IT’S GOOD TO REMIND OURSELVES
OF OUR FLAWS AND FAILINGS
I have to confess that there are certain Catholic pious practices I don’t entirely get.
It probably reflects the fact that I’m an adult convert and wasn’t raised in the Church — or that I’ve made less progress on my spiritual journey than I like to assume.
One of the things I don’t get is fasting.
As I understand it, the Church advocates self-denial as a way of detaching ourselves from fleshly preoccupations. Yet I’m never more preoccupied with concerns of the flesh (that is to say, eating) than when I deny myself food.
IS THERE AN ESSENTIAL CONFLICT
BETWEEN FREEDOM AND JUSTICE?
It’s always gratifying to see someone on the left openly acknowledge how Progressives really feel about freedom.
Writing in the Harvard Crimson, Sandra Y. L. Korn (Harvard Class of 2014) has called for the abolition of academic freedom, a principle she deems “a bit misplaced to me,” in favor of what she terms “a more rigorous standard: one of ‘academic justice.’”
“When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.
“The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do.”
Now there’s an honest young woman. No lip service to outdated American values like individual liberty. No tortured Obamaesque rationalizations of FCC plans to inspect broadcast news operations under the ruse of defending the First Amendment.
Sandra Y. L. Korn sees liberty as a flat-out obstacle — indeed a contradiction — to justice. And she insists it’s time to man-up (well, person-up) and cast the insidious idea of academic freedom into the ashcan of history.
WILL THE CURRENT TURMOIL BRING
AN ECHO OF HUNGARY IN 1956?
Until the last few weeks, the big news out of Kiev was the Femen, those topless feminist agitators-cum-strippers known for their bare-breasted protests across Europe (as I discussed in my post of September 29). But now we’ve been shown scenes of Tiananmen Square-type killing and torture of demonstrators protesting the increasingly Soviet-style governing tactics of the regime headed by President Viktor Yanukovych.
A RANDOM RAMBLE THROUGH OUR CURRENT
POLITICAL/ECOLOGICAL THREE-RING CIRCUS
According to the New York Daily News, membership in the World Clown Association and Clowns of America International, “the country’s largest trade organizations for the jokesters” has fallen precipitously during the last decade…
“‘What’s happening is attrition,’ said Clowns of America International President Glen Kohlberger, who added that membership at the Florida-based organization has plummeted since 2006. ‘The older clowns are passing away.’”
I bite my tongue.
I struggle not to say it.
But I just can’t help myself. It’s too obvious a tie-in.
Oh, what the hell…
There’s really no need to worry. The current administration will be over in two years, freeing up a fresh pool of talent.
THE PASSING OF A DISTINGUISHED LADY
BRINGS MEMORIES OF A REMARKABLE CHILD
Undoubtedly, Shirley Temple’s best remembered songs are “The Good Ship Lollypop” and “Animal Crackers in My Soup.” But the one that most affected my family was “Goodnight, My Love.”
Written by George Motola and John Marascalco, the song was featured in the 1936 film, “Stowaway.” My wife and I learned it from a soundtrack compilation LP titled “Little Miss Shirley Temple.” And singing it became a nightly ritual when our kids were small. Our daughter has taken up the practice with her children.
I don’t know if most kids today ever experience the films of Shirley Temple. They’re available in those DVD “special collections” advertised on TV, of course. But it’s hard to imagine youngsters raised on “Sponge Bob” or “Phineas and Ferb” giving themselves over to the cornball innocence and sweet improbability of a Shirley Temple flick.
Don’t get me wrong — I love “Phineas and Ferb.” I watch it whenever I’m with my grandkids, and I can attest to the show’s cleverness and wit. (“Sponge Bob” is another matter. I can’t explain why, exactly, but that show gives me the sort of icky feeling I used to get from Pee Wee Herman.)
In the early 1970s, I was a copywriter for the subscription-services department of McGraw-Hill which published a variety of specialized industry journals. Among them was a magazine called Power that served utilities and power-generation equipment companies.
Being young — and being what today I might call terminally hip — I came up with a headline/graphic concept which I thought was wildly funny and ever so current, something to be used in ads, direct mail pieces, or issue insert cards.
I recruited an acquaintance to pose for a photo in the then-typical protest posture, his right arm raised, but with a light bulb in his hand. The headline read…
Power to the People…
…the People who Know
What Power’s All About
Our assistant art director, a talented young lady about my age, did a quick layout, and I showed it to the Mail Promotion Manager — our internal equivalent of an ad agency account executive — who handled Power’s marketing campaigns. I was sure this concept was going to knock his socks off.
The MPM, whose name was Leon, chuckled at the image, volunteered that the idea was cute, and then handed the layout back to me.
“What’s the matter with it?” I asked. “It’s timely. It’s topical. It’s humorous.”
