Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Ampleforth’s director of admissions, marketing and communication, Harriet Langdale, says: “I don’t think that people sent their children to Ampleforth particularly to be taught academically by monks, but rather because of the Benedictine community, the principles they live by and the impact this has on the children’s moral and spiritual development. Although the monastery no longer runs the school and very few monks teach, the ethos and principles of the school remain Benedictine and indeed are led by the Dean, a monk. In this respect, our relationship with the monastery remains extremely important and is the essence of who we are and what we offer.” And there is no doubt that if you can live by the Benedictine principles, whether your life be lay or in the Church, you will lead a better life.
In economics as in medicine, the rule is that everything has costs, including all good things. Every policy that you propose faces trade-offs, and all touted good medicines induce negative side-effects. In policy or therapy, when someone shills a cure but talks only about its beneficial effects, considering costs only in not using it, that shill is a con artist.
As the Delta variant reminds us, it is too early to declare victory over the virus; there may yet be unpleasant surprises. A neighbor, overweight and over 80, has refused vaccination on the grounds that, having isolated himself, he sees no one who might infect him with the virus, that his diet is healthy, that the vaccine might not be effective against new variants (whose emergence, he believes, it might encourage), and that the long-term effects of the vaccines are unknown. No one, he says, can be certain how long the immunity that the vaccines induce lasts. And there will be other viruses, apart from the Covid variants.
I’m with his neighbor. I’m surprised that Dalrymple, who is a physician, is not more concerned that none of these vaccines has undergone the trials usually mandated for vaccines. He seems more concerned that the population servilely follow whatever the government dictates (disguised somewhat as praise for government efficiency).And what about people like Jesse Jackson who got ill from despite having the full cycle of vaccine?
The pandemic is now more than a year old. I am on the cusp of 80. I have commonsense and courteous precautions. I have not curtailed my activity in any way. I was tested just a couple of weeks ago. I tested negative. Sure, I could still get it. I might even die from. I’m going to die of something. But fear of death is not the same as love of life. I’ll take my chances. As a free individual I have that right.
The obvious word that nobody in the article seems willing to use is dishonest. The simple fact that the activities of Roth and any number of editors and critics involved in these quid pro quos remained, for all intents and purposes, a closely kept secret until now, suggests that they all knew better. Why hide (or demurely fail to mention) something that one needn’t be ashamed of?
Monday, August 30, 2021
Milley in particular is a disgrace.
In twenty-first-century America, certainly, high culture appears deeply subversive. Plato’s Republic teaches contempt for democracy as surely as King Lear teaches contempt for humanity. The Goldberg Variations are useless in the strict sense—they can be put to no use; they do nothing to make the listener more effective or a better citizen. Indeed, the most unsettling thing about high culture is that it is not a means to an end but an end in itself—which makes it the exact opposite of money, our usual standard for measuring worth.
I seem to have been very lucky. The Religious of the Sacred Heart who taught me in grade school were wont to remind us students that Philadelphia had one of the best art museums in the world and that we ought to visit it. Good student that I was, I visited the museum often during the summer, taking a trackless trolley to the El, which became the subway, which let me off at 15th Street, from where I would walk along the Parkway to the museum (to be fair, my mother had also taken my brother and me there and also to the Natural History Museum and of course the Franklin Institute). Philadelphia had a very good classical musical station when I was young (WFLN) and I was not the only teenager who listened to it as well as to rock stations. Those of my friends who listened to both rock and classical thought of the first as fun and of the second as something deeper than fun. But not all classical music is the same, either. I fell in love with Frederick Delius when I was in high school. Not everybody thinks Delius is all that great. But his music meant something to this young fellow who had grown up in a house surrounded (for a few years — until the developers came along) by woods, and with a stream in back. I read a lot of French poetry in translation back then, and Delius and Massenet (Scènes Alsacciennes) fired my imagination. I dreamed of living in 19th-century France. And so exhibit A (Tadaaki Otaka, by the way, is my candidate for the greatest living conductor):
Sunday, August 29, 2021
… HOW TO WRITE A VILLANELLE. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
The first line of one of the villanelle's I have written (For the Season) came to me as I was leaving my late friend Harold Boatrite's one Saturday morning, the day before the first Sunday of Advent. I think it was the third line that came next, before I reached the corner of his street. Hmm, I thought, there may be a villanelle there. the middle line of the first came to me as I walked, and I was off. I had finished it by day's end. That would have been in 2005. It appeared in Boulevard the following spring and the following Advent I first posted it here. I don't have an rukles for how to I write a poem. I just let them occur to me.
