Month: September 2013

Adventure v. Books

“The profoundest lessons are not the lessons of reason; they are sudden strains that permanently warp the mind.” Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (Houghton Mifflin, 1973), p. 108.

Based on my experience, it makes you wonder whether those adventure nuts are correct when it comes to living life: press yourself to the max, and you come away with lessons that stick with you. Whereas the sedentary studious Scheske-types can’t remember even half of what they read and think about. Could be.

Of course, the adventure nuts don’t have a larger context to fit it into, since most of them are ignorant of history, philosophy, theology, psychology, and Henry Adams, so in that sense, the studious types have the edge.

And truth be told, I think the studious types have the edge altogether, because no matter how settled and sedentary you try to live, the stress will find you and impart its lessons. I know this first-hand.

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Autobiographical Corner

A good weekend, a very good weekend indeed.

Unfortunately, it started off with a scorching hangover headache Friday morning . . . after a mere two tall tonics and gin at Frankie’s following my son, Michael’s, Freshman football game. Frankie’s was the recent subject of the Food Network’s Restaurant Impossible reality show. The food was outstanding and the GTs mixed very strong. I didn’t see the hangover coming, but wowzie, it was bad.

Alex and Abbie came home from college with their grandparents Friday evening. We went to Jack’s football game. It was his first real game of the season (in the first game, the team’s plan went to hell and Jack was put on a shelf for the entire thing, then he was hurt for the next two games). He turned in a solid performance by “stretching the field on offense and narrowing the field on defense” (paraphrasing one football-knowledgeable parent, among whose ranks I am not counted). The team won its third straight game and Jack received the local radio station’s “Player of the Game” award.

Daughter Meg (7th grade) finished tenth in her cross-country meet. She received a ribbon for her efforts, which prompted me to quote Jack Bynes from Meet the Fockers to her repeatedly over the weekend (“I didn’t know they made ninth place ribbons”), but in a cross-country meet with over 200 girls in seventh and … Read the rest

I am Not a Crook

“This is the United States of America, we’re not some banana republic. This is not a deadbeat nation. We don’t run out on our tab. We’re the world’s bedrock investment, the entire world looks to us to make sure the world economy is stable. We can’t just not pay our bills.” Barack Obama.

I remember listening to a history professor, who said Nixon’s words are so famous because they startled the American nation. Very few people really thought he was a crook, but to hear him deny it? The juxtaposition of the lofty presidency with criminal activity by the president himself made it plausible . . . and eventually, undeniable.

Will the same thing occur here? “We’re not some Banana Republic.”

Indeed. We are THE Banana Republic. … Read the rest

Catholic Lane

My latest over at Catholic Lane: On Charity. It’s not my favorite piece: It’s pretty compact without much flair (no cogent quotes and clever anecdotes), and I’m concerned that the piece slightly conflates “charity” with “entitlements,” but overall, I like it. Excerpt:

Dorothy Day said that the poor always smell and are always ungrateful. Those traits are things that help make poverty work hard. It makes poverty work a lot harder for me. Nothing makes me bristle more than volunteering to raise money for people who expect me to volunteer to raise money for them.

In fact, I have a devilish Ayn Rand-ish streak in me, one that says all charity work for the dispossessed is bad: a fraud that is filled with bad consequences for society as a whole and an injustice.

First, the fraud: Many of the dispossessed game the charitable system. If they spent half as much time working legitimately than they do trying to get free hand-outs, they’d make enough money to subsist without charity.

Second, the bad consequences: These are legion. Here are a few: (1) By enabling the dispossessed to game the charitable system instead of working productively, we hamper the creation of wealth. (2) By allowing people to demand goods instead of working for them, we weaken the social fabric. A person can get his free clothes, give the volunteers the middle finger, then walk away. .

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The veteran drinker Kingsley Amis didn’t like the advent of music in England’s pubs. I think he made some good points, especially this one:

If you dislike what is being played, you use up energy and patience in the attempt to ignore it; if you like it, you will want to listen to it and not to talk or be talked to, not to do what you came to the pub largely to do.

