German Study: Vast Majority of People Will Grow Out of Transgenderism Within 5 Years (Ben Johnson, 6/16/24, Daily Signal)

A massive, yearslong study shows the overwhelming majority of young people who identify as transgender will grow out of the diagnosis within five years.

A similar supermajority of trans-identifying people suffered from at least one other psychological condition, found researchers, who tracked all children and young adults diagnosed with gender dysphoria over a nine-year period.

It’s ideology, not medicine.


UNIVERSAL DARKNESS: On the definition of film noir. (Stanley Fish, 6/10/24, The Lamp)

Next year I shall be teaching a course in film noir for the first time, and I thought it might be useful to set down my thoughts about the genre. Definitions and lists of characteristics are not hard to come by. Many websites will tell you that film noir movies were shot in sharply contrasting black and white, made liberal use of flashbacks, and flourished between 1940 and 1958 with a number of “neo-noir” films, some in color, appearing even to the present day; that film noir heroes or anti-heroes are cynical, world-weary, bitter, and vulnerable to the seductive wiles of sensual and duplicitous women; that these men and women play out their doomed lives in a landscape of corruption, betrayals, double crosses, and plans gone awry; that everyone and everything in the film noir universe is at the mercy of chance, accident, and a general, even miasmic, malevolence; that these movies were especially appealing in the context of the pessimism generated by World War II and a post-war malaise brilliantly documented in a film that is not noir but has noir touches, William Wyler’s masterpiece The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

But for my money, this list of noir elements casts too wide a net. As far as I am concerned, it’s not noir unless at its center is a moment when a line is crossed and someone, almost always a man, starts on a path that leads inevitably not only to his own destruction but to the destruction of everyone and everything he touches. It is tempting to speak of this moment as a choice, but it is better characterized as a slide, a slide from what had been a more or less ordinary existence to a toboggan ride down to hell with no hope of a reversal of motion. Edward G. Robinson’s Barton Keyes (Double Indemnity, 1944) puts it best when he says of the lovers-murderers he has not yet fully identified, “It’s not like taking a trolley-ride together where they can get off at different stops. They’re stuck with each other and they’ve got to ride all the way to the end and it’s a one-way trip and the last stop is the cemetery.”

The Hays Code gave us great art.


A Book Club of Two: The Time I Started a James Joyce Reading Group in College (Kristopher Jansma, June 14, 2024, LitHub)

Our professor seemed unsurprised that we weren’t getting into it, even after he gave us a schema that explained the themes and explained that Joyce’s contemporaries had been similarly puzzled, until he’d given them this guide. We settled in with these charts that paralleled the chapters back to Homer’s Odyssey, and perused the maps with the paths of the characters throughout Dublin on the day—June 16th—now known as “Bloomsday” in honor of this wonderful novel. He brought out a big green Gifford annotation and had us read it alongside the original text so that we could see all that was wrapped up inside.

But I couldn’t get into it. An international holiday was nice, I conceded, but what the hell is the point of a 768-page book that even the author’s closest friends needed to read with a cheat key?

it’s a fascistic exercise in an author controlling rather than entertaining his “readers’. (No one has ever actually read it)


Reading dies in complexity: Online news consumers prefer simple writing (HILLARY C. SHULMAN, DAVID M. MARKOWITZ, AND TODD ROGERS, 5 Jun 2024, Science Advances)

Over 30,000 field experiments with The Washington Post and Upworthy showed that readers prefer simpler headlines (e.g., more common words and more readable writing) over more complex ones. A follow-up mechanism experiment showed that readers from the general public paid more attention to, and processed more deeply, the simpler headlines compared to the complex headlines. That is, a signal detection study suggested readers were guided by a simpler-writing heuristic, such that they skipped over relatively complex headlines to focus their attention on the simpler headlines. Notably, a sample of professional writers, including journalists, did not show this pattern, suggesting that those writing the news may read it differently from those consuming it. Simplifying writing can help news outlets compete in the competitive online attention economy, and simple language can make news more approachable to online readers.

Good writers communicate with the readesr, not themselves.


CHARLOTTE’S WEB REVISITED (Alexander Riley, 6 . 4 . 24, First Things)

The paragraph in which Charlotte dies—and particularly its second sentence, which is so beautifully constructed that it should be carved into a monument somewhere—still staggers me with both its literary perfection and the unbearable metaphysical weight of what it conveys:

She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died.

