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 am re-publishing this "Skeptic's" column today because, if anything, it is even more relevant today than when it first appeared. I am also re-publishing it because, when I originally published it, politics used to be ... you know ... both fun and funny. So for a few moments, we can share a trip down Memory Lane to a time of comparative innocence.
Well, we are in that time of year again – July in general, and the Fourth in particular -- when we all make the obligatory pilgrimage to the First Church of American Exceptionalism, also known colloquially and variously as "the back yard" or "the deck" or "the patio", where we celebrate the Sacrament of Opportunistic Patriotism with beer instead of wine, with burgers instead of unleavened bread, on an outdoor barbecue grill instead of an alta
Ever since my very first exposure to it in 1979 as part of a Smithsonian Institution art-history seminar, one of my favorite art venues in Washington, DC, has been the venerable Phillips Collection, a few blocks east and perhaps a block south of the DuPont Circle DC Metro stop.
The Phillips Collection
There are many reasons for my respect and enthusiasm for “the Phillips,” but certainly one of the most salient reasons for my “evangelical” work on behalf of the Collection is that the Phillips houses Pierre Auguste Renoir’s great Luncheon of the Boating Party (hereafter Luncheon). (I refuse to call it, as some critics do, Boatman’s Lunch. Computers are expensive and I would rather not throw up on mine.) Aside from the sheer beauty of the painting itself, I enjoy watching others’