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19 July 2002  

Memo to Blogger: I am so sick of republishing my archives and otherwise coaxing them to reappear.

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The Cameron Rapid Response Unit. Mark Cameron impresses with his really fast, and also really thoughtful, response to my response to his response to someone else's response to Rod Dreher's article… (Don't you just love blogging?)

…colleges and universities, especially small liberal arts colleges, only reach a relatively small elite. In the European tradition, the elite was socialized into classical culture, but the general population was socialized into a folk culture that was just as rich and rooted in faith as that of the elites. Today, our mass popular culture is absolutely corrupted, as is, for that matter, the highbrow culture of Mapplethorpe paintings and art house films about adultery. If we could somehow reach a statistically significant portion of our elites with classical, liberal arts education, how do we go about restoring lost folkways? If the granola side of us wants to see a widespread availablity of organic produce or William Morris-inspired furniture, we need to have non-university educated people with the cultural background and knowledge to create that - and create it not simply for the profit motive of knwoing that urban bobos will pay hard cash for faux antique furniture that looks like it is rusting out and falling apart, but out of a love for the Good.

What an excellent observation. Folkways and assorted other traditions long served to nourish and to guide those who were not members of the traditonal elite; but modern life has somehow vaporized most of them along with all the other changes it rang in, replacing folk life with the heartrending squalor of the mind, heart, and hearth depicted in accounts like Theodore Dalrymple's fantastic Life at the Bottom.

I should note in passing that the educational philosophy of Thomas More, and probably other places as well, expressly holds that the liberal arts are for everyone. And so the doors of the college have customarily been held open to practically everyone. (I say "practically" because the college seems to have few scruples about excluding, say, the criminally insane.) But of course only a relative few have the desire and dedication to want to step through that door; and more than a few who decide to do so wind up not staying for very long.

In any event, however hard the devotees of places like Thomas More may work to recruit new students, no one can, or should, be forced to take up the liberal arts and the true vocation of the student. A healthy society should provide other paths, and should educate its citizens in many more places than the classroom. (What is more, the attempt to funnel everyone into state universities just to get their tickets punched ill serves the students, does few favors to those who will wind up hiring those students, threatens to ruin the universities, and has the potential to bankrupt states such as mine which attempt to pay for it all.)

I'm adding a permanent link to Cameron's blog in the section over there on the left before I forget.

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My take on the Kinkade debate. Thomas Kinkade is as kitsch as kitsch can be.

That's a criticism, sure, but not necessarily a condemnation.

In the contemporary art world, reasonably pleasing and not-too-mawkishly heart-warming kitsch is a welcome refuge from barbaric and stupid pseudo-art. Anyone who gets more upset about the "Painter of Light" than about, say, recent winners of the Turner Prize* has got a few screws loose. In your Goliard's humble opinion.

* "Last year's £20,000 prize was won by Martin Creed for his conceptual piece which consisted of an empty gallery space with the light going on and off." — from a BBC dispatch

UPDATE: Your humble author was remiss in not providing a link to Joshua Claybourn's Domain for more about the Kinkade argument.

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This is so not a surprise…

Take the What High School Stereotype Are You? quiz, by Angel.

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Okay, it's time for a confession. Your humble author likes those silly little quizzes that are linked to everywhere in the Blogsphere nowadays. A lot. He's decided that it's time he went public with this charmingly frivolous habit and started posting some of his more interesting results, like most other quiz fans.

Those who know that your Goliard is not a cat person (it might have something to do with having always been allergic to them) may be surprised to know that he is leading off with a feline quiz…but not once they note the Caledonian hook, and flattering description, that together sold him on the quiz's result.

Take the Purrsonality Quiz!

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WARNING: Your humble author's interest in the following quotation is conclusive proof that he is a geek.

From a thought-provoking article at (discovered thanks to The Edge of England's Sword):

Until recently, most macroeconomic forecasters, assisted by mathematical models, were predicting economic recovery and rising stock indices. But the market has reminded us that reality doesn’t always correspond to the predictions of those who claim the mantle of "science." As is so often the case, those economists who were more humble in their pretensions to knowledge avoided such embarrassment.

