David Frum

04.26.13

The World According to an Eccentric

Joseph Bottum writes at the Weekly Standard on eccentrics, focusing on Allan Calhammer, inventor of the popular board game "Diplomacy":

The most interesting part of eccentricity may be just how wasteful it usually is. Real eccentricity, I mean, the genuine, whole-life thing, not the mere attempt to cultivate a rebel charm or indulge a little quirkiness. Authentic eccentricity—the oddball in full—devotes itself to wasting time: the pouring of more into containers than those containers should actually hold. Intelligence is the key, often enough, but also charisma, interest, talent. Any human excellence, from a genius for Sanskrit to a gift for tiddlywinks, can be pursued far off to the side of what culture places at the center of human concern.

As, for instance, “On Strengthening the Hand of Austria-Hungary,” the essay Allan B. Calhamer published in 1960, undeterred by the fact that the empire had come to an end in 1918. And he’s surely right: The threat to garrison Tyrolia early in 1901 would have aided Austria-Hungary’s diplomatic efforts with Italy.