Skip to content

Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Filthy Past, cont.

    BRITISH author A.N. Wilson writes in a recent issue of The Daily Mail about the TV hit “Downton Abbey,” the hugely popular BBC Masterpiece Theater series about the lives of Edwardian aristocrats and their servants. Wilson contends viewers gained an overly flattering picture of Britain’s pre-socialist past. That is dangerous. He says the cult of costume dramas is not merely silly […]

The Filthy Past

  IT’S WRONG and foolish to make a fantasy of the past, to glorify what was not glorious. By the same token, it is wrong to demonize it. This review from last September of Jane Humphries’ book, Childhood and Child Labor in the British Industrial Revolution fits into the latter category. Annabel Venning of The Daily Mail writes: While […]

More on Bullying

  IN THE foregoing entry, a mother wrote in to ask for advice. Her teenage son is receiving painful physical taunts from friends. This is not a case of harassment by enemies, she said, but of horseplay or teasing that has gone too far. Here a reader responds when I asked him what she should do. He makes an interesting point. Men today […]

Men’s Earnings Declined as Women’s Moved Upward

  THESE TABLES, which show the changes in median earnings from 1947 to 2009 for men and women employed full-time, were included in a recent post. I am publishing them again to draw further attention to these remarkable figures. From 1973 to 2009, the median earnings of full-time male workers over 15 years old decreased by an average of .1 percent […]

A Case of Bullying

  MRS. C. writes: I was wondering if you could perhaps post this question regarding my thoughts on what I believe to be assault on a 15-year-old boy.   My youngest child, a 6’2″ freshman male in high school is on a competitive team, does great academically and is well liked by teachers, coaches, and […]

Spring Pools

  These pools that, though in forests, still reflect The total sky almost without defect, And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver, Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone, And yet not out by any brook or river, But up by roots to bring dark foliage on. The trees that have […]

Quality vs. Equality: A Talk on Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

  The essayist Caryl Johnston recently gave a lecture in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania on the works of Robert Pirsig, author of the bestselling book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Pirsig’s philosophical novel, which is not really about Zen Buddhism or motorcycles, was an enormous hit in the 70s, selling five million copies after initially being rejected by more than 100 publishers. Johnston argues that […]

Operation Odyssey Denial

  I highly recommend Diana West’s latest column on Libya. She writes: I’ll admit, there is an argument – a thin, riddled, web of an argument – that it was U.S. interests that drove military interventions gone wrong in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t buy the argument: As it morphed into a nation-building fantasy, it […]

Another Possible Entry in the Atheist’s Book of Common Prayer

  REGARDING the atheist’s prayer, Peter S. writes: One recalls the prayer attributed to the 19th century French atheist philosopher and historian Ernest Renan in a fit of hopeful agnosticism: “Oh God, if there is a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.”

Dear Grandmother

  AT HER BLOG Generational Womanhood, Jill Farris posts a letter written by her son to his grandmother, who years ago objected to Jill and her husband having such a large family.The notes in parentheses are by Jill. Here it is: Dear Grandmother, How are you? I am fine. How is the weather down there? It […]

An Atheist’s Prayer

   ON THE face of it, it seems logically inconsistent for an atheist to pray.  The truth is, it is logically inconsistent for an atheist never to pray. It cannot be established with certainty that God does not exist. If you stood on one side of a locked door and wanted to know if someone was on the other […]

Dirt through Postmodern Eyes

  THE SUBJECT of household dirt can be interesting, as is demonstrated by the discussions here on whether guests should take off their shoes. However, a new exhibit at the scientific Wellcome Center in London apparently approaches the topic with the sort of postmodern confusion and glorification of ugliness that make visiting contemporary art exhibits the metaphysical equivalent of root canal.  “Dirt: The […]

A War by Any Other Name Stinks

  THE NEWS that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Hillary Clinton believe Operation Odyssey Delusion may last until next year is too depressing to absorb. You can read about it here. Gates calls this not a war but a “complex undertaking.”  When asked whether this military campaign is in our national interest, Gates said on “This Week” on ABC, “No, I don’t think it’s […]

The Culture War over Shoes

  FEW DISCUSSIONS here have engendered more partisan passion here than this one over whether guests should remove their shoes when they enter a friend’s home. This issue is apparently important, but I can’t figure out why. It seems the Asian custom of shoelessness indoors is catching on. Some readers adamantly defend it on the ground of cleanliness and […]

An Objection to My Retraction

  THE FAITH AND HERITAGE website has responded to my recent criticism of an article recommending that Christians not do business with Jews because “the temptation to cheat is almost impossible for them to overcome.” I have not had the opportunity to read the response in its entirety yet.