PUTTING AWAY CHILDISH THINGS (profanity alert):

Nick Cave on Christ and the Devil (Freddie Sayers, Dec 25, 2023, UnHerd)

In the old days, with The Birthday Party, they were extremely energetic, extremely (I would say) violent, aggressive concerts done by a not-fully-formed person, who held the world in contempt as a sort of default. That was the energy of those concerts — and that has changed completely. Now I see the world in a completely different way, and see human beings in a completely different way. I see the brokenness of human beings, but also the unbelievable value of human beings. This is something that, back then, I could never have imagined I would have felt. I think it has something to do with becoming a more complete person, through a series of things that have happened to me through my life — things that have happened to us all, probably.

“KEEP LISTENING TO THE BELLS”

The Greatest Gift (Philip Van Doren Stern, Dec 25, 2008, Tor.com)


When he found himself unable to find a publisher for his story, author Philip Van Doren Stern printed up copies of the “The Greatest Gift” and gave them out as Christmas cards in 1943. Eventually, the story came to the attention of director Frank Capra, who explained later, “It was the story I had been looking for all my life! A good man, ambitious. But so busy helping others, life seems to pass him by…Through the eyes of a guardian angel he sees the world as it would have been had he not been born. Wow! What an idea.” Capra went on to turn Stern’s story into the cherished holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Released in 1946 and starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and Gloria Grahame, the film received several Academy Award nominations and has gone on to become one of the most iconic films in movie history, as well as a beloved feature of every holiday season. Here, presented for your enjoyment, is the original Philip Van Doren Stern story. Happy holidays, all.

EVERYTHING GOOD:

PODCAST: Whit Stillman on ‘Metropolitan,’ a Christmas Movie (SONNY BUNCH, DEC 16, 2023, Bulwark Goes to Hollywood)


This week I’m thrilled to be joined by Whit Stillman, the director of, among other features, The Last Days of Disco, Barcelona, and Love and Friendship. He’s on the show today to discuss Metropolitan and the way it has been embraced as a classic Christmas movie, as well as the evolution of the indie film business over the last 40 years or so.

THE OPPOSITE OF IDENTITY POLITICS:

Keeping politics local (Jeffery Tyler Syck, 12/21/23, American Habits)

Each one of these elections proves that keeping political debate tethered to local issues is a winning strategy but such an approach to government is simply superior. The pressure to make every issue, every aspect of our lives, about national politics is an unhealthy disease. One that rots the true heart of every democracy – localism. True freedom flourishes in the institutions that stand between the individual and the national state. It is in these layers of civil society and regional government that draw humans out of their own lives and help us to forge vibrant communities in which civilization can flourish.

To put this all more simply, the most important political goal we are given is to ensure the dignity of everyday human existence. This means ensuring that fathers and sons can enjoy an afternoon fishing with one another; That mothers and daughters can bond over a good book together; That a local community can gather at a town festival or church and look passed their many differences to simply relish the company of others. All of this is threatened by making national politics, which does not organically touch upon our daily lives, so central to our existence.

OPEN THE BORDERS:

Santa Claus and Science: On imagination, faith, and the natural fancy of children (G. K. Chesterton, December 20, 1935, Commonweal)

Fourth, what do our great modern educationists, our great modern psychologists, our great makers of a new world, mean to do about the breach between the imagination and the reason, if only in the passage from the infant to the man? Is the child to live in a world that is entirely fanciful and then find suddenly that it is entirely false? Or is the child to be forbidden all forms of fancy; or in other words, forbidden to be a child? Or is he, as we say, to have some harmless borderland of fancy in childhood, which is still a part of the land in which he will live; in terra viventium, in the land of living men? Cannot the child pass from a child’s natural fancy to a man’s normal faith in Holy Nicholas of the Children, without enduring that bitter break and abrupt disappointment which now marks the passage of a child from a land of make-believe to a world of no belief?

HUBBLE HUMBLING:

After 2 years in space, the James Webb telescope has broken cosmology. Can it be fixed? (Ben Turner, 12/22/23, Live Science)

But over the past decade, an alarming hole has been growing in this picture: Depending on where astronomers look, the rate of the universe’s expansion (a value called the Hubble constant) varies significantly.

Now, on the second anniversary of its launch, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has cemented the discrepancy with stunningly precise new observations that threaten to upend the standard model of cosmology.

The new physics needed to modify or even replace the 40-year-old theory is now a topic of fierce debate.

“It’s a disagreement that has to make us wonder if we really do understand the composition of the universe and the physics of the universe,” Adam Riess, a professor of astronomy at Johns Hopkins University who led the team that made the new JWST measurements, told Live Science.

Relax, son, no one thought we understood.

DRIVING SUCKS…:

We Own More Cars Than Ever. So Why Are We Driving Less? (David Harrison, Dec. 25, 2023, WSJ)


All those vehicles had to stay in the garage during the pandemic. Now, with the pandemic largely behind us, many of those vehicles are still there.

As of 2022, the number of trips Americans took had fallen by more than a third compared with 2017, according to surveys conducted by the Transportation Department. (A trip here is defined as going from one place to another. In other words, driving to the grocery store and back counts as two trips.)


The rise of remote work accounts for some, but not all, of this decline. Shopping, restaurant dining and recreational trips, regardless of travel mode, are all down from 2017. The pandemic has turned us into homebodies.

…homes are good.