August 29, 2014

Various Thoughts Conjoined by Helpful Asterisks


So A.L.S. has raised $100 million dollars due to the ice bucket challenge, showing the power of a virility, or viral-ality. The Catholic diocese of Cincy banned it from Catholic schools since ALS group involves in /advocates embryonic cell stem research. Steven Riddle had a good graphic on FB that pointed out how the amount of money we raise for illnesses is different from what actually kills us. For example, breast cancer raises by far the most despite being relatively low on the kill list.

There may be a certain illogic to over-funding causes that kill fewer people but we're not Spocks, not reducible to numbers, and it's understandable. Breast cancer disproportionately affects women and it's a honorable thing to respect women, to put them first. Disease also differs not just in mortality rate but in the fear associated around it. Alzheimer's, for example, may not kill as many as other diseases but its horrific nature makes it more fearsome than almost any. Similarly A.L.S., which is the opposite of Alzheimer's in that it takes the body and leaves the mind intact.

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I often get enthused over trivia. Take this morning. I was uplifted by the utterly inconsequential event of selling my OSU laptop sleeve for $15. Since I haven't used the sleeve in years, this was roughly equivalent to finding $15 in the street. With the added benefit of removing clutter from the house. One man's junk is another man's treasure, as they say. My immediate reaction was to think of spending the found money on a book instead of giving it to the poor like Pope Francis would! Alas and alas.

I found it while going through my desk looking for documentation concerning a genealogy question. I showed it to my wife, who said, “no one will want that. Throw it away.” Instead I took it to work, published a description on the classified website and within 20 minutes had two people saying, “I want it!”. Obviously $15 was too cheap, ha. As I told Steph, if you put an OSU logo on manure, people would want it. It was originally $39, so for $15 used I suppose it was a deal. One thing's for sure, folks watch that classified site like a hawk. Second thing I've sold there of three I've tried. (Only a Civil War history book didn't sell, alas. Didn't have OSU logo on it.)

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I had this sudden desire to bring a Bible to work, to put in my cubical. I want the words of comfort and correction near me. Just knowing they're there, even if I never pick it up (which I likely won't). I 'spect I have enough Bibles to spare one towards this purpose. In fact, I've pre-ordered another one, a $57 list price Ignatius press offering called The Didache Bible. Comes out in October. Was pleased to get it for $35 on amazon a month ago since it's now $41.

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So I'm also mesmerized by another ridiculously banal earthly good, that of growlers at the new grocery store. It just opened today and so I called and found they sell fresh draught craft (pardon the rhyme) beer in the growler size. So tomorrow I'm going to have some giddyup and get over there and explore the world of growlers for the first time. They say growlers only stay fresh for about 7-10 days though. Not sure how it compares expense-wise versus bottles either.

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I'm underwhelmed by the summer forecast from the Old Farmer's Almanac. Said our region would receive above average summer temps when, of course, we ended with below average temps. Weather forecasting is no more accurate than astrological predictions.

August 25, 2014

Interesting Comment on LOGOS Software

Perceptive comment from M.J. Smith on the differences between Catholic & Protestant Bible study on Logos Bible Software (where Logos = Protestant branding and Verbum = Catholic branding):
Simplifying greatly, the Verbum prespective is more a collective exegesis where there is an emphasis on how the passage has been interpreted and used over time. The Logos perspective is more a delve into the original language in detail - whether you really know the language or not - so that you are not trusting the translators (or anyone else .... except all the commentaries) to give you the REAL meaning of the text. Mind you, Verbum anticipates that you will delved into scripture in as many languages as you can to the limits of your competency and Logos expects you to read Commentaries galore ... so it isn't a stark contrast.

Found Around the Web

My bad memories don’t bother me much. They’re tucked away back there somewhere, but mostly out of mind. It’s my good memories I’ve spent half my lifetime trying to overcome.
Oh so true. For me personally, there's a part of me that relishes the sins of youth. There's also part of me that wants to write it off as pagan.

Of the opposite tendency, to write off the past Fr. James Martin wrote in his book on Jesus:
Denigrating the “before” is common in the spiritual life. After a conversion experience, one is tempted to set aside, downplay, or reject one’s past. In Thomas Merton’s biography The Seven Storey Mountain, the former dissolute student turned Trappist monk largely characterizes his former life as bad, and his life in the monastery as good. Of the “old” Thomas Merton, he said ruefully, “I can’t get rid of him.” In time Merton would realize how misguided a quest that is: there is no post-conversion person and pre-conversion person. There is one person in a variety of times, the past informing and forming the present. God is at work at all times.
It took me years to realize how limiting this approach can be, because it closes us off from seeing grace in our past....After entering the Jesuit novitiate, I slowly began to believe that all that had gone before was not as valuable as what had come after. I had undergone, to use an overused word, a “conversion” and so had put on the “new man,” as St. Paul says. This was indeed true. But I felt no need for the past, and sought to find God only in the present and in the future. In doing so I was negating all the good that God had done for me in the past. Sometimes we close the door to our past, thinking that since we have “progressed,” the past has little to offer. But we need to keep the door to our past open.
Those smiles reminded me that God was with me all along, forming me. As God is doing in every moment of our lives.
I've come to a similar understanding, that even in those periods of feeling bereft of God, He was there. I can't, therefore, devalue that time. And, in one of those Godincidences that make me smile, the opening hymn at Mass yesterday had something like, “you are my past, present and future”. One should be kind to one's younger self, after all, since today's current self is tomorrow's younger self.

