Cool Ad Watch

Aug 23 2014 @ 11:02am
by Dish Staff

Some marriage equality proponents in Ireland offer a helpful reminder about the non-impending apocalypse:

by Matthew Sitman

The popular thread continues, beginning with reader-love for one particular John Cheever short story:

I have returned to the work of John Cheever—especially “The Death of Justina”—more than that of any other author in my reading life. He is so alert to the spiritual potentialities of life and yet so understanding of our failure to fulfill them. The world he writes about John Cheeveris decidedly fallen yet can be illuminated by sudden flashes of grace—as real and rare as lightning strikes.

I guess you’d call “The Death of Justina” a serious comedy about death that touches on chaos, commercialism, nasty bosses, zoning, the necessity and challenges of loving America, and, last but not least, morticians: “The priest was a friend and a cheerful sight, but the undertaker and his helpers, hiding behind their limousines, were not; and aren’t they at the root of most of our troubles, with their claim that death is a violet-flavored kiss? How can a people who do not mean to understand death hope to understand love, and who will sound the alarm?”

Of course, with this story, it is Cheever who sounds that alarm.

He can be heard reading it (rapidly, with his faux Brahmin accent) here.

A second reader also loves the same Cheever story:

For me, it keeps coming back to Cheever. (And, Thorton Wilder, but perhaps that will be another entry.)

There are better Cheever passages than this, but I’ve been obsessing about this story for a while now, so here it is – from “The Death of Justina,” in the Collected Stories.

“We buried Justina in the rain the next afternoon. The dead are not, God knows, a minority, but in Proxmire Manor their unexalted kingdom is on the outskirts, rather like a dump, where they lie in an atmosphere of perfect neglect. Justina’s life had been exemplary, but by ending it she seemed to have disgraced us all. The priest was a friend and a cheerful sight, but the undertaker and his helpers, hiding behind their limousines, were not; and aren’t they at the root of most of our troubles, with their claim that death is a violet-flavored kiss? How can a people who do not mean to understand death hope to understand love, and who will sound the alarm?”

How can a people who do not mean to understand death hope to understand love, and who will sound the alarm? Indeed.

Read On

Your Saturday Morning Cartoon

Aug 23 2014 @ 9:42am
by Dish Staff

Some twisted brilliance from Cyanide & Happiness:

Parental Disappointment On Display

Aug 23 2014 @ 9:05am
by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Parental overshare essays can subdivided into various subgenres. One of those is the very successful parent of an academically-mediocre child. The essay may be about the parent coming to terms with the fact that Junior will not get into to a college William Deresiewicz has strong feelings about. The author inevitably becomes a better person, and parent, in the process, and should be congratulated.

Another subgenre is the child with a difficulty of some kind. Not a problem so severe as to prevent the child from ever having the capacity to read the article. (Those parents suffer enough, and should feel free to share as they see fit. As should parents of adult children who are merely responding to the children’s complaints about them.) But something that’s either medical or just highly personal, that taps into whichever cultural concerns, and where the parent-writer can tell him or herself that they’re really doing a service, as if awareness-raising somehow cancels out the potential destruction of their child’s reputation. While the parents who write such pieces surely do so in part out of concern for their children and others in the same situation – it’s not just professional aspiration and a desire to write what the market plainly demands – these pieces make it so that a child will grow up with his or her identity already being associated with some biographical detail he or she might have preferred not to share, or at least not to lead with.

Rachel Simmons merged these two subgenres into a personal essay about being an academic superstar with an underachieving child. Except that the underachieving has a medical component – her child, she explains, is developmentally delayed, if still quite young. It’s ambiguous from the article whether this is a condition that will long affect her kid, or whether the tragedy is that her daughter may turn out to be of average intelligence. But one almost has to guess it’s the latter, given how much of the piece is devoted to the author’s own brilliance:

Read On

The View From Your Window

Aug 23 2014 @ 8:16am
by Dish Staff

The View from My WIndow 8-21-2014

Pittsboro, North Carolina, 6.10 am

A Perfect Gentleman

Aug 23 2014 @ 7:33am
by Dish Staff

Paul Ford sings the praises of politeness:

Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.”

