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    Happy Thanksgiving
    November 27, 2014
    “Thanksgiving Day originated in New England when the Puritans realized they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.” Mark Twain “Gratitude is a fruit of great cultivation; you do not find it among gross people.” Samuel Johnson “Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks.” Shakespeare, Hamlet “Gratitude is characteristic only of the humble. The egotistic are so impressed by their own importance that they take everything given them as if it were their due. They have no room in their hearts for recollection of the undeserved favors they received.” Fulton Sheen “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton “Giving thank is not weakness but strength, for it involves self-repression.” Fulton Sheen “How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child’s personality. A child is resentful, negative—or thankful. Thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people.” Sir John Templeton “Gratitude is a species of justice.” Samuel Johnson “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” Meister Eckhart “When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.” St. Jerome

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    Special BYCU Edition: Eight Years Running
    November 26, 2014
    Black Wednesday again. Far out. I've been celebrating Black Wednesday since 1985, when I first came back home from college for Thanksgiving Break. It is, by far, one of my favorite days of the year. But how long have I been writing about Black Wednesdays? For that, I had to go into the TDE archives. The answer: 2007. That year, I wrote,
    They’re beginning to call it “Black Wednesday,” the biggest drinking night of the year, Thanksgiving Eve. The kids are home from college, the adults have four days off work. I’ve been celebrating it with my father for at least fifteen years, since I moved back to town in 1992. Back then, we had to get to the honky tonk by 3:30 if we wanted a table. The place isn’t quite as crowded these days, but to be safe, we get there by 4:30. For the following five hours, an assortment of friends and family come through for drinks and food. It’s one of the most pleasant evenings of the year. And with a little luck and moderation, it won’t be followed by one of the nastiest mornings of the year.
    I like that observation, "They're beginning to call it 'Black Wednesday.'" If you Google something like **black wednesday thanksgiving**, you'll now get a ton of relevant hits: "14 Places to Celebrate Black Wednesday" "Local bars, police departments prepare for Black Wednesday crowds" "Five Things to Do for Black Wednesday" "Black Wednesday: Avoid a DWI on Thanksgiving Eve" "Black Wednesday: Don't be a Fag. Get Out and Drink" "KKK to boycott honkey tonks in protest of 'Black Wednesday' Appellation" Okay, I made up those last two, but the other headlines are legit. I have long speculated that Black Wednesday is the biggest drinking night of the year. I remember internet surfing for information about it one year and basically coming up with nothing. That, too, has changed. Although I can find no statistics, many bar owners declare that it is their biggest revenue night of the year and many sites present anecdotal evidence that it is, indeed, the biggest bar night of the year. That, I think, is a safe bet: Black Wednesday is the biggest bar night of the year, but not necessarily the biggest drinking night of the year. Although I would still put money on it as the biggest drinking night of the year, it might take second place for raw drinking to New Years Eve, when lots of people attend private parties or drink at home. There's also St. Patrick's Day, which is another huge bar night, but also a night of private parties. If I had to guess, I would rank these three Drinking Titans in the following order: Biggest Bar Night of the Year Black Wednesday St. Patrick's Day New Year's Eve Biggest Drinking Night of the Year Black Wednesday New Year's Eve St. Patrick's Day I think St. Patrick's Day would do a bit better if more people celebrated it. In my area, for instance, it simply isn't a big deal. It's also crippled by the fact that it 5/7ths of the time, it falls on a work night, whereas Black Wednesday and New Years Eve never do. For my Irish fans out there, please rest assured that I would put St. Patrick's at Number One for both bar and drinking weekday nights of the year. It dawned on my while putting together this assortment of BW thoughts: "What does the humorous authority on drinking, Modern Drunkard Magazine, say about Black Wednesday?" Unfortunately, the answer is "nothing," though I did find this entertaining piece: "Hooching Through the Holidays." Excerpt (on shopping for the perfect present):
    First, go to the drugstore and buy a bag of red bows. They go for about a fiver. Within a bottle’s throw of every drugstore is a liquor store. Now, I don’t know about you, but going to the liquor store is always a special thrill for me. It’s a little off-putting when you realize you aren’t buying for yourself, but fight through it. And remember, think green. A nice emerald forty of Mickey’s with a red bow around it’s fat neck should bring a smile to all your friends’ faces. Since you’re getting something for both of them it’s gonna set you back a mere $5.43. And that’s after tax!
    I hope this BYCU Special Edition is running long in a charming way, but I realize the writer's view of charming is largely detached from the reader's, so just two more things before signing off: 1. Don't forget this great quote when you're out with your friends tonight. It's packed with a lot of truth: “The saloon . . . performs more social service than the churches and organized charities put together.” 2. A little GKC, which is approriate because he must be the heaviest drinker ever to be considered for canonization. His statement below will make great bar fodder for this evening. Gilbert_Keith_Chesterton2.jpg G.K. Chesterton infuriated some Americans back in 1930 when he said, while visiting New York on Thanksgiving Day, that the English should institute their own special Thanksgiving Day—to celebrate that the Pilgrim Fathers had left. No wonder he felt that way. Consider The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church’s description of Puritanism: “They demanded express scriptural warrant for all the details of public worship. They attacked church ornaments, vestments, surplices, organs, the sign of the cross.” Eric Voegelin considered the Puritans one of the earliest strains of modern gnosticism and described (borrowing from Richard Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity) in great detail their use of social boycotts and political defamation in their campaign of intolerance toward other Christian denominations and the study of classic philosophy and scholastic theology. Voegelin said their attack against the Western tradition was so effective that Western society has never completely recovered from the their blow.

