Saturday, May 30, 2020

James Farrell


For such a celebrated book, James Farrell's Young Lonigan -- the first in a larger series of Lonigan novels -- is oddly hard to find. But having located a copy, I've read it. There's lots to say.

The first is that Farrell's writing is unusually readable: it's clear and direct. And it's very much of that period leading up to the Second World War: Young Lonigan is parts Sherwood Anderson, parts Sinclair Lewis. There's a simplicity of prose which masks a social complexity: young Lonigan -- because he is, after all, quite young -- says more than he knows. 

Farrell's novel, though, transcends adolescence. It's an unsettling book about violence, racism, and poverty. Young Lonigan and his friends are born into a world of emotional repression which threatens to consume them. They are violent and demeaning, but also fearful: the Catholicism with which they are raised adds to this volatility. 

Young Lonigan takes places over the course of one year: between 1916-1917. The references to Woodrow Wilson and to the war in Europe situate Farrell's characters in an international context. But it's the allusions to racism in the States and to xenophobia in midwest which define them. 

Young Lonigan longs for his moment, for strength and agility and freedom. By the end of the novel, however, there's a hint that this quest will forever be frustrated -- because Farrell, in my reading, seems to suggest that fate plays as much of a role in our lives as ambition. 

At its core, Young Lonigan anticipates what's to come: this is a book about childhood and adulthood, and about how the latter takes root at a surprisingly early age.

Getting to know her …

… American Bloomsbury: The poet of solitude: How Emily Dickinson was fuelled by the light of her brilliant interior world.

She saw [the question of faith] as a lifelong struggle.
That's how faith works.

Something to think on …

We can easily become as much slaves to precaution as we can to fear.
— Randolph Bourne, born on this date in 1886

Our pusillanimous clerics …

… These bullying bishops aren't brave - UnHerd.



When I was at St Paul’s Cathedral, there was a phrase that was regularly bandied about that I came to absolutely hate: “reputational risk”. People would say things like “Be careful of this, it carries reputational risk.” You now hear it more and more in church circles. And I get so annoyed. Christianity is all about reputational risk. Indeed, it is absolutely supposed to court reputational risk. Jesus deliberately stood alongside those people who were a constant risk to his good name. If we don’t risk our reputations defending the unpopular, we might as well give up on the whole Christianity thing altogether.
God seems to be drawing the attention of he faithful to the Scribes and Pharisees among our churchmen.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Sounds good …

… Pope Francis to canonize French missionary Bl. Charles de Foucauld.

… More here.

(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Let’s hope the churches counter with a law suit …

… Maryland's Howard County bans Holy Communion in church reopening order.
They should also not obey the order.

Melville’s politics …

… American Bloomsbury: Political lessons for our time in Melville’s Moby-Dick.

I’ve always thought of Ahab as the ultimate Calvinist. Remember what he tells Starbuck: “This whole act’s immutably decreed. ’Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates’ lieutenant; I act under orders.”

A sad tale …

… The Priests Who Disliked Mass: Fr. Byran Houghton. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

There was certainly no clamor among the laity at the time for the Mass being said in the vernacular, and the version they came up with is transcendently banal. Attending to it is an act of penance. 

Prelude …

… On being ill | The New Criterion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.
— G. K. Chesterton, born on this date in 1874

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Hmm …

The Most Important Coronavirus Statistic: 42% Of U.S. Deaths Are From 0.6% Of The Population.

This is important …

… Genomic Study Points to Natural Origin of COVID-19 – NIH Director's Blog. (Hat tip, Jeff Mauvais.)

Existing computer models predicted that the new coronavirus would not bind to ACE2 as well as the SARS virus. However, to their surprise, the researchers found that the spike protein of the new coronavirus actually bound far better than computer predictions, likely because of natural selection on ACE2 that enabled the virus to take advantage of a previously unidentified alternate binding site. Researchers said this provides strong evidence that that new virus was not the product of purposeful manipulation in a lab. In fact, any bioengineer trying to design a coronavirus that threatened human health probably would never have chosen this particular conformation for a spike protein.
Francis Collins is the director of the NIH and the Human Genome Project.

Another look at the new biography …

… American Bloomsbury: Reconsidering Longfellow in ‘Cross of Snow’.

Listen in …

… The 75th anniversary of Brideshead Revisited | The Book Club | The Spectator. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Liberalism Was Born and Grew During Centuries of Pandemics – AIER

… Liberalism Was Born and Grew During Centuries of Pandemics – AIER. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 Such critiques, however, badly misunderstand the history and formation of liberalism. Liberalism was not formed in the comfort of peace and security. It is true that, in recent times, peace and prosperity have generally ruled over the world. There hasn’t been a major war since the 1940s and the last threat of a major war was in the 1950s. Of course, there still have been wars and conflicts, some of which have lasted a long time (I have some students in my college classes now whose parents served in Afghanistan). There are students in high school and early college who have never known a world where the US wasn’t occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. But, in the grand scale of things, these conflicts have been small in scale. Nothing like the wars that existed in the 1800s and the first half of 1900s.
But people today, for whatever reason, seem to want to be told what to do, and disinclined to inquire as to whether it is the right thing to do.

More from a pathologist …

… The way ‘COVID deaths’ are being counted is a scandal | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Autopsy — auto opsis — literally means seeing for oneself. And the person doing the seeing should be clear-eyed — an independent specialist medical practitioner, with no emotional or professional vested interest in what happened to the patient. Autopsy studies typically show major discrepancies between actual findings and clinical diagnosis in a quarter to a third of cases. And in about a sixth of the cases, knowing about these hidden pathologies in life could have made differences to treatment that might have prevented death. In the UK in recent decades about one in six deaths have had an autopsy examination — a deceased person’s last gift to the living.
Please read the whole thing. It is very informative.

