To My Chinese Friends

I have noticed recently that a number of the visitors to my site/website/weblog/blog are surfing from China. The Peoples’ Republic of China.  Wow!

When I say “a number”, I must admit it is a small number (as is the total number of my visitors, alas).

But I would really like to know what draws a web surfer in a repressive one-party state to a lone voice such as myself.  Drop me a comment, if you feel free to.

Of course, it might be the case that I am being monitored by the CCP watchdogs of the PRC. If so, I am honored and humbled.

I should admit that this attention, from whatever source, may be spillover from the blog of my very Catholic friend Mr. Ben Finiti (benfiniti.com).  He has often written about the current Pope’s betrayal of the Chinese people, and the courageous defense of embattled Cardinal Zen.

Whatever it is and whoever you are, please drop me a line.

 

Per Capita Reality about Covid-19

[I wrote the following message to a good friend of mine, who is so depressed about the current crisis, and so obsessed with our president, that he says he will emigrate to some other country as soon as a vaccine is developed.]

I am glad to hear you will not be emigrating any time soon.  I hope you reconsider when this present crisis passes (as it will).

It is all too easy to see this as a failure of our political system, especially if one particularly dislikes our present leader.  The “Orange Man” is certainly dislikable; but that doesn’t lay this at his door.  To the extent that this is a political crisis, it is a widespread one, being felt throughout the western world (and perhaps far beyond.)

My wife has found us a good source of reliable statistics on the Covid-19/Coronavirus mess, at Worldometers.info.  It is revealing.  For instance:

Inadequate as our testing seems to have been, the US has done more testing than Sweden, France, the UK, or the Netherlands (per capita). Yet we have had way fewer deaths than those countries (per capita). And we have had fewer deaths than Italy, Spain, Belgium or Switzerland, even though those countries have done a lot more testing than we have.

Asia (except China, and who can trust their reports?), Africa and South America seem to have escaped the worst of it, for reasons that are unclear and probably varied; but some of them may simply be late starters.

As for the US, we must consider that right now we have a very lopsided epidemic: New York on one hand, the rest of the country on the other.  NY state is 6% of the US population but 45% of Covid deaths.

And Iceland, the nation that has done the most testing (12% of their population), has had more cases and more deaths than Montana. IC is one third the population of MT, but has 4 times the cases and almost 3 times the death rate.

So, whatever is driving the dimensions of this crisis, it doesn’t seem to be politics. And the solution will not be political either.  It will probably be scientific (treatment and vaccines) and behavioral (social distancing and hygiene, like learning to wash hands and cough/sneeze carefully). Mundane stuff.

And on the non-mundane level, I also think prayer will help.

Meanwhile, our task is not only staying healthy but also staying sane.  In that regard I recommend avoiding people that infuriate you, especially on TV (you know who I mean).  And keeping a sense of perspective.

I look forward to seeing you guys once the all-clear is sounded.

More Stuff from Ben

I see my friend Ben Finiti has posted something about prayer, calculus, and chemistry.  I don’t know where he gets this stuff.  (My inspiration is easier to identify: old Simpsons’ reruns.)

Anyway, go take a look here.

Phyllis Chesler and Old Vienna

Phyllis Chesler is one of my favorite writers. Certainly my favorite pro-Israel feminist defender of reality and common sense.

She has just posted a couple of short pieces about the loss she feels, as a true Manhattanite New Yorker seeing urban cultural sites disappear or be coopted.

In “Old Manhattan Still Standing, But Owned By Others” she laments the new ownership of the Waldorf Astoria, the Carlyle Hotel, and other landmarks now foreign-controlled by alien cultures. In “Old Manhattan Has Disappeared before My Eyes” she mourns the loss of Horn and Hardart Automat, which I remember from a brief young visit.

She sparked another memory when she mentioned Schraffts, “a genteel women-only preserve which served elegant little sandwiches and desserts (and where I kept to myself and studied while in graduate school.)” I had read of Schrafft’s somewhere (probably in the New Yorker, which I read cover-to-cover way back in high school), though never been there (“women-only”?) But the image rang a faint but poignant bell. What was it?

Buchmendel! One of Stefan Zweig’s mournfully beautiful short stories about old Vienna, and what the death of a civilization looks like.

The title character is an old antiquarian bookseller who operated out of a table in a Vienna café. Zweig weaves together the story of a vibrant city and culture in its dying days, and makes it the backdrop for the life and death of an individual man.   Mendel is a remarkable jewel set in the living-its-final-days culture, instantly transformed into a dirty discarded beggar in the aftermath.

