Month: August 2014


Chestertonian Kevin O’Brien, writing at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, attacks higher education. Excerpt:

Too many students are majoring in English, anthropology, sociology and, yes, political science. The job markets specific to those majors cannot possibly absorb them all.

By no means is the knowledge wasted. It’s just spectacularly overpriced. A firm grasp of Dickens and Melville never hurt a Walmart manager. But he could have become a Walmart manager without spending tens of thousands of dollars to learn about Dickens and Melville. . . .

The college-as-a-necessity culture is causing us to waste a lot of money and misdirect a lot of talent. It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out we could do better.

Read the rest



I wanted to run this piece last week, but I didn’t get a chance: “Best-selling larger beers taste the same, new research finds.” Excerpt:

Johan Almenberg and Anna Dreber, researchers from the Stockholm School of Economics, conducted a blind taste test with a selection of three best-selling European lagers: Budvar (also known as Czechvar), Heineken and Stella Artois.

Nearly 140 subjects, aged 21 to 70, received three samples– two cups had the same product, while the third contained a different brew. Tasters were asked to identify the odd-beer out but they were no better at guessing then if choosing “at random,” according to the study, “Hide The Label, Hide The Difference.”

The study came to conclusion that consumers favor certain beers for many factors, taste not included.

“Our results suggest that brand loyalty in this market is likely to be driven largely by marketing and packaging, and not by the underlying sensory properties of the competing products,” says the report.

I find such a study humorous and it feeds the snob in me, but I question taste tests. I can’t articulate my reasons, but I’ve taken taste tests in the past and, when I don’t know what I’m drinking, they’re really hard, even though they definitely have a different tang or after-taste or whatever. 7-Up or Sprite? Michelob or generic beer (a taste test I took while drunk in college and failed).

I incline to a loose sense that there’s a lot more involved in “taste” than actual taste, kinda like there’s more involved in reading a book than just reading the book. Have you, for instance, ever tried reading a book when you have NO idea what it’s about? I have, and it really sucks. It’s hard to get oriented and get a grasp on the … Read the rest


Some Epstein, with a little commentary of my own:

“The most impressive students I had over my 30 years of university teaching were those I encountered when I first began, in the early 1970s, who almost all turned out to have been put through Catholic schools, during a time when priests and nuns still taught and Catholic education hadn’t become indistinguishable from secular education.” Joseph Epstein

This is kinda where I stand with medicine today: “Proust says that to believe in modern medicine is insane, and that the only thing more insane is not to believe it.” Epstein

Epstein is right. They were like country clubs: “Neighborhood taverns—the workingman’s country clubs—are largely gone.”

Another great observation from Epstein: “Nearly everything that was most troublesome about life in the fifties—Communism abroad, racial segregation at home, domination by an often narrowly intolerant mainstream culture—has been eliminated, changed, or defeated, without life seeming qualitatively better.”… Read the rest

GKC Wednesday

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 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)

According to historian Robert R. James, the days following the Boer ultimatum of October, 1895 found very few in England who were not solidly behind the idea of war. James quotes Chesterton on the solidarity of the British on the question, noting that Chesterton was one of the very few who did not share the pervasively optimistic, even cheerful assurance of victory. [The British Revolution: 1880-1939, New York: Knopf, 1977]… Read the rest