Hmm …

… American Bloomsbury: Really? UK professor lists five books from the 19th century that will help you understand modern America better.

I think I’ve read enough 19th Century American to not require any advice from someone overseas. Also, I’m an American.

Composer of sacred lyrics …

Poems to get us through: a musical exchange with God | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Take the quiz …

… Bryan Appleyard - Public spirited as I am, I have decided... | Facebook. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Blogging note …

I have to take Debbie to the dentist in just a short while. So blogging will be spotty.

Something to think on …

I think it is impossible to explain faith. It is like trying to explain air, which one cannot do by dividing it into its component parts and labeling them scientifically. It must be breathed to be understood.
— Patrick White, born on this date in 1912

Small, but precious …

… Original Poem | The Studio by Rebecca Watts - The TLS- TLS. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Art and life …

 Imperfect – Guernica. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Sehnsucht …

… Take Me Back – Indicative Mood. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A friend in need …

… American Bloomsbury: The Man Who Rescued Hawthorne From Obscurity.

Anniversary …

… American Bloomsbury: Edith Wharton’s first published short story.

More about the numbers …

… Rethinking COVID-19 Mortality Statistics | American Council on Science and Health. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



There are two fundamental points often ignored when referring to “the death toll from COVID-19.”
  • There is no evidence or proof offered by any scientist, pathologist, or virologist that confirms COVID-19 as the “cause” of death in the certification process. 
  • An expanded definition of a “COVID-19 death” was enacted by the CDC on March 24th, to include probable cases. This conflates and clusters test results creating a source of both under and overestimation. “COVID-19 deaths are identified using a new ICD-10 code. When COVID-19 is reported as a cause of death or when it is listed as a ‘probable’ or ‘presumed’ cause, it is coded as UO7.1 This can include cases with or without laboratory confirmation.” [emphasis added]  

A day late with this …

… American Bloomsbury: Emily Dickinson writes to Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

Ah, yes …

A… Our dangerous addiction to prediction - UnHerd.
There are subtler manifestations of the prediction addiction. In science, for example, researchers — and I include myself in this — often deploy the word “predict” in a way that doesn’t comport with its everyday usage. Variable X predicts variable Y, they say, even though both were measured at exactly the same time. What they mean is that, if you didn’t know anything about Y, you would have some information about it if you knew X. But this “prediction” can be very weak: usually just “a bit better than chance” rather than “with a strong degree of accuracy”. By the time this translates to the public, often via hyped press releases, it’s frequently been imbued with a great deal more certainty than is warranted by the data.
Well, astrology and alchemy were once thought to be science.

A pathologist weighs in …

… What the Dominic Cummings saga tells us about lockdown | The Spectator. (Hat tip,Dave Lull.)

That we have now fully embarked on a phase of politics masquerading as science may be harder to spot. Nothing demonstrates it better than the Dominic Cummings story. I’m not really interested here in the rights or wrongs of what he did with respect to the 'rules'. The point is that if lockdown and social distancing actually have any effect at all on the virus, it is difficult to see how driving to a different, empty house could realistically spread it. Social distancing and lockdown are supposed to be the measures 'protecting' us from the virus. So if you move to another location in a socially distanced manner – in the bubble of your car for instance – and lock down once there, how can you have significantly contributed to viral spread?
After this experience, I no longer believe that the institutions of our society are capable of ‘following the science’, and that fills me with foreboding. If science can be hijacked to fuel mass hysteria once, maybe it could easily enough happen again. How can we prevent this? What changes can be made to the interface between science and politics to facilitate proportionate decision-making? How should the evidence and the decision-making be reported to the public? 


Worrisome …

… Hong Kong, Coronavirus, and the Specter of Tiananmen.

… See also: Hong Kong police fire pepper balls at protesters and arrest 300 people for unauthorised assembly.

Very clearly laid out …

… Bruce Charlton's Notions: How do we know God exists?

Before accepting any conclusion, we need to discover and clarify our own probably unconscious and unknown assumptions; because once these are made clear and explicit, it may turn out that we do not, after all, regard our unconscious assumptions as true.

Anniversary …

… American Bloomsbury: Mine eyes have seen the glory.

Interesting …

… Public Sees Harm in Exaggerating, Downplaying COVID-19 Threat.

In other words, the public is skeptical of both best-case and worst-case scenarios, which strikes me as wise.

Something to think on …

Without a knowledge of mythology much of the elegant literature of our own language cannot be understood and appreciated.
— Thomas Bulfinch, who died on this date in 1867

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

She is certainly entitled to an opinion …

Norway 'could have controlled infection without lockdown': health chief - The Local . (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Dear, dear Lionel …

… Lionel Shriver Is Looking for Trouble | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Much of Shriver’s value system revolves around tough-mindedness. Stop borrowing money you can’t pay back—and stop lending it, too, while you’re at it. Don’t dwell on your traumas, recover from them. Rejoice in your power, not in your oppression, and never, ever start a sentence with “As a . . .” Shriver has changed her name, her country, her accent, her religious affiliation, and the definition of “female” that she was raised to embody, in order to become a self-created, self-interested oddity, distinct from the mores of literary society. 
Well, yes. There’s no one like her, and she is delightful.

