The Daily Eudemon
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Samuel Johnson, The Idler, 4/5/1760




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    Saturday
    November 1, 2014
    Another great passage from Epstein's Snobbery. He first quotes from Kurt Andersen's novel, Turn of the Century:
    George has been amazed to discover that there were two Griffins in Max's class this year. . . . But Griffin is precisely the kind of name that's in vogue among parents who send their children to nonreligious private schools called St. Andrews, who buy forty-dollar-a-gallon Martha Stewart pain and fifty-dollar doll-size American Girl butter churns made of solid chestnut. One of Max's classmates is named Huck - not Huckleberry, Huck - and in Lulu's class there is a Truman, a Chester, a Sawyer, three Benjamins, two Coopers, a Walker, a Hunter (Hunter Liu), as well as multiple Amandas, Lucys, and Hopes, and even a Gwyneth.
    Epstein then offers his insight into this (let's face it, annoying) phenomenon:
    What is going on here is the need to mark one's child off as different, unique, stylish, above and - why not come out and say it - just a little beyond the others. And why not? Our little Stefan, Sophia, Luc, Alyssa is, after all, the child of parents of exquisite taste. If not, he or she wouldn't carry such a special name, n'est-ce pas? These are children, let us face it, aimed at better places than, say, Michigan State or a job selling automobile insurance.

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    October 31, 2014

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    Friday
    BYCU Man, BYCU blogging is almost too easy this week: Halloween is now a big drinking night, as evidenced by this infographic. There are many sites dedicated to boozy Halloween costumes, Halloween parties, and Halloween drinks. But it's not for me. Halloween is for kids, always has been and always should be. Even as a boy I remember thinking it mildly inappropriate to see adults put on costumes (whereas, I never remember finding it inappropriate to see them drinking to the point that they were dancing raucously or telling loud, inappropriate jokes). There's nothing wrong with costumes, of course. It's all in good fun and each person has his own idea of what's fun and what's not. Costumes have just never struck me as the kind of fun adults have. I think I last wore a costume to a party when a junior at the University of Michigan, and it consisted solely of a ripped garbage bag that I put around my neck. When people asked me what I was, I merely replied "Your worst nightmare." The humor behind it is too indelicate for TDE to explain further, but a group of guys at one party liked it so much that they nominated me for best costume. Alas, when the judges saw how lame it was, they wouldn't put me into the competition. Anyway, my Halloween drinking these days is pretty much limited to a tumbler of vodka and tonic that I sip from while walking my remaining little kids around town. This will be my twentieth year of taking kids trick-or-treating. I oughtta celebrate in grand fashion with a huge tumbler of vodka-tonic, but I have "volunteered" to clear out my downtown's pumpkin decorations tonight after trick-or-treating. There are over 60 pumpkins and a few bales of straw, so I'm borrowing a friend's truck. I don't think he'd appreciate me showing up sideways. (I put "volunteer" in quotes because it's not an act of altruism on my part. I compost the pumpkins and use the straw to cover my garden.) In any event, happy Halloween everyone.

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    Some Halloween Jokes
    Why didn't the skeleton go to the party? He had no body to go with! Why was the scarecrow given an award? Because he was outstanding in his field! How much did it cost the pirate to get his ears pierced? A buccaneer! Why did the Invisible Man turn down a job offer? He just couldn't see himself doing it.