The Austrian School of economics is known for its aversion to mathematical modeling of human behavior. The neoclassical mainstream, on the other hand, is quite fond of this approach, and uses the mathematical method for just about any problem. I think it is fair to say that most mainstream economists would prefer the precision of a false formal model, versus the generality of a true verbal proposition.

This misplaced reliance on the power of mathematical tools for economic analysis is epitomized in the field of econometrics, which employs statistical techniques in the study of empirical data concerning economic phenomena. Unlike their mainstream colleagues in game theory--who are notorious for criticizing human "players" when their actions fail to correspond to the strategies employed in a particular game’s equilibrium state--the econometricians believe they are exempt from the biases of a priori theorizing. The true believer in econometrics takes no particular stand on doctrinal questions, and rather thinks that the facts will "speak for themselves."

— from "Econometrics: A Strange Process" by Robert P. Murphy

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Road to Boyhood. I saw the film "Road to Perdition" yesterday and haven't yet decided whether I want to write much about it here—and if so, whether I would give it three or three and a half stars—but there is one thing I would like to mention: the character Michael's boyhood.

The film opens with 12-year-old Michael riding his bike through a crowd of men getting off work at a big factory, selling them newspapers; he then goes to settle accounts with the merchant whose papers he has been selling. He rides home, smoking a pipe stuffed with some tobacco he boosted from the merchant, and has dinner with his mother and father and brother—still wearing, of course, the shirt and tie and vest that he wears most every day. He loves his father and also respects him enough to address him as "Sir". Not long afterwards, Michael is gambling small sums in a friendly game of dice with his father's employer, and enjoying being around a grown-up party—it is an Irish wake, and he seems to have a pretty good idea of how he should behave at it. Throughout the book one of his main entertainments is reading a Lone Ranger book. Later in the film (as a result of unfortunate circumstances) he learns to drive—a car of the 1930s no less—and comes to enjoy it.

It struck me that, when all these scattershot details are put together, it seems to sketch the outlines of a boyhood that is pretty idyllic, civilized, and (apart from the little incident of shoplifting) quite harmless. Call me crazy, but little vices such as petty gambling and pipe-smoking seem positively virtuous compared to what many young folks of even Michael's age engage in nowadays…and they seem to be fittingly mature minor vices for a young lad just beginning the process of learning to be a man.

I then thought of how many of Michael's activities would be unthinkable today—whether they would be outlawed (such as riding the bicycle without a helmet) or unthinkably unsafe (letting him ride around town unsupervised after school, selling newspapers to a rough factory crowd) or would cause today's grownups to freak out beyond all reason (the pipe) or would be far beneath the interest of today's overstimulated 12-year-old (Lone Ranger books).

I feel rather silly, truth be told, for having gotten wistful over such a trivial aspect of the film; but I also don't think I'm too off base to guess that boyhood and manhood, and the progression from one to another, were much stronger and healthier in Michael's day, and that Christina Hoff Summers latched onto an important problem which is getting far too little attention when she launched her discussion of today's "War Against Boys".

But what am I thinking? Boys couldn't possibly be getting a raw deal. They're males. Everybody knows its the females who need all the help (and whose achievements thus deserve the greater celebration). Which is why you won't see Title IX brought to bear against the problem of males' sinking college enrollments and poor academic performance. As the Dean of Admissions at Seattle University points out at the end of the story linked to, it would just be too problematic to recognize the problem and try to provide some assistance. Political correctness demands that we give assistance and even preferences to the disadvantaged; but the "victims" here are male and so by defninition oppressors, not victims. Which presents us with, as the Dean puts it, "quite an ethical dilemma".

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Cameron on Granola. Blogger Mark Cameron is back in action this week after a month's absence, and the quality and volume of his output suggests that many of us would perhaps benefit from blogging less often, with more depth, and at greater length. His three posts on the "granola conservative" discussion (here, here, and here) are all worth reading in full. There are two things in particular that I would like to comment on. First, on the free market:

But my head, especially after working for almost ten years in the bowels of politics and government, has made me much more pro-market on pragmatic grounds. Free enterprise produces its inevitable dislocations, but in the end nothing seems to result in the creation of wealth, and the advancement of the poor, more than the free market.

