12 Rules

I’ve read and enjoyed Jordan Peterson’s book, and intend to read it again soon. Parts of it are very good; the section on listening, for example, and other parts are fun – it’s always fun to take a few swings at Rousseau. What it is not, is a book of theology or spiritual guidance. It’s more akin to the long line of practical advice books, from Poor Richard  on.  It’s not an Imitation of Christ for our time – more akin to a Norman Vincent Peale for our deteriorating culture. This is not to denigrate –  it’s a needed bracer against the sheer loopiness of our times. It’s influence might well lead one two Christianity, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about how not to mess up, or if you have, how to scrub out the mess you’ve made.

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Returning, On His Shield

I’m back, in part, more deliberately than slowly, evaluating activities before I resume them. I told a friend that it’s as if I missed two seasons, summer in a slow decline, autumn in recovery. Or recuperation. Or, putting it another way, I blinked and moved from grilling to stews. After a good start at the beginning of the gardening year, way back in February and March, soggy weather stopped things in the squelch. Now, thorns do in fact infest the ground, is Watts’ phrase that we’ll soon enough be singing. I said to her that “beating back the thorns and weeds” was a good enough description of the Christian secular life.
I’m reading an early and possibly obscure Michael Innes mystery, so early that Sir John isn’t Sir, yet, nor even a highly ranked policeman. He has a sister, whom I do not recall from other Appleby yarns. The atmosphere of the book is a little musty, a little dusty. I’m reading it while wrapped in wool and a snug comforter on the cold nights we’re having now, and the book somehow reminds me of my grandmother’s house. The book preserves, I suppose, the late 1930s atmosphere that somehow curled around her house, the hint that prosperity might be coming again, laced with the fear of war that hovered, unacknowledged by chokingly present. Vanished worlds, both.
Speaking of grandmothers, didn’t any of these men who have gotten into such trouble for being boors have any? Grandmothers were the instructors and enforcers of good manners. “Keep your eyes and hands to yourself!” “Stand up when a woman enters the room!” And so on. All washed away in the spring tides of early feminism, leaving young men confused and sometimes concussed “Do I hold the door for her or not?” All those dull old-fashioned, courtly, chivalrous manners were ways of moderating and confining the bumptiousness of male interest. All gone.
Well, having destroyed that moderating influence and replaced it with nothing, now everyone is agape at the result. Can’t imagine why.

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A List

1. Donald Trump should not be president.

2. Hillary Clinton should not be president.

3. Bernie Sanders should not be president.

A dog’s breakfast of an election. Usually there’s at least one who’s not entirely repellant. Gary? Too confused. Evan? Please.

4. Donald Trump is the president.

5. Donald Trump has made some good appointments.

6. Those good appointments are no better than those an actual conservative might have made.

7. Donald Trump is beginning to turn against those appointees.

I’m always going to be grateful for Justice Gorsuch. It was, way back then, a sign that President Trump could listen to and follow good advice. While Candidate Trump’s policies were mostly obscure, his character was not. Now, his character is coming to the fore, and there’s a real chance that the White House will become a revolving door.

Mr. Trump won the election due to (1) the sheer incompetence of Madame’s campaign and (2) a revolt against mandarin, top down, we-know-best government. He doesn’t understand that, of course.

8. Donald Trump does not have coat tails.

9. Donald Trump has no clientalia among Republicans at any level.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the Members of Congress return from recess. The more conscientious ones spend some of the time listening to their constituents.* What will they hear?

10. I have a hunch that Dame Fortuna is about to give her Wheel a mighty turn.

*This doesn’t apply if your Congressperson is an Illinois Donkocrat.

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O Altitudo

All of CSL’s The Great Divorce is glorious. The last pages, including the dialog between the Lady and the Tragedian, with George MacDonald’s running commentary, is stunning, terrifying. It illuminates, dreadfully, common human behavior. It reminds us of how cheap and low so many of our current cultural obsessions are.

