We have public radio and public television, and together they make up the nation’s most trusted news source. But more people get their news online than just about anywhere else, so why don’t we have a public search engine?
For more, see the piece by (ahem) yours truly in this week’s edition of The Nation. (for subscribers only at the moment)
I have been told for years that I have a voice made for radio (or was that a face made for radio?). If you’d like to hear for yourself, and also hear some fascinating thoughts about the future of the Internet from former Obama advisor Susan Crawford, the woman who should be the next head of the FCC, click here (courtesy of the lovely folks from the Copyright Clearance Center).
During the last two Papal elections, just about everybody I know has taken it as an occasion to express their feelings about the Catholic Church. And rightly so. The Pope is the leader of the largest segment of the world’s biggest religion. There are more Christians than any other faith (though Islam has been fast catching up), and about a billion of those Christians are Catholics. That, plus the pageantry, secrecy, and weirdness of the Papal election makes it a compelling story. Even if you’ve never been inside a Catholic church, chances are your life has been affected by what Pope Francis and his predecessors have thought, said and done.
If you’re a gay person or a woman, chances are you rightly feel you have been negatively affected. If you’re a poor person in the vast tracts of the world where the only education, health care, refuge, and art comes from Catholic institutions, you may feel differently. With a billion Catholics and millions more whose lives are shaped by them, there is going to be just about every kind of life story and set of opinions imaginable out there.
So how do I feel about this Pope?
1. An answer to: The Catholic Church is worse off than ever, so who cares what’s going on, because as an institution it won’t be around for long, right?
Whenever the sexual abuse scandals and the loss of faith in Europe are put up as reasons the Catholic Church is in a bad way, I agree. The sex abuse scandals are an outrage and justice has not yet been done. But, from an institutional survival standpoint the Church has been in far worse situations, historically.
I am not referring to the hangover that so many people around the world will be experiencing tomorrow, but to a cave on Station Island in Donegal, which Jesus was said to have revealed to St. Patrick as a place of pilgrimage. All who visited the cave would not only get some extra spiritual credit in case they were ever forced to spend time purgatory, but also a glimpse of the punishments and rewards of heaven and hell. The Pope blocked up the cave to put an end to all pilgrimages there on St. Patrick’s day in 1497. Even then, intransigent Irishmen and dysfunctional Vatican bureaucracy — two things that have not died out in the intervening centuries.
You’d think, living in a walkable city like New York, that I would do most of my shopping on foot. But in fact I do almost all of it online. Ninety percent of what I buy I could get just as easily if I lived in rural Kansas. The main reasons for this are that I am lazy and refuse to pay retail. I also spent years living in neighborhoods where any packages left on my doorstep were prime targets for homeless people, thugs, prostitutes, and drug addicts to steal. I am not exaggerating here, merely listing the people I saw on my morning and evening commutes. You’d think that after the fifth or six package stolen from my stoop that contained darjeeling tea or rare science fiction paperbacks that the neighborhood would’ve wised up and stopped stealing my packages, but they never did. Maybe my former neighbors took the same solace I do in book collecting and fine tea, who knows? Anyway, the point is that I am making up for lost time and reveling in the fact that my packages are now kept safe for me by the security staff in my building. But I’m getting off topic here.
I get so much in the mail these days that by the time it arrives, I have forgotten what it is that I ordered. So it was with a battered package that arrived from Manchester, England. I have a few friends in London, but I don’t know anybody in Manchester. Perhaps this was a gift from an admiring reader of this blog, I thought, or the return of a long-lost object from my past. Mysterious packages from abroad are the stuff of first chapters of adventure novels. The mystery deepened when I inspected the customs label and saw the contents declared as “cosmetics.” Lipstick from Manchester? What? When I opened the package, I was surprised and a little ashamed of myself. Continue reading
I wrote this a few years ago and encountered it at random today in some old files. So, for your amusement:
Sonnet in thanks for an Old Coat
In this month when pleasing chills turn to cold,
And the darkening year’s end approaches near,
Like a drowsy bear I seek some stronghold
To mellow in ‘til spring, or, like wine or beer,
Ferment my thoughts, accrete a coat of mold,
And when the summer comes be not just old
By one more year, but more subtle and more bold.
Not free to hibernate, I roam about
By work and inconvenience onward driven,
And against the coldest season turn out
My best defense, the coat my Love has given.
If love were soup and gratitude were muttons,
My thoughts in this coat be fit for gluttons,
Held tight around me by its trusty Buttons.
The Classical Tradition
Because my edition of 1000+ page The Classical Tradition by Anthony Grafton arrived in the mail this evening. I am afraid I and my mind will be elsewhere from now until bedtime. If that sounds like a dull way to spend an evening, I direct you to this review of the book, which will change your mind. Okay, I’m off to wander in what Stephen Greenblatt described as “a browser’s paradise.”