Thursday, February 22, 2018

George Washington's Rules of Civility, XI-XX

"A good moral character is the first essential. It is highly important not only to be learned but to be virtuous." — George Washington 

A Happy 286th Birthday to George Washington!! Here at The Alcázar Gazette, we'll celebrate it by giving you yet another installment of "George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation"... featuring TWICE as many rules as we usually feature!  

Previous installment in this series: George Washington's Rules of Civility, VI-X

XI. Shift not yourself in the sight of others nor gnaw your nails.

XII. Shake not the head, feet or legs, roll not the eyes, lift not one eyebrow higher than the other, wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your spittle, by approaching too near him when you speak.

XIII. Kill no vermin as fleas, lice, ticks, etc. in the sight of others. If you see any filth or thick spittle, put your foot dexterously upon it. If it be upon the clothes of your companions, put it off privately, and if it be upon your own clothes return thanks to him who puts it off.

XIV. Turn not your back to others especially in speaking, jog not the table or desk on which another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.

XV. Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean yet without showing any great concern for them.

XVI. Do not puff up the cheeks, loll out the tongue, rub the hands or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them, or keep the lips too open or too close.

XVII. Be no flatterer, neither play with any that delights not to be play'd withal.

XVIII. Read no letters, books, or papers in company but when there is a necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the books or writings of another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask'd also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.

XIX. Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

XX. The gestures of the body must be suited to the discourse you are upon.

Next installment in this series: George Washington's Rules of Civility, XXI-XXV. (Stay tuned).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Recommended Reading

Current Affairs in the United States: 

1. There are many things I dislike about U.S. President Donald Trump. Indeed, due to his vulgarity and misogyny alone, I could not bring myself to vote for him. Still, when he won the presidential election against all odds, I was hopeful that a Trump Administration would at least improve relations between the United States and Russia. It is impossible to imagine that improved relations could have resulted from a Hillary Clinton presidency, for Clinton has a consistently hawkish track record and seems to ideologically favor containing and defeating all dictatorships, regardless of what this might mean — indeed, has tended to mean — in practice. In addition, however one may feel about certain Russian policies (or about certain U.S. policies, for that matter), there is no denying that extremely high tensions between the world's two largest nuclear powers is an unsafe, scary situation. Unfortunately, however, it now seems clear that tensions between the two nations will only grow for the foreseeable future. Cold War II is no longer an abstraction. It is now a reality. Robert W. Merry, the outgoing editor of The American Conservative, drives this point home when he says that special counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 Russian citizens and three Russian firms for allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election unfortunately makes any rapprochement between the United States and Russia politically impossible for a long time to come.

2. On a similar note, Paul Brian reminds us that for all of Trump's faults (and the man has many), many of his opponents are no better. What is more, they seem oblivious to the fact that their terrible policies led to the rise of Trump.

3. "What hath Zuckerberg wrought?," asks Gracy Olmstead. Okay, so she doesn't actually say that, but she may as well. Olmstead ably explains the threat Facebook poses to democracy. This is so important, that I'm going to post an excerpt:

"Facebook, via human choice and algorithmic tendency, has fostered ideological and political bubbles amongst its users, not global community and rapport. We join groups filled with like-minded people, like pages that give us the news we want to hear, unfollow or unfriend those who annoy us or make us uncomfortable. Based on the posts we spend the most time liking, commenting, and watching, Facebook gives us more of the same, rather than encouraging us to expand our ideological repertoires.

"These tendencies are extremely difficult to circumvent. We can follow accounts that challenge our beliefs, keep listening to the friends who annoy us (and engage them via comments and messages when we find it appropriate) — but there remains a degree of disconnection between us and this virtual content. That disconnection makes it easy to tune out, or to respond with more anger or bombast than we might employ in personal conversation. Additionally, we too often indulge in clickbait on Facebook or other online sites rather than forcing ourselves to absorb more thoughtful, well-crafted content. Facebook's algorithm recognizes this tendency — and passively fosters it." 

4. Paul Craig Roberts illustrates the absurdity of the term "gun violence."

Current Affairs in Spain:

1. The Spanish Cortes, or parliament, seems to be on the verge of passing a series of revisions to the infamous Law of Historical Memory. Far from removing the odious aspects of this law, the legislation under consideration makes it worse! I didn't think that was possible! This legislation poses a dire threat to free speech, and, by extension, to democracy. Section five of the bill calls for the prohibition of "the exaltation of Francoism" and particularly of "associations or foundations that, with the justification of social purposes, perform acts of Francoist exaltation." Here's looking at you, kid. I'll write in more detail about why this bill is so dangerous soon, but in the meantime, it's clear that it could be interpreted to mean that it is illegal to say anything good about Francisco Franco. Alfonso Bullón de Mendoza, a professor of history at CEU San Pablo University, explains more here about the danger this legislation poses to Spanish democracy. Excerpt:

"In light of the plain language of the text, I fear that a teacher who explains the rebels' reasons for rebelling against the Popular Front government, notes that among the victims of the Francoist repression were people who were implicated in the tens of thousands of murders committed in the Popular Front zone during the war, or dares to say that during the time of Franco Spain saw great economic and social development, is liable to be imprisoned and barred from exercising his or her profession. And yet it is evident that those who rebelled had good reasons to do so (whether or not one agrees with their decision), that not all victims of the Francoist repression were angels of charity, and that the Franco era saw political and social development that greatly facilitated the transition to democracy.

