The Bookworm Beat 12/6/14 — Saturday sweep-up edition, and Open Thread

Woman writingA cold has been making the rounds in my neighborhood and it finally caught up with me. I don’t feel particularly ill, but I feel congested and quite desperately sleepy. I had a great deal to do today, and mostly managed to re-read Agatha Christie’s Mrs. McGinty’s Dead, which wasn’t too taxing (and, thankfully, I’d forgotten whodunnit). I’ve now roused myself enough to clean the kitchen, do the laundry, and share with you a few browser tabs I still have open from yesterday:

The all-around best post about the Rolling Stone’s journalistic malpractice

I’ve shouted my opinion about Rolling Stone’s UVA rape story from the treetops (“It didn’t happen that way!”), and I’ve linked to several posts that agreed with me, only they did so more thoroughly, more elegantly and, most importantly, from more prominent platforms than mine.  These combined voices forced Rolling Stone to admit to gross journalistic malpractice.

Of all these bully-pulpit loud voices on the subject, my favorite is Jonah Goldberg. Writing before Rolling Stone walked back its story, Jonah Goldberg had this to say:

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The Bookworm Beat 12/4/14 — Plumber days and party nights edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingI spent a large part of my day hanging around waiting for the plumber to come and, once he came, hanging around while he did his thing. Surprisingly (for me, at least), this is not a complaint. I’m fortunate enough to have found a wonderful plumber (Marin residents can email me separately for referral info), and I’m just so happy to have my pipes in trustworthy hands.

How trustworthy? This is the plumber who, even though in a position to get an $11,000 job re-piping the main sewer line, said “Don’t be ridiculous. All you need to do is preventive rootering once a year plus RootX once a year. Problem solved.” I love this man and his team.

As for the party night . . . one of my soccer dad friends, going way back to when my kids were small, turns out to be a conservative. Not only that, he’s just a totally great guy — intelligent, kind, thoughtful, and the whole megillah of other positive adjectives. He’s hosting a little get-together tonight for a few of Marin’s hidden conservatives. I’m so looking forward to being in a room in which I can debate issues, rather than being baited about issues.

But before I go, I’m trying to jam out a few links I think you’ll enjoy. Forgive typos, ’cause I’m really rushing this one:

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Barack Obama: muddle headed multiculturalist


I may not be Christian, but I know this much about Christmas:  it’s a holy day that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.  I also know that those who believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and mankind’s savior call themselves, not coincidentally, Christians.

See, it’s a package deal:  Christians and Christmas.  Muslims consider Christ a prophet, but do not build their faith around him.  Jews consider Christ a rabbi, but parted ways 2,000 years ago with those of their co-religionists who beheld in him something much greater.  Other world religions don’t even include Jesus in the panoply.  Let me say this again:  Christians and Christmas, the package deal.  While we non-believers enjoy the trees, the ornaments, the songs, and the lights, Christians focus like lasers on Christmas’s raison d’etre.

I mention all of this, in repetitive detail, just to point out how reflexive multiculturalism turns people inanely stupid, including allegedly intelligent and Christian people like Barack Obama (emphasis added):

The First Family helped light the National Christmas Tree Friday night, amid a festive celebration of musicians and costumed characters.

President Obama said Christmas is a time “we celebrate the birth of a child who came into the world with only a stable’s roof to shelter Him.”

He also made this statement about Christmas: “It’s a message both timeless and universal — no matter what God you pray to, or if you pray to none at all.”

Hat tip:  Gateway Pundit

I truly do understand that Obama was trying to make a point about “peace on earth and good will to man,” which is the universalist message that Christians (very nicely, I might add) append to the holiday.  Nevertheless, all that Obama managed to do was to come off sounding . . . dumb.

Still, I am thankful for one thing, which is that Obama’s mindlessly multiculturalist babel gives me the perfect opening to post my favorite Christmas song. I love the song and I love the way Josh Groban sings it:

Christmas thoughts from a Jewish blogger

I’m about to wade into theology here, so feel free to beat me around the head (politely, of course), if I’ve committed some egregious doctrinal sin.  Before you do, though, please follow my argument to its conclusion, to see whether I’m on the right track.

I got to thinking about evil today. In my earlier post, I took it upon myself to define what I believe constitutes good (as opposed to evil) at a societal level:  Maximum individual freedom within a framework of stable laws.  What I want to discuss in this post is the evil of the individual, whether it’s just a handful of individuals committing acts of great evil, or evil on the vast scale of Stalin, Hitler, Mao or Kim Jung-Il (as well as their minions, who kept the leaders’ hands free of actual blood).

