When you think of American Success stories in Hamilton Missouri it’s quite natural for the first thoughts in your minds to be either JC Penny who was born here, or Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt company who we wrote about here.
But at the very end of the street, just beyond the last quilt shop, there is a very small building. It doesn’t look like much and only sits about 20 people but it’s an American success story all the same.
This is Hank and Tank’s barbeque and you should know about it.
DaWife DaYoungestSon and I stopped there in the midst of her Missouri Star Quilt experience to have some lunch. Tank took our order and gave me a few minutes of his time.
I recorded this interview after we ordered but before we got our food. Believe me it was worth the wait.
The Ribs I had were the best ribs I’d ever tasted and it wasn’t even close, they were not served sauced but sauce was provided i we wanted but I found that the ribs were so good that I didn’t want to dilute the flavor the slighted bit (this was in contrast to the pork and pickle at the airport whose ribs which needed bbq sauce to give them flavor). My wife who had the Brisket said it was “melt in your mouth tender” and not only did my son love his pulled pork sandwich but while he never cared for ribs absolutely loved the ones I shared with him as did DaWife, both of who gave me a taste of their food as well.
I spoke to both to Tank’s father and Tank as we ate, he starts preparing his meat for the smoker at 4:30 AM and prepares his mix of hickory and cherry wood before feeding the smokers at 5:30 AM. He was very humble concerning his praise of his food still very much the man who told his family when the idea of opening a restaurant was presented to him “Who’s going to pay money for my barbecue”” even as he sells 800lbs of meat a day on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday that they are open. He was constantly in and out with his brother and son Hank serving the customers who came from all over the world for the jewel of the crown of the quilting world and discovered another gem right beside them.
Without a doubt the food here is spectacular and if you are anywhere near Hamilton Missouri it’s worth coming down for some of the Best BBQ you will ever eat, but what I love most about this story is how American it is. Think about it, a family deciding they have to get their hard-working father and husband out of a corrections job that was killing him, going all in to make their tiny restaurant a success and being rewarded not with glowing reviews from all over who have eaten their food, but more importantly with the improved health of the person they love, which is what they really wanted above all else.
That’s the quintessential American success story.
I don’t know if they’ll eventually decide to open a fourth day or a fifth, or expand into a bigger restaurant and I can’t tell you if you will someday see a Hank and Tank’s chain serving great food all over the country, but that doesn’t matter because that’s not the measure of what success is. If they simply remain a family able to support themselves by working hard and providing customers with great food three days a week that makes it no less an example of the American Dream that Tank’s great grandfather came from Sicily to pursue.
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It’s almost better than Christmas morning for these ladies
Donna from Indiana
Hamilton Missouri is a small town of just over 1800 people, there is a lot of farming and grazing land in the area and until just a few years ago it’s primary claim to fame was being the birthplace of that American success story JC Penny.
Now buses arrive at the down on a semi regular basis and travelers from all over the nation and the world converge on this little town and not to see where Mr. Penny grew up.
No these people are quilters, women (and a few men) who are crafters of beautiful things and Hamilton
Missouri is their Mecca because of the Missouri Star Quilt Company. Here is an excerpt from a report from KSHB from 2013 whose video didn’t want to embed .
They come from Oklahoma, Kansas and far-flung locales beyond. One visitor traveled here all the way from Israel, just to meet the woman who has become a YouTube sensation for the hobby she has turned into a multi-million dollar family business.
That woman is Jenny Doan, matriarch of the Doan family, who launched the Missouri Star Quilting company in 2008 with a quilting machine, and a tumbledown brick building in Hamilton’s one-stoplight downtown.
“It’s bizarre,” says Doan of her YouTube fame. Doan teaches quilting classes in short web videos, and in person, for those who trek to her store to shop, and to meet the woman one described as the “Oprah” of quilting.
Their Youtube channel is here and if I had the traffic they had I likely would not be working my night job.
