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3.27.2004

Not Some Farcical Aquatic Ceremony

It's funny how different people can interpret a single set of events differently. Three people looking up into the same night sky might see, respectively, concentrations of gases seething away in the cold emptiness of space, Jupiter ascendant in the house of Capricorn, and a mandate for the passage of a constitution for the European Union. This phenomenon can be observed here. Call it EuroBureaucratic Romanticism, that it should be able to see a call for supra-national law-making in a train bombing.

Posted by Doug Brown

3.26.2004

A/B Comparisons: They're Good for You!

I was listening to NPR at lunch today, and was struck by something. John Kerry's speech is very formal, in a style that has been out of vogue since, I think, Nixon's resignation. I'm talking about the stage-tuned modulations that began to die out as soon as political questions were argued on television instead of in newspapers or on radio. The fact that since Carter, at least, the presidential tone has been one of plain-spoken folksiness rather than that of traditional oratory makes me wonder what the general reaction will be when the two candidates meet in debate. Will Kerry's formal cadences be off-putting to the increasingly informal American ear or will people think of FDR and the first JFK? Will Bush's halting twang sound honest or ignorant when contrasted with, not Gore's SID-chip speech-synthesis, but Kerry's turn of the century style?

Speaking of things that John Kerry reminds one of, there's this fellow.

Posted by Doug Brown
Tax cuts for the wealthiest?

One has to wonder how this will play with the Dean/Edwards wing of the Democratic party. I hope, O I hope! that Kerry will try to spin this as somehow targeted to middle class corporations. That would be delicious.

Posted by Doug Brown
The End of Democracy?

After a contentious Presidential election season, the ballots are in and the victor has eked out a win by the smallest of margins. The defeated party calls for a recount and the result is verified. The losers, of course, deny the legitimacy of the recount, spinning theories involving corruption, last-minute dirty tricks, and accusing the winning party of subverting the will of the people. What happens next depends on when and where you're holding the election. If it's 2000 and Gore has just lost to Bush, well, there's some pissing and a deal of moaning, but most people get on with their lives. If it's 2004 and you're in Taiwan, this is what you get. (via IHT, again)

Lest you think that it may be messy, but, hey, it's democracy, note that

China, in its strongest statement on the Taiwan election turmoil, warned on Friday that it would not stand idly by if the situation spiraled out of control.

That's right. Our buddy China. Detente: it's French for capitulation, mate.

Posted by Doug Brown

3.25.2004

MORE ON THE FRENCH

From Nick Schulz of Tech Central Station

It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that the only things that matter to French business and government officials at the highest levels are lining their pockets and extending regional and global influence. As such, they reject sentimental thinking; they also reject high-minded appeals to freedom and universal human rights. They are cold calculators who make decisions always designed to maximize their base interests.

It's not clear to me how to proceed against France.

Link via Instapundit
Men's Grooming . . . Part II

By John O'Connor, former Prada model

My earlier post attributing all changes in men's grooming habits to gay men is perhaps an overstatement. But, duly qualifying my earlier remarks, I would say that three forces together have conspired to revolutionize men's grooming, and other aspects of men's culture, beyond recognition. This triumvirate consists of gay males, Hollywood, and the ongoing industrial revolution of the world.

Whether it's gay or straight or bi or unlabelled, men's vanity has slipped its leash and is roaming at will through our culture.

Men who dye their hair. (Al Gore). Men with big, fancy haircuts (Kerry, Clinton, almost all local newscasters). Men with Botox (Kerry, and others unknown). Men who are fashion slaves (England's David Beckham) and trendsetters (same). Men who wax their faces so that they don't have to shave (unknown, but cited below). This is not all gay. I have not cited to a single openly gay male so far. But is all sort of gay-ish, and I think there is a trend that way in our culture.

Many things that used to be gay aren't any more. First and foremost I would mention bodybuilding. One reason Arnold had a career was that promoters, led by the likes of Joe Weider and others, were desperate for a straight role model they could put forward to demonstrate that weight-lifters could indeed by heterosexual. The earlier presumption was that bodybuilders basically were not. Bodybuilding was introduced into this country in the 19th century by Eugene Sandow, a gay German, and it has had a strong gay aspect ever since. Arnold was hailed as the messiah who could sell this as a straight activity. Judging from the prevalence of gyms and lifting in American life, he has succeeded. American males don't think twice about lifting weights, and American women are right there with them. This is a quiet revolution, but a real one.

