When a society loses its memory, it descends inevitably into dementia. Mark Steyn
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December 31, 2011

Music break: What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Suzy style:



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2011 in review, via Mark Steyn

A feast for Steyn fans: some choice excerpts from his posts and columns which, among them, I think, touch on all his main themes: cultural degeneration, life-stunting monster government, demographic suicide, et cetera. Enjoy!

Big Government's Back Alley 

This is a remarkable moment in American life: A man is killing actual living, gurgling, bouncing babies on an industrial scale - and it barely makes the papers. Had he plunged his scissors into the spinal cord of a Democrat politician in Arizona, then The New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC and everyone else would be linking it to Sarah Palin's uncivil call for dramatic cuts in government spending. But "Doctor" Kermit Gosnell's mound of corpses is apparently entirely unconnected to the broader culture. [. . .]

You may be one of those wealthy suburban "feminists" or "new men" indifferent to the fate of eight-pound "blobs of tissue" or 14-year old "women", but the gulf between propaganda and truth, between the fatuous feelgood bumper stickers and the rusty crochet hooks, is profound - and, in a world where statists and social engineers serve as ruthless enforcers for the prevailing ideology, its deep moral corruption will eventually swallow you, too.
Logan's Non-Run
In the first hour or two on Friday, I was just about the only guy on air pouring cold water on the approved hopeychangey narrative about young "freedom-loving" "democrats", and was reprimanded by "progressives" for pointing out correctly that there were very few women and even fewer uncovered women protesting on the streets of Cairo - even as the most famous uncovered woman in Tahrir Square was being set upon by a pack of savages. No such complicating factors were allowed to intrude on the delirious narcissism of the AP headline "Egypt Coverage Creates Unforgettable Daytime TV". But how can you keep shoveling that stuff out when your own reporter is a bruised, battered, bedbound rebuke to it? Even as America's laughably parochial media tried to make the story all about them or all about Obama (which boils down to the same thing), the one part of the story that actually was about one of them got buried. Would it have been different if it had been the A-list anchorettes - Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer? Or would even they have been subordinated to the politically correct narrative?

Uneasy Lies the Head
I don’t mind the union bruisers, Marxist social engineers and lockstep zombies of the Democrat identity-group plantations voting for Obama: They knew what they wanted, and they got it. But I find it harder to understand the preening metrosexual nincompoop ObamaCons besotted with fantasies about his “temperament” (mentioning no names). His “temperament” would seem to be one of his more obvious failings.

Pushing Deviancy Up
A hyper-sexualized society becomes, paradoxically, sexless, and certainly joyless. Listening in recent weeks to young women in both New York and London complain that the men they meet would rather look at pictures of them naked on the Internet than actually see them naked in the same room reminded me of The Children Of Men, in which P D James' characters, liberated from human fertility, find sex too much trouble. Eight-year olds with fake breasts are almost too obvious a satirist's fancy for a last desperate transgression of the terminally jaded. On WGN the other night, Milt Rosenberg and I were talking about popular music and the University of Chicago's approval of "hook-up" culture, and I made the not terribly original observation that a song such as "It Had To Be You" or "The Very Thought Of You" pre-supposes certain courtship rituals. If you no longer have those, it's not surprising that you no longer have songs to embody them: A love ballad, after all, is a kind of aspiration. So, if the fundamental things no longer apply as time goes by, who needs a song about them?

I was aware, as I was talking to Milt, that I sounded like Mister Squaresville, and so be it. Because, getting on for half-a-century in, there's not a lot of cool left in the Sexual Revolution. In fact, there's not a lot of anything left other than wreckage. 
(See also: A Tale of Two Declines and the excellent interview with Milt Rosenberg linked above. Highly recommended.)

Weiner's Twitter Tweaks 
“Flirting”? Why, yes: I’m assured by correspondents more au courant in “social media” that there’s nothing unusual about tweeting your nether regions to people you’ve never met in distant time zones. Get with the beat, daddy-o, it’s a widely accepted courtship ritual of the 21st century: The flower of American maidenhood wants to see a prospective swain straining his BVDs at what I believe the lads at the TSA call Code Orange alert before they’ll agree to meet him for a chocolate malt at the soda fountain. [. . .]

