Our weekly Mailbox has been on hiatus for a few weeks due to certain time-consuming Mann vs Steyn trial-of-the-century matters. We won't get into them here, except to note, for the many readers who drew attention to the phrase "pubic discussion" on the penultimate page of my latest court brief, that it's not a misprint on my lawyers' part, but an allusion to Hustler vs Falwell. Honestly.
There were significant developments in the case last week. The ACLU and almost every major media organization came out, decisively, against Michael E Mann because they recognize the menace he poses to freedom of expression were he to prevail. On the other hand, Paul Krugman says Mann will triumph through the mighty power of Google. Meanwhile, I thank those readers who've purchased our Steyn vs the Stick Free Speech Special and other exclusive trial merchandise from the Steyn store. Mann's suit is protracted and expensive, and the only reason I'm still still standing is because of the support of SteynOnline readers.
My Friday column on the inept Ferguson Police Department produced an instant avalanche of almost entirely hostile mail. We'll get to those in the coming week, but for our first Mailbox of the month here's a random sampling of other recent themes. First off, here's one for those Boston Brahmins summering on the Vineyard who assumed that for their expensive country-club membership they'd be allowed to finish the soup:
Your comment about security paranoia at the country club reminds me of an incident during my first visit to Egypt in the late 90s. We had gone from Cairo to one of the Red Sea resorts for a few days for some scuba diving, but on arrival at the jetty were told that the Red Sea was closed today because the President's yacht was on it.
We had a good snigger, of course, about how these funny little third world dictatorships do things, and how preposterous it was that thousands of people could be arbitrarily inconvenienced on the whim of some tinpot tyrant wearing rows of spurious medals and a pair of Raybans.
Doesn't seem so funny now, somehow...
Editor, The John Wilkes Club
Indeed. The best way to restore order and compliance to Ferguson would be for Obama to schedule a round with Jay-Z at the local golf club.
One of the curious features about life in 21st century America is that everyone is suspicious - Massachusetts country-clubbers, New Hampshire bagpipers - except people who are actually suspicious. A week ago I mentioned the suspicions of airline ticket agent Michael Tuohey encountering Mohammed Atta on Tuesday September 11th 2001:
I said to myself, 'If this guy doesn't look like an Arab terrorist, then nothing does.'
But of course he suppressed such unworthy thoughts, and allowed Mr Atta to board the plane. Simon Brockwell writes from Down Under:
Perhaps there should be a name for it: the "Michael Tuohey Instinct". If an airline ticketing agent has checked in "hundreds of Arabs, Sikhs and Hindus" in his career and never felt the gut reaction that any of them were terrorists, the explanation, Occam's Razor being applied here, is that in all likelihood none of them were. When at 5.30am, on September 11th 2001 booking in Mohammed Atta at Portland, Maine, airport and Atta's demeanour and other circumstances produced the explicit thought in Tuohey's brain: "If this guy doesn't look like an Arab terrorist then nothing does" that was something to be acted upon even if his fears proved unfounded.
Dogs instinctively or intuitively are wary of certain individuals they encounter, perhaps they smell guilt, fear, anxiety or some other hard to detect (for a human) response such as a quickening heartbeat or unusual rate of perspiration, but dogs stay alive and well by acting on those instincts. They don't allow such people to pat them (lest they be able to then grab them) they don't accept food from them or get into their cars. Political correctness is turning Western human beings into less discriminating, less self-protective creatures than your average Standard Poodle.
If a dog had been present at Portland airport on that day I guarantee it would have sensed something amiss with Atta. And barked.
Sydney, New South Wales
Yes, you're referring to a subject I discuss in After America, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available from the Steyn store, he pleads with an eye to his upcoming court case. Page 176:
"I define manliness," Professor [Harvey] Mansfield told one interviewer, "as confidence in the face of risk. And this quality has its basis in an animal characteristic that Plato called 'thumos'. Thumos means bristling at something that is strange or inimical to you. Think of a dog bristling and barking; that's a very thumotic response to a situation." Thumotic certainly. But not approved of terribly much nowadays: Bristling at the strange? Where've you been?
Recall Harvey Mansfield's definition of manliness – "confidence in the face of risk" – and then look at the helmets grown men wear to take a Sunday bicycle ride round a suburban park. As for Plato's concept of "thumos" – an animal instinct to bristle at the sense of danger – the instinct seems all but lost.