One thing that made it necessary is the economic change of the country. It is very difficult to stay in shape by doing your job. Most American guys can't do that. So, sports or exercise of some sort have become a necessity, not a luxury. Failure to exercise leads to a body which is too thin and underdeveloped or too fat and unwieldy.

There is a whole magazine industry devoted to this, all those men's health and men's fitness magazines. No, it is not gay porn. But the physical ideal set forth in these things is essentially what you would find on an erotic website. TV and movies are also not shy about presenting ideal male physiques as normal -- something which women are used to, but which is newish where men are concerned.

Hair is one of the key indicators here. Plenty of businessmen now dye their hair -- good for sales, etc. My own late father, a rock-ribbed conservative, dyed his. It was not an endorsement of the Clinton era. When I was a kid, men never had hair stylists. They never dyed. Young men did not streak their hair with blond highlights, or wear the sort of look we now associate (derisively, I admit) with boy bands.

Yes, ethnicity is a factor. A white person, a black person, and a Latino all will tend to have different ideals for what it means to be a well-groomed man. It's the sea-change among white men that I find most interesting. Obviously, this is where resistance to change is probably the strongest. But it is also where the change is most visible.

Hollywood markets these changes and makes them stick. Ever seen a guy in a one-piece full-body swimsuit? These were standard attire for American men until Johnny Weissmuller, of Tarzan fame, pioneered the men's swimsuit as we know it today. Nobody but John Ashcroft has probably ever worn the old-fashioned kind. Many probably don't realize that what they would wear today is breath-takingly radical, immodest, and immoral. That, however, is because they are used to the change.

--jo
Nazism Explained / Hitler As Nanny

By John O'Connor, revisionist depth psychologist

The current New Yorker has an excellent article, "Reporting It All", on legendary journalist and chronic overeater AJ Liebling.

Liebling became an unlikely war correspondent, but an interesting one. Money quote:

"'I did not think about Germany,' he wrote. 'When I was a small child I had had a succession of German governesses all indistinguishably known to me as Fraulein. They had been servile to my parents and domineering to me, stupid, whining, loud, and forever trying to frighten me with stories of children who had been burned to a crisp or eaten by an ogre because they had disobeyed other Frauleins. . . . Anybody who had had a German governess could understand Poland.'"

The New Yorker, "Reporting It All: A.J. Liebling at one hundred," by David Remnick, March 29, 2004

--joc

Differently Rational

The NY Times website linked to this editorial from Beirut's Dar Al-Hayat, apparently drawn from an expatriate Lebanese high schooler's private journal. The last paragraph either suffers from translation or delusion. You decide:

Should I get off the world, later regret what I left, and repeat my attempt to leave the world in a chain of non-ending immigration? Maybe if I did, I would find that lost Jew, as he is the reason for my loss.

Is this a reference to the legend of the Wandering Jew, an anti-semitic story from the middle ages? If so, it's a reference as oblique as the route of Kafka's The Hunter Gracchus, a character inspired, in part, by that same legend.

But the really creepy editorial is this one, in which the calculus of Hamas's retaliation for Yassin's killing is explored. I don't think you can mistake this for anything other than a cold-blooded consideration of which innocents should be murdered and where. Just in case you were a little short on the politics of murder today.

Posted by Doug Brown
David's offer was tempting, but I refrained from the easy picking.

There is a great article over at salon.com (evil advertisement watching required, but this one is worth it) about some truths in the tech support world. Makes you wonder why management/executives aren't being outsourced to India as well.

-Patrick

3.24.2004

File Under: Best Idea, Ever

Here's a cute idea (again via IHT) from a Japanese journo: let the whole world vote for who they think should be elected POTUS. That way, we can have a better idea of who will probably look out not for American interests, but for the interests of the world as a whole.

And then efface his otherness.

Posted by Doug Brown
Why, If I Ever Get a Time Machine, Jean-Paul Sartre and I Will Have a Long Talk

An opinion piece from the Boston Globe (via IHT) discusses the Syrian suppression of Kurdish protests. After briefly describing the historical/political context, the piece concludes:

At issue is not only the status of Kurds but a historic challenge to Arab, Turkish, and Iranian societies. They must learn to let minorities live among majorities without effacing their otherness.

