Sunday, April 30, 2023

A news diet?

My interest in politics started when I was very young. I've participated in it, and taught about it, most of my adult life. So I follow the news. I once subscribed to, and read, Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report every week, and both local newspapers daily. I still subscribe to The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Telegraph (UK). The evening news, both local and national, once ordered my day. The advent of twenty-four hour news channels and internet outlets didn't help. So this is advice I should follow but probably won't:
The “news diet” part is fairly easy for me, and I’ve been doing it for maybe 2 or 3 years now. I barely read anything these days without cause. Before I read, I do a 1-second mental check and ask myself—do I need to read this? Do I want to read this? The answer to the former is almost always no. And then I move on to wanting. ....

What’s harder for me than merely not following the news is caring less about politics. In some sense, unfortunately, politics is a big part of my life. I mean, after all, I’m a political scientist. It’s not like I have a choice in the matter. But I do believe that life is elsewhere. Where exactly is elsewhere?

Here’s how I put it in the piece, with the important part bolded:
Unless you have a job that requires you to know things, however, it’s unclear what the news—good or bad—actually does for you, beyond making you aware of things you have no real control over. Most of the things we could know are a distraction from the most important things that we already know: family, faith, friendship, and community. If our time on Earth is finite—on average, we have only about 4,000 weeks—we should choose wisely what to do with it.
Family, faith, friendship, and community: the core four. We all sort of intuitively know this to be true. These are the things that matter. These are also the things that make us happy. ....
Shadi Hamid, "How to Break Up With The News," March 25, 2023.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Own it

A post at NRO explains why I will always buy DVDs and books and CDs:
Always buy your favorite movies or television series in physical media. To rely upon streaming services is to be prey to the whims of vast, impersonal corporations whose profit calculations (or internal political oscillations) will inevitably triumph over any considerations of art or authenticity. Your favorite movie may be edited! It may be altered by CGI against your wishes. It may simply be suppressed altogether. And you will have no recourse. For lovers of the art of cinema and television, remember this above all else: If you rely upon an umbilical connection to the internet to provide you with something, you do not truly own it, and never did.
Jeff Blehar, "Steven Spielberg Regrets Adulterating Steven Spielberg’s Legacy," NRO, April 26, 2023.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

"On the wings of a snow-white dove..."

Remember, O Lord, Thy tender mercies and Thy loving kindnesses;
for they have been ever of old.

Last night I re-watched one of my favorite films, Tender Mercies (1983). I just received the Blu-ray and was glad to discover it didn't conclude with the mawkish song over the end credits spoiling the mood with sentimentality. Horton Foote wrote the screenplay. He also wrote Trip to Bountiful, another favorite of mine, and, of course, the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird. What is Tender Mercies about? It's title tells what it is about.

Roger Ebert:
Horton Foote won his second Academy Award for this screenplay. His first was for To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), for which he recommended Duvall for his first screen role, and he also wrote their wonderful Tomorrow in 1972. He died at 92 in March 2009. Above all a great playwright, he could hardly write a false note. The down-to-earth quality of his characters drew attention away from his minimalist storytelling; all the frills were stripped away. When interesting people have little to say, we watch the body language, listen to the notes in their voices. Rarely does a movie elaborate less and explain more than Tender Mercies. ....
Janet Maslin:
Tender Mercies highlights Mr. Duvall, who is so thoroughly transformed into Mac that he even walks with a Texan's rolling gait, but it also features some superb supporting performances. Ellen Barkin, who was so good as the young wife in Diner, is even better as Mac's spoiled and troubled daughter, and Miss Harper brings a beautifully understated dignity to the role of a new wife.... Wilford Brimley is solid and durable as a music-business functionary, and Allen Hubbard does a convincing job as Rosa Lee's young son, whose father died in Vietnam. ....

