So the subscription request from Ms. Magazine reads: “Content and design that will not be uncompromised by the demands of advertising.”
A weak attempt at cutesy honesty, or just bad copyediting?
55 square feet. That’s 5′ by 11′. I mean, sure, it’s on the Piazza di Sant’ Ignazio, but $69,000?
I’d trust the story a little more, if it didn’t come from the Telegraph, where another featured story today is headlined: “Aliens have deactivated British and US nuclear missiles, say US military pilots.”
Maybe the tiny visitors wanted to be sure their Roman apartments weren’t destroyed.
Every time I think I might be wrong about the essential meaningless of most music criticism, I read stuff like this—a catalog by Philip Kennicott of some of the idiocies he found in Norman Lebrecht’s new book Why Mahler?: How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed Our World:
Lebrecht is convinced that Mahler is more than a great artist. His symphonies are also prognostications of war, modern technology, and environmental degradation. “In his Third and Seventh symphonies he hinted at a future ecological disaster; in the Sixth he warned of imminent world war,” Lebrecht writes. “His First Symphony tackled child mortality,” and “his Second denied church dogma on the afterlife.” The Fourth symphony not only “proclaimed racial equality,” it also made “a case for animal rights.
A case for animal rights, no less. Because, you see, Lebrecht endorses animal rights, and Lebrecht endorses GustavMahler, so, by a perfectly obvious syllogism, one must express the other.
Why Mahler, indeed? Why poor Mahler?
One candidate’s adult life has been spent in a profession in which testosterone-infused alpha male types engage in well-choreographed bombast for the benefit of the credulous masses.
And the other has spent her career in professional wrestling.
Doesn’t that have the shape of a Will Rogers’ line?
Browsing an Agatha Christie anthology the other night, I reread for the first time in years the Poirot story “The Apples of the Hesperides,” which ends:
In the little parlour of the Convent, Hercule Poirot told his story and restored the chalice to the Mother Superior.
She murmured: “Tell him we thank him and we will pray for him.”
Hercule Poirot said gently: “He needs your prayers.”
“Is he then an unhappy man?”
Poirot said: “So unhappy that he has forgotten what happiness means. So unhappy that he does not know he is unhappy.”
The nun said softly: “Ah, a rich man . . . ”
Hercule Poirot said nothing—for he knew there was nothing to say.
And it reminded me of an enormous list of religious-themed mysteries and detective stories I built some years ago. Christie, for instance, also has the Miss Marple story “Sanctuary” and, of course, Murder in the Vicarage.
But I thought I ‘d ask our readers what they’ve enjoyed. Leave aside G.K. Chesterton and Melville Davisson Post. Others abide our question; they are free.
What other stories and novels are your favorites in the genre?
Let me give some examples, to show what I mean.
Chesterton has it all in the Fr. Brown stories: a writer who, in other works, writes on religion and here, in his mysteries, is using a religious detective solving religious-themed mysteries with distinctly religious reasoning. Post belongs here, too, although his other, non-mystery religious writing is thin.
That’s distinct from Knox and Sayers: religious writers who wrote nonreligious mysteries. And who else belongs in that camp?
Ralph McInerny and Andrew Greeley, like Eco in Name of the Rose, may be yet different. They have religious detectives, yes, but are the mysteries themselves actually religious—or just regular mysteries into which a cleric wanders?
Christie has such stories as “Sanctuary” and “Apples of the Hesperides,” but is the religion in them just background noise, the stuff present at that moment in the culture and grabbed momentarily by a busy writer, as it clearly is in, say, the Nero Wolfe mystery story “Easter Parade,” which turns on a character’s unwillingness to denounce another character on Good Friday?
And then there are the ever-popular historical mysteries, Peters et al., which require as much religion as was culturally present at the time in which they’re set. Which of those are genuinely religious, in theme and puzzle and solution, and which are only incidentally so?
In other words, you’re religious people. What mysteries do you like?
Just in case any of you teachers out there need a definition of “the rule of law,” the New York Times today explained, in a long thumb-sucking piece on the Tea Party, that it is “[F.A.] Hayek’s term for the unwritten code that prohibits the government from interfering with the pursuit of ‘personal ends and desires.’”
Don’t you feel better now that you know this—and know that the great American press is there to safeguard our freedom?
My, my, my, my.
David Brooks writes today that “Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana who I think is most likely to win the G.O.P. presidential nomination in 2012, is the spiritual leader” of the new wave of conservative Republican candidates.
