In 1969, when men first landed on the Moon, Wernher von Braun was seen as the herald of, and driving force behind, a brilliant expansionist future for mankind. He was world-famous, in a way that no man can be today, given the fragmented attention of the modern internet-driven globe. But from the perspective of 2023, we can see that even at this apparent apogee, America had already begun its long retreat from Space. No surprise, then, that von Braun’s star has faded. Yet he has never been fully forgotten, and I suspect that among the handful of men who will, or may, make our future, his story is very well known. And for the rest of us, it is worth pondering what his life says about the years to come.
I am often asked how I achieved entrepreneurial success. That is, how I became, in the words of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory,” “rich—yes, richer than a king.” (We can gloss over the ultimate fate of Cory in that poem, which will not be mine, even if sometimes I expect to also die with a gun in my hand.) Back in 2019, I discussed bits and pieces of my story in my thoughts on Daymond John’s Rise & Grind. Today I want to finish the tale, and probably of more interest to my readers, to offer my more-or-less complete thoughts on what it takes to become rich through starting a business.
Ernst von Salomon’s Der Fragebogen is unique, a product of the refiner’s fire, a work forged in the cataclysm of mid-twentieth-century Europe. But this once-famous, now-obscure book, published only one time in English, and that seventy years ago, still holds within its pages knowledge about both the past and the future. As to the past, from this book we can learn something completely missing from modern discourse—the complex views of 1930s and 1940s German patriots. As to the future, we can learn something more practical—methods to, in a future dispensation, help us flush Left poison completely and permanently from our body politic.
[This was originally published on October 17, 2017.] I have zero creative talent. The pinnacle of my own ability to draw is stick figures, and not good ones. I cannot sing or play an instrument. I cannot write fiction. I do not understand iambic pentameter. Thus, I tend not to express any opinion about poetry, and I certainly don’t write any. But I have always liked the poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson, which when I was young was still included in older anthologies of poetry. Whether they were directed at children or not I cannot say, but I read some of his poetry at around five years old, and it has stuck with me. I doubt very much if children, or adults, are exposed to him today, even though a hundred years ago he was the nation’s most famous poet. This biography, written ten years ago, is an excellent corrective to today’s ignorance.
In 1952, Ralph Ellison published, to great acclaim, his first and only novel, Invisible Man. The book narrated how Ellison’s protagonist, a black man, suffered social oppression. But that was long ago, and one thing black people definitely don’t suffer anymore is oppression. Rather, many dish it out, aided by their allies of other races, as seen most dramatically in the terroristic Floyd Riots, but it happens every day in every organization in America. The targets are, most of all, those at the bottom of today’s social hierarchy—heterosexual (that is, normal) white men outside the professional-managerial elite. And Samuel Finlay’s Breakfast with the Dirt Cult is, one might say, the new Invisible Man.
This is a disappointing book. Not awful, but not good. The Man from the Future manages to take the life of the polymath John von Neumann and to make it dull, never giving us any real sense of the man, although we do get some sense of his accomplishments. Beyond that, it’s filled with bad history about ancillary matters, making the reader wonder about the veracity of core biographical matters. And worst of all, the author, Ananyo Bhattacharya, wastes our time by endlessly trying to shoehorn into von Neumann’s story fantasy contributions by supposedly marginalized people, who are unknown because they did nothing worth noting. All this turns what might have been an excellent book into a chore.
A hundred years ago, Booth Tarkington was probably the most famous and successful author in America. But today, even in Indiana, his birthplace and the state with which he is forever associated, and where I live, Tarkington is forgotten. Purdue University has a dormitory, Tarkington Hall, at which my late father was a faculty advisor. Pathetically, the Hall’s website says of Tarkington only that he was “a Purdue student of two years who as an alumnus, made multiple generous donations to Purdue.” Time has left Tarkington behind. Perhaps this is fitting, though, because he was entranced and bound by nostalgia, an understandable but ultimately pointless guiding principle.
We are not a serious society. Our ruling class are men of no substance, lacking all knowledge and incapable of competent action on any front. The masses, while they sense a great deal is very wrong, are distracted by propaganda and ephemera. We feel we can afford to be unserious, because all of us lead lives of unprecedented material comfort. Any lack is eased by speedy delivery of sedatives designed to mask and hold down chthonic spiritual despair. To be sure, we do not lack for heralds of the coming storm—but we, high and low, have forgotten what a storm looks like. Read this book and you will remember, and you will also know what it is to live in a serious society.
Some men have minds that are simply not like those of others, but far better, on a different plane entirely. Such men are vanishingly rare, and appear to be even rarer, because their unique talents are often lost to mankind, when they are not recognized by or not applicable to the society in which they are born. John Moses Browning, who lived from 1855 to 1926, was fortunate in that his peerless spatial-mechanical talent, specifically for the manufacture of firearms, coincided with the right time for his talents to achieve their full potential. A substantial majority of all today’s firearms rely on his insights; I cannot think of another field in which one man has dominated the entire modern era—and whose work shows no signs of fading in importance.
I suspect that very few people under forty know who Robert Gould Shaw was. Those older may remember the 1989 film Glory, which told his story. That movie could never be made today (and will probably soon be disappeared, as has been 1964’s Zulu). After all, Shaw’s is an out-and-out “white savior” story, and now that everyone has been educated that the African reality is actually Wakanda, we realize that black people don’t need, and have never needed, a man such as Shaw. Yet even though the Left has racialized all of American life and shrieks ever louder for a race war (something I failed to predict, silly me), I will only touch lightly on race in this review, and will focus on heroism, the traditional center of Shaw’s story. To race, we will return another day.