Friday, September 24, 2021

"Spoiled with praise and...spoiled with abuse"

Today the Wall Street Journal has a review of a new edition of The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge. I've ordered it. From Barton Swaim's review:
.... Coolidge takes two of the book’s seven chapters to recall his 512 years as president. “It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country,” he writes, “for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions.” ....

“I was convinced in my own mind that I was not qualified to fill the exalted office of President,” he recalls. Harding died in 1923, making Coolidge president. He won the presidency in his own right in 1924, taking a majority of the popular vote against two opponents—Democrat John W. Davis and Progressive Robert LaFollette—while hardly mentioning either by name.

Republicans expected him to run again in 1928, but he declined. Vacationing in South Dakota the year before, he issued a terse statement: “I do not choose to run for President in 1928.” Why? Because, as he puts it in the Autobiography, “the people would not have confidence in a man that appeared to be grasping for office”—if only!—and in any case “the chances of having wise and faithful public service are increased by a change in the Presidential office after a moderate length of time.” ....

The myth of Silent Cal is loosely connected to truth. The most famous story of his taciturnity—at a dinner, a woman told him she’d bet a friend that she could get more than two words out of the president, to which he replied, “You lose”—is likely an invention. But he was parsimonious with words. In the Autobiography he writes of “the value of a silence which avoids creating a situation where one would otherwise not exist.”

Coolidge’s reticence was not a sign of dullness. He had a gift for perceiving the heart of a political question and expressing what he saw in clear, direct prose. ....

The book’s finest passage appears in its penultimate chapter, mundanely titled “Some of the Duties of the President.” The president must remember at all times, he writes, that he is “dealing with two different minds.” The first is the “mind of the country,” desiring the nation’s welfare but remaining “unorganized, formless, and inarticulate.” The other is the “political mind”: “a strange mixture of vanity and timidity, of an obsequious attitude at one time and a delusion of grandeur at another time, of the most selfish preferment combined with the most sacrificing patriotism. The political mind is the product of men in public life who have been twice spoiled. They have been spoiled with praise and they have been spoiled with abuse. With them nothing is natural, everything is artificial.” .... (more, probably behind a subscription wall)
"‘The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge’ Review: Quiet, Modest, Memorable"

Thursday, September 23, 2021

"There is light even in the darkest hour"

Worth re-posting:
We have already seen that in Jesus we have seen the mind of God, and that mind is love. If then we say that the Word was active in creation it means that creation is the product of the mind of God which we see in Jesus Christ. This means that the same love which redeemed us created the world, that love is the principle of creation as love is the principle of redemption. There is a time in life when this may seem simply a theological or philosophical truth; but there is also a time in life when it is the only thing in life left to hold on to. There is a time when life and the world seem quite clearly to be an enemy, when life seems out to break our hearts, to ruin our dreams, and to smash our lives. There comes a time when we seem to be living in a hostile universe. At such a time it is the greatest thing in life, sometimes it is the only thing left, to be able to cling on to the conviction that 'life means intensely and it means good.' For if we believe that it was this mind of God in Jesus Christ which conceived and created the universe then it does mean that, whatever it feels like, God is working all things together for good, and the world is out not to break us but to make us. If the Christ of creation and the Christ of redemption are one and the same, then there is light even in the darkest hour.

Jesus is the Word. He is God's ultimate and final communication to men; he is the demonstration to men of the mind of God towards them; he is the guarantee that at the heart of creation there is love.
William Barclay, Jesus as They Saw Him, 1962.
"Life means intensely and it means good" is a quotation from Robert Browning

Sunday, September 19, 2021


I haven't read Frank Herbert’s Dune. I was never much of a consumer of science fiction, or fantasy either, apart from LOTR. A new film adaptation of Dune will come out next month and in anticipation the current National Review has an essay in appreciation of the book hoping that the film will be as good. From the essay:
In a 1980 essay describing the origin of Dune, Herbert wrote that the story emerged out of his belief that “superheroes are disastrous for humankind” and that “even if we find a real hero (whatever — or whoever — that may be), eventually fallible mortals take over the power structure that always comes into being around such a leader.” And in a 1981 interview, he claimed that “there is definitely an implicit warning” in much of his work “against big government and especially against charismatic leaders,” because “such people — well-intentioned or not — are human beings who will make human mistakes.” Paul Atreides is not a model but a warning about the dangers of false messiahs, of trusting overly in charismatic leaders, and of mixing politics and religion. As it is put in Dune:
When religion and politics travel in the same cart, the riders believe nothing can stand in their way. Their movements become headlong — faster and faster and faster. They put aside all thoughts of obstacles and forget the precipice does not show itself to the man in a blind rush until it’s too late.
Jack Butler, "Will Denis Villeneuve Capture the Greatness of Dune?," National Review, Oct. 4, 2021.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Esperanto for measurement

