Month: November 2012


Drunken Waiting

Advent starts in two days or, depending on your Semitic predilections, tomorrow evening. Advent is a season of peaceful waiting, meditation, penance . . . and drinking.

As every traditionalist Christian realizes, our culture has kicked the holiness of Advent in the teeth by creating one large holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Years, with the result that everyone is pretty much partied-out by December 26th. It’d be an interesting historical analysis to figure out when/why Advent was jettisoned for Party. It didn’t used to be that way, and not just for Catholics. My father told me that his family (Lutherans) didn’t decorate the Christmas tree until Christmas Eve. I remember an Episcopalian minister stating that he was so old school, he didn’t like seeing any lights or decorations until the 25th.

But regardless, we are where we are. We are called upon to leaven the culture, not scorn it, so leaven it we must. I’ll leaven it with drinking. Drinking, in moderate amounts, can be a kind of meditation, kind of the way a simple smile is a type of blessing (acc’d to Mother Theresa). Drinking isn’t meditation, but it loosens the mind in a way that meditation does, just as a smile doesn’t confer any graces but it lightens a person’s heart the way grace does.

Those are my thoughts, anyway. Please forgive them if they’re screwy. I wrote them yesterday, while sober, so the quality probably isn’t as sharp as I’d like.

Regardless, if you’re going to get into the Christmas spirit, you might want to consult this Top 10 list of bar drinks. It contains some basic information and ideas that might come in handy. … Read the rest



I saw Skyfall. I liked it, but it wasn’t great. I don’t know why the reviewers (and, apparently, general public) are fawning over it. Wait for the DVD. * * * * * * * Speaking of which: I’ve heard a few digs at Roger Moore, implying that he was a horrible James Bond. I thought he was very good. Not as good as Connery, but still very good. * * * * * * * Great, just great: 26% of teens send or receive at least one text every time they get behind the wheel. Related: If parents are distracted drivers, there’s a greater chance that the teens will be distracted drivers. * * * * * * * My thoughts on cell phone use while driving. * * * * * * * Yeah, this kind of thing went out of style circa 1946: “A far-right Hungarian lawmaker sparked outrage after calling for a list of Jewish politicians and government members who pose a ‘threat to national security.'” Link. … Read the rest


That’s a picture from Turin, Italy. I stumbled across it at Elizabeth Scalia’s Facebook page. I felt compelled to pass it along. * * * * * * * Antifragile arrived on my iPad this morning. I’m ten pages into it. Very good so far; just 500+ pages to go. * * * * * * * Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek takes up a theme that I’ve heard Thomas Sowell hammer on: the middle class is better off today than it was, say, 50 years ago. Boudreaux has developed a simple, yet powerful, set of anecdotal evidence to back up the claim: comparing 1950s wages and the cost of Sears products with today’s wages and the cost of similar products, thereby determining how many hours you had to work to obtain such creaturely comforts. Very interesting results. Sample:

Sears’s lowest-priced 30″ four-burner electric range, with bottom oven, was priced, in 1956, at $129.95. (You can find this range on page 1049 of the 1956 Sears catalog.) Home Depot sells a 30″ four-burner electric range, with bottom oven, today for $348.00.

The typical American manufacturing worker in 1956, therefore, had to work 129.95/1.89 – or 69 hours – to buy an ordinary kitchen range. His or her counterpart today must work 348.00/19.79 – or 18 – hours to buy the same sized ordinary range.

