Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mad Men: lessons in character and capitalism

Dear Hannah,

I've heard many people say that with great power comes great responsibility; but I've never heard anyone say that with great responsibility comes great power.  If you want the most obvious example of the former, I recommend watching Spider Man and paying attention to Peter Parker.  If you want an example of the latter, I recommend watching Mad Men and paying attention to Donald Draper.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

How to horrify your children

Dear Hannah,

When Time Magazine asked Americans which of our practices would horrify our children, I don't think Cindy Crawford (and possibly even Time Magazine) understood the question.  Her answer was that our children would be horrified by our "otherness" -- or our inability to recognize that we're all exactly the same.  Our children's answer will much more likely be that we failed to recognize which portions of humanity are incompatibly different.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"All life is precious" and other idiotic ideas

Dear Hannah,

There are only a couple of people I know who have taken a stand against the slogan all life is precious, and one of them is me.  The good news for me is that the other one appears to be God.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

On the greatness of Rome: a review of a review

Dear Hannah,

Anyone with any brains knows that in order for you to be successful in any endeavor, you have to have two things.  The first are circumstances favorable enough to make your endeavor possible; and the second is a personal ability to take advantage of the circumstances.

Friday, November 6, 2015

In defense of nativism

Dear Hannah,

In the world of demographics, there are very few kinds of people who can fairly be excused of nativism, and one of them is a person who is about to move somewhere else.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sounders 'til I die

Dear Hannah,

Political bumperstickers may be more annoying than bumperstickers about sports, but in terms of insanity they lag very far behind them.  I've never understood what it is that could lead anyone to place a bumpersticker for or against gay marriage on the back of his car, because it implies it was the only opinion he thought worth me knowing.  You would think that maybe it might be better to shout religious slogans if anything at all.  You'd think that if you had only a single chance to deliver a message to the person behind you, it might be preferable to choose something aimed at the realization of mortality -- or maybe about the possibility of entering into eternal damnation (which many people claim to believe, but are too polite to consider warning us about).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Concerning the use of human shields

Dear Hannah,

Nearly every conflict in the world is morally complex -- nearly every conflict except the one between the Israelis and the PLO.  With many conflicts you're forced to dig through decades (and if you're unwise, centuries) of sins and blunders, trying to see who's responsible for starting it.  The PLO makes our decision easy, because they almost remove history from the equation entirely.  They provoke Israelis with violence, and then shield themselves from damage with little children.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jesus is Lord -- but only of the rich

Dear Hannah,

If I could change one thing about Christianity today, I would make Jesus the God of the poor.  If this sounds like I've forgotten all the passages about the meek inheriting the earth and camels going through the eye of a needle, some explanation may be necessary.  Whatever the Bible says about the poor being blessed, their blessing may rest entirely on the fact that Christians today aren't placing them under any obligations.  They're blessed because they do inherit the earth; but only in the sense that they don't have any rules to follow, and only because they don't have a God to give them any rules.  The earth is theirs because it's theirs to squander: the Western middle classes are only here to build it.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Two terrible parents

 Dear Hannah,

Marcus Aurelius is known for being one of the wisest and justest emperors of imperial Rome.  The other thing he's known for is being one of the worst parents.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Why women love fall

Dear Hannah,

I apologize that I keep talking about Solomon: it's completely unintentional.  I'm starting to feel like he's the only person I talk about.  And since I've mentioned several times that Benjamin Franklin is my personal hero and several others that Solomon is a screwup, it must seem like I don't understand myself very well at all.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Obama the Christian radical

Dear Hannah,

One of the most frustrating characters in all of Christian history is Jesus, and mostly because you're never really sure whether to take His statements practically.  It might be fairly argued that He was never meant to be taken practically, and that an uncomfortable portion of His sermons were meant to make us humble.  It could be that after all the talk about poking your own eyes out, what He was really trying to prove is that perfection (for you and I) is impossible, and that Christian living is entirely beyond us -- that it might even be suicidal, if we were to take it seriously.  Taken in this sense, the Sermon on the Mount may not be a sermon about behavior.  It may be an attempt to get us to cry "uncle" and ask for forgiveness.