Thursday after seeing the Red Sox relievers give away their final game to the Royals and rejoicing that the management of our hotel in KC got the AC fixed and made it a point to be waiting for us after the game to confirm it and apologize for the problems in person the day before, my wife, who works a 2nd shift job and is historically NOT an early riser was not only up early but urging our youngest son and I along so with the goal of getting to the place she had dreamed of seeing ever since she took up quilting a few years ago as soon as possible. I dashed through my piece on the Georgia 6th special election getting it up at 9:13 and less than 10 minutes later we were on the road with a quick stop at a local WalMart to buy a battery operated camera as I had neglected to bring my charger, for the pictures she would be taking.
It took about an hours drive to get there, there was nothing extraordinary about the highway or the country around it, nor the simple left turn off of Route 36 down S Hughes street to South Davis Street. The country was farm and grazing land, beautiful country, with a few places to stop and eat dotted along the way but my wife’s anticipation grew by the mile and when we took that final left turn from South Davis Street to and when we took that final left to West School Street and the first building came in sight her excitement was boiling over.
We drove down that street and saw quilt shops to the right and the left of us finally deciding to park at the final shop and work her way to the main location.
When we walked into the first shop it was evident that this was estrogen heaven, a dozen immensely happy women were inside and my wife immediately made it a baker’s dozen. My son and I noticed a fellow sitting near the door and sat with him for a bit.
He was the retired Steelworker from Pittsburgh who had driven 12 1/2 hours to bring his wife here and his story of her anticipation at every mile they got closer mimicked mine, interrupted only by his wife coming over and asking for a few dollars for the purchases at this shop.
Eventually my son and I found the Man’s spot which we’ve already discussed. We sat back, played some pool and eventually I grabbed the laptop and starting surfing, on twitter the fact that I was at Missouri Star got the attention of several of my readers who were anxious for me to get an in. I had not planned on doing any interviews or work during this trip, I had not even packed my monopod, but when DaWife stopped by with camera it was clear there was a story here worth telling so after doing a quick intro video and lunch at a tiny BBQ place called Hank’s and Tanks (which deserves its own post and will get it on Monday or Tuesday) I headed to the main building to see if I could get an interview with someone at the company.
I talked to a nice lady behind the counter to tried to find someone available but within a few minutes a pair of busses arrived and as with any business the customers have to come first, so I sat down and watched the ladies come in.
They were happy, but not just happy, you could literally feel the joy and excitement as each one came into the door and found themselves at the place they had dreamed of. Their ages ran from the mid 30’s to the seventies and there was one lady, clearly old and infirm who might have been in her eighties, but no amount of age or infirmity could restrain the sheer unadulterated pleasure written on their faces and emanating from their hearts.
As the people at work were far too overwhelmed to even think about me, I started to approach the women inside to see if any would be interviewed on camera. Donna from Indiana who was in charge of the bus trip was kind enough to give me some time.
It’s never an easy job to get a lady to consent to an on camera interview with a strange man in a hat wearing a 18 foot scarf on a 90 degree day and it’s doubly difficult when said interview tears them even for a few moment away from the place they’ve been dreaming about for years. I was turned down quite a bit but a pair of ladies from the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints one from Oregon and one from Utah gave me a few minutes
At this point there was a tutorial being given by a lady named Cindy so there was no prospect of getting anyone so I headed back to the main building and found myself tweeting back and forth with Al Doan one of the founders of the business but unfortunately he was not in the area. Around this time my wife had finished shopping so we headed back to the main building where Cindy had finished with her tutorial and had been given the OK to give a few minutes to the odd fellow in the hat:
It was pretty late in the afternoon when we loaded up the rental with the fabric that my wife bought and got ready to leave the glow of being there still upon her.
There are a lot of things to say about the Missouri Star Quilt Company: that It’s the fulfilment of the dream of Jenny Doan, that it revitalized a small town in Missouri, that in less than a decade it has become the largest employer in Caldwell County Missouri, that the Missouri Star Quilt Company in general and Jenny Doan in particular are, like JC Penny, an American success story. All of these things are true, special and worthy of praise.
