December 31, 2010

Bush & the 2% Raise

Am enjoying George Bush's memoir but find the parts about Iraq and Afghanistan overly familiar and thus a bit of a slog. Am wondering if, in all those history books he consumed, he ever came across the story of the British empire and the overreach thereof. If the story of Britain was too much colonialism, perhaps the story of America is too much safety consciousness? Bush writes with regard to Afghanistan, "Our government was not prepared for nation building." Not a supreme surprise. That said, I understand why we went to war in Iraq & Afghanistan. There was a compelling case to be made even if hindsight makes me long for the days of Clinton sending expensive missiles into empty desert tents. The irony is that we actually thought that that was expensive!

Another line in the bio just read: "In early 2003, Alan Greenspan told me that the uncertainty [about whether to go to war with Iraq] was hurting the economy." Aren't we all getting a mite tired of having the economy hanging over our heads? Of course now it looks funny since the world of hurt that the economy was going to suffer in '08 made any potential '03 "hurt" look like a piker. Still, it is tiring to be ever the servant of, rather than master of the economy. And we see this most blatantly in our huge bank bailouts and the "too big to fail" firms. Kowtowing to Wall Street is getting a bit long in the tooth, especially given that the gains on Wall Street don't seem to be replicated in the employment market.
____

Am looking forward to the new tax law that is going to provide a 2% raise in '11 even though it's stupid and will be paid on the backs of our grandchildren. As a co-worker put it, "they're not taking from us some of the money they're not going to give us" (i.e. Social Security). Ben suggests we stick it in our retirement account but I say it should go to beer. I'm guessing this is going to be a "real 2%" raise instead of the pseudo 2% raises which, after taxes, are reduced to about 1.2%. (Actually the 2% raise may cover the soon-to-be $4 a gallon gas.)

December 30, 2010

Benedict on Bologna

The Holy Father on Poor Clare abbess St Catherine of Bologna, who sounds like our contemporary:
In his catechesis, the pope described the life of St. Catherine of Bologna, an abbess of the Poor Clares and "a woman of great wisdom and culture" who lived in the 15th century.

Despite the many centuries that separate her time and today, St. Catherine still speaks to modern men and women, said the pope.

December 29, 2010

Dedicated to Ellyn

Chesterton defends the seeming prosaic:
I remember a long time ago a sensible sub-editor coming up to me with a book in his hand, called "Mr. Smith," or "The Smith Family," or some such thing. He said, "Well, you won't get any of your damned mysticism out of this," or words to that effect. I am happy to say that I undeceived him; but the victory was too obvious and easy. In most cases the name is unpoetical, although the fact is poetical. In the case of Smith, the name is so poetical that it must be an arduous and heroic matter for the man to live up to it. The name of Smith is the name of the one trade that even kings respected, it could claim half the glory of that arma virumque which all epics acclaimed. The spirit of the smithy is so close to the spirit of song that it has mixed in a million poems, and every blacksmith is a harmonious blacksmith.

Even the village children feel that in some dim way the smith is poetic, as the grocer and the cobbler are not poetic, when they feast on the dancing sparks and deafening blows in the cavern of that creative violence. The brute repose of Nature, the passionate cunning of man, the strongest of earthly metals, the wierdest of earthly elements, the unconquerable iron subdued by its only conqueror, the wheel and the ploughshare, the sword and the steam-hammer, the arraying of armies and the whole legend of arms, all these things are written, briefly indeed, but quite legibly, on the visiting-card of Mr. Smith. Yet our novelists call their hero "Aylmer Valence," which means nothing, or "Vernon Raymond," which means nothing, when it is in their power to give him this sacred name of Smith—this name made of iron and flame.

This 'n That...

Reading, writing & a drink-metic...
Christmas Eve traveled to Cincy where the nieces and nephews opened the OSU-themed presents I'd gotten them and one of them asked, with all the innocence of youth, "are these [OSU socks] meant for me?" Not having to get your non-Godchildren gifts means one-stop shopping at a Buckeye store. Poor timing, as it turned out, given le scandal. Meanwhile back at our homestead brother-in-law Greg, an almost semi-professional actor, played the part of Santa for the little ones. They apparently didn't know who he was what with the disguised voice. From playing Scrooge to playing Santa in a week. He's been busy.