It kind of reminds me of my trips to the Hillcrest Lounge with my Dad when I first moved back to my hometown. I couldn’t really afford to drink at a bar, so Mel would buy far more than his fair share of rounds, but he’d ask me to make sure I won the jukebox wars: pump $5 at a time in the box, in hopes of beating the heavy metal rockers in the bar who wanted a lot of Metallica and Megadeath. For the most part, I succeeded, mostly by reckless monetary policy, but also by trying to select songs that wouldn’t force the rockers to “use up energy and patience in the attempt to ignore” my selections. If I picked Connie Francis and Beach Boys, I could try their patience and pry their quarters from their hands. If I picked Bob Seger and Lynyrd Skynyrd, they were usually placated.

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More Lawrence

Last week, I featured D. H. Lawrence. I’m following up with this additional DHL that I published five years ago. I’ve been going back through, checking out these FtH pieces. I’m definitely going to have to consider bringing them back.

D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature. My version: Penguin, 1977.

I earlier introduced this book and presented a handful of passages. This post merely presents a spate of other passages that merited highlighting.

“There is such a thing as evil belief: a belief that one cannot do wrong.” p. 109.

Which is, of course, the ailment of most politicians. They acknowledge verbally that they can do wrong, then plow ahead like they can’t.

“The harder a man works, at brute labour, the thinner becomes his idealism, the darker his mind. And the harder a man works, at mental labour, at idealism, at transcendental occupations, the thinner becomes his blood, and the more brittle his nerves.” p. 113.

Good observation, that, but a bit troubling. If true, all work is bad, and we know that’s not the case. Man is called to sanctify his work, and he can hardly do so if work leads him to darkness or brittleness. Work, leavened with grace (which implies balance and right outlook), gives peace.

“[Melville] was a modern Viking. There is something curious about real blue-eyed people. They are never quite human, in the good classic
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Pawn Me

Pawn Stars

A continuation from yesterday’s post, which was growing too lengthy:

Besides sports, I only watch Pawn Stars. Shallow you say? Yes, it is, but my office job has become very hard, with the result that I have little energy for reading at the end of the day. I could watch the news, but I agree with Nassim Taleb’s paradoxical observation that, in today’s climate, the more you know the less you know: news is unreliable and gives wrong information, so you’re actually worse-off for watching it. In this climate, I’d far rather say the Rosary, spend time with my kids, read some Epstein essays, and watch sports and Pawn Stars (I just summarized my evenings, Monday through Thursday, with the Rosary mentioned for self-pious proclamation more than actual practice).

When I first started watching Pawn Stars, I thought it was a fraud. There’s no way, I thought, that Rick Harrison can know everything he purports to know. And then when his son started showing similar erudition, I knew it was a fraud.

I have since found out that the guy (Rick, not his son) is, indeed, erudite. Since a young man, he has logged serious hours in the library, learning the heroic way (as opposed to attending college). Now, I’m still reasonably certain that he brushes up or researches topics before filming segments, but I’m pretty comfortable that he is a … Read the rest


streetsign.jpgTwo Randoms

It’s county fair week. Every year, I’m expected to donate 24 hours of volunteer time to the Kiwanis Food Building. Twenty years ago, the requirement was arduous. I would often work two consecutive 12-hour days so I could get it over with. By the end of the second day, I was wiped out. It’s not hard work, but it requires you to stand and walk on concrete all day. * * * * * * * Fortunately, my kids are grown-up enough to help. With my wife, Mom, and second daughter, I’ll knock out my 24 hours in one day . . . and still be home in time for dinner.

The Fox

I’ve been watching the new Fox Sports 1. This is Fox’s attempt to take down ESPN, just as it took down CNN.

I’m greatly enjoying the effort. ESPN has become insufferable in its arrogance. Like the self-important sportswriter who believes he has outgrown his craft and needs to comment on social issues, ESPN has increasingly become a sounding board for left-wing politics. On at least a dozen occasions over the past year, I’ve nearly thrown the remote at the TV while watching ESPN, yelling, “Just give me sports news, not Title IX gender equality b.s. and gays-in-sports updates.” But, alas, ESPN doesn’t care for fans like me, so I and people like me will gravitate toward Fox Sports 1. … Read the rest