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Shrinking Violet

Found these two hiding under some daylilies, themselves lurking behind a big lilac, in a shady, neglected part of the garden that I’m reclaiming this summer. I let violets go – they don’t hurt anything, and they often surprise, as the lower one of these is doing.

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When the History of 2016

is written, if it’s written, there will be no heroes nor innocent victims, just scoundrels and fools.

I’m largely in agreement with Mr. French on this. The free-speech absolutist response to bad speech is usually better speech. I admit to a itch to find some soap and a washcloth, though. There’s a difference between fame and reputation. My fellow alumnus has fame aplenty, but a little less reputation today.


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Jumble Sale

The Battle of Helm’s Deep is over; Gimli’s heart has been overthrown by the Glittering Caves; and the Riders are moving toward Isengard but are still on their way.

Some springtime pics taken yesterday:

A blue lilac getting ready to lilac all over the place, and a variegated dogwood leafing out. And Otto, being Otto.

The Benedict Option

Making slow progress, not sure about all the details, but I’m mostly in sympathy.  I might have more to say when I finish. In the meantime, it’s hardly surprising that Mrs. Clinton’s alma mater should beclown itself with this editorial from the student newspaper. “Orwellian” is overused, but might be accurate here. The author(s)(Just cause it reads as though written by a committee doesn’t mean it was) does seem to say that the purpose of post high school education is to instill Goodthink, and that those who cannot accept or conform to Goodthink must be exiled. Yes, upsetting.

While I can get away with it, A Joyous Easter to the couple of readers out there. Let sing Gloria and Te Deum. 

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The last couple of weeks dissolved in the acid bath of poor weather, people being sick and having emergencies (how dare they?), and the school schedule. The upshot is that garden clean up ceased entirely, and won’t resume until the floods recede. Spring accelerates, caring not one whit for the cooler days, the high winds, or the rain.


Lilac Buds

Last night Grishnákh met his doom. I’m looking forward to the interlude with Fangorn.


Donald Trump, who requires a very expanded definition of “Republican” to fit under that already large tent, is planning to engage in pump priming. Oh dear. With what money, I wonder.

“We’re also going to prime the pump,” he said. “You know what I mean by ‘prime the pump’? In order to get this” — the economy — “going, and going big league, and having the jobs coming in and the taxes that will be cut very substantially and the regulations that’ll be going, we’re going to have to prime the pump to some extent. In other words: Spend money to make a lot more money in the future. And that’ll happen.”

The same President Trump threatens Freedom Caucus Republicans for their opposition to a very incomplete reform/replace of ACA.

In both of these, he’s displaying the typical Progressive fondness for action, any action, and lots of it. Coolidge, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence is being laughed to scorn for taking sensible actions to protect and nourish a marriage he values. Is something wrong with that, or for realizing that men in public life are subject not only to temptation, but to innuendo, gossip, rumor, and downright lies? All this is enough to tempt me to say that it’s past time for The Benedict Option.

Beauty and the Beast

We took the granddaughter, who like it. Though she likes the Animaniacs version better. If you want to see Disney get a really good mocking, try their version of Pocahantas. Do not, I repeat, do not, watch their version of All the Colors of the Wind.

I thought the live action innocuous, mostly, and a little boring. It had amusing bits, and it was fun to guess at the origins of some of the set pieces – I detected the Act 2 scene from La Bohème, Busby Berkeley, The Sound of Music, and Singing in the Rain.  Miss Watson wasn’t encouraged to actually act, and so didn’t get much chance to do anything with what she was given. During some of the longueurs, I realized that, stripped of its older, more mythical implications, Beauty and the Beast is the same as Pride and Prejudice. We all love P & P, of course, but we didn’t need another remake, slightly transposed to pre-Revolution France. I see Disney has launched a musical version of Aladdin, something incomprehensible without Robin Williams’ manic genie. Tolkien famously disliked Disney’s versions of fairy tales for being vulgar and simple. He wasn’t just being cranky.

