Crunchiness redux

by Henry on April 3, 2005

Jared Diamond tells us more about rat by-product consumption in the Old West in Collapse:

In 1849, hungry gold miners crossing the Nevada desert noticed some glistening balls of a candy-like substance on a cliff, licked or ate the balls, and discovered them to be sweet-tasting, but then they developed nausea. Eventually it was realized that the balls were hardened deposits made by small rodents, called packrats. that protect themselves by building nests of sticks, plant fragments, and mammal dung gathered in the vicinity, plus food remains, discarded bones, and their own feces. Not being toilet-trained, the rats urinate in their nests, and sugar and other substances crystallize from their urine as it dries out, cementing the midden to a brick-like consistency. In effect, the hungry gold miners were eating dried rat urine laced with rat feces and rat garbage.

These middens are quite valuable to paleontologists interested in finding out about local vegetation in specific periods; they serve as rough-and-ready time capsules. Diamond seems to have an interest in rats as food sources; he also tells us in passing about recipes for laboratory rat that circulated among British scientists during the post-WW II period of food rationing.

Holding your tongue

by Henry on April 3, 2005

Kieran’s post on Irish Catholic culture and Matt Yglesias’ recent writings on Archbishop Stepinac reminded me of the controversy surrounding Hubert Butler, whose essay on Stepinac, “The Sub-Prefect should have held his tongue,” is now happily online. Butler was a scion of the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy, a liberal of a thoroughly unconventional sort (sometimes a little reminiscent of Burke), and one of the best essayists of the twentieth century. His collection, The Children of Drancy, is especially fine. Butler also spent a substantial part of his career being ostracized by the community surrounding him, because he deviated from the Catholic consensus that Stepinac was a martyr to religious freedom. The story is recounted in “The Sub-Prefect.” Butler unwittingly began to present his views on Stepinac at a meeting where the Papal Nuncio was present, prompting the Nuncio to walk out. This led to Butler being condemned by local and national politicians for having ‘insulted’ the Church and being driven out of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society (which he had founded). If Butler hadn’t had independent means, he would have almost certainly lost his livelihood. It wasn’t a proud moment for Irish Catholicism.

Oh dear…

by Chris Bertram on April 3, 2005

It wasn’t my intention to post twice on Wagner in 24 hours, but “the Observer’s report on the ENO’s Twilight of the Gods”:,6903,1451219,00.html has me worried:

bq. In what will come to be regarded by opera fans as a moment of bizarre heresy – or of creative triumph – Brunnhilde, the leading character in the ENO’s new production of Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods, was portrayed as a suicide bomber. Clad in a modern jacket packed with explosives, the betrayed lover of Siegfried, played by Kathleen Broderick, obliterated the rest of the cast by detonating herself in the dramatic ‘immolation scene’ that ends the opera.

I have tickets to see this production at the end of the month and, since, I have already attended the previous three in ENO’s cycle, I’m going to go. I hope my worst fears won’t be realized.

When the Pope came to Ireland

by Kieran Healy on April 3, 2005

Pope John Paul II came to Ireland in 1979. It was the first time a reigning pontiff had visited the country and the nation went crazy. I was six. My father, my younger brother and my uncle Donal drove to Limerick to see him, along with about 300,000 other people. He faced a similar-sized crowd in Galway, and filled the Phoenix Park in Dublin with nearly a million people, by some estimates. This in a country of about three and a half million people. I went to bed at six o’clock the night before and my father woke me up at midnight. I was put in charge of the torch. We drove up to the Northside to pick up my uncle. Then we hit the road at about half one in the morning, along with most of the rest of Munster. There were helicopters overhead, monitoring the traffic. It was the first time Radio 2 broadcast all the way through the night. It’s sixty five miles from Cork to Limerick. We parked the car a mile or so from the Mass site at about seven o’clock in the morning. Then we got out the deck chairs, settled down and waited for the Pope to arrive.

[click to continue…]

Double Philosophy Bleg

by John Holbo on April 3, 2005

I want two things from you.

First, directions to a solid (preferably undergraduate-friendly) account of Nietzsche’s impact on the social sciences. What major figures (schools, theories) were influenced by him and how? From Max Weber and Georg Simmel down to Foucault and beyond. I realize this is a potentially vast topic – indeed, little better than an invitation to pick a number of fights.

Second, I am collecting instances of Wittgenstein-inspired art, produced since (oh, say) 1999. (Before then I was pretty up on the field.) I am also (even especially) interested in finding essays and critical appreciations of Wittgenstein produced by poets, novelists and other artist-types, rather than (say) philosophers or academic lit crit-types. I blegged this over J&B way some time back, so if you contributed then you don’t need to again.