Wednesday, May 31, 2023
… if I want to know how early Christians used words, I have to access the Greek Septuagint translation that was their main entry point to the Bible. I repeat a point I have made often enough in the past. If you want to understand Second Temple Bible readings, and the scriptural universe of early Christians, start with the Septuagint.
Tuesday, May 30, 2023
When I was a little kid, and we lived in North Philly, my family used to go shopping there. I got my first Classic Illustrated in the Woolworth’s there. What a difference a few decades can make
To relieve tedium on long voyages, Buckley gave this recommendation in 1980: “read gluttonously.” Later, in reviewing two volumes, from the Library of America, of travel writings by Henry James, he wrote: “You can close your eyes and open either volume at any page and find yourself reading prose so resplendent it will sweep you off your feet.” The same can be said of Getting About, which deserves a place alongside Buckley’s other travel books (Airborne, Atlantic High, Racing through Paradise, and Windfall), as well as his posthumous anthologies (Athwart History, edited by Linda Bridges and Roger Kimball, and A Torch Kept Lit, edited by James Rosen).
In releasing the grip of my identities, I found freedom. Life is a constant process of growth and change, and our identities should evolve along with us, or go away! Being more flexible and open allows us to reach the richness of life and fully engage with the world around us.
Monday, May 29, 2023
Sunday, May 28, 2023
Saturday, May 27, 2023
Friday, May 26, 2023
Thursday, May 25, 2023
Twenty years ago, the NSDA I knew encouraged me to think and speak about how policies and issues impacted different communities. Not anymore.
Although in principle it’s possible to simulate anything in a sufficiently powerful digital computer, there’s one inescapable difference between being simulated and being real. If we’re real, we just exist. If we’re simulated, we exist only so long as the simulation runs. And since, presumably, the simulation will run only so long as whoever is running it finds it useful or interesting, if we’re living in a simulation, it behooves us to be interesting.
Things that don't make sense when you say them often sound fine when you sing them. Gilligan's three-hour tour, for instance. Or the theme song to the popular sitcom of the early 1960s, The Patty Duke Show, which explained that the merry mixups that occurred between the two lead characters—both played by Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke—happened because they were, as the lyrics convinced us, "identical cousins."
Wednesday, May 24, 2023
In some respects, these three kinds of preaching could not be more different. One appeals to the Jews’ knowledge of their scriptures and sacred history and holds Jesus as their fulfillment. The speech to the Athenians appeals to the laws of the cosmos, the order of reality, gleaned through wisdom and metaphysics. Both of these argue from general truths, as it were, the truths of history and the truths of being. Paul’s bearing witness at his conversion may seem, by comparison, no argument at all. He merely confesses the great transformation that has been wrought in him by Christ’s word, power, and spirit
Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Martin Amis, who died on Friday at the age of seventy-three, did not aspire to magnificence in the Wauvian sense. But he almost certainly would have recognized what Waugh meant when he said that in his own age “elegance tends to be more modest.” Unlike many of his contemporaries, especially in America, Amis aspired to—and, I think, ultimately achieved—what Waugh had proposed as a universal ideal for writers: the dutiful cultivation of a highly individual and readily identifiable style.
… DEI cannot be fixed. It cannot be made to accommodate Jews—because Jews are its scapegoat.
Monday, May 22, 2023
Maugham was a highly intelligent, self-aware writer who knew what he was about. To call him shallow is itself shallow. In The Summing Up, Maugham reflects upon why it was that his meetings with expatriates in far-flung places was so important for him as a writer (and helps, incidentally, to explain why many other authors have found expatriate life an inspiration).
Maugham happens to one of my favorite writers.
Sunday, May 21, 2023
Saturday, May 20, 2023
It’s perfectly possible to believe that transgender people exist, but that children may not know who or what they are before they’ve even gone through puberty. I’ll defend the right of adults to define themselves as they wish and take irreversible medical measures as they please. I’d march in defense of those rights. I’m just saying something that we recognize in every other area:children are different. And children should not be self-diagnosing a medical condition.