Monday, September 21, 2015

How to change with the times like Sarah Silverman

Dear Hannah,

I wouldn't call myself a fan of Sarah Silverman's, but I'm definitely a fan of some of the things she says.  And when she said a short while ago that comedians have to change with the times and accept political correctness, I don't think it's possible for me to agree with her more.  In fact, when I woke up this morning to check my Facebook I asked myself what day it was, and when I figured it out, I told myself I would have what everyone else was having.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why Republicans deserve Obamacare

Dear Hannah,

I was delighted to find in the New York Times this week that our hospital capitalists are beginning to wonder what their expenses are.  It's nice to finally have some company.  I've been wondering what my expenses are ever since I moved out of my parents' house; and I've been keeping records of it in red and black ink because I don't want to live in the streets.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

You cannot be a Christian and be a Christian

Dear Hannah,

Spend any significant time reading the Bible, and you're sure to have encountered a certain saying that not many wise were called to be Christians.

We have reason to believe that Paul was being serious when he said it.  Not only because the majority of the Christian epistles were written to people who apparently misunderstood everything about Christianity (I refer the reader to the Book of 1 Corinthians); but because even after two-thousand years of reading the epistles, many Christians have difficulty understanding that Christianity and killing children are mutually incompatible.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Miley Cyrus and the post-gender generation

Dear Hannah,

Solomon was never meant to be taken literally, but generally.  And when he says there is nothing new under the sun, we are almost led to believe him entirely -- if it hadn't been for automobiles and the internet and America.  About the rest of it he was right.  You can always expect the best and worst out of humanity, because the loves and hates of human nature have always remained the same, which leads us to do the same kinds of things we've always been doing.  And if he was right about anything in particular, it was about the recurring existence of Miley Cyrus.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A retraction concerning the Mexican work ethic

Dear Hannah,

This week I remembered that St. Augustine used to publish a series of yearly retractions.  I think it would be wise for me to do the same.  If anyone's going to be a man of learning, he must also be a man of unlearning; or to put it another way, if he's going to learn better ways to think of things, he has to get rid of the worse.  And if he's got any humility at all, which is one of the marks of a true scholar, he has to admit it when his positions have changed.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A home for Black Lives Matter activists

Dear Hannah,

If I had to pick a single statement out of the Black Lives Matter campaign as a testament to their asininity, I would pick the moment they stormed Bernie Sanders' stage and told the audience they were standing on stolen Duwamish land.

Monday, August 17, 2015

"Black lives matter" and other horrible slogans

Dear Hannah,

A short while ago President Obama made a deal with Iran -- a deal in which they got nearly everything they ever wanted out of us, and we got almost nothing we wanted out of them.  But what was most interesting about the agreement was that after we'd capitulated and relations should have been smoothed (at least, that's what you expect when you make a generous deal with a respectable person), the supreme leader of the Iranian people was caught shouting "death to America" with a substantial portion of his political allies.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Don't tell me to smile (and other feminist complaints)

Dear Hannah,

I've never really had trouble smiling, but I imagine that if the situation between the genders were reversed, and men were suddenly being asked by women to smile, that men would think of something much more interesting to say than that it was because of the matriarchy.  I imagine, being a man (and thus drawn far more frequently to practical solutions), that many of us might answer that we would already be smiling -- if only the woman who was asking was more attractive.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to ruin your homeschooled child

Dear Hannah,

Something that's given me an almost endless source of amusement is the public's response to an essay I wrote about homeschoolers, mostly because they said I have no idea what I'm talking about.  Of course, anyone who knows me knows I do know what I'm talking about, and I know what I'm talking about because I was schooled at home -- all the way through tenth grade, when my parents realized that homeschooling wasn't good for me anymore.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