But for my money the greatest thing about the Missouri Star Quilt Company is the happiness they bring to thousands of women who come there each month and the tens of thousands who watch their tutorials online and the satisfaction that I and all the other husbands get when they see the sheer joy on the faces of the women they love.
My wife’s photos follow:
Update: The video from KSHB wouldn’t embed so I’ve replaced it with an excerpt from the text of the piece
I make my living by what readers decide to kick in. If you like what you see at this site from my writers an I are please consider subscribing and become (if you wish) a listed as a Friend of DaTechguy blog
Remember all subscribers get my weekly podcast emailed directly to you before it goes up anywhere else. And new subscribers will get a copy of my book coming out soon Hail Mary the perfect Protestant (and Catholic) prayer from Imholt Press. Unlike the Georgia 6th Democrat Ponzi scheme you know what you’re buying here.
And of course if you want to give a one shot hit (and help pay DaWife’s medical bills and perhaps more fabric) you can hit DaTipJar
If you are not in the position to kick in we are happy to get your prayers.
There is a brand new water park in San Antonio, Texas, that is designed to be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of physical limitations or other special needs a person may have. Via Sunny Skyz:
Morgan’s Inspiration Island in San Antonio, Texas, is making sure kids with disabilities don’t miss out on all the fun this summer.
Every section of the the new water park is wheelchair accessible and guests with special needs are admitted at no cost.
Other features of Morgan’s Inspiration Island include waterproof RFID (radio-frequency identification) wristbands so parents can keep track of their kids, a seven-story lighthouse and a water play area called Rainbow Reef, which has water that can be warmed for guests with sensitivity to cold.
In a press release, owner Gordon Hartman said the team behind Inspiration Island consulted with water park professionals, doctors and experts in special education and special needs, as well as received input from local teachers, parents and caregivers.
The park also offers private areas for guests to transfer out of their personal wheelchairs to waterproof ones.
“We recently unveiled with the University of Pittsburgh revolutionary new wheelchairs propelled by compressed air,” Gordon said. “Our guests in expensive battery-powered wheelchairs can’t afford to get them wet, so we have special Morgan’s Inspiration Island PneuChairs.”
They really did try to think of everything a person with special needs might need to be able to enjoy this unique water park, including providing water proof undergarments – free of charge – for people who may need them.
The fully handicapped accessible water park was preceded by Morgan’s Wonderland, which is an amusement park that was designed to be enjoyed by people with and without special needs, after the parents of Morgan Hartman noticed that Morgan, who has physical and cognitive limitations, wanted to be with other kids at a hotel pool, but the able bodied kids appeared to be uneasy about playing with a special needs child. So Morgan’s parents decided to make a place where all kinds of kids could come together and have fun, in the spirit of friendship and inclusion:
The tipping point occurred in 2005 when Gordon observed Morgan wanting to play with other vacationing kids at a hotel swimming pool, but the kids were leery of Morgan and didn’t want to interact with her. Then and there, Gordon resolved to create opportunities and places where those with and without disabilities can come together not only for fun but also for a better understanding of one another. That led to the construction of Morgan’s Wonderland in an abandoned quarry in Northeast San Antonio. It’s apropos that the butterfly is the symbol of this unique theme park; soaring to one success after another is now commonplace.
When it celebrated its grand opening April 10, 2010, Morgan’s Wonderland became the world’s first theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind and built for everyone’s enjoyment. The completely wheelchair-accessible park features more than 25 elements including rides, playgrounds and other colorful attractions. From the very beginning, anyone with a special need has been admitted free of charge, no questions asked.
It is Morgan’s fervent hope that everyone with a special need – young and older, healthy or ailing, introspective or outgoing – will be touched in a very special way by Morgan’s Wonderland: a shrine of inclusion, an oasis of friendship, an unforgettable wonderland…Morgan’s Wonderland!