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Really loving The Sunday Word commentary book of the editor of The New Jerusalem Bible, Henry Wansborough. Of this Sunday's gospel he says:
That is the importance of the naming of a child at baptism: Jesus takes us to himself and we become his. The early Christians called themselves ‘Those over whom the name of Jesus has been called’. We may have been named Mary or John, but the name of Jesus has been called over us and we have become his.
Another meditation seen elsewhere (Daughters of St. Paul):
God is an outlandish giver of gifts. The Master of the Universe entrusted himself, body and soul, into human hands at the annunciation. Mary alone, of us all, honored the gift of incarnation with an unsullied fiat throughout her life. God gives himself, body and soul, into our hands in the Eucharist, and the response has been mixed. Sacrilege upon sacrilege have been committed, and saints have been forged and fortified beyond all expectation. Jesus entrusts his authority to bind and loosen into the hands of Peter and by extension, to the other apostles and their successors. In human terms, Jesus is simply too trusting for his own good. During Lent 2000, Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan gave the spiritual exercises to the papal household. In one of his sermons, he preached on the defects of Jesus: Jesus has a horrible memory (of our sins); his math is not accurate and his logic off-balance (the one lost sheep is as valuable as the ninety-nine!); he takes far too many risks; and he clearly doesn’t make wise financial calculations. These “defects” come from his great love—that gives all, trusts all, and empowers all. 
It feels very wrong, but often enough I like the commentary on the gospel better than the gospel reading itself! This is true for me recently with the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where the latecomers ended up with the same as the early toilers.

It's not that I think it's unfair for God to give the latecomers the same pay, but because it makes the Kingdom sound like very contractual, a wage-earning type deal. The question of course becomes “how much work is enough? Have I done enough?”

The Daughters of St. Paul commentary pretty much turns it all on its head, saying flat out that God doesn't have or need money and that thus "the parable must be about something else":
Regardless of how good or bad we feel ourselves or others to be, we are all laborers, “useless servants.” If we were wise, we would take on the attitude of the truly evangelical image of the tax collector in the temple: “Forgive me, Lord, I am a sinner.” At some moment in our lives God will convict us of our sin, and in the same moment, he will wrap us in an unexpected, incredibly powerful embrace of love. At that moment we will realize that grace is “his own money.” He gives it as a gift to everyone, even to me. I will discover then that I am the last laborer hired, and I am still paid for a full day, because there are no wages. There is only the gift of God’s love and the merits of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, which belong to all the sinners he came to save.
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Another tidbit found on the web today comes from Therese Brochard,who daily struggles with untreatable depression:
In 1959, when Victor Frankl published his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he discussed the research of his one his colleagues, Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, professor of psychology at the University of Georgia. She wrote:
Our current mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that unhappiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy.
She believed that Victor Frankl’s logotherapy—a mental health strategy based on finding one’s life meaning—“may help counteract certain unhealthy trends in the present-day culture of the United States, where the incurable sufferer is given very little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and to consider it ennobling rather than degrading.” 
Now mind you, that was BEFORE the positive psychology movement. BEFORE the happiness craze—the media’s obsession with smiley faces and thousands of publications promising the way to joy. BEFORE mindfulness efforts and Buddhist monks showing us we can meditate our way to bliss. BEFORE all the tomes on the neuroplasticity of the brain and how we can think our way to contentment, one happy thought at a time. BEFORE Facebook and the documentation of happy lives!
That's pretty interesting commentary because it reminds me how we think there's something intrinsically wrong about having a cross. The gay person thinks it's a queer thing, no pun intended, to have to deal with unhappiness in the form of not being morally allowed to act out on it. The person in an unhappy marriage thinks it odd not to get a divorce in order to secure happiness. There's a whole lot of that going around. It's a short step from the Declaration's “pursuit of happiness” to “the right not to have a cross”.

August 22, 2014

Too Funny....One Star Book Reviews

Found here:
Leaves of Grass:
“I doubt I’ll pick it back up unless I run out of books to read, I’m too poor to buy any more books, all my friends turn on me and refuse to loan me anything else, and all the nearby libraries are set on fire simultaneously.”
The Sun Also Rises:
“This book reads like a series of Twitter posts by an arrogant alcoholic hanging around with his irresponsible alcoholic friends.”
Romeo and Juliet:
“First of all, the whole thing is almost all dialogue.”

Little Deutschland

Did my annual German Village tour the other day since the weather was supposed to be picture-perfect (it was). I set out belatedly at 1:30pm, driving south a mile and then taking the bike out of the trunk and traveling down the cobblestone roads that lead to all kinds of visual (and olfactory!) treasures. German Village is a treat, a hideaway, a foreign land of beauty right in our own neck of the woods. Who needs Savannah or Beacon Hill when you have these sublime visions of quaint brick houses and rich drapery in the form of trees, bush and flower?












I biked about six miles, just going up and down the European blocks, exploring. I came across the famous Schmidt's Sausage Haus, which always looks to me like a movie set. Later I came across an even more quaint German restaurant (“Jurgen's”). Stained glass windows of lederhosen men and dirndl-clad gals. I thought: “why can't it be my birthday soon and why can't we go there for it?” Alas my birthday always seems to be smack in the land of Busy, and usually it's all I can do but to get us to nearby Nasty's, an anondyne sports bar with loud rock and fried food.

There are a few eccentric yards, with cryptic outdoor statuary or, in one case, a chicken amid the sunflowers. (Sunflowers seem to be especially popular down there.) Schiller Park exuded it's usual charm. A huge phalanx of flowers along the main throughway. And this year I noticed something I'd never seen before: a fountain of a girl carrying an umbrella, the water weeping over the sides of the 'brella. Nice touch, added in 1993.

Another cool find was a tiny little nook of a park, near the corner of 5th and Berger, that was once called “Dog @$*@ Park” when it was a dismal bedraggled lot. Then one year a green-thumbed volunteer turned that space into a glorious space to behold, “Frank Fetch Park” it's now known as, full of flowers and bushes, fountain and paver stones. I read briefly there on one of the benches as a way of prolonging the beauty.

