July 31, 2022
Surviving the Over-Talker
Few things fill me with dread like the talker. I've been here a few times.
What always strikes me: How can this person be so oblivious? "I mean," I find myself thinking, "he's just rambling and rambling, entertaining every mental detour. Is it low IQ? Narcissism?"
This article might have a few helpful hints for dealing with the situation, but I think the hints are either limited (break in when the over-talker prepares to pause . . . when the hell does that ever happen?) or common sense: "Fabricate a reason to escape." Well, no s***. I'm the master at that. I have a robust bladder, but you'd think it's the size of an acorn given the number of times I say I need to use the bathroom.
The most helpful part of the article might be the last section: How to handle the anxiety of dealing with such a person. Anxiety at such things, I have in spades. I used to do the Judas Shuffle after Mass, just so I wouldn't get cornered in the pews. Anyway, if you avoid social situations out of dread at the over-talker, this might come in handy.
Whenever you might find yourself in that situation, Roberts suggests tuning into your breath, which can focus your mind on physical sensations and slow racing thoughts. In particular, try slowing down your breathing by inhaling while counting to four, holding your breath for four seconds, and then exhaling for four seconds, and repeating the entire exercise two to three times. “Circular breathing helps to relax and calm the nervous system,” she says.
July 30, 2022
July 29, 2022
COLA and the Drunks
COLA 2023 is now projected at 10.5%. We can only assume shrinkflation is going to continue. The phenomenon is now hitting restaurants. I experienced it last week at a restaurant when the "large" pizzas came: they were mediums, at best. I was stunned. It almost ruined my mild gin buzz and made me wonder how long it'll be until I need 4.7 shots to get the 3-shot feeling. Beer drinkers will be in a better position here. The 12-ounce can is enshrined, almost an immutable law of nature. Every phone has a calculator app that allows even the most inebriated to divide 24 cans into $24 to figure out the price per 12 ounces. The inflationary pain can't be masked.
This map says South Dakota's top export is brewing dregs. Other countries use them to feed their animals. I don't know why the U.S. doesn't use them to feed their animals and I'm not sure if South Dakota brews a ton of beer or simply has nothing else to export. Either way, I'm a bit struck and amused.
Designated Driver: A Flawed Notion
July 28, 2022
I have a sick interest in Hollywood. Such a statement flirts tautological. It'd be like saying, "I have a sick interest in sickness."
Whether my statement is true as a matter of fact or logic, it's accurate. I've read more books and lengthy articles on Hollywood than I care to admit, either here or in the next life. When everyone in my family (except son, Michael) hated Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I was puzzled. It was a great period piece: Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s come to life. Sure, a guy Cliff Booth's age wouldn't have been listening to rock-n-roll as he drove around Los Angeles (he would've been into the Rat Pack), but otherwise, I thought the movie was superb, probably because it was, you know, about Hollywood and I have that sick interest.
Anyway, if you share my illness, this piece at City Journal about one of Hollywood's many (many, many) casualties is worth checking out.
One thing I've never been able to figure out: Does Hollywood attract the wounded and then kill them off? Or does it attract normal people, then they become wounded, and then Hollywood kills them off? And if the latter, what kind of "normal" person goes to Hollywood in the first place? Or is "normal" just a setting on one's laundry machine like Erma Bombeck said?
July 27, 2022
Gimme Some Cheer
The dour impression left by the spiritual masters notwithstanding, they all seem fairly uniform in their opinion that cheerfulness is a virtue. At least the modern spiritual masters. Joy was melded to Chesterton's persona like melted wax on a candlestick base. A quiet cheerfulness pervaded Therese Lisieux's Little Way. Mother Teresa made it a staple of her thought and advice. I can't say I've seen many (any?) references to it in, say, The Philokalia or the writings of the Desert Fathers, and the great St. Jerome was a notorious curmudgeon.