The logic of it all — or the lack thereof …

… Bad Arguments For Lockdowns & The Burden Of Proof. Also: US States Analysis – William M. Briggs.

Lockdowns are a burden, an imposition, a severe restriction of liberty. It is certain and indisputable that they cause harm. Therefore, if lockdown supporters cannot prove with something approaching certainty they work, then lockdowns cannot and should not be imposed.

Hmm …

Nursing Homes & Assisted Living Facilities Account for 42% of COVID-19 Deaths. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Transatlantic dialogue …

… The big debate: is lockdown wrong? | Spectator USA. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



This is really worth reading — all of it, both sides.

Hmm …

… Psychiatrists Wrote 86% More Prescriptions For Psychotropic Drugs During Lockdown Months – Summit News. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Here is the WSJ article referred to: More People Are Taking Drugs for Anxiety and Insomnia, and Doctors Are Worried.

I subscribe to the WSJ so I can access it. Here is an excerpt:

Health concerns, social isolation and the stress of job losses are taking a toll on people’s well-being. More than one-third of Americans say the pandemic is having a “serious impact” on their mental health, according to a survey released March 25 by the American Psychiatric Association. Among parents with children under 18, 46% rated their average stress level related to the pandemic as 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale, according to a survey the American Psychological Association released May 21. The nation’s top mental-health official recently warned that the suffering could deepen if there were a second coronavirus lockdown.

Something to think on …

I was no longer the centre of my life and therefore I could see God in everything.
— Bede, who died on this date in 735

Monday, May 25, 2020

A look at the numbers …

… The United States Does NOT Lead in Coronavirus Deaths.

Haiku



The peonies serve
As overture to roses
Who stage finale

For your listening pleasure …

I have decided to listen to all of the Mahler symphonies. Last night I got this one. Debbie listened to it also and really loved it.

A bit of history …

… The 2006 Origins of the Lockdown Idea – AIER. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Finally, the remarkable conclusion:
Experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best and with the least anxiety when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted. Strong political and public health leadership to provide reassurance and to ensure that needed medical care services are provided are critical elements. If either is seen to be less than optimal, a manageable epidemic could move toward catastrophe.
Confronting a manageable epidemic and turning it into a catastrophe: that seems like a good description of everything that has happened in the COVID-19 crisis of 2020. 
Thus did some of the most highly trained and experienced experts on epidemics warn with biting rhetoric against everything that the advocates of lockdown proposed. It was not even a real-world idea in the first place and showed no actual knowledge of viruses and disease mitigation. Again, the idea was born of a high-school science experiment using agent-based modelling techniques having nothing at all to do with real life, real science, or real medicine. 

Memorial Day …

… Beyond Eastrod: If you read only one book about the Cold War era ...

Bearing witness …

… A Pandemic warning from Cardinals Sarah, Müller, Zen, Abp. Viganò - National Association of Catholic Families. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

As Pastors, they also reassert the authority of Catholic Bishops to decide autonomously on all that concerns the celebration of Mass and the Sacraments.” They also claim “absolute autonomy” in matters falling within their “immediate jurisdiction,” such as “liturgical norms and ways of administering Communion and the Sacraments.”
“The State has no right to interfere, for any reason whatsoever, in the sovereignty of the Church,” the prelates write, asking that restrictions on the celebration of public ceremonies be removed.
It would be nice if Philadelphia’s pusillanimous archbishop would take heed.



Odd couple …

… Sex, lies and despair: unseen letters reveal Larkin's tortured love | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Sutherland, professor emeritus of modern English literature at University College London, was taught by Jones, and he attributes his career to her. He is now finishing a book on Jones, based on the letters, to be published next year by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. He expressed surprise that no one had written a biography of her before as she was the most important person in Larkin’s life.

Something to think on …

The state incurs debts for politics, war, and other higher causes and 'progress'. . . . The assumption is that the future will honour this relationship in perpetuity. The state has learned from the merchants and industrialists how to exploit credit; it defies the nation ever to let it go into bankruptcy. Alongside all swindlers the state now stands there as swindler-in-chief.
— Jacob Burckhardt, born on this date in 1818

No lie there …

… If We Want Western Civ Revitalized, We Can’t Leave It To Universities.

Intellectual knowledge is severable from practice, and this applies to the rest of the Western tradition, from art and architecture to literature and philosophy. In all of these, knowledge without works is dead, and universities teaching about them may be no more than museum tours of the intellectual and artistic artifacts of the past. Wisdom becomes knowledge, and knowledge declines into information.
I was fortunate that the nuns who taught in my grade school encouraged us to explore culture on our own, pointing out to us that the Philadelphia Museum of Art was among the best. It was  good to get there from where we lived — a bus to the El and the El to Center City, then a nice walk along the Parkway to the museum (along the way was the Rodin Museum). The Philadelphia Orchestra was well-regarded, too, as it still is. All of this served as the foundation for one of the great blessings in my life.   
 

Making one’s choice …

… Our Plague - The Catholic Thing.

I hasten to add that the good doctor believes there are vulnerable subsets within the population that should be quarantined: the elderly and those with various comorbidities. Whether such isolation should be a matter of law or conscience is a matter of debate. As one who is practically the poster boy for comorbidity (over-70, heart disease, previous cancer treatments, diminished lung capacity), I know what I, personally, must do without being told by President Trump or Governor Cuomo.

Hmm …

 CDC’s New ‘Best Estimate’ Implies a COVID-19 Infection Fatality Rate Below 0.3% – Reason.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

That rate is much lower than the numbers used in the horrifying projections that shaped the government response to the epidemic.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Tyranny alert …

… Police fire tear gas and make 180 arrests as Hongkongers rally against national security law | Hong Kong Free Press HKFP.

