November 24, 2015

Alliterations and Asides Adhered by Asterisks

It's an odd thing to be able to time travel via YouTube to the final New Year's Eve celebration of Guy Lombardo and his wacky Canadians. It was 1976, and he had 11 months to live before succumbing to a heart attack, but Guy was in his glory looking fit and full of energy and life.

The cheese quotient was high. Cheesy songs, cheesy hairstyles, cheesy clothes. There was also a kind of, perhaps barely definable, difference in mannerisms and faces. TV is a cool medium and the partiers didn't know that yet.

This was the heartland of my youth. 13 years old.  It was especially odd to think that the great majority of the couples there are now dead or in nursing homes. Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shall (soon) return. Even the pretty 30-year old girls are now 70, and the average age on television was probably 50, making for an average age now of nearly 90. There's definitely a jarring aspect to that. When I was 25 I knew, on paper at least, that people get old. But without the experience….unless I put my fingers in the hand of someone who was once young (or look at myself in the mirror), I could not believe it.

The greatest song of the '70s, according to Lombardo, was “Feelings”, a tune that never much appealed to me then, nor now, even with the hazy glaze of nostalgia. They did a cover version of "I Write the Songs" by Manilow. High sugar content.

24 degrees; ice on the patio. Time waits for no man. We get maybe 25,000 days, 35,000 at most. Or much less. Another one has sped by.

It is the time of death and disfigurement; the trees mourn their leaves and the Church remembers the end times now for good reason. I wonder how it is in the southern hemisphere, when the recollection of the souls departed, as well as the contemplation of our own death, occurs in sunny, spring-like November. Seasonally, it's a northern church we have.


I think God is anti-sin not only because it hurts others but equally because it hurts ourselves. I used to think he was mainly concerned about sin simply because of its deleterious effect on others but he loves us too, and he loves us individually such that anything that hurts us or our one-on-one relationship with Him is anathema to him. Certainly if we sin against a saint, as the Nazis did against St. Maximilian Kolbe by murdering him, it hurts St. Max not so much in the long run, but really hurts themselves far more, since Kolbe is in Heaven and they are in…an bad situation.


Last night was splendorized by goodly reading of Peggy Noonan's new book. The introduction was magical in how she talked about the summers she spent with two poor Irish aunts, one widowed and one never married, in the country. It, along with National Review (including book reviews of the Reagan fiction by Mallon and a bio of the mystical Russell Kirk, was much enjoyed.


A poor Buckeye outcome. OSU felt ill-fated all year given how they struggled constantly on offense and had misadventures like Cardale Jones going from world beater to egg beater and poor JT Barrett getting his DUI. It feels like it wasn't meant to be, and to be beaten by a MSU team at the Horseshoe with a second string QB sings volumes. Ain't the Buck's year.Given the good spirit of an MSU team down in the mouth, i.e. with an injured starting qb, you got to love their spunk and drive and there was a sense of justness about their win.


'Round 1pm I headed out with our dog Max for an old-fashioned Saturday walk, like the times of olde I took Obi to Darby Creek park. We came across bison in a field only a few feet away. Love seeing those big brown hulks with whale-like eyes and tusks that sound a bass note when they strike another's. They were so slow-moving that Max didn't even know they were alive or real, and totally missed them. I had to wait till one was moving towards us and lift Max up over the fence and boy did that got his attention. I let him down and he stared with his ears up, not making a move for a good thirty seconds as the curious animal slowly approached. Then Max started barking like crazy and I had to pull him away with herculean effort. Fortunately there was a fence between them lest he get gored.


Distracted by another shiny object: a farmer's almanac iphone app. Spent too much time setting favorites and exploring all the features that I will never, ever look at, such as where the constellations are tonight or the moon phase. Why the moon phase should be of importance I'm not sure, although the full moon brings out the wolf in people, so I hear. So that's important to know. Don't want to go to an emergency room during a full moon - plan your accidents or illnesses for another phase.


“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” goes the famous saying.

Semen, of course, comes from the Latin meaning “seed”. And I got to thinking about the difference between blood and semen. Semen sows natural life, blood eternal life (especially Christ's blood). Semen, in most circumstances that lead to life, is the product of love between two people conjoined with intense physical pleasure. A martyr's bloodshed is the product of love between God and man conjoined with intense physical pain.


Russell Kirk quote:
"A truly humane man is a person who knows we were not born yesterday. He is familiar with many of the great books and the great men of the past, and with the best in the thought of his own generation. He has received a training of mind and character that chastens and ennobles and emancipates. He is a man genuinely free; but free only because he obeys the ancient laws, the norms, which govern human nature. He is competent to be a leader, whether in his own little circle or on a national scale—a leader in thought and taste and politics—because he has served an apprenticeship to the priests and the prophets and the philosophers of the generations that have preceded us in our civilization. He knows what it is to be a man—to be truly and fully human."

Cardinal Dolan mentioned the atrocities in Paris and remarked wearily that it's the same as it ever was. Man and war are inseparable. As irrational as the terrorists are, it's also irrational for me to expect a peaceful and rational world. I read recently a famous quote: “History is an abattoir.” A slaughterhouse.

And so while keen is my frustration at having an enemy so unmerited as that of radical jihadists, I have to recognize that to every generation enemies are given. They are a given. The Devil exists and hatred seems the default setting for many people. So I should not think I am so special that I don't deserve enemies. Only one man didn't deserve enemies and we see where that got him: crucified.

November 20, 2015

Seven Quickies (as made popular by Jennifer Fulwiler)

Proof positive that I'm utterly and hopelessly out of the mainstream:

1) I couldn't believe America could be shallow enough to elect someone with as invisible a resume as Obama as president in '08


2) I wouldn't/couldn't/can't believe Trump is seeing.