Read the rest



My seed-starting operation. I planted eight herbs on Sunday. We’ll see if they come up. * * * * * * * It’s that time of year again: Christmas wars. According to Glenn Beck’s site, if you want to boycott anti-Christmas stores, start with these culprits: American Eagle, GAP, Garmin, Old Navy, Tractor Supply Company, and Abercrombie & Fitch. Other companies receiving low marks: J. Crew, Banana Republic, and Radio Shack. Link. Also: Family Dollar, Barnes & Noble, and Staples. * * * * * * * Most startling headline of the day yesterday: “Study: Porn Stars More Religious, Have Higher Self-Esteem Than Other Women.” Needless to say, it’s a bogus study. How do I know? Easy: It violates the natural law. We need to look no further, but if we did, I’m sure we’d would find ridiculous shortcomings in the control group, the way they measure “self-esteem,” and an assortment of other problems. Or maybe we could just read that article and find a glaring problem. Like this quote: “In terms of psychological characteristics, porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to the matched group.” Emphasis added: “spirituality.” I see, so we’re including things like crystals, the enneagram, and gnosticism . . . maybe even its highly-sexualized form known as “pneumatic antinominianism,” which basically holds, “I’m so spiritual, my body doesn’t matter, so I can indulge it any way I want.” If such a belief is included within “religion,” then I can definitely buy into the idea that porn actresses are more religious than other women. * * * * * * * Note: If you want to read about pneumatic antinomianism, I highly recommend Norman Cohn’s classic, The Pursuit of the Millennium. … Read the rest



I’m 46, and I’ve always tended to read a lot, yet I don’t think I’ve ever eagerly awaited a new book. Sure, I mostly read dead guys–Chesterton, Belloc, Guardini, Voegelin, Nock–so it’s not surprising, but still: you’d think that, at some point in my life, I would’ve been geeked about a forthcoming book. My current anticipation of Nassim Taleb’s new book, Antifragile, is a new sensation for me. I’ve been waiting for it since last spring and now I’m just a day away. It’s pre-ordered and will be downloaded as soon as it comes off the digital press.

It will come at a good time. I’ll have a lot more reading time now that my garden is completely put to bed for the winter. I finished it yesterday. Just as I was adding the last scraps of compost and cleaning the last of the containers, I was finishing the last episode of The History of Rome podcast: 74 hours and 600,000+ words. The end of the podcast and end of the gardening season gave me a good, poetic, feeling, even if my fingers were numb from washing dirt from the containers. I’m not sure what podcast I’ll listen to next. Duncan says he’s going to launch a new one, and he also recommends 12 Byzantine Rulers. I’ve downloaded a handful of episodes of the Byzantine podcast. We’ll see how I like it.

I’ve long considered putting together my own podcast series. It wouldn’t be anything nearly as ambitious as Duncan’s History of Rome, but rather a series of 20-minute podcasts (the perfect length, in my opinion) about episodes in Catholic Church history. I’ve searched for good Church history podcasts, and I simply can’t find any. I think I’d find such a project edifying, but at this point, … Read the rest

From the Notebooks

From the Notebooks

While recently trying to understand better the origins of nobility, I ran across this passage from Will Durant’s The Age of Faith that got me wondering why people think the European Union is a viable concept.

Durant is writing about the rise of feudalism and how it took hold in Italy, large parts of Germany, and (especially) France. He mentions that it took different form in England (where Angle-Saxon invaders merely implanted themselves as lords after the Romans abandoned England in the early 5th century).

In large parts of Europe, however, feudalism never developed:

Large sectors of Europe’s peasantry remained unfeudalized: the shepherds and ranchers of the Balkans, eastern Italy, Spain; the vine growers of western Germany and southern France; the sturdy farmers of Sweden and Norway; the Teutonic pioneers beyond the Elbe; the mountaineers of the Carpathians, the Alps, the Apennines, and the Pyrenees. It was not to be expected that a continent so physically and climatically diverse should have a uniform economy.

Emphasis added. The Age of Faith, 1950, Simon & Schuster, p. 553. … Read the rest


Background: When I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, I was responsible for the “Tremendous Trifles” column. It was occasionally hard to find a sufficient amount of interesting GKC material to fill the page, so John Peterson sent me a file full of Chesterton ancedotes. They were idiosyncratic, historical, and Chestertonian. He recently gave me permission to use them here. I hope y’all find them as interesting as I have over the years. Most of them have never been published.

Chesterton Short(s)

Evelyn Waugh liked to send out satirical Christmas cards, and the apex (or nadir] of this practice was reached during the Christmas season of 1929. Waugh’s card that year consisted of extracts reprinted from unfavorable reviews of his first novel, Decline and Fall. The harshest passage of all was taken from a review by Chesterton. [Christopher Sykes, Evelyn Waugh, Boston, 1975, p. 98]… Read the rest