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John Holbo

The Stuff Nietzsche Said

by John Holbo on November 18, 2015

My last Nietzsche post got some folks hot and bothered. [click to continue…]


Frazetta Auction – and French Academic Art

by John Holbo on November 16, 2015

Doc Dave Winiewicz is auctioning off his famous Frazetta collection. Here’s his blog. Please note that you can download a high quality 200+ page PDF of the catalog from the auction house, so click that link. You won’t see some of that stuff elsewhere. (Well, I say it’s great. So make fun of me if you like.) Looking through, I noticed something rather odd.
[click to continue…]


by John Holbo on November 15, 2015

I was going to post some more stuff about Nietzsche’s wild political philosophy but instead I’ll declare a CT day of mourning for Paris. I see Paris comments are starting to show in some of the other threads. That’s fine, if it’s relevant to those other threads, but maybe if you have Paris-related thoughts or feelings you can leave them here. It’s a tragedy that will lead to more tragedy. That’s about all I can think to say myself.

Nietzsche On Migration and Immigration

by John Holbo on October 25, 2015

One of my students was wondering about the following passage from The Gay Science (section 356): [click to continue…]

The real challenge is getting employers to take a more assertive and, though we dare not say so aloud, paternalistic role when it comes to non-elite employees.

Williamson is advocating that we transmute the public safety net (some portion of it) into a federally-subsidized archipelago of regimes of private power, a web of patronage relations, bonding employees to employers. Company towns are proposed as a model, but this time around their creation would be back-stopped by the central government. [click to continue…]

Mill As Science Fiction Author

by John Holbo on October 17, 2015

In addition to teaching Nietzsche, I’m teaching Science Fiction and Philosophy. (Yes, I lead a charmed life.)

One of the fun games hereabouts is digging up cases in which old philosophical texts anticipate sf tropes or terms. Plato’s Cave, Descartes’ demon, Leibniz’ thinking mill. You get the idea.

Here are two slightly less well-known examples from Mill. The first, from Chapter 3 of On Liberty: [click to continue…]

Duly Noted

by John Holbo on October 8, 2015

‘Politically correct’ is so unamenable to non-absurd definition that it seldom receives even the lightest semantic gloss. So this is noteworthy, from Lowry and Ponnuru:

Among the most consequential forms of political correctness — in the sense of the use of social pressure to suppress the expression of widespread and legitimate viewpoints

It is, I suppose, possible that by ‘legitimate’ they just mean conservative. But that would be rather question-begging. The alternative is that they are begging the question against conservatism, which reduces to political correctness, due to it being a not utterly un-Burkean affair. A third possibility is that our authors haven’t given the matter much thought.

To Glorify His Majesty, King Squirrel I

by John Holbo on October 5, 2015

So I’m reading As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality, by Michael Saler. When up pops a quote from the Julian Young biography of Nietzsche, referencing a passage by Nietzsche’s sister, which reads: [click to continue…]

I know the unknown, and the unknown knows me

by John Holbo on October 4, 2015

I just realized Arthur Brown, and his Crazy World, is/are still around after all these years.

That new video is good! Very Tom Waits.

I am also interested to learn that in the 80’s, Brown moved to Austin, Texas, got a Masters degree in counseling and started a house-painting business with a former Zappa drummer.

Imagine going in for counseling and having it be Brown there some office, setting off the smoke alarms for sure.


by John Holbo on September 29, 2015


RUSH LIMBAUGH: There’s so much fraud. Snerdly came in today ‘what’s this NASA news, this NASA news is all exciting.’ I said yeah they found flowing water up there. ‘No kidding! Wow! Wow!’ Snerdly said ‘flowing water!?’ I said ‘why does that excited you? What, are you going there next week? What’s the big deal about flowing water on Mars?’ ‘I don’t know man but it’s just it’s just wow!’ I said ‘you know what, when they start selling iPhones on Mars, that’s when it’ll matter to me.’ I said ‘what do you think they’re gonna do with this news?’ I said ‘look at the temperature data, that has been reported by NASA, has been made up, it’s fraudulent for however many years, there isn’t any warming, there hasn’t been for 18.5 years. And yet, they’re lying about it. They’re just making up the amount of ice in the North and South Poles, they’re making up the temperatures, they’re lying and making up false charts and so forth. So what’s to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?’ And Snerdly paused ‘oh oh yeah you’re right.’ You know, when I play golf with excellent golfers, I ask them ‘does it ever get boring playing well? Does it ever get boring hitting shot after shot where you want to hit it?’ And they all look at me and smile and say ‘never.’ Well folks, it never gets boring being right either. Like I am. But it doesn’t mean it is any less frustrating. Being right and being alone is a challenging existence. OK so there’s flowing water on Mars. Yip yip yip yahoo. You know me, I’m science 101, big time guy, tech advance it, you know it, I’m all in. But, NASA has been corrupted by the current regime. I want to find out what they’re going to tell us. OK, flowing water on Mars. If we’re even to believe that, what are they going to tell us that means? That’s what I’m going to wait for. Because I guarantee, let’s just wait and see, this is September 28, let’s just wait and see. Don’t know how long it’s going to take, but this news that there is flowing water on Mars is somehow going to find its way into a technique to advance the leftist agenda. I don’t know what it is, I would assume it would be something to do with global warming and you can—maybe there was once an advanced civilization. If they say they found flowing water, next they’re going to find a graveyard.

