The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Boethius Book Club, Episode 2: Anthony Trollope, The Warden

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This early work by one of the masters of the novel is the introduction to his magnificent series of novels set in or near the mythical cathedral town of Barchester. We meet some of the enduring characters—Mr. Harding and his daughter Eleanor, and that model of “stupid” conservatism, Archdeacon Grantly . The humor is broader than it is in later books, and in his portrait of the ardent liberal John Bold, Trollope lays his cards on the table as he never will again. The Warden is a wonderfully entertaining novel, but it is only one that raises very important moral...

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Properties of Blood, I.7: Kith and Kin, Part C

The Nature and Duties of Kinship:  Rome Euthyphro’s mistake, from the conventional Greek point of view, was not that he overvalued piety toward the gods but that he failed in his duty to love and respect his father.  Ancient Greeks were hardly unique in putting a high value on filial piety, familial solidarity, and the duties of kinship.  These are moral tendency so common, both in primitive societies and advanced civilizations,  that they can be regarded as universal human traits.  Of course, every traditional society has its own peculiar customs and laws, which make generalizations difficult; nonetheless, ancient Greeks, Romans,...

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The Ealing Comedies

Will Barker, a commercial traveler with a passion for photography, bought “the Lodge” overlooking Ealing Green in West London in 1902 for the purpose of making movies. Cinema–very often television programs rather than movies–has been made there ever since. Recently, a couple of its studios hosted the servants’ quarters of Downton Abbey. The place reached its perihelion after World War II, when the production company, Ealing Studios, made a string of 17 comedies, from Hue and Cry in 1947 to Davy in 1958.  Those films brought British cinema to world consciousness as few never before, pleasing critics as well as...

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The Face on the Barroom Coin

The Good News [from Matthew 22]: And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying…Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?  But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?  Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?  They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.  When they had heard...

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Wednesday’s Child: Readers 1, Writers 0

Children, generally speaking, are not wiser than their parents, and it cannot ever be said that pupils are much cleverer than teachers, but it is a manifest truth that newspaper editors are always stupider than newspaper readers.  In fact, reading a newspaper invariably conjures up in my mind the image of a large department store where the customers, who are ordinary people possessed of the usual medley of human qualities, are served by moronic salesgirls, automatons with the dual setting of surly or flirty. In England I read the Daily Mail, of which there is no longer an equivalent in...

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From Under the Rubble, Episode 3: The Unborn Don’t Have Rights

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Two political gaffes—one by Donald Trump and one by Hillary Clinton—injected pre-partum infanticide, known euphemistically as abortion, into the current presidential campaign. Ironically, both Trump and Clinton told the truth more or less, and the uproar they caused is a sign that the pro-life movement is headed in the wrong direction. Original Air Date: April 20, 2016 Show Run Time: 31 minutes Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming Show Host(s): James Easton   From Under the Rubble℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2016. All Rights are Reserved.

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The Web, Our Brains, and You

I recently had the chance to read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.  The author of this 2010 book is Nicholas Carr, who originally penned a 2008 article for The Atlantic entitled, “Is Google making us stupid?” The title of that article can be off-putting to those who are, like myself, steeped in the hot bath of the digital universe.  Surely this is some Luddite ranting, one might think at first.  But on second glance … 200 pages of ranting? Unlikely. It might be because I conducted the vast majority of my schooling and created many of...

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Trump Begins New Phase of Campaign

Donald Trump’s easy victory in his home state of New York rockets him into the next phase of his campaign: The long march taken by the Okies to California. Albeit in a custom-built 747. Some pundits have criticized Trump for not having a “ground game” and not “knowing the rules” of the nominating process, especially in Colorado. But the process was rigged from the beginning against somebody like him – somebody like Ron Paul, whose 2008 campaign sparked GOP convention rules that prevented his name being put in nomination at the 2012 convention. If the rules are rigged, why play...

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Live Until You Die (on the house)

This is an improved version of an essay first published in 1999 “I grow old learning many things,” said Solon, a poet well-known for his wisdom and for his longevity: He lived to be almost 80.  Although, as my old teacher Douglas Young pointed out, Solon’s statement might be interpreted to mean “too much education makes one prematurely old,” the point is clear enough and as true today as it was 2400 years ago when the Athenian poet-statesman lived long enough to see his beloved city acquiesce in the rule of a tyrant: A wise man never ceases to learn new...

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Properties of Blood I.7: Kith and Kin, Part B

Athens: A Commonwealth of Blood and Its Enemies In modern Europe and North America, where kinship ties are weak and families scattered across a continent like so many handfuls of breadcrumbs flung out to the birds, it is hard to form a mental picture of how the obligations of kinship can hold a community together.  It is easier to appreciate the importance of kinship by looking at pre-modern societies, such as the cities of Medieval Tuscany or the wandering children of Israel.  A good place to start is classical Athens, a city often held up as an example of enlightened...