A Merry Middle-Class Christmas

Bob, my mother’s boyfriend, will argue that Happy Days jumped the shark several seasons before Fonzie actually strapped on his water skis. In his view, the show’s lethal injection with schmaltz came the moment the Fonz sat down with the Cunninghams around their Christmas tree and read “The Night Before Christmas.” When the onetime breakout [Read More...]

After Kateri, No More Flower Children

With a second miracle to her credit, Kateri Tekawitha’s 331-year wait for sainthood is finally over. It’s a great day for her and all the constituencies she represents, including Native Americans, women, laypeople, those suffering from facial deformities, Canadians and – I add with special pride – New Yorkers. Kateri’s birthplace, near present-day Auriesville in [Read More...]

Oscar Wilde’s Tomb: Let Processions Come Hither

Oscar Wilde was a people person. When Patience, Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera spoofing the aesthetic movement, was due to tour America, Wilde contracted with Richard d’Oyly Carte to tour with it as a kind of undercard fighter. Before performances, he appeared onstage in knee breeches and lectured on the “English renaissance.” Whether or not American [Read More...]

Oedipus in the Heartland, Choruses in the Combox

Last night, the Anchoress blogged on a peculiar prank that parents, in collusion with the faculty of a Minnesota high school, played on their kids. First, the kids, all star athletes, were given blindfolds and led into the school’s crowded gym. Next, each blindfolded jock received a kiss from what the write-up describes as his [Read More...]

Elf on the Shelf: Scrupulosity for Unbelieving Tots

Today in Slate, Torie Bosch describes how non-religious parents are using the children’s book Elf on the Shelf to teach their kids terror of supernatural judges. The story, as the title suggests, features an elf who acts as Tsar Santa’s Third Section. The creature “keeps an eye on a family during the day, then flies [Read More...]

A Depressed Solipsist’s Guide to Prayer Vigils

Having what a vocations director might describe as an active temperament, I have always, half-consciously, thought of prayer as a minimal, low-risk, nearly symbolic response to necessity or catastrophe. Like the person who hands a nickel to one of the ticket agents at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the person who offers to pray for [Read More...]

Confession of Sam the Eagle

The folks at Fox have been wondering whether the Muppets are trying to “brainwash kids against capitalism.” If they’d done their homework – if they’d checked the Verona Project transcripts – they wouldn’t have to ask. KGB officers gave me a few prominent (if coded) mentions. They did as much for a number of my [Read More...]

Catholic Jokes: Good, and Good for You

This evening, in honor of Fr. Jim Martin’s new book, Between Heaven and Mirth, my editor, Elizabeth Scalia, has put out an APB for Catholic jokes. Well, as it happens, I have a few to share. The first one I heard from the Dominican priest who baptized me. It goes like this: What’s the difference [Read More...]

A Merry Post-Modern Christmas

Can anyone hear the song “Bells of St. Mary’s” without remembering the scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesci drills Samuel L. Jackson through his occipital bone (just north of his sutura lambdodeia) with a silenced .45? Pesci fires; Jackson grunts and falls forward into a puddle of his own brains; Pesci hustles his partner, Frank [Read More...]

The Lord is My Mentor…

Well, having lived through it once, I have to say that the new Mass translation isn’t so bad; isn’t so bad; isn’t so grievously bad. Of course, I’m not speaking here as a Latin scholar. I already managed to tackle one language — Russian — where nouns come in an unnatural variety of genders. Frankly, [Read More...]

A Cardinal’s Brutal Homily

My mother lives on the second floor of a high-rise apartment building on West End Avenue. Back in the 1990s, she and her boyfriend bought themselves a bird feeder built in the style of a Swiss chalet, and hung it outside their kitchen window. One of the first regular diners was a resplendent male cardinal, [Read More...]

Pepper-Spray Cop and the Humor of Despair

Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams thinks very highly of the “Pepper-Spray Cop” internet meme, which in its various forms spoofs UC Davis police officer John Pike. Last Wednesday, Pike was captured on video, pepper-spraying a row of demonstrators, who were sitting with limbs interlocked to protest the removal of their tents. Now, thanks to Photoshop and [Read More...]

Autism: The Result of Math Whiz X 2?

If you’re Jenny McCarthy, you blame autism on vaccinations. If you’re Michael Savage, you blame it on a decline in Yiddish Billingsgate among fathers. Now, if you’re Cambridge University professor Simon Baron-Cohen — yes, cousin of Sacha, the genius behind Ali G., Borat and Bruno — you believe it might result from interbreeding among members [Read More...]

Tomorrow’s Sex Ed: Better than Porn?

My father learned about sex — the theory, that is, not the practice — from reading Irv Shulman’s Amboy Dukes. Published in 1947, two years before the old man was bar mitzvah, it billed itself as “The Toughest Novel Ever Written About Juvenile Delinquent Gangs.” Several years later, my mother learned the facts of life [Read More...]

Aging and Single, Self-Reproachful and Relieved

You know you’re in extremis as far as marriageability goes when you find yourself composing sonnets to the memories of women you met and knew — against your own wishes, exclusively — through social media: The first “Like” after each posting is mine; A blogger self-promotion makes or breaks. Far more than talent, moxie’s what [Read More...]

Andrew Sullivan: Model of a Modern, Bearded, Gay, Tory Blogger

I don’t read Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish on a daily basis, or even on a weekly basis. (God knows nothing I’ve ever written has turned up in it.) But most of what I’ve seen, I’ve liked. Sullivan was one of the first to recognize the musical “Book of Mormon” as a backhanded salute to faith [Read More...]


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