Do you need to wear a safety helmet if a bagpiper is in the vicinity? It's not compulsory but it is advisable. My tale of the punitive hyper-bureaucracy's latest destruction of another of life's small pleasures continues to attract comment. A Canadian reader writes from the Pacific North-West:
About 1996 I was stopped at the US Border and warned to get a Cites permit for my 1964 Henderson Silver & Ivory Mounted Bagpipes. I duly applied, but the permit I received only permitted entry through the port of Seattle. There is no way to get to Seattle directly from the Lower Mailnland of British Columbia other than by boat, and it is far south of most of the Washington State Highland Games.
This bureaucratic nonsense will sunder the community of pipers in BC, Washington and Oregon, which is highly integrated to the point where we often play in bands based in the others' country.
By the way, threats to ban dancing and piping judges and competitors by novel interpretations of whether they are taking up employment in the US are also threatened. FYI, the Pacific Coast of the US and Canada are just as much a hotbed of piping, drumming and dancing as Ontario.
The only thing more dangerous than being an enemy of the US is being their friend and ally.
And that last line applies not just to Canucks but to Kiwis. Reader Paul Deacon draws attention to US Homeland Security's encounter with a respectable and law-abiding member of the national cricket team - and, indeed, the first New Zealander to score two centuries in his first two matches, against India and the West Indies. But that's no reason for laughably misnamed US Customs & "Border" "Protection" agents not to destroy his cricket bat for the sheer vindictive pleasure of it:
Jimmy Neesham is a promising young New Zealand cricketer (classic all-rounder, fast scoring middle order batsman, medium-fast bowler). He seems to be a nice young lad too. This would appear to be wanton vandalism by the authorities. The body of a cricket bat is just wood, surely this sort of article is ideal for inspection by the scanner.
Christchurch, New Zealand
If you outlaw bagpipes, only outlaws will have bagpipes - just like the old days:
Just wanted to let you know of my favorite scene from Braveheart and how it related to your column. When William Wallace's dad and brother are killed, they had bagpipers playing at a distance up on a hill, with William's uncle stating: "they're playing outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes".
Longshanks as the ultimate comprehensive tyrant, so much so, reminds me of you know who in the year 2014 in what used to be a place for free people. As Mark says: subjects v. sovereigns. Right on the money. Too true on the southern border. I live in California. The battle is over. US lost that one. The reconquista is being secured by the politicians of our government, both sides.
Speaking of "outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes", my D-Day column recounted this splendid example from Lord Lovat and Bill Millin:
Lovat had asked his personal piper, Bill Millin, to pipe his men ashore. Private Millin pointed out that this would be in breach of War Office regulations. "That's the English War Office, Bill," said Lovat. "We're Scotsmen." And so Millin strolled up and down the sand amid the gunfire playing "Hieland Laddie" and "The Road To The Isles" and other highland favorites. The Germans are not big bagpipe fans and I doubt it added to their enjoyment of the day.
My US publicist gets a little nervous when I say on Rush or Fox "George III wouldn't have done this to you" or "If he were running in this year's election, George III would be the small-government candidate", but while we're on the subject...
Another example of old King George III not being as bad as 'King' Obama. King George III repealed the Dress Act which supposedly banned the pipes in Scotland.
Technically, it didn't ban the bagpipes, just all the stuff you need to be wearing in order to feel comfortable playing them - kilts, sporrans, and philabegs. So in that sense the Act of Proscription did effectively muffle the pipes. However, I always liked the proclamation that followed George III's repeal of the act:
Listen Men. This is bringing before all the Sons of the Gael, the King and Parliament of Britain have forever abolished the act against the Highland Dress; which came down to the Clans from the beginning of the world to the year 1746. This must bring great joy to every Highland Heart. You are no longer bound down to the unmanly dress of the Lowlander. This is declaring to every Man, young and old, simple and gentle, that they may after this put on and wear the Truis, the Little Kilt, the Coat, and the Striped Hose, as also the Belted Plaid, without fear of the Law of the Realm or the spite of the enemies.
Och aye, the noo!
Dane, meanwhile, has a suggestion:
Is it possible to ship several hundred bagpipes into Mexico, give them to illegals and then arrange for them to bring them across the southern border? Just to see what or who officialdom decides to let into the country when doing their job?
I think I proposed something similar with Kinder eggs on Rush a couple of years ago, but, on the Lord Lovat model, bagpipes are an even better idea. The two Granite Staters who had their bagpipes seized returning to the US were teenagers - that's to say, "minors", just like all the lads from Central America. The only difference is that on the southern border they're "unaccompanied minors", whereas on the northern border they're minors accompanied by bagpipes. It would be a fine thing to fly a couple of dozen bagpipers down to Mexico and send them across the Rio Grande piping all the way - just to see how quickly the Customs & "Border" "Protection" diaper-changers down there rediscover their zeal for the fine print of the "law".