My barber Barb feels similarly. I mentioned that Trump was coming to Columbus on Monday and she laughed at his name, which I thought telling. You can't but smile when you hear his name, it's like a punchline. She said she can't believe people are taking him seriously given his lack of impulse control when it comes to his mouth. No filter. I agreed, saying I can't believe some people want to give him the nuclear codes.

The black shoeshine man there chipped in some “colorful” news "facts". The killing in France was retaliation for a French bombing in Egypt that had clipped the nose off one of the Pyramids.  Bush knew the planes were headed for World Trade Center but didn't want to shoot commercial planes down. What's the fuss about Planned Parenthood making money off baby parts was because you'd be surprised at how many of our foods (like Heinz) use baby parts in their recipes.

You can't argue with insanity so I said, “man, I ain't eatin' no babies!”, said like “I ain't afraid of no ghosts!” in Ghostbusters. Barb immediately got my reference from the tone of voice, the way I said it.

There's low info voters and there's bad info voters.  For this country I can only weep. The show's over, we can all go home.

When Barb said Obama wasn't any worse than any other recent presidents I said I couldn't support any president whom the Little Sisters of the Poor are suing. Scooped them all on that story. Figured it didn't make the national news enough to filter down to average Jane.


I am blown away by how good a writer is Edmund Morris. His pen is pyrotechnic, his talent prodigious. His Teddy Roosevelt biography was legendary enough such that Ronald Reagan chose him as his official biographer. The result, Dutch, was panned at the time of publication for its creative license and fictional additions, and rightly so perhaps, but Morris sure is winning me over with the entertainment value (I sound like a Trump voter!)  Maybe as I age I'm more interested in truth than facts and sometimes facts don't give you the real truth, and sometimes the truth can't be reduced to mere facts.

My interest in Reagan has recently been on the ascendant given how I've begun to internalize the fact that I will likely never see his like again. He may be “my president”, the one great one every generation (century) is allotted. Trump, Obama, Shrillary - they all make me go back, nostalgically perhaps, to that morning in America, and I have a new understanding of just how rare it is to have the stars and the man and the time align.

Just as I was spoiled as a child with Reds baseball success (they went to the World Series when I was 7, 9, 12, and 13), I was spoiled with the first president I ever had the opportunity to vote for, Ronald Reagan. Since then I've voted many times with middling success; I count Kasich as Ohio congressman in the '90s and as governor in '10 as particularly satisfying, and Pat Buchanan in '96 felt really good. But other than those the well has been pretty dry. Now most of my votes are as unenthusiastic as they are dubious: Bush in '04, McCain in '08, Romney in '12.

I rewarded Bush in '04 despite his incompetency in Iraq. I voted for McCain despite his obsession with foreign policy and hawkishness. And I voted for Romney despite the fact that he flip-flopped more often than a pancake at iHop.

I felt a brief flair of enthusiasm for Palin when she was tapped as McCain's running mate until she self-destructed in a painful but glorious fireworks display. I had to learn the hard way not to put my trust in Republicans. (Democrats, I already had down pat.)

No matter. They can't take the Reds championships away, nor the triumphs of Reagan. It's all good, as the kids say.


A segue to something much more edifying.  Great point from Pope Benedict from one of his books on Jesus:
"We should not suppose for a moment that the “Lord’s Supper” ever consisted simply of reciting the words of consecration. From the time of Jesus himself, these words have always been a part of his berakah, his prayer of praise and thanksgiving.
For what was Jesus giving thanks? That his prayer was “heard” (cf. Heb 5:7). He gave thanks in advance that the Father did not abandon him in death (cf. Ps 16:10). He gave thanks for the gift of the Resurrection, and on that basis he could already give his body and blood in the form of bread and wine as a pledge of resurrection and eternal life (cf. Jn 6:53–58)."


Interesting FB comment from Fred K:
"De Lubac's book Catholicism blew my mind when I read it. Sadly, nobody else brings out the deep, Patristic connection between the social teaching of the Church and the sacramental mystery like he does. Everybody else wants to take the mystical for granted and move on to ethics only."
Yes, that's so true. You can't get to the ethics before you get to the love. The love has to come first.  You'll never get to love via rules (witness the Pharisees) but you can get to rules with love (witness the saints). Although of course the Ten Commandments did precede Christ, the Old Law preceding the New Law, but I've always chalked that up to man's slow discovery rather than to God's design. I could be wrong.


In-laws Thanksgiving the other day. About which I had misgivings. Trying to celebrate a holiday on another day just doesn't work. It feels forced and there's no spirit, no reminders or associations to it. No Detroit Lions on TV, no TV/radio/newspaper exclamatories that put you in the holiday mood. Nothing at all to suggest an ordinary Sunday like the15th is “Thanksgiving”.  But a family gathering is its own reward.


Read part of Ted Koppel's book on the next big terrorist event: the bringing down of the electrical grids.  It's not if it's when, and coming from such an eminently respected source (i.e. not an Apocalyptic prepper), it's doubly scary.  The more I read about it, the more I think of how little we can do to prepare as individuals.  At the very least I should buy more bottled water, more food for home storage, a generator.  But all of that will be pitifully inadequate if cyber-terrorists send us back to the mid-19th century, as they could do.  It's a situation where money can't insulate you.  A good reminder of how dependent we really are. What I especially hate is how it'll likely happen when I'm in my golden years, which is when I can least take something of that magnitude happening like that. But then I won't be alone and even youth can't protect you when there's no water (due to our water supply being dependent on electricity) or food.  It makes me wonder why government isn't more concerned about it given that even self-interested congress members won't be immune from the chaos, one would think.

So that wasn't exactly cheery.  A gratitude to make up for it:
"Here ends another day, during which I have had eyes, ears, hands and the great world around me.  Tomorrow begins another day.  Why am I allowed two?" - Chesterton

Chapter 13 of the book of Wisdom reads like it was written for today.  Really speaks to the modern.  Perhaps it's fitting that a Biblical book that appreciates beauty finds a home in only the Orthodox and Catholic Bibles given Ortho & Cath emphasis on beauty.