"Now is not the time to fight against the dictatorship of Franco, for he died over 42 years ago. Now is the time to fight against the would-be tyrants of our own time, in defense of the freedom we enjoy today."

Some More Stuff about Mort Walker:

1. Walker's colleagues at King Features Syndicate pay tribute to the recently deceased cartoonist.

2. Comics historian Cullen Murphy pays tribute to Walker and his heroic efforts to get comic strips taken seriously. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Your Word Matters

The vision that Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, saw before the Battle of Ourique. You can read his sworn testimony (in Portuguese) of having seen this vision here. This testimony is from a time when a person's word meant something. The testimony of Afonso Henriques is the exact opposite of the hollow vows Chesterton condemns in the excerpted text below.    

The man who makes a vow makes an appointment with himself at some distant time or place. The danger of it is that himself should not keep the appointment. And in modern times this terror of oneself, of the weakness and mutability one’s self, has perilously increased, and is the real basis of the objection to vows of any kind. A modern man refrains from swearing to count the leaves on every third tree in Holland Walk, not because it is silly to do so (he does many sillier things), but because he has a profound conviction that that before he got to the three hundred and seventy-ninth leaf on the first tree he would be excessively tired of the subject and want to go home to tea. In other words, we fear that by that time he will be, in the common but hideously significant phrase, another man. Now, it is this horrible fairy-tale of a man constantly changing into other men that is the soul of the decadence. That John Paterson should, with apparent calm, look forward to being a certain General Barker on Monday, Dr. Macgregor on Tuesday, Sir Walter Carstairs on Wednesday, and Sam Slugg on Thursday, man seem a nightmare; but to that nightmare we give the name of modern culture. One great decadent, who is now dead, published a poem some time ago, in which he powerfully summed up the whole spirit of the movement by declaring that he could stand in the prison yard and entirely comprehend the feelings of a man about to be hanged: 

For he that lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die. 

And the end of all this is that maddening horror of unreality which descends upon the decadents, and compared with which physical pain itself would have the freshness of a youthful thing. The one hell which imagination must conceive as most hellish is to be eternally acting a play without even the narrowest and dirtiest greenroom in which to be human. And this is the condition of the decadent, of the æsthete, of the free-lover. To be everlastingly passing through dangers which we know cannot scathe us, to be taking oaths which we know cannot bind us, to be defying enemies who we know cannot conquer us — this is the grinning tyranny of decadence which is called freedom. 

Let us turn, on the other hand, to the maker of vows. The man who made a vow, however wild, gave a healty and natural expression to the greatness of a great moment. He vowed, for example, to chain two mountains together, perhaps a symbol of some great relief, or love, or aspiration. Short as the moment of his resolve might be, it was, like all great moments, a moment of immortality, and the desire to say of it exegi monument œre perennius was the only sentiment that would satisfy his mind. The modern æsthetic man would, of course, easily see the emotional opportunity; he would vow to chain two mountains together. But, then, he would quite as cheerfully vow to chain the earth to the moon. And the withering consciousness that he did not mean what he said, that he was, in truth, saying nothing of any great import, would take from him exactly that sense of daring actuality which is the excitement of a vow. For what could be more maddening than an existence in which our mother or aunt received the information that we were going to assassinate the King or build a temple on Ben Nevis with the genial composure of custom? 

The revolt against vows has been carried in our day even to the extent of a revolt against the typical vow of marriage. It is most amusing to listen to opponents of marriage on this subject. They appear to imagine that the ideal of constancy was a yoke mysteriously imposed by all lovers on themselves. They have invented a phrase, a phrase that is a black and white contradiction in two words — “free-love” — as if a lover ever had been, or ever could be, free. It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word. Modern sages offer to the lover, with an ill-favoured grin, the largest liberties and the fullest irresponsibility; but they do not respect him as then old Church respected him; they do not write his oath upon the heavens, as the record of his highest moment. They give him every liberty except the liberty to sell his liberty, which is the only one that he wants. 

— G. K. Chesterton, in “A Defence of Rash Vows” (1902)      

Sunday, February 11, 2018

We're Still Here...

