The Godfather of Indian Pizza

From Vice:

There is a persistent rumor in San Francisco that Zante Pizza & Indian Cuisine, birthplace of the distinctly regional phenomenon known as “Indian pizza,” is run by one “Mr. Zante,” a dark-haired man of indeterminate age who blends the affable bravado of Bollywood’s Shah Rukh Kahn and the sphinx-like calm of a young Omar Sharif. While I’m almost entirely sure I’ve made this up, it seems just as likely to be true as the story I’m told by the man who serves me a slice of chicken tikka masala pizza on a Friday afternoon.

The Onion Wins Again


BOSTON—Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college’s academic mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea. “As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus.

In Praise of Personal Libraries

From TNR:

The committed bibliophile is cousin to the obsessive, an easily seduced accumulator frequently struck with frisson. Cram your home with books, and you’re lovingly called a collector; cram it with old newspapers, and you’re derisively called a hoarder. But be honest: The collector is a hoarder, too—a discriminating and noble-minded hoarder, perhaps, but a hoarder just the same.

Not long into George Gissing’s 1903 novel The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, you find a scene that no self-respecting bibliophile can fail to forget. In a small bookshop in London, the eponymous narrator spots an eight-volume first edition of Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. “To possess those clean-paged quartos,” Ryecroft says, “I would have sold my coat.” He doesn’t have the money on him, and so he returns across town to his flat to retrieve it. Too broke for a ride on an omnibus, and too impatient to wait, he twice more traverses the city on foot, back and forth between the bookshop and home, toting a ton of Gibbon. “My joy in the purchase I had made drove out every other thought. Except, indeed, of the weight. I had infinite energy but not much muscular strength, and the end of the last journey saw me upon a chair, perspiring, flaccid, aching—exultant!”

A pleasing vista onto the early twentieth-century life of one English writer, Gissing’s autobiographical novel is also an effusive homage to book love. “There were books of which I had passionate need,” says Ryecroft, “books more necessary to me than bodily nourishment. I could see them, of course, at the British Museum, but that was not at all the same thing as having and holding them”—to have and to hold—“my own property, on my own shelf.” In case you don’t quite take Ryecroft’s point, he later repeats “exultant” when recalling that afternoon of finding the Gibbon—“the exultant happiness.”1 Exultation is, after all, exactly what the bibliophile feels most among his many treasures.

Creation Regained at 30

Count me amongst the many people who were transformed by this marvelous little book:

Brian Dijkema: 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the publication ofCreation Regained. It’s been read widely around the world, and many have described it as the best introduction to the Christian worldview. For many, in all kinds of different places around the globe, your book was the little door into a much deeper tradition of Christian thinking about culture and society. But I’m sure there are a dozen or so people who haven’t read it. How would you describe Creation Regained to somebody who’s never heard of it before?

Al Wolters: Well, it’s an introduction to a comprehensive Biblical worldview that stresses the breadth of Creation, the extent of the Fall, and most importantly, the fact that salvation in Jesus Christ really means a reclaiming, a regaining, of the entire length and breadth of Creation with all of its cultural domains.
BD: “Cultural domains” is not the kind of thing that comes up in dinner conversation, at least not in my house. What do you mean by that and what do you mean by Creation being “regained” in all of these places?

AW: Well, Creation is much broader than we tend to think of it. When we say “creation” in our culture we often speak of material things. But it also includes things like the structure of the family, for example, or something like tenderness or justice or the institutional church. Things of this sort are all structured as part of Creation.

Creation refers to those girders, those basic principles that are woven into the very fabric of civilization, of culture, of society. Therefore if you’re going to talk about sin and salvation, seeing Creation as comprehensive as that will affect how you look at the family, how you look at the state, how you look at art, and how you look at advertising. All of these things are affected by the Fall and all are in need of being reclaimed in the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The book is, in a sense, a simple representation of the tradition in which I grew up—the neo-Calvinist tradition. That tradition sees Creation as a very broad and differentiated thing, filled with distinctive structures which are made to move in certain directions. Structure refers to the way things are meant to be—the way God instituted family to be, the way God meant the state to be, the way God has a design for advertising. These are all developments of Creation which are corrupted by sin and all of which need to be redirected, need to be redeemed, reclaimed in order to conform more closely to the way God meant it to be from the beginning.

That distinction between structure and direction is actually not my distinction. I learned it from my teacher Evan Runner. So structure refers to that creational substrate if you like and direction refers to the ways in which all of those different things are either perverted or are reclaimed in Christ.

Reviewing Chambers’ Witness

Hunter Baker:

There once was a child named after his father. He was perhaps named after his dad in the way boys sometimes are in an attempt to create family commitment and paternal instinct in situations where those things are suspected to be lacking. This boy was Jay Vivian Chambers. He was born in 1901. His mother had been a touring actress (but never anything close to a star). His father was a commercial artist and also, it turned out, a bisexual, who would eventually abandon the family and then return, but with the tendency to be unaccountable for his time. They were sometimes known in their New York community as “the French family.” Jay had a younger sibling. Both his father and his younger brother would pre-decease him, despite the fact that he did not live a long life himself.