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    November 25, 2014

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    Please don't forget to patronize TDE this holiday season by accessing Amazon from this site. Thanks!

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    Tuesday
    A few great quotes that I ran across on Twitter last week: I would question this, if it weren't for the source. Might it be more accurate to say a person cannot be half committed to being a saint; you must be wholly committed or not committed at all? That seems a bit more accurate, but I'm not comfortable questioning the greatest saint of modern times. Amen to this. This observation has ties to my post yesterday about bullying. I've heard that Camus was quickly riding the intellectual wave to Catholicism when his life was cut short in that car accident. I don't know any details, but he clearly had some Catholic sensibilities. A paradoxical observation that I don't fully understand but which rings true anyway. Right on. Although American wasn't as free as it once was, it's still a place of great tolerance, which makes it a good place for people who hold views outside the mainstream (such as orthodox Catholics).

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    Monday
    November 24, 2014
    On Bullying "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." That easily ranks in my top ten of GKC quotes. It's from Part Two of The Everlasting Man (yet another GKC book that I want to read again). I apply it routinely to inveigh against pop trends. And I apply it today against one of the most aggressive and inane pop trends I've seen over the past twenty years: The campaign against bullying. Yik Yak This campaign is so big and vapid, I don't even know where to begin. So I'll begin with a true story that happened in my home town last week (as filtered through the rumor mill; the reader will forgive any inaccuracies). There's an app called "Yik Yak." It allows users to enter a forum based on their geographic location and start posting comments anonymously. Unless you identify yourself in your posts, the other users have no way of knowing who you are. It has become a favorite among high school students and last week, these students started arguing, anonymously, about whether cheerleading is a real sport. That devolved into a bunch of cruel comments, ranging from gravity-challenged cheerleaders to other people's lack of athletic prowress. One user finally had enough and wrote something like, "If I see one more cheerleader post, I'm gonna come to school with a gun tomorrow and shoot everyone." That apparently went too far. A user showed it to school officials, who put the high school into lock-down mode: kids weren't allowed to leave their classrooms. The school contacted Yik Yak, who, in the interest of public safety, revealed the user's identity. It turns out that the post was from a good kid that everyone likes. A harmless kid, but a kid who used bad judgment. The lock down was lifted and it seemed that, other than school discipline for the young man, the affair would pass. But no. A group of concerned parents set up Yik Yak accounts so they could monitor it, "inform themselves," and help squelch bullying at the high school. Some also set up a Facebook page to stomp out "cyber" bullying at the high school. Abuse of Language I'm sorry, but a Columbinian-like death threat is not bullying. It is either (i) serious as hell with the possibility of escalating into an act of mass terror, or (ii) a harmless joke. It turned out to be the latter and, though I congratulate the school officials for their measured response (can't exactly ignore something like that), the affair ended just fine with no need for adult intervention. Now, maybe the concerned adults think the acidulous banter leading up to the mock Columbine was the bullying? That's a little more credible, but if you think about it, it's not really bullying. It was mean talk. It was unkind talk. You can even call it abusive talk. But it wasn't bullying, especially since, I'm told, the recipients were giving as good as they got and insults were flying on all sides of the cyber-argument. When I got bullied occasionally in grades K-8, I always knew who my tormentor was. Such identification might be the sine qua non of bullying: Biff asserting himself over Nerd so Biff looks/feels tough. No show, no bullying. Although I guess I could concoct an arrangement where anonymous comments might rise to the level of bullying, for the most part, anonymous comments don't feature the bullier (and, indeed, are intended to conceal the bullier) and, therefore, are not bullying in any traditional use of the term. Anonymous comments on a forum like Yik Yak also don't have another hallmark of bullying: a sign of superiority. The bully feels superior because he's picking on someone deemed inferior, but