Good: Taiwan promises 'necessary assistance' to Hong Kong's people.

Remembering …

 “He liked America’s gas stations, roadside bars, endless baseball games.” Adam Zagajewski and others remember Joseph Brodsky on his 80th birthday | The Book Haven.

Check this out …

Video: Charlie Parr Virtual Mid-Week Bracer - Perfect Duluth Day. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The concert starts at the 9-minute mark of the video.

Check this out …

Video: Charlie Parr Virtual Mid-Week Bracer - Perfect Duluth Day. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The concert starts at the 9-minute mark of the video.

A look at the numbers …

… There Is No Evidence Lockdowns Saved Lives. It Is Indisputable They Caused Great Harm – William M. Briggs. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What should we conclude? Strike that. What can we conclude. Only one thing: we cannot conclude that lockdowns worked.

Knowing whereof one speaks …

… Dumbing Fascism Down, Then And Now - Quillette.

Even in the 1940s, at a time when genuinely fascist dictatorships threatened to extinguish freedom over much of the world’s surface, George Orwell noted that misuse of the term had rendered it “entirely meaningless.” Decades later, American journalist Tom Wolfe would note the “morbid tendency” of his colleagues to apply the word to everything from Christian revivalist movements to hippies.

Discovery and deliverance …

… Beyond Eastrod: Pilgrimage to the lair of the beast.

What remains of our days …

… First Known When Lost: Interval.

Interesting either way …

… SCIENCE AND FAITH: Scientists, Archeologists Say Infrared Tool Led Them To Last Supper Room – HillFaith.

Something to think on …

The surest defense against Evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even — if you will — eccentricity. That is, something that can't be feigned, faked, imitated; something even a seasoned imposter couldn't be happy with.
— Joseph Brodsky, born on this date in 1940

Saturday, May 23, 2020

What’s a heaven for?

… Potcake Poet’s Choice: George Simmers, “The Old Man’s Heaven” | Form in Formless Times. (Hat tip, Dave Lull)

This poem reminds me that I’ve been to heaven and back a few times already. And I’ve been listening a lot to the contents of that Great American Songbook lately. 

Free online events …

… Hay Festival Digital 18–31 May 2020. (Hat tip, Nigel Beale.)

Hmm …

… Beyond Eastrod: Guilt binds us to others and to our own past.

Treatment worse than disease …

California Doctors Say Suicide Deaths Exceed Coronavirus Fatalities - LewRockwell. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

A spokesperson for the Well Being Trust in Oakland, CA issued a report that predicts up to 75,000 deaths from drug or alcohol abuse and suicide directly caused by lockdowns due to the coronavirus.  Fear, dread and isolation are the words used to describe these deaths of despair.  Fear of unemployment, no future, forced vaccination, have caused many to give up hope.  This report emanates from California where the governor just prolonged the forced lockdown another 90 days.

Love and music …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Woman With A Lute (Johannes Vermeer), Sonnet #512.

Something to think on …

One for whom a pebble has value must be surrounded by treasures wherever he goes.
— Pär Lagerkvist, born on this date in 1891

Greatness rediscovered …

… ‘Cross of Snow’ Review: Our Poet of Loneliness - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Nicholas Basbanes’s superbly sympathetic “Cross of Snow” is not, as his publisher claims, the first major Longfellow biography to appear in 50 years (Charles Calhoun’s briefer, more analytical “Longfellow: A Rediscovered Life” was published in 2004). But it is, perhaps, the biography Longfellow himself would have most liked to read. Absorbing the underlying message of Longfellow’s poetry, Mr. Basbanes writes about him the way a friend would, with generosity, gentleness and grace. The author of several well-received books on collectors and collecting, Mr. Basbanes is the ideal biographer for a poet who never threw anything out and would even label his pencil stubs with the titles of the poems for which he had used them. In his sumptuous residence at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, Mass., now a National Historic Site, Longfellow surrounded himself with a library of more than 12,000 books in 50 languages, many of which he spoke or read with some degree of fluency. Mr. Basbanes knows that library so well that he can tell us exactly where the poet kept his copy of Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations” (in the dining room, “at eye level, on the middle shelf, to the left”).

Friday, May 22, 2020

The great divide …

… Scenes From the Class Struggle in Lockdown – Peggy Noonan. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Meanwhile some governors are playing into every stereotype of “the overclass.” On Tuesday Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf said in a press briefing that those pushing against the shutdown are cowards. Local officials who “cave in to this coronavirus” will pay a price in state funding. “These folks are choosing to desert in the face of the enemy. In the middle of a war.” He said he’ll pull state certificates such as liquor licenses for any businesses that open. He must have thought he sounded uncompromising, like Gen. George Patton. He seemed more like Patton slapping the soldier. No sympathy, no respect, only judgment.
What a douche.

Love and fear …

… Bruce Charlton's Notions: Fear for others (getting rid of it).