Later on, his grandmother would join the household. She was increasingly insane. As a young adult, Jay would occasionally have to confront her and take away her scissors, which she wielded in a threatening manner. He didn’t get away without scars, including mental ones. In his memoir, he would write of his wish as a young man that the house of horrors in which he grew up would burn to the ground.

The Country Party vs the Ruling Party

From the Spectator:

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government’s agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about “global warming” for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.

The Politics of the King’s Shepherd

From Alastair:

Of all of the biblical psalms, perhaps Psalm 23 is the most familiar. I memorized this psalm as a child of approximately three years of age. Its words now move upon my lips with a sort of muscle memory born of much silent repetition, recalling me to the truth of God’s loving providential concern for me. Words that are so deeply sedimented in our consciousness are easily dulled to us on account of such familiarity, yet these words can still stir, revealing surprising truths that had hitherto crossed the threshold of our mouths unrecognized.

John Goldingay suggests the possibility that the opening line of the psalm, rather than being principally a statement about YHWH, is a claim that the psalmist is making about himself: ‘My shepherd is YHWH.’[1] Read in such a manner, the psalm comes into sharper relief as a powerful declaration of the speaker’s own confidence and trust in YHWH—it responds to the implicit question ‘who is your shepherd?’ In contrast to the various other gods, rulers, or resources that other people may trust to shepherd them through life’s dangerous times, the psalmist’s trust is in YHWH.

Reconstructing the Pooh Community

This is wonderful (HT to Alastair):

New Testament research is a field which has much to learn from comparative study—
from observing the trends and results of research in parallel fields of study. So I begin
my lecture this evening with an excursion into just such a parallel field—an excursion
from which we may be able to return to recent trends in research on the Gospel of
John with a fresh angle of vision.

Probably most of you will be familiar with the Winnie-the-Pooh stories—the
popular children’s books traditionally attributed to A A Milne. But you may not all be
familiar with recent developments in Winnie-the-Pooh scholarship, which has been
revolutionized in recent years as a result of one major methodological breakthrough
which virtually all Pooh scholarship now takes for granted. This is the seminal insight
that the Winnie-the-Pooh stories can be read on more than one level. Ostensibly, of
course, they are the story of a group of animals living in a forest, who are in some
sense identified with the soft toys belonging to Christopher Robin. But on another level
they are the story of the community behind the books, that community of children for
which the books were written. In the Winnie-the-Pooh books one specific community
of English children early this century—now generally known to scholars as the Pooh
community—has encoded for us a wonderfully revealing account of itself. With this
methodological key it is possible to a large extent to reconstruct that community: its
character, its history, its passions, its factions. For example, this community of children
is clearly situated in a rural and rather isolated context—a small English village, one
should assume. All the action of the story takes place in a forest, and the small caste
of characters seems to live entirely in a world of its own. The outside world never
impinges. Awareness that other children exist beyond the inward-looking circle of
the Pooh community is indicated only by the very generalized and vague references
to Rabbit’s friends and relations.

Still in the Game

From the WaPo:

BALTIMORE — Ben Barlow likens the baseball season to a metronome. It keeps perfect time — tick, tick, tick — and never stops. It’s ever-present and gives you something to plan not just your evenings by, but vacations, celebrations, entire lives.

“It just stays there. No matter whether things are going well or going poorly, the season’s just rolling along,” the 39-year old attorney said.

Barlow’s wife, Monica, worked for the Baltimore Orioles for 14 years, in charge of media and public relations. That meant Barlow spent much of his marriage at the ballpark or on the road with the team, waiting for a game to end or for another start, their daily lives generally at the mercy of the mechanizations of a baseball organization. So when Monica died last year at just 36, he lost his center and his entire universe was thrown off its axis.

He remembers some sympathetic soul telling him in the days after Monica died, “Can you even imagine being at the ballpark on opening day?” As in, Could he even consider exposing himself to all the searing reminders of everything that he’d lost?

Barlow didn’t have to think about the question too long.

“I can’t imagine not being at the ballpark,” he said.

The Necromancer Fighting ISIS

From the Daily Beast:

DAQUQ, Iraq — Of the American volunteers who have joined Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling against ISIS in Iraq, Mickey stands out. The blond hair combed back on his head comes to a point on his chin in a goatee, like the kind he might have worn when he was still riding with his motorcycle club in Colorado. Mickey is not his real name but it’s what he’s called by his fellow Americans and their Kurdish comrades. The name tape on his military uniform reads “necromancer.”

“The Peshmerga officer was dying next to me, but there was nowhere to go. He died there. I couldn’t move him because of all the machinegun fire,” Mickey tells me, describing a recent battle against ISIS.

Three weeks ago, 45 kilometers south of Kirkuk, near the city of Daquq, American soldiers were once again locked in deadly combat with Islamic extremists. This time though it was not the U.S. military or private security contractors. These were American volunteers fighting alongside the Peshmerga and wearing Kurdish flags.