As these generational battles between older liberals and younger ones in U.S. newsrooms continue to take root, a key point to keep in mind is that while it’s not necessarily wrong to want a diverse newsroom, what is wrong is when calls for diversity are used as launching points to do they very thing white editors and managers are accused of doing: silencing voices for daring to engage in WrongThink.
I was known to be quite politically incorrect when I worked at The Inquirer (once, a colleague hearing me arguing that something was offensive and should not go in the paper, exclaimed, “If Frank thinks it shouldn’t go in the paper, I don’t even want to look at it. Get it out.”). I would not have written nor approved of the Buildings Matter, Too because you don’t pun on hot-wire issues. It’s dumb. But so is Wokeness. It’s white folks preening.
Most people I run into can’t stand the paper anymore, and I am told circulation figures reflect this.
It's axiomatic that drama thrives on conflict and Philip Larkin is a mass (unfriendly critics would say a mess) of contradictions. That's why playwrights can't leave him alone. He was a flawed and fallible human being who wrote like a fallen angel.
Saturday, August 28, 2021
We have been overwhelmed by the response. Our courses are full beyond the number at which we had aimed. They are in fact full beyond the number we had aimed for in the first three years. Every accepted student demonstrated both potential and seriousness as a writer and a clear vision of why they should do their apprenticeship with us.
This takes us back to the understanding of the word ‘slut’ which now, along with anything vaguely emotive or pejorative, has been cancelled. ‘Slut’ was originally used to describe a slovenly woman with low standards of cleanliness. Today, I think, it is used disparagingly to describe a sexually promiscuous woman. Neither relates to raspberries, but there you have it.
This book is full of observations about friendship—discerningly borrowed and observantly original; it is a credible descendant of those wonders of human perspicacity, Aristotle’s books on friendship (Ethics, Books 8-9). One of those borrowed observations is that “the point of being friends is to charm each other”; I love that, because I once long ago phrased it similarly to myself, sailing the Aegean with a friend: “The motor of friendship is mutual delight.” It doesn’t have Aristotle’s gravity, but he would not repudiate it. Applied to dogs, it does, however, imply that what Aristotle considers the highest kind of friendship—that of beings of intellect in increasingly deep, mutually satisfying conversation—is not a necessary option (and indeed not available) to a dog/man pair of friends.
I haven’t had a dog in years, but I used to always. Maybe I’ll have one again before I die. But it is well known among those who know me that dogs like, something I am quite proud of. Never trust anyone a dog doesn’t trust.
Friday, August 27, 2021
In her book COVID-19 2020 a Poetic Journal, she captures both the tangible and intangible things that happened, the emptiness of the streets of Northeast Philadelphia during the lockdown and the uncertainty we all faced in the beginning.
I only review books of poetry that I like. I don't feel comfortable reviewing poetry I don't like, because it may be I just don't get it. In fact, my book column for The Inquirer was devoted to books I wanted recommend. Not that I haven't written some pans, but I don't get much pleasure out of those.
The film provides signposts to amuse and misdirect the medievalist. To my amazement, a battlefield scavenger refers to a line from the ninth-century Welsh chronicler Nennius. At one point, Gawain reads “When the nyhtegale singes” from the 14th-century Harley manuscript in the British Library. The artwork showing the changing seasons behind a children’s puppet show is, I think, from a late medieval Book of Hours. I’m sure a ton of other visual references flew right past me. The Green Knight is a determinedly unfunny movie, but the art and design team clearly reveled in creating a setting that feels like an afternoon at the Cloisters, where one medieval century blurs lazily into the next.