Books on the screen …

… The Great Elmore Leonard Renaissance of the Late '90s | CrimeReads. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

It’s something of a moot point arguing over which of the three feature length Leonard adaptations is the best, as taken together, they feel entirely of a piece. They share so many features with one another, from their soundtracks filled with smooth R&B and funky jazz, to their cross-coastal settings, to a number of key figures behind the scenes—along with being scripted by Scott Frank, Out of Sight was also produced by DeVito and Sonnenfeld—as well as in front of cameras, including Dennis Farina, Samuel L. Jackson, and, most importantly, Michael Keaton. Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into existence, Soderbergh bridged the world of his film to Tarantino’s by having Keaton reprise his role as the cocksure federal agent Ray Nicolette. While keen-eyed viewers at the time dismissed the connection as little more than a winking homage, it actually speaks to the true power of Leonard’s pop cultural prevalence during this period: of the twelve novels Leonard published between the years 1987 and 1999 received adaptations, all but two were adapted for film and television, three of which—the feature film Touch, the TV movie Pronto, and the Sonnenfeld-DeVito produced series Maximum Bob—came out in the interim between Jackie Brown and Out of Sight.

Anniversary …

… Beyond Eastrod: Up, up and away with Orville and Wilbur.

That after all mood …

… Short Talk on Kafka on Hölderlin | by Anne Carson | The New York Review of Books. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)



Here is one of my favorite Hölderlin poems, in my own rough translation:



Half of Life



With yellow pears
And filled with wild roses
The land hangs into the lake,
You lovely swans,
And drunk with kisses
You dip your heads
Into the holy sobering water.

Ah, me. Where will I find, when
Winter comes, the flowers,
And where the sunshine
And the shadows of Earth?
The walls stand speechless
And cold. The weathercocks
Rattle in the wind.

When everywhere looks like everywhere else …

… Top Shots: The World's Best Photojournalism. (Hat tip, Rus Boden.)

Hmm …

… COVID-19: Controversy on origin of virus resurfaces, thanks to a new study | Deccan Herald.

"There is no evidence that this virus came from either an animal or from a laboratory, so we should either rule both possibilities out or rule them both in. As a scientist we have to say both scenarios remain possible, till we rule one out. This has not been done yet," said Petrovsky who is researching a vaccine against the pandemic.




Yes, we should …

… We should be grateful for good news in Georgia.

It is worth pointing out here that journalists and Democratic politicians (most notably Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia state representative who labors under the bizarre illusion that she won a statewide election there two years ago and would now like to be vice president) were not the only critics of Gov. Kemp. After a series of spasmodic muscular contractions that seemed to have resulted in tweets calling upon unnamed persons to "liberate" various states, President Trump changed his mind and insisted on more than one occasion that he "strongly disagreed" with the decision to open Georgia. Expecting anything resembling consistency from this president is a fool's errand, but one hopes that at least some of his supporters remember that he was wrong here.

Poetry and love …

… 'A joyful thing': the man who wrote his wife a poem every day for 25 years | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Here is the website: A Love in Verse.

I’m sure our media will get right on this …

… Covid-19: “Staggering number” of extra deaths in community is not explained by covid-19 | The BMJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

The most dangerous condition for a man or a nation is when his intellectual side is more developed than his spiritual. Is that not exactly the condition of the world today?
— Arthur Conan Doyle, born on this date in 1859

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Not good …

… The rise of social media censorship: How YouTube and Facebook are trying to control information about COVID. (Hat tip, Dave Lull,)

As private corporations, the social media outlets are not bound by the First Amendment and can remove speech that violates their guidelines. However, given their reach and the growing political battle over lockdowns amid questions about their efficacy, their censorship actions leave them at risk of backlash.
Further, combined with the conventional media’s reluctance to question lockdowns and the failure of predictive models from public health experts, social media censorship may actually backfire, leading many people to believe they cannot trust the media at all and encouraging them to consider outright conspiracy theories.

He's back


Wynn, the service dog.

Robin Fleming


I've written before on the blog about the recent advent of "readable history," of "narrative non-fiction." Most of my posts on books like this have been negative: left in the hands of generalists or journalists, history tends to be presented as a thematic struggle. Often, though, these themes are so general that the history itself -- the details, the dates -- become obscured, and the result is a book which cannot, frankly, be trusted. 

This is not the case, I should say, for Robin Fleming's excellent treatment of Britain from the fall of the Roman Empire through the arrival of the Normans. Britain After Rome is a learned analysis of the economic impact of Roman's collapse: Fleming uses archaeology, anthropology, and material culture to explore this cataclysm. Because in the end, that's what it is: in some places in Britain, it would take as much as 1,500 years for levels of trade and commerce to reach the levels seen under Rome.

Britain After Rome is an engaging read -- and not only for those interested in the British Isles. This is a book, really, about what happens in the absence of empire: of what happens when towns and cities collapse, and when the force keeping them all together -- Rome -- collapses as well. I found Fleming's treatment of the fifth century particularly gripping: here were Britons encountering a completely new reality: one which remained Roman by custom, but whose political and economic inertia had come a complete halt. 

This is history as it should be written. 

Good to know …

… Beyond Eastrod: Holmes and Russell are on the case.

Most dispiriting …

… The end of Another Look books? “Are quarterly gatherings of quiet readers really too expensive? Or simply priceless?” | The Book Haven.



Want to save money? Cut your administrative staff and pare down the salaries of those you keep.

Love …

… My gallant gal | About Last Night. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Weighed in the balance …

… The rules of the game by William Logan | The New Criterion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

RIP …

… Michael McClure obituary | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

“Poetry is a muscular principle and a revolution for the body-spirit and intellect and ear,” he proclaimed on the cover of his 1964 collection, Ghost Tantras. “There are no laws but living changing ones, and any system is a touch of death.” Inside the book lay a blazing series of poems with no prior literary blueprint, representing McClure’s faith in the imaginative act to renew man’s “meat-spirit”, and bring to form a meeting between the realms of ethnopoetics, biology and ritual.

