What’s My Line at the Federalist

My latest piece at The Federalist is now up, where I talk about the old gameshow What’s My Line?

Sample:

No one on the “What’s My Line” panel would have dreamt of asking a guest about his sex life, nor would the guests have dreamt of talking about it. But if they can see for themselves that a young lady is beautiful or a man is black, they didn’t think anything about acknowledging the fact. Noting physical appearance is considered perfectly normal, even polite, because it isn’t as if it were a private matter.

We, on the other hand, are so terrified of “judging” someone by physical appearance that it’s become considered rude to even acknowledge it, even though we find we can hardly think or talk about anything else.

 

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Dating and Disney

New CatholicMatch Post is up, where I get to talk about Mr. Disney and plug my book. Check it out here (the post, not the book. Check that out here).

Sample:

Had Mr. Disney waited until he was financially secure with the time to dedicate to romance, he probably would never have married. For most of his life, his own and his company’s finances were in a very precarious state, and he was constantly working himself to near exhaustion. But he made the time to court and marry his wife, and he made the time to be with his children. For most of his career, in spite of his tremendous workload, he managed to come home for dinner almost every night, drive his girls to school every morning, and set aside at least one whole day a week to spend with his family.

In his family as with his films, Mr. Disney saw what he wanted and made the effort necessary to get it, even if it was a risk, even if it seemed impractical or imprudent. He didn’t wait around until he was ‘secure;’ he made himself secure by constantly going after what he wanted.

 

My Imperialism

I like to describe myself as an imperialist, or at least as having imperialist sympathies. That’s admittedly a bit of an exaggeration, but is certainly true relative to most of my contemporaries, if only because I don’t automatically equate ‘colonialism’ and ’empire-building’ with ‘evil.’ My admittedly-limited knowledge of history tells me that the world is at its safest and most prosperous when one or two large ruling powers of high culture exert dominance over most of the world. Nor am I much moved by talk about it not being ‘their land.’ For the vast majority of mankind, who is ruling them matters much less than how they are ruled, and, especially, how much they’re left alone. If an imperial power rules a certain region, and in so doing largely leaves the locals to manage their own affairs while shielding them from invaders, preventing local rivalries from boiling over into violence, and linking them up with a prosperous economic system, I don’t see how that can be considered a worse state of affairs as far as the local populace is concerned than that region being left to govern itself, fight off its own enemies, deal with its own inner rivalries, and sift for itself in the global economy.

(On the subject of this kind of benign neglect, I remember reading about a survey conducted after the British departure from India where some people travelled around to see what the rural villages and farming communities thought of the British departure. The most common response was ‘who are the British?’).

Now, I’m not discounting the great evils done by the various colonial empires, but we should note that in most cases the alternative was not ‘brutal dominance by Western powers’ and ‘free and happy independence.’ The alternative is more ‘brutal dominance by Western powers’ and ‘brutal dominance by the nearest powerful neighbor’ or ‘brutal dominance by local ruler, with accompanying sectarian violence, probably soon to be followed by dominance by nearest powerful neighbor.’ Whatever the flaws of the Western powers, they at least had the temporizing influence of civilized and Christian values that might conceivably restrain them.

I also note that, at least as far as the British Empire is concerned, the two main counter-arguments to British rule – Ireland and America – were instances where they did not practice the kind of benign neglect that they generally employed elsewhere. And there are other issues there (i.e. the religious question in Ireland), but that’s for another time.

In any case, I think there are serious arguments in favor of western imperialism. Actually, I think it would be more justified today than it was in its heyday (since today, unrest in one region can lead to violence and humanitarian crises on the other side of the world), but that hardly matters, since it’s not coming back any time soon. Mostly this was all just a long intro to the following video, which is a summation of the positive effects of the British Empire. It’s a little over-sunny, but since most people today tend towards the opposite extreme I’m not going to knock it for that. Enjoy!

 

Wisdom of Walt Disney is Live!

My e-book on the themes of Walt Disney’s greatest films is now up and available for purchase on Amazon! 