Our vision is to establish a special place where smiles and laughter lead to wonderful memories with family members, friends and caregivers. We want Morgan’s Wonderland to be a place where the common element of play creates an atmosphere of inclusion for those with and without disabilities, encouraging everyone to gain a greater understanding of one another.
Morgan’s Wonderland is just like any other theme park except for a culture and environment that assures 100 percent enjoyment by every person who enters through the Welcome Center. Unfortunately, countless children and adults with special needs do not have access to facilities that enable them to fully enjoy outdoor recreation. Morgan’s Wonderland has begun to change that.
And now there is a fabulous water park for the enjoyment of all as well. Morgan Hartman’s parents also established a school nearby for people with special needs between the ages of 12 to 24 where they can learn skills that will help them fulfill their potentials, and they are involved with adaptive sports and physical rehabilitation services.
The admission prices to both parks for non-disabled people are very reasonable and military discounts are offered. Morgan’s parks also host live entertainment and special events. May Morgan’s parks enjoy long and successful futures, and may they inspire others around the country and around the world to create similar projects. Fun without barriers, what a beautiful concept!
MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals.
If you go to the Pottery Barn page, they have stuff that will make the dweller of a tiny house or a Manhattan apartment (but I repeat myself) weep with envy.
I love it.
As a pro-Western values, cisgender, capitalist, anti-abortion Christian woman, I find it exhilarating.
What this tells me is that “you, dear girl or boy growing up in America today, can, through hard work and purpose, grow up to buy yourself, from your own earnings, the best appliances and modern conveniences for preparing your family delicious meals in the comfort of your own home.”
Add to that, “and when your kids are little you can get them beautiful toys if you have the room and can afford to.” (As you may remember, I consider living within your means one of the twelve adulting steps.)
It warms my capitalist heart.
If you can afford it, buying your children an upscale miniature kitchen is a better option, and I speak as a mother, than buying them a tablet. My experience is that kids will pick up computer skills in no time at all, but they will need time to learn social and everyday management skills as they grow up. Getting mini appliances is “a good thing,” as Martha Stewart says.
We didn’t have the room in our house when my son was growing up for a Pottery Barn mini-kitchen, but he did have one drawer for his toy pans and plates and a Queasy Bake Oven,
He asked for a children’s cookbook when he was five, and has been cooking ever since. Most of his friends cook, too.
Now, if you will excuse me, I’ll be looking at the grown-up kitchen toys at Williams Sonoma.
Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes in U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog. She still has the Queasy Bake oven.
This is a travel day for me as we fly back home from Missouri so I don’t have a lot of time to post so let me tease what’s coming by giving those men in our audience who either are married or want to get married two excellent instructional videos on how to stay married for a long time.
Now let’s meet a pair of men who have made this trek for their wives
Although I don’t have him on camera the first fellow I met had driven all the way from Pittsburgh PA who also made the trip. (that’s a drive of 12 1/2 hours!)
Now I don’t know these three men, the two on camera or the 3rd off camera beyond the brief conversations we had, but let me tell you what they all have in common, a marriage that works.
Because any man who is willing to invest the hours involved in such a trip, particularly by car, for his wife’s happiness is a man who understands how marriage works.
If I was Missouri Star Quilt Company I’d take head shots of them, put it on a map of the US and create a Husband’s Hall of Fame for guys like that who come all this way to put a smile on their wife’s faces.
Of course it’s possible they might come from the BBQ at Hank’s and Tanks but that’s another post….
There’s a tremendous, oft sadly neglected richness in the English language all of us should use more often. I’m not referring to throwing maximum verbiage around in an effort to appear smart; rather, appreciating how even simple phrases can hold surprising depth. Case in point: someone is getting, or have gotten, the best of you.
The most common association tied to this saying is someone has bettered, or bested, you. He or she ran faster, jumped higher, got the promotion you sought, snagged the one your heart longed for, etc. He or she won, you lost, and you will not be receiving a consolation prize, make-up call, or participation trophy. Suck it up, buttercup. The next competition starts now.