How to tell if God is trying to kill you

Dear Hannah,

It should seem strange to anyone who reads the Bible that after all the talk about God judging the nations, Evangelicals think they know how He's going to do it.  The truth is that they don't; and I know this because I've tried to get judgment down to a science, and the only thing I've ever been able to conclude is that, if we're going by Biblical standards, God should have drowned all the Evangelicals in a very strange series of very localized floods*.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

"If necessary, use words" and other nonsense

Dear Hannah,

You may have heard people say by this point "preach the Gospel.  If necessary, use words."  It may be safely translated, stop preaching.  I've never heard it used in any other context than to get people to stop preaching, and it is used because people believe preaching is less important than doing things.  But if you've been paying any attention, you'll notice that the person who quotes this happens to be speaking, and he happens to be speaking a Christian lesson for the purpose of influencing your thoughts and behavior.  In other words, what you're hearing is a sermon.  I believe it may be fairly asked, at this point, why the person who's speaking instead of keeping his mouth shut isn't keeping his own advice.  It may be because speaking is a better vehicle for ideas than silence.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The most difficult thing about being a Catholic

Dear Hannah,

Throughout my life I've heard many people say I don't know what it feels like to be black in America.  Aside from the fact that nobody has ever proposed the opposite, that black people have no idea how it feels to be white in America, what I have never heard anyone say is that I don't know how it feels to be Catholic.  I admit I don't know how it feels to be Catholic because I am not a Catholic; but I imagine that if I was, right now would be a difficult time to be one.  And this is because you never really can be too sure what Papa Francesco is going to say next.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Speak now, or forever hold your peace

Dear Hannah,

Although I've witnessed several horrible marriages in my lifetime, there was really only one time I ever felt forced to attend a wedding, and it involved a woman I very much adore marrying a man I never fully trusted.  I spoke at the wedding, and did a damn good job at it.  I even bought a gift for this couple despite the fact that I knew he'd ruin everything and I'd be out a good chunk of money.  At the very best the wedding cost me my dignity and my money; at the very worst it caused the poor bride a broken heart and a divorce.  And there was nothing any of us could do, shy of shoving her fiancĂ©e off a cliff, to stop it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A defense of police brutality in general

Dear Hannah,

If you ever happen to watch Game of Thrones, you'll get to know a character named Stannis Baratheon. What's most interesting about Stannis is that he's been burning innocents to death since his appearance in the first season; but if you hadn't seen the show, the popular media might have convinced you that he burnt his first victim in season five. And the reason nobody has said anything about it is because until this point, with the exception of Mance Rayder, he had only burnt people nobody had really been too acquainted with. Which is interesting because the outcry nearly exactly parallels the Democratic Party's position on killing children.

Friday, June 19, 2015

If God is dead, then God's Not Dead killed Him: a very late film review

Dear Hannah,

Imagine, for a moment, that a society of Elvis fans pooled together a bunch of money and decided to prove that Elvis was alive.  And so they got a lot of marketers and Kevin Sorbo and all their finest arguments for Elvis's current existence, and put them all together for a film imaginatively called Elvis is not Dead.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Thoughts on Gay Pride Month

Dear Hannah,

This morning I was informed that we've stumbled into a month of gay pride, which led me to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions about the sanity of the American public.  I asked -- for instance -- whether there might be any really good reason why Memorial Day was a memorial for only a day, and whether there might be any really good reason why men having sex with men is more important than my great uncle Bob*, who was killed fighting the Japanese in the Pacific.  And the answer, so far as I can tell, is that my great uncle Bob only died trying to protect us from invasion.   Or in other words, he was only in the Army.  He did not sing In The Navy.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Amy Schumer, champion of feminine jealousy

Dear Hannah,

One of the great tragedies of the modern era is that the people who are supposed to be championing the advancement of women know the least about the possibilities of womankind.  It doesn't help that the champions are women; and it doesn't help because if there is anything degrading to the intelligence of women, it is bands of women demanding ridiculous things of men.  In marriage, we call this sort of thing nagging.  In the world of socio-political philosophy, we call it feminism.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How to fake the presence of God

