Month: May 2020


Background music or TV with the sound on?

The bar in English-speaking countries traces its roots back to Roman Britain where drinking establishments flourished. The establishments declined with Rome, but they came back in the Middle Ages, largely through the efforts of monasteries to provide for travelers. By the fifteenth century, three different drinking establishments were found in England: inns, which provided rooms for travelers; taverns, which provided food and drink; alehouses, which solely provided beer and ale.

What I wonder is, “Why the taverns?” Inns provided necessary beds. Alehouses were often necessities for the poor, a place where they could get ale as a substitute for water (that was often polluted and dangerous). But why taverns?

The taverns were the places where the professional classes met to eat, drink, and relax. Dr. Samuel John was a big fan of the tavern and the fine conversation he could find there: “No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”

So, people went to the taverns to congregate and meet others. If that’s the essence of a tavern, then music—at moderate volume—should be preferred over TV (TV being almost as inherently anti-social as tear gas).

A similar thing goes for bars in the United States. After the Pilgrims came in 1620, taverns were among the first structures erected, and there were dozens in Boston alone by the 1680s. The taverns were accommodations for travelers, but they were also the forum for social intercourse. Daniel Dorchester, an anti-drinking historian of the nineteenth century, described the tavern scene of the early … Read the rest



I reached a momentous decision yesterday: I dropped the Drudge Report from my start-up pages in Google Chrome. I’ve for years enjoyed his libertarian leanings, with his kindly non-sectarian nod to the Catholic Church. He was, for me, what the Detroit Free Press was for my parents back in the 1970s: my morning read (but without the libertarian and kindly nod parts . . . the Freep is relentlessly lefty).

But I had to part ways. His COVID coverage has been relentlessly doom and gloom, reporting only the worst news and failing to point out obvious good news (like, “the death toll took way longer to reach 100,000 than anyone thought it would and the growth continues to slow”).

I honestly don’t know what happened to Drudge. I know he’s had an ongoing spat with Trump. Maybe this is just the fall-out, which is too bad. He could’ve ripped on Trump without losing me. But the COVID coverage was just too psychologically painful, like he was intentionally trying to torture his readers. Sad and bizarre. … Read the rest

Coronabeer Miscellany

Face Masks in Northern Michigan

Marie, five of our kids, and I took our annual trip to Alpena, Michigan for a long weekend. Five days. We normally go up in July or August for ten days, but weddings and other family exigencies have made the forecast pretty clear: virtually no free weekends from June through August = no vacation.

It was a great trip and, to be honest, lifted the COVID syndrome off my shoulders. The shift in scenery shifted my perspective, even though Alpena is far more COVID sensitive than my town, with even the staunchest rednecks wearing face masks at Walmart.

The host on Relevant Radio this morning said his liberal friends wear face masks and his conservative friends don’t. That’s a freakin’ shame. Yes, the CDC and Fauci apparently lied about face masks in order to preserve them for health care workers. Yes, I believe we have been lied to repeatedly about this virus from Day One (more on that below). Yes, it certainly appears the entire risk was grossly overblown.

But come on. Clearly, COVID was a risk and remains a risk . . . at some level. Wearing a mask is a small inconvenience. Wearing a mask definitely greatly reduces the germs you spread, even if their effectiveness at protecting you is only mediocre.

Masks, in short, are the least restrictive means to help with the COVID problem. Compared to lockdowns, they are barely a blip on the screen. They should be the conservative middle finger to humorless liberal governors who don’t even believe in their own orders: “We don’t need your lockdown orders. We can simply wear … Read the rest

Essay Excerpt

And that’s where Belloc sits with many. Ignored and neglected.

He rubbed people the wrong way while he was alive, too. His nasty wars with H.G. Wells are legendary, but even before the nastiness started, Wells didn’t care for him. Wells cherished Chesterton’s company, saying he desired to “drink limitless old October from handsome flagons” with him. But not with Belloc. “Chesterton often – but never by any chance Belloc. Belloc I admire beyond measure, but there is a sort of partisan viciousness about Belloc that bars him.”

“Partisan viciousness.” I think my father would agree with Wells on that one.

Yet the vicious Belloc also had a good side and many good friends . . . including Chesterton, one of the kindest literary souls to grace the written page.

Chesterton is loved by all, including non-Catholics, but Belloc isn’t. Yet the overlap in their ideas is immense. In fact, many people, including G.B. Shaw and C.S. Lewis, said Belloc influenced Chesterton immensely (both Shaw and Lewis, incidentally, disapproved of the influence). In the words of Frank Sheed, writing about the Catholic Literary Revival in the twentieth century: “There was Chesterton, of course, but then Belloc had so much to do with the making of Chesterton and Chesterton not much with the making of Belloc.”

Those are significant words, spoken by a man who knows of what he speaks. It’s almost as though Chesterton was an intellectual hack and merely rode Belloc’s genius.

But that would be a gross mistake. Belloc influenced Chesterton, yes, but in the way water influences a flower. Belloc’s ideas nourished Chesterton and gave him direction, but it was Chesterton’s unique … Read the rest


Virtue or Vice?