This has got to be the weakest conclusion imaginable given the topic. While the editorial does go so far as to say that Syria's actions reflect the "underlying pathology" of Saddam's "crimes against humanity," to wrap up with what could easily be a plagarism from chapter four of Being and Nothingness will, for those sensitive to empty talk, induce - wait for it! - nausea. Even if the primary aspect of the problem is ethnic (Arab/Kurdish) rather than political (opressors/rational beings possessed of inalienable rights), to come up with no stronger prescription than a paean to the universal obligation of diversity-embracing demontrates a weakness of mind that may not shock but still appalls.

Quick show of hands: who thinks the Boston Globe's editorial board believes that Israel aspires to efface the otherness of Palestinians?

Posted by Doug Brown
Thomas Paine: Overappreciated Secularist
by Maximilian Longley

The famous American historical figure Thomas Paine continues to be cited in modern times as the epitome of everything an American should be. A few months ago, conducting a computer search for references to Paine in the media over the past few years, I found only one unfavorable reference to the old revolutionary (A Robert Bartley editorial in the Wall Street Journal).(1) Apart from this, references to Paine were quite favorable. References to Paine tend to associate him with the positive virtues of Americanism (as interpreted by the particular writer). The contrast between the Thomas Paine of myth, who is so frequently invoked today, and the Thomas Paine of reality, is worth examining.

Paine was a writer and revolutionary who came to Pennsylvania shortly before the American Revolution. After that Revolution began, he wrote a famous pamphlet, Common Sense, urging separation from England. He also spent time fighting with George Washington's army and serving in various clerical posts in government. A would-be inventor, Paine went to England after the American Revolution to promote a bridge he had designed. When the French Revolution broke out, he went to that country, served in the French legislature despite his lack of knowledge of French, and wrote a two-part tract (Rights of Man) defending what he deemed to be the principles of the French Revolution. Locked up during the Terror, Paine began work on Age of Reason, a work attacking Christianity and defending deism. After leaving France, Paine spent his last years in New York state.

Paine's modern followers are numerous. A pro-war group, The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, put out a White Paper, written by Ronald Radosh, accusing opponents of the American invasion of lacking the right kind of patriotism. The White Paper opened with a famous 1776 quote from Paine: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. [etc.]"(2) The American Legion uses the "summer soldiers" quotation in its handbook for speakers. This and another Paine quote are included in a list of quotations that speakers could use when explaining the Legion's principles to public gatherings.(3) A patriotic paean to the United States by Otto Whittaker, reprinted by Ann Landers in her widely-syndicated column, included Paine among a list of great American people, places and institutions.(4) Michael Kazin, in the Washington Post, gave Paine as an example of a patriotic left-wing dissenter.(5)

Invoking Paine as an exemplar of American patriotism is somewhat misguided. During his sojourn in France in the 1790s, Paine identified with France and its Revolution, rather than with the Federalist government of President John Adams. In 1798, France and the United States were fighting a naval war. Paine took the occasion of this war to publish an essay in the French newspaper le Bien informe. This essay gave advice to the French government on the best means of invading the United States. Paine recommended that a French invasion force go for American seaports: "The master blow would be to finish at Halifax [Nova Scotia], then move down to New Orleans, take possession of the port of Natchez, call on the friends of liberty in the back parts of the United States, from Kentucky to the southern limits of English America [modern Canada]." Paine biographer David Freeman Hawke comments: "Nothing can excuse or explain away the essay. Hatred of the Federalists [President Adams' party] had propelled Paine into sedition."(6) "Sedition" is not the strongest term that can be used of an American who, in time of war, gives advice to the enemy on how to invade his own country.

A New York Unitarian-Universalist minister, Jan Carlsson-Bull, delivered a sermon on July 7, 2002 which sounded the theme of Paine as a defender of liberty:

"Thomas Paine spoke to this over two hundred years ago in his 'Dissertation On First Principles of Government':

"'An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.'

"Paine's statement is not unlike that teaching that courses through so many faiths-what we do to others, we do to ourselves. . . ."(7)

Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice also cites Paine as a friend of civil liberties, and Hentoff recently won the Thomas Paine Civil Liberties Award from the Council for Secular Humanism.(8) The CSH claims to be in favor of "eliminating discrimination and intolerance" (9) and supporting "freedom of conscience and belief from those ecclesiastical, political, and economic interests that seek to repress them."(10) Presumably, the CSH, by establishing a Thomas Paine Award and giving it to a civil-libertarian journalist, is implying that Paine upholds the principles stated. The real Paine's commitment to civil liberties for all people is more dubious than his reputation may indicate.