Dear Hannah,

I should probably preface this letter by admitting I'm not one of those people who says that all religions are saying the same thing.  I'm also not one of those people who says that all religions have nothing in common.  To say that Judaism and Christianity and Islam and Buddhism all teach similar messages is fair; almost as fair as saying that their messages are just different enough to cause serious problems between them.  A Catholic might say the Devil isn't only in the details, but that he's purposely muddled them.  A Calvinist might say God willed the Devil to muddle them.  A Muslim might feel theologically comfortable agreeing with the Calvinist (which is why he says things like en'shallah); culturally, many of them might feel more comfortable blaming a Jew (which is why Jews don't want Arabs to get nukes).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

To love being American (classic essay)

Dear Hannah,

Being an American is a messy business.  Nobody watches the mediocre or the boring; the whole world has better things to do than sing about Scotland, and none of the African states are very interesting unless they're on fire.  It seems that the more power and prestige a nation has, the more attention it gets, and even the worst of nations at least is forgotten from time to time unless you're living in it, or it happens to be disrupting the price of oil.  The greater something is, the more it inspires our admiration and invites our censure; and if we may be certain about two things, it is that great power produces great corruptions, and that men have always been envious of power.  And therefore, whether one lives within or without a great nation, we are frequently more likely to hear complaints rather than praise.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Should women be allowed to drink?

Dear Hannah,

In an age of social liberalism, you can expect to see many things become legal. One thing that hasn't become legal and that almost nobody has considered legalizing is childhood drinking.  And the reason nobody has really suggested it is obvious: because each and every one of us knows that children are idiots.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Summoning the Prince of Darkness

Dear Hannah,

When I was young, my mom always advised me to never summon Satan if I think he's nearby, because she was worried he might show up.  And so, naturally, I did what every young boy would do when asked to avoid doing something stupid, and I asked him to show himself anyway.  I sometimes asked timidly, and other times with a manly defiance -- but I always asked.  I never really felt like there was anything to lose.  If Satan is in your room, you might as well know he's there for sure; just as it's much better to know if he isn't.  It's the sitting around and wondering that ruins a child's sleep.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In defense of an openly-racist magazine

Dear Hannah,

One nearly universal fact of human nature is that if you tell people not to read something, they'll begin to want to read it.  Another fact of human nature is that if a man begins to feel like something's been hidden from him by the "good guys," he'll begin to want to listen to what the bad guys have to say.  The unfortunate but expectable result of these is that if you have a kid spend his childhood watching movies with anti-racist themes (the ones where whites are racists, naturally), and send him to a leftist college, and he hears little-to-nothing in the media about any atrocities committed by anyone but white people, and then suddenly encounters a horrible website like American Renaissance, he might find it extremely interesting.

Living in the age of autism

Dear Hannah,

Learning is a difficult process -- not just for autistic kids: for me.  For instance, there are certain things a man should know the second time through them; certain signs he should begin to look for, to make sure he isn't doing a stupid thing twice.  Sometimes it's more difficult than others.  All your life everyone knows that the people who attract the most derision are the people who can't take a joke.  They're basically begging for it.  So when you meet a man who incessantly misses your meaning and never understands why the heck what you said was funny, you just assume he's the man you're going to be joking about.  Until the day you start realizing that maybe he's a little different -- no; maybe a lot different, and maybe all the times you'd been poking fun at him because you thought he had a stick up his ass, were really all the times you'd been joking with a man who had some kind of a mental disability.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two tips to avoid being used by men

Dear Hannah,

So far as I can remember, there are really two kinds of advice: how you should do something you want to do, and whether or not you should do it.  The unfortunate thing about the latter kind is that it's almost completely useless.   I can't even remember the last time I listened to good advice about whether I should do something, and so it makes me a little bit uncomfortable expecting you to do the same -- especially when the advice concerns men.  I even have a difficult time following my own advice: my essay On Happiness was a very good idea, with lots of practical suggestions.  That is, I thought it was practical until these last few months, when I've found myself wanting something outside the recommended prescription.  It turns out that happiness can be doing the right thing; but it is equally getting the right thing -- the thing that we want.  For those of us who are barred, either socially or morally, from getting what we want, it's misery; whatever the happiness people -- or even we ourselves -- have told us.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