But the last of the Church Fathers, John Damascene, identified cheerfulness as one of the soul's virtues and joy clearly has had a spot in the Christian tradition from Day One: the Resurrection, meriting its own chapter in Mike Aquilina's splendid little book.
Are "joy" and "cheerfulness" the same thing? I don't think so. Cheerfulness is something you put on; joy is something in your soul ("Joy is not something we can order up." P.A. Reggio). But by putting on cheerfulness, do you inculcate joy (channel Chapter Book IV.7 of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity: "Let's Pretend").
I can't say I've given it a lot of thought. This new book, however, seems like it might offer a lot of insight from the secular tradition.
July 26, 2022
Was Nock Superfluous?
Yup, but he had no moral choice.
Related to yesterday's column:
July 25, 2022
Listen to it here:
July 24, 2022
"I liked small talk, so I was a wretched sinner."
That, anyway, is how I interpreted an early chunk of St. Theresa Avila's Autobiography. I've long had an aversion to small talk, unless I'm drinking. Older people were constantly interrupting me with small talk. I remember waiting for my wheels to get rotated, the dialogues of Plato in my hand (pretentiousness, I've never lacked) and a guy came into the repair waiting room, grabbed a cup of coffee, and said, "If it's free, might as well take some." It was immediately understood that I was supposed to chit chat for the next 20 minutes. As a young father with zero free time, it was a major annoyance.
I've mellowed over the years. I no longer consider small talk the province of borderline morons who want to impose their lack of inner direction on the innocent. I sometimes do, sure, and I still have a long introverted streak that makes small talk as welcomed as Gavin McGinnes in Portland, but I've also come to respect small talk as a type of art, which is also the conclusion Joseph Epstein reaches in this 2004 Forbes essay, which, like many Epstein essays, has aged well.
This is an essay I wrote for Gilbert Magazine years ago, revised recently, mostly to make it a better "online" piece:
July 23, 2022
Another Micro-Review Essay
July 22, 2022
Illegal Vodka Pipelines
I guess they're a thing in former USSR territories. I'm not clear what constitutes "illegal vodka," but I think it's safe to assume it's merely the same thing that brought us the proto-NASCAR movement of moonshine running: excessive taxation.
July 21, 2022
What is a Paragraph?
That question has long dogged me.
When I first started writing for publication in the late 1990s, an editor told me that, traditionally, each paragraph is a separate mini-essay, but that readers' attention spans were getting so short, that it was no longer possible to publish an article with such blocks of no white space: no one would read it. He then tried to explain to me how the paragraph should work now, and I remember thinking his explanation was incoherent (and this was probably the best editor I ever worked with).
Over the years, the paragraph got shorter and shorter, until certain publications (the Sun comes to mind) reduced every paragraph to a single sentence. When I first started writing at Medium.com, the guidelines warned me that, if my paragraphs were more than, say, 50 words, the Medium curators would reject it.
So, that's where I am today: nowhere. Each paragraph should be more than a sentence and less than 50 words. It doesn't tell me much, at least not that I can logically explain.
Anyway, the history of the paragraph is explored in this essay, if you're interested in grammatical archeology.
July 19, 2022
About Existence Strikes Back
A friend and occasional TDE reader sat down with me to ask about the "Existence Strikes Back" tag. After I explained the big picture to him, he suggested that I "lay it all out" in a succinct post. The essays under that tag are interesting, he said, but they'd be better if readers had the full picture.
After thinking about it, I concluded that he's right, so:
July 18, 2022
71 Thoughts to Improve Your Thoughts
Something different for this week's Monday column.
You can listen to it here:
July 17, 2022
The Soviets Even Used Porcelain to Propel Their Propaganda
When your culture, society, and economics are built on false premises, the propaganda must relentlessly stomp out truth. If you see a parallel with today's cancel culture, you wouldn't be wrong.
July 16, 2022
July 15, 2022
July 14, 2022
Sleeping at the British Open
One of my closest friends slept at the St. Andrews Golf Course. Literally. He played golf, drank at pubs until it got late, and hadn't made overnight arrangements, so he crawled into one of the bunkers and slept there.