Sunday, April 23, 2023


Yesterday I came across "20+ Types of Baptists Explained" on YouTube. The video is only twelve minutes long so the explanations are necessarily brief. I belong to one of the smaller, albeit older, Baptist denominations, and was curious about whether we would appear. We did.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Vain repetition

I originally posted this YouTube video about ten years ago. That post recently appeared among the "Popular Posts" in the right-hand column. Churches in my denomination don't include a creedal recitation as a part of our worship. It could be a good thing to do since doing so reminds us of orthodox doctrine. I recall a conversation with a Lutheran friend — Lutherans do typically include this Creed — who indicated disbelief in the divinity of Christ. I asked if he repeated the Creed, asserting his belief, without meaning what he was saying. That's what this is about:

Thursday, April 20, 2023

"There is always something"

Michael Dirda, one of my favorite book reviewers, has returned after a lengthy "spring break" during which he was not exactly relaxing. Something he wrote yesterday is related to the recent debates about "updating" books:
.... Back around 2016, I signed a contract for an appreciation of popular fiction in Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries — and badly miscalculated how much time the project would take. Moreover, writing the book grew unexpectedly tricky because several of the authors occasionally employed language or displayed attitudes that were, shall we say, of their period. Nonetheless, H. Rider Haggard, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Nesbit, H.G. Wells, Baroness Orczy, G.K. Chesterton, John Buchan, Rafael Sabatini and even Sax Rohmer, among a score of others, were — and are — thrilling storytellers, as well as the founders of our modern genre literatures. That’s why they deserve rediscovery and nuanced appreciation, despite their faults. Besides, if you live awhile and read a lot of history and literature, you come to recognize a harsh truth memorably enunciated in Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. When Willie Stark wants to dig up dirt on a famously upright judge, he tells an incredulous Jack Burden: “Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. There is always something.”
Michael Dirda, "Vacation’s all I ever wanted. But books were all the escape I needed," The Washington Post, April 19, 2023.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

“We acknowledge the Court’s rulings..."

I don't watch cable (or network) news much, but I do watch Bret Baier's Special Report (5:00 pm CST) on Fox News most days. I intentionally avoid Fox's evening opinion programming (Jesse Watters, Tucker Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham). (I avoid MSNBC, too.) That kind of programming seems to have been what made necessary Fox's $787 million dollar settlement with Dominion yesterday. National Review's Jim Geraghty drew some conclusions:
One: There can be catastrophic financial consequences for adopting and repeating the lies of the former president.

If you choose to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen, you must also believe that there is a compelling pile of verifiable evidence that, for some inexplicable reason, was never presented by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in its myriad post-election lawsuits in November and December 2020. Furthermore, you must believe that when facing a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion, Fox News never presented any of this evidence as a defense in this defamation lawsuit. Truth, or substantial truth, is an absolute defense in a defamation case.

If you choose to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen, you must believe Fox News agreed to pay $787.5 million to Dominion in a settlement, rather than present any of that evidence. You must believe that Fox News had a quick and easy way to win this lawsuit and simply refused to use it — even though the news distributor had more than 700 million good reasons to point to this evidence, if it existed.

But Fox News did not present that evidence; in fact, Fox Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch said under oath that he believes the 2020 presidential election was free, fair, and not stolen. Fox News did not present any evidence contending that the 2020 presidential election was not stolen, because the 2020 presidential election was not stolen, and there is no compelling evidence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. Period, full stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Some of you might be thinking, “That’s not much of a hard lesson.” No, the hard lesson is that a CNN poll last month asked 1,045 Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, “Thinking about the results of the 2020 presidential election, do you think that Joe Biden legitimately won enough votes to win the presidency, or not?” The survey found just 37 percent of these Republicans or Republican-leaning independents believe that Biden legitimately won; 63 percent believe “Biden did not legitimately win enough votes to win the presidency.” ....

