The Necessity of Conservativism

I am skeptical of the idea of “progressive revelation.” It leads to the belief that whatever is progressive — whatever has developed, has emerged — is ipso facto revelation. But if you don’t believe that, then you have to be able to distinguish between progressive developments that really are authentic expressions of the Gospel and those that aren’t. And in order to do that you have to criteria for deciding, and those criteria will necessarily not involve the notion of what’s “progressive” because the progressive is precisely what you’re evaluating. The idea of progressive revelation is therefore a problem, not a solution.

Alan Jacobs

When I was a young teacher and still thought of myself as a billiards player, I had the pleasure of watching Albert Abraham Michelson play billiards nearly every noon. He was by then one of our national idols, having been the first American to win the Nobel Prize in science (for the measurement of the speed of light, among other things). To me, he took on added luster because he was the best amateur billiards player I had ever seen.

One noon, while he was still shaking his head at himself for missing an easy shot after he had had a run of thirty-five or thirty-six, I said to him, “You are a fine billiards player, Mr. Michelson.” He shook his head at himself and said, “No. I’m getting old. I can still make the long three-cushion shots, but I’m losing the soft touch on the short ones.” He chalked up, but instead of taking the next shot, he finished what he had to say. “Billiards, though, is a good game, but billiards is not as good a game as chess.” Still chalking his cue, he said, “Chess, though, is not as good a game as painting.” He made it final by saying, “But painting is not as good a game as physics.”

Then he hung up his cue and went home to spend the afternoon painting under the large tree on his front lawn.

Norman McLean, Young Men and Fire (via Steven K N Wilkinson)

Blanket Statements

A brilliant aphorism is a dangerous thing. It is always a lie and never the truth.

T. W. Baldwin

Apply this saying to itself and it becomes rather amusing.

Munro’s Law

An English* scholar of the late 19th century, David Munro, compared [the Iliad and the Odyssey] and discovered an interesting phenomenon (now known as Munro’s law), which is that there is no overlap in their contents: neither poem recounts any events that are told in the other. This discovery lends itself to several conclusions… but the most likely is that they were designed to complement one another. The Odyssey seems, in fact, to go out of its way to fill in the rest of the story of the Iliad. Not only does it give a comprehensive account of the “Returns” [nostoi] of the Greeks, but it finishes the story of the war itself, recounting events that are implicit but still untold at the end of the Iliad: the death and burial of Achilles and the taking of Troy.

Sheila Murnaghan in the introduction to Stanley Lombardo’s translation of the Odyssey

*Munro was born in Scotland, but spent his career at Oxford.


[Eco] uses Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Curtiz’s Casablanca to show that cult classics are cults “precisely because they are basically ramshackle, or ‘unhinged,’ so to speak.” It’s their imperfectness, the disjointed parts, that gives fans something to attach to, something to remember, something to cite.

Donna Haraway via Robin Sloan via (who else) Alan Jacobs

I sense this same quality in The Faerie Queene, which is why, when it gets its hooks in you, it doesn’t let go. As C. S. Lewis once said, “I’ve never met a man who used to like the Faerie Queene.”


It is remarkable how uniform and homogenous the style of writing is on Twitter, which is where media culture is defined. It seemingly hasn’t evolved in a decade. Condescending, sarcastic, amused that you would think to say something so dumb, endlessly superior, contemptuous of all sincere values except the one being used as a bludgeon in the fight at hand. Absurdist in an entirely prescriptive way, novel in a tired way, funny in a humorless way. All of it is a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a strange and highly mannered form of humor that flourished in an obscure offshoot of an internet forum which migrated to a bigger platform and metastasized into something called Weird Twitter, and was subsequently popularized and imitated so frequently it took over the forum completely. For reasons that elude me, it’s been the dominant style on the world’s most influential social network for going on a decade and appears often in published commentary as well.

From Freddie deBoer’s writing guide “If You Absolutely Must”

Set apart

To call the preacher an authority does not mean that the preacher is wiser than others. What it does mean is that the preacher is the one whom the congregation sends on their behalf, week after week, to the scripture. The church knows that its life depends upon hearing the truth of God’s promise and claim through the scripture, and it has set the preacher apart for the crucial activity of going to the scripture to listen for that truth.

Thomas G. Long

“Crucial activity.” Nice play on words there.

Keeping Up with the Times

The complex reality of the technologies that real companies leverage to get ahead emphasizes the absurdity of the now common idea that exposure to simplistic, consumer-facing products—especially in schools—somehow prepares people to succeed in a high-tech economy. Giving students iPads or allowing them to film homework assignments on YouTube prepares them for a high-tech economy about as much as playing with Hot Wheels would prepare them to thrive as auto mechanics.

Cal Newport, Deep Work

Elon Musk’s Twitter

Here is no waste,
No burning Might-have been,
No bitter after-taste,
None to censure, none to screen,
Nothing awry, nor anything misspent;
Only content, content beyond content,
Which hath not any room for betterment.

Maurice Baring

Hold the emotion, thanks

I got to make my heist film with Gene Hackman. Like many of the stars in the above-instanced works, he is an actual tough guy. Lee Marvin was a marine commando in the Pacific, Hayden in the Adriatic. Hackman was a China marine, racecar driver, stunt pilot, deep-sea diver.

These men, and their performances, are characterised by the absence of the desire to please. On screen, they don’t have anything to prove, and so we are extraordinarily drawn to them.

They are not “sensitive”, they are not anti-heroes. They are, to use a historic term, “he-men”. How refreshing.

There will always be the same number of movie stars. There is a table of operations, and the vacant places must be filled, as with politicians, irrespective of the distinction of the applicant pool.

But I vote for the tone of a less sentimental time. Look at the photographs in the family collection, of dad or granddad during the war, or the Depression. We see individuals captured in a moment in their lives, not portraying themselves for the camera. I used to look at them and think one didn’t see those faces today.

I saw them on September 11. I was in the air when the bombings took place, flying back to Boston from the Toronto film festival. We landed at a small commercial aviation field. A customs officer escorted us to a room, where a group of pilots and passengers watched the immediate aftermath on television.

I had never seen faces like that in my life. They were so intent, resolved, completely unsentimental, trying to make sense of a disordered and a very dangerous world; as were the men and women who created the genre of film noir, to which I respectfully submit my addition.

David Mamet