Everything I said (or may appear to have hinted at) in the post below notwithstanding, I agree that the free market is the greatest tool for the production of wealth the world has ever known, and that governments tinker with it at their peril. I think the main point that I have been trying to get at today is twofold: First, as efficient as the market may be, it is still just a tool, and not an end in itself. And like any tool, it can be used for good results or for ill. The use of the market to cover the landscape with strip malls is, in my view, a result very much for the ill; and whenever there is such an outcome that threatens to damage the health of the community, we should examine it closely, determine if it is in fact a true growth of the unfettered free market, and also see if there is some way that it can be prevented from recurring without screwing up the market. (If the answers to the two questions at the end of that sentence are first, yes, and second, no, I confess I am at a loss as to what to do, even though my heart demands that something be done.)

But ultimately, one can only go so far in legislating either virtue or good taste, which leads to the second prong of the argument: A much more important task, if we are to adequately address the crises in our society, is to produce more Americans who are fully grown-up, who are educated both in the ways of the world and in their own humanity, and who show signs of having souls. This will require colleges and universities who remember what the liberal arts are and why they are important, and who recognize that their job is not only to educate young minds but help form young characters. Institutions such as my beloved alma mater, which answers the standard, insulting question posed to the liberal arts major, "What are you going to do with that?", with the statement that they are not concerned with training their students for the first job or two that they will hold following college (employers wind up doing this anyway, even when they hire business majors), but in preparing them for the time twenty or thirty years hence when they will bear the greatest responsibilities of their lives, perhaps even leading a diocese or a major corporation. Thomas More College tries to help form persons who have the ethical and philosophical grounding to refuse to take actions that harm the community, even if those actions are profitable; who have enough sense of vocation and duty and nobility to do a better job than they have to, produce better products than they have to, and treat friends and clients better than they have to; and who (please God) possess a degree of character and virtue so sadly lacking in the weaselly amoral people who brought us Enron and WorldCom and the Lewinsky scandal and the Paul Shanley horror show.

The short version of all the above is this: the Thomas More alumnus' answer to "What are you going to do with that?" is, above all, "I am going to try to be a decent human being."

Perhaps this is too proud, or too ambitious, or too doomed an enterprise for the readers' taste (and I beg the forgiveness of Thomas More's founders if I have pinned any thoughts on them which they would not endorse…let me clearly state that I speak just for myself), but I believe in it, strongly enough that I intend to dedicate my working life to pass on some of what I was given at Thomas More to new generations of students.

My other comments are in relation to a slight tangent of Cameron's, where he discussed the anti-globalist protesters of Seattle and Genova:

[The protesters] are reflecting a real spiritual emptiness in today's youth, an emptiness which the Christian tradition, and Christian economic thinking, have a responsibility to fill.

Yup. So many people under the age of 30 or thereabouts have been raised in a world devoid of meaning, purpose, and grace. My personal theory is this: Every generation has a gift for "seeing through" the generation of their parents. With the Boomers, this gift allowed them to intuit that though their parents in the "Greatest Generation" seemed to stand for all manner of traditional and upright things, they would not fight strongly enough to preserve them when push came to shove, either because they gave off the apperance of believing in the old verities but deep down didn't really believe in them anymore, or because after depression and global war they were just plain tired of fighting.

The children of the Boomers, in turn, see through all the proud pieties of that generation and glimpse the profound narcissism underneath; and they also intuit, on some level, that the Boomers' cherished enlightened "flexidox" moral standards are just a pretty façade slapped on the front of nihilism and naked pursuit of self-gratification. Some respond to this exposure to bleak nihilism by fleeing to orthodoxy, some make agonized "grunge" music and then shoot themselves, some prefer to shoot other people instead (usually randomly, at school), some just sink into slackerdom, and some riot incoherently in the streets. All of them sense that something is profoundly wrong, but few among them can quite put their finger on it. Fewer still among those charged with spiritual guidance in our society are of any help, mired as they are in their own lukewarm Pealesque bathwater. Nor are many of the professors much help; though if they knew their vocation they would be. (See above.)