The book was heavily influenced by the Hellenic spirit. From a commentary:
"Wonder or amazement normally forms the basis for attaining wisdom, since it leads to questions and analysis of experience. This experience should lead one to work “by analogy,” that is, by comparisons, to reach the beautiful and powerful Creator (v. 5). Note that the emphasis on beauty is not strictly a Hebrew interest but more Greek."

I can count on one finger the number of times I've seen interesting art in a corporate office, so I was transfixed enough to steal into one office when the new owner was gone.  I even took pictures.  There was a sketch of Abraham Lincoln with some scene at bottom, a vibrant and colorful Kandinsky print, and a 1800s-era depiction of the steamship *Lexington* burning, one of Cornelius Vanderbilt's.   (It burnt due to bad ship design, which I suppose might be the moral of that one - design and plan well O company less you burn and sink!)


Many holy Catholics find Pope Francis borderline heretical but I'm forever in his debt for his encyclical on climate change. It really lit up my mind, expanded it, gave me a stronger belief in the goodness of matter (since it was created by God).  It made me 50% less Gnostic by volume. For those on the Left with an open mind I can't believe it wouldn't touch them evangelistically.  On paper it seems a master stroke - affirm what the non-believers affirm (the importance of Mother Earth) by pointing to the Creator and Father God.

I've slowly experienced a revolution in my thinking on nature and matter.  First there was that glimmering paragraph in a book by Mark Judge about swimming in the ocean and the sheer goodness of it all. Then came our beloved dog Obi's death and I struggled hard to try to reconcile why God would create something only to destroy it, and then came the climate change encyclical.  They have all taught me to take more seriously God's care and concern over not just our Spirit but our bodies, and environment, and animals, etc.. And I've begun to see that we're not spirits trapped in bodies, but fused body and souls, not originally intended to be separated and only temporarily so.

Psalm 24:7 opened my eyes as well when I thought of the doors opening to God were my own, my own flesh made of God's ancient matter.  I always think how it takes a saint to empty bedpans, to be so comfortable with the muck and mire of bodily fluids.  But if I have a truly enlightened view of matter perhaps I wouldn't be so put off by those things that are part of being human and are God's ex nihilo creation if in a somewhat disguised form, to put it mildly.  


From a Lenape Indian in the 18th century to a white man: "My friend, it seems you lay claim to the grass my horses have eaten, because you had enclosed it with a fence.  Now tell me, who caused the grass to grow? Can you make the grass grow?"  Very Pope Francis-ish.


Genealogy research came about by yesterday having received a requested copy of a great aunt's SSN application.  Finally the elusive daughter of my elusive great-grandfather has been pinned down, if only for a brief moment in time:  4/1/1941. Address 248 Broome St. -- right in the heart of the Lower East Side.  Manhattan in all its fullness. She was dirt poor, as were all of they were in that area, but what an amazing experience to live in a place where the whole world was present.  Recent immigrants from so many countries, all living cheek by jowl in the capital of the world.

In Praise of Java

In the beginning was the bean.
And it was good.

Crushed, it gave life to those who would
drink the Fragrant born of Yemen
herited to Brazilian highlands.

Morning mate and evening sate,
it clears the mudwebs of the spunwebs
it uncoils the recoils of our fogginess.

Oh bitter Arabica, you light up my brain
like '80s Donkey Kong.

If you came in a bottle everyone would drink you.

November 12, 2015

Rome Burns, Congress Fiddles

Fresh from this scary read from "prepper-in-training" Ted Koppel, I see an email from my Congress representative:
The leaves are falling and the weather is becoming colder, which means winter is quickly approaching. As the seasons begin to change, I’m asking you to send my office your digital photos of your favorite sights and memories from this Fall so we can highlight and showcase Ohio’s 15th Congressional District!
 Oy vey.

November 11, 2015

Health Care Costs Higher than Inflation (Again)

Gosh, what in the world would we have done without savior Obama? 

November 10, 2015

Retreat Notes

Into each life a little retreat doth fall, so I went to one at St. Therese's Retreat Center in Columbus.  (Here, not here!)  By 5pm I'm comfortably ensconced on a couch that overlooks the natural scenery of the open window bank, namely this one:

This structure was built in 1931 with splendid light availability; now the downtown Columbus Library is spending about 30 million dollars to have a similar space, an atrium with plentiful natural light.

The great Fr. John C. is holding forth on the virtue of love in this conference and the good padre just walked by my “private aerie”:
“Hello Father!” I say.
“I'm making myself comfortable.” (I was laying crossways on the couch, my feet resting on the armrest.)
“Good, that's what we're here for!” 
Meaning the retreat, not life itself I'm guessing.


In his first homily on spiritual prudence  Fr Corbin spoke about how...'s no wonder there's so much confusion around religion. We often aren't prudent concerning the things we can see, let alone that which we cannot. Which is why we need to pray to ask to be given light.  An example of spiritual imprudence was the mean nun in Song of Bernadette film who, due to her strenuous fasting schedule, felt a more worthy recipient of the apparitions at Lourdes.

Mentioned the confusion of the bishops at the Synod as illustrative of the difficulty around spiritual prudence.  Little things matter hugely in the Kingdom of God: Imagine a child being cuffed by police at the Louvre. “Oh, what could he have possbily done so bad?” you ask. "He drew a mustache on the Mona Lisa!."  “Oh yes, now I understand!”

Little things matter a lot in the case of a masterpiece. If the child had drawn a mustache on wallpaper of your house, you might smile or not much care.   So, are we old wallpaper or God's masterpieces?  We see ourselves as wallpaper, but God sees us a masterpiece and takes little things seriously.

