Culture: December 2004 Archives

Came across a couple of entries that more or less end up making the same point.

In NRO's The Corner, Kathryn Lopez posts an e-mail from a reader about a recently-published acting manual (The Power of the Actor: The Chubbuck Technique) which acknowledges the natural protective instinct toward a child in the womb and the emotional impact of abortion on a woman. One excerpt from the book:

She needed an inner object that would duplicate the severe trauma of a mother violently losing her baby. We'd worked together for many years and I knew that she'd had an abortion. This experience caused her such acute distress that it produced out-of-control shaking and weeping whenever she talked about it. I suggested she use the abortion as the inner object for the scene. She did and out poured all of her rage, sadness, terror and horrific guilt that most women feel when they have had to abort their unborn child.

And this: Dawn Eden has been reading Witness by Whittaker Chambers and came across a very moving passage about his wife becoming pregnant and their decision not to abort the child, despite peer pressure within the Communist Party to do so. Their decision was a triumph of God-ordained human sentiment over the cold, inhuman dictates of an inhuman ideology: "Reason, the agony of my family, the Communist Party and its theories, the wars and revolutions of the 20th century, crumbled at the touch of the child." Dawn has an extended excerpt, which you can read here.

Ukraine-blogger Discoshaman of Le Sabot Post-Moderne will still be writing about the political situation as the repeat presidential runoff approaches, but he is returning to his usual assortment of topics, including theology from a Reformed (Calvinist) point of view and American politics. In this recent entry, he comments on Jerry Falwell's plan to reestablish the Moral Majority:

Evangelicals have a chance to do both the country and themselves a favor -- let this thing die a mercifully fast death.

I desire to see true spiritual revival in our nation, with an accompanying improvement in the moral atmosphere, the sort of transformation that happened 100 years ago in Wales.

But Jerry Falwell's approach didn't work before and won't work now. (See the book Blinded by Might, by two leaders of Falwell's Moral Majority in the '70s and '80s.) In fact, he's a distraction. Voices from the past like Falwell and Pat Robertson make for convenient, walking, talking strawmen for the left-leaning mainstream media to present as the authentic voice of modern Evangelical thinking and then to tear down.

Falwell should gracefully retire from the public arena and leave the field open for abler voices. Will he? Not if he is in love with seeing his face on television. Not if he's drooling over the thought of restarting the vast flow of money that can be generated through passionate direct mail appeals -- "send us $20 and we'll transform American society."

How can Evangelicals convince the mainstream media that Jerry Falwell is not our pope? Not giving him any money would be a start.

David Brudnoy, RIP


Sad news that Boston radio talk show host David Brudnoy has died, age 64. For the last 18 years, Brudnoy was an evening talk show host on WBZ, and was on other Boston TV and radio stations for 15 years before that.

I don't remember listening to Brudnoy in college. I think I first came across him during business trips and visits to friends back east in the first few years after graduation. WBZ, a 50,000 watt clear-channel station, can be heard throughout the northeastern US at night. Whether I was in Boston, Providence, or Philadelphia, I'd tune in to catch his show.

What I tuned in to hear was an intelligent man with a pleasant voice interviewing authors about books on politics, history, and culture -- books he had actually read before the program -- and engaging in thoughtful discussion with callers. Brudnoy's politics were libertarian, a welcome contrast to the dominant left-liberal trend in Boston politics. Even if the show's topic was something I had not known or cared about before the program, I always came away happy that I took the time to listen, feeling that I knew something that I hadn't known an hour earlier.

Brudnoy was a homosexual, which he revealed after nearly dying 10 years ago from an AIDS-related infection, but he did not make his sexual preference the focus of his identity or his radio program.

To give you a flavor of his show, here's a link to a transcript of a segment about Scientology. And here's his review of Michael Moore's film "Bowling for Columbine." Talkers Magazine ranked him as one of the 25 all-time greatest radio talk show hosts -- their profile of Brudnoy is here.

