GARY EDWARD KEILLOR, who adopted the fancy-pants name "Garrison," taped his last "Prairie Home Companion" last night in Hollywood. It will be broadcast in Houston today in its usual spot, late this afternoon on public radio.
Mr. Keillor is a gifted man, no doubt. Thought he's four years too old to be a Baby Boomer, himself, he spoke for the boomer generation with . . .
I'm honored that you stop by occasionally to read Unca Darrell. And I deeply regret that I have posted very little in recent days. Believe me, as Mr. Trump is fond of saying, tiny right hand chopping the air, index finger aloft -- Believe me, I'm sitting on a bunch of really good stuff. Absolutely first class stuff. The best stuff ever. Everybody says so. But life is more important than blogging, and I have reached a point where . . .
UNCA D is an unrepentant declinist. I believe the United States has made a potentially irreversible u-turn away from the values, institutions, and processes that have made it such a good and remarkable place. Read my old blogs for facts and arguments.
Now come two public thinkers of considerable consequence to argue "the case for global optimism." The writers are . . .
FOR THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE, the term is reserved almost exclusively for liberal action groups and inspector generals of government agencies of which the newspaper approves.
"Watchdog," of course, is an inexact term. In theory, any person or organization that digs up dirt on another person or organization could win the honorific title. For the Chronicle, however, it's a connotative signal of approval, a pat on the head, a "good boy" treat, a thumbs-up to readers.
A quick search for "watchdog" through the newspaper's search site turned up these examples on page one of the results:
. . . America and Western Civilization -- a quick flip through "Harper's" magazine of September 1975, the early Lewis H. Lapham years.
Page 16. Peter H. Schuck. "Why Regulation Fails: A case for the reform of federal regulatory agencies."
To a surprising extent [ liberals and conservatives] agree upon the central elements of the regulator crimes: inflation of costs to consumers; encouragement of inefficiency in critical sectors of the economy; the stifling of innovation; the corruption of the political and administrative forces in our economy.
The consensus is long past. The left today prefers rule by the administrative state over self-government.
Page 38. Andrew Sarris, "The Myth of Old Movies."
Until very recently the experience of moviegoing was mercifully free of the stigma of culture. There were no courses on the subject, no obligations, and no imperatives. We went to the movies and we came back home. The movies themselves came and went and almost never returned. Old movies, like old cars, were products for capitalistic consumption, to be discarded for newer models that supposedly had all the latest improvements in design and technology.
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. . . . Old movies are a precious heritage, and, properly decoded, they tell us more than we may want to acknowledge about the true fantasies of human nature. It is also well for the modernists in our midst to remember that all our spankingly brand-new movies will soon -- too soon -- be old movies.
Page 45. Garry Wills, "Hurrah for Politicians: Credit where credit is due."
Politicians have many virtues that ignorant people take for vices. The principal ones are: (1) compromise of principle; (2) egotism; (3) mediocrity. In other men these may be vices; but for a politicians they are needed skills -- so much so that, if a politician is not born with them, he must learn them; and if he does not learn them, he will either fail himself or do harm to others, as Eugene McCarthy did.
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Of course there are occasions when a politician must compromise, and therefore does. So do we all. . . . The real test of a politician comes when he does not have to compromise, yet finds a way to do so.
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It is no accident that most of our politicians were educated as lawyers. Of the fourteen Presidents in this century [through Gerald Ford], only four have not been lawyers -- Harding, Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower. . . .
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[The] critics of the lawyer background shared by so many of our politicians are dead wrong. No better training could be found for them. . . .
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It is widely believed that men become politicians to enrich themselves or to wield power. They are not above such considerations, because none of us is. But neither are they signally vulnerable to them. Most politicians have the gifts -- ambition, education, industry obsequiousness -- to make money in any pursuit, and most could in fact make more money outside politics.
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The politician's ego is a very specialized instrument. It is insatiable, yet yielding -- to get what it wants it will do many tasks not only difficult but demeaning. . . .
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People who do not have that particular kind of ego do not get into politics, or are soon forced out. . . .
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The old saying was that anybody could grow up to become President in America. That was a lie for most of the populace -- women, blacks, Indians, Jews, Catholics, the uneducated, the poor. It was also an insult -- most Americans are too bright, or quirky, or interesting to be politicians. On the other hand, not every politicians is born mediocre. Some have learned to be. It is not easy.
. . . . Eugene McCarthy spent a good deal of time trying to prove he was too good for politics. But of what use is that? Most of us are too good for politics; but we do not make a career of demonstrating it.
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. . . . I speak with no irony when I say [politicians] have constructive faults. They old lament is familiar: Quantula sapientia mudus regitur. How ignorantly we are ruled. That misses the point. There is no other way we could be ruled representatively. Virtue and brilliance are uncommon, volatile, distrusted. We need men we can trust.