On Christmas Day there was 8am Mass, a minimalist one free of hustle or bustle or choir but still Christmas, be it a high or low Mass. Christmas is not a feeling but a fact, and that first Christmas was in many ways low-key. Still, I always want, one day, to go to Midnight Mass. Call it a bucket list item.

The usual Sunday morning was in force but for the agenda was to get an air mattress that wouldn't sink in the middle of the night like a book-room Titanic. Stopped at Bath, Bed & Beyond and blanched alliteratively at the $159 price tag. Decided to try to repair existing one, which fortunately held its air this time for whatever reason. I "feel" $159 richer.

Like a switch flipped, the Christmas music plays no more on Sirius/XM satellite radio. Proof that if I want to hear carols, I best hear them out of season or buy them for my iPod.

Meanwhile the six-day hiatus is on the cuspward side as I listen to Harvard's classical music station and drink an Ed Fitz porter. I feel as though I'm ready to go back to work, having read my eyes off (mostly non-fiction, including most of "Paul Among the People", about St. Paul.)

Had the "healing breakfast" of McD's. Oh but that Wildberry shake felt good against my raw throat. Headed to the 'brary around 10 and then subsequently read, slept till 4pm, with a timeout for 20 minutes on elliptical trainer. Enjoyed coffee's strong delights too.

The book on St. Paul was a bit on the liberal side of things but was interesting nonetheless. She examines some of the harder sayings of Paul and tries to soften them by offering the context of the times. Alan Jacobs, who is one of the most interesting non-Catholic writers working in the spiritual field these days, said it was one of the best books he read in 2010.

Also read some of Chesterton's Heretics, and was greatly pleased to note that even hypocrites are not beyond the pale for Chesterton the Good. From Heretics:
We ought to see far enough into a hypocrite to see even his sincerity. We ought to be interested in that darkest and most real part of a man in which dwell not the vices that he does not display, but the virtues that he cannot. And the more we approach the problems of human history with this keen and piercing charity, the smaller and smaller space we shall allow to pure hypocrisy of any kind. The hypocrites shall not deceive us into thinking them saints; but neither shall they deceive us into thinking them hypocrites. And an increasing number of cases will crowd into our field of inquiry, cases in which there is really no question of hypocrisy at all, cases in which people were so ingenuous that they seemed absurd, and so absurd that they seemed disingenuous.

December 22, 2010

Diaristic Wanderings

Homilist at downtown Mass: "when Jesus said my burden is light, he knew there would be a cross along the way but that that burden (the cross) is much, much smaller than the burden carried by those who sin. How much suffering sin causes others even in this life!"
___

Highlight of Sunday was listening to a city choir perform Handel's Messiah. Wonderful to take in the message and get into the Christmas spirit. The sopranos induce chills, as do those moments when the whole choir is singing the same words at the same time. Handel emphasizes the really key messages that way, it seems.
____

Car tire warnings seem proof of the questionableness of progress. Back in the old days if I was low on air I was blissfully ignorant and now there's the equivalent of a four-alarm fire on my dash when one dips below 24psi.
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Had the elixir of a dark, smoky Edmund Fitzgerald last night. Man, but that drink sings! It's a porter of no wasted movement: you can smell it long before you taste it. The first drink is like a bass blues singer driving home the beat that singes your synapses. The other one was the delicious Bells Best Brown Ale; the adjective gives no lie (brown or best). Flavorful with a hint of sweetness. All-in-all surprisingly good, the second even better. It ranked a 94 on the rate beer scale, whereas O'Fallon's Hemp, Hop & Rye, which I tentatively was going to gift, rated only a 42.
___

Excerpts from the novel Let the Great World Spin:
What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth—the filth, the war, the poverty—was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn’t interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven.

*

he’d rather die with his heart on his sleeve than end up another cynic.

*
“That’s what I like about God. You get to know Him by His occasional absence.”

*
The men sat rooted like Larkin poems.


And a funny line from "Russian Debutante Handbook" by Gary Sheygnart:

“I am a writer-poet. No, a novelist-poet. But for a living I make investments. A novelist-poet-investor. Plus I do dance improv.”

