25 April 2008
24 April 2008
Fun With The Academy.
Stefan Kanfer considers the joys of the campus novel:
"I expect you'll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That's what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behavior."- Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall, 1928
Those were the days. A novelist could teach for a year or two and emerge with enough satire to fill a library. Alas, the Academy has grown more ludicrous and exaggerated with each succeeding generation and is now almost beyond parody. Today, all a smart writer has to do, in Emily Dickinson's memorable phrase, is tell the truth but tell it slant.
This melancholy observation was brought to mind by Roger Rosenblatt's comic tale Beet, the story of a professor who fatuously assumes that college is a place for colloquy and intellectual adventure. Instead, he finds an arena rife with faculty politics and political correctness, with courses like Little People of Color and Postcolonial Women's Sports. The administration is even worse than the staff: eyeing the Internet, the chairman of the board of trustees demands, "Why couldn't we run the whole college online? From one building? From a Quonset hut! From a lean-to, for Chrissake! An outhouse!"
Funny stuff. But the fact is that colleges are falling all over themselves to hustle dollars from the Net. Google has more than six million references to courses you can take without bothering to enter a classroom. As for PC, the very real Occidental College offers The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie?; Oberlin has a seminar called She Works Hard for the Money: Women, Work and the Persistence of Inequality; and UCLA makes much of Queer Musicology, exploring the ways in which "sexual differences and complex gender identities in music and among musicians have incited productive consternation" during the 1990s. I could cite hundreds more.
All of which makes me long for the simple lunacies of the past. In film there was the immortal Horse Feathers, in which Groucho Marx takes over Huxley University and announces the razing of the dormitories. "But Professor Wagstaff, where will the students sleep?" "In the classroom, where they always sleep."
In the library and bookstores there's a vital subgenre called the Academic Novel. The shelves bulge with examples, produced by writers forced to seek a living in the land of chalkdust and theses. Five are standouts...
22 April 2008
The Way, The Truth, The Optional Extra.
Hacker: Being a bishop is just a matter of status? Dressing up in cassocks and gaiters?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, but gaiters are generally worn only at significant religious events, like the royal garden party.
Sir Humphrey: Well, the church is trying to be more relevant.
Hacker: To God?
Sir Humphrey: Oh, of course not, Prime Minister. I meant relevant in sociological terms.
Hacker: So the ideal candidate from the Church of England’s point of view would be a cross between a socialite and a socialist.
Sir Humphrey: Precisely.
Bernard: (Of the modernist candidate for bishop) He designed a new church in South London and among the plans was a place for dispensing orange juice, family planning, and organizing demos. But no place for Holy Communion. . . .
Hacker: And the church approved his?
Sir Humphrey: Of course. You see the church is run by theologians.
Hacker: How do you mean?
Sir Humphrey: Theology is a device for enabling agnostics to stay within the church. . . . You could turn both candidates down, but that would be exceptional and not advised.
Hacker: Even though one of them wants to get God out of the Church of England and the other one wants to get the Queen out?
Sir Humphrey: The Queen is inseparable from the Church of England.
Hacker: What about God?
Sir Humphrey: I think He’s what’s called an “optional extra.”
15 April 2008
Bye, Bye Tag.
A playground pastime is getting a timeout this spring at a McLean elementary school.
Robyn Hooker, principal of Kent Gardens Elementary School, has told students they may no longer play tag during recess after determining that the game of chasing, dodging and yelling "You're it!" had gotten out of hand. Hooker explained to parents in a letter this month that tag had become a game "of intense aggression."
Ecce Pontifex Et Homo .
Apropos of his visit to these shores, Delia Gallagher offers a primer on Benedict the human being:
The pope has a little white house in Regensburg, Germany, bought in the hopes of retirement. He had it built in the seventies for himself and his sister Maria. He was teaching at the University of Regensburg; Maria helped him transcribe his writings. His brother, Georg, an important director of music in the same town, came by often. He transferred the graves of his parents to the nearby cemetery.
He describes his years in Regensburg as some of his happiest. He was teaching and surrounded by his family. “We were once again together,” he says, “in our own home.”