For the sake of argument, let us take it as read that American men are e-mailing their genitals across the fruited plain all day long, and that in the nature of these things one or two attachments go awry and wind up in the inbox of the elderly spinster who runs the quilting bee and you have to make a rather sheepish apology. Congressmen are among the few in this land who, in such a situation, can breezily say, as Weiner did to CNN’s Dana Bash, “You have statements that my office has put out.” Herein lies the full horror of American politics in the death throes of the republic: A congressman has nothing better to do of an evening than tweet his crotch to coeds, but he requires an “office” with “staffers” to “put out” “statements” on the subject.

When Weiners have staffers, it’s very difficult to have limited government: You cannot have a small state run by big Weiners. If you require an “office” to issue “statements” about your tweets, it’s hardly surprising you’re indifferent to statist bloat elsewhere.
TSA Obergropinfuhrer of the Day
There is a term for regimes that submit law-abiding wheelchair-bound dying nonagenarians to public humiliations without probable cause and it isn’t “republic of limited government.” Given everybody’s touchiness over Kathryn’s North Korean comparisons, I’ll say only this: George III wouldn’t have done this to you.

Amy Alkon posts a response from a bureaucratic bozo to her own experience at the airport. Caution for sensitive types: The word “labia” is included. But that’s because in 21st century America the anatomical feature “labia” are included in a trip to the airport – and that’s what should concern you. As the crack TSA agent informs Miss Alkon, “We go thru sensitive areas with back of hand.”

That’s great news! Somewhere on page 273 of the handbook, there’s a graphic detailing the precise point on the upper thigh where the licensed state groper is obliged to invert his paw.

The New Britannia
This is the logical dead end of the Nanny State. When William Beveridge laid out his blueprint for the British welfare regime in 1942, his goal was the “abolition of want” to be accomplished by “co-operation between the State and the individual.” In attempting to insulate the citizenry from life’s vicissitudes, Sir William succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. As I write in my book: “Want has been all but abolished. Today, fewer and fewer Britons want to work, want to marry, want to raise children, want to lead a life of any purpose or dignity.” The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers, the highest abortion rate. Marriage is all but defunct, except for William and Kate, fellow toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. From page 204:

“For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what LBJ’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population”.

I believe it is regarded as a sign of insanity to start quoting oneself, but at the risk of trying your patience I’ll try one more, because it’s the link between America’s downgraded debt and Britain’s downgraded citizenry:

“The evil of such a system is not the waste of money but the waste of people.”

The World They Made
I think they will have difficulty “saving themselves.” I have many in-laws and friends in delightful corners of village England, where as the sun rises on ancient hedgerows and thatched cottages it is easy to believe the paralytic chavs and incendiary imams and all the rest are somewhere far away and always will be. As leftie columnists in their Hampstead redoubts began (privately) to calculate as the rioters moved in from the less fashionable arrondissements, on a small island the mob doesn’t stay beyond the horizon for long.

Mad Debt
But in the early 21st century foreign and domestic debt is a threat to liberty. As the Brokest Nation in History drowns in its profligacy, its commissars will grow ever more rapacious and desperate. If you think Obama’s dreary attempt to blame America’s woes on corporate-jet owners is unbecoming to the chief of state, wait till he’s reduced to complaining about two-car families. By the way, if you’re reading this out on the runway at O’Hare, what’s the difference between a corporate jet landing and Obama flying in? With Air Force One, even when they switch the engines off, all you can hear is the whining.

No author writes a dystopian apocalyptic doomsday book because he wants it to happen: Apart from anything else, the collapse of the banking system makes it hard to cash the royalty check. You write a doomsday book in hopes you can stop it happening. But time is running short. If you think we’ve got until 2050 or 2025, you’re part of the problem.

Imperial Presidency 
Did no one in the smartest administration in history think this might be the time for the president to share in some of the “bad luck” and forgo an ostentatious vacation in the exclusive playground of the rich? When you’re the presiding genius of the Brokest Nation in History, enjoying the lifestyle of the super-rich while allegedly in “public service” sends a strikingly Latin American message. Underlining the point, the president then decided to pass among his suffering people by touring small town Minnesota in an armored Canadian bus accompanied by a 40-car motorcade. In some of these one-stoplight burgs, the president’s escort had more vehicles than the municipality he was graciously blessing with his presence.

American Autumn 
Ah, but the great advantage of mass moronization is that it leaves you too dumb to figure out who to be mad at. [. . .]

Underneath the familiar props of radical chic that hasn’t been either radical or chic in half a century, the zombie youth of the Big Sloth movement are a paradox too ludicrous even for the malign alumni of a desultory half-decade of Complacency Studies: They’re anarchists for Big Government. Do it for the children, the Democrats like to say. They’re the children we did it for, and, if this is the best they can do, they’re done for.