I love this:
The British government has announced that U.K. businesses will once again be allowed to sell their products in traditional, British units of measurement, like pounds and ounces, instead of the metric system.

This move is a win for freedom-loving people everywhere, and the restoration of customary units should be a cause for jubilation in the streets.

The metric system has its origins in the French Revolution....

The French Revolution was a time when men were, in the words of Edmund Burke, “pull[ing] down more in half an hour, than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in an hundred years.” The top-down imposition of the metric system did just that by erasing customary units.

By “customary units,” I don’t just mean the U.S. customary system, but any unit of measure derived through custom. If you read about the origins of customary units, you’ll find that many of them are based on specific occupations, like brewing, farming, and surveying. They were invented by people doing their jobs who needed a way to measure things. They developed units of measure that were useful to them and persuaded others to adopt them for ease of commerce. Customary units eventually became standardized through a bottom-up process. They represent the wisdom of our ancestors, the accumulated experiences over the centuries. ....

As Burke said, “it calls for little ability” to point out “the errors and defects of old establishments.” Indeed, it calls for little ability to say, “Base-ten would be easier.” Never mind that we tell time on a non-base-ten system and it works just fine. It’s not for lack of trying other systems, either: The French tried a ten-day week and ten-hour days for a while, but it didn’t stick.

Or consider that the computer or smartphone on which you’re reading this post measures information in bits, a base-two customary unit derived from the days of punch cards and vacuum tubes. And there’s eight bits in a byte, oh no! ....

The metric system is Esperanto for measurement, except many more people have been seduced by its scientistic allure. The metric system is based on the utopian idea that everything old is bad, and that humans have the power to create a better world by severing all ties with custom and tradition and imposing contrived, rationalistic systems on people, whether they like it or not.

By allowing customary units again, the British are striking a blow against that nonsensical and destructive worldview. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with a cold drink — from a twelve-ounce can. (more)
"Britain Delivers a Welcome Blow to the Metric System"

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A guilty pleasure

I enjoy Robert Mitchum in just about every thing he did. His villainous roles in Cape Fear (1962) and The Night of the Hunter (1955) may have been his best, but I particularly enjoy some of the films noir he did earlier, films like Macao (1952) and The Big Steal (1949) in both of which his antagonist was William Bendix. Tonight I watched one of my favorites, His Kind of Woman (1951). It was produced while Howard Hughes controlled RKO. Raymond Burr was a villain. Jane Russell was the woman. And Vincent Price in a great role.

The Rotten Tomatoes description:
In a desperate attempt to get out of debt, career gambler Dan Milner (Robert Mitchum) agrees to rendezvous with a mysterious contact at a distant Mexican resort in exchange for $50,000. Upon arriving, Milner meets his fellow guests, including a plastic surgeon, a philandering movie star (Vincent Price) and his beautiful girlfriend (Jane Russell). Soon Milner discovers that the man who hired him may be the ruthless Nick Ferraro — a deported Italian gangster who looks just like him.
The film is about two hours and is available on Amazon Prime.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

September 11

After 9/11 in 2001, at the Queen's request, breaking centuries of tradition, the American national anthem was performed at the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. This morning at Windsor Castle where the Queen is in residence:

Friday, September 10, 2021

Questions that really matter

I enjoyed reading Daniel Idfresne's "I'm 17. And I'm Immunized from Woke Politics." His closing paragraphs:
Here is the main thing I have learned:

When acceptance is the highest value, when avoiding condemnation online is worth more than the truth, the truth will be swiftly discarded. Online likes, followers and reputation — weak, empty values — dominate the teenage world because teenagers are not being taught alternative ones by the culture or, often, by the adults in their lives. They — we — are not being given the tools to answer the questions that really matter: What is truth? What is justice? And what is the purpose of life?