Mr. Wills whiffed when he said he said it was a lie that Catholics and blacks could be president. Soon enough we will have a woman president. That's amusing.
What's comforting about Mr. Wills's thesis, however, is that the believes the purpose of American government is to "be ruled representatively."
Page 70. Geoffrey Bocca, "Lessons in Eng. Lit. from Sir Winston Churchill."
I spoke first. "Sir Winston, I am a writer, and I want to be a better writer. I know know much you were influenced by Gibbon and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. . . . Have you another writer you especially recommend?"
Churchill removed his cigar. His voice was only slightly slurred. He said one word, and then turned to address himself to another houseguest, who happened to be the Archbishop of York. The word he said was Kinglake.
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I read Eothen with joy, and put it down saying, "Good old Winnie." A couple of years later, I found myself alone with Churchill one night after dinner at La Capponcina . . . . I reminded him of our earlier conversation, told him how much I felt enriched by Eothen, and asked him to recommend other reading. Churchill's first lesson had been concluded in a single word. This time he was twice as expansive. What he said was "More Kinglake."
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I told [Lord] Beaverbrook the story of the Kinglake incident. Beaverbrook's wonderful monkeylike face softened in the manner that wen far to explain his lifelong success with women. . . . In his harsh Scots-Canadian accent, he yelled, "Ah, that Winston!" and slapped his thigh. "The old son of a gun! He thinks he discovered Kinglake. I know who told him about Kinglake, because I was there. It was Rudyard Kipling." Beat that.
Page 78. Chilton Williamson, Jr., "The Nashville Sound" (emphasis added)
Mr. Wiliamson, a writer for National Review -- a sharp intake of breath is appropriate here -- takes down "the first-string [movie] critics for the organs of Northeastern liberal humanism" for their ecstatic reception of Robert Altman's overrated movie, Nashville.
[These critics] were . . . positively delighting in the spectacle of all the grotesque evils that they and their followers have always claimed to perceive in American life: evils which they had insisted caused them much personal anguish but which, they were now as good as admitting, actually can afford them much sophisticated mirth. One would have expected them to agree with the indictment of American society that Altman makes in Nashville; what one would not have expected was that they would revel in it. But revel they did, and with all the happy enthusiasm of people who are far more delighted by the prospect of seeing vindicated their diagnosis of the conditions that supposedly give them pain than they would have been by seeing those condition ameliorated. Of a sudden, whole crowds of critics of the American way of life tacitly exhibited themselves as people who condemned life in these United States less in the spirit of mea culpa -- though they in the past have thoroughly enjoyed the self-congratulatory pleasures of that stance -- than in the smug spirit of a closet superiority to which they would never forthrightly admit.Nashville -- a movie filled with the most hackneyed criticisms of American life -- gave such people the chance to say, "I told you so" . . . .
Mr. Williamson's critique of leftist movie reviewers in 1975 would fit today without much alteration as a critique of the editorial board of The Houston Chronicle, which regards Houston and Texas with roughly the same disdain as these ancients felt -- and their cultural descendants still feel, even more passionately -- for America.
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. . . . It used to be that critics of manners, mores, and the national culture came frequently from the conservative corral: one thinks of Henry Adams, of H.L. Mencken, of T.S. Eliot, of the elder John Dos Passos. But beginning in the 1930s and continuing into the 1960s and '70s, the drift of cultural criticism moved almost exclusively in the direction of the Left. The reason for this is probably simple enough: left-wing ideologies tend to be all-embracing, so that their many indictments of society ultimately converge as one. Back in the 1920s, you could denounce American civilization as vulgar and stupid without feeling compelled to call for the demolition of Congress. But this is no longer so, and hence many conservative writers hesitate either to jump on the vulgar agglomeration of midcult Americanos or to countenance attacks on it by others; they sense that to denounce the way Americans comport themselves is to denounce the economic and political systems under which they live, and thus to invite the marauding of the armies of the Left.
Harper's of 1975 was a brilliant magazine, lively, well-written, entertaining, and open to all sorts of ideas. Magazines today are, by and large, dull mirrors of the approved ideas of the American left. So with The Houston Chronicle, whose opinion list includes not one -- not one -- local conservative on politics, policy, economics, religion, or culture. To put it another way, not one traditional Texan. Shame, again and yet again, on the Chronicle.
. . . Saturday editorial page's odds 'n' ends column, operates as a relief valve of sorts. Pressure builds all week as the opinionators try -- and they are trying -- to dampen the snottiness that has marked their work of recent years. But on Saturdays, the adult leaves the room and the staff's inner jerk lunges for the keyboard, producing, for instance, this:
. . . the last play Shakespeare wrote alone. I've always heard that it contained verses that sounded a lot like the author's farewell to the theater, his valedictory. After seeing it for the first time last week, I'm sold. Speaking through the voice of Prospero, Mr. Shakespeare, it seems to me, says . . .