Then wanted to see St. Mary's church but, unfortunately, it was locked up tighter than Shiite chastity belt. So sad, the end of an era. Used to be ever open, like a gushing stream. They do have noon Mass there though so maybe if I'd gotten there earlier I could've inhaled the spirituality and refreshment. A visit to German Village without St. Mary's is definitely not the same.

Headed to the Book Loft, 32 rooms of books (but who's counting?) as well...

August 19, 2014

Ye Olde Obligatory Trip Log

First day of our "amost wasn't" trip. Like the mailman and Hollywood, I suppose the show and mail must go on.  This time two days late due to our dog being sick. It was a pretty restful drive - traffic surreally light despite or because it was a weekday. We lit out of Columbus belatedly, around 6:45am, but the trip felt almost effortless given how good a traveler our dog Buddy is.

The highlight of the trip was taking a sabbatical after about four and a half hours of driving. I'd suggested it might be fun to take Buddy on a micro walk on the Appalachian trail (and give him a chance to hopefully poop), so I looked to see if there was an exit off I-77 that might serve for that. I didn't find anything too promising but figured a state park in West Virginia might work. And so we stopped off, serendipitously, at Camp Creek State Forest and Park. We were greeted at the entrance by a fawn in the woods, and Buddy barked like there was no tomorrow at the pseudo-dog. The smell of alpine woods was intoxicating, the fresh mountain air and stream. We hiked along a street closed to visitors, having the place pretty much to ourselves. Later we drove around the sparsely populated campground. The highlight was seeing this gorgeous mountain stream waterfall. Water over stone. Primal. We could've sat next to that stream for hours.


Didn't read much on the trip (definitely not while driving, ha) - just some of George Will's new book on Wrigley Field inspired by listening to an interview by Brian Lamb. Arrived at 7:30, located the new condo, and then began the process of "home-izing" it: moved all the junk off the balcony into a spare bedroom, unpacked our belongings, and set up our Apple TV. A difficult operation, trying to thread the HDMI cord in through a crack of space between the television and the wall but motivation is 99% of solution. Sweet to have our "comfort shows" available, namely "Out in the Wild: Venezuela", a reality show rather than a drama. We gravitate away from dramas when our own drama is going on.

Tuesday:

So here we are in the familiar flora and fauna, Spanish moss and rhododendrons. A balcony. A courtyard. Sun. It reminds me of early summer at Miami U., which overlooked a courtyard of similar dimensions and architecture. I can see just beyond the condos the taller structure that looks French reminding me of the architecture at the Continent Apartments circa 1987, and prompting a desire to read the book on Paris I have on my Kindle. I can dream of Europe in August in South Carolina.

Read the following quote on architecture, via George Will:
Ernest Dimnet was a French abbé who frequently traveled and lectured in the United States. His business was soul, and he said: “Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul...It has been well said that architecture exists not for the structure itself but for the space the structure creates by enclosing it.
Last month was the third coolest July ever for Ohio, so the sun there feels tentative and instantly perishable. But here in paradise it's sun daily, clouds need not apply.   When God gave me Irish genetics He was teasin'. Morning sun lingers on the back, east-facing balcony and so I enjoyed that till about 12:30. Then much pent-up demand on the exercise side of things. Ran like the wind! 3.5 miles. A lot more than usual anyway.  Later fought amazing waves for a half-hour or more. The undertow was pretty surreal and the waves powerful due to Hurricane Bertha about 80 miles off the coast. Glad it didn't make landfall to put it mildly.

So after the two hours spent running on the beach and swimming in the surf, headed back to the Casa for a brief lunch and to collect beachware for the day: Kindle, beer and iphone.

I did try to live my "vacation life" in one day: after gathering beer and Kindle, rode bike up to Sea Pines gate and back, just to revel in the incomparable play of light and shadow along that path. There's a reason people flock here. Then rolled to beach and read some of a Hilton Head book ("Unpacked and Staying") before reluctantly heading back at the relatively early hour of 4:30pm. Nice to hear some rich Latino music too on the iphone - the party music goes well with the beach.
Constellations of sun,
naked bun and forgetful rum
I long to marrow the suck out of life
and savor the flavor of rife.

Some say Bette Midler's The Roseis less poetry than purple prose,
and some say I'm a romantic
in the seconds I'm not a pedantic.

From the tit of Samuel Adams
I quaff the brevity
You may call me fat and middle-aged
but I hope that's just levity.
WEDNESDAY:

Ah sigh I could get used to this. 1:30pm on a sun-rich beach reading White Tiger novel.

Woke and read a dollop of resource-rich Logos Bible app. Egg and ham breakfast. Around 11 headed to BI/LO, not to be confused with Buy Low, and picked up key supplies like beer and super glue. Oh who am I kidding? Super glue is not a key supply.

Biked down Pope Ave and saw a gator just on the edge of a lagoon. Got off the bike and headed down for a picture, ideally a selfie with the alligator inches behind me. Unfortunately the edge of the bank was wet marshland and didn't want to soak my shoes, so for want of that little bit of comfort I have no picture of Mr. Gator and me.

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It's kind of funny how memorable a book that Gerry House offering. From the name, Country Music Broke My Brain you're thinking it ain't Shakespeare. And yet I was sad when it was over, oddly for the gossipy read. Reading seems such a crap shoot: thousands if not millions of them serviceable and satisfying but far fewer memorably lasting. And this one all from hearing a quick mention of it on Sirius/Xm radio.

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Drink first, ask questions later.  Started brew o'clock at 3:10 (to Yuma). A long solid read session, beach walk and swim. Nice routine! I could get used to it. One slight problem with retirement is that it's not retirement to a beach.