So you say you hate the Puritans

Dear Hannah,

Despite the fact that Oliver Cromwell was vastly superior to Charles I, I have yet to hear anyone praise Cromwell for deposing and killing him.  There have been many reasonable objections to his killing of Charles, chief among them being that Charles's death immediately led to the instant popularity and eventual kingship of Charles II -- historically one of the most profligate and useless kings that England ever saw.  But people are more likely to complain about Cromwell and the Puritans and unfairly loathe them, despite the fact that Cromwell ruled more honestly and rightly than both his predecessor and his successor; King Charles I is almost forgotten in America, despite his unhappy tendency to mangle and murder his subjects.  And the reason we hate the better man and forget the worse is simple.  Charles I offended the constitutional liberties of Englishmen; the Puritans tried to get rid of dancing on Sundays.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Homeschoolers and gay lovers

Dear Hannah,

I heard someone express one time that a good number of Disney/Pixar films were aimed at getting children to come out of the closet.  I'm not so certain, after considering not only the number of gay people employed by Pixar, but the overwhelming theme of their films, that this person was being completely paranoid.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Insanity in Indiana

Dear Hannah,

Due to a recent law protecting the rights of Indiana's business-owners, in what has got to be the bravest political move in Seattle history, our mayor has finally decided to stop funding the extremely large number of city employee trips to Indiana.  This has left us wondering what he's going to do next.  If he's going to equal the heroism of this current measure, will he stop all our city-funded flights to Pakistan, in support of women's rights?  Or maybe to Egypt, in support of the Coptic Christians suffering there?  Like the size of our mayor's heart and cajones, the limits are endless. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A trip to hell and back

Dear Hannah,

Last night I dreamed I ate a poisonous flower with a hundred soft white petals.  Everyone was doing it, so it seemed reasonable to go along with them.  And our reasoning for eating it was simple: we were all going to die anyway -- everyone dies, you know -- and this was the easiest way to get it over with.  And so I did it.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How to celebrate International Women's Day

Dear Hannah,

Of all the classes I took in college, English 201 and Health stand out the most.  And I think the reason is because in English 201 we spent nearly all our time trying to misunderstand the English language, and in health class we spent nearly all our time trying not to catch venereal diseases.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tyler Durden

Dear Hannah,

Right after Fight Club came out on DVD, my friends and I used to get high on all kinds of things and throw punches on the streets of Italy.  We had rules, because we were too sensible to get hurt too badly: no punches to the face, and nothing below the belt.  If someone wanted out, we let him.  I don't remember anyone fighting any girls, which would have been embarrassing for both parties, whether the man won or lost.  But the point of the matter was that however ridiculous Fight Club looks now, it had an impact on nearly every young man who saw it.  I saw it with nerds who ranted and raved about it in between matches of Starcraft; I pretended it with punks and stoners who acted it under the influence of ecstasy and cocaine.  Nobody who admired the film -- from the jocks to the preps to the band kids -- was like Tyler Durden.  Everyone, on some level, wanted to be like him.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Some thoughts on The Black Eyed Peas

Dear Hannah,

You're probably already aware of this, but ever since the 1970's at the very earliest, popular culture has run in 20-year cycles.  I'm now old enough to have consciously experienced three of them. Nobody in the 1960's was interested in the 1940's, but in the 1980's, everyone was excited about the 60's.  In in the 2000's, which is the cultural revival I experienced the most personally, everyone went wild for the 80's.  A period of twenty years gives something exactly enough time to be unpopular; just enough unpopularity to mean that none of the kids will have heard it, and exactly enough time to remind 30 year-olds about the times they used to be interesting -- a perfect recipe for a band to go on an embarrassing reunion tour.  In ten years everyone will go wild for the 2000's, which means I should probably get ahead of them and try to start explaining The Black Eyed Peas.  I can't do anything to explain emo.  Aside from a few isolated hits, the whole of it was garbage.  In certain ways, emo was characteristic of my generation.  To my knowledge, it marked the first time in history that an entire genre was comprised of and defined by an excess of bitching.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