Many years ago, I was scheduled to go on a boat ride with a different friend, who is an avid golfer and pretty introverted. I said, "Oh, my friend Mike is coming, too." My introverted friend, who didn't know Mike and is never in the market for new friends, frowned and said, "Okay. Is he cool?" I said, "He slept in a sand trap at St. Andrews after a night of drinking."
The day went well.
Such is the allure of the great golf courses among golf fans. Well, heck, even among non-golf fans like me. I used to golf but the arrival of seven children and impatience required me to bunker it, but I respect it and have always enjoyed the four majors.
This is a good piece about St. Andrews. The gist: The technology of the game has left the course behind. It's far too easy these days . . . unless the weather sucks, which is the norm (and the charm).
July 13, 2022
Great news for bookstores: Small booksellers not only survived the pandemic, but many are thriving.
Especially good news: The bookstores aren't owned by white people. In fact, many thrive on a niche, like "girls and nonbinary people." Silly me, I thought "girl" was the disfavored half of the boy-girl binary, but that's probably my white privilege ignorance of deconstructionism.
I'd note, however, that "blacks" are mentioned seven times in the article; "whites" only once (not counting a reference to "nonwhites"). Maybe that racial binary has been reversed, which would be something no one would applaud, especially those who are funded to reverse it.
Anyway, it's good to see stories like these, no matter how ideologically crammed.
July 12, 2022
Don't Mess with Michoacan
I was the President of our local Chamber of Commerce shortly after the Clinton Administration succumbed to pressure from labor unions and greatly circumscribed the work-visa program. Our town, which has traditionally been as diverse as the Badlands of South Dakota, suddenly had a ton of Mexicans. People were concerned.
I went and talked with our town's police chief about crime concerns. He said (paraphrase):
"Public urination, driving without a license. Things like that are greatly on the increase. Serious crime? Virtually nothing, far below the serious crime rate among whites. These aren't Tijuana Mexicans."
That's how I started learning about these Mexicans in our midst. Shortly after my discussion with the police chief, one of these newcomers opened a meat market and hired me as his attorney. "Carniceria Michoacan." I asked, "Why Michoacan?" He said, "That's where I'm from. That's where we're all from."
And that's how I started learning about that far-off Mexican state that sent us a slew of these hard-working and kindly Mexicans who, far from being a problem for our community (yes, the language barrier is difficult), became a blessing.
Over the years, I've come to sense that these people have strange mettle in their blood. Kindly, respectful, occasionally almost deferential to the local whites, but it's clear: don't trifle with them or show disrespect. They'll drink you under the table, work you under the table, and pray you under the table.
A few years ago, Thaddeus Russell told listeners that Michoacan is one of his favorite places on earth and raved about the people, both now and historically, noting that their indigenous people were the only ones that the Aztecs couldn't conquer. I've heard or seen other admiring references. And now the BBC has noticed.
July 11, 2022
You can listen to it here
July 10, 2022
Something Old is Emerging in Austin
There's a new university in Texas. It raised $100 million in a heartbeat. Its premise: America's colleges and universities have surrendered their reason for existence (the pursuit of truth), so new colleges and universities need to emerge.
You see the same movement afoot in the new Great Books schools, like Wyoming Catholic College and New College Franklin. You see the same movement bolster stalwart institutions like Hillsdale College with a billion-dollar endowment (which was just $500 million a few years ago).
But this school in Texas is different. On its board and teaching positions: Bari Weiss, Deirdre McCloskey, Kathleen Stock, Peter Boghossian, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Search their names. You'll see they're hardly the personnel you'd expect to see in a Great Books college (they are, respectively, a lesbian, a transgendered, a lesbian, a new atheist, and a feminist atheist).
But they're doggedly committed to finding truth (doggedly committed to dogma, I suppose their critics would jingle it).