The synod on marriage is an example in that the Bible points to marriage as a symbol of Christ's love for his people. A masterpiece. We may see it as no different than a strong friendship, and you don't vow to stay friends with someone forever. In the eyes of the world, marriage makes no sense. Divorce tarnishes the image of the love of God for his people. The boy ruining the Mona Lisa ruined it for others. Similarly the divorce culture to those with eyes of faith.


There are two main false notions of love: to try to remove emotion from it,  or to try to remove the intellect from it.  But we are both emotion and intellect, God made us this way.

To over-intellectualize love is what Communism tried to do.  Stalin instituted reforms that suppressed natural affection (such as for one's land) for the common good. You have to turn in your spouse if they undermine the system. The greatest good for the greatest number of people was the rule, without regard to personal emotion you might feel for your land or your spouse.  To make our love entirely intellectual results in the French Revolution and the Stalin regime.

The other error is less dangerous but much more common these days. It's less prone to being systematized. It's an oversentimentality that reduces love to mush, to merely an emotion.  An example is “pet parents”, by the fetishing of animals.  Example being a lady who called in on a vet show asking what to do about her dog making a friend of a neighbor's dog and they're moving.  Should she make doggie visits to Germany?   "Mushiness" collapses the difference between human and animal.


Our mind and body are fused, which is why environments matter. The Word became flesh - the Word didn't put on a cloak of flesh. Emotions are more than just physiological, they are elevated by mind.  This is why beautiful churches matter.  Stained glass windows aid our emotional bond with God.

[Regarding the importance of environments, I asked him why Europe is so weak in faith given so many beautiful cathedrals and he said because aesthetics is not a replacement for faith. In the Middle Ages the people saw the soaring towers and stained glass beauty and saw God, while moderns maybe see technical genius, great artistic technique, or a nostalgia for the faith of old, etc.. He said some do come to faith via going into a cathedral and being wowed, but it doesn't happen too often.]

We need passion to get us going. Passion moves us, otherwise we'd never get out of bed. Mind and body linked which is why we act to avoid evil or to gain good. If mind and body weren't linked we wouldn't move out of a burning bedroom; we'd note the burning with our mind with detachment.

We all love, because we all move, and love is the basis for all action. We move out of the burning building because we love ourselves. So the trick is, as St. Augustine said, to love rightly so that we'll act rightly.

Even though we are rational beings, we can't will love, or force it. There needs to have something trigger it.  Good is what turns the will on. You have to see something good in something or someone in order to love them. There's no such thing as pure will power. When someone doesn't do something they say they want to do, Fr C tells them that they simply don't see enough good in the action.  If I don't eat well, it's because I don't see enough good in eating well.

Love draws you out of your comfort zone, which is why people do foolish or awkward things when in love. You find yourself in awkward situations. Goodness is the lure, the trap, that God uses to get us out of ourselves.   God got "out of Himself" by creating in the first place, and by becoming man in Christ.


Ecstasy means literally going outside one's self, one's body. We do this when we sacrifice for someone, and when we physically die, when our spirit literally leaves our body.

God's ecstasy was via creating and by going outside himself by coming to earth in the incarnation.

Fr. C says he sometimes gets harsh criticism from homilies that he considers innocuous. A recent one that drew fire was when he said, “God treats us as friends, not pets.” People were outraged, as if he were demeaning pets: “My dog is my friend too!”

Aristotle mentions three kinds of friendship: pleasure (i..e. sharing a love for stamp collecting), useful (politics and business - a means to an end), and virtuous. The last is wanting someone to have good things - not a zero sum game. Example is how you wish for someone else a greater knowledge of God because that's what you want for yourself as well. And you both share the fruits of your respective knowledge.



Overheard a guy call his wife during retreat:
“Well, I haven't pissed anybody off yet, and no one's pissed me off.”
A kind of small bar to hurdle, one would think.


A thought that occurred to me last week while bearing a tiny gripe: "Cross, meet carry. Carry, meet cross. Let no man put asunder what God has joined."


Heard an older gent talking about his time choppering in Vietnam, of differing ration amounts, of temperature variances (130 degrees on ground, nice and cool in the chopper), of the fact they had a px and his wife sent him tons of stuff including better flak jacket. Probably 65-67 years old now - hard to believe that a war in my lifetime has participants nearing 70.

November 05, 2015

Recent Gospel Readings at Mass

You could get whiplash reading Luke 14:25 through the early verses of Luke 15.

Jesus appears to go from the ultimate “Church conservative” to the ultimate “Church liberal” in a single breath (chapters being a later addition).

But the mark of a true Christian is surely one who is willing to take correction, not just inspiration: “We must allow the Word of God to correct us the same way we allow it to encourage us,” said A.W. Tozer.

One commentary comments accordingly:
In view of the stern teaching on renunciation just recorded it is a remarkable contrast to find the publicans and sinners drawing near to Jesus to hear him; a clear proof that he could speak with such apparent severity without ceasing to show himself the kind and loving person Luke has presented to us in his earlier chapters.
Now that's impressive and not easily done. Maybe we get an inkling in Pope Francis who is mostly beloved to the outside world despite a mix of very tough talk and very tender talk. Admittedly, the tough talk is mostly music to the current Zeitgeist (i.e. environment, poverty, etc..).

Another point made elsewhere:
The two parables that follow, 28–33, proper to Luke, are meant to illustrate this lesson: count the cost before undertaking the duties of discipleship. They also contain the following implied contrast: in worldly affairs, like building and going to war, money and goods are essential to success; the opposite is true in the great affair of the world to come. 

The Struggle of a Prayer of Petition

The first U.S. president I diligently prayed for was George W Bush which makes me feel, er, ineffective at best and a counter-indicator at worse. (I was inspired, by the way, in this endeavor by reading how Fr. John McCloskey was doing the same.)