I dunno. I’m going to wait for the movie. I figure in 20 years, they’ll do a remake of The Martian, with Chris Farley’s re-animated corpse as Rush Limbaugh, in Matt Damon’s role. Only this time, NASA will be trying to keep him on Mars so he can’t talk radio back about how the lack of flowing water on Mars proves there’s no global warming on Earth. But then Deja Thoris falls in love with him, because the lighter atmosphere makes him a tremendous golfer. And he teams up with Tars Tarkas – who has four arms, ergo can hit two golf balls at once.

One-Star Yelp Reviews By Five-Star Generals

by John Holbo on September 12, 2015

I am too busy these days. No time to post on CT, so sad. So I’m just going to let you write the jokes, then I’ll take credit for the thread. The idea is this: bad Yelp-style reviews of countries the US has invaded, written from the perspective of high-ranking military commanders and political leaders. Take it away, CT-commenters! If you can, make Mallory Ortberg proud. If you can’t, at least don’t make Belle Waring ashamed.

UPDATE: The category can include any sort of aggressive foreign policy stance, suitably frustrated.

What Means That Trump?

by John Holbo on September 8, 2015

No, I’m not just asking the question everyone else is asking. I’m quoting Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. It’s, like, erudite.

I’m with Kevin Drum. Watching Jonah Goldberg splutter about it is pretty rich. [click to continue…]


by John Holbo on August 31, 2015

The Barbarian, that is.

My friend Josh Glenn commissioned a bunch of folks to contribute very short appreciations under the heading, “Crom Your Enthusiasm”. R.E. Howard stuff, then. But also C.L. Moore, Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, Ashton Clark Smith, others. You get the idea. (Some ringers in there.) So check it out, especially if you like all that old Margaret Brundage art! Who doesn’t?

So I tried to enthuse about Crom in 300 words! I wanted to bring out how Howard’s Conan, that thick-thewed template for much ‘sword and sorcery’ that follows, is very much in Lovecraft’s ‘weird’ line. Here is Lovecraft’s well-known semi-definition: [click to continue…]

Nietzsche, Swiss Thinker

by John Holbo on August 10, 2015

In teaching Nietzsche I joke he was a Swiss philosopher – like Rousseau and Calvin. (Like them, he believed autonomy is paramount and impossible. “Girls, girls, you’re both pretty!”) The biographical basis is not just that he taught at the University of Basel and got a small medical disability pension from that institution. A Swiss institution funded his major work, so credit is due. The basis is also that he renounced his Prussian citizenship when he took up his professorship in 1869. This is a fun fact about our Fred. He was stateless for the last 30 years of his life. Citizen of no modern European nation. I’m sure that was just how he wanted it. But this morning I was thinking: it fits oddly with one fact. In 1870 he was a volunteer medical orderly in the Prussian army. He was at the Battle of Metz. So he first renounced his citizenship, then participated (didn’t fight) in the Franco-Prussian War. I had transposed that order in my mind, because it made more sense the other way. Now, checking the timeline not just on Wikipedia but in Safranski’s biography … yep, renounced citizenship first. Curious. Oh, well, it’s traditional for the Swiss to help put folks back together after the battle. I’m curious now whether Nietzsche was officially attached to the Prussian army, as medical orderly, even though he had renounced his citizenship. I haven’t actually read any biographies of him for a while; details slip.

As I keep mentioning, I’m teaching Nietzsche. Regarding which, I have a request of sorts to place before our knowledgeable commentariat (and I can’t stop the ignorant ones from chiming in as well, but that’s modern life.) I’m going to include a unit, near the start, in which I offer a sampling of diverse responses to/interpretations of the guy. I think most students come to Nietzsche with … notions. I am not concerned to dislodge all that, certainly not at the start, but I think it might be efficient to encourage explicitness about it, if possible. To that end, I’m going to offer a menu of options. Maybe the students will say: yeah, that’s kind of my impression of the guy, from what I’ve heard and read.

This morning I went quote hunting in Mencken, Russell and G.K. Chesterton (not because I seriously think my students are going to show up on day 1 a bunch of junior Chestertonian-Menckenite-Russell-heads, in need of de-programming. I just like this stuff.)

H.L. Mencken, The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche:

“Broadly speaking, they [Nietzsche’s ideas] stand in direct opposition to every dream that soothes the slumber of mankind in the mass, and therefore mankind in the mass must needs to suspicious of them, at least for years to come. They are pre-eminently for the man who is not of the mass, for the man whose head is lifted, however little, above the common level. They justify the success of that man, as Christianity justifies the failure of the man below.”

I could quote more Mencken, but let me proceed to Chesterton and Russell, who are hilariously arch and contemptuous. (I’m not planning to share all this with students, but some.) [click to continue…]