Work space …

 … The Writer's Almanac for Sunday, May 17, 2020 — At Emily Dickinson’s House | Garrison Keillor. (Hat tip Rus, Bowden.)

And the winners are …

… Winning Poems for 2020 April : IBPC.



The Judge's Page.



(Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Summer reading …

… 10 big books for summer 2020. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Good for them …

… Minnesota church leaders say they will resume service, with or without Walz's blessing | Duluth News Tribune. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



See also: May 20, 2020 – Minnesota Catholic bishops’ letter regarding resumption of public Masses.



I hope Philadelphia’s new archbishop learns of this. Perhaps it will remind him that his first loyalty is to God, not Caesar.

These days …

… Going Out: A COVID Diary – The Lamp Magazine. (Ht tip, Dave Lull.)
What doesn’t cross one’s mind is the vision of a priest living comfortably in his rectory, helplessly unable to bring the grace and succor of the sacraments to those dying just down the road. But this has become the reality of the priesthood for many of us today.

Here’s a thought …

… COVID-19 shows we're more risk averse than post-World War II Americans.

Fundamental attitudes can change in a nation over half a century, and the very different responses to this year’s coronavirus epidemic and the influenzas of 50 and 60 years ago suggests that people today are much more risk averse, much more willing to undergo massive inconvenience and disruption to avoid marginal increases in fatal risk.
In August 2017, after spending a night in the ER, a doctor came and told me I had a life-threatening  condition and needed immediate surgery. My reaction was that I had none. He could just as well have told me it was cloudy out and there could be showers in the afternoon. Even I was surprised by my utter lack of affect, though obviously any feelings about the matter would have been beside the point. And i was certainly spared the worry. I just let the doctors get on with it and here I am. I don’t think any grand conclusion can be drawn from this. I may just be a borderline sociopath.

Thet are impresive …

… Siris: The Lukhimov Lord of the Rings. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Something to think on …

The world is so dreadfully managed, one hardly knows to whom to complain.
— Ronald Firbank, who died on this date in 1926

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Hmm …

… The Education of Jerry Falwell Jr. - WSJ.

Remember, in keeping his university open Mr. Falwell violated no laws or public-health directives. Liberty followed all rules and took additional steps, including constant cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, removing two of every three computers from the lab to ensure social distancing, and quarantining those suspected of carrying the virus in a former hotel 3 miles from campus. Two surprise visits from state health inspectors found no violations.

Just so you know …

… Public Books Database | Public Books. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

With university classrooms and libraries shuttered because of the COVID-19 crisis, scholars are facing disruptions not only in their teaching lives but also in their ability to access research materials. In response, many academic presses have made hundreds of their titles freely accessible online. The Public Books Database aims to catalog such resources in a single location and to highlight titles of particular interest. We’ll be updating the list regularly as additional materials are made available.

Hmm …

… Bruce Charlton's Notions: Death as an end, or death as transformation?

Hmm …

… Bruce Charlton's Notions: Death as an end, or death as transformation?

Q&A …

… One of the World's Most Powerful Scientists Believes in Miracles - Scientific American Blog Network. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

If Horgan wants to know more about scientists and miracles, he should read up on Alexis Carrel.

Now we see us, now we don’t …

 “A Wall Around the Word”: on Far West, poems by Floyd Skloot – On the Seawall. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Far West returns us to universal values that postmodernism has often assailed as being too personal, too much of the artist’s signature, too much of a search and demand for order where instability prevails. From the pastoral to the familial, the mundane to the transcendent, Far West is filled with intelligence, grace, and vigor. Although he confronts the ravages of a chronic illness that is not only painful but uprooting and disorienting.
I just bought the book.

Something to think on …

In all the years when I did not know what to believe in and therefore preferred to leave all beliefs alone, whenever I came to a place where living water welled up, blessedly cold and sweet and pure, from the earth's dark bosom, I felt that after all it must be wrong not to believe in anything.
— Sigrid Undset, born on this date in 1882

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Bottoms up, amen …

 Pray while you drink: Cocktail recipes for forthcoming feast days - Catholic Herald. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I generally don’t do cocktails. Too easy to get drunk on them. And believe me, I can hold the sauce.

Honoring Miss O’Connor …

… Beyond Eastrod (again): More from my pilgrimage with the Abbess of Andalusia.

I rather like the image on the stamp.

Hmm …

… Bruce Charlton's Notions: An update on the Jesus Prayer. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



I say it, for just a few moments, most days. It usually bestows a quietness.

Ze former Vahren Vilhelm strikes again …

… Ugly De Blasio Crackdown on Jewish Kids in New York City.

Bob and Walt …

… Bob Dylan contains multitudes: Walt Whitman as Dylan's muse on "Murder Most Foul" | Salon.com. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)



Methinks the two would have hit it off. I love that ad.

Very worth reading …

… Commentary: Why so many people in the media dislike my efforts to spread facts about the coronavirus and lockdowns. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Worth taking note of …

… The growing evidence on vitamin D and Covid | The Spectator.



Spring, summer, fall, or winter, I always make sure to get out in the sun.

British art...

...Goes online this summer, care of the Mellon Centre

Something to think on …

Even against the greatest of odds, there is something in the human spirit — a magic blend of skill, faith, and valor - that can lift men from certain defeat to incredible victory.
— Walter Lord, who died on this date in 2002

Wondrous insight …

… Contraband - The Catholic Thing. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Monday, May 18, 2020

Adventurous commute …

 “Men Waiting for a Train,” by David Biespiel | The New Yorker. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Walking in the dark …

… Ted Kooser's Poetry is a Testament to The Human Spirit. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Kooser lives in Nebraska, and he wrote the poems in Winter Morning Walks while under treatment for skin cancer. His skin during this time was too sensitive for even the limited sun of a midwestern winter, so Kooser would rise early every morning in the dark to take a walk, coming home to record his observations.

