I Can't Bring Myself to Pit James Lileks . . . But . . .

I hate it when writers and humorists whose work you love disappoint you on a personal level. Like finding out that James Thurber and HL Mencken were Not Nice Fellows. Makes it a tad harder to enjoy their work.

Now. We all love James Lileks. His Institute of Official Cheer is sheer brilliance. I gave all my friends his book last year for New Year’s. But his Daily Bleat columns are beginning to disillusion me. First, I saw this last week, about the gay Episcopal bishop:

“‘I want to have sex with other people’ is not a valid reason for depriving two little girls of a daddy who lives with them . . . There’s a word for people who leave their children because they don’t want to have sex with Mommy anymore: selfish . . . the fact that he left mom for a man insulates him from criticism. It’s as if he had to do it. To stay in the marriage would have been (crack of thunder, horses neighing) living a lie, and nowadays we’re told that’s the worst thing anyone can do.”

OK. The fact that Lileks doesn’t understand the difference between “having an affair” and, yes, “no longer living a lie” is disappointing. I personally don’t understand why a gay man would get married to a woman in the first place. But owning up to one’s mistake and getting out of a situation that’s making everyone miserable? A smart and honorable thing to do.

So, I put it aside and continued to enjoy his Bleats, till I came across this today, on one of his photo tours of Fargo:

“But the old City Hall is still the same, a low clean modern building with the Ten Commandments standing out front. They’ll be gone soon, I’m sure, and that will be a powerful message to all those Fargoans who’ve been tossing atheists on the bonfire every Sunday morning.”

Aw fer chrissakes. OK, he is being “funny.” I’m sure he is not actually anti-atheist, though the whole “separation of church and state” thing seems beyond him, and he doesn’t understand how threatening such things can be to non-Christians.

I’m sure he is a Very Nice Man. I still think he is funny, and still enjoy his Institute. But I no longer want to have a drink with him after work at the Algonquin.

That’s the closest I can come to Pitting him.

“the fact that he left mom for a man insulates him from criticism.” Maybe not, but it certainly takes any of the sense out of it. There are lots of lies one can live - and living a lie is bad, especially in a marriage. (I have no idea why Lileks pooh-poohs this this notion.) The crux of the matter is the consequence of coming clean.

If, for instance, I had only pretended to hold down a regular job, and had been making my living as a skilled counterfeiter, I could admit everything to my wife and come clean. This would not necessarily mean the end of our marriage. I’d have to give up my criminal life and find ‘real’ work, in all likelihood, and even if I did that, it’s possible that my wife might have too much trouble coming to grips with my criminal past, but once past the shock, the lie of the past wouldn’t be a structural impediment to going forward on an honest basis.

But when the lie has been one’s sexual orientation, what then? “Dear, I’m gay, and that’s why we only have sex about five times a year; even then, I have to fantasize about men to get it up.” This does present a problem in going forward, unless both parties are willing to deal with an essentially chaste marriage. Maybe Lileks thinks that’s the sacrifice one ought to make for one’s children in such a situation, but that’s debatable at best.

And as far as the Ten Commandments are concerned, gimme a break, Lileks. (I figure we’ve debated this one enough here that I won’t raise the actual issues one more time.)

That bishop’s daughters are grown and fully support their father’s decision. It’s not like he abandoned two toddlers crying, “why is daddy kissing dat Bad Mans, mommy?”

And if he really can’t understand why “Keep the Sabbath holy” and “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me” is inappropriate to brandish before non-Christians in front of a US courthouse . . .

Damn. I still love his “Institute,” but I gotta stop reading his Bleats . . .

You should send these thoughts to him. I’m sure he gets tons of e-mails a day, but there is a chance he might happen across yours.

I generally disagree with Lileks politically. I do think he’s a reasonably thoughtful guy and is willing to consider other sides. Give him the opportunity to learn and the benefit of your knowledge and experience.

Eh, he doesn’t care what I think—I’m sure he must know he’s pissing off us East Coast, wild-eyed lefties.

Besides, I have it on good info he lurks here at the SDMB . . .

No comment on the bishop, but the second example doesn’t trigger my outrage meter.

I dunno, Eve, I think you’re reading too much into this, based on a personal hot topic. It’s definitely not anti-atheist. It is poking mild fun out at the people who have zero tolerance for any public display of anything that’s associated with religion, as if its very presence will incite the townspeople to start burning heretics.

Think of the following analogy, most people believe in animal rights but they still make fun of PETA because they’re fanatics.

Oh, go ahead, PIT the pasty-faced yuppie bastard. I like the Institute, too, but Lileks’ politics are for shit. It’s like he approaches social policy issues and all the intelligence drains out of his brain.

Let’s not forget he’s a self-centered househusband who could give a shit about regular folk. He THINKS he’s a regular guy, but he’s so far past the line for being a regular guy that regularness isn’t even a line to him … it’s just a dot.

Calvin Trillin, THERE’S a regular guy.

In the sake of full disclosure, I must also admit I am horrifically jealous of him—I wish I had a lawyer wife going out and bringing home obscene amounts of cash so I could stay home and work on my books and freelance columns. No, I gotta go to work every goddam day and clean up the grammar and punctuation of girls half my age with one-tenth my abilities and experience, and by the time I get home, I’m too disgusted to turn on my computer . . .

Umm, what were we talking about again?

Don’t forget he also uses Macintoshes. And likes them. He’s probably a god damned Communist.