Another implementation exists for someone getting the best of you. Namely, giving someone the best you have to offer: your experience, your support, your love. Sometimes this is gratefully received. Many times … well, not so much.
There are certain things we learn, or at least hopefully learn, as we pass through the years. A prime example of this is coming to grips with how we are best advised accepting the fact that we should not expect respect for our anger, this coming into play the first time during our tender years any of us throw a temper tantrum without reaping the hoped for reward. Unless a spanking was that for which we had a honkering.
We also learn, or should learn, to not expect respect for our tears, or reciprocation for our love. These are far more difficult to swallow. We are taught from the beginning to respect others, to honor the heralded awesome power of love, and that true love always triumphs while conquering all and overcoming all obstacles. Yet through bitter and often embittering experience we learn how love is often impotent, incapable of swaying others in any direction let alone one which we desire. Those who do not learn this, such as starry-eyed women unshakable in their pursuit of utterly undesirable men believing they can transform jerks into jewels, invariably have their ship of hopes dashed against reality’s rocks. You’d think this would be sufficient to teach us, but far too often we embody insanity by attempting the exact same thing while anticipating different results. The Biblical truism that pride goes before a fall is not exclusively reserved for the outwardly arrogant. It also applies to those of us who, while outwardly modest and/or well-intentioned, sadly overestimate our own ability.
It hurts when love isn’t returned. The illustration of a rejected Savior is hard to understand until we encounter a one-sided love of our own. The other person doesn’t look at you in a special way. He or she doesn’t soften when you’re around. He or she isn’t interested in a relationship on any level save perhaps that of casual acquaintance, one quickly forgotten the moment close proximity is no longer in effect. Perhaps the person does allow you to approach them, but even then only within his or her strictly defined and absolute, non-negotiable parameters. Held at arm’s length? Most definitely. Held in each other’s arms? Never. And yes, it makes life a living hell. An accurate description, for hell’s torment is not fire and brimstone, but rather separation from love.
The illustration in Scripture’s most misunderstood and misapplied chapter states that when I was a child, I spoke, thought, and acted like a child; in adulthood laying these childish things aside. It seems strange to think, believe, and act on the notion that there are times when laying love aside is an act of maturity. More accurately, not so much setting love itself on the shelf but learning how to be at peace with the fact others can and will disregard your love for them.
It hurts when love isn’t returned. There is no escaping, no denying the pain. If there is anything good to be drawn from these times, it is from the empathy gained for those also suffering; and how it makes more real our need to embrace — more accurately, allow ourselves to be embraced by — the nail-scarred hands belonging to the Man of Sorrows well acquainted with grief. He knows. He understands. He comforts. And He never rejects our love.
Many, many times someone getting the best of you is rooted not in their besting you, but rather you giving your best to someone who throws your best away. Forgiving those who have wrongly abused you is brutally difficult. But, it is the highest level of giving your best, one in which we have Christ’s hand on our shoulder as He says, “I know the feeling.”
In a world where hatred and horror are marching in lockstep, we can all use a good laugh. With this in mind, below is an unsent, albeit sorely tempted to do so, response to an actual customer survey. It must be noted the views and opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the writer and in no fashion speak on behalf of, or represent, the employer of said writer. (As if it isn’t obvious.)
Dear Mr. C(remainder of name redacted):
Thank you for your customer survey response regarding your recent visit to, and purchase from, our store.
We deeply apologize for the store and staff not meeting your expectations, this surmised from both your written comments and your grading the store as a one on all scale of one to ten questions. We readily confess this comes as something of a surprise, given that since late last year, through the course of several dozen returned surveys we had not once received an overall score lower than eight. We appreciate you, unlike the aforementioned several dozen misguided individuals, setting the record straight.