No one now lives in the house in Regensburg. His sister Maria has died; the pope’s cat Chico wanders in the garden and is looked after by the neighbors, Rupert and Terese Hofbauer, who also send jars of honey to the pope in the Vatican from the honeycombs in his garden. The calendar in the house is stopped at Friday, January 7, 2005, the last time the Joseph Ratzinger slept there, just a few months before becoming pope.
This frank portrait the pope paints of himself shows Benedict to be a sort of everyman; every man who thought his life might turn out differently.
It is a very different image than the one circulated in the media at the time of his election: that he wanted the job and indeed campaigned for it.
In a post-John Paul II world, no one knows more than Joseph Ratzinger himself that he does not have some of the qualities expected in a pope today, including “rock-star” likeability. He is a professor, not comfortable with the adulation of crowds John Paul II-style.
Benedict is the post-TV pope; the best way to meet him is not through images and sound bites, but through the directness of his talks, which he writes himself. Ironically, given his reputation for being old-fashioned, he is the perfect pope for the Internet age, where his discourses can be read in full by everyone and meditated on in private. It might be said he prefers it this way.
14 April 2008
Great article on the genius of Greg Maddux:
How many times had he heard someone say it? How many times over the past 22 years had some catcher or coach or broadcaster said, "Greg Maddux? I bet you could catch him with your eyes closed"? Sounded plausible enough, maybe coaxed a chuckle or two from the pitcher, but mostly it was just something to say. Nobody realized it was just a matter of time before somebody decided to prove it.
This was in mid-September, in the home bullpen at Petco Park. Maddux, the human metronome, kept going into his windup with the same hands-over-the-head motion he's used since he was a kid in Las Vegas. Pitch after pitch hit the mitt, wherever it was placed, like always. Padres bullpen catcher Ben Risinger, perhaps bored with the persistent perfection of it all, turned to bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds and said, "I bet I could catch him with my eyes closed."
That was all fine and rhetorical until Akerfelds said, "Okay, let's go for it."
. . .
In person, Maddux is kind of goofy, with a double-chinned, slack-jawed look of wonder that must be a put-on. Maybe this is the way of the genius, or the savant. Did Caravaggio have to explain every brushstroke? Would it have diminished his achievements if he did? Greg's older brother, Mike, pitching coach for the Brewers, becomes defensive when asked about Greg's reticence, saying, "Magicians don't tell everyone their tricks, do they? I bet David Copperfield would be a tough interview too."
Self-reflection is not a priority. Maddux has spent his adult life in the eternal childhood of the big league clubhouse. There's no other place on earth quite like it. One morning this spring in Peoria, Ariz., he sat at his corner locker with a plate of bacon and eggs on his lap, talking about pitching. He was running some sort of low-stakes golf pool out of the corner of his eye, passing out papers and collecting money without turning his head. At one point, in midsentence and without warning, he winced like a man about to pass a stone, lifted his left cheek off the chair and let loose. "Whoa, wow, sorry about that," he said, then continued with the eggs and the discussion and the golf pool. So add that to the Maddux scouting report: bats right, throws right, farts left.
11 April 2008
The Benedict Moment.
"John Paul made you burst into tears. Benedict makes you think. It is more pleasurable to weep, but at the moment, perhaps it is more important to think."
09 April 2008
An Atheist's Longing.
Ecologist Paul Colinvaux, interviewed on the radio program "Living on Earth", looks back over a long and fruitful career, but contemplates his end with melancholy (and either contradiction or irony):
GELLERMAN: In the Galapagos, you also discovered a plant.
COLINVAUX: Oh, yes.
GELLERMAN: It's named after you.
COLINVAUX: Passionflora Colinvauxiae. Yes, it's one that Darwin missed.
GELLERMAN: I think it's very interesting that it's a passion flower, because you're a passionate man.
COLINVAUX: Well, that's kind, yes.
GELLERMAN: But I'm saying, how many other people do you know, who would spend forty years trekking through the equatorial regions in search of ancient lakes and pollen from an Ice Age?
COLINVAUX: There aren't any.
GELLERMAN: Your work shows that the core samples that you've collected over these many years don't show an increase in grass pollen during the Ice Age.