This is going to make covering former president Trump potentially litigious matter going forward, as Trump is unlikely to ever back down from his conspiracy theories and could repeat his false and defamatory claims about any of the voting-machine companies at any time. Any television network covering Trump will feel a need to push back against those claims, early and often, and on-air. .... (more)
Geraghty notes:
...[I]t wasn’t Bret Baier, Dana Perino, or Howard Kurtz who got Fox News in trouble. In fact, the network’s news division and reporters are barely mentioned at all in the Dominion lawsuit. The news division, by and large, exercised appropriate skepticism about the lack of evidence for the outrageous claims of Giuliani and Powell. No, it was the prime-time opinion hosts — some would call them the “entertainment” hosts — who turned their studios into platforms for Trump-campaign surrogates to offer every nutty conspiracy theory they could think of, with minimal pushback or skepticism. ....

A loose-cannon host who is unpredictable and capable of saying anything — and Fox News is not the only network with on-air talent who fits this description — can end up costing his network hundreds of millions of dollars. .... The cost-benefit analysis of cable-news personalities is about to change — and the market for “you never know what he’s going to say next” is about to crash. ....
Jim Geraghty, "Three Hard Lessons from the Dominion Defamation Lawsuit against Fox," NRO, April 19, 2023.

Monday, April 17, 2023

"I had assumed that what I was reading was what the authors had written"

More on "updated versions":
...[I]t simply didn’t cross my mind, as a normal book buyer, that publishers might in fact regard their authors’ texts as so much raw material, to amend at will. In my desperate sunny optimism, I had assumed that what I was reading was what the authors had written. I suppose we’ll have to abandon that premise now.

But it turns out that the expurgation is more pervasive than we thought: Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie have been amended to take account of current sensitivities too. As for John Buchan, the only chance he has of being left well alone is that Penguin simply hasn’t got round to reading his stuff. There’s a reference to, I think, ‘a dirty Jew’ in one of the Richard Hannay novels; as for Prester John, let’s just hope that Penguin doesn’t realise it’s one of theirs and still in print. In fact, by the time you’d removed all the offensive stuff in it, there wouldn’t be much left.

It’s come to something that, whenever you read older authors, you worry in case they fall into the wrong hands. GK Chesterton’s novels are littered with throwaway references to minstrels and blackface, which were – written as they were 100 years ago or so – intended without malice, but which would get short shrift in a modern edition. Yet that’s the thing about novels; they are of their time. And it’s precisely because they’re of their time that they’re interesting (emphasis added).

It was always one of the problems with Kindle that its texts were potentially amendable. But printed books had seemed a safer bet. Not now. ....

...[N]ow that we know that authors may be amended at will by publishers, especially those whose estates do not put up enough of a fight, there’s only one way to go: second hand. If you want to know that you’re actually reading what an author wrote, eschew modern editions, and seek out used copies of the work – I’d go back a decade or so. The books themselves will probably look nicer and be much cheaper. But the great thing is that you’ll be reading what the author intended, not what the publisher thinks you should be reading. There’s a difference. And if it means that the publishers concerned are that tiny bit less profitable, well, we can live with that too.
Melanie McDonagh, "The trouble with censoring Jeeves and Wooster," The Spectator, April 17, 2023.


If you enjoy Wodehouse keep your hard copies. The "sensitivity readers" have been busy. From The Telegraph (UK):
Jeeves and Wooster books have been rewritten to remove prose by PG Wodehouse deemed “unacceptable” by publishers, the Telegraph can reveal.

Original passages in the comic novels have been purged or reworked for new editions issued by Penguin Random House.

Trigger warnings have also been added to revised editions telling would-be Wodehouse readers that his themes and characters may be “outdated”.

One warning states that the writer’s prose has been altered because it was judged to be “unacceptable” by Penguin, a publishing house which enlists the services of sensitivity readers.

The disclaimer printed on the opening pages of the 2023 reissue of Thank you, Jeeves states: “Please be aware that this book was published in the 1930s and contains language, themes and characterisations which you may find outdated.

“In the present edition we have sought to edit, minimally, words that we regard as unacceptable to present-day readers.” ....