Activist talk radio is important, especially in a town like Tulsa, where the media has been dominated by a single viewpoint for too long. There's a need to rally support for important causes, and to cultivate a sense of outrage to replace the sense of resignation in the face of rampant abuse of power -- to give people the confidence that they can change things. That's something Michael DelGiorno does so well on KFAQ every morning, and I'm thankful that he's there to do it.

David Brudnoy wasn't an activist talk show host, although he was an able and articulate advocate for his point of view. He dealt with plenty of controversial issues, but never in a polemical way.

Tulsa could use a show like Brudnoy's, too, as a complement to the activist approach. I've always thought that if I ever had the chance to host my own radio talk show, David Brudnoy's approach to talk radio would be a model from which I would draw.

UPDATE 12/13/2004: Two obits on conservative websites say what I was attempting to say much more clearly and colorfully. National Review Online has published an obituary by Thomas Hibbs. Hibbs writes:

Brudnoy was simply the best radio host I've ever heard in any market or on any part of the AM or FM dial. In most markets, FM talk is National Public Radio, where guests have an opportunity to develop their positions at a leisurely pace and where there tends to be little in the way of heated exchange and little listener interaction. AM talk is loud, fast-paced, with a lot of give and take between host, guest, and callers. It's a caricature to describe NPR shows as inducing somnolence and AM radio as generating headaches of the sort caused by having too many teenage siblings in a car at one time. But there is a kernel of truth in each description. Brudnoy combined the virtues of both styles of radio talk while avoiding their vices.

In most major markets, talk radio is increasingly dominated by the national shows, such as NPR, Rush, Hannity, and Ingraham. Brudnoy could and did devote a great deal of attention to national politics, but he spent as much time on local issues and seemed especially to relish the personalities and political and cultural intricacies of Boston. ...

He was a model of the way to hold one's own position, to argue vigorously on its behalf, and yet to engage other points of view with tact and seriousness. And listeners found themselves caught up in the argument, agreeing or disagreeing with Brudnoy on any number of topics. A libertarian who articulated his views with rigorous clarity, Brudnoy did not feel the need to score ideological points at every step in the conversation. Besides, one never had to agree with him to profit from listening.

The American Spectator has a tribute by W. James Antle III. An excerpt:

There were plenty of hosts who could effectively mock the Clinton administration, rail against Hillary's health care power grab, and attack the day's legislative outrages (remember midnight basketball?). What set Brudnoy apart, aside from eloquence and polemical skills that put most of his peers to shame, was his ability to go beyond such well-worn subjects. His show was no less interesting when he was interviewing antique collectors, obscure academics, and authors of books on subjects that would have otherwise made my eyes glaze over.

Many libertarian pundits praise liberty and excoriate the state, but talk about nothing except politics and government. Brudnoy celebrated life -- films, theatre, travel, wine, classical music, literature -- and demonstrated an encyclopedic knowledge of virtually all subjects, with only one notable exception -- he was charmingly ignorant of professional sports and relentlessly tweaked Boston for its obsession with athletics.

Which is not to overlook how scathing he could be in his political analysis. Brudnoy's position on welfare payments to unwed mothers was, shall we say, Charles Murray-esque. He skewered multiculturalism by insisting, "One culture, one country." He derisively referred to the Clintons as "Bubba and Evita" and was equally critical of the "Almost Lifelike Al Gore."

NRO also has David Brudnoy's 1995 article for the magazine about living with AIDS and his brush with death the previous year.

Darrowing experience


James Lileks had a great "Bleat" on Wednesday, some thoughts about where Clarence Darrow, celebrated defender of Scopes and Leopold and Loeb, and his rejection of moral responsibility have led our society. I liked this paragraph, on the important distinction between public and private conduct (asterisk added):

I am the last person to roam the streets in my Cotton Mather costume, and I've lost my enthusiasm for the adolescent glee that comes from pointing out other people's hypocrisies. All I have are my pathetic attempts to draw a distinction between private and public – that is, Howard Stern saying those oh-so-naughty! words on the public airwaves vs. Stern saying what he wants on subscription radio, or Hustler Honey sex-shows in the Superbowl half-time vs. private rentals from the satellite hot-mama feeds. I suppose it comes down to this: you should have to seek these things out instead of having them come to you. Otherwise the coarsening of the public arena continues unabated, and the good & decent fathers who fought hard for Howard Stern’s right to say sh*t – literally – find themselves without an argument when the billboard across from their kid’s elementary school uses the same words. Today’s crusading moderate is tomorrow’s prude.