GELLERMAN: So now, after the end of a 40-year career investigating this, trekking through thick and thin, aren't you a little, well, disappointed that you don't have an answer to replace this hypothesis?
COLINVAUX: Well, I would like to have another 40 years. I rather suspect the good God's not going to give it to me. Perhaps because I'm an atheist like most biologists with sense.
GELLERMAN: Well, professor, thank you for coming by. I really appreciate it.
COLINVAUX: Thank you.
GELLERMAN: Paul Colinvaux is senior research scientist at Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, and professor emeritus at the Ohio State University. His new book is called "Amazon Expeditions: My Quest for the Ice Age Equator."
Read or listen to the whole thing.
Check Your Conscience At The Exam Room Door.
By Christopher Kaczor
From First Things - "On the Square" Tuesday, April 8, 2008, 5:43 AM
In November 2007, the Committee on Ethics of the
of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published Committee Opinion # 385 entitled, “The Limits of Conscientious Refusal in Reproductive Medicine.” The committee opinion sought to “maximize accommodation of an individual’s religious or moral beliefs while avoiding imposition of these beliefs on others or interfering with the safe, timely, and financially feasible access to reproductive health care that all women deserve.” American College
Unfortunately, the balance struck by the committee between the right of conscience of physicians and the reproductive health care of women so emphasizes patient autonomy that it turns physicians into medical automatons forced to act against their best ethical and medical judgment. As pointed out on March 14, 2008, by Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt: “The ACOG ethics report would force physicians to violate their conscience by referring patients for abortions or taking other objectionable actions, or risk losing their board certification.” Put simply, committee Opinion 385 could be the end of the pro-life doctor.
According to the ethics report, physicians objecting to abortion or contraception must refer patients desiring such services to other providers (recommendation # 4); may not argue or advocate their views on these matters though they are required to provide prior notice to their patients of their moral commitments (recommendation #3); and, in emergency cases or in situations that might negatively affect patient physical or mental health, they must actually provide contraception and/or perform abortions (recommendation #5, emphasis added).
In order to justify these recommendations, the committee appeals to an idiosyncratic conception of ethics and conscience. The ACOG guidelines implicitly view ethics as a matter of private emotion and sentiment, rather than as common rationality and shared practical wisdom. Against Kant’s unconditional command, Newman’s magisterial dictate, and
’s famous dictum (”were its might equal to its right, it would rule the world”), the ACOG committee makes conscience a mere prima facie guide. “Although respect for conscience is a value, it is only a prima facie value, which means it can and should be overridden in the interest of other moral obligations that outweigh it in a given circumstance.” Butler
This peculiar account of conscience stands in no small tension with the view expressed by Antigone in Sophocles’ tragedy, Socrates in the Crito, and Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae. Traditionally, conscience is the supreme proximate norm for human action precisely because it represents the agent’s best ethical judgment all things considered.
The ACOG’s own previous policy positions imply a very different understanding of the nature, scope, and claims of conscientious judgment, including the judgment that a proposed treatment is not in the best interest of the patient. In earlier statements, the ACOG defended the individual judgment of the physician in determining what is medically indicated as a buttress against laws criminalizing partial-birth abortion. If an individual doctor believes it is in the best interest of the patient’s health to perform a particular method of abortion, then this judgment must be defended. The ACOG Statement of Policy on Abortion (reaffirmed in 2004) affirmed that partial-birth abortion “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of the woman, and only the doctor in consultation with the patient, based on the woman’s particular circumstances, can make that decision. . . . The intervention of legislative bodies into medical decision making is inappropriate, ill advised, and dangerous.” Here the ACOG holds that the judgment of the physician is paramount in determining what is or is not medically indicated.Some physicians, however, refuse to perform abortions and/or provide contraceptives precisely because in their view, having examined the empirical evidence, such as the recent Royal College of Psychiatrists statement on women’s mental health and abortion, these practices contradict the best interests of their patients. In such cases, the ACOG proposes to override their best medical judgment in favor of “standard care” as determined by the ACOG. It would seem that the conscientious judgment of the individual physician chosen by the patient is paramount only when this facilitates abortion.
Here's the whole thing.
Leaving Aside His Pogontrophy...
...he's a serious thinker.
Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart considers a collection of essays by and the intellectual attainments of Archbishop Rowan Williams:
In a bracingly venomous Spectator article on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent remarks about sharia law in Britain, the journalist Rod Liddle opined that it must be Rowan Williams’s beard that has won him the reputation of an intellectual. Certainly, Liddle remarked, “it cannot be anything he has ever said or written”. I have to confess my doubts that Liddle has really read much of Williams’s oeuvre. No one who had – whatever reservations he or she might harbour as to the Archbishop’s wisdom, prudence or pogonotrophy – could possibly dismiss the man as a featherweight or a fraud.
Well before he moved to Lambeth Palace (heedless, alas, of a few desperate voices calling him back from the edge), Rowan Williams had established himself as perhaps Britain’s most impressive theological virtuoso. His gifts as a linguist alone set him apart from most of his contemporaries, granting him access to texts and conversations well outside the orbits of more narrowly specialized researchers, and his ability to speak authoritatively, reflectively and creatively on authors as diverse as the Greek Fathers, the medieval and early modern mystics, the German idealists, the Russian Sophiologists, and so forth, marked him from an early age as an uncommon talent, possessed of a scholarly range that even the most accomplished theologians might envy. Whether his intellectual attainments have translated well into the sort of public skills required of a church leader is a legitimate matter of debate; whether those attainments are real and substantial, however, is not.To any who doubt this, I would heartily recommend Wrestling with Angels...
I was not even aware the good Archbishop even had a pogontrophy, much less regarding which did I harbor reservations (pogontrophy?).
UPDATE: Pogontrophy - the care and nurture of beards.
03 April 2008
Uh, yes, I'd try a shot of this:
So Tyler became the clear victor not too long ago when he turned up something called, somewhat disturbingly, Peanut Lolita, a thick, peanut-flavored liqueur that once was produced by Continental Distilling in Linfield, Pa. The logo and fonts on the label suggest the early 1960s, but according to what little research exists, Peanut Lolita was still around in the mid-1970s, when infamous presidential brother Billy Carter "often made drunken appearances" with the liqueur's spokesmodel, according to an essay by Christopher S. Kelley in "Life in the White House: A Social History of the First Family and the President's House" (SUNY Press, 2004).We may now own the only two bottles of Peanut Lolita left in existence. Due to the liqueur's overwhelming whiskey-and-peanut taste and grainy texture -- not to mention its unfortunate name -- it is unlikely to make a comeback anytime soon. But Tyler has created a respectable drink with the stuff: He layers ice-cold Peanut Lolita and raspberry-flavored Chambord in a cordial glass and calls it a PB&J.
Here's the whole thing.
Some argue for an organ market (a licit one) on libertarian, free market grounds, but conservatives have always realized that conserving the things we value most means withdrawing them from the market. Here's Roger Scruton, via Alan Jacobs, via Rod Dreher:
The free market is a necessary part of any stable community, and the arguments for maintaining it as the core of economic life were unanswerably set out by Ludwig von Mises. Hayek developed the arguments further, in order to offer a general defence of "spontaneous order", as the means to produce and maintain socially necessary knowledge. As Hayek points out, there are many varieties of spontaneous order that exemplify the epistemic virtues that he values: the common law is one of them, so too is ordinary morality.
The problem for conservatism is to reconcile the many and often conflicting demands that these various forms of life impose on us. The free-market ideologues take one instance of spontaneous order, and erect it into a prescription for all the others. They ask us to believe that the free exchange of commodities is the model for all social interaction. But many of our most important forms of life involve withdrawing what we value from the market: sexual morality is an obvious instance, city planning another. (America has failed abysmally in both those respects, of course.)
Looked at from the anthropological point of view religion can be seen as an elaborate (and spontaneous) way in which communities remove what is most precious to them (i.e. all that concerns the creation and reproduction of community) from the erosion of the market. A cultural conservative, such as I am, supports that enterprise. I would put the point in terms that echo Burke and Chesterton: the free market provides the optimal solution to the competition among the living for scarce resources; but when applied to the goods in which the dead and the unborn have an interest (sex, for instance) it wastes what must be saved.
How Much For The Kidney?