THURSDAY 

I was a child when a song by Tammy Wynette was popular in our household. It was called Good Lovin' and it went, in part:
If you don't believe what I'm tellin' you is soPut your man right out in the street and watch him goRight to the arms of a woman who couldn't even hold you a lightWhen a lotta good lovin' would've made everything alright.
Now it sounded to me like “Put your man right out in the street and watch him go, Bob Cousy!”

I'm fairly sure she sings something between “watch him go” and “right to the arms” but the 'net has failed me, lyrics-wise. But far more certainly, she doesn't sing, “Bob Cousy!” after the famous Celtic pro basketball guard. But at the time I was into basketball, especially historical figures (historical to me at least) like Cousy. and I liked the pairing of “watch him go!” with “Bob Cousy”, imagining the fleet-of-foot guard dribbling around some six-eight behemoth. The song, in other words, gave me something that certainly wasn't intended by the writer. In fact I had no idea the song was even about love, or a facsimile thereof. It was satisfying.

I wonder how much of the ambiguity of art is satisfying because we get different things from it. Similarly Scripture is sometimes ambiguous and centuries ago saints might've thought one thing about a certain passage, maybe gleaned some powerful insight, while later biblical scholarship shows that that wasn't what the passage was intended to mean. I think God can work even through misunderstandings of words and his Word.

(LATER: Turns out she's saying "watch him go, raaht to thee ... arms of a woman," et cetera.
The disputed words are "right to the." With a very Southern i-sound in "right" and an over-emphasized vowel in "the.")

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My first time at the beach, on Tuesday, it felt so temporary, like I'd never get enough beach time this foreshortened week. I felt like an interloper among beach veterans. (Veterans, mind you, of just two days.) But today I feel solaced by the time here, such that I even dared come down late today, around 2 after a bike ride.

Inevitably I think about the swift-flowing river that is Summer and its passing….I still long to play golf and run or bike ol' MU before she's past.

The daily wash of beauty via Beauty. I'm sort of amazed I can be so appreciative of the surroundings, of the palm trees and Spanish moss and cane and light and shadow.

Thought about how the Miami president runs with students every Saturday morning. The cool thing about being as extrovert, it would seem, is you get credit for being generous with your time when it doesn't actually cost you anything. Extros get their energy by being with people, so they can spend time with people and fill up the tank at the same time. Not sure there's an equivalent advantage for introverts.

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Love that feeling of magic early in a scenic bike ride. Never do I feel the charisma of “summer afternoon” so easily on a bike ride. (Oh, or maybe on the hammock…or being next to the sea… Or..). Anyway, loved the simple thing of seeing the neat beds of auburn pine needles everywhere along the way. Nothing quite says “Hilton Head” like pine needle beds. Palms? I think of Florida. Spanish moss? Savannah. But pine needle beds the color of Irish hair equals Hilton Head.

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I don't have opinions on this beach; I have only the present moment. As if the sun isn't reassuring enough there's the sound of fresh-flown waves, available every minute of every day, like God's consciousness, so unlike our own intermittent pattern.  I join the amniotic waters again today, reveling in the flow.

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There's something confusing and “opposite world” about seeing these young people in the reality show Out of the Wild check their visages in a mirror after a couple weeks in the wild and be appalled. They all looked perfectly fine and photogenic to me, but they were crestfallen. Reminds me of something I read recently, that we spend the first half of our lives wishing we looked like somebody else and the second half of our lives wishing we looked like our younger selves.

FRIDAY:

So the drip-dram days come to an end, tis Friday. I'm writing in the window'd nook overlooking the green of day. The rich Hilton fatigue has set in, the pleasantness of physicality writ redundant.

Last night Steph went out for dinner with friend, husband, their adult daughter and Melanie's sister. They inherited some money and aren't shy about spending it: they're staying in a $4,000-a-week place on a beach in Sea Pines. Retails for $1.9 million dollars (ours for $130,00). The sore temptation of money is to spend it frivolously if you've got it, something we're increasingly susceptible to. Certainly our vacations are proof of that. Not the most Christian of impulses.

I watched over sick Buddy, or rather he watched me, especially when I was eating. Brian's Song was on the tube, which I haven't seen since it first came out. At the time I thought it was the saddest movie ever made, tainted as it was by the ending and I've avoided it ever since. It's the Old Yeller of sports movies. Seems a bit more watchable now, although I did skip the ending. Which is sort of like saying that the movie Titanic is great pre-iceberg.

The funny thing is I'd assumed that the running/training scenes the actor who played Sayers had to slow down for the actor playing Piccolo, but it was the opposite. The white guy in this case was faster than the black guy! James Caan played some college football and was far quicker than the black actor whose name escapes. Via the magic of the Internet was able to read up on his widow, who remarried three years later and whose husband is very supportive of her keeping Piccolo's memory alive via a foundation of some sort.

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The reading cognoscenti down here are impressive from what I can see. Not too many junk novels, although there's a whole lot of Kindle reading going on which, obviously, prevents snooping. Saw Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland in the wild, as well as Kyle Idleman (don't call him Idolman!)'s Gods At War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart. Of course I immediately downloaded samples of both books which is why I can't read The New York Review of Books. A single issue of that and I'd be downloading samples from two dozen books and spend all my time trying to decide which to read instead of reading what's in front of me.

The World Is That Woman Now

Have you ever known anybody who had no internal filter, who would simply say the first thing that came to her head without stopping to think about how it would be perceived by others?  The world is that woman now, that person who says whatever she has to say, right from the heart, no filters, buddy.  - Bill James
Ain't that the truth.  And, like most things, it has a positive side and a negative one.