Call it the "third way" (intellectual movements are always looking for a "third way"): Neither Judeo-Christian nor Postmodern Leftism.
Call it a "new way," though the search for truth is older than Moses.
Or call "liberalism." It is a resurrection of classical liberalism in the vein of David Hume, Adam Smith, and Herbert Spencer.
Or call it "The Old Right," which is just another name for "classical liberalism extended into the 20th century." In this vein: Albert Jay Nock, Henry Hazlitt, and Murray Rothbard.
Or just call it "good" and "beautiful." That's what I'm doing. If it's seeking truth, it's seeking goodness and beauty. Those three sisters walk in a tight bond that can't be broken, no matter how hard our educational systems try.
Welcome, University of Austin.
July 9, 2022
The post below reminded me that I've been meaning to run this micro-review/essay:
One of the Best Micro-Biographies I've Seen
I've always enjoyed biographies. I just wish I read more of them all my life. They're an entertaining way to get steeped in historical details, as well as the area that made the subject famous.
Terry Teachout's The Skeptic: A Life of Mencken paints a picture of the United States in the 1920s, the life of a writer, and the mind of a guy who just couldn't fathom religion.
Bill Kauffman's Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Marin is a joyous romp through post-independence America and heterodox vibrant political philosophies that we've forgotten about today.
Albert Jay Nock's autobiographical Memoirs of a Superfluous Man is . . . Well, I'm not sure, such is its idiosyncrasy, but I loved it and read it twice.
And if you shorten the biographies, packing, say, twenty mini-biographies into one book? Then I'm in nerd heaven. Highly recommended in this regard: Joseph Epstein's Partial Payments, Joseph Pearce's Literary Converts, and Paul Johnson's Intellectuals.
And then once in awhile, you find a micro-biography, under 1,500 words, that is so packed with interesting (sometimes wild) facts and anecdotes that you want to recommend it to anyone with a shred of curiosity. Such is this great essay at UnHerd by Terry Eagleton about Ludwig Wittgenstein: Jewish, homosexual, a great philosopher who didn't much care for philosophy, a man who preferred cowboy movies and detective stories and who gave away his ample inheritance so he could embrace poverty.
July 8, 2022
Excellent review/essay at The Lamp about beer.
It's lengthy, but this might be the best paragraph out of it:
I still shudder at the recollection of a Washington-area brand during the late 1950s, Old German, brewed in Cumberland, Maryland, which sold at the incredibly low rate of eight bottles for a dollar. Unfortunately, it tasted as cheap as its price and, if you were forgetful enough to leave a not-quite-empty bottle of the stuff in a dark corner of the garage, attic, or basement recreation room, you sometimes found things growing out of it a few days later.
Back in college, I was the king of cheap beer. My bachelor godfather was cleaning out his basement while I was visiting him one day. The basement was, literally, piled to the ceiling with junk he'd accumulated. He told me he was throwing away everything and I could have whatever I wanted. I saw an old case of Buckhorn beer. "Even this?" I asked. He said yup and I'd probably find more cases if I dug enough. I spent a few hours crawling and digging, every 20 minutes or so emerging with a case of some nasty stuff: Red White and Blue, Falstaff, Blatz. I even rescued a case of "Beer," that generic grey-black labeled brand. When I returned to college with about ten cases packed in my car, I was a hero.
July 7, 2022
Searching for Mr. Good Tom Bombadil
Robert Foster says he may have been a maia (one of the lesser gods, along the lines of Gandalf's pre-existence in the Undying Lands) "gone native." The Complete Guide to Middle Earth. The author of In the House of Tom Bombadil thinks it might not be so simple.
Summoning Socrates and the Delphic Oracle
"In a world flooded with such new devices, it is not at all surprising to find that many people now are not even aware of any aspiration to self-knowledge beyond what may be revealed by the AppleWatch or the Fitbit."
Hey, that's not me. I use a Garmin.
