Two Wendell Berry Poems on Humility

From his Kentucky farm where he has long disdained use of a computer and rails against modern sins such as strip mining, industrial agriculture and unrestrained market capitalism, 84-year-old Wendell Berry occupies a unique place in contemporary American letters.

Throughout his prolific output of novels, short stories, essays, and poetry totaling some 50 volumes, he is at once the stodgiest of conservatives, a thoughtful curmudgeon standing stoutly for the old ways of fidelity to family, place, religion, and modesty of expression.

At the same time, he remains a darling of Subaru-driving outdoorsy liberals who cotton to his outspoken environmentalist views, pacifism and anti-materialism.

Personally, I have been both inspired and exasperated by him, but I have never for a second doubted his sincerity or intelligence or devotion, and he is always worthy of attention.

Berry’s is a world of overalls and unlocke...

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Brilliant Songs #7: Vilray’s “Let’s Make Love on This Plane”

Rampaging lovers, suicide, infidelity, the deep fear of lost love—let’s face it: heartache, trouble and woe seem to be predominant in songs we come to think of as “brilliant.” You know: our true love abandoning us is deep, her falling to a wretched cancer deeper still. How many comedies and light romances have won Oscars, after all? Or even been nominated?
When’s the last time a Bob Dylan lyric elicited even a chortle?

I, no less than critics across MusicLand, am every bit as prone to this bias toward the serious if not flat-out sullen when I consider songs for this “Brilliant Songs” series...

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“And Then It Was Over”: A Song of Transience, Clinging and Flux

“Everything flows and nothing stays,” said Heraclitus some 2,500 years ago, with those words and many thousands more that followed putting his stamp on the cosmic ledger as the “Philosopher of Flux.” He added a pleasing image by proclaiming we can never step into the same river twice, the waters displaced by that step already having worked their way downstream, so good luck finding those drops now.

Rivers may not always run deep, but Heraclitus most certainly did.

Bill noting the trajectory of their blooms’ fleeting life cycle by deadpanning: ‘And then it was over.’

“There really is no tomorrow, because when tomorrow comes, it’s today!” That was Mrs. Anderson, my kindly third grade teacher who seemed to my 8-year-old eyes to have been born in the age of Heraclitus, maybe even his wife, waxing philosophic with a mischievous smile on her face at the front of the class.

It sounded slightly...

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Doris Day: Queen of Eternal Sunshine

The trouble with Doris Day—besides the wreck of her marital life that left her at various times by various husbands abused physically, emotionally and financially—was that she never stopped sounding and looking and being, at least outwardly, so darn nice. Still is, actually, as evidenced by a nice, if characteristically formulaic, written interview she gave to “The Hollywood Reporter” on her 97th birthday three days ago.

That niceness of the midwestern, sunnyblonde film star who wore a relentless effervescent smile was a problem for Day chiefly because it tended to obscure just what a fabulous singer she was.

No one mistakes, say, Nina Simone, as anything but a kickass singing talent, all that smoldering, sometimes volcanic expulsion of words and emotion cementing her place in history as a singer of extraordinary passion and skill.

Day, however, exuded such an overt “America’s sweetheart” ki...

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The Socialist Plot to Destroy American Freedom

Let’s start with this: the progressive income tax is “socialist,” pure and simple. It allows the government to take more— far more, barring sleazy or outright illegal accounting practices—from the wealthy than it does the lower classes. That’s the baseline truth, the distilled fact about the matter. One can argue from there about its benefits or folly, but not about the equation itself:

Progressive Income Tax = Socialism.

Ben Carson said as much in a 2015 Republican presidential debate, and it was one of the few things he uttered throughout the campaign that actually made sense. (Although his full statement on the matter did devolve into a simplistic argument against progressive taxation):

“It’s all about America. You know, the people who say, ‘The guy who paid a billion dollars because he had 10, he’s still got $9 billion left? That’s not fair...

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