It is true that there is a theme of defeating death in the novel, in Wilbur’s rescue from the holiday dinner table and his continued tie to Charlotte through her children. But even as a child, I knew this was insufficient. Death remains unconquered in the message of the passage on Charlotte’s death. The crushing solitude of those words—the heroine of the novel, a noble and selfless character, is alone in the deserted fairground, to disappear forever—left me with a feeling that lurked in the background of my life for years. It was that universal feeling of unease, anxiety, and trepidation in the face of this terrible thing that can seem to have no solution.

There’s only One Story.


Tolkien’s Secret: Tolkien’s tale reminds us that we ourselves are part of the Great Story. (Robert Lazu Kmita, June 8, 2024, European Conservative)

People cannot live without true stories, without sacred texts, without myths. Here is, in a nutshell, my shortest answer to the question I posed at the outset: being woven from stories themselves, people give preference to those authors who help them, as best they can, to remember the essential story that is hidden in the anonymity of their gray lives. This is, in my opinion, Tolkien’s secret (if he indeed had one).

Reading Tolkien’s stories, the characters with whom we are primarily invited to identify are the hobbits. Neither the lives of the majestic, immortal elves, nor the harshness and grandeur of the lives of kings like Aragorn or Theoden, nor the wisdom of a Maia like Gandalf are accessible to us. Instead, the little hobbits, with whom Tolkien himself happily identified, possess all those traits that any of us, the readers, would be glad to have: hardworking and disciplined; lovers of comfort, fun, and peaceful living; joyful in friendship; prudent and reserved when it came to foolish adventures; and wise, brave, and steadfast in serving a worthy cause. In short, they have noble souls hidden beneath the mask of humor and friendliness, just as we would (and could) wish to be.

FALLING FOREVER (profanity alert):

Dua Lipa, like Pope Benedict, Strives to Give Eros Dignity (Mark Judge, 6/03/24, Chronicles)

The Guardian agreed: “Lipa’s refusal to engage with the more soul-bearing aspects of 21st-century celebrity has made her the kind of pop star one suspects Andy Warhol might have had a lot of time for: a slightly remote, visually arresting space into which fans can project whatever they want.” The Los Angeles Times lamented that Radical Optimism lacks “the kind of detailed celebrity meta-narrative that’s come to define—and to propel—the superstar pop LP in music’s parasocial age.”

Instead of focusing on fame, Lipa had taken on something much grander—the search for authentic love in the modern world. The album opens with “End of an Era,” a song that marks the transition girls make from clubbing to becoming wives.

The sweetest pleasure
I feel like we’re gonna be together
This could be the end of an era
Who knows, baby? This could be forever and ever

In the clouds, there she goes, butterflies let them flow (end of an era)
Another girl falls in love, another girl leaves the club
Send a big kiss goodbye to all of the pretty eyes (end of an era)
Another girl falls in love, another girl leaves the club.

This is lovely poetry, rich with meaning. Critics complain because Lipa does not spend her time bitching about fame and her public image, but perhaps she is better off leaving that kind of thing to Taylor Swift. Love is still the greatest human challenge and the greatest adventure. In Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict explores “that love between man and woman which is neither planned nor willed, but somehow imposes itself upon human beings, [which] was called eros by the ancient Greeks.”

FORGIVENESS (profanity alert):

On the Music of John Prine (Erich J. Prince, 06/02/2024, Merion West)

For me, though, there is one Prine song I find the most philosophical, though many of his songs do indeed have that bent. (Being born in the 1990s, I often—and I’m told this is to my great detriment—think of artists in terms of their songs rather than their albums, but maybe this will one day change.) The song is “Fish and Whistle,” the first track on his 1978 album Bruised Orange:

“Father forgive us
For what we must do
You forgive us
We’ll forgive you
We’ll forgive each other
Till we both turn blue
Then we’ll whistle and go fishing
In heaven.”

Along with Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” “Dona, Dona,” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” I consider “Fish and Whistle” to be among the most lyrically profound songs of the second half of the 20th century, as stiff of competition as there might be. Prine, the amateur theologian of the Heartland, wonders aloud: Our faith tells us we must constantly ask God for forgiveness, including often for our peccadilloes, but might He apologize to us for the cancer that takes a child, the car accident that destroys a family, or the wars that bring continents to their knees?


On Beauty and Imitation (Daniel McInerny, June 3rd, 2024, Imaginative Conservative)

Art as address to sacred order saw itself, to borrow a term from J.R.R. Tolkien, as sub-creation. It was human making done from materials provided by sacred order, for the sake of contemplating and celebrating that order, under the aspect of its beauty.

