Sunday, April 19, 2009


Three nuggets from the Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The first from Caitlin Flanagan in a piece on Columbine called The High Cost of Coddling:

In my teaching days, no single document shaped my thinking as much as Flannery O'Connor's 1963 essay called "Total Effect and the Eighth Grade." It concerned neither guns nor violence, neither cliques nor experimental approaches to the treatment of adolescent depression. It was about . . . books. In defending the teaching of the great works of the Western canon rather than those of the modern day (which kids far preferred), she said something wise, the sort of thing an adult might say. She said that the whims and preferences of children should always, always be sublimated to the sense and judgment of their elders.

"And what if the student finds this is not to his taste?" O'Connor asked. "Well that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed."

Next up is Meghan Cox Gurdon who notes that the efforts to scare kids green have now crept into children's literature:

As any parent can tell you, children like routine. They're not put off by predictability in stories. They're accustomed to princesses being pretty, dragons being fearsome, and, it seems, alas, their fictional businessmen being corpulent and amoral. So it's probably pointless to object to the eco-endlessness on the grounds of artistic feebleness.

Yet there is something culturally impoverished about insisting that children join in the adult preoccupation with reducing, reusing and recycling. Can they not have a precious decade or so to soar in imaginative literature before we drag them back down to earth?

Finally, Eric Felten celebrates A Welcome Sign of Vodka's Decline:

But the popularity of vodka among foodies was always perplexing. Vodka's neutrality and uniformity would seem to be at odds with the slow-food crowd's embrace of robust flavors reflecting specific locales. Back in 2005, among the best bartenders, the revolt against vodka had begun, even if it was still too underground to be seen in Food & Wine's cocktail compilation. But now, at long last, as a revolutionary theorist might put it, the contradictions inherent in the vodka paradigm have become apparent. It's as though there were finally the realization that making cocktails with vodka is like making paella with instant rice -- it can be done, of course, but it doesn't exactly burnish one's culinary bona fides.

How far has vodka fallen in the world of serious drinks-making? Out of about 200 recipes found in the original Food & Wine cocktail book, nearly 60 used vodka, making it the dominant spirit of the day. "Cocktails '09," by contrast, has only 10 recipes that call for vodka. And even those are mostly rather apologetic about it, with vodka used in a tertiary role.

A role that is should always be relegated to.

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