Adult Babies 
An able-bodied man paid by the government of the United States to lie in a giant crib, wetting his diaper week in week out, is almost too poignant an emblem of the republic at twilight. But, as Hillaire Belloc wrote, “Always keep a hold of Nurse / For fear of finding something worse.” Only last week, ABC News reported:
At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America.
Oh, no! The horror!

“Self-reliance” is now a pejorative? Nice to have that clarified. And San Francisco, a city that registers more dogs than it has kids enrolled in its schools and in which adults are perforce the children they never bothered having, seems as good a place as any to make it official. In less enlightened times, “self-reliance” was the great animating principle of the American experiment. By the standards of the day, George III was one of the most benign, caring rulers on earth: You were his mewling charges, and he was the regal babysitter. Then a bunch of settlers in small towns clinging to wilderness and thousands of miles from His Majesty the Nanny decided they didn’t need him and they could stand on their own. What’s the word for that? Oh, yeah: self-reliance.

Is it too late for a Self-Reliance Awareness Day? No, there’s no ribbons. Make your own damn ribbon. If that’s too much to hope for, how about a Multi-Trillion-Dollar Debt Awareness Day? The ribbon starts out black but turns deeper and deeper red. How about a We’ve Spent All the Money Including the Money for an Awareness-Raising Ribbon Day? An Impending Societal Collapse Awareness Day?

No Man's Land
Here surely is an almost too perfect snapshot of a culture that simultaneously destroys childhood and infantilizes adulthood. The “child” in this vignette ought to be the ten-year-old boy, “hands up against the wall,” but instead the “man” appropriates the child role for himself: Why, the graduate assistant is so “distraught” that he has to leave and telephone his father. He is pushing 30, an age when previous generations would have had little boys of their own. But today, confronted by a grade-schooler being sodomized before his eyes, the poor distraught child-man approaching early middle-age seeks out some fatherly advice, like one of Fred MacMurray’s “My Three Sons” might have done had he seen the boy next door swiping a can of soda pop from the lunch counter. [. . .]

You could hardly ask for a more poignant emblem of the hollow braggadocio of the West at twilight than the big, beefy, bulked-up shoulder pads and helmets of Penn State football, and the small stunted figures inside.

The Terrorists Have Won
US airport “security” serves no serious purpose except to accustom free-born peoples to behaving like a compliant bovine herd. America is now a land where 85-year old grannies are strip-searched without probable cause. You’re extremely naive if you think that, once government acquires a taste for that, it will remain confined to the airport.


Zero Tolerance, Zero Proportion
If officials of the Boston public-schools system genuinely believe that when a seven-year-old kicks another seven-year-old in the crotch that that is an act of “sexual harassment,” then they are too stupid to be entrusted with the care of the city’s children. If, on the other hand, they retain enough residual humanity to understand that a seven-year-old groin-kick is not a sexual assault but have concluded that regulatory compliance obliges them to investigate it as such, then they are colluding in an act of great evil.

Sometimes societies become too stupid to survive.

The Gingrich Gestalt 
On the eve of Iowa it seems the Republican base’s dream candidate is a Clinton-era retread who proclaims himself a third Roosevelt, with Taft’s waistline and twice as many ex-wives as the first 44 presidents combined; a lead zeppelin with more baggage than the Hindenburg; a self-help guru crossed with a K Street lobbyist, which means he’s helped himself on a scale few of us could dream of. For this the Tea Party spent three years organizing and agitating? 

Elisabeth's Barrenness and Our Own
The notion of life as a self-growth experience is more radical than it sounds. For most of human history, functioning societies have honored the long run: It’s why millions of people have children, build houses, plant trees, start businesses, make wills, put up beautiful churches in ordinary villages, fight and if necessary die for your country . . . A nation, a society, a community is a compact between past, present, and future, in which the citizens, in Tom Wolfe’s words at the dawn of the “Me Decade,” “conceive of themselves, however unconsciously, as part of a great biological stream.”

Much of the developed world climbed out of the stream. You don’t need to make material sacrifices: The state takes care of all that. You don’t need to have children. And you certainly don’t need to die for king and country. But a society that has nothing to die for has nothing to live for: It’s no longer a stream, but a stagnant pool.