His ex-wife also wrote a very complimentary statement about him and what a good man he is during the time in which his appointment was still questionable. I don’t know about other Dopers, but I’d be concerned if an ex-boyfriend of mine was asked to provide a character statement about me for the national media!

For a few years, I dated a guy, but eventually I felt neglected by him and broke it off. Years later I got in touch with him to just say that I’d put all that behind me and wanted to just let him know that I didn’t feel badly towards him any longer. He sprung the news on me that he was gay. I asked why he hadn’t just told me this when we were dating, and he explained that it wasn’t really even during dating that he realized it; he’d grown up raised strict Catholic in a very conservative town, and had been repressing/denying those feelings. He just knew that he didn’t really feel romantic love for me and was hoping I’d break it off with him so that (in a roundabout way) I’d hopefully feel less bad than if he dumped me. I can completely sympathize with the ex-wife’s (stated, at least) feelings here - obviously it never got to the married-with-kids stage between he and I, but there was an expectation of marriage among our families and friends, and on my part as well. Leaving someone under circumstances like this is nearly always the right and kind thing to do.

I agree with most of his politics, but somehow managed to miss the examples Eve posted. The first point is one of the things on which I disagree with him. The second… I’m an atheist myself, and that sentence strikes me as being rather ludicrous, but not necessarily reprehensible.

If that’s what he’s saying, maybe he ought to turn on a few brain cells first.

Seriously: who do you think has “zero tolerance for any public display of anything that’s associated with religion”? There are these things all over most towns called ‘churches’, and AFAICT almost nobody really objects to their existence.

This is the thing that really galls me about Stupid Syndicated Columnists. When punditry is your day job, you ought to be familiar with the obvious and well-known arguments about the more controversial subjects on the political landscape. When a commentator writes as though familiar arguments have never been made or responded to, I don’t always know whether it’s laziness or willful ignorance that has brought the columnist to such a state, but either way, it’s a pretty sad reflection on the commentator.

RTFirefly, I think your comment about Lileks was unnecessarily harsh, particularly because it’s not clear to me that you understand the issue. What I am referring to (and what I am * inferring * that Lileks is also referencing) is the recent opposition to religious symbolism in public spaces, e.g. Christmas nativity scenes on town greens, and things like that.

Some random background from the net: http://www.op.net/~bocassoc/issue11/article5.htm

While I am all behind separation of church and state, I think it can be carried to ridiculous extremes, e.g. forbidding a traditional holiday display of many years on a town-owned property.

I know about Mencken’s racism and anti-Semitism, but what did Thuber do?

Damn, it’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking anything right then!

OK, first of all, you said, “people who have zero tolerance for any public display of anything that’s associated with religion, as if its very presence will incite the townspeople to start burning heretics.” (Italics mine.) You’ve corrected yourself now, since the issue is about religious symbols on public property. But the thing is, if a display is public, why in heaven’s name would it “incite the townspeople to start burning heretics” to a greater or lesser degree based on whether the public display was on public property.

This is why your comment was idiotic.

IOW, state endorsement of religion should be allowed to continue where it has the sanction of long tradition.

I don’t exactly consider that being “all behind separation of church and state”, but to each his own.

Okay, I didn’t read Eve’s post clearly enough and that second comment really confused the heck outta me 'til I realized the town was called “Fargo.” I thought Fargoans were the memebrs of some freaky sect or something. I feel dumb now. However, his comment still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I know he’s exaggerating and being clever for the sake of humor, but the connection seems so… I dunno, nonsensical, that it’s just not amusing at all. I mean, his ire seems so misdirected–the whole Tenth Commandment debate doesn’t strike me as being about atheists being persecuted, even leaving aside the hyperbole. That’s not the point, so his clever little aside just seems mean-spirited.

As for the first comment: :rolleyes:. I seldom use that smily, but nothing else seems appropriate here. It’s just so off-the-wall.

Governor Quinn, maybe she was talking about misogyny? I was curious as well and one site said that, “Thurber’s misogynist theme of war between men and women has been criticized by his feminist readers.” I dunno, just a guess.

I’m forced to conclude that you are irony-impaired. This is exactly Lilek’s point, which you seem to have arrived at through some unnecessarily tortuous process.

I’m confused – you thought * my * comment was idiotic, but you insulted Lileks? Even though the meaning of my statement was clear from context to anyone who had read Lilek’s piece and had thought for even a moment before hitting the keyboard with their reflexive kneejerk? Really, if you’re going to participate in a debate, even in the relatively uncompetitive confines of MPSIMS, could you please do your homework first?


Even irony has to be based on fact to make sense, let alone be ironically humorous.

The meaning of your statement was quite clear: you didn’t know what you were talking about. And rather than attempting to explain how you do, you’re just saying, “gee, it’s obvious. You haven’t done your homework.”

Since I’ve been actively involved in GD debates on this issue over the past four years (and haven’t seen you much in those debates), I figure (a) I’ve done my homework, (b) you haven’t, and © you’re just bullshitting here.

I’d Pit you, Finagle, but you aren’t worth the trouble.

I’d almost welcome that because it would give me a chance to actually figure out what has you so hot and bothered. (I can’t even tell from context what your stand on Church and State is, not that I care.)

I’ve heard of making mountains from molehills, but you seem intent on making a molehill from an optically flat surface.

Moderator’s Notes"

In any case, we’re done slinging barbs here in MPSIMS, right?