For a long time, the left wing of the punditocracy has excoriated conservatives for their use of the slippery slope argument form. So quite apart from any other consideration, I have enjoyed the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. because apparently it opened the eyes of left-leaning commentators to see something in the slippery slope argument form after all.

Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.

Nikita Khrushchev, 1956.

Something old, something new . . .

California Chrome’s run at the Triple Crown made me think to dust off Eric Peters’s Chrome (2009) this week. (By an extraordinary coincidence Chrome‘s title track is sung from the POV of my old Schwinn, which I abandoned at a D.C. metro station many years ago[1].) I’m glad I did; Chrome is such a tender masterpiece about pain and hope. If you’re not familiar with it, you should be.

In a similar gritty-hope vein is Melanie Penn’s Hope Tonight, just released this week. On account of the excellence of Melanie’s 2010 debut Wake Up Love, and the advance release of Hope Tonight‘s opening song “Turnaround,” I had high expectations for Hope Tonight – which the album has blown away. Of particular note is its ninth song: “Shadow of Doubt” is the kind of marvel you might give half your iTunes library to have.

Yip Harburg once said that “words make you think a thought; music makes you feel a feeling; a song makes you feel a thought.” But it takes a good song to make one feel a thought. And by that measure, the songs of Chrome and Hope Tonight are very good songs indeed.


[1] Just kidding.

Passiontide (II)

Were you there when He crawled atop skull hill,10-good-thief-2
Driven by big bad Romans as a lamb,
Condemned and cursed by sons of Abraham
Who, for perjury, returned a true bill?

Were you there when His hands and feet were nailed
Down, His body lifted up, on a tree –
A spectacle for all the world to see
Where Israel’s sight and Rome’s Blind Justice failed?

Were you there when one man hanged by His side, 
One terrorist at death’s door, came alive,
His “just cause” to lay down, his wrongs to shrive,
To know the true King’s mercy ere he died?

The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly — the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.

R. E. Lee, Definition of a Gentleman.

McLean HouseGrant’s pursuit of Lee ended one hundred and forty-nine years ago today. It ended neither with a bang nor with a whimper. Grant did not gloat. Lee did not grovel. Grant’s forbearance in victory showed him a gentleman, and Lee, feeling the final sting of the defeat he’d foreseen nearly half a decade earlier, did not fail to recognize the gentleman in the tattered blue uniform. Grant and Lee, and Parker, and Chamberlain and Gordon, were flawed men. But for four days at Appomattox they exercised the sternest self-control, and so laid the foundation for an honorable restoration of a nation. Sadly, those of us who have followed have too often chosen not to build upon it.

The world is sick from a million Faustian bargains — and the revolutions that arise to overthrow them are but a different set of Faustian bargains. Except one: the one Christ inaugurated by his fasting and temptation in the wilderness, commonly known as Lent.

In honor of the 122nd birthday of J. R. R. Tolkien, here is a fascinating quote from his Letters (letter 267) concerning a chance meeting following a lecture by Prof. Robert Graves:

ava gardner bandwagon-00005

Ava Gardner (as herself) in the 1953 MGM musical The Band Wagon.

After it [Prof. Graves] introduced me to a pleasant young woman who had attended it: well but quietly dressed, easy and agreeable, and we got on quite well. But Graves started to laugh; and he said: ‘it is obvious neither of you has ever heard of the other before’. Quite true. And I had not supposed that the lady would ever have heard of me. Her name was Ava Gardner, but it still meant nothing, till people more aware of the world informed me that she was a film-star of some magnitude, and that the press of pressmen and storm of flash-bulbs on the steps of the Schools were not directed at Graves (and cert. not at me) but at her . . . . .


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