Policy leader, maybe, although I prefer Bobby Jindal. Or electoral leader, although the rising star of Chris Christie seems to be showing conservative candidates the way to go. But spiritual leader? This is the man who called for pro-life voters to put their concerns away and declare a truce—because the economic issues are more important than any social or moral issues.
Spiritual isn’t exactly the word for it. And the reaction to Daniel’s “truce” comment suggests that this isn’t the way to win the G.O.P. presidential nomination.
UPDATE: Peggy Noonan adds: “Whatever stand you take on the social issues, you have to be blind to think they will make a big difference this year.” Now, she’s writing in the context of answering the claim of the White House’s David Axelrod that abortion will “certainly be an issue” for Democrats and will be raised “across the country.” And she’s right that, in people’s minds, the economic issues loom—as they must—very large.
So I think I agree with Peggy. But the Republican candidates would be mad to imagine that they can therefore put away or hide from abortion. The base of the party is energized and angry. A non-pro-life candidate, or a constant drumbeat of claims that abortion doesn’t matter, will only leave them demoralized. Still angry, of course, but no longer determined to use the ballot box to change the course of the country. If your voters don’t show up, how are you going to win?
As you probably know, First Things has a long-standing fascination with names and namings, and we write every year about the Census Bureau’s report on the year’s names for babies.
Half our readers love it. Of course, the other half are utterly indifferent when they’re not openly hostile, but the ones who are interested in the topic must read this long essay in the London Review of Books: 5,000 words on the history of naming—prompted, improbably, by the author’s being asked to review Volume 5 of an Ancient Greek lexicon.
Joe Sobran has slipped away, dying at age sixty-four. What can one say? He was a polymath, a genius, and a sometimes brilliant writer of enormous speed and fluidity. And he drove himself nearly mad, embracing conspiracy theories and the crankiest of ways to reject consensus—from the authorship of Shakespeare’s works on down.
His life was filled with unhappy incidents, which may have been what pushed him to the battles he constantly forced on his friends, but he remained constant in his faith.
May he be taken home to God, where all those battles cease and every tear is wiped away.
It’s mathematically possible to win the presidency of the entire country handily in the electoral college with around 11 percent of the popular vote.
Can that be correct?
I took the state results from the 2008 presidential election and calculated the cheapest electoral votes (the least number, at 50 percent plus 1 voter, to obtain an electoral vote), from Wyoming on down. Then I scrolled down the list until there were over 270 electoral votes—for an actual vote total of under 15 million, out of 131.3 million voters in that 2008 election.
Doesn’t seem right, but maybe the more mathematically inclined can help us out here.
Back in 2005, the now-emeritus scholar Guenter Lewy published The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey: A Disputed Genocide, a book that argued that there wasn’t much evidence that the massacre of Armenians during World War I was caused by a deliberate Turkish plan to destroy the Armenian people—and, thus, that the Armenian deaths didn’t qualify as a genocide.
Whereupon the Southern Poverty Law Center declared that “Lewy is one of the most active members of a network of American scholars, influence peddlers and website operators, financed by hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the government of Turkey, who promote the denial of the Armenian genocide.”
Lewy sued, and it has now been announced that the Southern Poverty Law Center will, in settlement, entirely retract their claims, publishing the retraction is several prominent places.
This is an important event to note. The bullying of scholars by political engines—the insistence that immediate and vicious attacks follow any deviation from a political useful account of science or history—has reached brutal proportions. Look at environmentalism, World War II, the Middle Ages, and much more.
Guenter Lewy is no friend to this magazine’s projects, but he deserves real praise for standing up to the pack and forcing this retraction.
Does the Tea Party spell danger for the Republican party’s future? An interesting, if not quite persuasive, column by Stanley Fish: “this, I think, is the wrong conclusion and shows how far progressives will go to avoid looking directly at a phenomenon they have trouble believing in.”
It’s an interesting walk through some great and some curious architecture. Note, however, this quoted description of Number 48, the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, in Washington, D.C.:
This building is not only hideous but it is unwelcoming and, as anyone who has seen the J. Edgar Hoover Building would agree, it is extremely difficult and expensive to maintain. It does place undue monetary restrictions on how the church can serve the city because the church has to sink so much into the maintenance of the building.
I guess that qualifies as “extraordinary.” Or maybe “Extra-Extraordinary.”