July 6, 2022
Gielgud Does GKC
From the autobiography of British actor John Gielgud: "I had already made some amateur appearances. Val, Eleanor and I had got up a play with some friends with whom we were staying for the summer holidays. The performance was given in a charming studio belonging to G. K. Chesterton, and the great man himself came to see it, and delighted us all by laughing uproariously." [Early Stages, London: Hodder, 1939, 28]
It doesn't sound very sporting, unless perhaps they're young ents that can move fast (for ents).
July 5, 2022
I figure, if female aliens didn't invade earth to throw their space undergarb at Elvis, then there are no female space aliens, and if there are no female space aliens, then there are probably no male aliens (though most depictions imply that aliens are sexless . . . kinda like a woke convention in Portland).
My theory was corroborated by the new Elvis movie, which is the best film since Return of the King.
The young Michael Snellen speculates about the spate of UFO sightings these past few years. There's a neat sketch at the end, supposedly by Aleister Crowley. I didn't know the freak was into alien theories, but based on the little I know about him, nothing was too fantastical for his "thought".
July 4, 2022
Happy Fourth. Timely piece from VoegelinView:
You can listen to it here
July 3, 2022
Efficiently Enjoying the Eudemon Experience
Irving Fabricated the Flat-Earth Myth
Here's a tribute to Washington Irving. It doesn't mention that Irving fabricated the notion that the Catholic Church taught that the world was flat in order to spice up a story (and that it also discredited Catholicism . . . a bonus for the anti-Catholic Irving).
The myth of Columbus’ supposed flat earth theory is tempting: It casts the explorer’s intrepid journey in an even more daring light. Problem is, it’s completely untrue. The legend doesn’t even date from Columbus’ own lifetime. Rather, it was invented in 1828, when Washington Irving published The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. History Channel.
July 2, 2022
Steyn on Toxic Masculinity
I'm not sure why thinks American sports are unwatchable, but otherwise, it's a good 25-second screed:
Quietly hilarious, the above is the URL slug of this little piece by Niall Ferguson's wife and Joe Rogan guest, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
It includes a reference to W.F. Buckley, whose nephew is a monk in France. The nephew helps support the monastery with his paintings. I bought one years ago. I really like it, but I don't know much about art and I don't know if I like it because of the painting or because I wanted to like a painting by a monk who is also WFB's nephew. The monk, incidentally, is, I'm pretty sure, Brent Bozell's son. Bozell's story itself is really interesting. I might make him a focus of an upcoming micro-review/essay of Patrick Allit's Catholic Intellectuals & Conservative Politics in America, 1950-1985, a book that is far more riveting than its staid title would suggest. Anyway, here's a pic of that painting I bought:
Another micro-review/essay. I believe this is the twelfth in a series of a projected 100.
July 1, 2022
A Delightful Thread
Drink like a writer. Write like a drinker
This is a neat list: Seven literary pubs. The prose is a bit sophomoric ("The Eagle and Child are one of the world’s most storied literary hubs" . . . "are" . . . yikes? Did the writer let the auto-correct run wild? Did auto-write AI create this piece?) and it's annoying that the writer identifies the countries ("New York City, U.S.").
But the list itself is good and the snippets of information decent. The 7:
The Eagle and Child Pub, Oxford (Tolkien, Lewis, et al)
White Horse Tavern, NYC (Kerouac)
George Inn, London (Shakespeare and Dickens . . . not at the same time, my chronologically-beleaguered readers)
Harry's New York Bar, Paris (Lost Generation)
The Carousel Bar, New Orleans (Tennessee Williams, Faulkner)
Antico Caffè Greco, Rome (Mary Shelley, Hans Christian Andersen, Ivan Turgenev, Byron, and Keats)
Literary Cafe, St. Petersburg (Dostoyevsky and Pushkin)
Crunching crabs into whiskey
I like neither crabs nor whiskey, so it's fitting they're coming together.