in a forum like Yik Yak, everyone is evenly matched: you're all anonymous. The playing ground is level. I would also point out: If you ask someone who has been genuinely bullied, he'll tell you, "I'll take the anonymous comments about my acne over eating a piece of excrement like that one kid almost had to do in My Bodyguard any day." Try Thinking And this brings me to my real reason for disliking the bullying trend: it's a trend for the less intellectually-rigorous. Or, as GKC might put it, a trend for the intellectually dead that can only swim with the stream. The term "bullying" has reached the point where it deadens thought. "Bullying" has become a mental shortcut for everything that goes wrong in social interaction. Just as the redneck says, "That's fucked" and think he has articulated something, the concerned adult says "That's bullying" and thinks he's contributing to the social discourse. And just as the redneck has articulated nothing coherent, the concerned adult has contributed nothing at all and, in fact, may have subtracted from the sum total knowledge of society by mis-identifying something. The campaign against bullying has, I think, finally brought the house down on itself. Anyone standing with a measure of detachment can see the implosion. The people who don't see it are those in the basement. Based on current rhetoric, the term "bullying" could refer to both ISIS atrocities and person-specific graffiti on a bathroom stall. Such rhetoric is wholly bereft of whatever coherency it may have once had, if any, thereby destroying the anti-bullying campaign in the eyes of anyone who thinks for himself. A Few Final Matters This post had gone on long enough already, but I have many other objections to the anti-bullying campaign. In the interest of brevity, I'll just bullet-point them: 1. It's a fabrication of the cultural Left (by "fabrication," I mean "exaggeration of the scope of the problem"; I don't mean to imply that there is no bullying). 2. Bullying is a rite of passage. Like many rites, it's unpleasant, but it gives you a common bond with others. 3. It builds character in the bullied. There are better ways to build character, but most of them entail some measure of pain or unpleasantness. 4. There are far more serious problems in our schools. We shouldn't dedicate resources to stomp out something that has been around since the days of Socrates (who was "bullied" fiercely) when half our students can't meet math and reading competency standards. 5. It's futile. 6. It's a type of helicoptering. Kids are kids. Let 'em be and they'll work it out themselves. You, parent, don't need to insert yourself every time your little Janie is unhappy. Adults should get involved when it's serious, not when a kid's emotional machinery might creak a little. 7. It's part of the therapeutic culture that demands counseling or therapy for every hangnail emotional malady. 8. The anti-bullying campaign has turned bullying into a joke among the kids. I have two sons in public high school and a daughter at a parochial middle school. They mock the entire notion of bullying for the simple reason that they're sick and tired of hearing about it and tired of over-zealous adults looking for bullying hobgoblins under ever rock. The target group of the anti-bullying campaign no longer cares about bullying at all and finds it derisible. 9. The whole rush "to do something" evidenced in the Yik Yak episode smacks of a knee-jerk reaction, an instinct. Not measured and rational action. In that, it's more animal-like than human. 10. The rush "to do something" ignores--seems wholly oblivious to--a fundamental tenet of human action: sometimes it's better to do nothing at all (see Nock's semi-famous essay, "Snoring as a Fine Art"). 11. I'm reminded of the anti-racists out there. I've made the point many times that, in my experience, the people who are most likely to accuse someone of racism are people who have severe moral shortfallings in their personal lives. I've speculated that, by accusing others of racism, they feel better about themselves. I suspect the same holds for bullying. It might just be a way for people to feel better about themselves. (I'm not saying the anti-bullying campaigners are reprobates, incidentally; I know some of them and they're fine individuals, even if, I think, a bit misguided on this issue.) 12. Number 11 leads to, perhaps, my biggest objection to the anti-bullying campaign: It ignores the fundamental moral principal that, at core, your only social obligation is to present society with one improved unit. By targeting your efforts to "side shows" like bullying instead of working on the real project, you detract your moral criticism and attention away from where it belongs: yourself. The result is a society of busybodies who don't recognize what the Jewish philosopher Max Picard might have called the "bully in our selves."