In 1797, during his French phase, Paine wrote a pamphlet on religious freedom. (11) He was writing to oppose freedom for France's Roman Catholic faithful. The Revolutionary government had persecuted Roman Catholic clergy who refused to pledge loyalty to the regime, and the government had also passed laws against the ringing of church bells and the holding of religious processions. A moderate politician had proposed to improve the legal status of the church by legalizing the ringing of church bells.

In his pamphlet, Paine said that the Roman Catholic church was morally unfit to enjoy such rights as bell-ringing. Paine declared that the Roman Catholic priesthood were deceivers of the people. Praising the quiet worship of the Quakers, Paine said: "Religion does not unite itself to show and noise. True religion is without either. Where there is both there is no true religion. . . . We talk of true religion. Let us talk of truth; for that which is not truth is not worthy of the name of religion."(12)

Paine claimed that the right to ring church bells was inconsistent with France's Revolutionary Constitution, the most recent version of which had been adopted in 1795.(13) "The churches," said Paine, "are the common property of all the people," and ought to be sold off to benefit the poor. All religious groups could then build as many churches as they could afford, out of their own resources. But it should remain illegal to ring bells at these churches, because church bells were "a public nuisance," distressing sick people who were trying to get some rest. In addition, added Paine, the "[s]treets and highways" must be closed to religious processions, so that the public would not be inconvenienced by "the meeting of various and contradictory processions [which] would be tumultuous."(14) Finally, Paine said that agitating for the rights of the Roman Catholic Church aided England, with whom France was at war. England would try "to inundate France with a flood of emigrant priests. . . and the ringing of bells would be the tocsin of your downfall."(15)

How does all this comport with the Council for Secular Humanism's call for "eliminating discrimination and intolerance" and its professed support for "freedom of conscience and belief from those ecclesiastical, political, and economic interests that seek to repress them?" How does it comport with Nat Hentoff's strong support of civil liberties? How does it comport with the Unitarian-Universalist minister's call for respecting the rights of others?

Paine has some Jewish supporters, who probably like him because of his strong secularism and presumed love of freedom. Are these folks aware of the unflattering remarks Paine made about Jews? In The Age of Reason, Paine's famous attack on Christianity published in the 1790s, the only time he says anything good about Jews is when he describes how most of them rejected Christianity. When it comes to attacking the Old Testament, however, Paine shows his opinion of the Jews who wrote it. Paine even goes so far as to claim that the comparatively few parts of the Old Testament that he liked were written by gentiles and not by Jews. Here is a passage from Age of Reason:

"We know nothing of what the ancient Gentile world (as it is called) was before the time of the Jews, whose practice has been to calumniate and blacken the character of all other nations; and it is from the Jewish accounts that we have learned to call them heathens.

"But, as far as we know to the contrary, they were a just and moral people, and not addicted, like the Jews, to cruelty and revenge, but of whose profession of faith we are unacquainted. It appears to have been their custom to personify both virtue and vice by statues and images, as is done nowadays both by statuary and by paintings; but it does not follow from this that they worshipped them, any more than we do."(16)

Paine returned to his Jew-baiting in a reply to one of the critics of Age of Reason. He declared that the Jewish origin of the Old Testament was an argument against its divine origin:

"As to the Jews, there is not one single improvement in any science or in any scientific art that they ever produced. They were the most ignorant of all the illiterate world. If the word of the Lord had come to them, as they pretend. . . and that they were to be the harbingers of it to the rest of the world, the Lord would have taught them the use of letters, and the art of printing; for without the means of communicating the word, it could not be communicated; whereas letters were the invention of the Gentile world, and printing of the modern world."(17)

Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's magazine, wrote a piece about a speech he gave to the Thomas Paine Historical Association about their patron saint. Lapham thought he found parallels between the political establishment today and the political establishment of Paine's time: "The propertied gentlemen remembered that Paine was too much given to plain speaking, on too familiar terms with the lower orders of society, and therefore a man who might continue to make trouble."(18)

Paine's devotion to "plain speaking" may be doubted, in view of his concealment of his religious views during the American Revolution. By the time he left England to seek his fortune in America, Paine had become a deist-that is, he believed in God, but disbelieved in Christianity, regarding it as a tissue of lies and superstitions.(19) However, until the publication of Age of Reason in the 1790s, Paine kept his religious views secret from the readers of his works, and even pretended to be a Christian.

