune, “and it’s going to make the people who do have those abuses just be able to do them even more.”

“It also classifies all polygamists as second-class citizens,” added her husband, Kody Brown.

Kody Brown is legally married not just to Meri, but to another woman, Robyn. He is “spiritually married” to Meri, and Janelle and Christine, who have all taken his last name.

But here’s the part that jumps out at me:

HB99 would change the definition of bigamy to include people who “purport” to marry two or more people and live with them. Currently, only one or the other provision is required to be a bigamist.

Bigamy would still be a third-degree felony under HB99. But the penalty of up to five years in prison could go up to as much as 15 years if the bigamy is associated with another crime like abuse, fraud or smuggling.

Prosecutors in Utah have not prosecuted many cases of bigamy unless some kind of abuse or other crime can be included in the criminal charges.

OK, I have a couple of questions for the Utah legislature:

  1. Aren’t abuse, fraud and smuggling already crimes that carry potential prison sentences?
  2. That being the case, why is it necessary to increase penalties because of a supposed marital relationship?

Frankly, I can’t see how people’s household arrangements are the government’s business.  This is one of the reasons I’d like to see government out of the marriage business altogether; the very idea that a consenting, competent adult needs the government’s permission to marry another consenting, competent adult is anathema to the concept of individual liberty.

So this Kody Brown is “spiritually” married to three women.  (Better him than me; Mrs. Animal is all I can handle and then some.)  There should only be one factor that matters here:

Are all four of them competent, consenting adults who entered into this arrangement of their own free will?

If so, it’s nobody else’s furshlugginer business how they choose to live.  It’s most especially not the business of some snoop from the state of Utah, or any other level of government.

The second half of this argument is, of course, the collection of welfare benefits by wives who are not “legally” married.  Well, I have two possible solutions to that:  End the calculation of government-sanctioned benefits by married couple and apportion any government largess by household, or (better still) end the government distribution of charity altogether.  It’s not the taxpayers’ responsibility to subsidize you if you downloaded kids you can’t afford.

There is a basic concept at point here:  Liberty.  Liberty is the natural condition of human beings, wherein they live and act as they please, unfettered by government interference, as long as they cause no physical or fiscal harm to anyone else.   I can’t see how the polygamist Brown is hurting anyone else by having three wives, “spiritual” or otherwise, as long as no “abuse, fraud or smuggling” or any other illegal shenanigans is going on.

It’s a shame that the state of Utah doesn’t seem to get that.

Animal’s Daily Guitar News

And now, for something completely different; my list of the five best guitar players in rock & roll history.  Here they are, at their finest and in no particular order.  These are all live shows – no studio riffs here.

First up:  The irreplaceable Jerry Garcia, in 1990, playing lead in Eyes of the World.  Mrs. Animal and I saw the Grateful Dead in 1991, and this was one of the best tunes in the almost 5-hour show.

Next, the irrepressible Frank Zappa, from a 1977 concert, with his favored show-closer The Muffin Man.

Next, the irreproachable Stevie Ray Vaughan, with a live rip of his Couldn’t Stand the Weather.


And then there’s the irredeemable Jimi Hendrix, with a 1970 performance of his famous Purple Haze.

And finally, the only member on the list still walking the mortal coil; the irresistible Carlos Santana.  I didn’t pick one of his usuals for this; instead I chose a more intimate performance, where he met the radiant Faith Hill and accompanied her on her song  Breathe. 

So.  Thoughts?  I would have named my top ten, but I was running out of words that began with the ‘irr’ prefix, and besides, after five the choices widen out some.  I suppose I’d put Eddie Van Halen in that list, and Jimmy Page, and maybe George Thorogood.