Hiya, folks. It's been a while since I last updated this blog. I'm alive and well, but I'm in the middle of what my friend Joe Torcivia would call a "horrifically busy period." Said period will probably last another week or so. Rest assured, though, that we'll yet be posting a few cool items here at The Alcázar Gazette before the month is out. In the meantime, here's an interesting thought from Benjamin Franklin:

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky, by Benjamin West
"I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiment of others, and all positive assertion of my own, I even forbade myself the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fix'd opinion, such as 'certainly,' 'undoubtedly,' etc., and I adopted, instead of them, 'I conceive,' 'I apprehend,' or 'I imagine' a thing to be so or so, or 'it so appears to me at present.' When another asserted something I thought an error, I deny'd myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition: and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear'd or seem'd to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engag'd in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I propos'd my opinions procur'd them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevaile'd with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right.

"And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence to natural inclination, became at length so easy, and so habitual to me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me. And to this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had earned so much weight with my fellow citizens when I proposed new institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public councils when I became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in my language, and yet I generally carried my points."

Benjamin Frankin in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1793) 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

More Sad News from Cartoonland

Late last year, we learned of the passing of veteran Disney comic book writer and artist Vic Lockman. Lockman was 90. We at The Alcázar Gazette will soon be publishing a lengthy tribute piece on him, so stay tuned for that.

Yesterday, Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker passed away.

Sergeant Snorkel's demeanor in today's Beetle Bailey strip is uncannily appropriate, since this strip was apparently still made by Mort Walker. 
Today, we learned that cartoon voice actor Doug Young passed away earlier this month, at the age of 98. He voiced a number of early Hanna-Barbera characters, most notably Doggie Daddy, the father of Augie Doggie on Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, a series of short cartoons that was a segment on The Quick Draw McGraw Show, which originally aired from 1959 until 1962. If you're not familiar with Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, you may be familiar with Spike and Tyke, a bulldog father and son who were prominent supporting characters on the MGM cartoon series Tom and Jerry, which was created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera before they started their own cartoon studio. Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy were based on Spike and Tyke. Spike was voiced at first by Bill Thompson and later by Daws Butler, who voiced Augie Doggie and was initially to be the voice of Doggie Daddy as well but insisted that that role go to Doug Young instead.

Courtesy Yowp
For more information on Doug Young's career as a voice actor, see this obituary from Mark Evanier and this one from Don M. Yowp. If you click the Evanier link today, you'll get to see a special banner logo on Evanier's blog drawn by cartoonist Sergio Aragonés as a tribute to Doug Young. That said, given the time of day at which I'm writing this post, it is quite possible that that banner logo will no longer be up by the time you click the link, so I'm sure neither Evanier nor Aragonés will mind if I reproduce that great tribute here:


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sad News

In addition to the newspaper comic strip, there were also Beetle Bailey comic books, many of which (such as the one above) were published by Western Publishing (which published titles under the Dell, Gold Key, and Whitman names over the course of its history).  
Last year, I began reading comic strips on a regular basis (my parents never subscribed to a newspaper, so they were not a major part of my childhood). Since I stumbled upon it in the summer of 2017, Comics Kingdom (which, as its name cleverly implies, features all strips currently syndicated by King Features Syndicate) has been the one website I visit every day. As it happens, my favorite strips on that website are serial strips, such as Mark Trail, Mandrake the Magician, The Phantom, or Prince Valiant. Each day (each Sunday in the case of Prince Valiant), these strips tell a small part of a long adventure story. There is something exhilarating about waiting to hear the rest of the story at the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. As a young man (I'm currently in my mid-twenties), reading these serial adventure strips gives me a sense of the thrill twentieth-century audiences must have felt listening to serial action/adventure radio shows such as The Green Hornet or The Shadow, or even TV shows such as the 1960s Batman series.

That said, there is one non-serial strip on Comics Kingdom that I read every day. That strip is Beetle Bailey, which is about the simple, quotidian misadventures of U.S. soldiers at an Army camp the Pentagon has somehow completely forgotten about! Rather than tell one adventure over a fairly long period of time as the other strips I mentioned do, Beetle Bailey features one quick stand-alone joke each day.

Today, the man behind that strip (and many others) — Mort Walker — passed away. He was 94 years young.

To learn more about Beetle Bailey and Mort Walker himself, I invite you to read this obituary from The Washington Post and this one from blogger (and comic book writer, as well as comic book historian) Mark Evanier.

You can read each day's Beetle Bailey strip at Comics Kingdom here. To read Hi and Lois and Sam and Silo, two strips partly created by Walker that are still in production today, click here and here.

Beetle Bailey was, until today, one of the oldest comic strips still being produced by its original creator. Fortunately, Mort Walker will live on in his work, as well as in future Beetle Bailey strips.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

José Antonio on Human Liberty

“In contrast to Lenin’s disdainful “Liberty, for what?”, we begin by affirming individual liberty; by recognizing the individual. We, who are falsely accused of defending a pantheism of the state, begin by accepting the reality of the free individual, bearer of eternal values.” — José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Speech entitled “Estado, individuo, y libertad” (State, individual, and liberty), March 28, 1935  

“Man must be free, but liberty does not exist except within an order.” — José Antonio Primo de Rivera, Speech entitled “España y la barbarie” (Spain and Barbarism), March 3, 1935