Some attribute to Paine a 1775 denunciation of the slave trade. The correctness of the attribution to Paine has been challenged, precisely because of its Christian language. For example, the article drew a comparison between the Jews of the Old Testament era, to whom slavery was permitted under limited conditions, and the Christians under the "Gospel light" of the New Testament, whose principles do not allow the slave trade.(20)

On the other hand, there is no dispute as to the authorship of Paine's most famous work, the 1776 pro-independence tract Common Sense. That pamphlet relies strongly on Christian rhetoric and Biblical citations to prove its points. For example, Paine argues that monarchy is contrary to the Old Testament, declaring that if God isn't against monarchy, "the scripture is false."(21)

In Common Sense, Paine recommended that America have a Constitution, not a king. "[L]et a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon [on the charter], by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king....[L]et the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is."(22)

"[W]e claim brotherhood," declared the Paine of Common Sense, "with every European Christian, and triumph in the generosity of the sentiment." (23) This was, indeed, a generous sentiment for Paine, who regarded Christianity as a lie. Paine's Christian rhetoric in Common Sense was clearly designed to deceive the readers as to his true religious opinions.

An article by Jim Washburn in the Orange County Weekly shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks griped about America's alliances with "unsavory characters," saying that such alliances would have made George Washington "vomit his teeth out" and led Paine to "start the revolution anew."(24) Whatever may be the case with George Washington (whom Paine hated), citing Paine as an opponent of foreign tyrants is quite misleading. Paine's support for the French revolutionaries should rebut the notion that he had a revulsion against unsavory characters.

The Paine of myth is a quite different person from the Paine of history. The mythical Paine tends to be invoked by those who share his radical ideas in politics and religion. At the same time, some people whose ideas are contrary to those of the real Paine are all too ready to embrace the Paine of myth for rhetorical effect. A more careful approach is called for before invoking a historical figure on behalf of contemporary causes.

Mr. Longley is a guest columnist, and author of What Measure Ye Mete: The Life and Times of Judge Halsted Ritter. A collection of his columns can be found in Discordant Sound. For source information on specific footnotes, please email Scott Schudy whose address link is found in the upper right corner.



3.23.2004

The Beauty Regimen that Dare Not Speak its Name

John-

Spot on in your observation about the queering of hygiene. However, this has always seemed to me like a group neurosis, and as such unlikely to be emulated by the straight population en masse. Like the affectation of a lisp, it seems to serve as both sexual signifier and neurotic self-feminization.

When I think of dandies, for some reason I'm always reminded not of Wilde but of the first introduction of Will Scarlet in Pyle's Robin Hood. Mincing along sniffing a rose until Little John decides to take the piss out of him and instead gets a good drubbing.

Whether there is a Darwinian advantage for the hyper-groomed straight male is an interesting question. Certainly among some subsets of straight males there is already a scrupulous attention to hygiene beyond what is considered necessary. P. Diddy, for instance, has certainly had more manicures by now than your average suburban housewife can expect to get in a lifetime. And I have been among hispanic club-going men whose attention to cleanliness and appearance left me feeling, well, not-so-clean. But a Darwinian advantage for such as these? I doubt it.

For one thing, taken beyond a certain point, hygeine becomes - I'm going to say it - unmanly. To take an instance, a friend of mine had laser hair removal done on his face so that he doesn't have to shave. Convenient, yes. Likely to give him an advantage over an otherwise comparable male on the make? Doubtful. And then there's all that extra money you're spending on peels and lotions and waxing that you could be spending on flowers or jewelry or - O great leveller of the Darwinian playing field! - alcohol.

But a question for you: other than earring-wearing and Cher concert-going, what commonly accepted hetero behaviors were pioneered by gay men?

Posted by Doug Brown
Windows -- A General Description

Funny thread over at Slashdot about Microsoft's sign-on technology, .NET Passport. Money quote:

Turns out, high licensing fees, lack of simple implementation, security leaks and server downtime, were not acceptable to most of potential clients out there.

Which leads to this gem from thread contributor, nother_nix_hacker :

Sounds like a generic description of MS products.

