Category: History

The Beatniks Were a Bunch of Consumerists

Well, kinda

William Burroughs liked opium, a lot. He liked its derivatives, morphine, and heroin. He liked other types of dope. He liked women. He liked men and boys. He wrote recklessly. He lived recklessly. He loved his common-law wife. He shot her dead in a drunken game of William Tell in a Mexico City bar.

William Burroughs was a member of the Beatniks, that dope- and jazz- and danger-loving generation that dazzled and unnerved America during the decades following World War II and gave rise to the peace, love, and hippie movements of the late 1960s.

If a person compiled a list of history’s Most Hip, Beats would litter the top 20: Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady. They’d be right up there with James Dean, Miles Davis, Lou Reed, Dennis Hopper, Jackson Pollack, and Lenny Bruce.

And Nike, McDonald’s, Madison Avenue, and the army of men in grey flannel suits that have marked American business for the past 100 years.


That’s right: Kerouac and McDonald’s, Miles Davis on Madison Avenue, Burroughs donning Nikes, James Dean in a grey flannel suit. They’re related: they’re all hip.

Every manifestation of hip — from Walt Whitman to the Harlem Renaissance to the Beatniks to Kurt Cobain — has this in common: it lives for now. That’s what makes it so cool, whether it’s a heroin junkie playing saxophone (see Charlie Parker) or a speed junkie who … Read the rest

The Weekly Eccentric

Should We Love the Encyclopedia Even If It Doesn’t Love Us?

When asked what he wanted to do with his life, a young man supposedly replied, “Nothing, nothing at all. I like to study; I am very happy, very content; I don’t ask for anything else.”

That was me at age 23, except it wasn’t. It was Denis Diderot (1713–1784). Which is bizarre.

Diderot could’ve been the bizarro me. He was an ex-Catholic-turned-rationalist deist. I’m an ex-non-Catholic-turned-realist Catholic.

But we both loved to study as young men.

We also both liked women. Though I’ve limited my interest to just one, Diderot banged many, including a woman who, though not physically attractive, had such a virile tongue and “male mind” that men called her “the hermaphrodite.” He lost interest in her sexually after a while, since he couldn’t get past rumors that she was involved in a lesbian affair with her own sister.

My love interest, though not a hermaphrodite, played softball for four years in high school . . . and was the catcher, at that.

The bizarro parallels continue.

Diderot, like me, also had a lot of children. Four, to be exact, though all but one died young. Although he loved his surviving daughter tenderly, his home life wasn’t good. His wife was a harridan (which is one of the most under-utilized words in the English language (thanks to Joseph Epstein for bringing it back … Read the rest

The Weekly Eccentric

The Religion of Scientism and Slavs

Point 15 in Zuby’s “20 Things I Learned or Had Confirmed from the Pandemic” would’ve greatly appealed to August Comte, who hoped that science would become a religion (literally).

Zuby’s Point 15:

‘The Science’ has evolved into a secular pseudo-religion for millions of people in the West. This religion has little to do with science itself.

The founder of sociology, August Comte (according to Henri de Lubac), saw society evolving from the primitive religion of fetishism to the advanced religion of scientism. He literally believed in “social physics” (which he later called “sociology”), as a type of science that could figure out how to run society as well as math can add numbers. The scientists who would do this for us would be revered and become our new clergy.

“Social physics would be ‘as positive as any other science based on observation,’ as scientific as celestial, terrestrial, vegetable or animal ologies. Thus the scientists will soon have gained ‘all the territory successively lost by the clergy’ and they will constitute ‘a new spiritual power.’”

Henri de Lubac (quoting Comte), The Drama of Atheist Humanism (Ignatius, 140).


The parallels of the religion of Scientism with other religions are striking. Below are six parallels between the Scientistic (a member of the Church of Scientism) and the Theist (a believer and church-goer):

1.            The certitude of faith. The average Theist can’t … Read the rest

How Not to Sacrifice if You’re a Father

Hint: Don’t be Rousseau

unrecognizable man with child on hilltop

I’ve been reading some Nock. Albert Jay Nock, one of the premier American essayists of the early twentieth century and one of the founders of modern conservative/libertarian thought.

A weighty man, that Nock.

But also a disturbing man. In a 1964 biography, Robert M. Crunden said Nock was greatly fond of the ladies. Nock was also greatly fond of being absent from his wife. He apparently deserted her after she bore him two children.

Let me qualify this: I don’t know any details about the abandonment. Nock was an extremely private man who took secrecy to new levels. He would, for instance, occasionally bundle up his outgoing mail and ship it from another state, so people wouldn’t know where he was living. Was the abandonment wholesale or more like a divorce with child visitation rights? Nobody seems to know. We know he left his job as an Episcopal minister and family, but we also know his sons knew their father well enough to assist later biographers.