Memory Lane

On my desk sits a framed photograph of the baseball team my grandfather managed. "They're all dead now!" Mom might exclaim in the perpetual surprise we all feel at the brevity of life. A tree stands in the background which, perhaps, has escaped the ravages of time and bulldozer.

The team looks full of half-familiar faces. Hamilton, Ohio seemed so large and impersonal back when I was growing up; now it seems smaller and more insular. Looking in the high school alum magazine, one sees the same pattern of names. Doing genealogy research one sees the same continuity backwards.

The picture was likely taken in the early 1900s and Grandpa himself looks Jewish, what with the prominent nose and smallish height. I've always thought he had a most distinctive face despite the rather commonplace combination of Irish and German forebears. His dark eyebrows flare up high off the eyes and his cheeks are clearly delineated from his mouth and nose. Perhaps it was just that he was still "close to the boat" to look too Americanized, since his mother was an immigrant from southwest Germany.

German immigrants of the 19th century were notorious for being “good drinkers”. They were the opposite of the Irish, whose example provided much of the impetus for the costly experiment of Prohibition. The Germans were industrious and upstanding despite their penchant for beer and Grandpa took after that side, not having the problem with it his Irish father had.

He wears a uniform with an "H" on his chest, surely signifying "Hamilton". I wonder now if he ever felt the outsider, being a Catholic in the public school system when that was rare. Or as an athlete but a small one, someone who had to rely on a certain amount of stealth and skill rather than raw brawn.

Always a lover of sports, I didn't realize, growing up, that he was so good at them, that he wasn't just a spectator. He had “played the game” to paraphrase Howard Cosell...

December 21, 2010

Last Minute Gift Suggestion

Uncle TSO scored a huge hit last year when he gifted his 9-year old nephew with the old classic Strange But True Baseball Stories. My nephew's read it three times o'er.

I see someone went to the effort to actually put a video review on amazon.com:

December 18, 2010

Quick links from my iPod

Rare footage of Padre Pio. link

I'm shocked I agree with a Leftist:link

The murse dilemma: link

Rebecca West on boredom: link

Going to adoration is proof of gratitude. Catechism 1418

Contrastong medieval images of the Virgin Mary with contemporary pornography link

No Fear Felt By Woman Without Functioning Amygdala: The amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain... link

Lack of reading privacy w ereaders link

December 17, 2010

Central Ohio Nun



As Dylan says, "Nuns are some of the happiest human beings on the face of the earth!"

December 16, 2010

Free Sample...

...of Gilbert Magazine (pdf), dedicated to furthering the writings of GK Chesterton.

And from this...

"The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos." - Stephen Jay Gould

And from this one could take it two ways: from the agnostic view, of the inability of man to reach convictions about anything, including God, or from the theistic view, as a display of the startling largeness of God.

Parody blog...

Early Adopter Swears Off Afghanistan 1.0 & 2.0 Versions

It's Not the Size but the Quality...

...of your audience:
Now if I just had something worthwhile to say I'd be all set.

Pointless Asides R Us....

Oh, I remember those delicious side trips to Thompson library this summer, which held all the associations of travel with none of the expense. I remember those impressive, impassive surroundings, flanked by trees shedding like dogs in the heat. I remember how the reading room was recently featured on 60 Minutes, showing the correspondent strolling through with Fed chief Ben Bernanke: arguably the second most powerful man in America was ambling in the very room I spent some time in this past summer.

Was reminded of sense memories yesterday while watching Samantha Brown's trip on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship. There she was in that gaudy midway, with pubs full of drinks and drinkers. Then too the bracing balcony views, where I puff an imaginary cigar in my mind's eye.

Oh but I also recall that single moment, dare I say singular one, poolside Wednesday with the full hull of day ahead. What a lovely ache it produces now when time has turned and I sit in the drear of winter! There I was with the full suite of tools - the iPod, the netbook and the Kindle, reading, writing and music. How odd, it seems, that it was only so late in the week that that moment was recalled, as if all the days before were mere trompe l'oeil! That single view of gently pulsing water, that blue meridian time resonates, the time when I reclined under the firm yet gentle sun and looked out on the tropical fecundity. I recall the first day and how it felt like cheating but how by Monday or Tuesday it felt natural, it felt real and how by Wednesday or Thursday I felt oh so present. I recall the island-y drinks, only three of them given the expense and naturally now I wonder at my frugality. I recall the brazen displays of womanly flesh, of bare cups and flush feet and rim'd suits running to the sweet spots.