Such work was driven by an understanding of art as mimēsis. This Greek word is often translated as “imitation” or “re-presentation.” Art as mimesis re-presents, makes present again, the sensible and intelligible forms of things in media other than their own, for the sensible and intelligible delight of an audience.

When we take in Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of Sir Thomas More, Thomas More is truly present in the portrait. Not, of course, in all his living three-dimensionality. But the sensible look of his features, and of his bearing, are right there, amazingly, on Holbein’s two-dimensional canvas, as are, even more amazingly, certain signs of the character of the man who would not sacrifice God’s law to the whims of a human prince.

But then one day, something happened to culture and to art.

Culture no longer saw itself as the address to sacred order. Indeed, culture began to style itself as emancipation from that order.


In Texas border town, locals say military forces, not migrants, are invading (ARNIE ALPERT, 5/27/24, In Depth NH)

The following day I drove with another photojournalist to the site of Camp Eagle, an 80-acre military base under construction on the outskirts of Eagle Pass. A man from a company that rents construction equipment directed us to a white trailer, where I met Chuck Downie of Team Housing Solutions. After telling me about his family’s place on Moultonborough Neck, Downie told us we could not be there without permission from the Texas Military Department. One of his colleagues escorted us from the property.

We were also escorted by a Border Patrol agent from a farm adjacent to the Rio Grande where we were photographing fan boats and the buoys which Gov. Abbott had installed as a river barricade. For the record, I thought we had permission to be there.

“If there’s an invasion, it’s from the military,” says Jessie Fuentes, a retired communications professor who runs a canoe and kayak rental business. “There’s more military in our community than there are migrants, thousands and thousands of military from 13 different states.”

“How would you feel if all of a sudden, your community was locked up with soldiers and you couldn’t go into your favorite park? Because it has concertina wire around it or shipping containers or armed guards or you can’t access your own river and your green space?” asked Fuentes, a member of the Eagle Pass Border Coalition, a grassroots organization. “So yeah, the only invasion we got here is from the military and the Texas governor.”

Texas has already spent more than $11 billion on Lone Star, and that money’s going somewhere. Camp Eagle is being built by Team Housing, which has a $117 million contract. Storm Services LLC has its logo on Camp Charlie, located next to Maverick County Airport, where Texas National Guard members are based. Camp Alpha, where the NH Guard members are staying, is according to tax records owned by Basecamp Solutions LLC. An article in a Del Rio paper from the time the property was purchased, though, said the owner was Team Housing. Both LLCs are owned by Mandy Cavanaugh, from New Braunfels, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

The local immigrant detention prison is owned by the GEO Group, which according to a February 20 Newsweek article “reported one of its most profitable years amid the growing demand for immigration detention facilities.” GEO operates 11 facilities in Texas.

The $11B doesn’t count the money being spent by other states to send troops to Texas. Missouri has just approved $2.2 million for a deployment. Louisiana is sending its third rotation of soldiers. There’s “a lot of money being spent,” said Steve Fischer, who I met while he was walking his dog near the gated and guarded entrance to Shelby Park.

Fischer, who has served as a county attorney and owns a home 2000 feet from the Mexican border in El Paso, came to Eagle Pass to run a public defender program representing people charged with crimes under Operation Lone Star.

When I told him about Gov. Sununu getting $850,000 for the two-month New Hampshire deployment, Fischer said, “He’s wasting that money.”

As of two weeks ago, Fischer said, “Lone Star has not gotten one single fentanyl case.” All Lone Star is doing, he said, is charging people with felonies for driving undocumented immigrants to work sites.

Amrutha Jindal, who runs the larger Lone Star Defenders office, confirmed that most of the Lone Star felony charges are for people pulled over for driving undocumented migrants. There are very few drug cases, she said. Most arrests are for criminal trespass, including many cases where migrants seeking asylum were misdirected by law enforcement officers onto property where they could be arrested.

Jindal said migrants who post bonds to be released from jail and are then deported forfeit the funds, as much as $3000, when they are unable to appear in court for hearings because they are barred from re-entry into the United States. The money, presumably, is kept by the counties.

Most migrants “want to seek asylum,” Jindal said. “They’re not trying to sneak into the country. They’re being lied to by state law enforcement.”

Fischer thinks people who are willing to go through hell to get here and willing to work hard should be able to. “Let them come if there’s a job for them,” he told me.