Archive | February, 2010
When Primo Levi, as a newly arrived prisoner at a Nazi concentration camp, reached for an icicle to quench his desperate thirst, a guard knocked the icicle out of his hand. To Levis question Warum? (Why?), the guard replied with what was destined to become a famous quote: Hier ist kein Warum (Here there is no why).
Gosh, dont it make you glad to live in a free country?
Just caught a clip of Joy Behar talking about Joslyn James, the porn star who claims to have been pregnant by Tiger Woods.
Behar said, inter alia, that a) of course Joslyn James wouldnt have wanted to raise a child, because shes a porn star and so has no maternal instinct; and b) its not plausible that Joslyn James would have objected to Woods being unfaithful to her, because shes, you know, a porn star.
I wonder whether Behars aware that according to recent cutting-edge scientific tests, the DNA of porn stars is very similar to that of human beings?
So law prof Karin Calvo-Goller writes a book with the catchy title Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court: ICTY and ICTR Precedents; and fellow law prof Thomas Weigend pens what seems to me a rather mildly negative review.
Whereupon Calvo-Goller reacts by writing to journal editor (and likewise law prof) Joseph Weiler demanding that he suppress the review, on the grounds that it might have a negative impact on her professional reputation and academic promotion. When Weiler very politely declines (at the same time patiently explaining some of her misinterpretations of the review), she drags him into court and has him charged with criminal libel. (CHT Der Leiter. Whether similar charges are being brought against Weigend as well is unclear.)
Given that Calvo-Gollers actions threaten to injure her reputation by making her look like an idiot and a fascistic jerk, I am hereby charging her with criminal libel against herself.
This painting, Quiller Orchardsons 1882 Voltaire (which I saw in Edinburghs National Gallery on my 2006 trip), is one of my favourites; but I wouldnt blame you for wondering why, for this rather indistinct print the best one I could find online scarcely does it justice. (Click to see it slightly larger.)
The painting illustrates the following famous anecdote:
One night at the Opéra the Chevalier de Rohan-Chabot, of the famous and powerful family of the Rohans, a man of forty-three, quarrelsome, blustering, whose reputation for courage left something to be desired, began to taunt the poet upon his birth …. To which the retort came quickly, Whatever my name may be, I know how to preserve the honour of it. The Chevalier muttered something and went off, but the incident was not ended. Voltaire had let his high spirits and his sharp tongue carry him too far, and he was to pay the penalty. …
Voltaire, dining at the Duc de Sullys, where, we are told, he was on the footing of a son of the house, received a message that he was wanted outside in the street. He went out, was seized by a gang of lackeys, and beaten before the eyes of Rohan, who directed operations from a cab. …
The sequel is known to everyone: how Voltaire rushed back, dishevelled and agonised, into Sullys dining-room, how he poured out his story in an agitated flood of words, and how that high-born company, with whom he had been living up to that moment on terms of the closest intimacy, now only displayed the signs of a frigid indifference. The caste-feeling had suddenly asserted itself. Poets, no doubt, were all very well in their way, but really, if they began squabbling with noblemen, what could they expect?
Theres more to the story. When Rohan subsequently learned that Voltaire was practicing his fencing, he heroically arranged to have Voltaire arrested and exiled without trial an event that resulted in one of the classics of the Enlightenment, Voltaires Letters from England, so it was all worth it from our point of view, if not perhaps from Voltaires.
This painting depicts the moment when Voltaire (right) has just been beaten up by Rohans thugs outside and is asking his patron and supposed friend the Duc de Sully (slumped passively in his chair, left) and his aristocratic associates to bear witness on his behalf, only to be met with their indifference and contempt. One might call it Voltaires moment of radicalisation.
What you cant see in this reproduction is the fiery indignation in Voltaires face: not Voltaire the courtier but Voltaire the fighter. Thats the most notable feature of the painting when one sees it in person, and its just completely invisible here; only a close-up could really convey the proper effect that makes it my favourite Voltaire portrait.
So if youre in Edinburgh, I recommend a visit; as I recall, it was on the basement level, down the left-hand ramp as one enters.