December 13, 2010

Interesting Quotes from Somerset Maugham...

Found in his memoir The Summing Up:
The humorist has a quick eye for the humbug; he does not always recognize the saint...You tend to close your eyes to truth, beauty and goodness because they give no scope to your sense of the ridiculous.

* * *

Selfishness and kindliness, idealism and sensuality, vanity, shyness, disinterestedness, courage, laziness, nervousness, obstinacy, and diffidence, they can all exist in a single person and form a plausible harmony. It has taken a long time to persuade readers of the truth of this...It is evidently less trouble to make up one's mind about a man one way or the other and dismiss suspense with the phrase, he's one of the best or he's a dirty dog.

* * *

I lived at this time in a group of young men who had by nature gifts that seemed to me much superior to mine. They could write and draw and compose with a facility that aroused my envy...I know now that all they had was the natural creativity of youth. To write prose and verse...is instinctive with a great many young persons. It is a form of play, due merely to the exuberance of their years, and is no more significant than a child's building of a castle on the sands...Youth is the inspiration. One of the tragedies of the arts is the spectacle of the vast number of persons who have been misled by this passing fertility to devote their lives to the effort of creation. Their invention deserts them as they grow older, and they are faced with the long years before them in which, unfitted by now for a more humdrum calling, they harass their wearied brain to beat out material it is incapable of giving them.

* * *

The value of culture is its effect on character. It avails nothing unless it ennobles and strengthens that. Its use is for life. Its aim is not beauty but goodness...There is no more merit in having read a thousand books than in having ploughed a thousand fields. The True, the Good and the Beautiful are not the perquisites of those who have been to expensive schools.

* * *

To me reading is a rest as to other people conversation or a game of cards. It is more than that; it is a necessity, and if I am deprived of it for a little while I find myself as irritable as the addict deprived of his drug.

* * *

I can never forget myself. The hysteria of the world repels me and I never feel more aloof than when I am in the midst of a throng surrendered to a violent feeling of mirth or sorrow... I am incapable of complete surrender. And so, never having felt some of the fundamental emotions of normal men, it is impossible that my work should have the intimacy, the broad human touch and the animal serenity which the greatest writers alone can give.

December 10, 2010

Let Evening Come

by Jane Kenyon
Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

From a 30 Rock episode...

...Liz Lemon comes through one of those super cool-moe faux book doors:

An Address...

...by Charles E. Rice, professor emeritus of Notre Dame Law School:
We are privileged to be at Holy Cross College, an institution that “Rudy” put on the map. That film, incidentally, was not fantasy. In addition to football, Dan (Rudy) Ruettiger in his senior year, was vice-president of the Notre Dame Boxing Club which raises large sums of money through the Bengal Bouts to support the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh. “[T]ough-as-nails senior Daniel Ruettiger,” as he was described, won the 175-pound championship in 1976. Dominic Napolitano, the legendary director of the Bengal Bouts, said Rudy was “one of the greatest motivators in a dozen years.”

So Rudy is real. And so is the achievement of this excellent college. In important ways, Holy Cross College is what Notre Dame was before it began its pursuit of prestige and the approval of the academic ruling class.

God, the Poet of Oceans

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are. - Anais Nin
I long to savor, to look back, on the week still so prominent in my cell memory: that of the burnished pool-side sun in San Juan. How charismatic those nearby waters seemed, sparkling like colorless champagne! Comforting waterfalls sounded in the background while weighty deliberations took place in deciding what to read.

I long to remember it, memorize it even, those ambulatory mornings to the pool, checking out two towels ("Room 1432"), followed by sterling mint sun the color of translucence. I could feel the heat on my bare skin as I pulled out the Kindle and its salutary delights. I'd adjust my ballcap in acknowledgment of the sun, my sunglasses on as I commenced reading with great ache, gobbling up the text as if filet mignon.