As I contemplate evil men, what always strikes me is that they are distinguished from “merely” bad people by the way in which they view their fellow man.  Your ordinary bad guy is motivated by greed, fear, anger, jealously, etc.  His own feelings drive him.  He’s not thinking about the relative worth of the people against whom he acts.  He’s simply thinking about his own needs.

People who commit evil on a grand scale, whether their victims are small in number or large, may fall prey to these passions, but these all too human emotions are not what drive them.  Instead, they commit their evil acts because they feel separate from and above ordinary humanity.  In their own minds, they are a superior species, a pleasant fact that entitles them to starve the kulaks, kill the Jews and gypsies, or turn their own nation into a giant prison camp.  The root cause of evil isn’t an unloving mother or a bourgeois upbringing or a racist society.  Instead, it is the evildoer’s fundamental lack of humanity.

Which gets me to the birthday the Christian world celebrates on December 25.  Christ was not like other gods.  The Greek and Roman panoply of gods was filled with beings who, while they suffered from more than their fare share of human foibles, nevertheless were always aware of their separation from mankind, and treated mankind as pawns in the godly games.  Christ, however, embraced human-kind.  His passion was the human passion.  Rather than rejecting human-kind, he took upon himself human pain and, in return, gave grace.  By giving himself over to humanity, rather than holding himself above it, Jesus was the antithesis of evil.

(To those of you who are hoping I’ve converted, I haven’t.  If there is any religion in me, my allegiance is to the Jewish God, an abstract, overarching figure that created human-kind, embraces His creation, and judges human-kind with a creator’s loving objectivity.  To my mind, both good and evil are concepts too small to describe the enormity of the Jewish God.)

So, while I am not now, and probably never will be, a Christian, I join with all of you in celebrating Christmas — a holiday that truly celebrates the good in all of us.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah starts tomorrow night at sunset.  David Goldman explains beautifully how important this holiday is to our modern understanding of individual freedom, the value of life, and faith in God.  It is not, and shouldn’t be, Christmas’ echo.  Each holiday is an important remembrance in its own right.

And here’s a little happy song to get your holiday off to a good start:


Christmas in San Francisco

San Francisco used to be charming.  Now it’s just kind of creepy — or, at least, large parts of it are.  For example, the OWSers are creepy.  Even creepier is what happens when the OWSers come together with the nekkid Santas.  And I have to ask, as I always do:  Why is it always only the ugly people who insist on taking their clothes off?

A genius idea

I just have to pat myself on the back here, because I came up with a genius idea.  We bought our Christmas tree (er, pardon, Hanukkah bush) today.  Prices this year have been surprisingly low, so I ended up purchasing a 7′ tall tree for all of $40.00.  It’s a gorgeous tree.

Getting a 7′ tree in the house, in the stand, upright, and watered is a daunting task.  Here’s where my genius idea comes in:  I took an old king size sheet with me to the tree lot, one that I bought years ago for the kids to make play houses with.  I put the sheet on the ground, rolled the tree onto it, and then tied the sheet together at both the bottom and the top of the tree.  The tree slid in and out of my minivan effortlessly, and left no needles.

When we arrived home, and while the tree was still wrapped up and lying down, I put the tree stand on.  The kids and I then carried tree (with stand) into the house.  All of the needles remained neatly in the sheet.  We got the tree upright, adjusted the stand, added water to the base — which was easily accessible — and only then let the branches down.  A hail of needles followed.  Since the tree is in excellent shape, I assume it was the one at the bottom of the truck, and that the needles came from every other tree in the truck.

I shudder to think what the mess would have been like if it hadn’t been for my excellent idea.  As it was, I vacuumed around the base of the tree, and everything was perfect.  I’m really quite pleased, both with myself and with my tree.

You guys have probably already thought of this idea (and I’ve heard of Christmas tree bags, although I’m sure that only excessively well-organized people think to buy those), but I’m still pretty pleased with myself.  The fact that no one at this busy, busy lot had either sheet or bag tells me that this wrapping technique isn’t common.  Indeed, the Christmas tree salesman was very impressed and said that, henceforth, he’ll bring a big sheet for his own tree.

Sorry for being the boastful rooster, crowing on my own dunghill, but it’s so rare for me to have these light bulb moments that I get ridiculously excited.

A Christmas appreciation *UPDATED*

‘Tis the season for the usual politically correct attacks on Christmas.  Ecumenical signs, disingenuously trimmed with Christmas holly and ornaments, urge a generic “Happy Holidays.”  Bank inspectors, perhaps seeking an easier task than examining a bank’s books, remove crosses.  Every December, Scrooge takes his steroids and is out in full force.