Belated anniversary …

… Beyond Eastrod (again): Two days late but still worth considering — 100th anniversary of the canonization of St. Joan of Arc.

Hmm …

The Prophet of the Far Right | Boston Review. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Last week, in an open letter published on Radio France, Houellebecq weighed in on the COVID-19 pandemic. He dismissed the voices of the French left who have predicted that the pandemic might lead to a meaningful reevaluation of existing power structures. Rather, Houellebecq thought it more likely to merely exacerbate the same technological trends—everything from video on demand to contactless payment—against which he has railed for years as dehumanizing and corrosive of Western civilization. “We will not wake up after the lockdown in a new world. It will be the same, just a bit worse,” he wrote. Characteristically candid, he concluded that the pandemic has ”succeeded in the feat of being both frightening and boring.”
I find it much more boring than frightening. As for this piece, the writer might understand Houellebecq better if he’d make some attempt to free himself from his own confining categories. Labels are a poor substitute for thought, though they sure seem to satisfy a lot of people.

RIP …

… Peter Dronke obituary | Books | The Guardian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Though his health declined after Ursula’s death in 2012, he produced unstoppably: a new edition of the Roman 6th-century philosopher Boethiusand a trailblazing in-depth introduction and commentary to the radical ninth-century theologian John Scotus Eriugena (the name means Irish-born). His Periphyseon (On the Natures of the Universe, five volumes, 2012-17) openly dismisses scriptural literalism: it was “too simple-minded, thinking that paradise was some place on earth, that the trees were earthly and the fountains physically perceivable. True Reason laughs at this.”
Then there’s this:
 His first book, for example, Medieval Latin and the Rise of European Love-Lyric (two volumes, 1965–66), argued that far from “courtly love” originating with the troubadours in France, it developed within a stream of poetry and song from demotic Latin and the Arab world, with deep roots far from Provence – in ancient Egypt, Baghdad, Georgia, India and Iceland. Above all, Dronke believed in the power of imagination and acted with exceptional acuity to unfold the beauty and ethics of its creations, from a towering work such as Dante’s Divine Comedy to a little known, anonymous lyrical Lament of Dido.
Good thing no one had warned them about cultural appropriation. They seem to have thought of it in terms of commerce. (Post bumped.)

Small museums...

...In the age of Covid

Something to think on …

Apart from the mercy of God, there is no other source of hope for mankind.
— Pope John Paul II, born on this date in 1920

Sunday, May 17, 2020

This should cheer some …

… Governor Unveils Innovative 37-Step Plan To Reopen State Over The Next 10 Years | The Babylon Bee.

May Poetry at North of Oxford …

… As Promised, the fire by David Kozinski.

… A Field of Manhole Covers by Jason Baldinger.

… Up In The Night by Ed Canavan.

…  Settlers by Eileen Tabios.

Just so you know …

… Reminder: Adolf Hitler Also Wanted To Go Outside And Do Things | The Babylon Bee.

In Hitler’s final days, though, he did dutifully shelter in place -- living in a bunker -- despite wanting to go outside, so historians note that people who actually do go outside are in fact “worse than Hitler.”

Someone forward this to Archbishop Perez …

… it may help him understand what faith is about: The Coronavirus Crisis: Letter from the Holy Mountain - Elder Evthymios of Kapsala | Orthodox Ethos. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Neither Diocletian, nor the Turks, nor the communists in Russia, nor the Germans during the years of the occupation managed to stop the Divine Liturgy and the faithful from approaching Holy Communion.
And now, with the fear of the virus, the churches have closed down and the faithful are deprived of the saving grace of the mysteries, of which they have so great a need. On the contrary, while everyone here [in Greece] remains fearfully silent, in the Orthodox Churches of Serbia, Bulgaria, and Georgia divine worship continues unhindered, the churches are open, Divine Liturgy is celebrated, and the faithful are not afraid of being affected by the virus.

Standing firm …

The Lockdown Skeptic They Couldn’t Silence. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Yet if Medium meant to stifle debate, its action backfired. Mr. Ginn has since become an informal organizer of a small battalion of well-credentialed dissenters. They include Michael Levitt (a Stanford biologist and the 2013 Nobel laureate in chemistry), John Ioannidis and Jay Bhattacharya (both Stanford professors of medicine), Joel Hay (a University of Southern California professor of pharmacy and health economics) and Neeraj Sood (a USC health economist). They and other researchers have been advising state and local governments on easing their lockdowns. On Thursday Dr. Bhattacharya and Messrs. Hay and Sood fielded questions from the Arizona Legislature about how to reopen the state’s economy.

Worrisome …

… Beyond Eastrod (again): Government excesses then and now.

Then and now …

… Why life went on as normal during the killer pandemic of 1969.

schools were not shut down nationwide, other than a few dozen because of too many sick teachers. Face masks weren’t required or even common. Though Woodstock was not held during the peak months of the H3N2 pandemic (the first wave ended by early March 1969, and it didn’t flare up again until November of that year), the festival went ahead when the virus was still active and had no known cure.
“Life continued as normal,” said Jeffrey Tucker, the editorial director for the American Institute for Economic Research.
Which, he said, isn’t all that surprising. “That generation approached viruses with calm, rationality and intelligence,” he said. 