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Beauty and the Market. As promised, here are continued thoughts on the "granola conservative" discussion touched off by Rod Dreher's must-read column, this time aesthetic and economic pronouncements prompted in part by Mark Byron's post, which (whatever criticisms I may have below) is full of good points as is usual with him. Byron writes:

Where liberals get nasty is when the market doesn't appreciate what they like, or takes it over and makes it commercial. Jazz and folk music are minority tastes that you can't always get in the Wal-Mart racks. You might have to head to a specialty store in a big city or college town or the Web to get your type of stuff if you're not up to getting your local retailer to special-order it for you. Conservatives will grin and bear the inconveniences, while liberals will want to have their favorite style of culture subsidized.

Charge me with heresy if you like, but I don't see anything "nasty" about subsidizing culture. What is nasty is the tendency of those people exercising control over the spigots of government and foundation money to subsidize awful, dehumanizing, ideological, and fraudulent art…but the mere fact of subsidy does not bother me at all. This is because I am a conservative, not a libertarian, and I believe that a society and its institutions have a duty to promote the virtues in the public square, including the virtues of humane beauty and the preservation of culture.

Such beliefs will drive the dedicated libertoid nuts, of course, and they may even trouble the likes of Amy Welborn, who spoke in her piece of a "distrust of secular authority in all of its guises in school, government and the marketplace" and "a passionate conviction that no one except Christ is gonna tell us what to do". As a son of the Mountain West, I have some sympathy for such calls to individualism and self-reliance; yet I also fear that overindulging the "nobody's gonna tell me what to do" business can lead to attitudes and behaviors that are juvenile and atomistic and ultimately destructive of civil society.

The line of argument employed by Byron is also strikingly similar to the reasoning behind the exclusion of religion from the public square, as exemplified recently by the Ninth Circuit's widely-condemned Pledge of Allegiance ruling. "We've got nothing against you practicing your religion," say the secularizers, "but you'll have to do it on your own time, on your own dime, and away from those of us who don't want to see it. If you're not happy with the public schools not making space for you, you'll just have to seek out the private schools that are more to your liking…and don't you dare expect us to help pay for it." Replace the word "religion" with "culture", "public schools" with "Wal-Mart", and "private schools" with "specialty stores in a college town", and you've got Byron's argument in a nutshell.

These parallel arguments are just fine, if you consider religion on the one hand, and authenticity, culture, and beauty on the other, to be morally-neutral choices that society can do with or do without equally well. Religiously-oriented conservatives most certainly do not agree with this proposition regarding religion; and I would suspect that many granola conservatives would be with me in also rejecting this point of view in regard to culture, because the art and music and buildings and clothing and food and other essential things that people surround themselves with define them as a people. This is the reason we can learn so much about ancient cultures by digging up their pottery.

Of course, it is even better when we are able to dig up an entire town. Merely walking the streets of an Ostia or a Pompeii, or even a still-living city such as Venice, is a beautiful and educational experience. It is an environment that treats the senses and reaffirms both humanity and the spirit of the community simply by standing. What sort of experience, I have to wonder, will people have when they walk down the exhumed streets of urban, suburban, and exurban Atlanta (the poster-child for sprawl which is my present home)? Will they think "This is a place built for people, where a fine civilization existed" or "What a dehumanizing and ugly environment…how did they stand it?"

Would anyone in a future civilization even find anything worthy of restoring? Who is going to care to dig out, and research, and restore, and exhibit a late 20th century Wal-Mart or strip mall (even if any such disposable architecture should endure)? If I were a future archaeologist, I certainly wouldn't bother. I would, however, have a rather harsh verdict to offer on a civilization that left humanity so little that was enduring and beautiful. The Romans built many finely-engineered structures that still stand, medieval Europeans produced cathedrals of staggering size and beauty, and late 20th/early 21st century America, possessed of so much more wealth and knowledge and technology than any of its predecessors, will leave future centuries…what, exactly? How many achievements of art and architecture, how many unique places and environments will one be able to point to? The whole country is fast becoming a big version of Gertrude Stein's Oakland: "There is no there there." Oakland is Atlanta is Richmond is Denver is at once anyplace and noplace.

