Saturday, 5/10/14

    1. What censors miss
    2. TED for Evangelicals
    3. Children’s verse or straight reportage?
    4. #BringBackOurGirls
    5. What ‘00s Boy Band are you?
    6. The seasons of life

1

Writing when movies were still censored, Richard Weaver saw through to censorship’s hollow core. No, it’s not what you probably think:

[W]hat the public is reconciled to seeing censored are just the little breaches of decorum which fret bourgeois respectability and sense of security. The truth is that these are so far removed from the heart of the problem that they could well be ignored. The thing that needs to be censored is not the length of the kisses but the egotistic, selfish, and self-flaunting hero; not the relative proportion of undraped breast but the flippant, vacuous-minded, and also egotistic heroine. Let us not worry about the jokes of dubious propriety; let us rather object to the whole story, with its complacent assertion of the virtues of materialist society.

I was going to leave it at that, and I feel a bit as if what follows is anticlimactic, but as luck would have it, I soon encountered a nice example of a totally current version of this.

Purveyor of Right Outrage Porn Glenn Beck was trolling for outrage that HGTV had nixed the Benham brothers (I did not and do not know them), whose do-it-yourself program was to debut on HGTV this fall. But the crypto-fascists purveyors of Left Outrage Porn caught wind of it and found ginned up some alleged Christianist smut from Benhams or their father. (And, yes, Rod Dreher joined in the Outrage Porn fun.)

Why would I bring this up? Well, can you think of any relationship between HGTV and “complacent assertion of the virtues of materialist society”?

The Benham boys are incidentals. HGTV’s promotion of unrealistic domestic architectural standards and the use of debt to acquire them is “the whole story” that deserves objection, even if the Benham brothers’ schtick was a sort of Queen for a Day version.

2

I’ve suspected that I’m losing touch with pop culture (I’ve never watched Mad Men, even), and especially Evangelical culture, and now I know ’tis true, as I’d never heard of “Q.”

It sounds to me as if the best description of Q is “TED for Evangelicals.”  After a run-down, John Murdock tries to make sense of it:

Eventually, Q will need to address the culture’s unavoidable fault lines as well as its own complicated (and sometimes contradictory) relationships with consumerism and relativism. Are we as Christians called to simplicity or the cutting edge? Is the “buy one give one” model of major Q sponsor TOMS really making the world a better place or just giving us license to make our closets a fuller place? When does expressing kindness towards homosexuals and others who feel marginalized by the church slide into the santioning of sin? Does serving the common good ever require taking stands that, in a warped culture, are no longer commonly seen as good? “We’re not all like that!” only goes so far as a rallying cry.

Or in Richard Weaver terms, perhaps, “let us rather object to the whole story, with its complacent assertion of the virtues of materialist society.”

3

Friday’s Writer’s Almanac has some public domain anonymous children’s verse. I knew them all, or slight variants, except this one:

Early one morning, late at night,
Two dead boys went out for a fight.
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf policeman heard their noise,
And came and shot the two dead boys.
If you don’t believe this lie is true,
Go ask the blind man, he saw it, too.

After seconds and seconds of laborious research sheer speculation, I think I this actually is a news report from a small-market TV station I’ve been known to watch.

4

I suppose this can’t do any harm, but I don’t get the feeling that Boko Haram is very sensitive to public opinion.

#BringBackOurGirls
#BringBackOurGirls

The kidnapping of the schoolgirls throws into bold relief a central part of what the jihadists are about: the oppression of women. Boko Haram sincerely believes that girls are better off enslaved than educated. The terrorists’ mission is no different from that of the Taliban assassin who shot and nearly killed 15-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai—as she rode a school bus home in 2012—because she advocated girls’ education. As I know from experience, nothing is more anathema to the jihadists than equal and educated women.

How to explain this phenomenon to baffled Westerners, who these days seem more eager to smear the critics of jihadism as “Islamophobes” than to stand up for women’s most basic rights? Where are the Muslim college-student organizations denouncing Boko Haram? Where is the outrage during Friday prayers? These girls’ lives deserve more than a Twitter hashtag protest.

(Ayaan Hirsi Ali)

No, I don’t think Ms. Ali has “the answer.” Evil doesn’t have an “answer.”

5

Strangely enough, those who complain the loudest of the emptiness in their lives are usually people whose lives are overcrowded, filled with trivial details, plans, desires, ambitions, unsatisfied cravings for passing pleasures, doubts, anxieties, and fears; and these sometimes further overlaid with exhausting pleasures which are an attempt and always a futile attempt, to forget how pointless people’s lives are. Those who complain in these circumstances of the emptiness if their lives are usually afraid to allow space or silence or pause in their lives … They dread silence, because they do not want to hear their own pulses beating out the seconds of their life, and to know each beat is the knock on the door of death.

(Caryll Houselander quoted by Marina Olson in Solitude in the Brave New World at Ethika Politika)

I am not knocking on the internet. I take my guitar lessons there, I blog there, I take courses there. But I also wasted time on Tumblr last night. (After figuring out What Random Thing Are You?) Yet I fell asleep without the time to say my rosary. God knows better. If we note where and how we use our time, we are more likely to use it well.

I suspect in Heaven, we won’t need to know What ‘00s Boy Band we are ….

(Ms. Olson)

6

I sometimes wonder whether the seasons of life don’t make it all but impossible for a young person with broadband not to discover and share “what ‘00s Boy Band are you?,” and for geezers to marvel at the vanity of it all.

There’s truth in a frequent throw-away line by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, that goes something like “I’ve only got a few years left, and I must focus.”

Me, too. Not many years ago, I said NPR made me feel smarter while most broadcast news was insulting and stultifying. I’ve changed my mind about NPR.

NPR isn’t insulting and stultifying, but it’s a distraction from the most important things in life, or at least the most important things for a geezer who’s lived out 2/3 or more of this life and needs to get readier for the next one.

Can a young man not think about sex? Can an aging man (at least one that doesn’t use hallucinogens like Viagra) not think about death?

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.