The Bush presidency seems a disaster, especially with regard to Iraq, which cost so many lives and casualties, destabilized the Middle East, decimated the Christian presence there and ultimately gave us Obama. Hard to have faith in prayer for a leader after that, even when the leader himself is a serious Christian.  Of course the answer is that a president has free will, like all of us.

My prayer might be tiny, like trying to push a boulder with a pinkie, but I picture it as a tug of war where one extra hand can tip the balance. Or like voting, where a single vote is pitifully, almost infinitely weak, except when it isn't. I still should vote and I still should pray.

November 03, 2015

The Unbearable Beauty of a Beach Vacation

Notes from a Trip (or It's a Dog's Life)

The broad Atlantic
blustery and gruff of mien
The sea has her moods. 

(As do dogs.)

On an atmospheric fall morning we saw four or five dolphins playing in the ocean but the reverie was broken since there's no such thing as an uneventful dog walk down here.  Took them on a spur-of-the-moment beach "stroll',  Stroll being a euphemism for a chaotic cattle drive.

Two dogs under two = a challenge. Or two challenges. They took turns challenging us (and mostly winning).  Max got loose this morning thanks to me not putting the leash over both loops of the breakable collar, so he, natch, broke loose.  We found him relatively quickly.  Later Maris broke loose when she wheeled backward while Steph was trying to get her to do walky dog on bikes, and that took some retrieval effort.

Another misadventure had been taking them on a run down the beach before that;  Max began eating the leash while I ran, and I thought he wouldn't make too much dent in it but I awesomely misunderestimated his teeth power.  He ended up going through almost half the leash in the first five minutes. So I had to run by holding him above the fray mark, leaving him just about six inches of leash.  He didn't have room to turn his head and chew his leash that way, but it did affect the run adversely since I couldn't run fully upright.  I was thinking: "gee, imagine how nice this would be if I wasn't running with a dog."

Another misadventure was taking them to the beach just after 4pm. It seemed like a good idea on paper: let them romp in the sea using long leashes and have them expend energy.  I ended up doing the romping in the sea, cajoling them to come in, but they were more interested in playing together or separately on land.  Or going intercontinental ballistic every time a dog passed by, which was early and often.

After the ocean play attempts, we tied them up to the beach marker sign but Steph decided after a minute that the leash was too long and they'll get stickers in the brush just beyond shore.  So we shorten the leashes and I'd just sat down for the first time all afternoon when Max immediately decides to try to dig up a crab in the sand, and he made remarkable progress in a very short time, putting sand all over me, my chair, my drink, you name it.  I moved my chair out of the line of fire quickly, but then he moved his angle and I got more sand.  (Later I took photos of the Max hole to China to commemorate it.)

At that point we mercifully cut our losses and trooped them all the way back to the condo and their crates.  Then we headed back to our beach spot and immediately moved due to tide coming in.  Steph spilled her beer in the wagon during this maneuver, which was an appropriate enough symbol of the past couple hours.

The words of my boss Philip haunt: "Two puppies doesn't sound like a vacation to me."  But, on the bright side, it's early. Relaxation wasn't built in a day.

Taking a walk with a dog on the beach is no walk in the park, metaphorically speaking. It's of a different quality. For one thing, everybody you see wants to pet them and talk dogs, so it's much more of a social thing. Also you have to be conscious of the dog at all times as far as leash-straining or tangling or what have you.


At Sunday Mass, the deacon shamed those people leaving early by saying about six times sarcastically and loudly, "Thanks for staying to the end of Mass!  Thank you so much!" The people leaving did not look around, either pretending not to hear or not hearing due to sudden-onset deafness. I noticed nobody reversing course and coming back to their seats.

The deacon then handed the mic over to a lady who announced names of about a dozen kids who won some sort of award at the local Catholic schools, had them come up and receive them, so Mass continued for another ten minutes or so past the end of Communion.  If you're going to leave early this seemed the week to do it.


"Liquor's quicker" goes the saying, and poetry is too, quicker to the transcendent. So I read, on I read, the Keillor *Good Poems* anthology. Direct mainline to the brainstem.

Who doesn't fancy themselves a poet when on the shore? I play the part, a library in view to passersby with me busily transcribing something of surely great import.  Looking at the sea and life and books with a shrewd eye born of a proper education and proper martinis. Surely I could be mistaken for a writer: late middle-aged, at the sea in October (the poetic season), reading, writing, and listening to the arithmetic of the sea.  By myself, which is the only way a writer can be.  Call the epic: "The middle-aged man and the sea."  With apologies to Hemingway.

Two retired couples in their 60s, stand a mere ten feet away on a beach that is nearly empty. They burst my bubble of imagined depth. They look out at the ocean like extras in a life insurance or brokerage commercial.

At the tender hour of 6:40, the sun retires after a lackluster effort. There's always tomorrow I tell it.

I now have the unenviable task of trying to cart a wagon on a non-existent beach back to our place.  It could be interesting. I can either go over the foothills and sea oats of land, or through the gusts of ocean that pour ceaselessly forth. I'm thinking the latter.  The sand route could be difficult due to the wagon sinking its wheels in the drenched sand/water.  The overland route could be difficult due to the stickers and rough surface. (I ended up going overland, on the lip-cliff of land, with precarious near tumbles into the water.)


Sweet bliss, the sun reappeared today at 10am after a long fight with darkness and gloom.

Just now I've set up camp in a sand crevice at the mouth of the walkway to the beach. Not a bad spot at all - the sea has come to me, just a foot below and beyond, and I can breathe in the rich, tang-salt air.

Today and yesterday has featured something called a "king tide", which is, as the name implies the tide of all tides. It slipped over the marina wall in Harbor Town, and some residents have said it's the highest they've seen in over three decades. Apparently it occurs when the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars...., er, no that's the age of Aquarius. Actually it's when there's a full moon and a perigee of some sort simultaneously, but then I'm lame at science.