There are two particularly sticky aspects of the problem that I wish I could figure out a way to solve. The first is that, contra Byron's argument above, there are precious few alternate choices available to the vast majority of Americans. How many places are there where one can live in a truly humanistic environment, whether it be an urban or small-town one? At both ends of the spectrum, "downtown" imploded long ago, and current development consists overwhelmingly of cookie-cutter sprawl on the fringes. The choices we have made—as governments in the form of transportation policy and zoning, as professional communities in the form of the plague of mis-design and non-design, and as private sector actors in the form of land developers' and homebuyers' choices—have pretty much excluded alternative ways of living in most of the country. The arrival of Wal-Mart and McDonald's and the like in a community similarly acts to exclude alternate choices, as other locally-based, small-scale businesses fold or leave town (which in turn causes another downtown to die, depriving the country of yet another communitarian and humane environment which people could have continued to inhabit).

The other sticky aspect is identified by Byron when he notes:

There isn’t a good free-market way to avoid suburban sprawl that I know of; feel free to fire up a good Coasian solution (Enviros buying development rights, maybe) if you’ve got one. Stopping sprawl would seem to require laws preserving the rural nature of the land, which might run afoul of the takings clause of the constitution if the value of the land as farmland is much less than as strip mall or subdivision.

There may not be a good free-market solution, which is why free-market and libertarian zealots can be found defending ugliness and sprawl. The things that the granola conservative denounces are actually the stuff of libertarian dreams: the Wal-Martization of America represents to them maximum economic efficiency, and the victory of economics over all else. Everyone is a utility-maximizing economist these days, and we incarnational, traditionalist, and humanist cranks have no hope of convincing them of the rightness of our cause on such grounds. (Past civilizations would have had a hard time too: I can guarantee you, for instance, that building Chartes Cathedral made precious little economic sense, and so it must have been opposed by the efficiency-worshippers of its day.) Our only hope is to persuade people that there are some priorities that override total economic efficiency and an absolutist vision of the free market. That the human environment, to be truly humane, must be composed of a number of things which are, in many senses of the word, perfectly useless.* And that these inefficient and useless things must not be restricted to private indulgences of personal taste, but be part of the common life of us all.

* ("Uselessness" is, for instance, an essential quality of a truly liberal education… and my dear alma mater proudly boasts of this, as it is one of the qualities which makes liberal learning one of the most priceless things of all.)

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18 July 2002  


Granola conservatives and nekkid people. Your humble author has, to this point, been content to sit on the sidelines and observe the big blogfest touched off by Rod Dreher's piece "Birkenstocked Burkeans: Confessions of a granola conservative". The responses of Amy Welborn (along with the many fine notes on her comment board) and Mark Byron, which I was tardy in getting around to reading, have finally shaken loose a few thoughts that I shall presume to inflict upon the world:

• A navel ring? Oh Amy, say it ain't so! Perhaps I am just a young old fogey, but back at the beginning of this blog I made mention that I view body piercings and/or tattoos on the body of a beautiful woman as akin to vandalism (I freely admit that this is probably just a matter of personal taste…mostly) and that I therefore have a hard time understanding why anyone would choose to acquire such things. If someone were to offer a thoughtful and informative answer to my pained question of "Why???" sometime, I would certainly appreciate it.

• The flowing ethnic skirts certainly work for me though. (On women, let me be clear.) And I am the proud owner of a pair of Birkenstocks. (Of course, these sandals always struck me as very non-liberal shoes. True to their German heritage, a new pair of Birks will bark to your feet: "Ve are hard and vill not bend. Ve vill not conform to you, you vill conform to us and assume ze proper shape for a foot." Since the shoes—again true to their German heritage—are so well-engineered, once your feet start to obey they feel great.)

• A Welborn reader who identifies himself simply as "G-Man" made the following excellent observation regarding the "granola lifestyle": "Fair enough, but the granola lifestyle—cool houses in quirky neighborhoods, organic food, polyester-free clothing, independent restaurants—is simply too expensive for many of us." I would add that it also requires an awful lot of bother and fuss and time for those of us who are scrambling just to gain a foothold in this world.