Anniversary …

Sandro Botticelli died on this date in 1510. The music is gorgeous.

Fascinating …

… How a Photographer Recreated Outdoor Adventures With Household Stuff - Atlas Obscura. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)

Appreciation …

… Love and equilibrium: Robert Conquest’s new “Collected” is out, and Dick Davis writes about it. | The Book Haven. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The song for Gorbachev is priceless.

Virtual art...

...Augmented reality

A virologist weighs in …

… Britain's Hard Lesson About Blind Trust in Scientific Authorities.

Epidemiological modelling is a valuable tool for public health, and Covid-19 underscores the value of such models in decision-making. But the Imperial College model implementation lends credence to the worst fears of modelling skeptics—namely, that many models are no better than high-stakes gambles played on computers. This isn’t true: well-executed models can contribute to the objective, data-driven decision-making that we should expect from our leaders in a crisis. But leaders need to learn how to vet models and data.

 See also: Imperial College model used to justify UK and U.S. lockdowns deemed ‘buggy mess’ & ‘total unreliable’ by experts.

Something to think on …

Some people think that all the equipment you need to discuss religion is a mouth.
— Herman Wouk, who died on this date in 2019

Much in what he says …

… Elon Musk: Politicians 'who stole our liberty' should be 'tarred, feathered & thrown out of town!'

England before the fall …

 ‘Signatures’ Review: In His Good Books - WSJ. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

 “Signatures” offers 90 portraits, some as brief as a single paragraph, a few as extensive as six pages, of notable men and women, most of them from the England before the fall. Among them are portraits of W.H. Auden, Sybille Bedford, John Betjeman, Robert Conquest, Aldous Huxley and Muriel Spark. Those born elsewhere who shored up in England and whom Mr. Pryce-Jones writes about here include Svetlana Alliluyeva, Elie Kedourie, Arthur Koestler, Walter Laqueur and George Weidenfeld. There are also portraits of various lengths of Saul Bellow, Bernard Berenson, Milovan Djilas, Ernst Jünger, Iris Origo, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Albert Speer and others. All are immensely readable.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Knowing thyself …

… Waugh’s Selfie | The Evelyn Waugh Society. (Hat tip, Dave Lull, who makes a cameo appearance.)

RIP …

… Fred Willard, 'Best in Show' and 'A Mighty Wind' Actor, Dead at 86 - Rolling Stone. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Appreciation …

… The Nuns Who Wrote Poems | America Magazine. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

The matter of evidence …

… There Is No Evidence Lockdowns Saved Lives. It Is Indisputable They Caused Great Harm – William M. Briggs. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

What exactly renders this pandemic worse than the 1968-69 Hong Kong Flu pandemic (guess they’re going to have to change the name of that one soon)? It doe not look as if this is going be be anywhere near as bad. But the consequences of the lockdown will be manifest for quite sometime. The burden of proof is on the lockdown enthusiasts and their refusal to, as they used to say, question authority. 

The last giant …

… Zealotry of Guerin: Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun (Nicolas Poussin), Sonnet #511.

Something to think on …

The deadliest blow the enemy of the human soul can strike is to do fury honor. . . . Official acceptance is the one unmistakable symptom that salvation is beaten again, and is the one surest sign of fatal misunderstanding, and is the kiss of Judas.
— James Agee, who died on this date in 1955

Friday, May 15, 2020

Hmm …

… Secular faith has no answer to the coronavirus - Catholic Herald. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Lying behind this was the conviction – central to the modern religion of progress – that the human species advances incrementally, with the gains of the past being embedded and extended in future. There might be nothing strictly inevitable in the process. Periods of regression could and did occur. But overall, the arc of history tended to move in a direction in which the achievements of earlier times were conserved and improved upon. The pandemic shows that the advances of the past cannot be preserved and enlarged in this way. There will be vast losses of income, wealth and opportunity, together will large political upheavals, in countries throughout the world for many years to come.
But in recent decades much of the past has been rejected, at least if associated with dead white males. Contemporary society is ignorant and uncultivated.

Dream and reality …

(Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I miss baseball too. Thanks tyrants.

Hear, hear …

… All the Adam Schiff Transcripts - WSJ.

The question we’d ask our friends in the media is when are they going to stop playing the fool by putting him on the air? Mr. Schiff is a powerful figure with access to secrets that the rest of us don’t have and can’t check. He misled the country repeatedly on an issue that consumed American politics. … no one should ever believe another word he says.
Schiff needs to pay dearly for this.

In case you wondered …

… The Most Popular Books In Libraries, January–March 2020. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)


Sounds fair to me …

… Instapundit —HARSH, BUT FAIR: …

The ever-nearer buzz …

… Beyond Eastrod (again): That blue uncertainty and a persistent buzz.

Something to think on …

The only Commandment I ever obeyed — 'Consider the Lilies.’
— Emily Dickinson, who died on this date in 1886

Thursday, May 14, 2020

And now for something genuinely serious …

(Hat tip, Dave Lull,(

Local tyranny …

… Althouse: How the government talks to us in Madison: "Please read this Order carefully. Violation of or failure to comply with this Order is a crime punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.".
So, just like that, small religious groups lost their right to meet in person and must, at this late date, switch to teleconferencing. And that's what you get when local government takes over. Why did they adopt everything else the State Department of Health Services had in its orders, but change that one thing? They rushed it out on the same day the court acted, but they had the time and motivation to go harder on religious groups? How did that happen?