One of the reasons I think blogs took off in the '90s was this 'blogesty' was a new-found niche. Too many examples to mention, but look at what Zippy Catholic recently opined on concerning the treatment of depression. This is something you would absolutely never read anywhere else:
For someone who is depressed but doesn’t need immediate hospitalization, alcohol is a more effective and safer pharmacological treatment than antidepressants, if a drug is really necessary. It is better to avoid psychotropic remedies entirely; but if you are going to go there, at least do something that is a known quantity with a track record and a properly balanced social infrastructure.

Alcohol is something about which we have plentiful independent information: it isn’t caught in the vortex of economically motivated disinformation that David Healy exposes in Pharmageddon. Because its long term heavy use carries enough social stigma there is still some incentive not to get trapped in a situation of physical dependency, or to get out of one if you find yourself there. Nobody is going to stage an intervention to help you kick the SSRIs, but alcohol comes with some built in social mechanisms to help. Alcohol is quite effective at helping a person feel better in the short term, probably more effective than SSRIs; and it doesn’t come pre-packaged with a credentialed doctor who will hold you hostage to the prescription pad on the one side, and lecture you to keep drinking and not ‘go off your meds’ when you get to the point where the benefits are outweighed by detriments on the other. And nothing prevents you from having a qualified physician monitor your alcohol use.

So my advice to most people is that it is far safer to take up drinking than it is to see a psychiatrist, if you simply have to have a pharmacological remedy.
In a time where freedom is increasingly circumscribed by fear of lawsuit among mainstream media outlets, you have to love that. I admit to a jejune appreciation of boldness like that, wherever the truth may lie.

Sirius XM radio host Lino Rulli has that “blogesty” thing going on even though he's not a blogger. He'll say what's on his mind, candor-full as the day is long. Yesterday he said watching Pope Francis in South Korea was like "seeing two different Pope Francis's: one, lively and happy with the crowds. The other looking depressed as he said Mass."

Lino says most of all this pope is not an actor, calling him amazingly authentic in that he can't force a smile to save his life. This pope is surely the pope of our era?

Asides

Chesterton always packs insight and my latest read is no exception. In The Everlasting Man he talks about how it's part of human behavior to nod, bend low, humble oneself, pray, propitiate to the gods or God. That's because man instinctively, or maybe through experience, knows that before the fall comes hubris. From the earliest myths we hear of men not getting cocky and suffering the consequences, namely a humbling or death. So in pagan times they gave credence to the gods mainly as a way of reminding oneself of the need to be humble. Chesterton argues that it was only in the Christian Era that the object of worship became worthy of that worship; many pagans didn't really believe in the gods, or if they did they saw them as mercurial and untrustworthy. Jesus certainly smashed that given his physical reality, and his dying for us.

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Was bound and determined to use what morning energy I had to get my haircut, so got that done. The black shoeshine guy, name of Teeshaun, did the honors on my shoes this time (for first time). Teshaun's a tough guy, a dude familiar with the street, and with drugs, but he was interestingly humble and gentle of mien. Angling for a tip perhaps but impressive nonetheless. He gingerly took my shoes off after first carefully untying them, treating them awfully respectfully. After he did the shine he came back and gently re-shod me and tied the laces. I think that's the first time I've had someone tie my shoes for me since my mother circa 1969. I was kind of touched and given my fatigue level rather grateful I didn't have to put the shoes back on myself.

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Made time, for a change (first time all year), to go kayaking. Yes the “endless summer” suddenly is beginning to feel like it has an expiration date.

Fast quick it was noon and I realized if I was going to kayak I'd best get on it.  I lit out in the truck for parts scarcely known in awhile (at least six months): the lakes of a rural park. Began with a restful reading of poetry on my Kindle (Cummings) along the shoreline next to the cattails. I was in a pose of great repose when a park ranger vehicle slowly went by. It turned around and came back and then, to my surprise, the woman in the passenger seat rolled down her window and took several pictures of me! That's never happened before.

Took pictures my own self of the photogenic environs. The catch of fronds frolicking in the wind on the tiny lakeshore brought to mind the sea oats swaying at Cape Cod on the edge of the Atlantic. In my fertile imagination anyway.

Also some Cummings helped on that score. It's funny how sometimes a single word, vivid and dreamatory, can set me off to the edges of consciousness. In this case the word “lavender”, as in “lavender skies”. It's rather funny how few words it takes, sometimes, for me to achieve a “wordgasm”.

Then did some rowing. Rowed all along the main lake, skating the edges, rolled down the middle, before heading under the bridge to Dog Beach lake where I tooled around and enjoyed the sight of so much water against the bow. Once home still wanted more outdoors so took Buddy to local park and we admired the wildflowers (or I did - Buddy admired the cornucopia of other dog excrementory smells; there's no accounting for that).

Speaking of, sadly our dog has cancer. My wife, made of steel and iron, has, like all of us, an Achilles' heel: Her love for dogdom. What point does our love for created things become an idol? She said that God gave her a heart for animals and made an incisive comment: “are we to be lukewarm towards everything but God?” Therein lies the rub! To not be lukewarm towards God's creation and yet at the same time not put it above God. I have no idea exactly how to square that circle.

*

Did some Logos lookups around the reading from Nahum today. The NABRE footnotes boldly go where no believer usually dares go:
"For never again will destroyers invade you": prophets are not always absolutely accurate in the things they foresee. Nineveh was destroyed, as Nahum expected, but Judah was later invaded by the Babylonians and (much later) by the Romans. The prophets were convinced that Israel held a key place in God’s plan and looked for the people to survive all catastrophes, always blessed by the Lord, though the manner was not always as they expected; the “fallen hut of David” was not rebuilt as Am 9:11 suggests, except in the coming of Jesus, and in a way far different than the prophet expected. Often the prophet speaks in hyperbole, as when Second Isaiah speaks of the restored Jerusalem being built with precious stones (Is 54:12) as a way of indicating a glorious future.