When it comes to one’s own death, when does a person cross the line from abandonment to God’s will (the finest thing) to reckless disregard for one’s own health and life (a potential sin . . . Catechism 2288)? When does abandonment turn into the heresy of Quietism?

Those, I think, are the million dollar spiritual questions in these COVID times.

Based on a conversation between Tom Woods and Thaddeus Russell, the death rate from COVID increasingly appears to be far less than we originally feared, and it appears that re-opening the economy is, for some mysterious reasons, not resulting in more infections.

I can’t draw the line between abandonment/recklessness–abandonment/quietism in my own soul, much less map out a standard for everyone else. We each need to work it out for ourselves, but I increasingly lean strongly toward abandonment at this time.

* * * * * * *

There won’t be much blogging this weekend. As always, holiday weekend = slow blogging.

I hate to say this because the response to the reinvigorated TDE has been great. I started more “substantive” blogging in late March. My readership in April went up almost 20%. The numbers aren’t back to the halcyon days when I wrote a blogging column for National Catholic Register, but the significant (and quick) uptick makes me think blogging is, indeed, still a viable publishing outlet. … Read the rest


Emperors, Life, Other

Another good post by Medium superstar writer Ayodeji Awosika: 10 Signs Your Life is Probably Better Than You Think It Is. Number One: “You’re alive.

He bolsters his selection with a quote from Nassim Taleb: “We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions.”

Later in the article, he invokes Thomas Sowell: “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.”

Flattery. It’s a bad thing: “Next to hating their enemies, men are most inclined to flatter them.” Alexis de Tocqueville. “A man flatters the land he fears, but not the land he loves.” G.K. Chesterton But at times it might be necessary: At full moon, Caligula would invite the moon goddess to his bed. One night he demanded of Aulus Vitellius, “Did you not see her?” Vitellius replied, “No, only you gods can see one another.”

Vitellius would later become emperor. (In the year of the four emperors: Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian (69 AD, following Nero the Fiddler.))

First, my enemy, the close talker, was vanquished by COVID. Now, another enemy is under attack by COVID: “Loud speech can leave coronavirus in air for up to 14 minutes – study.”

Unlike the close talker, I don’t loathe the loud talker, especially younger people. But my patience for loud talkers starts to wear thin once the person reaches, say, 35 years old. After that age, you need to have an overwhelmingly charming personality to pull off … Read the rest

Trashy Tuesday

This Ain’t Hard, People

Crazy days. COVID, first grandchild, basement flood, habitual drunkenness. What’s a guy to do?

But I still have time to read tripe like this: “The last few months have laid bare the reality that, even before the pandemic hit, far too many people were living on the edge.” That’s Jamie Dimon.

Now, I don’t know if it’s tripe. If he means, “We need to eliminate government social programs that create incentives for people not to work, with the result that they live on the edge,” then I’m fine with it. If he’s suggesting that we eliminate the boondoggle that is Primary Dealer status, one enjoyed by J.P. Morgan, in order to shave cream from the upper-crust and thereby create greater equality, I’m fine with it.

But Dimon, an establishment lefty, ain’t talking about those things, I think it’s safe to say.

I think you can separate the poor into two classes: rural poor and urban poor. I can’t speak from first-hand experience with the urban poor, but it can’t be denied that (i) the Great Society created incentives not to work and to get pregnant out of wedlock, and (ii) since the Great Society, the urban poor have lots more of both. That being said, I don’t know how much opportunity is available in the inner cities, though I suspect there’s a helluva lot more than people think.

With respect to the rural poor, the same reverse incentives are in play, but I know there are plenty of opportunities. I will take any childless person and put him or her on the path to prosperity in three years with this … Read the rest

Episode 76

New Episode Released

Arthur, Alfred, and Other Kings to 1649. Medium dot Com

A quick overview of what we’ve covered in English history:

First, Rome’s conquest of southern Britain, and the withdrawal of its soldiers in 410, leaving its Roman citizens there and the native Britons to fend for themselves. During the 400s, St. Patrick went to Ireland and converted it to Christianity.

Second, the invasions and/or migration of the Germanic Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, who were probably hired by the Romano-Britons to fight the Picts and other Celtic barbarians.

Third, the conquest of much of England by the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. The resistance and King Arthur (500ish). Christianity pretty much squashed.

Fourth, Irish missionaries come to England, reconverting it to Christianity. Angles-Saxons gradually merged with the Britons.

Fifth, Vikings start invading, establishing permanent settlements. Alfred the Great breaks them, brings them to treaty, dividing England between Angles-Saxons and the Vikings, which gradually merge under one king.

Sixth, the Battle of Hastings. 1066. England becomes a French vassal state, technically. Intertwining of France and England.

Seventh, the Hundred Years War. England whipping France. Joan of Arc. Treaty in 1453.

And that’s where we are picking it up: Middle of the 1400s.

In order to finance the Hundred Years War, the English kings had to go to Parliament for money . . . Repeatedly. In exchange, Parliament kept getting more and more concessions from the kings, giving rise to the most powerful representative government in Europe. The kings’ power was greatly limited by Parliament. The kings obviously didn’t like this, but there wasn’t much they could do about it, but it would drive much of … Read the rest