All romance is tragic

Dear Hannah,

In my last letter I told you that I was born with a certain set of inclinations.  What I didn't tell you is that not all of them have changed.  When I was about sixteen years old, I stopped dreaming about war.  My dreams about romance, on the other hand, seem to have gotten much more frequent, and far more complex.  Honestly, I would have preferred it the other way around. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Concerning war and women

Dear Hannah,

When I was a young boy, there were really two things that occupied my mind for the majority of the day.  The first was war, and the second was women.  Depending on the day, their priority might have been reversed.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to tell if you're in a relationship

Dear Hannah,

Since it might seem suspicious if you keep hearing about the good things I dream, but none of the bad things I do, it might be wise to throw in a confession every now and then, so you can know you're dealing with a real person.  So here it is: my confession.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why papa is vain

Dear Hannah,

One of the great difficulties of publishing my thoughts has been that some people have called me arrogant.  I actually had two people say I was full of myself within the same week -- a horrible week.  It's always good to hear someone call you out on your faults, especially when there might be an inkling of truth to it; it's better than going your whole life being a self-absorbed ass and everyone thinking it except yourself.  In this sense, we can learn more from our enemies than our friends.  They'll sometimes tell us things that our friends won't, because an enemy's happiness doesn't rely on ours.  Even if an insult is undeserved, sometimes it allows us some good reflection, which may result in our improvement of a virtue we already had.  Always listen to your enemies.  They may do you more good than you realize.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A toast to Bill Clinton

Dear Hannah,

I know it sounds strange to say -- and maybe we should keep this a secret from my dad -- but one of the presidents I'm happy to think about is Bill Clinton.  To be completely honest, I don't know much about anything he did as president, because I was too young to be paying attention.  What does make me happy is that he proves to me, on some level, that we have evolved significantly in our ideas about women.

Monday, February 9, 2015

In defense of a beautiful boss

Dear Hannah,

It shouldn't come as any surprise that someone out there writing for The Economist has a problem with the size and looks of our bosses.  Leftists have been waging a war against nearly every personal advantage for years: if they aren't upset because your parents are rich, they'll insult you because your parents are white, or maybe because you have a penis.  In their most unreasonable moments, they might even be upset that you deserve your own job.  It seems only reasonable to expect that sooner or later, they would be complaining that some of our bosses are good-looking, and that they keep themselves in shape. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

But a white man did it too!

Dear Hannah,

Every time I've seen an article about ISIS lighting a man on fire, I'm reminded about how adorable our modern popes have gotten.  It's almost enough to make you want to pat Papa Francesco on his head. Nearly everyone in the West is well familiar with the Catholic church -- at least, with their burning people alive during the time when they had the most power (which also happens to be the time when they abused their power the most).  The funny thing is that we're reminded of it now, when people who aren't even Catholics are burning people who aren't really heretics; in other words, we bring it up at a time when it isn't really helpful.  Just like we bring up the time when white people used to torch black people before Americans wised up and began persecuting our own murderers.  A smart person might almost be led to believe these experiences would make us more likely to condemn the psychotics; but others, unfortunately, find it more enlightening to relate to them.  It almost makes you wonder whether, if somebody from another race or religion tries to rape any of our girlfriends, we'll end up hearing about great-grandpa Gideon throwing a sack over a mountain woman's head and forcing her to marry him (although I think this was called Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Gideon might argue that he was only behaving like Plutarch's account of Romulus).

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

God's orphan

Dear Hannah,

In the world of compliments, I've found you can screw things up in one of two ways.  The first is by giving a compliment that's too unimpressive to be a compliment at all; and the second is to give a compliment that's so impressive, it makes the recipient feel unworthy of it.