The Telegraph can reveal that edits have also been made to the 2022 edition of Right Ho, Jeeves, which carries the same disclaimer warning the reader of outdated content, and stating that changes have been made to Wodehouse’s original text. ....

In Thank You, Jeeves, whose plot hinges on the performance of a minstrel troupe, numerous racial terms have been removed or altered, both in dialogue spoken by the characters in the book, and from first-person narration in the voice of Bertie. ....

It is understood that trustees of the writer's literary estate control the bulk of the copyrights for Wodehouse, who lived from 1881 to 1975, and became noted as a prolific author of more than 90 books, a body of work which is often hailed as the funniest in the English language.
More, from The Spectator: "The trouble with censoring Jeeves and Wooster"

Craig Simpson, "Jeeves and Wooster stories censored to avoid offending modern readers," The Telegraph, April 15, 2023.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Classic crime

Five Books interviews an author about "The Five Best Classic Crime" novels. The interviewee, a British crime writer, Stig Abell, points out that the crime genre is only about "120 or 130 years old" and yet the selection of only five wasn't easy. He makes good recommendations, although any reader of the genre might well (almost certainly would) choose others. Only one of his authors was an American:
The author is an American called John MacDonald and you’ve chosen Darker than Amber, which is from 1966. Tell me about him and this book.

I love him. He’s not read very much in this country, but he sold millions of copies in his day. He wrote Cape Fear under a different title, The Executioners, so some people may have half-heard of him because of that.

I would definitely advise getting into his books. The only warning is that they were written in the 1960s and 70s and, especially with a male author writing a male protagonist, the sexual politics is not great. .... I don’t know what you think, but I feel fairly comfortable with that, if you’re able to read these books critically. I wouldn’t get rid of it, I wouldn’t rewrite it, I wouldn’t whitewash it. I’d just accept that it’s there and have a critical engagement with it. And you have to do that with John D. MacDonald.

But beyond that, they’re brilliant novels. The conceit behind the central character is magnificent. He’s called Travis McGee and lives in a boat called the Busted Flush in Florida. He wants to have his retirement while he’s still young enough to enjoy it. He’s this charming knight errant. People who have things stolen from them, who can’t get legal recourse, come to him. He says, ‘I’ll get it back for you, but I’ll take half the value.’ That’s how he earns money, and that enables him to live this beach bum lifestyle.

Each book has a colour in the title and each one is an attempt to recover something. ....

One writer who loves these books is Lee Child—and you can see a little bit of Jack Reacher in Travis McGee. He’s much more gregarious than Jack Reacher. It’s the idea of a man who goes into the uncharted, small-town badlands of America, where there are some pretty rough people. He’s really rough as well. He’s six foot five and good at fighting. He kicks ass and gets stuff back. But he also thinks about things.

If you like 60s Americana, there’s loads of it in the book. I think for people who’ve read lots of crime books but have never heard of John MacDonald, it’s quite nice to find a whole unexplored avenue. If you can just have a critical engagement with some of the sex side they’re brilliant. Darker than Amber is a really good tale. A woman is dropped with a cement block into a river where they’re fishing. Then they go after the people who went after her. ....
Interview by Sophie Roell, "The Five Best Classic Crime," Five Books, April 16, 2023.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

On the road to Emmaus:

Philip Jenkins:
The story, from Luke 24.13-35, is well known. Two disciples are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus approaches and talks to them, explaining the scriptural basis of all that had happened, culminating in the Crucifixion. They invite him to their home, and at the breaking of bread, they suddenly recognize him; and then he disappears. Then, they asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” A variant or summary story appears in Mark 16.12-13, but virtually certainly, that derives from Luke’s account. ....

The story tells of two people walking along, and then inviting a stranger to come back to the house where they live, and giving him a meal. In the context of the time, is it not very, very likely, to the point of certainty, that such a pair would in fact be a man and a woman, a married couple, who live in their house at Emmaus? ....