There's nobody walking the beach today because there is no beach. It's all sea, a crazy sight. Although the tide is slowly moving out so a beach is being created.


Tensions arose when Steph could't find one of Max's hundred collars and I was too obtuse to understand which one; we have so many collars and leashes that it's hard to communicate which one was missing. A partial list of dog paraphernalia (times two dogs):

1. running halter
2. regular halter
3. walky dog bar leash for bike
4. slip leash
5. chain metal leash
6. running belt
7. retractable leash
8. breakaway collar
9. slip-on can't-back-out-of collar
10. collar collar (i.e. non-breakaway) - probably no longer in use due to it being dangerous in multi-dog homes

Somewhere Thoreau is weeping.

To further complicate things, to take a dog for a walk we need two collars on him or her, a breakaway collar (that has the GPS device and nametag and number to reach if lost) and the slip-on can't-back-out-of-it collar since they can maneuver out of the main collar. It's gotten so complicated that I try to keep a low profile during the major prep work that involves a dog walk. So many leashes and collars to choose from. I play dumb, which certainly isn't a stretch in many situations.


Today read some of a Hilton Head book, a collection of stories and anecdotes from would-be local writers. One lady said that the book of Isaiah is her favorite book of the Bible, and I thought about how there are things in that book that I certainly love. I can see the attraction. But it also reminded me of how the Old Testament is still much unfamiliar to me except for Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms and Job. I think with greater Biblical literacy you're more able to find a book that you wildly identify with, besides just the old dependable chestnuts of, say, the gospels.

An offering from the same book came this nugget:   "I regret I only stopped to admire a black-faced fox squirrel, slighting the common grey ones, as if numbers could diminish the stars."

Therein lies the secret to life, perhaps. To see God even in the common.


Morning has broken and what a morning indeed. Sunny and mild right off the start. Too much politics and sports last night and this morning - need the refreshment of lyrical prose. I'm sometimes my own worst enemy.

Big fail today with dog Maris. We decided to head back to the condo and take the dogs on a bike ride via the short leash that hooks to the bike. I took Maris despite Steph's misgivings: Maris is harder to control and slightly terrified of the bike and Steph wasn't sure I would be gentle or patient enough. Maris hated bikes from the get-go, from like a month after we first got her. Steph's plan was to walk the bike next to Maris over the course of millennia and then gradually ride the bike with Maris on a leash, and then eventually put her on the Walky Dog connector to the bike. I just skipped ahead to the last step and Maris was, predictably, terrified. She tried to run as far from the bike as possible, making her lean-away stride look like she was trying to avoid running off a cliff. But the worst was yet to come: When I quickly gave up the ghost, I set the bike down briefly to retrieve another leash and she began trying to run away from a bike that had become a whirling dervish, the whole bike doing 360s due to her puppy power. This made her crazier, of course, and it felt like the longest 30 seconds in the histories of dogs. I then took Max alone on a nice ride (he had no fear) while Steph tried to calm Maris with a walk to the water. Oy.


Saw odd-shaped orange bucket of a sun on the rise today. Just over the horizon it looked more trapezoidal than circular.

Well it's uncanny how unready I am when the morning comes and Steph announces it's time to exercise the dogs. We typically get more exercise than them, or at least a lot more stress, due to unpreparedness.

We decided to take a beach walk and got a half-mile down the shore when they both pooped. We'd taken the long lines, so I trooped back to get the retractable leashes, which has the doggie bags. I was already ready for it to be over by the time I got back with the bags, given the constant distractions of people and other dogs, so I took Max on a bike ride all the way to Hilton Head Academy via the bike path. But first I had to deal with the insurmountable obstacle of trying to put on his halter, with him shying away all the while. I hate that halter every fibre of my being given how it's nearly impossible to figure out how it goes on.

Needless to say, the lack of halter came back to haunt. Max got loose just after we crossed South Forest Beach, at the very end of the ride. He started sprinting around, knowing he was loose, with me yelling "Treat!" and "Good boy!", the latter as sort of a pay forward compliment. Thank God he went right up to our door, probably due to being thirsty as much as anything else. He drank a bunch and I treated him, feeling very grateful if stressed.  Beer me!

A Plague on Neither of Their Houses

I can't see the divisions reflected in the synod as anything but inevitable.  I think it was Scott Hahn who said that man cannot square justice and mercy, only God can.  It's beyond the mind of man. So it's natural as the day is long that there would be these battles over the purveyors of a more merciful view versus one loyal to God's justice, and both justice and mercy are as valid as the day is long. Both are obviously extremely Biblical.

It's said that mercy does not leave the sinner off the hook, in the sense of restitution and penance, but indulgences certainly undermine the necessity of restitution.  With God all things are possible. Emphasis on the first two words.

St. Maria Goretti Relics Tour

Well there's no attitude adjuster quite as effective as meeting the saints, and I did recently. St. Maria Goretti in this case. Puts irritations in perspective, pretty quickly. If you could bottle it everybody would want it.

Beautiful sunny day and the line was long - took over 30 minutes to traverse from outside the cathedral to inside and up to the altar for a 15 second viewing. The crowd and the wait were not off-putting. It made it more of a pilgrimage and built the anticipation. It was also greatly cheering to see such a huge, diverse group of people (all ages anyway). You have to love that so many people would make the effort (the parking being one challenge - I rode my bike) to view the relics of this Italian 11-year old girl who died in 1902.

I got chills just viewing the pictures on display, primarily the one of Maria's mother who ended up adopting the murderer as her own son! The Truth is stranger than fiction: imagine a story where a male tries to rape and then ends up killing a young girl. He's completely unrepentant. The child forgives him anyway. The child's mother forgives him. And the murderer himself repents. That sounds like a very unrealistic movie to say the least. Seeing the mother and murderer together sort of made my head spin, as if it was an alternative universe. Which, of course, the Kingdom is.

