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Designer Trees? I Say ‘Humbug!’ to These Fashion Zombies

I suppose I'll make a lot of people mad and start some household fights, but I have to say it: Designer Christmas trees aren't the real thing. I'm willing to accept all varieties, sizes and shapes of Christmas trees as genuine. So long as the ornaments are many-colored, I'll go for all white lights, since the early trees had candles on them, after all. I'll even admit that some artificial trees from Thailand or China can qualify as "real;" in fact, our family has been thinking of getting one (we are always thinking of getting one). But I draw the line at self-consciously arty trees, especially those of monochromatic decorator design. You know them: the elegant ones with, maybe, all gold balls and gold ropes and bows. A two-color scheme isn't much better: the maroon and silver numbers, for example, with (yawn) all maroon ribbons and silver baubles and perhaps a silver light cleverly shining down on them from the ceiling. Such self-conscious concoctions are to real Christmas trees what robots are to human beings; they lack souls. Read More ›

Clinton Risks Leading Us Into Quagmire of ‘Vietnam II’

Vietnam started, too, with limited purposes in service of a universal goal (containing communism, in that case.) And it ended with a goal of merely getting our prisoners home - and with years of disillusionment. President Clinton, who cut his political teeth on opposition to the war in Vietnam, has learned some of the lessons of that conflict, but not the most important one: Don't send troops into a war unless you have a way to win and get out. Yes, of course, "peace enforcement" is not war, supposedly. But it also is not mere "peacekeeping," and in Bosnia even the latter resulted in the deaths of more than 200 United Nations troops. When the president says that the United States mission "may well involve casualties," and that if U.S. troops are attacked "they will have the authority to respond immediately and . . . with overwhelming force," what then follows, if not war? In explaining to the American people and Congress why he had avoided direct intervention earlier, the president said, "I decided that American ground troops should not fight a war in Bosnia because the United States could not force peace on Bosnia's warring ethnic groups: the Serbs, Croats and Muslims." Just so. But why does he think he has "forced" that outcome now, when the Bosnian Serbs are still uncommitted and when whatever commitments are made on paper mean so little in the Balkans anyhow? There have been 34 "truces" and "cease-fires" and other "agreements" before this one, and none has held up. What enables peacekeeping is a manifest and genuine desire for peace on all sides or, even better, the defeat and disarmament of the aggressors. Is someone planning to go door to door to disarm the Bosnian Serbs? Read More ›

Only A Fathead Would Ban Fat Substitute From My Junk Food

This confession, I realize, is hardly unusual enough to get me on the "Jenny Jones Show." Half of all adults in America and a fifth of our children are overweight, and my case is only marginal. But I probably would have ballooned up like the Michelin Man if it hadn't been for the sugar and fat substitutes that food companies considerately began inventing just as I entered middle age. Diet drinks are approaching a third of the market in some areas. You have to look hard for the sugar behind the little pink and blue packets of sugar substitutes at the latte stands; but who's looking? Now, it turns out that the good people at Procter and Gamble Co. are nearing the end of a long, expensive effort to get Food and Drug Administration approval for "olestra," a product that allows potato chips, tortilla chips and other "savory snacks" to be cooked with all the taste of the crunchy little devils we love today but with none of the fat and few of the calories. Soon enough, if the FDA agrees, olestra also can be used to prepare conscience-free french fries, peanut butter, cookies, cakes and ice cream. But the CSPI's evidence is misleading. For example, it cites a study wherein five of 17 people who used olestra products came down with "diarrhea, gas, bloating (or) nausea." Urp! That sounds bad. But CSPI doesn't mention a far bigger and longer study of 3,357 consumers that found no differences in digestive effects between the olestra snacks and regular, full-fat snacks. It also claims that potato chips made with olestra may block absorption of certain vitamins, but neglects to note that the same is true of regular potato chips, and, for that matter, milk. Read More ›
Photo by Daniel Lincoln
man standing near hole
Photo by Daniel Lincoln via Unsplash

Burying the Engine

When my children are grown, I hope they think of themselves as environmentalists, if that means they are filled with wonder at the sight of a bald eagle and the workings of a wetland. And I hope they think of themselves as humanists, if that means they are equally filled with wonder at the sight of a Van Gogh painting and the workings of the New York Stock Exchange or even an internal combustion engine. Read More ›

Coming Soon: The C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia

Zondervan’s landmark Lewis reference volume is scheduled for release on 1 June 1998. The C. S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia offers a wealth of information and insights from about 40 contributors. (For an annotated list of contributors who subscribe to The Lewis Legacy, see p. 13.) Among other features, this book includes a unique 4-column timeline of events in Lewis’s life, Read More ›

C. S. Lewis Notecards

On 8 August 1933 the Lewis brothers visited St. Mark’s, their family church in Belfast, to see the triple window they had commissioned for their parents there. It depicts Saints Luke, James, and Mark. To commemorate the 1899 baptism of C. S. Lewis by his grandfather, Thomas Hamilton, St, Mark’s is now offering beautiful notecards showing the colorful Lewis window. Read More ›

The C. S. Lewis Business: An Investor’s Dream

According to new research, the Dutch holding company that owns the Lewis literary estate (C. S. Lewis Pte Ltd) is named UITGEVERSMAATSCHAPPIJ EKSTER B.V. (The company’s president is Rudolph Sieber of Holland.) The director of C. S. Lewis Pte Ltd is Melvin Adams of Greystones, Ireland; and according to the Singapore Department of Statistics its official address is 2 Handy Read More ›

How C. S. Lewis Defends The Dark Tower

In 1997 a concerned inquirer wrote innocently to a Lewis estate employee, “I’m sure you are aware of the petition being circulated by the Discovery Institute at http.//www.discovery.org/lewis/petition.htm” In the exchange that followed, she received the following claims: “I have never heard of such a petition nor indeed of the URL that you quote.” “Ahh, perhaps you refer to the Read More ›

Kilnswatch: Early History of the Kilns Property

According to an Ordnance Survey Map of 1880, the Kilns property included a large clay pit from which clay was dug for processing in the two brick kilns that stood nearby, flanked by a very small house for the brickworker. There would also have been a roofed, open-sided shed for drying the bricks before firing them. The two cone-shaped brick Read More ›

The Kind of Business that Is Nobody’s Business

Douglas Gresham became Honorary Vice Chairman of the Kilns Restoration Committee of Endorsement in 1989. Steve Schofield soon asked Doug whether — as co-heir to Lewis’s literary estate — he was donating any of his windfall to the cause. Steve published Doug’s answer in the spring 1990 issue of the Canadian C. S. Lewis Journal. “As to whether or not Read More ›