Addressing a specific point made in your response, namely how the store carries far too much Superman and Transformers product, a quick calculation reveals out of the 448 feet of linear shelf space available the two toy lines mentioned presently occupy eight feet. We are grateful for you opening our eyes to how this 1.79% waste of display area is entirely too high, and are presently carrying out a detailed action aimed at reducing this to 1.78%. Regrettably, you did not detail what should be done with this newly available space, this leaving us to our own painfully inadequate devices commonly referred to as “what sells.” Which, to our astonishment and we confidently say yours, includes an alarmingly high amount of Superman and Transformer toys.
Concerning your grievance over the survey containing too many questions, we are compelled to note the survey is run by a third party and therefore is not entirely under our control. However, we have communicated your concerns to the survey provider, and have been assured it is hard at work on a new version which will contain nothing but one emoji happy face and one emoji frowny face. This will greatly reduce the time and effort required to complete the survey, as compared to its present seventeen scale of one to ten grueling questions.
We could not help but to notice in addition to the two items you did purchase, you are a member of our rewards club for frequent shoppers. Given your disdain for our store, the only possible conclusion is you are suffering from retail self-flagellation, a/k/a punishing yourself by shopping at a store you detest. This can result in dangerous symptoms such as monetary loss and a sharp increase in hypocrisy. We urge you to exercise maximum caution and watch for these signs.
In conclusion, we again deeply apologize for our store and ourselves. We hope you will give us another try, especially encouraging you to visit our board game area and pick up a copy of The Game of Life to remedy a noticeable deficiency in this area.
Last fall in my review of the first season of The Last Kingdom I wrote:
I’ll be back for season two, hoping for more. (More meaning better shows, not bare buttocks.) After all, the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood didn’t hit its stride until season two and it didn’t achieve consistent greatness until The Children of Earth in season three.
And so I have returned for season two of the show, which is now a co-production of Netflix and the BBC. The series is based on books by Bernard Cornwell.
The Last Kingdom didn’t reach the stride that I was hoping to find, rather, it is just running in place.
Minor season one spoiler alerts in the following paragraph.
Uhtred the Godless (Alexander Dreymon), who was enslaved as a boy by Danes and robbed of his inheritance of Bebbanburg in Northumberland by a duplicitous uncle, becomes a chieftain for King Alfred (David Dawson). England’s “last kingdom” is Alfred’s Wessex, holding out in the 9th century against what historians later named the Great Heathen Army. Alfred prevails over the Danes in the Battle of Edington, preserving not only his kingdom but also his notion of an England. Havde danskerne vundet kampen, kan du læse denne sætning på dansk i stedet for engelsk. Oops, make that, had the Danes won the battle you might be reading this sentence in Danish instead of English. But for Uhtred the victory is bittersweet, his mistress, the sorceress Queen Iseult of Cornwall, is beheaded during the battle.
So that’s it, right? Alfred becomes Alfred the Great and the Danes are forced back to Denmark? No. Viking raids–oh, the word “viking” doesn’t appear in The Last Kingdom–continue until the auspicious year of 1066. Alfred and his successors merely push back against the Danes, who never leave, they become Anglicized. Although in 1016 Cnut the Great, a Dane, albeit a Christian, is crowned king of England.
And that’s the heart of the problem of the second edition of The Last Kingdom. Sure, the Saxons and the Danes are still slaughtering each other, but historically post-Edington is a less interesting time in England.
Minor season two spoiler alerts in the following paragraph.
A handsome warrior like Uhtred isn’t going to remain unattached for long, he marries the sister of the mild-mannered Guthred (Thure Lindhardt), a Christian Dane and former slave who becomes King of Northumberland as a result of a prophecy-dream of an abbot. But Guthred betrays Uhtred and as he sets matters straight, Uhtred proceeds to anger Alfred. But the king soon finds himself in a situation where he needs his chieftain’s aid.
As with first season the second one ends with a fierce battle.