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    Interesting
    November 23, 2014
    H.I.F. Ten books for fallen-away Catholics. I was expecting Surprised by Truth and the like. Instead, I got Dostoyevsky and Graham Greene. I'm not sure I agree with the author's view that these books will bring a person back to the Church, but it's a pretty good list.

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    Saturday
    November 22, 2014
    The more I'm around people, the more I'm convinced that a rambling style is the sign of an immature, under-developed, and/or un-disciplined mind. The rule applies to written or oral communication. When I was a young attorney, I went out to lunch with my mentor at the large law firm where I was employed right after graduation. My mentor was a hardened litigator, of the old-school Jewish kind, but he was nice and fond of me. He asked me a question. I replied with a long, rambling response. He, as nicely as possible, said, "When you prepare to speak, try to organize your idea quickly then convey it as concisely as possible" (not an exact quote). I was embarrassed, of course, but the lesson stuck with me. It's a difficult thing to do and takes practice. To this day, I often fail to pull it off, but the continued pursuit of this ideal helps keep the mind sharp (senile people ramble for a reason). When I fail to convey my thoughts concisely, it's normally because I'm being lazy and just indulging my desire to hear myself talk, much to the detriment of my interlocutor. Brevity, I've come to conclude, is a form of politeness. And in a world where time is money, it might be the paramount form of consideration you can show another person.

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    November 21, 2014

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    Friday
    Brews You Can Use Okay, this is frustrating: Only A Fraction Of The Population Has The Genotype That Makes Moderate Alcohol Consumption Heart Healthy. According to the story, a new study has shown that moderate alcohol consumption improves the health of only 15% of the population. Well, crud. That conflicts with a lot of other articles that have been flying around for many years. The articles first started with wine: wine, we were told, is good for the heart. Then we started seeing articles about the health benefits of beer. And then health-benefit articles about hard liquor and alcohol in general started flying around. And now it looks like we're starting to backpeddle. Neither the story or the study, as near as I can tells, takes aim at the benefits of wine (except for the picture of the wine bottle at the top of the story), but if this study represents the pendulum swinging back, I assume beer is going to be attacked next and then wine. Why do I say it's frustrating? Simply because it's yet another example of why we can't trust science. If a particular religion flip-flopped as often as science, it would have as many adherents today as the Canaanite religion. I realize such an analogy is seriously flawed, but it also has serious merit: both claim a measure of authority within their sphere (matter/spirit) and both have acknowledged leaders (scientists/clergy). But one changes its mind more often than the wind. So, does science suck? Not at all. It has obviously done us a lot of good (starting with the Internet). It just ought not be latently worshipped like it is in our culture. Truth never changes. And neither does science's obvious inability to grasp it. If it can't even come to a consensus on something as miniscule as whether a couple shots of vodka every week help a person's heart, I sure as heck am not going to trust it on something like the origins of the universe. The article also shows why you can't trust the media and why, as Nassim Taleb points out, the more read, the less you know . . . unless you're careful to read only the right stuff and you read it (very) thoughtfully.

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