The bossa nova may not have dazzled the youth, but it became a symbol of sophistication among the most powerful people in the country. In January 1963, a New York Times cultural column reported that Kennedy administration figures including Secretary of State James Rusk and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara “simply wouldn’t come to the White House to listen to [popular band leader] Fred Waring. You’ve got to give them Sandburg, Shakespeare, bossa nova, Leonardo da Vinci.” By the end of 1963, products from hair cuts to cashmere sweaters to ice cream were using the term “bossa nova” to convey sophistication.
Mark Bowden (seen in the above photo) is perhaps best known for his book “Black Hawk Down” and his other books about the American military, such as “Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam,” and “Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam.” But in his latest book, “The Case of the Vanishing Blonde and Other True Crime Stories,” he returns to his roots as a crime reporter.
Friday, May 19, 2023
“Fifty years from now,” a CT editor wrote, “if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.”
I am struck now by the extent to which Orwell—whom I first read then—remains as pertinent to a soon-to-be seventy-five-year-old as he was to a teenager. At that age, the real world of 2023 was unimaginable (“2023” was science-fictional territory back then). By the same token, what we might call “Orwell’s world,” as meticulously re-created by Taylor, appears even more exotic, more strange, from the vantage-point of today. And yet, thanks to the biographer’s art, we can share for the moment what Taylor calls “Orwell’s gaze,” and we can glimpse him in turn through the eyes of his contemporaries.
As they exist—as they actually can exist—are the three-letter agencies compatible with American self-government? Is FISA compatible with American self-government? Or will these organs and legal mechanisms always lead to entrenched cartels operating without political accountability, pursuing their own ends irrespective of the will of the people?
Thursday, May 18, 2023
Expansion is a solution to many of our modern problems, too, I think. If Earth remains a closed system, it seems almost inevitable that it will wind up a poorer and less free system: A global surveillance state, with social credit scores, scheming bureaucrats, and probably waves of mass hysteria spread instantly by social media. In fact, that future is already here to a degree, it’s just not evenly distributed yet
Lenin is responsible for the remorseless sacrifice of millions of people for the sake of a terror-based Marxism that reminded no contemporary Marxists of the creed. And yet, like a character in Chekhov or Tolstoy, Lenin (as I learned from Sebestyen’s biography) hunted, smoked, read, loved, and was even nice to his family! That Lenin and Stalin were genocidal terrorists who also loved books makes one’s head and heart hurt. If literature makes us better, or inclined to less evil, how much worse would they have been if they hadn’t read Pushkin?
In the mystery of the Ascension we reflect on the way in which, one sense Christ ‘leaves’ us and is taken away into Heaven, but in another sense he is given to us and to the world in a new and more universal way. He is no longer located only in one physical space to the exclusion of all others. He is in the Heaven which is at the heart of all things now and is universally accessible to all who call upon Him. And since His humanity is taken into Heaven, our humanity belongs there too, and is in a sense already there with him.
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Any time there is a fundamental disconnect between what is real and what is not, there is a breakdown of trust. The trust between the working class and the mainstream media has long been broken.
I have my NRA membership decal pasted in my front window. I am the son of a cop, and the newphew of one. My neighborhood is armed. I also started life in North Philly. I’m street smart and street tough. Really.
America’s working class is struggling with real life issues, including, but not limited to, economic disparity, racism, sexual harassment, abortion, child abuse, homophobia, mental illness, violence, death, lost love and lost friendship. Yet today’s mainstream media does not reflect this reality. The working class is consistently portrayed by mainstream media as narrow minded, rigid conformists to alt-right conservative family values. This is a fundamental disconnect from reality.
I happen to be working class. My mother and grandmother, who raised my brother and me, were factory workers.
According to OWI documentary director Roy Stryker, Bubley and her photographer colleagues were asked to capture “pictures of men, women and children who appear as if they really believe in the USA. Get people with a little spirit.”  Bubley’s Bus Story series from 1943 faithfully included photographs of dutiful Americans patriotically making sacrifices—altering their modes of transportation to save gasoline and rubber for the war effort—without complaining or putting their individual needs first. Like images made by OWI peers including Jack Delano and John Vachon, Bubley’s photographs conveyed the public’s absolute faith in the ability of the United States to win the war.
Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Durham wrote that the FBI relied on “raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence” for its investigation. “The objective facts show that the FBI’s handling of important aspects of the Crossfire Hurricane matter were seriously deficient,” he added.
I think the FBI may have outlived its usefulness,
As someone who has shared his struggles to make a living in the collapsing world of cultural journalism, I wanted to focus in this blogpost on his own journey in “Down We Go Together,” beginning in 2008, the year the housing bubble burst, as he was in Portland. He got the phone call so many of us dread (always assuming we have a house in the first place):
Monday, May 15, 2023
…in some cases, to refuse to believe beyond the evidence is positively irrational. A theory of rationality adequate for the kind of beings we are cannot require that belief be always and everywhere apportioned to evidence.
Sunday, May 14, 2023
Saturday, May 13, 2023
The late Malcolm Muggeridge once discussed the macabre phenomenon of “royal humor,” where the monarch is granted laughter in response to practically anything he says. His finest example was of a group of workmen on a hot day, to whom the King of Portugal said, “Hot, isn’t it?”, whereupon they fell about laughing.
Friday, May 12, 2023
Our little town has been fantastically hospitable to the refugees – we have taken in so many that we were given a royal visit of congratulation and encouragement – so it seemed not only shocking but rather odd. How could so many parents be welcoming and so many children be foul?
Thursday, May 11, 2023
Every poem in “Testimony” is an all-American tragedy. People are shot over firewood and bad bets and bad marriages; crushed beneath trains and horses and industrial machinery; jailed, evicted, and left to die. Every line is stripped down to the starkest details.
Encountering Bottum’s English versions of Latin poetry provoked the thought in me that this has always been his own natural idiom. Latinate and aphoristic, sagely observed but—with important exceptions—lacking in the precise observation of minutiae necessary for realism.
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
How could a believer such as O’Connor see the world as she portrayed it in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “Good Country People,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”? “To the hard of hearing you shout,” O’Connor explained, “and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.” Grotesques, really. “The characters are not ‘likeable,’” Joseph O’Neil writes in“but my God they are alive.” The very same thing could be said of characters one finds in .
Tuesday, May 09, 2023
Monday, May 08, 2023
Sunday, May 07, 2023
If the coronation of Charles III seemed quaintly anachronistic, it was also moving in an irreducibly pertinent way. All the antiquities involved in the event—the 12th-century wooden coronation chair, the silver coronation spoon from the same era—were more than stage props. They, like the ceremony as a whole, were so many cords of memory binding the nation together through time.
I knew one institution … that had at least a plausible claim to such an authority. It was the religious institution I had been originally raised in. That institution, the Catholic Church, had an extra-biblical, historical claim to interpretive authority, one I could evaluate without claiming to be the ultimate judge of the Bible’s meaning.
Saturday, May 06, 2023
There is only one path out of the chaotic conditions, the concerned bishop revealed. “The only way out of this crisis is spiritual, because the trouble is not in the way we keep our books, but in the way we keep our souls. The time is nearer than you think.”
Friday, May 05, 2023
.… she interviews three fellow journalists: Michael Isikoff, Jane Mayer, and Mark Leibovich. All three rhapsodize about the good old days of typewriters and beer in the newsroom. Yet all three reporters themselves exemplify how the media have killed themselves over the last several years and why the rise of the internet and social media has stripped reporters of the credibility they used to have. The ink-stained wretches just can’t get away with anything anymore.
… Curtis Sittenfeld is the great American observer. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
Sittenfeld (born 1975 in Ohio) is a novelist. Like all the great ones, her perceptions are more accurate about real life than most nonfiction writers’ could claim. In Prep (2005), she skewered American class in the story of a Massachusetts boarding school; Sittenfeld herself went to private school at Groton. In Rodham (2020), a novel about Hillary Clinton, she nailed today’s politics. And, in her best book to date, American Wife (2008), a thinly disguised novel about George and Laura Bush, she filleted the American approach to inherited money, and the swaggering confidence it produces. Now, in Romantic Comedy, we get the Sittenfeld insight into a new phenomenon — celebrity of the modern age