Eventually I made my way closer and closer for my 15 seconds. Two Knights of Columbus guys stood on either side, like the Swiss guards by the Pope. I wondered what St. Maria might think about this, about how her remains travel around the world. I thought it a way of being amenable to the Spirit's movements even after death, and how we should be amenable to being moved around, and shaped, by God in life.

The body was smaller than I expected. I touched the glass casket and prayed. Both to Maria and the perhaps-a-saint-one-day (as a priest said in a video) Alessandro Serenelli. I saw him piously kneeling and saying prayers before a simple shrine in his bedroom. It doesn't get more inspiring than this. Jesus lives, and the faith that moves mountains is seen clearly in the lives of Maria and Alessandro.

A happier ending one could scarcely hope for: mother a peace, killer's soul saved, and Maria in Heaven and canonized on earth.



October 21, 2015

Florida Man

This documentary set in Florida was strangely riveting:

October 20, 2015

Pope Francis on His Bible

Talking to German youth affectingly about his old, worn out Bible.

Ali-Frazier and Black Shaming

Interesting article on Ali-Frazier bouts of yore.   I was never a big boxing fan but somehow the Ali-Frazier fights of my impressionable years felt of disproportionate import. I always liked Frazier and loathed Ali, and they seemed to embody opposites that clearly allowed you to identify with one or the other – for me at least, the more reserved over the liberal, the tongue-tied over the braggart, the overly sensitive to the thick-skinned, the underdog over the favorite. Even as a pre-teen I liked the quiet guy with the loud punch over the dancer with the big mouth. The only surprise was why everybody didn't see it this way, and why Ali was treated like a god by the media.

Of course Frazier was no saint and Ali no devil but... we do like to cast things that way.

I can't help being reminded of Clarence Thomas, of how for a black man the ultimate insult is to be called an Uncle Tom.  It's an example of how potent shaming is in the black community, and you can see how Thomas has withdrawn and simmered similarly.

From the article:
Randy Roberts says: ‘One of the many paradoxes about Ali is that he embraced an ideology that disparaged white people, yet he was never cruel to white people — only blacks.’ And Frazier, he adds, was treated most cruelly of all.
Frazier explained his feelings by saying Ali had robbed him of the gift he most prized — the American public’s respect. The cruelly inaccurate ‘Uncle Tom’ had stuck with him, tarnishing his legacy.
‘You don’t do to a man what Ali did to Joe,’ says Bob Watson. ‘People only saw one Joe; the one created by Ali. If you’re a man, that’s going to get you in a big way.’

October 16, 2015

Seven or So Quick Takes

The fascinating thing about the '16 election is that there are these two huge tides pulling in opposite directions and it's uncertain which will prevail.

One tide is demographics, which of course greatly favor Democrat nominee (presumably Clinton).  I said back in 2000 that GW Bush would be the last Republican president in a generation due to demographics. (And of course Gore won the popular vote as it was!)

Another tide is overwhelming thirst for authenticity, which, of course, Shrillary has none of.  She's the poster child for inauthenticity.

So these two titanic forces are going to do battle....


R.R. Reno talk here.  Why the Old Testament matters talk here.


Day-dreamed of Irishfest, and how quantitatively different the first weekend of August is from, say, the first weekend of September. Just a month, but a season apart. In early August you're wrapped in the secure womb of Summer, in September you're in the capricious slant-light of Autumn.

For someone who doesn't much like change, the change of seasons seems not ideal. But I recall now what a motivational speaker said recently, that he thinks people who don't like change are fundamentally selfish because they think the world revolves around them and the world should suit their needs rather than vice-versa. A lot of truth in that - certainly in a business setting my wariness of change is centered around me wanting to do something familiar and thus not as challenging.


Ronald Knox hits it out with this, written in the late 1950s:
If [politicians] seek to bludgeon us into their own special point of view, that is only what big business has been trying to do these decades past, assailing eye and ear with slogans not meant to persuade, but to “get in under the skin.”
I can read this two ways: that that is how Obama came to power, on the strength of the silly “hope and change” slogan and thus Republicans in this election must likewise do, or, alternatively I can resist the times we live in and try to be part of the solution instead of the problem by wanting Republicans to offer substance and plans, not eye and ear candy.

I'm torn. I tend to think winning in '16 is more important given how if Hillary wins liberals will take over and dominate the Supreme Court for generations.


Ultimately you can't have a mismatch of a large number of super-safe House seats with competitive seats without ending up fracturing the party.  Seems like Big Data and government's overzealous monitoring end up allowing lawmakers to carve these ridiculously safe seats that produce artificially dramatic imbalances between members.


One of the more impressive liberal delusions is thinking that a government that can't keep illegal drugs off the streets over the past half-century can keep guns off the streets.


Sad but true carnal stories: can you imagine the pitch the producers made for Naked and Afraid: “We'll have a Survivor-like show but the twist is they'll be nude and so you get the prurient interest.” You'd think they'd get laughed at for the shamelessness of it or that enough people would be outraged, but it is what it is. Blurred or not, I'm impressed by those who can watch it sans arousal.

It's odd to read in a secular history book a link made, I thought, in primarily Catholic morality circles. I speak of the link between gluttony and lust, and how a book said it was former French president who was said to have a wolfish appetite that inadvertently displayed his sexual avidity.