*

Does the suffering or persecuted Christian want to hear, "hey, the Cross is not necessary; we are 'Alleluia' people!"  The suffering want crosses to mean something in the light of eternity. Certainly I think those poor Christians in Iraq who are suffering must appreciate the "hard sayings" in the Bible, which is why persecuted Christians during the late 1st century appreciated the Book of Revelation, one that certainly has a lot of harsh (to our ears) verses.

The smell of August
like peat burning
in the woodsmoke air
Only desperation plays the song
that humans hear
only desperation (meaning, the poor)
heed Him who Is.

August 05, 2014

Bible Commentary Contest!

Hie thee here: http://www.catholicbiblesblog.com/2014/08/end-of-summer-contest.html to win a chance for some good Catholic bible commentary on some of St. Paul's letters.

July 15, 2014

Strange Gods v. iGods Faceoff


Came across a new book that would seem to cover the ground that Elizabeth Scalia already scoped out in her "Strange Gods".  This one, also written from a Christian perspective, is called (more felicitously I thought than Scalia's): "iGods".

The author said something I'd seen elsewhere, something perhaps a bit unsatisfying given the somewhat murky division between occasionally and more than occasionally:
Most idols begin as good things...When we shift from thinking about something occasionally (a romantic relationship, a promotion, a possession, our family) to obsessing over it constantly, we are turning an idea into an idol. It becomes the thing we cling to, that gives our life purpose and meaning. Idols are anything we're so attached to that we can't imaging living without... What would we hate to lose and feel lost without?  Where do our thoughts wander in our free time?

July 14, 2014

Stuff

Read more of Jack Gilbert's poetry. Oh but I'm going to be powerful sad when the book is done, as it shortly will be. For whatever reason I seem to have lost the Cummings bug, at least momentarily. Just a bit too cryptic and “cute” for me, the punctuation feels a bit gimmicky over time and it just makes me appreciate Gilbert's no nonsense, more prose-y approach more. I like that Gilbert brings up religious subjects.

Some excerpts from this a.m:
There is a film on water which permits a glass to hold more than it can hold. If probed, the water breaks. Before and after, both are truly water. But only one will support swans.
Deep, man.

And in its entirety (without line breaks unfortunately since this is a cut & paste from Kindle):

THE RING
They have Mary’s wedding ring in the Cathedral. I was eager to see it, but learned it is kept fastened in a box which requires keys carried by the district’s three main officials. The box is locked seven times in a chest and the keys held by their chief guilds. The chest is sealed in the wall of the nave, thirty feet in the air. Stairs are built to it just once a year. It is a very holy relic, and I assumed they feared thieves. Today, when I asked of it, I learned it is magic. The color changes according to the soul before it. Then I understood about the locks. The ring is not being protected. It is locked in.
*

So we're right in the sweet ache of summer, smack dab. It's still early July or at least mid-July, and I take comfort in that even though in the back of my mind I think it's never quite the same after the Fourth of July. It's that tissue thin difference between a woman of, say, 24 and one of 30. There's never enough summer (or youth) unless you live in L.A., and even some of those folks think they have seasons.

Jogged the Goodale route this time, around the park and the large pond with the spouting elephants. The beauty of the fountain in the sun, the statuary of the elephants, their trunks jaunty in the air, made for a breathtaking scene. Reminds me of some of the great shots of Fountain Square in Cincy as shown before some Reds games. Who does not love a fountain in summer? Certainly everyone in Rome…

Later I headed out to the local bike path where I had one of those old-fashioned long (for me) bike rides. Took the trail to the beautiful white farm house, turned right and took the next left, onto the quintessential rural road. Squint your eyes and you'd swear you were in Glynnwood, Ohio, aka God's country. I rolled down the road listening to music on the headphones, including a satisfyingly country/drinking (redundant?) song.

Then took our dog Buddy on a quick ten-minute walk at the park after confronting an orange traffic barrier with a sign saying Beware Aggressive Bird. Wow, that's something I've never seen before in my whole life. I guess if you live long enough you'll see everything. The bird ended up being less aggressive than advertised; with that announcement I was expecting, and half-hoping, to get dive-bombed. I was ready for battle; I would take on any bird using my comparatively large size to my advantage.

The red-winged blackbird was certainly loud and obnoxious, cackling overhead loudly and “escorting” me along the bridge but it wasn't exactly out of Hitchcock's The Birds and no humans (or dogs) were harmed during the walk.

It's funny to see how presumably a fear of lawsuits or safety-mania now involves putting up a sign to warn of a bird (maybe it's a terrorist bird?). I think with safety, as with wealth, (or the welfare state) there seems no natural stopping point: you're never rich or safe enough. It's also partly generational since each generation has an expectation of greater safety and wealth. Certainly I expect safer working conditions than were prevalent in the early 1900s, and no doubt my grandchildren will expect their children to wear not just helmets but full football-gear/pads for a bike or car ride. And no doubt their houses will likely be a lot bigger than mine.

*

Arguably these are the stages of enlightenment -- in order of increasing difficulty for people to believe --:  a) there is a God, b) He loves us c) He's still with us in Communion, really present and d) his Spirit is within us and our neighbor.

*

Watched the action-packed finale of 24. Tight season with a sad, heart-rending ending: President Heller, diagnosed with Alzheimer's, comes to terms with the tragic death of his daughter by realizing pretty soon he would forget her death or that he even had a daughter. Alzheimer's has about it a special cruelty of loss, though in one sense it just makes God that much more amazing given that He's going to make it right, and not just make it right but bring some spectacular good out of it. I suppose if we didn't see the depths of earth how would we know the heights of God?  A rescue is no rescue if it's not from danger.

