Twenty at 40?

Today I turned 40. No longer will I be eligible to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. For any broader meaning, I’m stumped. The bromide “40 is the New 30″ — which would have started looking mighty wise about now no matter what — may reflect a scientific reality. People are living longer, so middle [Read More...]

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Readers and Writers on Social Media: In Each Other’s Heads

A few months ago, Peggy Noonan made my day — my whole week, in fact — by accepting my Facebook friendship request. I’d always thought she was a good soul and a true lady. I looked forward to reading status updates like “Just threw on my jammies. Am sitting up with a glass of Merlot, [Read More...]

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The Accidents of Appearance

If you want to quit worrying about your looks, there are worse places to be than the Catholic Church. That’s a broad statement — probably overbroad, and probably over-positive. Naomi Wolf once saluted Islamic dress as a liberator of women from the “intrusive, commodifying, basely sexualising Western gaze,” and from the tyranny of mass-media beauty [Read More...]

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Beware the Everyday Epiphany

I keep a close watch on myself to make sure I don’t succumb to magical thinking. Irrational by nature, I’m easy meat for the false promise of instant illumination, unearned insight that will spare me days, weeks or months of weighing costs and benefits. There’s a Mexican rancho market only a short distance from me, [Read More...]

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The Vatican and Wiki, the Global Village Well

The Vatican has finally given Wikipedia its nihil obstat, imprimatur. To provide biographical material on the 22 cardinals to be elevated in Friday’s consistory, it cut and pasted information from the online encyclopedia. In some instances, reports the U.K. Guardian, Wiki’s entries took a tone “that does not match the Vatican’s style.” Of Willem Jacobus [Read More...]

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The Joys of Collusive Irreverence

When I say I have a crush on Thérèse of Lisieux, I’m two-thirds joking — but only two-thirds. The fact is, she reminds me of a woman with whom I carried on an extended flirtation just before leaving grad school. Both wrote beautifully, but in such girlish voices that it never occurred to me to [Read More...]

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“Hallelujah” in Alaska: Northern Christmas Lights

In most cases, playing Christmas music after Christmas is in even worse taste than wearing white after Labor Day. This video from Quinhagak, Alaska, demands a dispensation from that rule. The inhabitants of this village on the Kanektok river — major industries fishing and canning, per capita income $8,127 — pull off this masterpiece by [Read More...]

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Is There Life Without the Like Button?

Ah, Nemesis. Swift-flying, gimlet-eyed hangwoman of the gods. You really got me good this time, didn’t you, sugar? Friday started out just great: not only had I mentioned Michael Voris in an opinion piece without being lynched, the piece was actually turning out to be a hit. This I knew because every hour or so, [Read More...]

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Diary of A Wimp (Who is Catholic)?

In a recent South Park episode, an anti-statist milita group decides to strike a blow at the federal government, so its members arm themselves and seize a Federal Express store. The gag works because it’s plausible — some intelligent adults are just literal-minded enough to make a mistake like that. I belong in the Amelia [Read More...]

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Advice to Santorum: Remember the Catacombs!

It’s a shame nobody’s given Cardinal George credit for rhetorical restraint. When he warned of the gay rights movement evolving “into something like the Ku Klux Klan, protesting in the streets against Catholicism,” he might have been guilty of alarmism, but he was also evoking the Klan at its most endearing. It’s done worse — [Read More...]

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The Artiste and the Soldier Should Be Friends

Among the regulars on the right-wing discussion board where I provided some of the loyal opposition, no group was held in greater contempt than college students studying the fine arts. They were godless, self-indulgent, pampered parasites. The men wore women’s underwear; the women, who wore none, had boyfriends and parents arrested on false rape charges. [Read More...]

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Tintin and the Mystical Body of Christ

In his big-screen debut, Tintin won’t be picketing any abortion clinics, or testifying before Congress on health care and freedom of conscience. More’s the pity, too, because at a certain early point in his life, he might have jumped at the chance to do either. Like so many of us, the globetrotting boy reporter is [Read More...]

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Cautionary Tales for Adults

Seven years before Uncle Tom’s Cabin hit the shelves, a German psychiatrist named Heinrich Hoffmann published a compelling plea for racial tolerance. In Der Struwwelpeter, which promises “Merry Tales and Funny Pictures” for children, we find a gang of young Aryan ruffians teasing “a woolly-headed black-a-moor.” St. Nicholas (for some reason, called “Agrippa” in the [Read More...]

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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...]

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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...]

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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...]

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