Decades ago I heard someone from IBM project computer size. In the 1950s, he said, it took a whole building to house one that punched holes in cards. In the 1960s, a computer would fit into a single room, duly air-conditioned. By the 1970s the reductions would continue, and a computer would fit on a desk.
Wonderfully restored, 138-year-old Holy Communion Church beckons visitors and worshipers. The Chicago Tribune mentions that 20,000 immigrant members once made it the largest Catholic parish in the nation. "Today, the membership is at 200, but church officials said the neighborhood around Holy Communion is coming back and so should the parishioners."
Here is a nightmare for those who hate conflict: take a not very large or airy room in Washington, D.C., and jam it full of tables and microphones, chairs and cameras. Put a document on the table to test at a "public airing." Now invite to the table representatives of groups who are rarely in the same room together.
Many of us columnists have files stuffed with Christmas items that came to our attention too late to be used during the season but are sure to be misplaced before the next year. But I have one such clipping that's actually perfectly suited to the post-Christmas season.
The campaigns to discourage teens from smoking are counterproductive, says James Taranto in the American Enterprise (September-October). He has a point: teens often do rebel, and telling them not to do something is often the best way to get them to do it.
Tis the season for columnists to write their annual grumpy columns about how the season is misused. Here's my contribution. Advent, a time of penitence and expectation, should not be skipped over in the rush to Christmas. But why grump about the misuse of a season that hardly gets observed at all? Back when Christians were sometimes penitent and full of expectation, they did observe Advent.
Doctor Laura, the second-hottest thing in talk radio, often intrudes on my expressway reveries. Turn her on and it is hard to turn her off. People call in to spell out their dilemmas, and she, quick of brain and tongue and judgment, utters her dicta with all of the finality of a guillotine blade.
The Larry King show on October 16 featured a discussion of antigay violence in America. Among the guests was evangelist Jerry Falwell, who defended the authority of the whole Bible, including all four inches-worth of texts that might address homosexuality.
William F. Buckley Jr. recently described what riding the lecture circuit meant for him (New Yorker, October 12). "Your agent discloses . . . where exactly the lectures will take place. . . . I do not actually examine, until the plane has set down, . . .
American spirituality being what it is these postmodern days, anything can be turned into an icon, an idol, a god or an angel. I constantly scan the horizon for the impending arrival of the next deity, but it is hard to keep up.
Nostalgia and paradox seem to have nothing in common. Nostalgia is a single-minded devotion to a romanticized image of the past. Paradox, being double-minded, cannot describe anything in one-sided terms. But I read something recently that was both nostalgic and paradoxical.
I'm not going to debate whether lists of "the best" or "the worst" are valuable or destructive. Americans like lists of bests and worsts. So there. The Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly made a list of "the 25 most influential religious figures of the 20th century, from the point of view of Americans," and invited Peter Steinfels, Phyllis Tickle and me to comment.
Fewer people should be dozing off during worship, if items I'm seeing in church bulletins are any indication. For example, a United Methodist Church proclaims that it has "a longstanding tradition of whorshipful music." Another bulletin announces that "the ministers and choir will be disrobed for the morning service."
When there were only 474 days left until the new millennium--or 840, depending on when you think the 21st century starts--the Religion Newswriters Association asked people to comment on how the press might cover this turning of the ages. My list included suggestions about what not to comment on, as does this one.