Upon the suicide of Robin Williams, I quoted a reminiscence by Minnie Driver that I found rather sad and desperate.
The idea of no one knowing Robin Williams when he wasn't "on" reminded me of a 60 minutes interview with Sir Laurence and Lady Olivier.
Sir Larry was cutting up the whole time and the interviewer, (was it Morley Safer?) asked Lady Olivier what he was like when he wasn't playing a part. She replied, "Oh, he's always playing a part."
Yes, Lady O, the great Joan Plowright, made a similar throwaway observation to me not long before Olivier died. The difference, I think, is that Olivier seems to have been much more self-aware than Robin Williams. John Osborne's The Entertainer, a play commissioned by Olivier, is usually recalled for its metaphor of post-war Britain as a seedy decrepit music hall, but it's also a meditation on the hollowness of a man who lives only through performance.
This last week we also lost, at a much greater age, Lauren Bacall. When it comes to To Have And Have Not, Chris Smith would rather have not:
"The you-know-how-to-whistle scene is great." Not as writing. Ever tried putting your lips together and blowing? You don't get a whistle.
Terry Sautter reminds us of the film's other woman:
I too am a big fan of the film. I worked for many years at Capitol Records so I have a certain fondness for Johnny Mercer-- you know why-- and absolutely love the saloon singer scenes. Hoagy's "Hong Kong Blues" is great fun too.
But here's what gets to me on multiple viewings: Dolores Moran. And what an amazing, and largely unknown today, story her life is. Somebody should write a book or a script on the life of Dolores Moran. She must have been a beautiful baby... here's an item from her bio:
In 1941, 15 year old Dolores Moran was working as a car hop at a drive-in located in San Jose, California -- one night she brought local apricot grower Anthony Ponce a cup of coffee. He never saw her again, never contacted her and never spoke about her to family members, but when he died aged 58 in 1968, a reclusive bachelor, his 1947 will provided that she inherit most of his $300,000 estate.
Hope to see you in court before 2020.
Lake Wylie, South Carolina
Thank you for that. I was just thinking the other day that I wish we still had films with actresses called Dolores in them. Miss Moran wasn't an A-list Dolores, but she was choice.
Our audio celebration of the centenary of Hugh Martin, composer of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", was well-received:
Thank you for bringing those shows out of the archive. Loved them. Right up there with the Bond theme show.
Meanwhile, Daniel Hollombe thinks he's figured out where it all went wrong:
In this week's musical column, you revealed a lot about yourself with this one sentence:
The am-dram directrice handed me Wonderful Day, and being into a lot of terrible progressive rock at the time, I was aghast at the prospect of having to sing in public what I regarded as a supersized slab of cheesy hokum.
So that's your problem. You went straight from Emerson, Floyd & Wakeman, and delved straight into Anthony Newley, completely bypassing anything and everything in between. You'll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that you're missing out on a lot of great musical craftsmanship that is easily as melodic as "On A Wonderful Day Like Today," that simply wasn't composed for any stage show or movie.
For starters, I think you'll enjoy this, which was specifically written and recorded as an homage to Anthony Newley. I hope you'll be pleasantly surprised when you discover who it was that wrote and recorded it.
If you can get past that one, check out the flip side (here), which is also easily as melodic as anything any Broadway composer ever created.
On that cheery note ...wait a minute, we can't end on a cheery note. Okay, how about...?
I just read your column on the Yazidis. I think it was in America Alone you said we had half a decade to turn the country around. I agree, but I think the half decade in question was 1953-1958, and we blew it.
In light of our current national fecklessness, "Live Free or Die" seems a trifle out of date (too individualistic, potentially offensive to the coward community), so I propose a new license plate slogan, and not just for New Hampshire. "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave, Thing of the Past."
It will fit nicely on T-shirts, too. We could paint it on the helicopters when they evacuate the last Americans from our embassy in Baghdad. And Kabul. And Tel Aviv. Heck, why not put it on the money?
Speaking of money, I suddenly feel like buying myself another Steynonline gift certificate. Thanks for keeping up the fight.
On the other hand:
Just viewed your stirring defense of Andrew Bolt. Felt the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. In less than ten bracing minutes you encapsulate the core threat to Western liberties today with intelligence, wit and unassailable logic. How can we get these ten minutes into our schools and "Earth in the Balance" out? I know that's a foolish question but we can dream. Will be shopping at the Steyn store to show my support for your current stand for free speech. The lights may be going out all over the place but at least we can try to fight in the first ditch rather than the last.
John H. Shuba