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    Thursday
    October 30, 2014
    Halloween is tomorrow. Are you thinking about not handing out candy? If so, please consider this piece that I wrote in 2011. If you want to see the difference between adults and children, look no further than Halloween. For little kids, Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year after Christmas. When kids get older, Halloween fades in importance. My first child was old enough to enjoy Halloween when I was 29. During the preceding 15+ years, I had pretty much completely ignored Halloween and had forgotten how much the holiday meant to little kids. During the early years of our marriage, before we had kids old enough to enjoy the holiday, Marie and I religiously handed out candy, but other than that, I didn't pay any attention to it. I had simply forgotten that, for the little kids, the holiday season starts on October 31st. I am now entering my 17th year of taking the kids trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, our cultural bankruptcy goes on full display tonight. A lot of houses won't hand out candy. There are families in which both parents want to take the kids trick-or-treating, so they turn off their lights and don't reciprocate. There are people who simply don't want to spend $5 on cheap candy and perhaps even some who can't afford it (though they can, of course, afford cigarettes and booze). There are people who forget, and there are people who don't want their TV program interrupted. When I was a kid, very few houses failed to hand out candy on this evening. Today, the majority of houses go dark. It's the disease of Wall Street and California government finance displayed on Main Street. In his most-recent book, Boomerang, Michael Lewis struggles to understand how the people on Wall Street could live with themselves after completely raping America's economy. But then he looks at the California municipal employees, with ordinary police salaries in six figures and one state employee making over $800,000 per year. He speculates that it's part of a brain problem. Our brains can't deal with abundance. America became so wealthy, the greed stimulated across the spectrum came to dwarf everything else, including any shred of altruism. We are now a culture in which everyone just grabs whatever he can and doesn't give a damn about the consequences or anybody else. In this, he says, the average fireman who demands that municipal finances make him rich even though it will bankrupt his city is no better than the average Wall Street broker who took a million dollar bonus with taxpayer money. Lewis formulates this brain problem in evolutionary terms (he's an atheist), but it's really a spiritual one. It's the sin of excessive self-regard (i.e., pride). Pride, of course, is the root of all sin, so it's not unique to modern America. But once excessive self-regard exists throughout society, the circumstances of that society determine the way that the self-regard will manifest itself. In modern America, the land of abundance, the excessive self-regard has manifested itself in greed and its attendant sins: lack of regard for other people, lack of community involvement, Tolstoy's family narcissism writ large. . . . . . . The simple failure to hand out candy to little kids on Halloween. It's perhaps the smallest manifestation of the problem, but it might be the most telling. Will you decline to hand out candy to little kids tonight? Then don't rail at the Goldman Sachs of the world.

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    October 29, 2014

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    GKC Wednesday
    Background: When I was the editor of Gilbert Magazine, I was responsible for the "Tremendous Trifles" column. It was occasionally hard to find a sufficient amount of interesting GKC material to fill the page, so John Peterson sent me a file full of Chesterton ancedotes. They were idiosyncratic, historical, and Chestertonian. He gave me permission to use them here. I hope y'all find them as interesting as I have over the years. Most of them have never been published. Chesterton Short(s) Never Take Things at Face Value Department: the June, 1953, edition of MacKills Mystery Magazine featured "The Vampire of the Village," billed as "here published for the first time in a British magazine." The announcement must have come as a surprise to the editors of The Strand magazine, who were the original publishers of the story in August of 1936. (EJS note for the non-GKCers out there: "The Vampire of the Village" is a well-known Father Brown story.)

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    Tuesday
    October 28, 2014
    Joseph Epstein once wrote a great essay about being "out of it." It's basically about his tendency not to know what's going on in pop culture and how, even though he didn't intentionally set out to become ignorant of such things, he's happy he has. It's a great essay and resonates with me, though, when applied to my life, it's not just the pop culture, it's the culture at large: I find myself increasingly happy not to know what's going on in our entire warped culture, finding a certain solace in Tolstoy's "family narcissism" and not sure, in this bedlam called "America," there's any other other non-religious solace to be found.

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    Monday
    October 27, 2014
    Miscellaneous Rambling So, has everyone noticed that I finally launched the TDE Twitter account full bore? I set it up a year ago but rarely used it. I decided to start using it once I learned how to embed Tweets and my son Jack showed me how to alternate Twitter accounts between my law firm Twitter account (which feeds directly into my firm's blawg) and the TDE account on my phone. That made TDE Tweeting easy, and I must say: it's an enjoyable past-time. * * * * * * * I really like the way embedded Tweets look on the TDE blog. If you disagree, let me know, but I like the extra "flare" it adds. Based on my visitor counts, the Tweets are neither driving people to the site or driving people away from the site. Daily visitors continue to hover around 400. * * * * * * * A cardinal Cardinal Halloween costume. * * * * * * * Top Ten: Excuses for not going to work. My favorite: "I got stuck in the blood pressure machine at the grocery store and couldn’t get out." * * * * * * * Wow, what has happened to my Michigan Wolverines? Perhaps I'm not a good fan, but I've found this meltdown so fascinating that my mental stimulation from it might exceed the pleasure I would get from a successful season. Now, the pleasure doesn't exceed the pleasure I would get from a season so successful that it resulted in a berth in the NCAA playoffs, but that hypothetical is so far off the radar screen, I needn't consider it. * * * * * * * Walter Williams fans: Great six-minute video biography. * * * * * * * I'm determined not to vote in any more elections, but I'm sure "they" will get to me and I'll keep voting (I've never missed, to the best of my recollection, for the past 25 years, such a stoop am I). Especially if it's Hillary. This piece, which ran on a libertarian-ish online rag, is chilling.

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    October 26, 2014

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    Sunday

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    October 25, 2014

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