My disappointment in the second season lies with the lack of character development. Perhaps you can argue that Uhtred’s strong mental fortitude is why the travails he suffers doesn’t alter his nature, but he’s essentially the same person since his appearance as an adult at the end of the first episode in series one. Alfred remains the pious king–despite his own sufferings. Only Uhtred’s priest friend, Father Beocca (Ian Hart) and Erik Thurgilson (Christian Hillborg), who does not appear in the first season, progress as characters.
There are a few other of annoyances. Each episode begins with a pompous “I am Uhtred son of Uhtred” proclaimed by Dreymon which is followed by a summary of previous events, which are only sometimes helpful. When a town is shown in a wide-angle shot the old English name is displayed first, then the modern equivalent. But in the case of Benfleet, the site of much of the action in the second season, is it necessary to do so three times in the same episode? Are we that stupid? And until I receive solid proof otherwise, let’s assume that Alfred’s crown is plastic.
So far The Last Kingdom hasn’t been renewed. So I’ll withhold my commitment to watching season three.
Oh, as for bare buttocks, yes there a couple of scenes with them, if you have to know.
Philosophy can be a bit like a computer getting creakier. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, it can get bloated and bogged down and slow. Philosophy begins to care less about philosophical questions than about philosophers’ questions, which then consume increasing amounts of intellectual attention. The problem with philosophers’ questions is not that they are impenetrable to outsiders — although they often are, like any internal game — but that whatever the answers turn out to be, assuming there are any, they do not matter, because nobody besides philosophers could care about the questions in the first place.
This is an old problem. In the sixteenth century, the French scholar and doctor François Rabelais satirized scholastic philosophy in his Gargantua and Pantagruel. In a catalogue of 139 invented book titles that he attributes to the library of the Abbey of St. Victor, he lists such titles as “The Niddy-noddy of the Satchel-loaded Seekers, by Friar Blindfastatis” and “The Raver and idle Talker in cases of Conscience.”
Centuries later, we seem to be back to the same problem. This is how philosophy speaks today: “The Failure of Class: Postcapitalist narrative and textual precapitalist theory” and “Deconstructing Lyotard: Cultural narrative and premodern dedeconstructivism.” Or: “As Lewis taught us in a classic series of articles, trope theories Gettierise zombie arguments” and “While the contextualist disagrees, we still hold that supposed mind/body ‘problems’ cannot generate an unacceptably Russellian picture of the world.”
Do not try to understand these lines. I produced the first two using a “Postmodernism Generator,” and the second two using an “Analytic Philosophy Generator.” They sound like real examples of contemporary scholasticism — philosophy talking about itself to itself in its own jargon. Such scholasticism is the ultimate freezing of the system, the equivalent of a Windows computer’s “blue screen of death”: so many resources are devoted to internal issues that no external input can be processed anymore, and the system stops working. The world may be undergoing a revolution, Rome may be burning, but the philosophical discourse remains detached, meaningless, and utterly oblivious. Time for an upgrade.
Read the whole thing. Flip on your brain’s comprehension and application switches first. It’s amazing that all too many of us need to be reminded to do these things. I think that’s a summation of this essay.
If you spend any period of time cruising “conservative” sites dedicated to dissecting pop culture, or “neutral” sites dissecting of culture with one or more conservative writers on staff, the answer comes rapidly. It’s no. To be more precise, the aforementioned writers have little if any interest in proclaiming, via pointing out, truth.
This may seem like a strange summation. Didn’t the late, great Andrew Breitbart say politics is downstream from culture? Aren’t these people, at least in part, attempting to embody this truism by discussing the latest entertainment efforts and societal swings mainstream infomedia declares are where it’s at, or at least should be? Sure. But it is a very, very small and utterly ineffective part.
To slightly paraphrase Paul’s snap to the church in Corinth, said writers are looking only at the surface of things. They see the obvious – the blockbuster movie, the hot entertainer, the even hotter social trend as deemed by whichever upper crust publication wants some free publicity this week via prefabricated “controversy.” They comment, they argue, they strive to score maximum points with the Konservative Kool Kidz Klub. All very nice. And all utterly meaningless in terms of influencing pop culture’s course. Genuine influence comes not from adding a me too with a conservative view. It comes from exploring and promoting the unknown that is worthy of attention.
