PJ O’Rourke is one of our few original thinkers (Wikipedia bio). His books provide valuable insights into our world:
- Holidays in Hell (1989) — a look at the emerging (and unemerging) nations).
- Parliament of Whores (1991) — a look at America, a look at us.
Also, here’s a plug for The Atlantic — which I find a valuable source of ideas and information. A powerful endorsement, showing that they provide non-consensus thoughts, is Prof Brad Delong (Economics, Berkeley) slamming them — part of his curious crusade calling for an end to all media outlets that do not rigorously adhere to doctrinal liberal thought. For examples see here, here, and here.
Excerpt from “Future Schlock“, PJ O’Rourke, The Atlantic, December 2008:
Global imagination, like global climate, seems to have cycles-natural, man-made, or whatever. Sometimes what people imagine for the future is bogged down in the literal — call it “blogged” for short.
The last thousand years of the Roman Empire, for example, were no great shakes. The Romans had all the engineering necessary to start an industrial revolution. But they preferred to have toga parties and let slaves do all the work.
The Chinese had gunpowder but failed to arm their troops with guns. They possessed the compass but didn’t go much of anywhere. They invented paper, printing, and a written form of their language, but hardly anyone in China was taught to read.
And here we are in 2008.
- Name an avant-garde painter. Nope, dead. Nope, dead. Yep, Julian Schnabel is what I came up with too. But it’s been a quarter of a century since he was pasting busted plates on canvas. He’s making movies now. And movies are famously not any good anymore.
- Name a great living composer. Say “Andrew Lloyd Webber” and I’ll force you to sit through Cats and Starlight Express back-to-back.
- Theater is revivals and revivals of revivals and stuff like musicals made out of old Kellogg’s Rice Krispies commercials, with Nathan Lane as “Snap.”
- More modern poetry is written than read.
- Modern architecture leaks and the builders left their plumb bobs at home.
- The most prominent contemporary art form is one that is completely unimaginative (or is supposed to be): the memoir.
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