The Ethics and Public Policy Center sends along word that, on April 20, in the Royal Castle in Warsaw, the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Kazimierz Ujazdowski, presented First Things board member George Weigel with the Gloria Artis Gold Medal, Poland's highest honor in recognition of contributions to Polish and world culture. Ujazdowski cited Weigel's monumental biography of Pope John Paul II, Witness to Hope, as well as his contributions to "promoting the concept of democracy based on universal moral values rooted in Christianity."
Not that it's a slow news day or anythingI'd mention Weigel's well-deserved medal on any occasionbut, well, actually it is a slow news day. John Kenneth Galbraith has died at the age of ninety-seven. Bernard Lewis is turning ninety, and Fouad Ajami takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to celebrate the man and his work. Strong winds, huge hail batter Texas. Sports Illustrated is running photos of the "Ten Most Iconic Hairdos in Sports History." Linda Evans reminisces about her days on the television program Dynasty. CNN needs to get a life.
On the Cafeteria is Closed blog, you can see a photo of what is quite possibly the worst tabernacle ever put in a church. Hard to believe, right there in front of God and everybody, but it looks like the moment when Steve McQueen gets tangled up in Swiss barbed wire as he tried to get away from the Germans in The Great Escape. The blogger, Gerald Augustinus, has been regularly posting the most dreadful examples of modern church architecture and adornment, and he needs to collect them all in one super-post, just so the total effect can be seen. Meanwhile, subscribers to First Things can read architecture critic Catesby Leigh taking on the bizarre notions in "Sacred Spaces & Other Places," an essay in the latest issue. Shouldn't you be subscribing, too?
Here at First Things, we just rejected our 412th submitted essay on The Da Vinci Codeand promptly got a complaining email from John Wilson, the polymath editor of Books & Culture. Seems that he has had 206 of those essays submitted to him, each with a angry note saying it had just been rejected by First Things. I tried to explain to John that the other 206 had come to us with a note that they had just been rejected by Books & Culture, but he wasn't mollified. Anyway, as long as Amy Welborn keeps at her noble but thankless work trashing the idiotic thing, both First Things and Books & Culture can keep to their grim determination not to dignify The Da Vinci Code with a response. Except for this, of course.
Speaking of The Da Vinci Code . . . AWK!
Someday, I'm going to write up my piece on the genre of trashy books about papal assassins. Like The Last Time I Saw Hell and the other volumes of "The Inquisitor" series Martin Cruz Smith wrote under the pen name "Simon Quinn" back in the 1970s. A few years ago, I interviewed Smith and asked him about the books, but he refused to acknowledge them and wouldn't sign my copy of Last Rites for the Vulture. It's too bad. They're campy and funny and worth a look.
Did I mention that today was a slow news day? Johnny's in the basement, mixing up the medicine. I'm on the pavement, thinking about the government. The man in the trench coat, badge out, laid off, says he's got a bad cough, wants to get it paid off. Look out, kid. It's something you did.
In addition to which:
Cynical is the word for the way the media treated Pope Benedict's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), as a public relations play to put a "friendly face" on the new pontificate. Far from being a mush of soft and fuzzy platitudes, the encyclical is a very substantive and even tough statement on the relationship between justice and love. So writes Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in "Pope Benedict on Love and Justice" in the May issue of First Things. Isn't it time for you to subscribe to First Things?