It’s not like there are no opportunities to genuinely impact people through elements generally associated with pop culture, given how its more heralded items seldom pack the punch many believe they hold. The great movie icons of recent decades – Star Wars, the ongoing spate of superhero movies – have worked their way into the popular lexicon, but outside of the freakishly obsessed few their societal impact is nonexistent. Books and their authors fly high for fifteen minutes and then disappear over the horizon. Heard anyone discuss The Bridges of Madison County or Life of Pi lately? An argument can be made that the Chinese water torture known as network television has moved the morality and mores gauge needles to the left; Will & Grace did much to normalize homosexuality in the public eye, and every time I hear a five year old loudly exclaim “oh my god” in reference to most every item in my toy store I, uh, ‘thank’ the writers of Friends. Pop music is both omnipresent and impactless, streamed today and sent packing tomorrow. When an album (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles) first released fifty years ago sells more physical copies than any other album, all’s said needing to be said concerning current music’s place in current society.
Maybe follow Sgt. Pepper’s lead and find music from the past that still holds value today?
Time to shift gears a bit. As today’s greatest songwriter Terry Scott Taylor recently sang, there’s not a holy man who doesn’t know grief well, or thinks the road to heaven doesn’t pass through hell. This truth is embodied in how throughout Christianity’s history, many believers have found their greatest solace not in the New Testament but rather in a chapter written by the Old Testament mystic prophet Isaiah. Written hundreds of years before Christ’s passion and death on the cross, Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah as a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, has resonated throughout the millennia with those suffering.
Twenty-two years and 22,000 light years removed from today’s Christian music scene, featuring endless recyclings of endless clichés about a good good father, with his band Adam Again the late pioneer of Christian alternative rock Gene Eugene released Perfecta which sadly turned out to be the band’s final album before Eugene’s death due to an aneurism in 2000. There’s a Kickstarter campaign currently underway to finally release it on vinyl as well as remastered CD. Not that there’s a need for cause aside from its dark brilliance to revisit this sadly unknown work, but it’s as good of a reason as any.
If the measure of an album’s potential impact on individuals, who in turn influence society, can be determined by said album’s rawness stripping away all emotional pretense and posturing, then Perfecta would be an instant game changer even today. Laying atop a foundation of simultaneously jangling and snarling distorted guitars, Eugene’s grainy razored vocals ripped through stories most Christian artists wouldn’t dare touch: failed relationships, substance abuse, and Leonard Cohen. For starters. When during the song “Relapse” he cried ‘believe me, I’m fine,’ you know the song’s character was anything but. In “All You Lucky People,” Eugene’s resigned alienation from the Christian music that at best held him at arms length and usually avoided him at all costs spilled out:
Won’t you give me your secret
And allow me a tale to sell
To the guests of the guilty at the gates of hell
I’m after it
I’m after it
And you’ll know
That I keep looking at all you lucky people coming around to say hello
It’s somewhat doubtful you’ll be hearing this during worship time next Sunday.
Perfecta isn’t a collection of ruminations about lost faith. Rather, it collects tales of what happens when faith gets stomach punched. A lot. Despite this, faith remains, beaten down but not defeated. There is life beyond life’s insidious heartbreaks. There will be blood. But there is also the bloody Cross.
It is Perfecta, and albums like it, by artists and bands such as Gene Eugene and Adam Again, that tell life changing truths. This is the primal scream at pop culture’s center, one often obscured by drek and dross yet still present. If the writers covering pop culture from the right side truly wish to make an impact, they will throttle back on the 378th dissertation this week about Wonder Woman and start actively seeking out that, and those, whose creation can effect change in lieu of rambling on about the latest layer of frosting atop an already oversugared cake.