This politeness, according to Ford, can come naturally, even when socially compelled to discuss Jessica Simpson’s jewelry selection:

Read On

What Is Christianity For?

Aug 22 2014 @ 8:35pm
by Matthew Sitman


That’s the question Rod Dreher asks in a searching reply to my thoughts earlier this week on Christianity and modern life. Some of Rod’s response is a gentle correction to my characterization of the “Benedict Option,” which, in his original essay, he summarizes as “communal withdrawal from the mainstream, for the sake of sheltering one’s faith and family from corrosive modernity and cultivating a more traditional way of life.” To take one example, I described Eagle River, Alaska, as a remote village, while it’s actually in suburban Anchorage – I regret getting that wrong. More importantly, Rod argues that I created something of a straw man, portraying those who pursue the Benedict Option as running for the hills while the world burns. My rhetoric did slip in that direction, and there are nuances to the ways the Benedict Option can be pursued I didn’t capture in my original post. Not all who favor it, and certainly not Rod, argue for “strict separatism” as a response to modern life.

The deeper issue Rod raises, however, goes beyond haggling over this or that detail of the Benedict Option and its various instantiations. Really, arguments about the Benedict Option amount to arguments over the place of, and prospects for, Christianity in the modern world – how Christians should try to live faithfully in our day and age. Here’s the gauntlet Rod throws down:

The way a Christian thinks about sex and sexuality is a very, very good indication of what he thinks about living out the faith in modernity. The reason it is so central is because it reveals, more than any other question now, how a Christian relates to authority and moral order. Matt is a kind and honest interlocutor, and I sincerely appreciate his attention, so please don’t take this in any way snarky or hostile towards him or Christians who share his viewpoint … but the questions have to be put strongly: Where is the evidence for being hopeful about Christianity’s place in modern life? Why should anyone think that the message of Jesus will retain its power in modernity if a Christian experiences little conflict between his faith and the world as it is?

To get to the heart of it: What is Christianity for?

Those obviously are very big questions, but at least a few points can be made to clarify how I approach these matters.

Read On

by Dish Staff

Frum blames it on reform efforts. He argues that “for 50 years, Americans have reformed their government to allow ever more participation, ever more transparency, ever more reviews and appeals, and ever fewer actual results”:

Journalists often lament the absence of presidential leadership. What they are really observing is the weakening of congressional followership. Members of the liberal Congress elected in 1974 overturned the old committee system in an effort to weaken the power of southern conservatives. Instead—and quite inadvertently—they weakened the power of any president to move any program through any Congress. Committees and subcommittees multiplied to the point where no single chair has the power to guarantee anything. This breakdown of the committee system empowered the rank-and-file member—and provided the lobbying industry with more targets to influence. Committees now open their proceedings to the public. Many are televised. All of this allows lobbyists to keep a close eye on events—and to confirm that the politicians to whom they have contributed deliver value.

In short, in the name of “reform,” Americans over the past half century have weakened political authority. Instead of yielding more accountability, however, these reforms have yielded more lobbying, more expense, more delay, and more indecision.

Face Of The Day

Aug 22 2014 @ 7:42pm
by Dish Staff


Noriah Daud, the mother of late co-pilot Ahmad Hakimi Hanapi, who perished aboard flight MH17 when it was shot down in eastern Ukraine, attends a burial ceremony in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur on August 22, 2014. Black-clad Malaysians paused for a minute of silence August 22 on a nationwide day of mourning held to welcome home the first remains of its 43 citizens killed in the MH17 disaster. By Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images.

Our coverage of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is here.

by Dish Staff

Brandon Ambrosino interviews Nicholas Opiyo, a Ugandan attorney who helped overturn the country’s infamous anti-gay law. He describes the harassment Ugandan gays face:

You’re not going to see public flogging of gay people in the streets. That would be a rarity, and even if it occurs, because of the nature of our media, it’s not going to get reported widely. What, however, happens is persistent, consistent, daily discrimination of the smallest nature possible. The shopkeeper at the kiosk next to your house, the boda boda guy, they keep heckling at you. People keep telling your family and brothers about you. They tell your family they will not come to your burials. People sneering at you, saying negative things to you. People pointing at your back: you cannot go to public places without being pointed at.

There is also the blackmail and extortion by police and security forces.

Read On