Guess I Take After My Mother

Since it’s unexpectedly turning into Spiritual Saturday here on Jeremy Lott’s Diary, let me commend to you a song. As the person who posted it to YouTube wrote, “[Here's] City and Colour’s ‘The Grand Optimist’ from Little Hell.” Note, however, that you’ll want to check the lyrics on that page against the vocals of Dallas Green. The lyrics have him opening with “I fear I’m dying of complications /complications due to things that I’ve left undone.” To me it sounds more like “I fear I’ll die from complications…” It’s a subtle but important distinction for understanding this precisely-worded song.

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Not Exactly Livin’ on a Prayer

While searching for items for the weekend Real Clear Religion update, this piece on prayer by Jessica “Jess” Edgerton caught my eye. “I am really bad at praying,” she begins in the evangelical magazine Relevant. (Yes, seriously, it’s called Relevant.) The ADDish Edgerton tries to give us some idea of what happens when she sits down and attempts to pray. A stray thought possesses her and she ends up repeating the word “bosom” and giggling. “And thus,” she writes “my well-intentioned time set aside for God turns into a narcissistic combination of farce and fiction.”

Edgerton offers reasons why prayer doesn’t work the way she wants it to but never considers that structure might be just the thing she needs. Rome and other more ritually-minded churches are often accused of promoting “rote prayer”; “meaningless repetition”; etc. But that seems to me not a very useful way of looking at a real problem.

Structure helps focus the mind and some minds really do need the focus. Memorizing and repeating a small number of prayers doesn’t preclude individual entreaties to the Almighty, but it might help us to forget ourselves for a few moments and focus on something outside and greater than ourselves, no? I mean, it’s worth a shot.

Snow White and the Seven Jokes

Question for those who’ve seen Snow White and the Huntsman: At what point did you realize that this was all an expensive joke? For me, it was the part where the jackalope appeared.

Yes, That Dress Does Make You Look Fat

There are certain questions that guys can answer honestly at only great peril. The most famous example of this is when your girlfriend or wife asks, “Honey, does this dress make me look fat?” That is not a question, it is a trap and you had better lie and lie convincingly if you prefer your ankle intact.

A former colleague told me he’d found a way to spring the trap. He called it the “like a whale” exception. He explained, his wife — who I think was with child at the time — had put on a sun dress and asked him the dread question and I guess he was feeling suicidal that day. “Like a whale,” he said. There was a pregnant pause and then she burst out laughing — and never asked him that question again.

If only Abe Lincoln had thought of that:

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I Get Letters… From the White House

Two letters from the Obama campaign have made their way into my e-mail inbox today. The first, from President Obama, has the subject line “In the clutch.” The second, from Joe Biden: “Midnight, your time.” Uh guys, you do realize that fund raising letters aren’t supposed to creep people out, right?

Take That, Mark Zuckerberg!

Analysts are throwing around all kinds of reasons for Facebook’s ongoing stock troubles. Here is what I think and hope will turn out to be a major reason for founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s heartburn: Timeline.

Most Facebook readers who have experienced it just do not like this way of organizing our profiles and our data. It’s ugly and it isn’t nearly as functional as the template it replaced. Zuckerberg has in the past ruthlessly ignored Facebook users’ input about how the social network ought to be organized. Sometimes that has worked for him, other times not so much.

But now you have a much worse organizational scheme being progressively imposed on all Facebook users, who are under no obligation to stay put. How could that negatively affect the company’s long-term valuation? Two words: MySpace.

Mark Zucherberg

Remember, People Lie to Pollsters

Many years ago when I worked at the Cato Institute (more on that later) I managed to so offend friend and foreign policy guy Justin Logan that he backed slowly out of the lunchroom. You may wonder, what bigmouthed thing had I said? That America was right to invade Iraq? That torture is A-OK? That I was thinking of getting a Woodrow Wilson tat?

None of the above. We had been discussing a poll finding that something like a majority of Republicans believed large caches of Weapons of Mass Destruction had been found in Iraq, contrary to the evidence. I argued many of those Republicans did not, in fact, believe that WMDs had been discovered in Iraq.

Rather, I explained, Republicans knew how those polls were going to used polemically and so answered a different set of questions. What they heard was more like “Do you support President Bush and/or the boots already on the ground in Iraq?” So of course they had answered yes.

To his credit, Logan asked a few questions before quitting the field. I explained my belief that people lie to pollsters all the time for a whole number of reasons. These reasons range from social disapproval (“Do I really want to tell the complete stranger on the other end of the line that I’ll vote for Jesse Helms?”) to confusion (the wording of the question can be all-important) to a cynical sophistication (“If I answer x, it will be used to argue y. So, let’s go with -x.”).

At the time, Logan really didn’t know what to make of such high-proof skepticism. I wonder if that’s changed.