Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bring in the Clownz

Ian Frazier, in an article chronicling the fall of Baghdad -- then a center of great learning and culture -- to the Mongols in 1258, sums up the caliph of Baghdad this way:

Mustasim, the caliph, was not of a character equal to such large problems. He is described as a weak, vacillating layabout who liked to drink sherbet and keep company with musicians and clowns.
--from "Invaders," by Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, April 25, 2005, p. 52.

First, I love the idea that the civilization of high Islam, in its decadent flower, was distinguished not by astronomy and algebra, but by clowns. Second, it seems to me that Mustasim had the right idea, generally, though perhaps he shouldn't have gotten his strategic advice from liberal arts majors.

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