Meditating upon this point helps to explain some of the visceral dislike for granola-ism one finds in conservative ranks. And it goes double, I think, for conservatives of my age cohort or slightly younger (I am 31), as we cut our ideological teeth despising Boomerism and all its pomps and works. The wealth that many folks my age despair of ever attaining, the conspicuous consumption (and something needn't be hideously expensive to be flaunted, mind you), the politicizing of commerce and equation of virtue with making the right purchases, the mad dash after the latest trends, the uncontrollable impulse to reject the America of the Boomers' parents and resulting mania for reinventing everything, the disdain for the hoi polloi in Red America, and just the damned preciousness of it all—many of these were already present when Boomers were snapping up BMWs and Cuisinarts in the 1980s, and they are all very much on display today at your local Whole Foods Market.

• I trust that Welborn herself was not intending to be condescending in her description of people who are bothered by such things as nudity in motion pictures; but far too many others who make similar points, and are in the habit of using words like "uptight" to refer to people not as hip as themselves, fairly drip with condescension. This is because sexual explicitness and "liberated" behavior are nowadays considered not just okay, but actually superior to the alternative. A reviewer for the New York Times, for instance, recently noted that comedian Margaret Cho's new concert film contains "abundant sexual profanity", and indicated that this was a good thing because "that's the way we think and talk in a sexually sophisticated society". The words are so smooth, and so insidious: "sexually sophisticated". Those who do not use abundant sexual profanity, nor regularly engage in the sexual activities that such language describes, are thus deftly defined as sexually unsophisticated (or "not sexually mature", to use the words so often flung at our priests, chaste and unchaste alike, in the ongoing scandal blather).

Far worse than the simple fault of being sexually unsophisticated is the crime of raising questions about the propriety of films or television programs or books containing such sophistication. To suggest that anything is improper nowadays is about as uncool as uncool gets, and that is especially true for anything with a sexual connotation. I intend to raise some questions anyway.

Note that I said "raise questions" rather than "condemn". Some things in our culture are clearly destructively pornographic and should be condemned; but many other things are much harder to judge. Such as "Sex in the City", which Welborn mentions. I do not have cable television but have watched the show a couple of times when staying in hotels which carry HBO, and was impressed by its wit and its poignant portrayal (perhaps unintentional) of how lost the lives of modern, urban, minxish women can get. I was also mightily impressed by an Israeli movie I recently saw, "Late Marriage", which featured a remarkably vivid and true, and "frank" (a word that seems mandatory for describing sexually-explicit content), portrayal of a sexual relationship between a 31-year-old bachelor and a slightly older divorcée. I would not have wished for either of these productions to have been subjected to the likes of the Hays Code, but neither can I be entirely comfortable with what they have chosen to put on screen.

For some reason the question of the effect on the viewer is less pressing to my mind than the issue of precisely what an actor or actress should be asked, or ought to be willing, to do. I could not help thinking, as I watched the most "frank" parts of "Late Marriage", that the very lovely Ronit Elkabetz was a woman being asked by her director to do and to show, for a worldwide cinema audience, things that many women would refuse to do and to show even for the benefit of the man in their lives if they were not married to him. Now clearly the director was making Important Artistic Points with what he put on screen, but I couldn't help asking myself: If her father is alive and has watched this movie, what did he think of this, and what pain might it have caused him? And then I thought of my own daughter. And then I felt like a stiff drink.

• But perhaps the entire concept of chastity, and indeed the belief in any sort of sexual morality that bears any passing resemblance to traditional norms, is just hopelessly passé. (I have been meaning to write about this at length and perhaps sometime soon will do so.) For instance, I seem to remember a number of conservative voices on the Internet, not long ago, taking the trouble to specifically disavow such things even as they took issue with Andrew Sullivan for apparently applauding wanton promiscuity. What do you think, dear reader? Does your humble author just need to loosen up, get with the times, and get over whatever sexual "hang-ups" are standing in the way of his being a liberated man? Or, perhaps, do you think he is mostly right…but should shut up about it anyway?

• Some food for thought from the aforementioned Hays Code: in it, the overseers of the motion picture business declared that no artistic work should "be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it"; that "[a]rt can be morally good, lifting men to higher levels" and all motion pictures should aspire to do so; and conversely that art "can be morally evil in its effects" such as in the cases of "unclean art, indecent books, suggestive drama", none of which the entertainment industry should suffer to be produced. I don't suppose there'd be a chance in Hades of getting Jack Valenti to sign on to any of these propositions today…

• It is getting late and this post is already long, so I suppose I shall save my economic and aesthetic pontifications, prompted in part by Byron's post, for tomorrow. But let me close by making one thing perfectly clear.