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Tea Time

Unexpected computer debility prevented the usual Friday outgassing. While most important files were backed up, some were not. Full speed ahead, now.

I have reached the Mines of Moria, narrowly escaping the crabby Watcher. At the Council of Elrond last week, I found this coming from Saruman:

The time of the Elves is over, but our time is at hand: the world of Men, which we must rule. But we must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see.


The Garden

Clean up got deferred for a bit, with tumultuous weather and running smack into the granddaughter’s school schedule. The kids got a four day weekend in honor of the brave  Polish Cavalryman, but no one else did. I also had to find room to store the couple of dozen lawn recycling bags I’ve filled. Here, the village recycler picks up “lawn waste” once a week, ‘pon reservation. Resumes in April. I shall advise they send an extra truck.

Beauty and the Beast

To which I’ve been looking forward to taking the granddaughter, and probably still will, but <Fr. Lonergan voice> Is this a movie or a manifesto?</Lonergan voice> Must everything affirm the zeitgeist? It’s not merely the probably trivial “gay  moment,” but turning Belle into a particular form of contemporary feminism, smart as a tack, village do-gooder, impatient with Gaston’s advances. Well enough. Let her be a woman in 3D. But must Gaston remain a cartoon of a man?  And if we must parse every moment, why, in the 2017 version, is Gaston’s apparel quite evidently military? Is Disney dissing veterans? (we’ll just leave that there to percolate for a while).

Gaston was a rude bumpkin before, owing much to Disney’s much earlier rendition of Bram Bones.   Just look.

The coat in the second image is pretty clearly regimental, a bit too elaborate for a mere bumpkin to buy for himself:

FA 18th

Gaston needn’t be all complicated and intelligent, just a simple villager caught up in the trauma of war and now trying to rebuild his life. There he is, probably suffering from  PTSD, all those arms and legs and heads, chopped off in the battle, home now, smitten with the prettiest girl in town, as who wouldn’t be, just wanting to settle down, marry, start a family. Yes, he’s a bumpkin. So? This bumpkin bashing just has to stop.

I kid of course. But more seriously, the folk tale Beauty and the Beast as we have it descends from Cupid and Psyche, as told by Apulius long ago. Probably retold. The basic story is widespread, and ancient. Part of the nature of real, unfiltered fairy stories is that they ground us in the permanent. They outline the presence of wickedness, struggle, loss, and triumph. Scraping off and repainting the stories to satisfy current notions reduces the story rather than augmenting. Oh, go read Tolkien, On Fairy Stories. Or (and) watch the Animaniacs version.  Yes. Definitely watch the Animaniacs.

Some Words about Words

Besides my slow reading of The Lord of the Rings, the granddaughter and I are making our way through Narnia, which she loves. We began with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at Christmas, went on to Prince Caspian and Voyage, and just finished Magician’s Nephew. She identified very strongly with Lucy Pevensie right away, but I’ll save The Last Battle for last. Not sure where we’ll go after Narnia; Green Gables, maybe, at least a few, before visiting Hobbiton and the Lonely Mountain over the summer.

I’ve been making my way through Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic.   He spends some time on the issue of Nostalgia as a factor in politics, an extremely intriguing notion. He seems to be suggesting, for example, that conservatives are affected by nostalgia for the 1950s, and for the Age of Reagan, while liberal progressives are affected by nostalgia for th New Deal, and the Age of Protests, if I may lump together the Civil Rights movements of and the Viet Nam War protests. Neither nostalgia, he suggests, provides effective models for dealing with our current challenges. He suggests that times of extreme individualism lead to very strong centralizing forces. Lots to think about here.

Next up, Steven Hayward’s Patriotism is Not Enough. And after that, The Benedict Option.

My church is reading Fleming Rutledge’s Crucifixion for Lent. Or a part of it.It’s a mighty long book. I’m trying to read it in parallel with N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, covering the same material. Not sure there are enough hours.