The passage offers some idea about who the disciples were. One of them was called Cleopas, the other is anonymous. There is no hint about the gender of “anonymous,” but the passage follows from a paragraph about the women who gathered at the tomb, and a generic description of the disciples. Many through the years have suggested that Cleopas is identical with one Clopas, who appears in the gospels in an interesting context. In John 19.25, we hear about those gathered at the cross during the crucifixion, namely “his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (NIV). Do note that the punctuation here is totally a matter of opinion, as there is no punctuation in the original manuscripts, and we don’t know whether “his mother’s sister” was different from Mary, .... But here is a real possibility. Perhaps the two going to Emmaus were Cleopas/Clopas and his wife, Mary, who was a sister to Jesus’s mother. They were in fact his uncle and aunt, which for the purposes of the story, adds to the mystery of why they did not recognize him. Is that the only possible reading? Not at all. But it is likely. .... (more)
Philip Jenkins, "Emmaus: Whether a Man or a Woman?" Anxious Bench, April 6, 2023.

This day and all our days

An Easter prayer:
Brightness of God's glory and exact image of God's person, whom death could not conquer nor the tomb imprison, as you have shared our frailty in human flesh, help us to share your immortality in the Spirit. Let no shadow of the grave terrify us and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from you. Reveal yourself to us this day and all our days, as the first and the last, the living one, our immortal Savior and Lord. Amen.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

The day in between

.... Martin Luther said himself that Saturday was the day that God himself lay cold in the grave. Friday was death, Sunday was hope, but Saturday was that seemingly ignored middle day between them when God occupied a dirty grave in a little garden outside Jerusalem. Saturday is about waiting, about uncertainty, about not knowing what’ll happen. ....

So much of Christian faith is Saturday faith. ....

A medieval theologian, Anselm, once described the kind of faith that comes with Saturday—fides quaerens intellectum: “faith seeking understanding.” By that, he meant that faith isn’t something that arises after moments of understanding. Rather, faith is something that you cling to when understanding and reason lay dead. We don’t believe once we understand it—we believe in order to understand it. Saturday’s like that: offering a day of waiting, a day of ambiguity, a day when God is sovereign even if our ideas and theologies and expectations about him are not. It is the day that our ignorance is our witness and our proclamation. Truth is, our intellect will always be one step behind in our love of God. We don’t love God once we understand him; we love God in order to understand him. ....

At times, we are all like the two disciples on their way to Emmaus who were really close to Jesus but didn’t always know it. In Luke 24, two disciples walked away from Jerusalem, where they’d just seen their Lord and Master die on the cross. Leaving, dejected, upset, hopeless, and broken, to find the next stage in their lives and careers. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus had been resurrected and was actually walking alongside them on their way to Emmaus. The hope of Sunday hadn’t dawned on them yet. The Gospels tell us that, on their way to Emmaus, the disciples were “downcast.”

That experience is the kind of experience Saturday is all about. .... (more)
This is from A.J. Swoboda's A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension between Belief and Experience, excerpted in Christianity Today.

Friday, April 7, 2023

"Suffered under Pontius Pilate; Was crucified, dead and buried..."

I've made a practice on Good Friday of publishing an excerpt from this article.

From "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ" by William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer. The original article is downloadable as a pdf and is substantially longer and detailed, with many diagrams and ample citation. Our Lord's manner of execution was like that suffered by a great many others in the Roman world:
…. It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried. The patibulum, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign (titulus) on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed. Later, the titulus would be attached to the top of the cross. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death. Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden stipes, on which the patibulum would be secured. In the case of the Tau cross, this was accomplished by means of a mortise and tenon joint, with or without reinforcement by ropes. To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat (sedile or sedulum), often was attached midway down the stipes. Only very rarely, and probably later than the time of Christ, was an additional block (suppedaneum) employed for transfixion of the feet.

