Best of the Web–late May

Man pushes would-be suicide off bridge, ’cause the jerk was holding up traffic.

Chinese communists consider alliance with Catholic Church.  My brain will explode if that happens.

The reactionary Star Trek nerds at Taki’s Magazine have been having interesting discussions about the greater respect for tradition among Vulcans than among humans, and suggest several analogies among Earth cultures.

In my new book review of Mary Douglas’ Natural Symbols, you will learn, among many other things, why getting rid of Friday abstinance was a really stupid idea.

There’s more than one way to be inspiring

A while back, I was in the movie theatre.  Before the show started, we were treated to about half a dozen previews.  One of them was for a move called The Pursuit of Happyness, which, I gathered, is about a father with a (roughly) five year old son who loses his job and becomes homeless.  Then he gets into some kind of internship, works fanatically and turns out to be quite brilliant, and eventually gets a high-paying job as a stockbroker.  It looked like a pretty good movie, but I have no intention of ever seeing it.  Being a father and unable to provide as basic a thing for your child as shelter is a more horrible thing than I can imagine, and I have no desire to try.

The thing that perplexed me about the preview, though, is the voiceover going through most of it.  It kept coming back to a scene where the hero is explaining to his son that he can do anything he wants with his like, “follow your dream”, etc.  The standard hollywood inspirational speech.  Now, the funny thing was that it seemed like the writers (certainly of the preview, and probably of the movie) thought that this was the major message of the movie.  A guy had a “dream”, he “followed” it, and he succeeded.  But that’s obviously not what this movie is about, unless I’ve totally misunderstood it.  What makes the story compelling (too compelling for me, as I’ve said) is the theme of paternal love.  A man loves his son and is committed to providing for him, so he undertakes an extraordinary effort which succeeds in bringing him the means to support his family.  Now, isn’t that already inspirational enough?  Do we really need the bit about being whatever we want to be?

I notice the same thing in the classic musical The Sound of Music (which I have watched–many times).  It’s the end of the musical, and the von Trapps are making their escape over the mountains into Switzerland.  Rogers and Hammerstein (or whoever the movie producer was) need some inspirational music, so they play “Climb Every Mountain”, a song which was obviously written in anticipation of this scene.  Once again, this is a song about making all sorts of efforts “till you find your dream”.  But that’s not what’s going on here.  It was never Captain von Trapp’s “dream” to flee his homeland, leaving all his possessions and becoming an exile.  He did it because he thought the Nazis were evil and that it was his duty to God not to cooperate with them.  That’s certainly inspiring enough to me.  Why couldn’t there be a song about climbing every mountain when God and principle require it?

Bring back the James Bond formula!

I am not a fan of these new Daniel Craig movies.  It’s not just that they’re bad movies, that they’re full of tedius, mindless fight scenes and lame attempts at communist propaganda.  I don’t like them because they’ve abandoned the James Bond formula.  Ah, you say, you just don’t like things to change.  You’re like a little kid who wants to watch the same thing over and over.  Abandoning the formula, you’ll tell me, allows the writers to be creative and try new things.  Except that that’s not what happened.  When the writers stopped trying to make old-fashioned James Bond movies, they immediately started making Bourne Identity clones.  I like the formulae because I like diversity in my movies.

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Spiting the Church to Defend the Council

Let’s suppose you’re an orthodox Catholic surveying the last hundred years of Church history.  You notice that, before the Second Vatican Council, the Church seemed to be flourishing in many places–America, Quebec, Ireland–in terms of vocations, Mass attendence, clerical discipline, lay organization, etc.  Throughout the world, clergy were reliably orthodox, even to the point of martyrdom at the hands of the communists.  Then came Vatican II, and immediately afterwards, the faith and discipline of the Church collapsed everywhere, among both clergy and laity.  Now, you could say that this doesn’t prove anything, but it certainly suggests that calling the ecumenical council, at a time when there was no obvious pressing need for such an inherently disruptive act and at a time when the Church was under seige from hostile outside forces, was a big mistake.  However, orthodox Catholics generally don’t like to admit that the pope has made a mistake, even in a matter like this unrelated to faith and morals.  So they invent all sorts of reasons why, contrary to all appearances, the Church in the 1950’s was gravely sick and calling a Council was absolutely necessary.

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The Death of the Republican Party

The latest Gallop poll confirms what most of us already knew:  the GOP is in a state of free-fall disintegration, its support collapsing in all regions and among nearly all demographics. 

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Good people, bad people, and the Dumbledore fallacy

I’m sure this has happened to you many times.  You’re talking to some  nonreactionary person.  You make a statement like the following:

I think X is immoral.

to which your interlocutor responds

I don’t know.  I just can’t believe that people who engage in X (Xers) are bad people.

You see the switch, of course.

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Best of the Web, mid-May

Joseph Bottom explains why the Notre Dame controversy is so important for American Catholic culture in “At the Gates of Notre Dame“.

John McG delightfully condenses the logic of torture apologists in his “A Wedding Eve Promise“.

Is America that much different from Europe.  Peter Baldwin finds “A narrower Atlantic” than most people imagine.  Actually, he hides his main finding at the bottom:  America is basically a Scandinavian country with a small third-world country (the black underclass) tacked on.

Also on Prospect, Christopher Caldwell explains why immigration+multiculturalism = Europe is screwed.

Steve Sailer brilliantly diagnoses the forces pushing for uniform universal preschool, and where it is all headed.