Oh yeah, and Dandelion Wine, too. Haven’t read it since 7th grade. I was reading lots of Bradbury then, Golden Apples, R is for Rocket, Illustrated Man, the Martian Chronicles, October Country. But I didn’t get Dandelion Wine at all.

Here and There

Toward the end of Stephen Hayward’s post on Powerline there’s an interesting graph about the content of the late presidential campaigns. From this low person’s standpoint, it was as  if two lizard-people were running for the job. One said, “Yeah, I’m a Lizard, but here’s what I’m gonna do and it’s gonna be GREAT!” And the other said, “I am not nor have I ever been a Lizard.”

And Jonah Goldberg is honked off,but amusingly. And I fear accurately.

And there are rumors that this Selection Sunday may be unique. If it doesn’t quite work out, NU alumni may be distressed.


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Table Talk February 24, 2017

About half way through the Council of Elrond, moving slowly. My first readings echo. I think I first became aware of this book when I saw the Ace edition at the check out line in a Kresge’s store, so 1965. I was 15. I was unimpressed; the cover and blurb somehow connected with ‘hollow earth’ stuff. I don’t know how. I was reading a lot of C.S. Lewis at the time, but had no idea of his connection with Tolkien, and didn’t for some years. Later, in late 1965 or 1966, I saw the Ballantine paperbacks, gave it a go, and fell into Middle Earth. I had asthma rather badly then, not out of control but enough to restrict my activity; I was reading Lewis, Tolkien, and Dorothy Sayers all at the same time, without a clue of their connections.

Winter Bouquet

I’m thinking about witch-hazel. A few years ago, when we had winter, the polar vortex crushed the life out of a robust little bamboo (little meaning, 5 feet high and equally broad) that served to screen what we call the patio from the alley. The bamboo was evergreen, and didn’t like the 45 feet or so of snow that fell on it that winter. And stayed, and stayed. And froze. So the bamboo called it quits, and I’ve been wondering what to replace it with. Witch-hazel might work, and would go well with the two small dogwoods and the small potted japanese maple back there. Maybe this one.

I’m thinking of Meyer lilacs, too, a couple of them, to fill a perpetually bare spot in the front under the hedge. They’d perfume the neighborhood for a month, about. I’m not sure that there’s enough light. I shall think on’t. The “Palibin” cultivar is said to tolerate some shade, and “some” is what it would get there. I’d put a mixed drift of scilla and snowdrops under them, and maybe move some hosta that are overdue for division. The hosta would have to live in pots until fall when I can plant the wee spring bulbs. It’s a tediously awful and bare spot. Not even thorns infest that ground.

The Echo Chamber

I always have to begin this sort of comment with “I was and remain #nevertrump.”Nonetheless, I wish Mr. Trump well in his presidency: for which I think he’s remarkably ill-prepared.

So a local TV sports person has gotten himself suspended after crawling into the twitter echo chamber. Some norts spews guy in Toronto tweets ““Donald Trump: a hateful ignorant corrupt simpleton supported by 87% of Republicans.” Our local guy, a 1 per center who hasn’t bothered to vote since before 2010, just has to join the chorus, tweeting out, “So obvious, so disturbing. America exposed as a country full of simpletons who allowed this cartoon to be ‘elected.” And gets suspended. Without pay.

1.If you are in the biz of selling a product to the masses, don’t let them know you think they are simpletons.
2. If you work in the mass media, don’t feed Mr. Trump’s antagonism to your profession. Your animosity gives credence to his attacks. He wants to provoke you. Don’t give him the pleasure.
3. Doesn’t anyone realize how dangerous it is to make anyone, anyone at all, an authorized object of hate? Much less, a president?

As the Psalmist reminds us, “Leave off from wrath, and let go displeasure; fret not yourself, else shalt thou be moved to do evil.”

Speaking of the Press

Of course it’s partisan. Always has been. Most newspapers were founded to get out a viewpoint and opinion: let’s say, abolition. The wrongness comes from pretending to be neutral.

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