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild analgesic. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the patibulum. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The archaeological remains of a crucified body, found in an ossuary near Jerusalem and dating from the time of Christ, indicate that the nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. Furthermore, ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin have documented that the nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms.

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the patibulum and the victim, together, were lifted onto the stipes. On the low cross, four soldiers could accomplish this relatively easily. However, on the tall cross, the soldiers used either wooden forks or ladders.

Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. Ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin suggest that nailing was the preferred Roman practice. Although the feet could be fixed to the sides of the stipes or to a wooden footrest (suppedaneum), they usually were nailed directly to the front of the stipes. To accomplish this, flexion of the knees may have been quite prominent, and the bent legs may have been rotated laterally.

When the nailing was completed, the titulus was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim’s head. The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees (crurifragium or skelokopia). …. (the article pdf)

Thursday, April 6, 2023

A geriatric redo?

Lionel Shriver at The Spectator (UK) in "Why Democrats want Trump" contends that the New York indictment serves their desired purpose by increasing the likelihood that Trump will be the GOP nominee:
.... It’s been obvious for some time that Democratic mandarins badly want Trump to be the 2024 GOP nominee. So Bragg’s arguably counterproductive ploy must have them wetting themselves in excitement.

This preferred outcome was glaringly on display during the Republican primaries for last autumn’s midterms, when Dems ran ads for, as well as contributed considerable money to, Republican congressional candidates who supported Trump – the loopier the better. The reasoning ran that crackpots would be easier to defeat. It was a cynical strategy that willingly ran the risk the crackpots would win. .... The real losers in a world where both sides are running around campaigning for the other side’s most atrocious politicians are merely the voters – and who cares about them? ....

A hefty majority of Americans want neither Trump nor Biden to run again (in a November CNBC poll, 61 per cent wanted to be shed of Trump altogether, while an astonishing 70 per cent didn’t want Biden to bid for a second term either, including 57 per cent of Democrats). That would be me: please, please, can we move on from this presidential Groundhog Day? Yet so far, an even more wearying and more geriatric redo of 2020 seems on the cards. Sorry – this is functional democracy? How is this happening? Isn’t the main merit of this system of government meant to be that the majority of us get at least what we sort of want? ....
Lionel Shriver, "Why Democrats want Trump," The Spectator, April 8, 2023.

A new command...

Kevin DeYoung:
.... If you've never heard the term, it's not Monday-Thursday (which always confused me as a kid), but Maundy Thursday, as in Mandatum Thursday. Mandatum is the Latin word for "command" or "mandate", and the day is called Maundy Thursday because on the night before his death Jesus gave his disciples a new command. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34).

At first it seems strange that Christ would call this a new command. After all, the Old Testament instructed God's people to love their neighbors and Christ himself summarized the law as love for God and love for others. So what's new about love? What makes the command new is that because of Jesus' passion there is a new standard, a new examplar of love.

There was never any love like the dying love of Jesus. It is tender and sweet (John 13:33). It serves (John 13:2-17). It loves even unto death (John 13:1). Jesus had nothing to gain from us by loving us. There was nothing in us to draw us to him. But he loved us still, while we were yet sinners. ....

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

On the third day

In "The Day of Jesus' Resurrection According to Matthew," Paul Manuel takes up the question of the chronology of Easter. His conclusions:
.... Buried on Friday, before the Sabbath had begun, when did Jesus rise from the dead? The most common belief is that he rose early Sunday morning, but that does not seem to agree with his prediction of spending "three days and three nights" (72 hours?) in the grave. An examination of the different statements about the time of the resurrection, though, reveals considerable variation, forcing the reader to view them either as a host of contradictions or as simple approximations referring to parts of a three-day period. ....

How are we to understand such disparate statements about the time of Jesus' resurrection? These are all approximate references and, therefore, not contradictory. Their purpose is to direct attention to the third day, which is when Jesus rose from the dead. If there is any uncertainty which day of the week that momentous event occurred, Luke resolves the matter, for he identifies "the third day" with "the first day of the week" (i.e., Sunday). ....