But what I’ve always found fascinating about Nock is this: Only after leaving his wife, children, and conventional job did he climb up the ladder as an intellectual man of letters, joining the staff of the popular magazine, American Magazine, at age 39.

It kind of reminds me of Jean Rousseau, who orphaned five children so he could continue as Europe’s leading man of … Read the rest

What the Most Famous Love Story of the Middle Ages Can Tell Us About Ourselves

Uncle Fulbert: Abelard, Heloise, and the Culture of Narcissism

It was the love story of the Middle Ages, and one of the greatest love stories of all time.

Abelard, the premier philosopher of the twelfth century and an instrumental force in the rise of the University of Paris, had become attracted to the comely young Heloise, a teenage girl about twenty years his junior, who had already gained a reputation for her learning.

He approached Heloise’s Uncle Fulbert (her guardian) and proposed to live with him and take Heloise under his erudite wing. Fulbert eagerly agreed, proud that his smart niece had been chosen by the leading intellectual light of Europe for special instruction. Fulbert turned Heloise over to Abelard, giving him constant access to her, the right to direct her studies night and day, and even to administer corporal punishment. Under such circumstances, it didn’t take Abelard long to seduce Heloise. They carried on an affair in Fulbert’s house for months, Fulbert blind to it. (Abelard would later write, citing St. Jerome and referring to Fulbert, that a man is invariably the last to know what is going on in his own home; everyone knows what a woman is up to before her father or husband.)

Fulbert eventually learned of the affair and tossed Abelard out of the house. But Abelard had fallen passionately in love with his victim, so they carried on … Read the rest

Why June 1 is a Great Day to Honor the Copts

Plus: Coptic Lemonade

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. 

Gospel of Matthew, Chp. 2

Our Christian brothers, the Copts, celebrate “The Entry of the Lord into Egypt” today.

It’s one of seven minor Coptic feasts that commemorate events in Christ’s life.

I’d think this one is especially special to them.


Copt, from the Arabic “Kibt,” which derives from the Greek word for “Egyptians.”

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1998).

The Copts are one of the four or five Oriental Orthodox Churches: Syrian (which has two branches), Ethiopian, Armenian (of Kardashian fame), and Coptic. The term “Coptic” essentially means “Egyptian Christian.”

They come into history after 451, when the Council of Chalcedon condemned the Monophysite heresy (which, broadly speaking, rejected Christ’s two natures). The condemned Monophysites rejected the Council and continued their heretical stance.

Unfortunately, the Council was emotional, with shouting and temper and passions continued to ride high for years after the Council.

In 452, the main proponent of Monophysitism, Dioscorus, was deposed as the Patriarch … Read the rest

Schlitz is a Business School Case Study

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I never knew what happened to Schlitz. When I was a little kid, I remember seeing Schlitz all over the place and thinking it was “the” beer. By the time I started drinking, it was one of those beers I’d drink because I could get a case for $5 (in the 1980s), putting it in the category of Buckhorn, Blatz, Red White and Blue, and Beer (the generic “brand”).

It isn’t just my murky childhood memory. Schlitz was the beer. In fact, for much of the twentieth century, it and Budweiser duked it out for top beer in the United States. But then Budweiser took over that top spot in the late 1950s with effective marketing, and Schlitz fell decidedly to number two.

In response, it decided it would become the most profitable beer in the U.S. and started to slash production costs (now called the “Schlitz Mistake”). When drinkers noticed and its sales plummeted, it responded with an awful marketing campaign that seemed to threaten viewers (now laughingly called the “drink Schlitz or I’ll kill you” campaign).

It’s all laid out in this article that I stumbled across last night.Read the rest

Dostoyevsky’s Possessed in Modern Day America

“Peter Verkhovensky meet John Styn. John, Peter is the descendant of godless liberal enlightenment thinkers who now wants violence and revolution. Peter, John is the descendant of an ex-Baptist minister who likes to hug a lot.”

That’s what went through years ago when I clicked on a Yahoo feature story about a website called “Hug Nation” that promotes actual and cyber hugging. Hugs, hugs, hugs; it’s all about hugs. Young John Styn started it with his elderly grandfather, Caleb Shikles.

Relevant excerpts: “Hug Nation was the brainchild of Caleb’s grandson, John Styn, a Burning Man disciple, artist and Internet pioneer with pierced nipples, washboard abs, shocking pink hair and a dizzying creative energy. . . [Caleb] went to college, got married and became a Baptist preacher. A civil rights and anti-war activist, he worked with Martin Luther King for a week during a trip to Denver.”

A few things stand out about Caleb. He’s an ex Baptist minister, though he apparently didn’t lose his faith entirely (his funeral was held at a United Church of Christ church). He lived in California. He was part of the civil rights movement and an anti-war activist. Based on the foregoing and a few other things I read about the man online, I’m reasonably certain he had a strong leftward bent. I think it’s safe to say his faith was probably the watered-down version that’ is more interested in … Read the rest