“Oh yes, it’s all of that,” Leon said. “But the people who read Power are a bunch of sturdy engineer types. Pragmatic and conservative. They’d see the guy in that picture as somebody who’d likely blow up a power plant.”
Looking at the layout with new eyes, I grudgingly conceded that Leon had a point. And so I learned something about perception in advertising.
This episode came to mind when I read about the little dustup surrounding Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” Super Bowl spot.
I’m sure whoever thought of having people of different ethnic types singing this cherished national song in their native languages saw it as a heartwarming expression of the nation’s cultural diversity — the great American melting pot, as it were. They may well have expected their commercial to become a 21st-Century equivalent of Coke’s famous “I’d like to teach the world to sing…” campaign. But they missed the same thing I’d failed to see in my Power ad concept: people’s underlying assumptions.
AN OLD LEFTY TRANSCENDED HIS POLITICS
TO BECAME A TIMELESS TROUBADOUR
My wife and I were traveling home to Michigan after two weeks in Colorado helping with our newly born granddaughter (the first, following two boys), when I picked up a hotel lobby copy of USA Today and learned about the death of Pete Seeger.
It’s a commentary on the fleeting nature of fame — Sic transit gloria mundi, as they say — that later in the afternoon, our car radio tuned to Detroit’s WJR, Mitch Albom was prattling on about why anyone would make a big deal about “a dead, 94-year-old folksinger.”
I’ll refrain from critiquing the lack of taste in that rant, though I hope other listeners weigh in with the station. But I can’t help noting a surprising dearth of awareness in somebody (Albom) for whom chitchat about pop culture is his stock in trade.
Pete Seeger was a figure of enormous influence in that period of the late 1950s-to-mid-1960s when musical tastes intersected with the politics of the so-called New Left: the period of the Urban Folk Revival.
LET’S START TALKING ABOUT THE POPE’S WORDS ON
THE GOSPEL, THE MARKET, AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
If you’ve felt confused about our new Pope and his motivations, there’s at least one explanation circulating among the conspiracy-minded which might settle the question for you. According to the blog, Prophecy in the Making, Francis is merely a tool of the Illuminati, the worldwide cabal that secretly runs everything…
“So, have you started to wonder why Time Magazine, an Illuminati-backed, funded and controlled publication is so in love with Francis? [The reference is to Time’s naming Francis its Person of the Year.]
“It is clear that the Masonic/Illuminati have an agenda they wish to pursue with Francis as the head.”
Prophecy in the Making then dips into prophecy already made, quoting the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who in his 1948 book, Communism and the Conscience of the West, described how the Antichrist would represent himself as a “Great Humanitarian”…
“In the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality, he will have one great secret which he will tell to no one: he will not believe in God.”
Well, you can never be sure about these metaphysical things, I’ll admit. But it certainly seems to me that Pope Francis believes in God. And I really don’t think he’s the Antichrist.
However, as I noted in my posts of October 1 and October 23, he is definitely a shoot-from-the-hip kinda guy whose candor prompts a wide range of assumptions. Indeed, observers on both the left and the right are struggling mightily to paint the Pope as being firmly in one camp or the other.
DOES LOSS OF FAITH IN GLOBAL WARMING
THREATEN THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT?
Back in college, I did some writing for a community magazine called Bucks County Life.
At one point, we planned a photo spread on the U.S. Steel Fairless Works, then a massive foundry complex that had provided the impetus for the building of Levittown, Fairless Hills, and other major housing and commercial developments in northeast suburban Philadelphia.
Being an extremely low-budget operation, Bucks County Life had no staff photographer, so we requested some images from the Fairless Works’ public relations office. When I arrived at the plant to pick them up, I was surprised to find that a tour had been arranged for me.
I got to witness an impressive array of industrial processes. But perhaps the most memorable vignette of the day — one my tour guide surely hadn’t intended — was watching gallons upon gallons of pink goop pouring from the plant into the Delaware River as we viewed the facility from a motor launch on the water.
I’VE PUT UP 85 POSTS SINCE LAUNCHING THIS BLOG
HERE ARE A FEW EARLY ONES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
Yearend is always a time for reflection.
Looking back, I find that I’ve done 85 posts since beginning this blog back in March (this makes 86). That’s a lot of verbiage. No doubt some would say that most of it was excess verbiage. But then, I’ve always been opinionated and long-winded.
Which pretty much proves I was born to blog.
It’s been good to see readership growing over these months — as indicated both by the analytics of my blog host, WordPress, and the numbers of “Friends” and “Likes” on my related Facebook pages. But this, of course, means that latecomers to the blog likely haven’t seen many of my earlier offerings.
So I thought I might suggest a few back posts for year-end review. The criteria for my selections are as variable as my usual choices of subjects on which to rant. Some picks deal with topics (or offer observations) that are still relevant. Some are particularly revealing of my viewpoint (for what that’s worth). And some I think are just kind of fun to read — at least they were fun to write.