*

Enraptured by a picture taken of our glorious backyard during the sun-zenith, and realized just how rare a feeling it is, to be out in the yard under those circumstances. Definitionally it can only happen on weekends and holidays, and most holidays seem to be occluded with social or other obligations. So that leaves just Saturdays in June, July and August and naturally it'll be cloudy or rainy for some of them (at least in "Cloudumbus"). So out of 365 days there are maybe twelve max non-vacation days I'm appreciating full sun at some point between 10am and 2pm in our backyard.

Ha, from Life of Johnson (I beg to differ!):
[Johnson] again advised me to keep a journal fully and minutely, but not to mention such trifles as, the meat was too much or too little done, or that the weather was fair or rainy. He had, till very near his death, a contempt for the notion that the weather affects the human frame.

July 11, 2014

Let Us Arise and Go to... Cleveland?

Well, this is good and surprising news.  I'll love being able to watch arguably the greatest athlete on the planet any time he plays (since Columbus cable package includes Cleveland pro sports).  Bank error in my favor.

Reading that story, it's kind of surreal that Lebron James could put aside the seeming bridge-burning of the Cleveland owner four years ago.  I may be a sap but I found that SI Lebron essay linked above downright inspiring.

July 10, 2014

The Insouciance of Summer

Looks like could be one of Betty Duffy's kids ('cept for the cig)

Minor league baseball

Moonshot

The arc of 'bow


"If sensuous beauty delights you, praise God for the beauty of corporeal things, and channel the love you feel for them onto their Maker, lest the things that please you lead you to displease him." - St. Augustine

"This woman….often reminded me of something Samuel Johnson said of pretty ladies: they might be foolish, they might be wicked, but beauty was of itself very estimable." - Saul Bellow, "Humboldt's Gift"

June 24, 2014

Shortish Takes

Listened to a bit of Brian Lamb's podcast with Bernard Tate, the British chap who's worked for CSPAN for 25+ years and is retiring. He was C-Span's man in London and talked about British distinctives, like the eccentric House of Commons guy who hollers out a snarky line every year when the Queen “demands” (as the script goes) that the House of Commons go to the House of Lords in order to meet with the Queen. No fan of royalty, he'll make a complaint about royal expenses, like the Jubilee celebration coming on the heels of the Great Recession. Oh those crazy Britons.

*


On Saturday made the drive to Cincy and we rode bikes along the Ohio River for a mile or so till we hit the stadium. I hadn't been to a Reds game in years, maybe five? - and the length and width and breadth sort of the baseball cathedral sort of took my breath away. I'd gotten so used to the small confines of our minor league park in Columbus that it was sort of astonishing to see how big everything was here, and how packed the sold-out game was. Everything first class - the tall stacks, the craft beer choices, the nooks and crannies of alternate entertainment options within the ballpark (such as a small astroturf'd whiffle ball field for kids). Just outside the park they had a rose garden with a white rose marking the exact spot Pete Rose's 4192 hit came. Pretty impressive all around.

*

A spit in the eye of utilitarianism came from a book review of a book on reading offering the following:
You must conclude [her reading] stunt useless - and wonderfully so. There is something freeing in that uselessness, particularly at this moment, when so manny act as though reading were a civic duty, good only for its power to teach empathy or improve job performance.
The New Yorker piece continues:
It is a decidedly contemporary feeling, this feeling of missing out (FOMO)…And what about the books right in front of you? My own bookshelves are filled with books I haven't read, and books I read so long ago that they look at me like strangers. Can you have FOMO about your own life? Reading more books begins at home.
It occurred to me to wonder why it is that perfectly wasteful occupations seemed such a salutary pursuit when I was a boy, pursuits that either paid or unpaid were almost designed not to make a splash?  My habit of collecting things illustrated that.  What is more useless than collecting colored pieces of paper (stamps and baseball cards)?  Why did steady, low-profile occupations also attract me?  I tend to think partially due to weak faith - I didn't feel worthy of being called to something greater and (also indicative of weak faith), I desired financial security.

I think part of it was a reaction to the folly of ambition, of all the "dress for success" books out then, of the whole gamesmanship part of it.  I wanted to opt out and be judged objectively on merits, not on personal presentation, hence I hated the idea of schmoozing but loved the idea of accountancy or being a mailman. The numbers add up - or they don't.  The mail gets delivered - or it doesn't.  Part of the reason I changed my major in college was I began to understand that the green eye-shade bookkeepers of yesteryear were becoming a figment of our imagination, that even accountants had to present an image, had to be outgoing, had to, at least at some firms, move up or move out.

I always liked those stories of eccentric men in Ripley's Believe It or Not! who collected every newspaper from the last thirty years.  Or who diligently collected on tape the birdsongs of two hundred calls.  There seemed something of a spit in the eye of pragmatism.  Surely part of the appeal was my own introverted tendencies.  I liked nothing more than the thought of long nights in a carrel of a library; I wanted, in essence, to be a "professional student".

Even the great Samuel Johnson spent years on a dictionary which seems, perhaps in retrospect, slight use of his prodigious talents.  How many lives were changed by a dictionary?  How many people said, "I read the dictionary back when I was twenty and it changed my life."  Life-change is where the action is, and it's certainly right where the gospel is.  Metanoia is everything in the NT.

There's a continuum of course - the man collecting newspapers is a less worthy enterprise, it would seem, than Samuel Johnson's quest, which is less worthwhile than Ronald Knox's translation of the Bible, which is arguably less worthy than a papal encyclical.