The chronological markers in the gospel accounts enable modern readers to establish the day of Jesus' crucifixion and the day of his resurrection. According to those markers, Jesus died on Friday, the preparation day for the weekly Sabbath, and he rose on the third day, which was Sunday, the first day of the week. (more)
The argument, with end notes, is here.


Monday, April 3, 2023

The "good" in Good Friday

Kevin Williamson always includes "Words about Words" in his newsletter. This, today, was not technically in that section:
This week, Christians around the world will observe Good Friday, the most somber day on the liturgical calendar. The word good in Good Friday expresses an older sense of the adjective: holy, rather than desirable or positive. .... Good Friday is not an observance for the sort of person who insists he has “no regrets.” I don’t know what you do with somebody like that. But for people who understand, even if it is only at some instinctive level, the necessity of penance and reconciliation, Good Friday can be useful and purpose-giving, if not joyous. It isn’t only the joyous things that we need.
Kevin D. Williamson, "The Indictment and the Problem of Discretion," The Dispatch, April 3, 2023.

Sunday, April 2, 2023


It's getting warmer here and that means more frequent grilling out (although I never entirely stopped). The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes about a Wisconsin grilling favorite:
The name bratwurst comes from German words "brat" meaning fried, and "wurst" meaning sausage, giving the most simple definition of what it is — a sausage that is fried (aka grilled). ....

What makes a brat a brat, and not some other sausage, are two main components. One is the spices that are used, and the other is the use of coarsely cut meat. ....

The first variation comes from the specific set of spices used. ...[T]hey usually have a combination of the following: pepper, an aromatic spice like nutmeg or coriander, and a citrus component, like lemon zest.

That means no, Italian and Polish sausages, which have different seasonings — garlic and fennel, respectively — are not really brats. ....

The meat of a bratwurst is usually pork. Veal or beef can be added as well. Brat meat is cut more coarsely and then sealed without the use of curing salt. ....

If you get raw brats, the trick is to make sure they do not burst from getting too hot too quickly. ....

Some people prefer to parboil brats to assure this does not happen, and then cook them a second time on a grill to get the outer char, but Usinger said you can lose flavor this way. ....

He has a very German/Wisconsin method to cooking brats.

"I call it the two-beer method. By the time you slowly drink two beers is about the time it takes," Usinger said.

For beer one, the brats should be on the outer edges of the grill and rotated often, which cooks the meat more slowly.

Once the griller is on their second beer, they'll want to start moving the brat inwards to the center, hotter part of the grill....
The correct condiment is mustard.

I actually prefer hot Italians. The grilling advice is the same. My habit is to charcoal grill a couple dozen every now and then, freeze most of them, and microwave one or two just long enough to thaw and heat — an easy quick meal. Brats will do, too.

Jordyn Noennig, "What makes a brat a brat, and why are they so popular in Wisconsin?" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 30, 2023.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Rumpole of the Bailey

From "Remembering Rumpole":
Horace Rumpole deserves a place alongside Bertie Wooster, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, James Bond, and Father Brown as one of the best creations in all of British popular fiction. ....

Shortly after [John] Mortimer’s death, Christopher Hitchens wrote of him in Vanity Fair: “It is given to very few people to create one imperishable fictional person, and then to see that very person take on life and flesh as if animated by Pygmalion. In the name and figure of Horace Rumpole, old rogue and old hero of the Old Bailey, as impersonated—no, incarnated—by Leo McKern, we have someone for the ages, someone who will be available at need to our inner eye and ear every time it is demonstrated once again that ‘the law is an ass.’”

Likewise, P.D. James once noted that, “Rumpole, like Jeeves and Sherlock Holmes, is immortal.” ....

