Saturday, May 25, 2013
If you watch an interfaith discussion on TV, you'll notice the Protestant usually sounds more out-to-lunch than the Catholic (the Protestant probably sounds out-to-dinner too, and it's a five course meal). The Protestant is liable to blurt out many more outlandish and obscure Bible remarks than the Catholic, even if there are non-Christians on the panel. The presence of non-Protestants rarely prompts a Protestant to go meek. He's a believer, and woe to anyone who attempts to broaden the subject.
This is also typically the case in casual conversations about Christianity. Catholics are less likely to tommy-gun you with proverbs and personal revelations based on those proverbs.
Here are some reasons:
1) The Bible is full of many funky stories--Jonah and the giant fish, the parting of the Red Sea--that sound quite absurd when discussed as fact. Catholics seldom reference these funky stories, because Catholics don't read the Bible. They can't even tell you which Book describes the Red Sea incident, let alone why the water came apart, so they're less likely to mention it in the first place. Meanwhile a Baptist who attends church twice a year can usually outwit a Monsignor in the Bible trivia department. Because Protestants know the Bible and read it like it's the sports page, they have no problem telling you Jonah took a powder inside a giant fish, and that the fish wound up puking Jonah out for fear the calories would go straight to his tail.
2) Catholics aren't fundamentalists, meaning they don't believe everything in the Bible to be literal historical truth. They take some stories to be parables (Job, for instance). Therefore, even when they know the Bible, they are less likely to reference Biblical events as part of the literal historical record. This is why you don't see Catholics in the Creationist movement (probably the worst PR Christianity faces today). Many Protestants are fundamentalists, so they'll speak about Adam and Eve like they were as real as Clinton and Lewinsky.
3) Catholics believe less strongly than Protestants. Look at the Catholic-heavy states: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey. How truly Catholic do they seem to you? Even Massachusetts, the American Catholic Mecca, has long been one of the most socially liberal (social liberalism contradicts nearly all Catholic doctrine) states in the union. Rhode Island, the state with the highest percentage of Catholics, just legalized gay marriage. Contrast that with Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, where deep Protestantism is at least somewhat reflected in the culture and legal code (to the extent this can happen in modern America). And Utah...yeah, you can quickly detect who is in charge there and what they believe.
Compare Catholic politicians with Protestant ones. All politicians are reptiles, but because at least some Protestants take their faith seriously, Protestant politicians usually have to be more discrete about their constant violations of the faith. Not so true with Catholics. Look at Giuliani, the pro-choice, unfaithful divorced husband. He was pretty, pretty, pretty far from living the Catholic life, yet no one laughed when he looked into the camera and proclaimed his Catholicism. Can you picture such a thing happening in Utah? Can you imagine a self-proclaimed Mormon bringing this to a Utah podium:
"I've made no secret of my strong Mormon beliefs. True, I own a strip club, have a quintuple espresso at Starbucks each morning, and take my whiskey neat, but no one should ever doubt the sincerity of my faith."
I don't see that gentleman getting elected. There are no Mormon Nancy Pelosis.
Unsurprisingly, folks who know less about their faith, take at least some of their faith to be myth rather than fact, and who believe less fervently in their faith are less apt to bug out their eyes with cauterizing zeal at the mere mention of God. A half-believer isn't going to be as oblivious to how he sounds as someone who thinks he's going to be a pin cushion for pitchforks should he not convert that Denny's waitress to his belief system. And God help her if he asks for Coke and she says "Is Pepsi all right?"
Friday, May 24, 2013
Should you decide to read some literary fiction you need a list of BIG FORMIDABLE AUTHORS to leave OFF your list. For starters:
Joseph Conrad - Great premises undone by tin-eared writing. Hilariously, Joseph is considered a great stylist. I guest Conrad could be called a stylist, in the same way a quadruple amputee tossed on an ice rink could be called a figure skater.
William Burroughs* - If no one knew his biography, his writing would be rightly discarded. Take away his association with the Beat Movement (every Beat writer was horrid), the high profile censorship of Naked Lunch (the only time I've sided with a prosecutor), and the glamor of being a heroin addict (living as a constipated vegetable is the bee's knees), and you're left with a curmudgeon who lacked the ability to make his grouchiness engaging. It doesn't surprise me he killed his wife in a failed William Tell act. He had a knack for missing the mark.
John Updike - No one actually enjoys Updike's writing, so I'll save you the trouble of joining the others in pretending to like him.
J.D. Salinger - In this case I am using the word writer very loosely.
Samuel Beckett - Oh, those Irish existentialists with French tongues! What will they do next? Beckett seemed to believe existence is a painful mistake, and if you spend any time reading him you will find yourself agreeing.
Jorge Luis Borges - Spoiler alert: all of this stories end in boredom.