The Café Gluck, Jacob Mendel, and cosmopolitan Hapsburg Vienna before, during, and after the First World War; it is, like all of Zweig’s works (and life), unutterably and beautifully sad.

And it could easily be transposed, with few changes, into a story set in today’s Manhattan.

Anyway, check out Dr. Chesler if you are not familiar with her.

 

 

Squirrely!

[In a departure from my usual dire ponderings, I am today pleased to introduce a brilliant new writer to the world. Mr. X, as he calls himself, has produced a delightful story about squirrels, politics, and young love.  It is printed here in its entirety.   No subscription required!]

 

SQUIRRELY!

 

Chapter One

 

A cold, drizzly rain had been falling all day, and now it was starting to pour. On a branch of a tree just outside the window of a house, a wet, bedraggled squirrel sat shivering.

Inside, in the warm, cozy living room sat a warm, cozy family. In the fireplace a warm, cozy fire burned. The father read his newspaper. The mother was knitting. The young daughter sat on the rug before the fire, petting a fat, fluffy cat on a fat, fluffy pillow. It was all very cozy and, well, warm.

The squirrel looked down at the warm, cozy family with great interest, focusing mostly on the cat. As he stared, the cat yawned, stretched, and began to look around lazily. Then the cat looked out the window and noticed the squirrel. It didn’t move, watching the squirrel for almost a minute. Then, it looked slowly around at the family the room, and the fire, looked back at the squirrel – and SMILED!

I know that some people think cats can’t – or won’t – smile. But this was a smile, if not a particularly pleasant one. It expressed a smug satisfaction with the cat’s situation, and a smirking contempt for the pitiful-looking animal on the tree branch outside looking in.

The squirrel was so startled he fell off the branch and landed in a mud puddle. He sat there for a moment, then got up, shook himself, and scampered off – if his slow, wet movements could be called scampering.

As he went, he said to himself (and not for the first time), “It must be nice to be a cat.”

Norman – for that was the squirrel’s name – was a typical teenage squirrel. By typical, I mean that he was like all teenagers, and like most squirrels. He was of average height (for a squirrel) and of average disposition (for a teenager). But in some ways he was different from other squirrels.

He was a rebel. But he was not a nut.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Continue reading ‘Squirrely!’

Serendipity and Ben

My pious friend Mr. Ben Finiti (must be Italian) has posted another thought-provoking item on his eponymous  (a fancy word for self-named; just a reminder that I have been to college) website benfiniti.com, this one entitled “God Is Not Serendipitous”.  The basic idea is that you can’t find God if you don’t look for him. And since most of us have convinced ourselves that we are just fine the way we are, why bother looking?

As H. I. McDonnough once put it, “You know, honey, I’m OK, you’re OK, that there’s just the way it is.”*

Anyway, it is worth a look.

++++++++++

*McDonnough was the lead character in Raising Arizona, Nicolas Cage’s only intentionally funny movie (1987).  It’s worth a look, too.

Prole Models: Charles Murray’s Brilliant Forecast From 2001

[This essay by Charles Murray is more relevant today than when it first appeared in the 2/6/2001 Wall Street Journal. It is still around thanks to OrthodoxyToday.org. (So, thank you, Orthodoxy Today!) 

I was reminded of it while reading “In the Image of Slob”, an essay in today’s Crisis Magazine lamenting the sloppy dress often seen at church these days. Murray puts the issue in the larger framework of societal collapse.]


Prole Models: America’s elites take their cues from the underclass

by Charles Murray

Scholar Charles Murray writes that a major reason for the coarsening of American life is that the creative minority has devolved into competing cultural elites. Instead of guarding the moral, intellectual, and artistic heritage of society, they follow baser artists.

That American life has coarsened over the past several decades is not much argued, but the nature of the beast is still in question. Gertrude Himmelfarb sees it as a struggle between competing elites, in which the left originated a counterculture that the right failed to hold back. Daniel Patrick Moynihan has given us the phrase “defining deviancy down,” to describe a process in which we change the meaning of moral to fit what we are doing anyway. I wish to add a third voice to the mix, that of the late historian Arnold Toynbee, who would find our recent history no mystery at all: We are witnessing the proletarianization of the dominant minority.

The language and thought are drawn from a chapter of “A Study of History,” entitled “Schism in the Soul,” in which Toynbee discusses the disintegration of civilizations. He observes that one of the consistent symptoms of disintegration is that the elites–Toynbee’s “dominant minority”–begin to imitate those at the bottom of society. His argument goes like this: Continue reading ‘Prole Models: Charles Murray’s Brilliant Forecast From 2001′


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