We fell into the routine as into a hammock, our days broken up by a civilized 11am workout overlooking the ocean. Steph read "You Had Me at Woof" and Dave Ramsey's Money Management Book. I read too, drunk on prose and occasionally poetry.

The bright sundial of time was between 10 and 2, that royal "we" during which we were immune from the troubles of limits. A couple days we walked in that gilt-light to the local stores, an activity at once productive and a way to enjoy the weather.

Then too there was the taste of happy hour in late afternoon, the consolation of the later hours, drinking beer the color of sunshine. We'd walk out of the pool area past the ever-present security guard through the slim portal to the ocean. We'd find two open loungers and sink into them, my earbuds alive with song while Steph read or people-watched.

I spent an hour of the early eves out on the balcony, taking in the sunset while smoking a cigar and writing of the days' "events".

We slept deliciously, the room satisfactorily chilled; I'd awake at 6:30 or 7 and head out to the balcony for morning prayer and a morning read. Breakfast would come with immediately upon hunger: cereal, peanut butter and a protein shake...

December 08, 2010

Benedict the Pastor

Nowhere in the Pope's Q&A book is the term "mortal sin" used, which I think is interesting. The Church has lessened emphasis on that either/or, saved/not saved, state of grace/state of sin dichotomy. Where it's particularly interesting is how Benedict looks at the case of those remarried and divorced. They cannot receive Communion because, objectively, it would seem they are in a state of mortal sin. And yet Benedict refers to them as being in a "canonically irregular" situation (this is not your father's church) and is very kind, gentle and offers a lot of hope to them and therefore to all of us:
Pastoral care, for its part, has to seek ways of staying close to individuals and of helping them, even in, shall we say, their irregular situation, to believe in Christ as the Savior, to believe in his goodness, because he is always there for them, even though they cannot receive communion. And of helping them to remain in the Church, even though their situation is canonically irregular. Pastoral care has to help them accept that, yes, I do not live up to what I should be as a Christian, but I do not cease to be a Christian, to be loved by Christ, and the more I remain in the Church, the more I am sustained by him.

December 07, 2010

Chesterton Quote o' the Day

"It is but part of the modern malady; the incapacity for doing things without overdoing things. It is an incapacity to understand the ancient paradox of moderation. As the drunkard is the man who does not understand the delicate and exquisite moment when he is moderately and reasonably drunk, so the motorist and motion-picture artist are people who do not understand the divine and dizzy moment when they really feel things are moving."
- from "Generally Speaking"

Post-Vacation Errands, Check

Busy couple of lunch hours so far this week, the product of renewed post-vacation zest for knocking out errand-ish tasks.

On Monday, dragged my arse to the local gold shop and sold the two American eagles I'd purchased in March. They wanted a ridiculous amount in commission, which reminded me why I don't like gold as an investment (high transaction costs) but for all I know about selling gold, perhaps that's typical. Since the world didn't come to an end during the past six months, I figured it was time to exchange it for something a bit more liquid. She gave me $2,634 in cash, mostly in 50s, and I felt like a drug dealer carrying all that (minus the heat of course). Went to the bank and deposited it and the cashier didn't blink an eye. I suppose a couple grand isn't what it used to be. (The new $600?).

Today I got smart and shopped for a real alignment shop and not lame Tire Discounters who say they align but really do not. Spent the hour gainfully reading the Pope's new Q&A book. Tis true that there's little in it so far I couldn't have predicted, based on my wide reading of his thought, nevertheless he always has a good diagnosis of modern ills.

The twenty-something gal at the register noted my Kindle and gushed: "Oh I want one of those SOOO bad. I'm reading this book today and my son bent the pages and if I had an e-reader...". Said that she saw one for $60 on Craigslist and hopes her boyfriend got the message concerning it.

Am sort of following, appreciatively, Dylan's appreciation of Heather King of late. Surprising to see him rank her ahead of Merton. She is such an interesting figure and seems to have only one gear: full. She is semi-exhausting to read, at least for me, given how real and raw much of her writing and posts are. She seems to know suffering and is not afraid to write about it. Meanwhile I'm afraid of suffering and have even a low tolerance for reading about it. And yet I read Redeemed. Her humility is humbling, as is her writing talent.