Joseph Heller - Ever imagined what it would be like if an open-mic comedian wrote an anti-war novel? Now you don't have to. Catch-22, a 400-page root canal, features a character called General Scheisskopf. Get it? Scheiss-kopf. That pain in your ribs? That's Heller's heavy-handed elbow smashing through your ribs with the world's clumsiest nudge. I'm sure giving characters names like Scheisskopf was extremely edgy back in 407 B.C., but here in A.D. land, we need a little more.
Truman Capote - His legacy is a series of commas occasionally interrupted by words.
Mark Twain - Let me guess: You tried reading him and then felt bad for not seeing what all the fuss was about? It's not your fault. You were probably corralled in Twain's direction by professors and critics who know nothing about wit, timing, or even sentence structure. If you like funny writers who are funny, consider Oscar Wilde, Ring Lardner, Evelyn Waugh, Raymond Chandler.
John Cheevers - Railing against the suburbs through the works of people like Cheevers is what suburbanites do to convince themselves they haven't bought into suburbia. And those suburbs sure are heavy, huh? Yes, living with a deck and porch are among Man's great trials. Surprising Sophocles never tackled the pathos of having a lawn.
Sylvia Plath - Irony of ironies: this icon to feminists died in an oven. That has nothing to do with her leaden writing, I just needed a pick-me-up after remembering that time I read The Bell Jar.
*For a treatment of similar themes, complete with entertainment value, try J.G. Ballard; especially his early short stories.
Monday, May 20, 2013
OK, if Obama and friends are the government, why is he denying involvement in this IRS scandal? The IRS is part of the government, and he IS the government, so doesn't that make it impossible for him not to be connected to it?
It isn't merely concern about the people at the top of government that makes people suspicious. The executors who implement and enforce those policies also generate major suspicion and concern. The government's lowlier agents are the ones most people encounter, so they probably cause more concern than the top level folks they report to.
How typical: when something happens that the President favors, the government is he and he acolytes. When something happens he wishes to deny, suddenly it is the work of "rogue agents."
The government admits rogue agents exist, but continually smears citizens who worry about them.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
I spent my 20s in such company, all because of a delusion about “making it" in comedy (I can't even write it without cringing!). A poor choice on my part. But hey, any chump who bunny hops toward a mirage deserves what he gets.
Don't know where my comedy goes from here. Do know I need to get funny again. Hope I'm haven't become permanently pretentious. If I have, hopefully I'll recognize it and quit jokes forever. I'm not cut out for confessional folk comedy, and neither are crowds that are worth entertaining.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
The NBA is almost seventy years old. If we accept that there has only been one Jordan in seven decades, it follows that we cannot reasonably expect a new Jordan every year, or every few years. Furthermore, when we say that all these "next Jordans" didn't live up to their potential because they didn't become Michael Jordan II, we are again talking nonsense. We attached a demonstrably improbable expectation to them, and then criticized them for not meeting it. "Oh, he didn't become the next guy who has only surfaced once in 2/3 of a century? Ugh, why did he even pick up a basketball?"
It is a testament to Jordan that his career spawned its own subgenre of sports analysis. Unfortunately, "expert" sports forecasts, like most other expert forecasts, have the same pleasant tone as a test of the emergency broadcast system. They are of almost no worth and on their best day provide fifth-rate PR for the sports they are discussing. Just one example of their nonexistent predictive value: when Michael Jordan came into the league, was anyone saying he was the "next Oscar Robertson" (or the first Michael Jordan)?
*We are also seeing it now in golf. Everyone is the next Tiger Woods.
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Saturday, May 4, 2013
It is strange that these two faculties seem to impress people almost equally. The talents needed for each aren't equally rare. Comparatively few can read mathematics, which is why math causes great struggles for so many. Meanwhile any literate person can at least read and recite passages from the Great Ancient Books (ever hear of someone contemplating suicide over a exam about Seneca the Younger?). The fact that people weight these two skills equally is yet more proof that most people can't do math.
It surprises me that more people don't study the Great Ancient Books so they can lay more women and bamboozle more people at parties. An unnecessary reference to the Classics is a Trojan Horse that would make Virgil proud.
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Thursday, May 2, 2013
Tuesday I had an appointment with a new physical therapist. The one I’d been seeing for 2 ½ months informed me at the end of my last session she’d be out of the country through January. The notes she’d made during my mostly ineffectual treatment were lobbed to another therapist, and my first appointment with him was primarily a questionnaire.
The spells of immobilizing fatigue are coming more often. I keep finding it necessary to rest on stairwells, to lean against walls, and to scout for places to sit, even after the mildest activity. My train station is 10 minutes from my flat. Sunday night I barely made it home, and fell through the door winded and without an ounce of strength left in my body.
I feel stronger already!