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JanieB's Posts

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In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and accidentally discovered the New World. Horizons bloomed; the frontier spirit was born. Although Europeans were already poking around the coasts of Africa and the Indian subcontinent, Columbus sparked what we studied in school as the “Age of Exploration.” Now it’s the Age of Exploitation–no […]

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I review a lot of children’s books for a website called Redeemed Reader. A common theme in children’s fantasy is “magic” as a lost element in a disenchanted world. The protagonist is born with some supernatural gift or sensitivity that no one appreciates, but once presented with a problem he (or she) forges fearfully ahead […]

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Magical Thinking (or, Nobody Knows Nothin’)

 

When I was a budding novelist, I quickly learned that the publishing world didn’t care about my aspirational goals. I had to conform to the publisher, not vice versa. As many positive thoughts as I lavished on my first novel, it never saw print because it wasn’t very good. Eventually I learned, over the 20-year process of writing three more unpublished novels, how to write fiction. It’s true that I probably wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t believed in raw talent worth developing. Positive thinking, while it bridged no gaps, at least provided a launching platform. But between the dream and the realization was a long (like, 20-year) stretch of hard work.

For some time now, I’ve had the feeling that our culture is marked, not by positive thinking, but by magical thinking. Psychologically, “magical thinking” is the belief that one’s personal thoughts, fears, and goals influence the outside world. Young children indulge in magical thinking all the time: a child who prays every night that his parents will stop fighting, for instance, could feel he’s to blame when Mom and Dad stop the fights by splitting up. This is normal for kids, but a grownup who indulges in such fantasies is called schizophrenic. Or a politician.

You remember when Barack Obama, after winning the Democrat presidential nomination, inspired his followers with rhetoric about the day the oceans stopped rising. Or Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican convention: “I alone can fix.” Trump at least had actually built things with steel and concrete, while Obama had built nothing but his own persona. But both were overpromising based on a magical (or at least inflated) view of themselves in the world.

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My husband was raising the alarm early in the 1990s. Even wrote a booklet about it, which he distributed to friends and family. Our government was overspending—there was a hockey-stick graph that showed the federal budget shooting up in the stratosphere (a billion-dollar deficit!!), with certain consequences for the near future. We were in our […]

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Mother’s Day: No Laughing Matter

 

I realized something for the first time when my kids were of an age for sleepovers and birthday parties: dads are funnier than moms.

I might have noticed it in my own house if it wasn’t right under my nose. My husband was the one to get on the floor and wrestle, start sock fights, and make jokes when it was time to get serious. That’s not to say I could never be found on the floor with kids crawling all over me, but there’s something different about mommy wrestling as opposed daddy wrestling–a certain lack of abandon and goofiness. My daughter would come home from a party or church event with stories about how Cheri’s dad had made them laugh while driving them to the skating rink, or how Leslie’s dad had played a stupid trick that backfired. It was never the moms. Mothers could certainly be fun (I’d like to think I was. Maybe. Sometimes.), but seldom funny.

Several years ago Jerry Lewis made a controversial statement when asked who his favorite female comedians were.  His answer: None, because women aren’t funny. That raised a stink among women, many of whom seriously protested that they were funny—which kind of proved his point, in a way.  I would say that women aren’t funny in the same way.  They can be witty (as my mother was), clever, sharp, catty, artless, or charming, but there’s a reason male standup comics far outnumber females, and it doesn’t have much if anything to do with discrimination.  Of those few successful female comics, most of them are known for the mordant kind of humor: the biting, even bitter kind.  It’s because women, more than men, have a tragic view of life.  And that’s because of one thing: women have babies.

JanieB

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