Thursday, August 26, 2021
I lean toward anarchism myself, having been much influenced in my youth by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. I can't say I agree much with Sale's apocalyptic environmentalism. He should read some Freeman Dyson (which is not to say we humans are incapable of screwing things up big-time. CO2 is exhaled by evert respirating creature, and as Dyson pointed out in a New York Review of Books article once, you can reduce by increasing the topsoil layer.) That said, less government is always better than more government, as Dr. Fauci proves every time he opens his mouth.
As a healthy, 22-year-old male with no underlying health conditions, I have chosen not to be vaccinated, and believe the FDA warning of the myocarditis risk as well as potential long-term health risks associated with spike protein accumulation in the bone marrow outweighs the potential benefit of the shot in my case.
Ruckers has been run dubiously for awhile. This young sounds pretty sharp to me.
As for Rutgers specifically, as plaintiffs we also believe it has a vested interest in requiring the shot, that the mandate is not simply an altruistic goal. Rutgers has numerous partnerships and financial ties to Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Five months later, I got a call from an insider that all the employees at the Weekly Standard were being asked to prepare for the worst. Had anyone run with this story yet? No they hadn't. Had it somehow fallen to me to be the first to announce the end of the celebrated neocon magazine where Bill Kristol and Stephen Hayes had regularly taunted the American working class? Yes it had. The Lord had delivered them into my hands.
God knows, Kristol’s as phony as they come.
Jack Hirschman died on Sunday at age 87.
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
Under current exigent circumstances, we believe that the administration should use the broadest array of authorities to secure the rescue of Afghans and to provide resettlement in the United States and other countries, as part of an international responsibility-sharing effort.
I finished reading Ulysses (for the second time — the first having been in college) in a Dublin hotel while on assignment to cover the centennial of Bloomsday. Debbie and I had been in Dublin for a day or so and I found it suddenly quite easy to read, I think because I had heard Dubliners speaking. I concluded that it was written in Dublinese. I've never got far into Finnegans Wake, so maybe I'll give this a listen. You can also go onto YouTube and hear Joyce himself read from it.
I don’t see the problem with the Chiefs. American Indians are not alone in having chieftains. Washington should have changed its name to the Foreskins, given all the dickhead politicians in DC.
I’ve probably read The Chosen and The Promise a half-dozen times, and on each reading I find that, in David Malter, Chaim Potok drew a portrait of the perfect father: a man of firm conviction, but also of infinite patience with the struggles of youth and the eternal foibles of humanity; a deeply pious and traditional man who is not afraid of modernity; a profound teacher whose reverence for revealed truth does not lock him into an intellectual bunker; a parent with whom an emerging adult can talk freely, knowing that the older person respects the intelligence and freedom of the younger.
Moore died 22 years ago, aged 77, and writers tend to disappear for a decade or so after their deaths. The majority don’t return, for there are always new novelists emerging, and new readers tend to seek out newer writers. Moore is also a tricky writer to sum up, or sell. He has a deceptively plain style, which can be lyrical and powerfully evocative but is easy to overlook. He wrote a number of pseudonymous thrillers before his career got going (and, later, a screenplay for Hitchcock). His mastery of suspense, seen most in his mature novels, can overshadow the more cerebral aspects of his writing. He makes it look easy.
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
Today there is a tendency to see literary authority figures like Donoghue as beneficiaries of various kinds of privilege. So it’s worth remembering that Donoghue was the son of a Catholic policeman in Protestant Northern Ireland, born a long way from the mandarinate. The same is true of Leavis, whose father was a Cambridge shopkeeper, and Trilling, the son of an immigrant tailor in New York. All were outsiders to the academic-literary establishment. That may be why they were so serious about literature, which for them wasn’t an heirloom or pastime but a deeply democratic experience of beauty and truth. Let’s hope that this idea, of which Donoghue is now a “symbol perfected in death,” can never be finally defeated.
