Formerly Ad Orientem

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Under the patronage of St. Tammany



Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

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Irish Elk
Wednesday, January 19, 2005  


Ken Burns' latest on Jack Johnson was quite good. NY Sun reviewer Allen Barra writes:

There are no heroes in the Jack Johnson story: not the great fighters of the early gloved era who drew the color line, like John L. Sullivan and Jim Corbett; not the early white progressives who approved of the idea of a black champion but were appalled at Johnson's preference for white women; and not Johnson himself, a self-centered hedonist who had no time for blacks devoted to elevating the race. The contradictions in American life that Johnson embodied can't be smoothed over, and the controversies he exacerbated remain unresolved. In many ways, his story seems more contemporary than Muhammad Ali's.

Historical consultants to the program include the jazz critic and essayist Stanley Crouch, who the reviewer writes "can do these kinds of shows standing on his bald head":

You just never know what's going to come out of Mr. Crouch's mouth; his favorite Jack Johnson story is a reply the champion made to a white journalist who asked him why white women were attracted to black men like him. "We eat cold eels," Johnson replied, "and think distant thoughts." "Now what does that mean?" asks Mr. Crouch rhetorically, convulsing with laughter. "It doesn't mean anything, but it's the perfect answer."

The reviewer previously wrote for the Sun on the Geoffrey C. Ward biography of Johnson:

Mr. Ward’s biography is far — very far from hagiography. Biographers are supposed to decide at some point whether or not they like their subjects. Mr. Ward has settled for being fascinated by Johnson without admiring him. He allows Johnson’s greatness without ever trying to make a case for his goodness. Engrossing and definitive, “Unforgivable Blackness” brings its subject to life in all his vulgar, splendid glory.

Here's an interview on NPR with biographer Ward.

* * *

Woodrow Wilson doesn't come out well in the Jack Johnson documentary or in this Corner post by Jonah Goldberg, in whose opinion Wilson "was the worst president of the 20th century and did more damage to that century than any other American statesman."

* * *

Here's the Squaring the Globe blog on the un-PC remarks by Harvard's president that had feminists seeing crimson:

In Massachusetts we no longer display transgressors in the stocks. Instead, our form of social scolding by holders of the Sole Progressive World View is to publish a page 1 story in the Boston Globe (above the fold) with the lede “Summers’ remarks on women draw fire”.

Actually it should have been entitled:

“Harvard President Ignores Academic Speech Codes”.

Reliably enough, today's Globe floods the zone on the Harvard president who departed from Ivy League & Morrissey Boulevard groupthink. A follow-up story on Harvard women's outrage links to an accompanying editorial and to dudgeon from columnists Eileen McNamara and Derrick Jackson.

By contrast, the Harvard Crimson actually interviews a psychology professor, Harvard's own Steven Pinker, who offers a useful perspective on the controversy.

CRIMSON: Were President Summers’ remarks within the pale of legitimate academic discourse?

PINKER: Good grief, shouldn’t everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse, as long as it is presented with some degree of rigor? That’s the difference between a university and a madrassa.

CRIMSON: Would it be normal to hear a similar set of hypotheses presented and considered at a conference of psychologists?

PINKER: Some psychologists are still offended by such hypotheses, but yes, they could certainly be considered at most major conferences in scientific psychology.

CRIMSON: Finally, did you personally find President Summers’ remarks (or what you’ve heard/read of them) to be offensive?

PINKER: Look, the truth cannot be offensive. Perhaps the hypothesis is wrong, but how would we ever find out whether it is wrong if it is “offensive” even to consider it? People who storm out of a meeting at the mention of a hypothesis, or declare it taboo or offensive without providing arguments or evidence, don’t get the concept of a university or free inquiry.

* * *

As it was eight degrees outside this morning, and the remarkable Patriots are rolling again, it's time to Eskimo Up with a bit of Harry Reser. The Pats inspire more than one "Hallelujah."


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