Sunday Night Journal — August 21, 2011
I've been so busy and pressured in my job, not only last week but through the weekend, that I'm really not equipped to write anything of substance on a specific topic tonight. Instead, I'm going to mention a few things that I had filed away with the intention of posting something about them.
I mentioned here some weeks ago that the traffic on this blog has declined over the past year or so. It never was very high--at most it averaged a bit over 100 unique visitors a day, and about twice that many page views. That is very small potatoes: really popular blogs count their page views in the thousands. And my numbers now are more like 80 and 160. If I subtract the number of accidental tourists--people who arrive here because they happened to be searching for Emmylou Harris or images of translucence--the number is even lower. It seems to be pretty typical that somewhere between twenty and thirty percent of visits to the site are from Google searches, and most of those are for something that's not closely connected with the main emphases of the blog, so I don't think those hits generate many continuing readers.
So when I read this post at Neo-Neocon a few weeks ago I was a little relieved to find out it isn't just me: it seems that fewer people are reading blogs in general. I'm pretty sure Facebook and Twitter are at least partly responsible for that.
What's the most beautiful car ever made? I'm not a car fancier especially, and even if I could afford it I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to buy anything very expensive. But I do have an eye for a good-looking automobile. When I was a teenager in the 1960s I thought the Jaguar XKE (picture lifted from here, if you're interested in buying it) was by far the most gorgeous:
I'm not sure I ever saw one on the hoof until many years later. I also thought the smaller Volvos (I think the model number is 1800, which shows you how little of a car buff I actually am) of the 1960s were extremely handsome, and later decided that I really thought them more beautiful than the XKE, which began to seem a bit flashy and overdone. I took these pictures a while back of one that was sitting outside a garage that I pass every day on my way home from work:
But of the cars I see on the road today, the last iteration of the Ford Thunderbird is the winner, and maybe the all-time winner. I suppose there must be some unbelievably expensive European cars that are more beautiful, but I've never seen those, even in pictures.
There's something vaguely retro and classic about the style, though it doesn't look like any old car in particular, certainly not the old Thunderbird, so it doesn't seem like a self-conscious throwback (like the Chrysler PT Cruiser), and yet it's clearly different from the average contemporary car. Here is an interesting review of the T-bird's history. It seems emblematic of the progress of America in the last 50 years or so: an initial good idea, followed by a series of revisions which make it ever bigger and dumber, and finally an attempt to return to the vision of the past that fails: for as beautiful as the new Thunderbirds were, they apparently weren't very well made. Which was the point I intended to make when I saved that article in the first place.
The Atlantic has a story about the over-supply of virtuoso classical musicians. I've seen a little of this, having two children who would have liked to have made a career of music if there had been more jobs available. I was especially interested in that paragraph toward the end where the writer makes a similar point about the proliferation of writers. Anybody--look at me--can "publish" for next to nothing, or in fact nothing, if he uses one of the free blogging services. At the same time, the number of paying jobs that involve writing is in decline, as journalism struggles to find a place in the new electronic world (possibly a disaster in the making, because we need good journalists, but more of that another time). Similarly, digital recording technology has made it possible for anyone to make a decent-sounding recording with a couple of thousand dollars' worth of computers and software, or a professional-quality one for vastly less money than would have been required twenty or thirty years ago. The result is a flood of recorded music that mostly goes unnoticed. The piece concludes:
The big issue for education in the arts is not cutting enrollment to match supply, depriving gifted people of the chance to develop as far as possible. The challenge is to develop alternative career models that let people continue to develop their gifts.
I'm all for that but I can't imagine what it would be.
The state of Alabama recently passed a very aggressive law targeting illegal immigration, something like the one Arizona passed not long ago. Alabama has far less justification for something like this than does Arizona, where some reports I've read say that areas near the border are becoming dangerous for Americans. I assumed the law was in large part political grandstanding for the benefit of certain reflexively truculent descendants of the old Scotch-Irish, commonly known as rednecks. I also assumed that it didn't mean much, so when I read that some politically liberal religious groups were bringing suit against it, saying it would make simple charity toward illegal immigrants a crime, I supposed it was just their usual equally reflexive posturing.
But apparently I was mistaken. Sober people have read the law and concluded that it would indeed criminalize ordinary Christian ministry toward illegal immigrants. And the Archdiocese of Mobile has joined the lawsuit.
Here is Archbishop Rodi's excellent statement. I agree with it, and I particularly like this:
The control and regulation of our national borders is the responsibility, first and foremost, of the federal government. An argument can be made that the federal government has not acted adequately to control and regulate our borders and to implement a just and workable immigration policy. Laws, such as this new one in our state, are born out of frustration with this governmental failure. However, the Church is not in charge of our borders. We do not determine who enters our country. But once immigrants are in our midst, the Church has a moral obligation, intrinsic to the living out of our faith, to be Christ-like to everyone.
If the federal government were doing its job, states wouldn't be passing laws like this. But be that as it may, this one ought to be repealed.
I'm sorry I haven't written any more about Tree of Life. I really wanted to, but it was crowded out by the same pressures that have produced this grab-bag post. I'm afraid now that much of it has slipped from my grasp. I'm really sorry I didn't go see it again--it was only going to show for one more night after I saw it, and I suppose now I won't have another chance until the DVD is available. I'll say one thing: the opening quotation, from Job--"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?"--and the mother's words near the end--"I give you my son"--seem to me to define the vision.