Theoretically, this douchebag is a medical authority (one wonders about that). His opinion regarding social media is just that. He might want to take a refresher course on the First Amendment — and maybe a course in American history. And maybe even go to some totalitarian place he would find more congenial. He should also be fired.
I mean, what the hell qualifies this guy to make a sociopolitical judgment regarding free speech? Free speech means the right to shoot your mouth off even if you’re wrong. This clown has no trouble exercising it. He just doesn’t want anybody who he doesn’t agree with to exercise it.
Why do we allow such people to teach our kids. (By the way, I know I’m linking to a “conservative” site. But the video is what it is, no matter the source. The education establishment in this country is now borderline criminal.
Monday, August 23, 2021
A source who is familiar with the arrangement said the shelter volunteers were distressed and had COVID-safe measures in place to handle the dogs, one of which was a new mother.
Sunday, August 22, 2021
I have been an editorial freelancer for nearly 20 years and seen many changes in the publishing industry. A major one is the amount of indexing I now do directly for authors. Fewer publishers now commission indexers, so their authors are told to do their own index or to find an indexer. The author is therefore now more often responsible for paying for the index. Some authors can get grants from an awarding body to pay for their index, e.g. universities for academic authors. I have heard of authors who refuse to pay for the index, putting the responsibility back onto the publisher, but this could risk the book having no index at all. Nobody wants that outcome, so the decision is then whether to index the book yourself or find an indexer
My parents considered the United States of the period hopelessly and unspeakably vulgar, shallow, trivial, ugly and uncivilized. Viewed from the perspective of 2021, it appears more like Athens in her Golden Age. Watching Perry Mason is a comforting experience today precisely because America in the Fifties was a comfortable place, and Americans were comfortable with themselves. Gardner’s Mason was perfect for his time: tall, broad-shouldered, and masculine; confident, competent, generous, chivalrous, and — above all — reassuring. He is solid rather than stolid, always in perfect self-control, even-tempered and imperturbable: the personification of the country that had recently won its second world war and was enjoying the ensuing and well-deserved prosperity, and the superior type of American who is wholly representative of his country without standing above it
Mr. Bate … draws our attention to those striking moments in Fitzgerald’s work in which the very fabric of the American writer’s imagination flashes “Keatzian” (distractingly, Mr. Bate relies on Fitzgerald’s idiosyncratic spelling throughout his book). Think of the green light across the bay the love-stricken Jay Gatsby saw burning all night, next to Daisy Buchanan’s house.
Saturday, August 21, 2021
Unless you live in the State of Denial, don’t watch TV, and don’t have the internet (in which case, you’re probably not reading this column), there is something obviously wrong with President Biden. Whether it’s his age, an undisclosed medical condition, or exhaustion (although I doubt this, as he only works a few hours a day), I have no idea. I’m not a doctor, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. But I do know that if I were a reporter, I’d be pressing the White House as to whether there is something wrong with the president that they aren’t telling us because it is not normal to fumble answers regularly, forget things said weeks ago, appear this agitated and discombobulated, and freeze mid-sentence.
How many people these days know the name of the mountain the Marines raised the flag on? Mount Suribachi. I have known that since childhood.
You won’t hear any heresy at Saint Anthony’s. For that, you go to Our Lady of Fatima. Things don’t look good when you drive into the parking lot and see a sign announcing a “community” rather than a church. The word suggests the opposite: We are our own thing. The priest works subtly, in Fatima. He does not deny the miracles of Jesus. He simply assumes that the Gospels are exaggerations. He tells you what the “deeper meanings” of the Gospels are, which meanings he picked up thirty years ago in a seminary course. He doesn’t like to talk about how strange and challenging the words of Jesus are. He removes their teeth. As long as you profess the right political opinions, and you are a friendly fellow – which depends more on your digestive tract than upon moral courage – you can be a Christian in good standing. The banners on the wall tell you so. Don’t worry about your knees.