During a recent visit to the northeast, it was startling again to see all manner of "adult" magazines on open display at newsstands on the street corner, with no attempt even to conceal the covers. I bragged to a friend who lives up there about QuikTrip, Tulsa's homegrown convenience store chain, which many years ago completely banned pornography from its stores. It's nice to know I can bring my children into any QuikTrip and not worry about what they might see. (I'm also proud of QuikTrip for making the security of employees and customers a priority in the design of their stores and their operating procedures, for their top-tier gasoline, for clean restrooms, for cheap sodas, for carrying the Tulsa Beacon, and for those tasty Hotzi breakfast sandwiches. But I digress. Ain't that right, Lamar?)

Most of us out here in red-state America aren't asking for everyone to be moral. We just ask for decency in the public sphere -- decency, from the Latin word which means "fitting" -- which is really about common courtesy and respecting each others sensibilities. When we are told that we must allow our bourgeois sensibilities to be confronted by tawdriness and turpitude, preferably funded by our own bourgeois tax dollars -- well, we don't take kindly to that, and we go vote for people and parties that do understand the meaning of decency.

P.S. is one of my favorite sites on the web. Be sure to visit the Institute of Official Cheer, his collections of motel postcards, restaurant and diner postcards, and a tribute to his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota, in 1950. And buy his books: Interior Desecrations and Gallery of Regrettable Food I asked for and got both of them for my birthday!

Dawn's latest


About a month ago, I wrote, "if you are concerned about our fallen culture's attacks on the dignity and sanctity of human life, of marriage, and of sex, you need to bookmark the Dawn Patrol and visit once a day." Apparently, a lot of people have been taking that advice -- more likely from National Review's The Corner than from me -- and Dawn Eden has risen in the blog ecosystem from "Marauding Marsupial" to "Large Mammal" over the last month. That puts the Dawn Patrol in the top 600 blogs in the world, and the actual rank might be even better than that, since her stats are divided between two different URLs that point to the blog.

Dawn continues to dig into Planned Parenthood's activities -- most recently linking to a study showing that PP and other abortion providers aren't reporting cases of statutory rape (child sex abuse) to the authorities, and writing about a New Zealand woman who almost bled to death using a do-it-yourself abortion pill method recommended by Planned Parenthood.

I particularly want to call your attention to a couple of recent entries. Having written about some of the promotional items that Planned Parenthood uses to promote its message to teens, she turns her attention to some of the funnier items put out by a pro-abstinence supply catalog. She begins:

On these cold and lonely December nights, when I think about how nice it would be to be able to sit by the fire with my husband—that is, to have a husband...and a fireplace, though the husband alone would do in a pinch...

At this point, I'm expecting something like the "Top 10 Reasons a Fire in the Fireplace is Better than a Man." (Reason 5 -- A fire doesn't go out just as you're getting warmed up.) Instead she introduces us to Abstinence Gum, Abstinence Balloons, Abstinence Mints, and this:

But if you really want to celebrate your chastity in a fun and stimulating way that will not remind you at all of anything having to do with sex, there's the Abstinence Sucker:

"Want a unique giveaway item for your next class or abstinence presentation? These suckers, in cherry flavor, are a fun way to get the message to teens: Don't Be a Sucker! Save Sex For Marriage. Bulk pricing available."

Cherry flavor. Lovely.

Then there's this -- really the latest in a series she started last spring of spiritual lessons drawn from the ordinary stuff of life -- "The Truth in Small Things" (see here, here, and here), although she doesn't label it as such . It's so nicely put together that I'm afraid I'll spoil it by excerpting it. I'll just tell you that she draws some profound relationship lessons from being recently diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia. Just go read it.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from December 2004.

Culture: October 2004 is the previous archive.

Culture: January 2005 is the next archive.

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