Monthly Archives: November 2008

Heavenly Hosts

I do hope readers will forgive me for rather a rambling post yesterday. (My editorial staff was off for the holidays.) I think some clarification is in order. The post was written as part of an ongoing discussion of the appropriate limits of tolerance. I have been upbraided on occasion for discussing certain topics, particularly […]

Bah! Humbug!

In a challenging and thoughtful comment on our recent post about tolerance, our reader Addofio chides me for the disdainful tone I have taken in some of my criticism of religion. She recommends that we discuss ideas, however preposterously absurd, in emotionally neutral terms, as a gesture of respect for the people who hold them. […]

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

I have a difficult time, occasionally, maintaining a seemly façade of unconditional respect for my fellow hominids. I try, I really do, but the older I get, the more I see of my conspecifics, and the more I come to understand of our origins, the more difficult it becomes. The recent sectarian barbarism in India […]

Time Out

To all of you, a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Even on this day, as civilization’s foundations shudder and its enemies raise their bloodstained hands once again, we have much to cherish, and to be grateful for. “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” […]

The Enemy Of My Enemy

More about Somali pirates: reader JK directs us to this insightful item by “Galrahn” over at Information Dissemination.

Filling The Till With Bill And Hill

Ah, the Clintons. Ah, Christopher Hitchens. In a brief and piquant essay, the latter reminds us why the last thing we need is another stiff dose of the former. Here. Also, if you feel like a longer and deeper mud-wallow, Mr. Hitchens’s piece links to this eight-page article by Todd Purdum on how the former […]

Capital Idea

In today’s news, we read that pirates have seized yet another ship off the Somali coast. In today’s Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens asks why we no longer hang pirates when we catch them. A fair question, I think. Related content from Sphere

I Don’t Have To Like It

I tend to rail about religion now and then; some of you may have noticed. I’ve even suggested that we’d all, in the long run, simply be better off without it. Such remarks tend to evoke indignant responses, in which I am tartly reminded of the value of “tolerance”. But I must say that I […]

The Talking Cure

As I mentioned last night, there’s a discussion underway about interreligious dialogue at Kevin Kim’s place. The thread began with Kevin’s link to an article about Karen Armstrong’s call for worldwide interreligious harmony. I’ve been taking fire for my flint-hearted remarks, and would like to comment further here. Related content from Sphere

What The World Needs Now…

Nothing here tonight, I’m afraid; I’ve spent my spare time this evening in a discussion about interreligious dialogue over at Kevin Kim’s. It’s an interesting conversation, which I will probably follow up with a post of my own. But for now, read the post and thread here. Related content from Sphere

Must We?

Should Hillary Clinton be the next Secretary of State? I’d rather she weren’t, and here’s why.

Pass The Dutchie

It has been a long day: it is almost midnight, and I’ve only just got home from the Manhattan hospital where my frail and elderly mother-in-law was admitted for tests. She is not so well. My lovely wife Nina is still there with her. So, nothing long-winded tonight, I’m afraid. Although there are in fact […]

Look On My Works, Ye Mighty, And Despair

This from entertainer Kanye West, whom some of you may even have heard of: “I realize that my place and position in history is that I will go down as the voice of this generation, of this decade… …Because I have sacrificed real life to be a celebrity and to give this art to people, […]

Takes Two To Tango

We hear a lot these days about inter-religious dialogue, and I suppose it’s a nice enough idea, in a surreal sort of way. It’s even, perhaps, a plausible one, as long as we are talking about, for example, a dialogue between the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians — which would surely be a generous and genteel […]

It’s My Party, And I’ll Cry If I Want To

With a hat tip to our friend Jess Kaplan, here is P.J. O’Rourke’s wistful assessment of the wreckage of American conservatism.