This is why I have so little faith these days in the institutional church. I go to Mss, sure, but mostly I just pray to Our Lord. I hope some dick-head prog priest or bishop reads this. And I make no apology for the course language. If anyone deserves it, those people do. "It is impossible for the stumbling blocks not to come, but woe to him by whom they come!"
King James Bible
On a hot and windless afternoon, birdsong nearly ceases. The swallows vanish. But, if you walk beside a meadow, you can hear the clicking and crackling of grasshoppers, unseen, jumping in the tall grass. If you enter a dark wood, you may notice rustling in the bushes beyond the path. The source of the sound remains a mystery. Everything is in its place.
Friday, August 20, 2021
… Living in Fernando Pessoa’s world. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Zenith’s portrayal of Pessoa and his life is more than a masterpiece of literary biography. More than 1,000 pages long, not one of them wasted, it is a tour de force of cultural history. The task Zenith set for himself was to present a “cinematographic” account of the writer, showing what he looked like, the people he interacted with and the settings in which his life was passed. But Pessoa’s “real” existence unfolded primarily in his imagination, and here Zenith’s achievement is extraordinary. By illuminating this elusive figure Zenith has produced a work in some ways as astonishing as those of Pessoa himself.
Here is my review of Pessoa's Selected Poems.
Ward concludes his analysis of Abolition with reflections on how it might be understood in our time. The very point, he states, of untying the various threads that bind Lewis’s text together is to produce a synthesis and therefore greater understanding of the book’s unified meaning. This is particularly important, according to Ward, because Abolition’s key motif that there are self-evident truths (“the Tao”) within which we live, move, and have our being is very hard for even sympathetically-inclined contemporary students to grasp.
The normal course for a new contagion is for it to mutate into easier-to-spread but less deadly variants. Killing a host isn’t good for the virus, so it changes over time. Oddly, I rarely hear this mentioned.
The problem is this: For a small but vocal number of people online, any opinion they dislike is, essentially, being expressed by somebody in their home. “Let people enjoy things,” as a way of saying “learn basic conversational dynamics,” is a banal but true statement. But in practice, “let people enjoy things” means something else: it is rude or inappropriate to dislike something. And it’s this overstep that I do, in fact, have a problem with.
Edgar Guest was 140 years ago today.
Thursday, August 19, 2021
Sampson tackles our misunderstanding of Barrett Browning by showing us the challenges she faced. Writing in the present tense, Sampson places “Ba,” as her family and friends called her, before the reader in her full humanity, so that we puzzle over her problems, we are infuriated by the doctors who tell her not to write to preserve her health and we egg her on when it is clear that her father will not let her marry Browning.
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
"It is baffling to this court how the city of Philadelphia wants to remove the statue without any legal basis," Judge Patrick wrote in an order issued this afternoon. "The city's entire argument and case is devoid of any legal foundation."
More about Columbus here: Inquirer's Take On Columbus: All Tabloid And No Truth.
Burton’s personality is stamped on every page, in prose that is eccentric and unmistakable: conversational, expansive, expressive and frequently digressive. Many sentences end only with an “et cetera,” suggesting that more could always follow—and in later editions often did. The text is punctuated with splenetic outbursts (especially against Burton’s pet hate, the idle aristocracy), but these are often accompanied by self-doubt and self-reproach: “Thou canst not think worse of me than I do of myself.”
My mother worked in the Frankford Arsenal during the war. She worked the night shift. My earliest memory is of her looking in on me in my crib after she got home one morning.
Based on the published literature, it should have been obvious to any skilled medical practitioner in 2019 that there is a significant risk to vaccine research subjects that they may experience severe disease once vaccinated, while they might only have experienced a mild, self‐limited disease if not vaccinated.