Rumpole, though far from perfect, is by and large an admirable barrister. And his adventures aren’t as predictable as those of, say, Perry Mason. Rumpole, not infrequently, loses in court. Sometimes his victories merely consist of getting a charge slightly reduced. In Rumpole and the Old Boy Net, he clears his clients of a blackmail charge but they are nonetheless convicted of running a house of prostitution. In more than one story, he acquits a client of a murder charge only to find out later that his client was actually guilty (Rumpole often represents clients he believes to be guilty, but he will not represent anyone who openly admits his guilt; so long as a client insists that he or she is innocent, Rumpole feels duty-bound to try to prove their innocence in court, even if he suspects they might be guilty). In Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas, Rumpole is outfoxed by a prosecutor who uses Rumpole’s alcoholism to defeat him court. In Rumpole and the Golden Thread, he travels to the fictional African country of Neranga to defend an old student of his who has been charged with murder. Rumpole wins an acquittal by using a defense that ultimately gets his client murdered.

As noted, Rumpole has many failings as a husband, lawyer, and provider. He admits that he cheated in order to pass the bar exam. He hasn’t saved a penny for retirement, he occasionally bounces checks, and boasts that he never pays a bill on time. But his many small faults are outweighed by his major virtues: sympathy for the underprivileged, a passion for justice, and a determination to keep his clients out of jail. ....

The stories are clever and witty. And, as Mortimer himself pointed out, each individual story generally contains three different strands braided together—a trial to be won, a domestic problem with Hilda to be resolved, and some sort of contretemps in Chambers that must be confronted. But probably the best reason to read the Rumpole stories is Rumpole himself. He is endlessly fascinating and his adventures (almost always told in the first person, though occasionally he allows another character to fill in the blanks) are replete with epigrammatic observations about life, love, literature, and, above all, the law:
  • I’m not sure that I like cast iron alibis. They’re the sort that sink quickest, to the bottom of the sea.
  • You know what we always say in Court? Listen to the questions. The questions are so much more important than the answers.
  • Contempt of Court should be a silent exercise, like meditation.
Rumpole on Amazon Prime Video

Kevin Mims, "Remembering Rumpole," Quillette, April 1, 2023.

On segregation by age

Glenn Reynolds:
.... If you look around our society, many of our more dysfunctional institutions are sorted by age: Homes for the elderly, public schools, even colleges. This age-segregation is artificial, something that never happened naturally in human society and barely happened at all until fairly recently in historical terms. Age segregation separates people from society, perhaps stigmatizes them, and, I think, harms society too.

It’s probably worst for teens. Putting kids together and sorting by age also created that dysfunctional modern creature, the “teenager.” Once, teen-agers weren’t so much a demographic as adults in training. They worked, did farm chores, watched children, and generally functioned in the real world. They got status and recognition for doing these things well, and they got shame and disapproval for doing them badly.

But once they were segregated by age in public schools, teens looked to their peers for status and recognition instead of to society at large. As Thomas Hine writes in American Heritage, “Young people became teenagers because we had nothing better for them to do. We began seeing them not as productive but as gullible consumers.” Not surprisingly, the kinds of behaviors that gain teenagers status from other teenagers differ from the kinds of things that gain teenagers status from adults: early sex, drinking, and a variety of other “cool” but dysfunctional characteristics—once frowned upon—now become the keys to popularity. ....

Modern a modern invention, and most of the restrictions on teenagers that we take for granted are actually fairly recent in nature. Taking away the opportunity for teenagers to behave responsibly and earn respect from nonpeers just ensures the growth of a toxic “peer culture” that values appearance over achievement and rule breaking over responsibility. ....

Until the industrial age, kids, adults, and old people all lived in the same society. Kids learned from adults, quickly got responsibilities – some of them quite “adult” by today’s standards and many of them not at all safe – and gained their sense of accomplishment and self-worth from their standing in the larger community. ....

My advice for people of all ages is to spend some time outside your age cohort. It’ll benefit you, and it may benefit the people you’re with just as much. .... (more)
Glenn Harlan Reynolds, "The Age Barrier, And Its Costs," March 28, 2023.