I recently began a careful re-reading of Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, a book I had not looked at closely in decades. The work is primarily an argument for Pascal’s Jansenist Christian beliefs, but prepares the soil with a searching review of Man’s transience and wretchedness. The genius Pascal, in his cruelly foreshortened life, acquired wisdom far […]

Six Feet Under

Well, seven, now; I should have penned this post back in August, when the title was most apt. But there are definitely strange things afoot in British Columbia: story here. Related content from Sphere

Wonk On The Wild Side

I managed to get home from work by eight-fifteen this evening, which, in the context of the past week, feels like playing hooky. The little grey cells, however, are in weary and mutinous disarray, so I will probably be leaning on the “Shameless Filler” category for another few days. But I do want to direct […]

Crunch Time

This from today’s Borowitz Report: November 13, 2008 Bush in Race against Time to Wreck Country Legacy of Destruction at Stake Confounding the conventional wisdom that he is a lame duck president with no agenda as his days in office dwindle, President George W. Bush is redoubling his efforts to mutilate the country before his […]

Move Over, Apple

If you think your IPhone can do it all, you ain’t, as they say, seen nuthin’ yet. Have a look here.

Shoulder To The Wheel

At my age, I certainly don’t enjoy working fourteen-hour days, and right through the weekend — I had quite enough of that in my long years at the recording console (and have the receding hairline and sunken eyes to prove it). But that’s just what I’ve been doing: I have a deadline to meet, and, […]

Service Notice

Work presses heavily upon me just now, leaving little time for anything else. Please feel free to wander about the archives, or try our new “Random Post” feature. Things should be back to normal in a day or two. Related content from Sphere


Last night we had friends over for dinner, a lovely couple we know from Wellfleet. They are both academics: she is a sociologist and associate professor at Harvard. Naturally we were discussing the recently transformed political landscape, and the conversation turned to Mr. Obama’s possible choices for the composition of his cabinet. Among the names […]

None Of My Beeswax

I note with sorrow the success of Proposition 8 in California, which will amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Of all the threats that imperil us in these uncertain times, that this is what they chose to focus on is a depressing comment indeed. Related content from Sphere

God Is Great

A thirteen-year-old girl, walking to visit her grandmother, is accosted and raped. She reports the assault to the local authorities, whose response is swift: they take her to a stadium, bury her up to her neck, and, with a large crowd watching, stone her to death as she begs for mercy. The men who raped […]

Monster Movie

I may look and sound pretty tough, but actually I’m a pushover. Beneath my gruff and menacing exterior I’m a sentimental old softie, a big ball of moosh. I’m particularly susceptible to movies: the tear-jerkers move me to unseemly and lachrymose upwellings of empathy, and the scary ones just beat the hell out of me. […]

Le Mot Juste?

Both John McCain and Barack Obama gave fine speeches last night. Mr. McCain gave an honorable and gentlemanly address that was untainted by bitterness, and Mr. Obama’s speech was both sober and uplifting. I must comment on one thing in particular, before I am scooped by all the language mavens out there: Mr. Obama’s phrase […]

And Now For Something Completely Different

Well! There you have it. The Democratic Party seems to be giving the Republicans a thumping of historic proportions. (They might have managed this four years ago, had they not put forward as their champion that pompous and insufferable windbag, the lugubrious thatch-crowned Ent John Kerry.) I have a feeling I am not the only […]

Parting Shot

I know I said I would shut up about Sarah Palin, and I will, sort of. But Christopher Hitchens is under no such obligation, and he wrote a tart little item a few days ago. We read: Related content from Sphere

Intellectuals: Threat or Menace?

We’ve heard a lot lately about anti-intellectualism. The word “intellectual” often evokes, it seems, negative associations even in people who could fairly be called intellectuals themselves; we’ve even seen some of that in recent discussions here. Why? Related content from Sphere

Music Of My People

I have a fairly uncomplicated genealogy: Cornish, Scottish and Welsh (Pollock/Polk, and Lloyd) on my father’s side, and Scottish, back into the remotest mists of time (along the Calder/Cawdor and Morrison lineages) on my mother’s. (That my name is Pollack, not Pollock, is only due, as it turns out, to a paperwork error that happened […]