You’d think, of course, that I, a non-practicing Jew with a fairly loose sense of God, would be delighted by these rigorous efforts to protect innocent Americans from rampant Christmas celebrations.  But alas for the do-gooders on the Left, I’m not.

I adore Christmas.  Americans, unlike so many other religious practitioners, are extraordinarily generous with their religion.  They don’t forcibly drag nonbelievers to bow before their altars.  Instead, they graciously share the bounty of their own celebration.

I can listen to the music (and I do looove Christmas music), delight my eye with the lights, and generally bathe in the good cheer that permeates this season.  And all at no cost to me!  If I feel so inclined, Christians will welcome me into the fold, but they will not coerce or threaten me into their faith.  Instead, they’ll just make my December a wonderful time of year.

Atheists, instead of being obstreperous, should just relax and enjoy the fact that, as the days grow dark and cold, our fellow Americans welcome us to their holiday of lights.  On behalf of those ingrates, therefore, I say “thank you — and Merry Christmas!”

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  Nina Totenberg’s bizarre apology for attending a “Christmas” party is the perfect example of Scrooge on steroids.

Merry Christmas!

The year 2009 has been a trying year for many of us.  In our personal lives, the recession has hurt people’s jobs, diminished their savings, and placed enormous stresses on their day-to-day functions.  Nationally, watching the Democrats at work at home and abroad has provided us with all the thrills of watching a polar bear rip apart a seal.  There’s a certain bizarre fascination with this spectacle, but it’s still sickening.  Today’s Senate vote was just the coup de grace in this Democrat blood sport.  But still….

For those who are Christians, I know that this time of year goes well beyond gifts and lights and holiday sales.  It is about the birth of the Messiah — the moment in the earth’s darkness when a light burst forth upon the earth, with the promise of grace and redemption.  Every year, this celebration matters deeply but, in times of trouble, honoring Christ’s birthday has, I think, more resonance than usual.

Even if we do not share in this celebration (whether because we worship in a different faith or in no faith at all), this should still be a time of light in the darkness.  For those of us who are Jewish, and who have just finished celebrating Hanukkah, this season is a reminder that a small band of committed warriors can take on and bring down an empire.  Whether God makes his hand visible, or acts invisibly through people who refuse to give up their beliefs really doesn’t matter — what matters is that we keep on fighting because we have faith in our commitment to America, a faith that translates, quite simply, to a bone-deep commitment to freedom.

So to all of you, new friends and old, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, one that fills your heart with light and hope.  We have a new year coming to us and, if we keep the faith and the focus, we can — and will — make a difference in the coming months.

355px-Christmas_Tree_Cluster(That’s the Christmas Tree Cluster, deep, deep in space, a reminder of the lasting miracles in the world around us.)

Something’s missing this season

Don Quixote and I were at the local mall.  The mall was getting ready for the shopping season, and it has some special events planned.  It even had a sign:


If you’re like DQ and me, you realize that something is missing from the sign:  there’s no mention of the actual holiday being celebrated, with the exception of a reference to some guy named Santa and a title allocated to December 24th — Christmas Eve.  Otherwise, we’re simply assured there are events going on to celebrate something, but we’re never told what the something is.

As a Jewish kid (admittedly, non -eligious, but definitely still Jewish), who grew up in a majority Christian culture that wasn’t embarrassed about showing itself, I adored the blessings of beautiful music, lovely images, and general joie de vivre.  At school, I learned all the carols, religious and secular, and can still belt them out with the best of them.  My kids know only Frosty, Rudolph, and Jingle Bells — good songs all, but such a minute fraction of the rich Christmas repertoire.  It’s only through their involvement in choral groups that they’re being exposed to the beautiful things men and women created as part of their religious celebrations and faith.

I’ll leave you with an antidote to the above sign, and an urge that you wish your friends a “Merry Christmas,” as well a happy or merry “whatever it is that they celebrate” this holiday season.  And if your friends are like me, they’ll appreciate the fact that, in America, people share their holiday celebrations without rancor or pressure.

Beautiful Christmas music

I love Christmas music, and listen to it online whenever I can during December.  While I’m ordinarily no fan of Josh Groban, finding his pop music a bit shlocky, I thought he did just a thrilling version of O, Holy Night, which I now pass on to you:

I continue to find it sad that PC-mania has pretty much wiped Christmas off the map at public schools.  I loved the Christmas season at school when I was a kid.  I never felt as if I was on the receiving end of proselytizing.  Instead, I enjoyed the secular American version of Christmas, complete with Santa Clause and beautiful music (including music that wasn’t so secular, but that still didn’t leave me feeling pressured to run off to a church and convert).  Our children miss out on a lot living in such a carefully sanitized world.