Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fourteenth Annual Ralphies

It was the best of times, it was ... nope.  It was not the best of times. Only time will tell if A.D. 2017 was the worst, or simply the beginning of more travails.  It was Amok Time.

MUSIC: I consume most music these days during my commute, while listening to the satellite radio.  When I hear something good I haven't heard before, I jot it down on whatever piece of paper I can grab. Unfortunately, I've misplaced most of these random notes.  Some that remain mention songs like the following (not all are new, but they're new to me):  "On the Level" (Mac DeMarco), "Road Head" (Japanese Breakfast), "Shouldn't Happen to a Dog" (Thee Headcoats), "Ghost" (Tiny Fireflies), "California" (Rogue Wave), etc.  One song that stuck in my head without a written note is my Song of the Year: "Edge of Town" by Middle Kids.  Most effective one-note guitar solo ever.

FICTION: So porous is my memory that I only remember the most recent things I've read.  The most fun was certainly Curtis Sittenfeld's Eligible, a modern re-imagining of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice in modern-day Cincinnati. Very smart and funny.  As a resident of Cincinnati for 20 years, I can vouch for the authenticity of the local color. Also enjoying Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, although it is not new.  What else?  I am re-reading David Copperfield.  It's good. I read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five for the first time.  Overall good, but the mannerisms annoyed me.

NON-FICTION:  Read, enjoyed, and reviewed L'aramaico antico by F. M. Fales and G. Grassi.  I didn't know if I could remember Italian well enough to do it, but it came back rapidly.  I think the one I learned the most from (for a project I'm working on) is Klaas Bentein's Verbal Periphrasis in Ancient Greek. Extremely perceptive.

TV:  Once again, I am not a watcher of the latest TV.  I will watch movies, some basketball games, and a few re-runs.  My favorite re-run this year was the old sitcom Barney Miller, which I loved back in the day and still do. (This is what old people do.  You should know this. They are not up on the latest anything.)

MOVIES:  Gee, what did I see? Very little.  I did see The Last Jedi (c'mon, I'm not going to link that.  Just stick a toe in the internet and it will bite.). I'm still up in the air over whether I liked it or thought it was incoherent.  We'll have to wait and see whether the hares that were flushed out in this movie will be caught in the next one or will turn out to be mare's nests ... or red herrings ... or wild geese.  Wait, what? Also saw Get Out, which was widely praised, but by the time I saw it, had been spoiled by TMI on the web.  It was OK.  No award this year.

SPORTS:  Once again, enthralled and disappointed by the Nationals, and this is routine for all sports in DC.  NBA-wise, I have some glimmers of hope for a Laker renaissance.  I legitimately like Lonzo Ball's play, although a lot of people hate him for a stupid reason (his old man is insufferable).  And Kyle Kuzma is a revelation.

OK, just getting this in under the wire.  See you next year! (Namely tomorrow.)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What is an Evangelical? (II)

A long time ago, I wrote in this space about "What is an Evangelical?" Reading it today, I am amazed at my own perspicacity, and I generally still agree with myself -- although I'm surprised that back then I didn't know who Rick Warren and Joyce Meyers were; and Michael Gerson has since become a valuable conservative pundit. Richard John Neuhaus has since died.

But the question of "what is an evangelical?" gains added steam today because of the election of 2016, in which a large majority of self-identified evangelicals voted for D. Trump.  Because of this, there are some among the minority who didn't who are no longer willing to call themselves evangelicals.  (Roy Moore of Alabama, running as an ultra-conservative evangelical but accused of sexual misconduct, also comes in for some blame for this.)

But this is the logical outcome of the political identification of evangelicalism with conservatism -- and not just conservatism, but specifically anti-abortion/pro-life conservatism. If a candidate is on the "right" side of the single issue that concerns you, then no other trait of his can be of any relevance.  The result is that we have Donald Trump, who is willing to gut healthcare, give tax breaks to the already wealthy, trash the environment, break up and deport families, and give barely-coded support to white supremacists -- but who will appoint judges who might someday in the future make abortions somewhat harder to get. (Gay marriage, too. Evangelicals today are very supportive of government control of what people do with their reproductive systems.) This is totally aside from his rebarbative personal qualities.

So a lot of people are saying, finally, "count me out." I was already out of evangelicalism in that sense, but I'm glad to see the scales falling from many people's eyes.  I would love to see evangelicals move away from the right, and cease to be running dogs of the Republican Party. Unfortunately, I don't see this happening in anything like the degree I would welcome.

LATER: Some additional thoughts from Timothy Keller in the New Yorker (!).