- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

Still red hot

“The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been around and thriving for 23 years now. It’s an improbable achievement, and not just because the group has managed against the odds to preserve the centerpiece of its live act: washboard abdominals. The sun-dazzled Southern California hedonism that the Chili Peppers’ songs chronicle has more than once threatened to sink the band. Founding guitarist Hillel Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988; Slovak’s replacement, John Frusciante, nearly killed himself the same way; and singer Anthony Kiedis has also battled drug addiction. The real surprise, though, has been the staying power of their signature style — that frathouse-macho bass-slapping funk-rock — which still feels definitively late-‘80s-early-‘90s, a relic of the first Bush administration and the second Lollapalooza tour.

“Yet here we are in June 2006, and the Chili Peppers have just unleashed their biggest record to date. … The Chili Peppers are one of the world’s top-grossing live bands and have attained, in the third decade of their career, the near-universal esteem of critics, who recognize them as the skilled standard-bearers of commercial rock.”

— Jody Rosen, writing on “Funky White Boys,” on June 2 in Slate at www.slate.com

No puzzle

“The Bible … is not a puzzle to be interpreted in hundreds of different ways, according to the preconceived interests of the interpreter. This is how many theologians treat the Bible, allowing them to get around what the Bible teaches about sexual morality or the claims of Christ.

“In contrast, the Reformers taught the important but now little-known doctrine of the ‘perspicuity of Scripture.’ That is, the Word of God is essentially clear. We may not understand it all, but the Bible is not that hard. Yes, there are differences of interpretation, but we are called not so much to interpret as to accept God’s words.

“Contrary to ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ Christianity is not a puzzle. It is the solution.”

— Gene Edward Veith, writing on “The puzzle of life,” in the June 10 issue of World

Pursuit of what?

“The celebration of happiness as a virtue in and of itself is motivated by a powerful mood of atomization and disenchantment with public life. Western societies attach less and less value to those virtues and emotions that demand social engagement and civic responsibility. Emotions aimed at self-fulfillment tend to be presented positively, while feelings that bind the individual to others are regarded with suspicion.

“So today, emotions are classified into the positive (joy, happiness, contentment) and the negative (fear, anger, sadness, hate). Positive emotions are those that make you happy; negative emotions are those that make you discontented or miserable. The feeling of contentment has become the defining feature of individual health. … Today’s emphasis on feeling good reflects the fact that the individual self has become the central focus of social, moral and cultural life. And since feeling happy is regarded as something like a state of virtue, things that distract the individual from attending to his emotional needs are devalued: hard work, sacrifice, altruism and commitment are presented as being antithetical to the individual quest for happiness.”

— Frank Furedi, writing on “Why the ‘politics of happiness’ makes me mad,” May 23 at www.spiked-online.com

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