Now I have to get moving on PARCHED since Betty Duffy's to be discussing it at Reading for Believers site.

December 05, 2010

Is this a great country or what?


Overnight bus takes visitors to Manhattan for a 12-hour whirlwind

I may have to take advantage of that sometime.

Various & Sundry

Mike Poterma in NR... On Sarah Palin

* * *

Free e-book on Amazon and presumably elsewhere: Anthony Powell's first volume of "A Dance to the Rhythm of Time".

* * *

"For fear of the newspapers politicians are dull, and at last they are too dull even for the newspapers." - GK Chesterton

A Prayer

Read something recently in which the saint exclaimed that being persecuted was not as difficult as it would seem because Christ was bearing most of the cross, while his portion was very small. A saintly attitude indeed!

Lord let me seek thee in Thee
and in others,
let me persevere
like the thief on the gibbet,
whom once in my childishness
I thought: "there is the least of saints!"
though he endured the greatest of suffering
without rebuking his God.
Dismas, Dismas,
pray for us!

December 02, 2010

Damn Lies, Statistics, etc...

'Twould seem that my Twitter stat counter suggests I'm still a long way from complete worldwide Twitter domination. I love the deadpan vote of no confidence in suggesting I'll likely lose a follower:

Testing of the Emergency Blogcast System

This is a test of the emergency blogcast system. This is only a test. Should an actual blogmergency occur, you will be notified.

November 25, 2010

Quotable...

From Chesterton's Generally Speaking, about how moderns confuse means and ends:
A little while ago an intellectual weekly started an argument among the intellectuals about whether man has improved the earth he lives on; whether nature as a whole was better for the presence of man. Nobody seemed to notice that this is assuming that the end of man is to grow more grass or improve the breed of rattlesnakes, apart from any theory about the origin or object of these things. A man may serve God and be good to mankind for that reason; or a man may serve mankind and be good to other things to preserve the standard of mankind; but it is very hard to prove exactly how far he is bound to make the jungle thicker or encourage very tall giraffes. Here again the common sense of mankind, even working unconsciously, has always stated the matter the other way round....Man is not bound to regard a man as something created for the good of a palm-tree. Nor is he bound to ansewr the question, with any burden on his conscience: "If there were no men, would there be more palm-trees?"

November 23, 2010

November 22, 2010

(Mostly) One Liners

It's lame there's no eBook version of the Pope's Light of the World. [Update: Jeff Miller reports that a version will be available Wednesday.]
* * *
Looks like Deal Hudson and Inside Catholic received the mother of all linkages: the Drudge Report. Surprised it could handle the traffic.
* * *
Whenever I get emails from BAC (Belmont Abbey College), I think of the other BAC ("blood alcohol concentration").
* * *
You heard about TSA ridiculousness here first. This story interests me in part because of TSA's fealty to political correctness and lack of common sense. It's also fascinating to see a pure power play in action, as shown by the fact politicians will be able to opt out. Those who make the law get special rules. Charles Krauthammer writes:
We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to assure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety – 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling – when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.
* * *
Recent news story said that chocolate may turn out to be a luxury as expensive as caviar within 20 years due to supply/demand challenges. Buy your chocolate now, although I believe the storage is only about 2 years so...
* * *

Trying to determine which of the following books to go for:
The Edge of Sadness - Edwin O'Connor - Betty Duffy recommended, but not lyrical and not exactly escapism material.

The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachmen - decently lyrical with comic undertones, which usually is my fiction forte.

Proud to be Right: Voices of the Next Conservative Generation - Jonah Goldberg - started reading first chapter via Kindle and looks pretty interesting. But it is non-fiction, of which I already have a heap.

Russian Debutante's Handbook - Gary Shteyngart - has much potential, looks generally engaging and accessible.

Everything Matters! - Ron Currie Jr. - comic, but a bit too cutesy. Not noticeably lyrical.

Parched - have the book, and read the first couple chapters yesterday.

November 19, 2010

This...

....exemplifies the sort of can-do spirit of America!

November 17, 2010

Democrats Gone Wild!

