- - Monday, August 9, 2010

Family replacement

“Family law today is virtually the opposite of what it sounds like. It’s a complex body of rules, regulations, and litigation concerning not the legal creation but the legal breakup of marriages and families. Family law is how the state manages familial disintegration. …

“The debate over marriage too often obscures the problem lurking beneath the general weakening of the marital institution: the growing vacuum in cultural authority fills with the legal power of the state. Already we probably lack the cultural confidence to articulate at a national level a convincing account of why at least some kinds of polygamous relationships should be deprived of the honor bestowed by the title of marriage.

“But that kind of confidence has crumbled apace with an insistence that somebody be around to pick up the pieces when relationships we feel disentitled not to honor also crumble. And only one somebody can claim to be there to play that ironically fatherly role for everyone — the government, whose laws can penetrate everywhere, if only we let them.”

James Poulos, writing on “Polygamy, Paternalism, and the Real Slippery Slope,” on Aug. 8 at Ricochet

School replacement

“My grade school couldn’t get state approval today. The teachers were unpaid and lived communally. Two grades were taught in one classroom. There were no resources for science, music, physical education, or foreign languages except the Latin of the Mass and hymns. No playground facilities. The younger students were picked up by the single school bus; as soon as we were old enough, we rode our bikes to school, even in winter.

“A typical meal in the lunchroom might consist of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, a dish of corn, a dish of fruit cocktail, and a carton of milk. On Fridays we had fish sticks or macaroni and cheese. On bad days we got chipped beef on toast, and that’s how I discovered that word. …

“I received a first-rate education. At St. Mary’s Grade School in Champaign, one block across Wright street from Urbana, we were taught by Dominican nuns who knew their subjects cold, gave us their full-time attention, were gifted teachers and commanded order and respect in the classroom.”

Roger Ebert, writing on “Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,” on Aug. 4 at his self-titled Chicago Sun Times journal

TV replacement

“The Nielsen Company has been tracking media use for decades, and it reported last year that in the first quarter of 2009, the amount of time Americans spend watching TV hit its highest level ever — the average American was watching 156 hours and 24 minutes of TV a month.

“Now, Nielsen has come out with an update for the first quarter of 2010. Once again, TV viewing has hit a new record, with the average American now watching 158 hours and 25 minutes of TV a month, a gain of 2 hours in just the past twelve months. Although two-thirds of Americans now have broadband Internet access at home, TV viewing continues its seemingly inexorable rise.

“And the Nielsen TV numbers actually understate our consumption of video programming, because the time we spend viewing video on our computers and cell phones is also going up. The average American with Internet access is now watching 3 hours and 10 minutes of video on Net-connected computers every month, Nielsen reports, and the average American with a video-capable cell phone is watching an additional 3 hours and 37 minutes of video on his or her phone every month. Not surprisingly, expanding people’s access to video programming increases their consumption of that programming.”

Nicholas Carr, writing on “Charlie bit my cognitive surplus,” on Aug. 3 at his blog Rough Type

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