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Welcome Back

Glad you came back for Week II. We received compliments on the first issue. Here's a tall glass of Christmas spirits to hopes of another successful run at this humble enterprise.

Kinsey and the Beast
In light of the renewed interest in Alfred "Batman's Butler" Kinsey, this short quote seems most timely: "Man without God is a beast, and never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastliness." Whittaker Chambers

Now, whether Kinsey was intelligent about beastliness, we don't know. We know he was beastly fraudulent in an intelligent way, but that's not the same thing.

Kinsey and the Pope
In All the Pope's Men, John Allen breaks some myths about the Vatican, including the myth that it's wealthy. Allen points out that the Vatican operates at a regular deficit. It owns priceless art and other valuables, but is not allowed to sell the items or pledge them as collateral. Indeed, the Vatican incurs great expense in preserving the stuff.

Such stewardship extends, no doubt, to the Vatican's large collection of pornography. If you didn't know it, Alfred Kinsey regularly claimed that the Vatican has the largest collection of porn in the world. Like most of his famous studies, this assertion was hokum. Probably just wishful thinking on his part, like his assertion that 10% of the male population is gay.

The Coddlers
To all those parents who strap helmets on their children, follow them around to make sure they don't fall, fluster every time something bad happens to them: You're creating an emotional-mess-of-a-person. This according to a cogent article by Hara Estroff Marano in Psychology Today's November/December issue. Here's an excerpt:

"But taking all the discomfort, disappointment and even the play out of development, especially while increasing pressure for success, turns out to be misguided by just about 180 degrees. With few challenges all their own, kids are unable to forge their creative adaptations to the normal vicissitudes of life. That not only makes them risk-averse, it makes them psychologically fragile, riddled with anxiety. In the process they're robbed of identity, meaning and a sense of accomplishment, to say nothing of a shot at real happiness. Forget, too, about perseverance."

Stoic's Porch
"A consciousness of wrongdoing is the first step to salvation. You have to catch yourself doing it before you can correct it." Seneca

Marshall Media
In a recent issue of Gilbert Magazine, the incredibly talented John Peterson writes that a popular Marshall McLuhan revival is long overdue. We tend to agree, but most people don't even know who McLuhan is.

McLuhan wrote about media and its effects on the user. The thrust of his theories boils down to this:

1. Technologies cannot be understood except as extensions of ourselves. The wheel is an extension of our feet, the telescope of our eyes, the telephone of our ears. All such extensions are properly referred to as "media."

2. Every medium affects the user.

3. It is necessary to understand how media affects us or else we could be its victims rather than its beneficiaries.

As part of his analysis, McLuhan strongly attacks the idea that media is neutral. His famous saying is "the medium is the message," meaning that the medium itself is its significant aspect. A cant phrase today (as it was when McLuhan wrote in the 1960s) is that "Technology X can be good or bad, depending on its content." McLuhan said, "No. Technology X itself brings positive or negative effects, regardless of its content, and if people aren't aware of it, the effects are more likely to be negative."

In a time when new forms of media are becoming 24-7 phenomenon--Internet, picture cell phones, wireless e-mail, CD burners--everyone ought to be aware that a message like McLuhan's is out there.

Ten statements by or about Marshall McLuhan

10. "The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy."

9. "One of McLuhan's great theories was that all the university taught you to do was bullshit. And he thought that bullshit was a very high order of thought."

8. "Technical change alters not only habits of life, but patterns of thought and valuation."

7. "Any community that wants to maximize the exchange of goods has simply got to homogenize social life."

6. "Tradition, in a word, is the sense of the total past as now."

5. "I find most pop culture monstrous and sickening. I study it for my own survival."

4. "The problem is not that Johnny can't read, but that Johnny can't visualize distant goals."

3. "As a grandparent, McLuhan advised his son Eric to limit the time his young daughter spent watching TV: television, he wrote Eric, in language he permitted himself only in private, was a 'vile drug which permeates the nervous system, especially in the young.'"

2. "To resist TV, one must acquire the antidote of related media like print."

1. "The present cannot be revealed to people until it has become yesterday."

Christmas Corner
Max Beerbohm once said, "I may be old-fashioned, but I am right." They're good words to recall at this time of the year. After all, we tend to mark the holidays with things old fashioned, and we consider the holidays the most wonderful time of the year. There may be a connection there.

Mr. Wordsmith
Hibernacle: A winter retreat. "Older folks will head for their hibernacles in Florida after Christmas."