If you believe in God, the utilitarian argument for religion will seem insufficient and reductive: “These are useful narratives we tell ourselves,” as I once heard a wimpy Congregational pastor explain her position on the Bible. But, if Christianity is merely a “useful” story, it’s a perfectly constructed one, beginning with the decision to establish Christ’s divinity in the miracle of His birth. The hyper-rationalists ought at least to be able to understand that post-Christian “rationalism” has delivered much of Christendom to an utterly irrational business model: a pyramid scheme built on an upside-down pyramid. Luke, a man of faith and a man of science, could have seen where that leads. Like the song says, Merry Christmas, baby.
 
Happy New Year?

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Steyn: Arab Spring to American Autumn:
I was idly considering compiling a big ol’ year-end round-up of my take on 2011, but the Pundette has put together such a grand anthology of Steyn bits from the last 12 months I don’t think I can improve on it. Some of it I’d clean forgotten I’d written.

The Obama stuff’s in there and the spending, and the Weiners and Sanduskys, but I like the way the selection focuses on the broader themes underlying the freaky news items. As I always say, in the end culture trumps economics. The real problem in Greece isn’t the Greek finances so much as the Greek people. That’s a good general rule.

So Happy New Year – and let’s get real in 2012.
It was my pleasure. You may call me a shameless fangurrl and I won't deny it. But nobody comes close to Steyn on the culture, and yeah, it trumps economics and everything else.

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Linked by Marathon Pundit -- thanks and HNY!

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Related: Most memorable quotes of 2011 (only about 15% Steyn).

Also: Same deal for 2010.

Most recent posts here. Twitter feed here. Amazon store here.

December 6, 2011

Get a glow on with Making Spirits Bright

I'm loving the new Mark Steyn & Jessica Martin Christmas CD, Making Spirits Bright. But before we get into my favorite tracks, let's go behind the music and take a peek at how Mark gets it done:

Actually, it doesn’t take me that long, because I reach a kind of level of mediocrity. The first take, the high notes aren’t quite high enough, and the low notes aren’t quite low enough. And the second take, I’m kind of basically in the ballpark. And the third take, I’m there. And the fourth take, it’s really not going to, we can stay there all night, but it’s really not going to improve much after that. So what you hear is pretty much close to the way, to what it would be if I came round and stood in your living room and bellowed it down your throat to you.
Don't believe it. There's no bellowing to be heard in the jazzy "Snowbound" or in the swinging "Jingle Bells," nor in two other favorites of mine, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (yeah, outta sight) and Mark's daring, and beautifully executed, solo ballad, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?"

But the song I'm totally hooked on this time around is the exhilarating "Christmas Glow Worm." Seriously. The singers' energy (Jessica sets the bar high), the inventive lyrics and irresistible melody, and the vivacious arrangement by Kevin Amos make this peculiar song about a bioluminescent larva a Christmas keeper. (Would you call it a novelty song? I'm not sure.) Some background from SteynOnline:
Mark wrote about the convoluted history of "The Glow Worm" during the Johnny Mercer centenary celebrations of 2009. It began life as the Glühwürmchen-Idyll, an intermezzo from a burlesque of Aristophanes' Lysistrata that was the boffo German theatre smash of 1902. Half-a-century later, Johnny Mercer put a new set of words to it, and gave the Mills Brothers one of their biggest hits. But did you know he also attempted a Christmas version for The Bing Crosby Show in 1962? In this lively reconstruction of the various lyrical lines, Mark and Jessica tell the tale of "The Christmas Glow Worm" as he guides them through the wintry snow and safe back home to the Yuletide mistletoe.
YouTube has a few versions, including the Bing Crosby duet mentioned above and a Mel Torme recording, here. The lyrics vary quite a bit, but Mark and Jessica's "lively reconstructions" hold the most charm for me. (Can you guess what rhymes with "full worth"?)
 Photo from the National Christmas Center
To get your Christmas glow on, download the single track here or order the whole CD (12 tracks) here. (Also available on iTunes, Amazon, etc.) Enjoy!

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Bonus: Don't miss Mark's audio tribute to "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" composer Hugh Martin.

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Update 12/8/11

When I was writing the above I looked long and hard (at least five minutes) for Mark's Song of the Week piece on "The Glow Worm" in order to link it here. Happily for all, it's up on SteynOnline today. Click over there and you'll also learn that I'm not alone in my little addiction to "The Christmas Glow Worm," which is a comfort. If, come March, we're all still listening to it obsessively and trying to work "when you've gotta glow, you've gotta glow" into everyday conversations, we might think about starting a support group.

One more thing: I heard the worst Christmas song ever recorded yesterday while shopping and would like to thank Mark from the bottom of my heart for not recording it. Ever.

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