What I'm getting at is wondering how you can waste time without injuring eternity. We are called to be junior St. Paul's and so it seems kind of crazy to spend time in philately.  Better than fellatio I suppose.  But it is sort of remarkable how few saints were collectors of anything save "treasure in Heaven" as the gospel from today went.  (Who, I wonder, is the patron saint of philately? Surely no one but I will google it -- well, omg as the kids say.  St Gabriel the Archangel is supposedly the patron saint of stamp collectors, presumably on the strength of his being sent, like a letter.)

Speaking of treasure in Heaven, the deacon-homilist at St. Pat's is awesomely gentle.  He boldly interpreted our Lord's words in rather surprising fashion, saying that by "treasure in Heaven" it's not helpful to think of it as a pile of good deeds, a big pile of merit, that we either cumulate or not (with bad deeds subtracting from the pile) and with our Heavenly place depending on the size of our cache.  No, he said we should look at it as something we already have, that the "treasure in Heaven" is within you and me by virtue of the  gift of our Baptism. Very hope-inspiring.

*

It's still slightly surreal to see "Pride" banners around town.  Odd times we live in.  Our company went so far as to actually have a "Pride" table in the entrance to cafeteria, with two people there presumably to answer questions about the Pride club.

It's interesting to see the 180 degree turn from when I was a kid.  Then gays in school were persecuted.  Now they're celebrated -- the Columbus Library tweeted today a list of gay books for toddlers, of the "Heather Has Two Mommies" variety. We swing from extreme to extreme.

I think you see the tendency to overdo past wrongs not only with the election of Obama, a candidate with nothing going for him but skin color and a decent way with words, and also to some extent in fathers.  Back in the day, fathers had it easy.  Now - presumably because a lot of present-day-parents felt bereft of fatherly interaction - they are going to the other extreme such that missing Jimmy's 28th ballgame of the month is seen as bad parenting.

Balance seems to be something we human beings have real difficulty with.

*

There's the famous saying that “the rich get richer, the poor get poorer”. And I've certainly seen it in action. But how much of this is simply the result, for good or ill, of the power of compounding?

Compounding means that those in debt will tend to get more in debt due to spending on debt servicing, and those with assets will tend to acquire more assets since assets often generate wealth. Shouldn't the phrase “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” be always followed with “so don't get into any more debt than you have to.”  Easier said than done of course.

*

Good FB comment on the wonderful Cat Hodge's feed:
Do you feel guilty when you have a negative reaction to something a saint wrote or said? I used to but it's happened so often that I don't anymore… I figure that either I am seeing something out of context and can't evaluate it, or that it's good in itself (the Church says so) but not meant for me because of my personality or situation in life.
I was kind of glad to see that several on her feed aren't attracted to St. Jose Escriva; I do fall into that camp. Which is why I sold my “Escriva Bible”, the Navarre, a few months ago. Cat mentions how she's put off by St. Pio after hearing that he scolded a woman for going to Confession immodestly dressed. Interesting how people react to different saints. But understandable given we're all different, with different sensitive areas. Different paths to our heart and conscience.

*
Last night was elated to find that Garry Wills wrote a book on Chesterton. As much as I loathe Garry Wills' heterodoxies, I can't help but be impressed over his erudition. A formidable foe. I half-fear reading it since it might undermine my appreciation for Gilbert, but on the other hand there's this feeling that I've got to know what the opposition thinks or else I'm, in some sense, blind in one eye.

*

So you know you have too many books if you end up buying a book you already have. A tell-tale sign as it were. In this case I was about to pick up Peter Brown's biography of St. Augustine when I thought I'd just better check that invaluable website, LibraryThing.com, where all my books are cataloged. And I was pleased to find it, and even more pleased to actually locate the physical copy after some bookroom searching. Found not one but three biographies of Augustine, which is a bit much given I haven't read any yet. I've read a biography of Aquinas; I owe it to myself to read Augustine, seeing how these are the two giants that go a large part of what Catholicism is. And they complement one another; Augustinian pessimism and Aquinas optimism. I can't find much of what Chesterton wrote on Augustine. I wonder if the optimist GKC leaned towards the optimist Aquinas over the pessimist Augustine.

*
And in the secret way
If human hearts, where in the sordid street
The modern slave, and master dumbly meet
And in the other's eyes
Each, unaware, beholds the eyes of God,
That ever after burn and scrutinize…

-Percy MacKaye

Obama & Clinton Obligatory Vent

There's a cumulative effect at work with my Obama-disgust: Each of these upped the ante: 1) the way the health care bill was passed 2) the bigoted "guns and religion clinging" comment 3) the HHS anti-religious liberty mandate 4) Benghazi (for the cover-up, not for the fact that he was incompetent with respect to defending the embassy)  5) NSA spying and eavesdropping on Germany's Merkel  6) IRS scandal, i.e. calling it a "phony" scandal.

And Hillary? She's starts in huge deficit of course. But unlike with Obama there's some sort of weird voodoo she's casting. I can't turn my eyes away from her during these book-tour interviews. Just going on Fox News was something of an ask for forgiveness. It's just penny dreadful that we'll surely have to put up with her for a term or two as Prez. I can't quite turn my head away because it's a man-bites-dog story given that she wants something from me/us: i.e. book sales and a potential vote. Come inauguration day we'll like be treated as pond scum. Ah politics! What a perfect waste of a good attitude!

June 06, 2014

Quotable

From the New Jerusalem Bible footnotes on the recent readings from John chapter 17:
It was Jesus' mission to reveal the 'Name', i.e. the person, of the Father; now love for all people is a characteristic of the Father, and he proves this love by delivering up his only Son; it follows that all people must believe that Jesus is the Son, if they are to appreciate this love; and thus 'know' the Father.