Welborn noted that, because of her personal circumstances, she receives "nasty letters from people who question whether you should be writing for Catholic publications because of those circumstances", and that a person "may even have a hard time getting a job because people will become aware of a few things in your past and then reflexively think 'liberal' or 'not orthodox' or 'sinner who's not worthy, unlike me, right, Lord?'" For the record, your humble author is very much a sinner, knows that he would never be found worthy of Our Lord on his own merits, and furthermore has reasons to deeply sympathize with Welborn's personal circumstances (reasons which I shan't detail in a public forum such as this). He also does not consider anyone to be any less of a Catholic or Christian than anyone else based solely on the movies or television programs which they may have watched and/or chosen to comment upon. Capisce?

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Mister Mouth, meet Mister Soap. While I am doing my best impression of the Legion of Decency, I might as well take this opportunity to bemoan the fact that people seem to have no idea of the proper way to act in public anymore. This is unnerving and dismaying to a father who sometimes finds himself in public in the company of two preschoolers.

An example from last weekend: I was at a local shopping mall with my darlings in tow, and ducked into one of the stores to see if they carried a particular item. As I scanned the shelves, I heard one of the store's salespeople talking loudly to a friend on the telephone. (Is it just me, or has this become the primary activity of most sales clerks nowadays?) He complained about a customer who "didn't know s--- and didn't buy s---", at which point I grabbed my little ones and high-tailed it out of there.

Bad move. The three of us were quickly stuck in corridor traffic outside the store, right next to a clutch of young people (they looked eighteenish to me) who were having a loud conversation focusing mostly on sexual topics and liberally peppered with the f-word. I pushed my way through the crowd with a most atypical aggression until we were well away from the youths.

Now here's the real kicker: I bet you can't possibly guess what store the s-word-loving clerk was working at. Kids' Foot Locker. I am not making this up.

posted by The Goliard |  Link  | 

17 July 2002  


Junk news, go away! Elizabeth Smart, "A-73" the killer whale, Samantha Runnion, Noelle Bush. All of these stories are junk news, and I'm sick to death of hearing about them. I don't even watch the television news anymore, mind you, but radio and Internet headlines have done quite enough on their own.

Where are the news editors with real judgement as to what is news and what is not? Where are the managing editors and publishers who have enough pride in their publications and broadcasts to prevent them from becoming slightly-higher-brow versions of the National Enquirer? Where are the newsmen who still feel a duty to inform their fellow-citizens about important world events, rather than liquefy their brains with irrelevant and sensationalized pap?

Duty? A sense of vocation? What am I thinking? This is the 21st century, and journalism is just one among many professions infested with dunces and Snopeses who, in our day at least, show an uncanny ability to rise to the top. (In this respect, Enron is the Archdiocese of Boston is the United States Senate is the National Education Association is Action Eyewitness News is the ownership of Major League Baseball.) I wish a gimlet-eyed, old-school, true newsman like Mencken were still alive to skewer them.

posted by The Goliard |  Link  | 

Send in the clowns. I don't like clowns. I can't remember ever having cared for them much. You may see this as a sign of contrariness, or perhaps just blind prejudice, but after reading this news story I believe it is simply a matter of sound judgement.

posted by The Goliard |  Link  | 

The Death of Shame. After American Talib John Walker Lindh entered his guilty plea in Federal court on Monday, his father was back in front of the television cameras talking about what a good boy John is. "He's a really good kid. I am really gratified that the government…has decided to drop all of the terrorism charges against my son," Frank Lindh said. Obviously this man has no shame; and one has just cause for figuring that this might have been a central problem with the Lindh family all along.

Certainly no one should argue against a father trying to save his son from life imprisonment or worse. But in a sane society, when that son has committed crimes that are public and notorious and place him on the wrong side of a war still being fought by his country, I would think that a father would feel ashamed of his son's actions, and carry out his efforts as far from the public eye as possible. Running for the nearest television camera instead is a sign of a man divorced from his sense of shame, a society coming unhinged, or possibly both.

posted by The Goliard |  Link  |