I suppose there are still people around here and there who complain about the creeping secularism of the Holidays and who in consequence admonish others to “keep Christ in Christmas”. I well remember such exhortations from the time of my childhood, growing up in Wichita, KS. Such hortatory rituals were often accompanied by carols, religious services, and – I would argue, curiously enough – by a reading of Charles Dickens’ perennial A Christmas Carol. I say “curiously enough” because I have just finished reading Carol for the few-hundredth time and for the first time, I noticed the absence of Christ in Carol, except in a very "thin", allusive sense. Carol without Christ, or with Christ in the background of the background, is a much more universal, even “archetypal”, story of the awa
I freely admit that this "Skeptic's Collection" column is shamelessly self-indulgent. I wrote it about a year ago this coming Christmas, and it was one of the 2 or 3 most fun columns I have ever written in the five-plus years I have been Beguine's Skeptic-In-Residence. So, as a Christmas present to myself, I am republishing it here. Enjoy and merry Christmas!
OK! OK! So I am publishing the "stollen" column again, with minor emendations. Why? Because it was fun to write and to read. That's all!
I have good news and I have bad news.
The good news is that the week preceding Christmas Eve, my wife and I took the ferry up to Victoria, BC, where we had high tea at the venerable Empress Hotel.&nbs...
One of the customary criticisms of what we may generically call “modern” art is that the bizarre distortions of the figures in the works – even music, e.g., the works of John Cage – render the art inaccessible to any but the most sophisticated tastes and temperaments. Such critics point to, e.g., Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” and Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” as examples of modern art’s alienation from the public. (The late evangelical Christian writer Francis Schaeffer even went so far as to argue that “Nude” was actually evil and sinful, because it was a form of pornography in that it encouraged the viewer to search the image for a picture of a naked woman!) Compare Picasso and Duchamp, et al., with, e.g., the great landscape artists of the Hudson River School and