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Introduction:

G.K. Chesterton wrote that, “There is no way of dealing properly with the ultimate greatness of Dickens, except by offering sacrifice to him as a god; and this is opposed to the etiquette of our time.” Something similar could be said of Walt Disney. In less than sixty-five years of life, he elevated animation to an art form, built what became one of the most powerful media companies on Earth essentially from scratch, revolutionized the American theme park, and all while producing some of the finest and most beloved films of all time.

            Most filmmakers would count themselves fortunate to produce a single undisputed masterpiece. Walt Disney made at least three in the form of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, and Mary Poppins. That isn’t even counting the long line of excellent films he produced such as Pinocchio, Bambi, and Old Yeller, nor the even larger number of high-quality films like Cinderella, Treasure Island, and Swiss Family Robinson.

            These films are not just well made pieces of entertainment; they are rich stories that continue to speak to audiences decades after their debut. Mr. Disney drew on some of the finest storytellers who ever lived, including Johann Goethe, Charles Perrault, Jules Verne, and Robert Louis Stevenson in search of timeless tales that could speak to people at their core. He aimed, not to appeal to children, but to the ‘continuous thread of being that remains when a child becomes an adult.’

            In a time when more and more people, especially artists, were chasing after new ‘revolutionary’ ideas, Mr. Disney struck his roots down deep into the ancient and eternal truths that had formed Western civilization, placing his cutting-edge filmmaking techniques at the service of timeless ideas. He frequently included religious themes, offering them up with a careless, matter-of-fact sincerity that sometimes shocks the modern viewer.

            These timeless themes and eternal truths are the subject of this book. Our goal is neither to provide a historical study of Mr. Disney’s career nor critical reviews of his film (though both historical information and critical opinion will appear in order to provide context). Rather, this book is an attempt to examine twelve of Walt Disney’s best and most important films as examples of wisdom literature: to ask what they have to say and how they say it.

            The interpretations in these essays are all my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either the Walt Disney Corporation or Mr. Disney himself, though from what I have read and understood of the man, I don’t think there is anything herein that he would have objected to (apart from my calling him by the respectful ‘Mr. Disney’ throughout: he always preferred the casual ‘Walt’). That said, I have tried to avoid assuming anything not actually present in the films themselves. That is, I have tried not to ‘force’ the films to present a certain theme, but merely to listen to what they have to say. I have, of course, taken historical and cultural knowledge – i.e. the allusion to Ephesians 6 in Sleeping Beauty – into account, but only when it appears to me justified by what is occurring on screen. Any allusions to literary or scholarly works not expressly referenced in the films are meant as illustrative examples, not necessarily as a reading of the filmmakers’ intentions. On that subject, I have also done my best to avoid speculating as to the filmmakers’ motivations. Wherever I have, I present it merely as a possibility rather than an established fact.

            As for the themes and ideas herein presented, I believe they are present for any to see who cares to view these films with a discerning eye. If any are novel in the sense of not being inherent in what passes on screen, they are so unwillingly.           

            My intention is not necessarily to say anything original or groundbreaking, but merely to showcase the rich thematic depths that form the core of these classic films. In so doing, I hope to leave the reader with a greater appreciation for both the films themselves and for their illustrious creator, whose work has meant so much to so many.

Read the whole thing!

The Federalist Spider-Man

My latest article is up at The Federalist

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The show is also creative in how it handles the villains. Rather than an increasingly ridiculous series of accidents and coincidences, we have one accidental event (Electro), which directly leads to another (the electricity discharged during Electro’s rampage gives Doctor Connors’s Lizard formula an unexpected boost, sending it into overdrive), which then makes Tombstone realize that if Spider-Man is busy fighting supervillains, he’ll be too preoccupied to go after his crime empire.

So he hires Osborne to start making more, which gives Osborne funding and test subjects for his more “questionable” experiments. The show therefore quickly brings a large portion of Spidey’s excellent rogues’ gallery into play while continuing to tell a seamlessly coherent story, developing the already established characters, and without placing undue stress on the audience’s credulity.

 

That brings me to another aspect of the writing: it flows marvelously well from one episode to another. Actions and events have real consequences that may not come into play for several episodes down the line, meaning that everything the characters do has real weight. A thoughtless decision on Peter’s part in an early episode starts a chain reaction of events that continues to affect the story until the very end. When characters have to make hard choices on this show, we’re completely invested because we know it could affect the whole course of the story.

Read the rest here.