Heh. Perhaps this Windows-bashing, Slashdot loving post will bring Patrick out . . .
The Title of this Blog

I thought up the name "The Irrationalist" for a blog when I was rereading E.R. Dodds' "The Greeks and The Irrational." I've always been a fan of this book. As amazon reviewer David Butler (same link as above) notes

Dodds introduces his material with an anecdote of a young man he met in the British Museum who confessed his inability to get excited about the Elgin Marbles, because, after all, the Greeks were so "terribly rational." Dodds then poses the question, "[w]ere the Greeks in fact quite so blind to the importance of nonrational factors in man's experience and behaviour as is commonly assumed both by their apologists and by their critics?" In answering his own question (the answer is, of course, "no"), Dodds writes an interesting book.


I thought that a blog with a similar title to Dodds' book might sound good, but also more importantly (and generally) might actually act as some sort of useful examination of human behavior, both rational and irrational.

I believe that there's some school of philosophy called "Irrationalism" but the blog title has nothing to do with it.
Thanks to David for the invitation, nay, summons.

Two questions before I dive in:

1. Why irrationalist? Something connected to Hume's contention that morals are not an object of reason?

2. Do we use our powers for good or for awesome?

Posted by Doug Brown
Acceptable Racism

Great bit by Donald Sensing on acceptable racism in basketball.

Everyone get that? If you think that Ryan's comments are, charitably, insensitive or more accurately, downright racist, you are an "idiot," according to Ryan.

Also, you may be surprised to learn that no white player can participate in the game with permission of black players. That's what he said. That's the "code" of basketball.

The Boston Globe defends both Ryan and his comments.

You see, it's okay to be racist these days if you are racist the right way. And yes, I think Ryan should be fired. But he won't be.


Via Instapundit Posted by DOC.

3.21.2004

Men's Grooming . . . Ubi Ecclesia?

By John O'Connor, fashion victim

Yesterday we had a perfect spring day where I am living (Kansas City) and, since it was a Saturday, I persuaded myself to spend some time traipsing around outdoors. Coming back from errands, I stopped in at an estate sale on a whim. My friend Heather stopped in also by chance, and we rummaged happily together. One peson's trash is another person's bric-a-brac.

We met two male friends of Heather's, a gay couple who have been written up locally because they are raising children together. Briefly, I felt the foundations of western civilization give way but then, realizing that they were not in fact married, I soon regained my equilibrium.

Almost as shocking was how well groomed they were. These guys were clean enough for lab work, neither had a hair out of place, and they almost radiated physical cleanliness. That right there (especially in a midwestern context) tells you that they are probably not hetero.

I find myself wondering if this is the Next Big Thing for American men. When you consider all the things gay guys have pioneered, which are now mainstream (earrings are the classic example, there are others), it seems possible. It seems silly that being conspicuously clean would be a "gay" thing. And I wonder if there is a Darwinian advantage for men who are cleaner and neater. A recent news story about shaving suggested that there might be.

The answer, I think, boils down to a couple main factors. One, will American women reward straight guys for being well groomed. Two, will guys in general figure this out. The fashion for grunge in music certainly seems to be past. Perhaps the fashion for grunge in personal attire will also pass.

Weekend before last, I happened to go the KC Gem and Mineral Show, and bumped into someone from the United Nation Of Islam who was helping to escort a busload of UNOI kids. These kids were clean, neat, well-groomed, quiet, well-behaved, and conspicuouly well-dressed. It was terribly impressive. I have never believed that clothes make the man, but seeing these kids last weekend, and then this couple this weekend, I am not so sure. The phrase "young adults" is usually an oxymoron, but in the case of the UNOI kids I am not so certain.

Fashion wise, this could be the thin edge of the wedge. In the natural world, the male often has brighter plumage. In the realm of history, it is easy to recall times when male vanity led to dandyism on a large scale. It seems to me that we may be in for a new era in which male vanity -- admittedly a small and limited force -- comes out of the closet, so to speak, and begins to insist on quality skin care.

Comparing the UNOI troops to the other people at the show (most of whom had chosen -- for purposes of the weekend only I am sure - to impersonate residents of Eastern Jackson County, Missouri), one begins to see how vanity and pride can be positive influences on the society as a whole. There are certain sins against society which someone who is proud of his appearance will simply not commit.

Will American men develop into updated versions of 18th century dandies? Stay tuned.

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