My generation’s been told that truth or justice are merely assertions of power. Except here’s the thing: The square root of 64 is 8, the Moon is nearly 239,000 miles from the Earth, and you do not need to believe in God to see that goodwill is a force for positive change. Believing in that is the ultimate immunization against nihilism.
Common Sense with Bari Weiss, "I'm 17. And I'm Immunized from Woke Politics"

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Uncle Abner

In a post about early American detective fiction, "The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes," comes one I've posted about before:
Arguably the most original of all the American detectives of this period, Uncle Abner was the creation of the lawyer and author Melville Davisson Post. Post’s God-fearing hero appeared in 22 stories, written between 1911 and 1928. Riding through the backwoods of West Virginia in the years before the American Civil War, he dispenses justice and wisdom under the admiring gaze of the narrator, his young nephew Martin. Although largely forgotten today, the Uncle Abner stories have had many admirers over the years since their first publication. In 1941, Howard Haycraft, one of the first literary critics to take crime fiction seriously, called Post’s character ‘the greatest American contribution’ to the cast list of detective fiction since Poe’s C Auguste Dupin.
Post's dedication in Uncle Abner: Master of Mysteries:

Monday, September 6, 2021

On Labor Day


On this Labor Day, I re-post part of a 1942 address by Dorothy L. Sayers: "Why Work?" (pdf):
I HAVE already, on a previous occasion, spoken at some length on the subject of Work and Vocation. What I urged then was a thorough-going revolution in our whole attitude to work. I asked that it should be looked upon—not as a necessary drudgery to be undergone for the purpose of making money, but as a way of life in which the nature of man should find its proper exercise and delight and so fulfill itself to the glory of God. That it should, in fact, be thought of as a creative activity undertaken for the love of the work itself; and that man, made in God's image, should make things, as God makes them, for the sake of doing well a thing that is well worth doing. ....

It is the business of the Church to recognize that the secular vocation, as such, is sacred. Christian people, and particularly perhaps the Christian clergy, must get it firmly into their heads that when a man or woman is called to a particular job of secular work, that is as true a vocation as though he or she were called to specifically religious work. .... It is not right for her to acquiesce in the notion that a man's life is divided into the time he spends on his work and the time he spends in serving God. He must be able to serve God in his work, and the work itself must be accepted and respected as the medium of divine creation. ....

Where we have become confused is in mixing up the ends to which our work is put with the way in which the work is done. The end of the work will be decided by our religious outlook: as we are so we make. It is the business of religion to make us Christian people, and then our work will naturally be turned to Christian ends, because our work is the expression of ourselves. But the way in which the work is done is governed by no sanction except the good of the work itself; and religion has no direct connexion with that, except to insist that the workman should be free to do his work well according to its own integrity. ....
Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos?" Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1949, pp. 46-62.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

"Though we walk through the valley of the shadow..."

I first posted this prayer in the Spring of last year.

From Jeremy Taylor: a prayer "for all that lie under the rod of war, famine, pestilence." 
O Lord God Almighty, Thou art our Father, we are Thy children. Let health and peace be within our dwellings; let righteousness and holiness dwell for ever in our hearts, and be expressed in all our actions. O merciful God, say unto the destroying angel, 'It is enough'; let Thy hand cover Thy servants and hide us from the present anger; that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we may fear no evil, and suffer none. Those smitten, support with Thy staff, and visit them with Thy mercies and salvation, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jeremy Taylor, The Role and Exercises of Holy Living, 1650-51.

Never unprepared

Thou, who with thine own mouth hast told us that at midnight the bridegroom shall come: Grant that the cry, "The bridegroom cometh!" may sound evermore in our ears, that so we be never unprepared to meet Him, or forgetful of the souls for whom he died, for whom we watch and pray. And save us, O Lord. Amen.
Lancelot Andrewes (1555 – 1626)

Saturday, September 4, 2021

"Putting away all earthly anxieties..."


Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer, 2019, ACNA.

Friday, September 3, 2021


I haven't posted here for over a week. I try every day to find something interesting to post — at least interesting to me. I apologize to everyone who follows the blog. I simply haven't discovered material I particularly wanted to share. Back soon with good findings I hope.