January 8, 2013

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 PM


'The Hobbit' and Virtue (JOSEPH PEARCE,December 14, 2012,  National Catholic Register )

At its deepest level of meaning, The Hobbit is a pilgrimage of grace in which its protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, becomes grown-up in the most important sense.  Throughout the course of his adventure, the hobbit develops the habit of virtue and grows in sanctity, illustrating the priceless truth that we only become wise men (homo sapiens) when we realize that we are pilgrims on a purposeful journey through life (homo viator).

Bilbo's journey from the homely comfort of the Shire to the uncomfortable lessons learned en route to the Lonely Mountain, in parallel with Frodo's journey from the Shire to Mount Doom in the Rings trilogy, is a mirror of every man's journey through life.  It is in this sense that Tolkien wrote in his celebrated and cerebral essay "On Fairy Stories" that "the fairy story . . . may be used as a mirour de l'omme" (the mirror of scorn and pity towards man).

In short, we are meant to see ourselves reflected in the character of Bilbo and our lives reflected in his journey from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 PM


Where Did Pabst Win that Blue Ribbon? (Jimmy Stampp, 11/20/12, Smithsonian)

Pabst Blue Ribbon beer -PBR to its friends- may today be best known as the preferred beer of old Midwestern fisherman and mustachioed hipsters, but that instantly recognizable ribbon is more than just a symbol or marketing ploy. Pabst did, in fact, win a first place award at one of the most celebrated events in American history. The year was 1893  (a time when everyone looked like a mustachioed hipster) and in Chicago, Illinois, America's greatest architects and planners had created a fairground unlike any the world had ever seen, a utopian White City.

The World's Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World's Fair, was convened to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in America. It was a key moment for design and invention in America. Products such as Juicy Fruit, Crackerjack and Shredded Wheat were introduced to the public for the first time. The Ferris Wheel made its grand debut, outshining the Eiffel Tower and proving that there was no limit to American engineering and imagination. Westinghouse electrified the fairgrounds with alternating current electricity, setting the standard for a nation. Nikola Tesla stunned visitors by shooting lighting from his hands, Thomas Edison thrilled them with the Kinetoscope's moving pictures, and former steamship captain Frederick Pabst got them drunk on the best damn beer they'd ever tasted.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 PM


Why Evangelicals are the new partners for immigration reform (Amy E. Black / January 8, 2013, CS Monitor)

[P]astors and religious leaders are talking more about the issue as a religious concern. Many scriptural passages relate to immigration - including the famous 40-year wilderness journey of the children of Israel to the Promised Land. But most evangelical churches and organizations have only recently begun to underscore the biblical connection to immigration. [...]

Much like the nation, evangelicalism is becoming more ethnically diverse. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 13 percent of Hispanic Americans describe themselves as evangelical Protestants. Immigrant churches are growing rapidly, and many denominations have created new structures and leadership posts designed to serve Hispanic congregants. Immigration - including illegal immigration - touches the lives of many in the pews, and church leaders want to help.

Also, greater numbers of Evangelicals are worshiping alongside documented and undocumented immigrants, getting to know them and listening to their stories.

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 PM


Three Great Bodies of Principle and Conviction (Russell Kirk, Imaginative Conservative)

The first of these is the Christian faith: the theological and moral doctrines which inform us, either side of the Atlantic, of the nature of God and man, the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, human dignity, the rights and duties of human person, the nature of charity, and the meaning of hope and resignation. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 PM


Four Years Later, 28,000 More Jobs (FLOYD NORRIS, 1/08/13, NY Times)

The December jobs figures out today indicate that there were 725,000 more jobs in the private sector than at the end of 2008 -- and 697,000 fewer government jobs. That works into a private-sector gain of 0.6 percent, and a government sector decline of 3.1 percent. [...]

 It is by far the largest four-year decline in government employment since the 1944-48 term. That decline was caused by the end of World War II; this one was caused largely by budget limitations. The only other post-1948 four-year drop was during Ronald Reagan's first term, when government employment fell 0.6 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 AM

Richard Ben Cramer : The author of "What It Takes" died Monday (Ben Smith,  Jan 7, 2013, BuzzFeed)

The writer Richard Ben Cramer, who died Monday at the age of 62 at Johns Hopkins, wrote one of the very few enduring books about presidential politics, "What It Takes." Published in during the 1992 campaign, far too late, it sank like a stone (in his recollection at least), only to rise slowly until it became a model and a talisman for a new generation of political writers.

Richard was a character as large as the politicians and ballplayers he wrote about; or at least, as large as he made those men, some of them superficially fairly dull, seem -- once he had climbed into their heads and learned to speak their voices. He had a beard and a gravely voice and wore absurd, baggy gardening pants; he lived in a big house on Maryland's Eastern Shore that Joe Biden had helped him select. Richard cared far more about the people he wrote about than about party or policy. In fact, he unabashedly loved many of the people he wrote about, perhaps because he had worked so hard to understand them: The crooked Maryland politicians he came up with; the misunderstood Ted Williams, whose secret kindness he exposed in an Esquire piece you should read tonight; Bob Dole!; and George W. Bush, who had been a great source of his on the 1988 campaign. Richard and W. discussed a book that would have had the writer sitting in the West Wing through the year 2001, a vetoed project that must be the best unwritten book in the history of American politics.

Richard wanted to understand things above all.


What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now? : Regarded as perhaps the finest piece of sportswriting on record, the furious saga of Teddy Ballgame -- from boy to man and near death -- is an unmatchable remembrance for an American icon. (Richard Ben Cramer, Esquire)
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Posted by orrinj at 5:30 AM


Morsy backs Syrian calls for al-Assad to face war crimes trial (CNN,  January 7, 2013)

 Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy supports calls by people in Syria for President Bashar al-Assad to be tried for war crimes, he told CNN on Sunday in an exclusive interview.

"The Syrian people through their revolution and through the movement will -- when the bloodshed stops -- move to a new stage where they will have an independent parliament and a government of their choosing," Morsy, Egypt's first freely elected leader, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in Cairo. "And then they will decide what they want to do to those who committed crimes against them. It is the Syrian people who decide."