"Always, it is the things which affect us outwardly and impress themselves on our senses that are the shams, the imaginaries; reality belongs to the things of the spirit." - Ronald Knox, Pastoral Sermons

October 09, 2015

In Honor of the Playoffs, Uncle Harry, Diamond Star

I got all caught up in the drama of researching and writing up the three major league games of my great uncle Harry.  It's amazing there's statistics available for a regular season game from 1927 to this level of detail.  I read about the parks he played in (Braves Field in Boston and the Baker Bowl in Philly), the managers, the pitchers he faced, the player he replaced and the one who replaced him.  Jolly interesting fun.  He's my Moonlight Graham.  And what's the fun of a blog if you can't be self-indulgent once in awhile? 


It all started with Dayton native Howard Freigau going 0 for 4, on the heels of having gone 1 for his last  9. 

He'd had decent production since coming to the Cubs in 1925, hitting .307 that year and .270 in '26.   But he was struggling at the plate and in '27 would hit only .233 in thirty games. The next season he was traded to Brooklyn where saw little playing time and was soon sent to the minors. In 1932 he was playing for the Knoxville Smokies and "after a long hot day he decided to take a late night swim. It was a decision that would cost him his life, as he unknowingly dove into the shallow end of a pool head first and broke his neck and drowned. He was only 29 at the time, " writes Wade Forrester.  "The way is life ended is unfortunate...but it is much more important to remember how a person lived their life, rather than how their life came to a close."  (Like Thomas Merton?) 

On May 11, 1927,  Friegau and his Cubs lost to the lowly Phillies, a team that would go on to lose over 100 games.  Perhaps this was enough for McCarthy to want to shake up the lineup by giving young phenom Harry Wilke a chance. 

May 12th dawned with overcast skies and by afternoon the game time temp was in the mid-60s in Philadelphia.  Wrigley Field was a mere 12 years old while the often disparaged Baker Bowl in Philly was entering its fourth decade.  Rodeos were occasionally held there in order to raise additional revenue and during Phillies road trips "to avoid buying lawn mowers sheep were left to graze on the field." Two days hence,  "parts of two sections of the lower deck extension along the right-field line collapsed due to rotted shoring timbers...Miraculously, no one died during the collapse but fifty were injured." 

Managing the Cubbies was future Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy.  McCarthy would later lead them to a pennant and would skipper the Yankees to six championships from the Gehrig and Ruth era through the DiMaggio years. 

On the mound for the Phillies was 35-year old Jack Scott, a decent pitcher in his day but now on his way to 9-21 season with a gaudy 5.25 ERA.  He would be facing my Uncle Harry Wilke, who was making his first major league start, hitting eighth and playing third.  

In the second inning, the great Hack Wilson led off with a double to right, and Stephenson singled to left scoring Wilson.  Charlie Grimm singled, and future Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett reached on a fielder's choice.  The home plate umpire ejected Phillies' catcher Jimmie Wilson after the play. 

Up stepped Harry Wilke in his first major league at bat, with Grimm on second and Hartnett on first.  He did his job and sacrifice bunted, forcing Grimm to third, Hartnett to second. 

Wilke later opened the Cubs fourth, but popped up to the shortstop.  In the sixth he grounded out to the second basemen.   And in the eighth, with a man on and one man out he was called out on strikes.  Still, the Cubs won 4-1. 

The next day they did it again at the Baker Bowl.  Wilke played third and hit eighth.  A struggling 26-year old lefty, Hub Pruett, was on the mound for the Phillies.
In the second inning, Wilke came up with a man on and two out and hit a drive to center that landed safely in the outfielder's hands.  He led off the fifth and again flied out to the centerfielder. Then in the 7th, game tied at 1, both Grimm and Hartnett struck out.   However mediocre Hub Pruett seemed to be on paper, today he was having a field day with the Cubs hitters, striking out 10 and on his way to throwing a 3-hitter.  Wilke stepped up and prevented Pruett from striking out the side by flying out. 

After first game jitters, and running into a buzzsaw in Pruett on day two, Saturday the 14th turned out to be Harry's final big league game.  The team traveled to Boston to Braves Field, a mile west of Fenway, where Harry Wilke's chances of hitting a home run seemed close to nil.  

"The stands were almost entirely in foul territory, leaving little in the outfield to which players could hit a home run into - with the fences over 400 feet away down the lines and nearly 500 feet to dead center, hitting the ball over the outer fences was all but impossible during the dead-ball era. A stiff breeze coming in from center field across the Charles River further lessened any chances of seeing home runs fly out of the park...Ty Cobb once visited and commented, 'Nobody will ever hit a ball out of this park.'"(via Wiki entry).  

The Braves starter was Charlie Robertson, the easiest opponent for Wilke yet, sporting a lifetime record of 49-80 with a 4.44 era.   Harry came up in the second and flied to center, and then grounded out to the pitcher in the 5th. But none of the Cubs batters were having much success against Robertson. 

In the 7th, with the game knotted at 1, Stephenson walked; Grimm sacrified him to second on a bunt and Hartnett walked.  Harry was due up with two men on but McCarthy pulled him!  He pinch-hit Cliff Heathcote, a veteran centerfielder with a lifetime .275 batting average hit, who promptly grounded into a double play.  Had Wilke been allowed to hit and drive in the winning run, perhaps he would've gone on to a Hall of Fame career. 

Instead the game went on....and on...and on.  In the top of the 18th, the Cubs finally busted loose for five runs to end the 3-hour 42-minute extravangza (now nearly the average length of a 9-inning game, ha). 

Clyde Beck, who was a rookie infielder like Harry, replaced him at third in the 8th.  He failed to reach base until singling to start that big 18th inning. 

The following two days the Cubs didn't play, but on Tuesday the 17th they'd again be involved in an extra inning game, this time an unbelievable 22 innings. It would go down in history as the 10th longest game of all time (the record being 26 innings). 

Whatever McCarthy saw in Beck, maybe the base knock that helped end the 18-inning marathon, he liked enough to start him over Harry for the 22-inning affair.  Beck went 1 for 9 with a walk  and would later go on to a six year MLB career with an average of .232.