On the left-wing Daily Kos website , a commentator named CheChe writes:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a look of misery and dejection on the face of my daughter as I just did a moment ago. She just couldn’t understand why the President would be going to Iraq when so many things are wrong in this country. "Doesn’t Mr. Bush care about us anymore?" she asked pitifully.

I sat down with her on the sofa and (as calmly as I could) tried to explain to her why the President seems to be abandoning his country. "Honey, I think his boss, Mr. Rove, sent Mr. Bush out of the country in order to keep himself out of the newspapers. You see, he wasn’t sure if he was going to be arrested today or not, and so he planned Mr. Bush’s trip ahead of time just in case . . . "

I tried to keep my voice steady, but it became increasingly difficult¯the rage and feelings of helplessness were just too much. I think my daughter could tell something was wrong. I found myself at such a loss for words¯nothing made any sense; nothing makes sense anymore. I finally had to admit, "Honey, I just don’t know¯I don’t know what’s going on in this country anymore . . . "

When I finished her lower lip started to tremble and her eyes began to fill with tears, "Daddy" she said, "why are the Republicans doing this to the country?" Well, that was it for me: I finally fell apart. She just fell into my arms and we both began sobbing for several minutes.

For once she had to comfort me and get me back on my feet. Sometimes I just think it’s too much, but seeing the strength in my young daughter’s voice helped me to get through.

The trembling lip, the daughter comforting the father, the absurdity of the cause¯it’s beyond parody, and the conservative blogosphere has had a field day mocking poor CheChe . Even the other posters at Daily Kos seem to think the post a little over the top .

In fact, it’s too far over the top, too far beyond parody, and I don’t believe it. I mean, I don’t just disbelieve the scene happened. Who could believe that the little girl had to comfort her father about the president’s trip to Iraq? Rather, I disbelieve that the Kos blogger didn’t intend this as a parody. That "seeing the strength in my young daughter’s voice" in the last paragraph was a slip. The true artist knows when less is more, and here the hand twitched aside the curtain a little so the author could give us a wink.

Turns out that CheChe has been practicing. On May 11 , he began: "I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a look of misery and dejection on the face of my daughter as I just did a moment ago. She just couldn’t understand why the President would be spying on everyone. ‘Even my Grandma?’ she asked pitifully. I sat down with her on the sofa and (as calmly as I could) tried to explain to her why the President has ordered a group of spies to collect information on every American. ‘And yes honey, even Grandma,’ I was forced to say."

And on April 27 , he wrote: "I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a look of misery and dejection on the face of my daughter as I just did a moment ago. I sat down with her on the sofa and (as calmly as I could) tried to explain to her why the Senate Republicans want to drain the treasury in order to give every American a $100 check. I tried to keep my voice steady, but it became increasingly difficult¯the rage and feelings of helplessness were just too much."

Can there truly be a jokester willing to make his joke in such an anonymous, convoluted way? Before reading all this, I would have said no. But the evidence is overwhelming. The man is an artist, like a nameless medieval craftsman carving perfect gargoyles for the back corners of the church, and he deserves our praise.


I think I’ve finally found it¯the perfect instrument: a beer bottle organ . Click here to listen to a clip of "Eleanor Rigby" played by the whistling beer bottles. In fact, visit the Odd Music Gallery to see and hear a whole range of peculiar instruments. A genuine cigar-box guitar , for instance. Or the contrabass sax in Eb , "used to give the woodwinds equal footing with the low brass by transposing from contrabassoon, contrabass clarinet, or string bass parts," and why not?

Some of the instruments are genuine antique or folk creations, like the serpent . Some are the eccentric creations of the first experimenters in electronics, like the theremin , heard briefly in the Beach Boy’s "Good Vibrations" and the soundtracks to early 1960s science-fiction movies, never, alas, to surface again. Benjamin Franklin’s glass armonica is an eighteenth-century example of the same impulse that gave us the theremin: Dip your finger in water and rub it along spinning glass bowls. Here’s a snippet of Mozart’s composition for the callous-causing thing.

Many of the instruments, however, are modern inventions created solely for their peculiarity. Some are acoustic, like the spinning-wheel chrysalis , or the double violin , a double-bowed instrument with a common fingerboard. The rest rely on modern computer synthesizing, like the bass stick , a virtual instrument for midi control.

The question in all of this, of course, is why? A great musician can often play anything. One of the parlor tricks of Dennis Brain, the greatest french-horn virtuoso ever recorded, was to play famous french-horn solos on a length of garden hose. But if you’re a good enough musician to make the cigar-box guitar sound interesting, why would you bother? If you could make the beer-bottle organ sit up and sing, wouldn’t you rather play an instrument capable of keeping up with you? I’m just asking.


In addition to which :

In “Dechristianizing America,” Richard John Neuhaus examines the curious and complex ways in which analysts of American life—mainly, but not only Jewish analysts—seem determined to ignore the confusedly Christian character of this society. This reflection in the June/July issue of First Things touches on subjects of long-standing controversy that cannot be ignored in trying to understand how our public discourse contributes to our misunderstanding of who we are. Isn’t it time for you to subscribe to First Things ?

Articles by Joseph Bottum

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