Res et Explicatio for AD 8-7-2009

Friday, August 7, 2009 \AM\.\Fri\.

Salvete AC readers!

Buckle Up! Because here are today’s Top Picks in the Catholic world:

1. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York commended President Obama and the Democratic Party efforts inArchbishopDolan reforming Health Care.  He said this during the Knights of Columbus Convention in Phoenix, Arizona.  But his Grace gave this caveat that if reform…

“…leads to the destruction of life, then we say it’s no longer health care at all – it’s unhealthy care and we can’t be part of that.”

To accentuate this sentiment and as a warning to well meaning Catholics, Cardinal Levada explained that those that want to reform health care at any cost:

“[W]e do not build heaven on earth, we simply prepare the site to welcome the new Jerusalem which comes from God.”

2. Catholic convert Joe Eszterhas of Hollywood screenwriting fame, will be writing the screenplay for a movie aboutVirgen of Guadelupethe Virgin of Guadalupe.  Though no director nor a green light has been given on the go ahead of this movie project, the fact that Joe Eszterhas is writing the screenplay is newsworthy in itself because of the author himself is enough to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

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Culture Crash

Friday, July 17, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

That mainstream American culture is something of a train wreck is hardly news at this point, and that regard there’s a certain wisdom to the approach, “Let the dead bury their dead,” rather than having the brashness to be the one shouting, “Oh, hey, look! A body!” Still, occasionally one runs across things which are at the same time so sad and so indicative of our cultural ills one feels the need to comment. Such a case, to my mind at least, was this article from the most recent Atlantic Monthly suggesting that for the modern Homo suburbanicus middleclassus marriage is a failed idea which should be pretty much abandoned. Or as the cheery sub-headline succinctly put it: “The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?”

The author is a 47 year old woman, a successful performance artist married to a musician, who after twenty years of marriage and two children find herself in the aftermath of an extramarital affair deciding that she really doesn’t feel like doing the work to rebuilt a relationship with her husband.

Which is not to say I’m against work. Indeed, what also came out that afternoon were the many tasks I—like so many other working/co-parenting/married mothers—have been doing for so many years and tearfully declared I would continue doing. I can pick up our girls from school every day; I can feed them dinner and kiss their noses and tell them stories; I can take them to their doctor and dentist appointments; I can earn my half—sometimes more—of the money; I can pay the bills; I can refinance the house at the best possible interest rate; I can drive my husband to the airport; in his absence, I can sort his mail; I can be home to let the plumber in on Thursday between nine and three, and I can wait for the cable guy; I can make dinner conversation with any family member; I can ask friendly questions about anybody’s day; I can administer hugs as needed to children, adults, dogs, cats; I can empty the litter box; I can stir wet food into dry.

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Pity and Fear

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 \AM\.\Tue\.

Aristotle taught that the purpose of tragedy is to inspire pity and fear in the audience, thence causing catharsis, a purging of emotion. I’ve always found his explanation of tragedy compelling, but as I get older (queue laughter at the thirty-year-old getting “older”) I find that I want to achieve catharsis much less than I used to. Not that my life is layered in tragedy or anything, indeed, far from it. But somehow, one just doesn’t feel as much like seeking out pity and fear at thirty as at twenty.

This has been running through my head as I’ve been reading about The Stoning of Soraya M.

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Capitalism — When People Sell Things I Don’t Like

Monday, June 15, 2009 \AM\.\Mon\.

With the garden currently shooting up, I’ve found myself again disposed to read gardening and food related books. I finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma last week, and aside from a few gripes in regards to Michael Pollan’s understanding of economics, I enjoyed it quite a bit. On the last run by the library, I picked up a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. The idea of moving out onto acreage and growing much of one’s own food is something that I find interesting. I enjoy gardening, I enjoy cooking gourmet food, and I think there’s a cultural and psychological value to remaining in touch with the way that humans have gained food for themselves in past centuries.

However, Kingsolver is far more passionate (and less balanced) in her jeremiads against “industrial food” than Pollan, and more prone to denunciations of what “capitalism” has done to our food culture. Indeed, so much so as to crystallize for me a trend among those who denounce “capitalism” and its impact on Western Culture. Kingsolver had just reached the crescendo of a complaint in regards to large seed companies peddling hybrids and genetically modified strains, when she turned to the subject of heirloom vegetable varieties, and her joy at paging through lengthy seed catalogs full of heirloom seeds.

…Heirloom seeds are of little interest to capitalism if they can’t be patented or owned. They have, however, earned a cult following among people who grow or buy and eat them. Gardeners collect them like family jewels, and Whole Foods Market can’t refrain from poetry in its advertisement of heirlooms….

So you see, when large agribusiness firms sell farmers seeds for field corn which are genetically modified to repel pests,
that’s capitalism. But when catalog and internet businesses build a thriving niche selling heirloom vegetable seeds, and Whole Foods ad men wax poetical over $7/lb tomatoes, that’s… Well, it certainly can’t be capitalism, can it? Not if it’s good.

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Overwork in the Age of Multi-tasking

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 \PM\.\Wed\.

The weekend’s WSJ had an interesting article about work hours — the hours that people think they work, and the hours they actually do.

Over the past two decades of rapid technological deployment and globalization, it has become an article of faith among the professional set that we work sweatshop hours. Sociologist Juliet Schor started the rumor with her 1992 book, “The Overworked American,” which featured horror stories of people checking their watches to know what day it was.

Then God created the BlackBerry and things got worse. In late 2005, Fortune’s Jody Miller claimed that “the 60-hour weeks once thought to be the path to glory are now practically considered part-time.” In late 2006, the Harvard Business Review followed up with an article on “the dangerous allure of the 70-hour workweek,” calling jobs that required such labor the new standard for professionals. The authors featured one “Sudhir,” a financial analyst who claimed to work 90-hour weeks during summertime, his “light” season. He’s got nothing on a young man I met at a party recently who told me he was working 190 hours a week to launch his new company.

It was a curious declaration; I would certainly invest in a start-up that had invented a way to augment the 168 hours that a week actually contains.

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The Narrow Atlantic

Friday, May 29, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

UCLA professor Peter Baldwin pens an interesting priece for the UK’s Prospect in which he argues that the differences between the US and Europe are not as great as is often claimed. Baldwin’s point of view strikes me as left of center, but his argument (mainly a comparison of statistics to see how the US really measures up to various EU countries on questions like poverty, education, environmentalism, etc.) is fairly non-ideological and the overall result is interesting.

Left open ended (though he provides a few thoughts on the matter) is the question of why both Americans and Europeans like to perceive such strong differences between themselves, and what exactly that means about the two cultures.