Why Obama Can't Win Now Discounted

No wonder this book is a bargain.

Tweet Nonsense

Bwaa haaa haaa! My twitter ranking is #357,536. Soon I will begin world domination!

From the Sunday Bulletin of a Church Downtown...

Click to enlarge:

November 16, 2010

From Pauline Books...

I feel so broad-minded for reading a publication with an article by Sr. Joan Chittister! :-) I jest. From the self-same publication - the newsletter Life & Soul - by Sr. Mary Le Hill, FSP:
Just How Good is the Good News?

How often do we consider these powerful little words: good and news? Both are among the most overused words in the English language.

Classic introduction: "How are you?"
"Good!"

Classic advice: "I only want you hanging around with good kids."

Classic quote (from G. K. Chesterton):
"The word good has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yars, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man."
And what about news? If I were a news editor, my idea of good news would be
1. short: the essential:

2. simple: the human interest;

3. strong: the unique angle.
Do the Gospels meet my criteria? Well, they are short - to the point of irritation. We always wish the evangelists had said more. As for human interest: their 2,000 plus years on the best-seller list attests to our fascination with their simple message. The strength of the Gospels is definitely in the unique angle from which they present thier breaking story.

...

As a baby Jesus came to us in weakness and helplessness... Jesus' life is of profound importance to our own. He is both God's Word spoken to us and our word of response to God. We now speak to God only in him, with him, and through him. He is always the most contemporary means of communication with God.

Paulines by definition are evanglizers. Well, what does that mean? I'm going to spreak the Gospel. Yes, but more! I am going to do the gospel, to evangelize. It is the most effective means, as illustrated by God himself, in the incarnation, he is the Good News.

Karma, Karma, Carmelite

There are no second acts, it's been said, but Steven Riddle seems to have found his. Momentary Taste is so different from Flos Carmeli that it's as if he reinvented himself before our very eyes. His old blog was linkless and discursive, his new blog link-full and pithy. It's a startling achievement to see someone speak in a new blog voice.To give but one example: "Okay, just cool yer jets--dun fore he wuz prez." (Sometimes the new voice is pretty literal.) He has undergone the discipline that blog-readers seem to require: a consistent branding. For Momentary Taste, it's all things literary. For "recollected in tranquility", it's his poetry.

I often think of Steven when I'm faced, yet again, with the issue of detachment. I can't help but think how he was right about it, that Carmelites "get it". 99% of obstacles to the spiritual life seem related to detachment issues.

But I'm Already Married, How Can I Get Engaged?

On the work front, am semi-fascinated by the new-found emphasis on camaraderie and engagement. You know something's up when they spring for free beer and pizza at a nearby watering hole/restaurant. It's as though Uncle Employer has read some psychology and group dynamics and has determined to make sure that being well-loved counts. Indeed, the whole new customercentric focus makes those things understandable. I survived all the cuts made for job effectiveness; will I survive cuts made on personality, outgoingness? Of course if you hang around long enough there's bound to be something that will go to your weak point.

It feels a farce, but it's a farce they intend to put some muscle behind. Even were we to get all the questions 100% "correct" that would result in too much explaining. Perfect scores for engagement are not the endgame. I took some joy in pointing out, albeit a foolish risk to do so, that it's odd that those groups who didn't actually work on their engagement ended up having higher engagement than we did. But our manager is a strict constructionist when it comes to things of this nature. A very much by-the-book, follower-of-rules guy. I can't tell if he really believes in it, or is just crossing his t's and dotting his i's. It is interesting that none of the other managers took it seriously enough to actually complete the requirements. I think it may be related to how secure they feel in their job.

(This post, by the way, swimming in commas as it is, is dedicated to Amy Welborn Dubruiel who apparently has a laptop without a working comma.)

November 15, 2010

November 14, 2010

Letter from today's Columbus Dispatch...

There's nothing more romantic than lost causes, such as the aim of the group "Democrats for Life". God bless them, may their tribe increase:
From a pro-life perspective, President Barack Obama made three strategic errors that cost Democrats the 2010 election:

First was the reversal of the Mexico City policy in his second week in office, which supported organizations that promote and perform abortions in other countries. It came across like a hidden agenda and betrayal for pro-life Obama voters.