So, I’ll be making a swing through Colorado, lecturing and reading, from November 1 to 3. More information as things finalize, but, for now, save these dates:
1) Lecture, “Hope and Apocalypse: Where We Are Today,” at 7:00 p.m., at Bonfils Hall at the John Paul II Center, 1300 South Steele Street in Denver. No charge. Open to public. All invited.
2) Lecture, “How the Catholic Church Won and Lost America,” at 7:30 p.m., St. Mary’s Cathedral, 22 W Kiowa Street in Colorado Springs. No charge. Open to public. All invited.
3) Poetry Reading and Lecture (with musical performances), “The Writing Life, in Words and Music,” Gaylord Hall at Colorado College, 14 E. Cache La Poudre Street, in Colorado Springs. No charge. Open to public. All invited.
Mao’s experiment in industrializing China from 1958 to 1962: “At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years.”
It was a tradition I was rather fond of: Once a year or so, like the turning of the leaves, my friend Christopher Hitchens would take aim at something I’d written. His most recent, just pointed out to me by an acquaintance on Facebook, is in the journal Free Inquiry.
Appearing under the less-than-charming title “Jewbaiter,” it attacks an article I wrote in the Weekly Standard about the recent round of Catholic scandals, and it somehow manages to accuse me of . . . well, everything under the sun, but Jewbaiting, most notably.
Ah, me. Christopher’s writing was always over the top, but his hyperbole always used to have at least some tenuous tether tied to reality. He exaggerated wildly, but his exaggerations were at least derived from the text he was attacking.
This, however, is just a plain, old-fashioned misreading. He couldn’t follow the figure I was using, so he lumped it into some handy category and wrote what he would have written if I’d said what someone else would have said if that someone had set out to be a straw man for the use of Christopher Hitchens.
It’s just too sad, and it makes my heart ache. He’s in my prayers.
My quick romp through the South Dakota political scene is just out in the new issue of the Weekly Standard.
Ron Johnson, a Republican running for Feingold’s Senate seat in Wisconsin, says America is becoming Greece, collapsing in financial crisis.
True? There is this fact to add to the mix. Over at super economics blogger Megan McArdle’s web page, a commenter complained, in another context, that government tends to think of “ever-increasing spending” as “some sort of natural law we have no control over.”
To which another commenter, Rob Lyman, replied: “It’s not a natural law, but it is just as inevitable as a Greek tragedy. I mean, Oedipus didn’t have to sleep with his mother, he just got a ‘Strengthening Our Communities by Strengthening Our Families’ grant from HHS to do it.”
Alas, alas! How terrible to know, Tiresias moaned, when it does not help the knower.
Ann Althouse ducked into the library to escape a rainstorm the other day and picked up a copy of the Utne Reader—a magazine she says she loved thirty years ago and hasn’t read since.
Her conclusion, reading it now? The “Utne Reader is not a young man’s world—or a young woman’s world. It feels like an old person’s place. I felt too young for it . . . and I’m old. Or it’s for those other aging Americans . . . the lefties. I see these people in Madison all the time. Do they feel left behind? Do you think the day will come when “lefty” will seem to mean left behind? ”
Of course, this is an older reader’s reaction to much we loved when we were young. Où sont les magazines d’antan?
Wednesday, August 25th, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Be there—because, well, because I’ll be there, and Michael Novak will be there, and Chuck Colson, and Os Guinness.
Two Catholic speakers and two Protestants—a practical application of the idea of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, and a significant marker of the attempt to join together on the local level,
The occasion is the first ever, state-wide Biblical World View Conference, cosponsored by Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe and the former congressman, Pastor Bill Redmond.
Through the negotiations of Cuba’s Cardinal Ortega, the Cuban government has just agreed to release 52 political prisoners—about two-thirds of the prisoners known to have been seized in the 2003 government campaign against political opposition.
During John Paul II’s 1998 visit to the island, many commentators suggested that change was coming to Castro’s regime, but Cuba never quite managed to join the march of democracy that toppled dictatorships through the 1990s. Still, this prisoner release—and the open acknowledgment of the Catholic Church as a legitimate independent agent for negotiating the release of even non-religious prisoners—has to be taken as a good sign.
“Saving nature’s unborn from Gulf oil disaster,” the headline at CNN reads.
Hard to know how the oil spill threatened them, but the subject looked interesting.
So I clicked on it, to find that it was a feel-good story about efforts to relocate clutches of sea-turtle eggs to beaches away from oil stains.
Nice. But ask yourself this about the language of American journalism today, the next time you think about abortion: Why is an animal awaiting birth unborn, while a human awaiting birth is lump of tissue?