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Gelded Critics of Capitalism

Capitalism gets off easy these days. Its loud but underwhelming critics are stuck in the 1960s, repeating slogans that never quite amount to a compelling condemnation of the system. Proposing costly federal programs is all it takes to be considered an ­anti-­capitalist radical. Take, for instance, . . . . Continue Reading »

Under the Rainbow Banner

In June 1970, America’s first gay pride parades hit the streets. Four U.S. cities—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco—hosted crowds ranging from several hundred to a few thousand marching with homemade signs declaring “pride,” “power,” and “liberation.” Like . . . . Continue Reading »

Russian Purgatory

The Russian soul. The phrase serves as shorthand for Russia’s national character, after the manner of American innocence, French arrogance, Italian dolce far niente, and what used to be the English stiff upper lip. Russians are reputed to feel more than the rest of us do, think deep thoughts . . . . Continue Reading »

Strategic Long-Term Propaganda

In the opening lines of Cold Warriors, Duncan White notes that “between February and May 1955, a group covertly funded by the Central Intelligence Agency launched a secret weapon into Communist territory”: balloons carrying copies of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. This was perhaps the . . . . Continue Reading »

The Fallen Men of Film Noir

In the mid-1940s, Hollywood began to make a new kind of crime film. Combining sex and violence, lust and greed, the “noir” was distinguished by the darkness of its themes and photography. Double ­Indemnity (1944) was, as a critic noted in the New York Times, “the first of the . . . . Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

Tyll: A Novel by daniel kehlmann, translated by ross benjamin pantheon, 352 pages, $26.95 Daniel Kehlmann’s novel Tyll, like its title character, is full of dark surprises. Tyll ­Ulenspiegel, a legendary figure from German folklore, is a prankster, magician, and traveling performer. Throughout . . . . Continue Reading »

Epicurus Today

Oenoanda was an ancient town of modest size and middling prosperity, perched on the rugged hills above the River Xanthus in Lycia, now southwestern Turkey. It was here, sometime around the reign of Hadrian (a.d. 117–38), that a citizen named Diogenes erected a portico destined to bear one of the . . . . Continue Reading »

Perilous Directions

Pity the satirist: He labors under a double burden. There is, first and foremost, the need to be funny. Whatever kind of laughter the satirist conjures—whether it be queasy or full-out—the jokes have to land. Comedians have no safety net, and the ground is hard-packed. Then there is the . . . . Continue Reading »

Learning Latin

Some people acquire foreign languages more easily than others. I, alas, am one of those others. I cannot truly say that I have possession of any foreign language. I have perhaps two hundred or so words of Yiddish—just enough to fool the Gentiles into thinking I know the language, but not . . . . Continue Reading »

Contrapuntal Order

Around the start of the seventeenth century, a new sense of the word “harmony” emerged. To that point, harmony in music had been produced by the pleasing opposition of two melodies according to the principles of counterpoint. In the 1600s, “harmony” began to denote the non-melodic . . . . Continue Reading »

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