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October 29, 2009



Drat you! And I love you man!

That is: I need to be working on the kiln rewiring today, but I don't think I'll be able to help myself in responding to this stellar post over on the TAE!

The Masked Chicken

Nice article for a Thanksgiving Day reflection.

On one point, I disagree, somewhat however:

The problem with American culture is that it is built on relativism that says any culture is as good as the next, and all the cultures have been banged around together for so long in the relativistic Melting Pot that they are hardly distinguishable from one another.

This is true for the mass-market based cultural artifacts, such as pop music. This is, really a mix of relativism and pandering to the lowest common denominator.

However, certain cultural artifacts, such as Jazz, do not suffer so much from relativism. Indeed, the US is the biggest exporter of Jazz of any country in the world. Other countries have tried, but Jazz takes a kind of independence which required the history of the United States to bring about.

Comic Books are another example. True, the current products are rapidly decaying, but the original golden and silver-age comics are works of art worth holding onto. Once comics went really mass-market collectible (with the hyped-up Death of Superman back in 1992), they went down hill, rapidly.

So, some American cultural artifacts are not worth anything, but some are. The distinguishing characteristic, it seems, is how dedicated the original audience was in realizing culture in what they found. A child growing up with hip-hop, today, will see neither the culture that spawned it, not the culture that made it grow. He will simply see what the marketers want him to see.

In other words, where imagination is stolen from culture, the culture withers. It is the deliberate stealing of the imagination by marketing that is ruining so much of modern culture.

The Chicken

P. S. Typepad seems to be funky. Every time I try to post at JA.org. I get sent to a 404-type page.

Tim J.

"So, some American cultural artifacts are not worth anything, but some are."

You're quite right about that, and the subject deserves much better and more serious thought than I can give it. I was painting with a pretty broad brush, almost certainly too broad... but I think the overall point stands.

To be fair, there are truly all kinds of amazing and worthwhile and beautiful aspects within American culture, but mass marketing and production generally is ruinous. Mass marketing and production, in many ways, IS American culture. It is what we have most successfully bequeathed to the world.

You almost hate to see anyone with a dash of real creativity and spirit "make it big", as the mass market machinery will almost inevitably suck the life out of them.

*Almost* inevitably. There are very popular and respected artists - like Alison Kraus - who manage to dodge that hail of bullets, rejecting mere celebrity in favor of craft. But it takes a very unusual gift of self-knowledge to pull that off, IMO.

Jazz started off as a very esoteric kind of outlier of American music, and probably could never have developed as it did anywhere else. Popular and more dumbed-down forms of Jazz ruled the American scene for a short time, but the essence of Jazz, the playfulness, experimentation and sophistication of Jazz, has always been something of an acquired taste. It's almost always been music for grown ups.

So, Jazz will always be around, and will always be respected and loved by a certain segment of people, but most people won't take the time - aren't interested in taking the time - to really understand and love it.

Loving Jazz requires a little patience and work and attention, and this insulates it, in a way, from the consuming fire of mass marketing.

Tim J.

"I need to be working on the kiln rewiring today, but I don't think I'll be able to help myself in responding to this stellar post over on the TAE!"

Now I won't be happy until I read it! Don't neglect your wiring, though...

Paul Corrigan

That's done it. I'm off to read "The Abolition of Man" this weekend. Hopefully I can get through it before Fr. Jaki's Chesterton: Seer of Science arrives! So much to take in and only one short life! Great post Tim.

Paul from Canada.

Tim J.

Is that the Paul I met at Chestercon in '08?

How are you, man?


When I was living in Cleveland, I was exposed to a lot of immigrants from all over the world and appreciated that they were holding onto their heritage by speaking their native tongue except when they were speaking to born&bred Americans and maintaining their cultural festivals. There is a general suspicion among Americans that all should speak English, "Because you're in America" and if you don't we are suspicious of what you are saying. Before WW1, my German ancestors were taught and spoke among themselves in German, but did know enough English to operate a store and associate with the Irish immigrants in the same town. During WW! they stopped teaching and speaking German to prevent suspicion of sympathy for the German state. With that went most of the German culture that they had brought with them. We had German nicknames and such, and my grandparents knew their prayers in German, but none of that was passed on. I have a hard time identifying with our American culture because it is so anti-family, and it's Christian heritage is more Puritan than anything else. My solution is to do the same as Tim. We embrace family and the Catholic faith with gusto, and revel in Catholic cultures that we can relate to because of our shared faith. We love listening to folk music of all types, because it has a sense of cultural belonging, and celebration and eating authentic cuisine and watching movies that show a different perspective(Bella and "The Tree of Wooden Clogs" being great examples). We in America should embrace the best of all cultures and appreciate that we have the freedom to be who we are meant to be, and the right to oppose the secular society that wants to eradicate what makes life beautiful.


"...but Jazz takes a kind of independence which required the history of the United States to bring about."

You guys do know that Jazz was (quite ironically) the product of a mixture of several cultures, don't you?

That is, I don't see how you can decry multiculturalism while at the same time herald the positive qualities of those things, like Jazz, which happened to have been a result thereof.

Tim J.

I wouldn't really decry what you described were really what people meant when they used the term, but what it actually means currently is "every-culture-except-Old-European-Style-Western-Dead-White-Guy-Culture-ism".

It is also used as shorthand to mean a generic mix of very incidental cultural artifacts (like food or art), removed from any cultural history, especially history that touches on religion, and when I say "religion", I mean "Christianity", and when I say "Christianity", I mean especially, "Catholicism".

Chesterton might have been describing this kind of multiculturalism when he said, ""These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.".

I love genuine multiculturalism, because I love genuine culture. Real peasant culture from almost any corner of the globe is almost always a delight. What I don't love is anti-cultural political correctness disguised as "multiculturalism".


Agreed; both "every-culture-except-Old-European-Style-Western-Dead-White-Guy-Culture-ism" and "every-religion-except-Old-European-Christianity=>Catholicism" are both repulsively dull as they are ridiculous.

Jen Pierce

Great post! I was searching on GKC and Music and your blog came up fairly high up on the list, funny enough. I said, wait, I know him!! LOL

And Holy Cow--re: trick or treat and safety. I wrote as a facebook status update yesterday:

"Happy All Hallows Eve--the veil between the living in the dead is at it's thinnest point, so um, you know. Use flashlights, and stuff. Reflective clothing. That should do it."

And not to be my own link pimp but I did some writing on GKC and October style thoughts here:


This year marks the year that I will forever think of Halloween and GKC as mysteriously linked.

Happy All Saints Day!

Tim J.

Thanks, blog nerd! Honored to have you drop in.

I had the funniest and strangest thing happen just a minute ago. I was looking for a particular Chesterton quote on Google, couldn't find the exact one I wanted, and had to scroll through a few pages. Then I found it.

The link directed me to a blog called Old World Swine.

LOL!... as they say.

Paul Corrigan

Hi Tim! It is the same ol me that you met at Chesterton '08! Ahh the memories. I am well... still getting the odd Pipe in, still reading Chesterton, still missing the conference!

Tim J.

Hey, Paul!

Yes, I couldn't make it to Chestercon this year, and I missed it terribly. What a great time that was.

I'm enjoying my pipes more than ever. May we smoke together again soon!

Drop by often!

Be sure to check out The League of Bearded Catholics;


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