From the Holy Communion newsletter:
Parts is Parts?
I’ve been reading a bit these last few weeks about organ donation (don’t worry, so far as I know my own organs and those of my loved ones are in relatively fine fettle). I’ve read some odd things, too: a serious proposal by a serious intellectual for “death by donation,” wherein prisoners on death row would be executed by the surgical removal of their organs for transplant into sick persons in need; I’ve read about “transplant tourism,” a fairly recent phenomenon involving persons who travel to such places as India or Indonesia where organs are available in abundance for transplant (as opposed to the “shortage” of organs here and in the first world West generally; I include the irony quotes because I read a news report last week that the number of patients waiting for transplant has been vastly over-reported by the relevant agency, with more than a whiff of scandal); I’ve read (not at all coincidentally) about impoverished Indians and Indonesians who have been pressured into selling a kidney in order to settle debts; I’ve read that Gordon Brown, the prime minister of Great Britain, has proposed that the U.K. go to an “opt out” plan for donation; that is, a system in which organ donation is presumed by the state rather than chosen by the individual; I’ve read stories of tearful meetings between the grateful recipients of donated organs and the loved ones of the deceased donor, of a widow who presses her ear to the chest of a stranger and hears the heart of her lost husband beating – and feels his presence; I’ve read about the trial currently ongoing of a surgeon who, allegedly, hastened the death of a terminal patient in order to procure organs for transplant into another dying patient; and I’ve read proposals that a market for organs be created in this country – that we move from the current donation model to allowing individuals to sell their own body parts for transplant.
Why all this reading about organ donation? This month, Caritas Fellowship, our outreach ministry to the Medical University of South Carolina, is sponsoring what we hope will be the first in a series of annual lectures in biomedical ethics. This year, that lecture will be titled “Organs for
One of Dr. Meilaender’s gifts has been to ask and articulate very basic questions about the nature, dignity and limits of our common humanity, the meaning of our bodies, and the right ordering of our common life, and then carefully to reason forward towards more specific questions and cases; for instance, is it a good idea in the long (or even the short) run to create a market for body parts? This topic will give us a good opportunity to think through some very basic questions – What am I? What is the relationship of “my body” to “me”? Is my body a unity or a conglomeration of separable (and saleable) parts? What rights do I have over my body? – with a wise man.
It is a great privilege to have someone of Dr. Meilaenders’s learning and stature with us, and I think this will be an interesting and provocative lecture - and not just for physicians and physicians-in-training, but for all God’s embodied image bearers, whose embodied humanity has been taken into the eternal and triune life of God by the Incarnation and Ascension of our Lord. So come listen and support this ministry! Here are the details:
Gilbert Meilaender, Ph.D.
Monday, 21 April 2008
St. Luke’s Chapel, MUSC
An Organ Market?
ORGANS FOR $ALE?
Thinking about Transplantation.
Gilbert Meilaender, Ph.D.
- Monday, 21 April 2008
- 4.00 PM
- St. Luke's Chapel, MUSC (Map)
- Free & Open to the Public
- Inaugural Caritas Fellowship Lecture in Bioethics
But a gift cannot so easily be severed from its giver. When an organ is freely given, that gift—like all gifts—carries with it the presence of the giver and directs our attention back to one who is not just a collection of alienable parts but a unified living being. Indeed, what the donor gives is not simply an organ, but himself or herself. The gift can never be entirely severed or alienated from the giver. (Which is why, for example, we would think it wrong for a living donor to give an unpaired vital organ, such as the heart. The gift would undermine the very integrity of bodily life that it aimed to express.)" —Gilbert Meilaender, “The Giving and Taking of Organs.” First Things, February 2008
Easter & Risk/Benefit Anaysis.
A few months ago Jimmy came to say that his bank card had been stolen. He wondered if I would call his Credit Union down south so his account would not be robbed. I called and agreed to receive mail for him at the parish office. A friend of mine groaned, “Oh, you should never have agreed to accept mail for him, you ought not to accept mail for anyone.” I groaned interiorly as I had decided long ago to give up “safe and respectable” Christianity. Crucifixion is not “respectable”. The resurrection is the gain on the risk of the cross’s folly.