Second was the reversal of President George W. Bush's embryonic stem-cell research through executive order.

Third, the straw that broke the camel's back was the strong-arming of Congress to eliminate the Stupak amendment on the health-care-reform bill. The amendment would have prohibited abortion coverage in the public health-care option and barred any federal subsidies for plans that included abortion purchased on the new insurance exchanges.

That ill-considered move essentially handed the GOP what it needed to label it as a pro-abortion bill and call the entire bill into question with voters.

On Nov. 2, our Democratic leadership got yet another lesson, like in 2004, that ignoring, alienating and taking pro-life voters for granted is a recipe for Democratic defeat. Those pro-life Democrats who abandoned Stupak were a large group among the election losers.

Better still, the Democratic Party should lose the albatross of abortion advocacy with Roe vs. Wade, foisted on us in the first place by five Republican-appointed justices (out of seven concurring opinions) and retained for us by four Republican justices (out of four concurring opinions). The GOP was smart enough to get rid of this hot potato, and we Democrats have been dumb enough to pick it up, thereby bringing about continuing close elections and election losses.

MARY ANN CHIMERA

President

Democrats for Life of Ohio

November 12, 2010

Beautiful Meditation from this Week's Office

How infrequently do I consider myself and others as temples of God!
A sermon of St Caesarius of Arles

Baptism makes every one of us into a temple of God.

My fellow Christians, today is the birthday of this church, an occasion for celebration and rejoicing. We, however, ought to be the true and living temple of God. Nevertheless, Christians rightly commemorate this feast of the church, their mother, for they know that through her they were reborn in the spirit. At our first birth, we were vessels of God’s wrath; reborn, we became vessels of his mercy. Our first birth brought death to us, but our second restored us to life.

Indeed, before our baptism we were sanctuaries of the devil; but after our baptism we merited the privilege of being temples of Christ. And if we think more carefully about the meaning of our salvation, we shall realise that we are indeed living and true temples of God. God does not dwell only in things made by human hands, nor in homes of wood and stone, but rather he dwells principally in the soul made according to his own image and fashioned by his own hand. Therefore, the apostle Paul says: The temple of God is holy, and you are that temple.

When Christ came, he banished the devil from our hearts, in order to build in them a temple for himself. Let us therefore do what we can with his help, so that our evil deeds will not deface that temple. For whoever does evil, does injury to Christ. As I said earlier, before Christ redeemed us, we were the house of the devil, but afterward, we merited the privilege of being the house of God. God himself in his loving mercy saw fit to make of us his own home. My fellow Christians, do we wish to celebrate joyfully the birth of this temple? Then let us not destroy the living temples of God in ourselves by works of evil. I shall speak clearly, so that all can understand. Whenever we come to church, we must prepare our hearts to be as beautiful as we expect this church to be. Do you wish to find this basilica immaculately clean? Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God too wishes that your soul be not in darkness, but that the light of good works shine in us, so that he who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into your soul, for he promised: I shall live in them, I shall walk through their hearts.

Poetry Friday

Oh for the golden ten minutes in the a.m. spent cradling a cup of newborn coffee while reclining and reading the glittery prose-poems of Kenneth "Don't Call Me Ken!" Rexroth...
Autumn has returned and we return
To the same beach in the last hours...

The green spring that comes in November.
With the first rains has restored the hills.
Seals are playing in the kelp beds.
As the surf sweeps in they can be seen
Weaving over one another in
The standing water. In the granite
Cliffs are swarms of dark fish shaped patches
Of rock oriented to the flow lines
Of the hot magma.

...

...Eventually the will
Exhausts itself and turns, seeking grace,
To the love that suffers ignorance
And time's irresponsibility.
The Cross cannot be climbed upon.
It cannot be seized like a weapon
Against the injustice of the world.
"No one has ever seized injustice
in his bare hands and bent it back.
No one has ever tried to smash evil,
Without smashing himself and sinking
Into greater evil or despair."
The Satanic cunning represents
Itself as very strong, but just
A trifle weaker than its victim.
This is the meaning of temptation.
The Devil does not fool with fools.

You won't raise yourself by your bootstraps,
However pious and profound.
Christ was not born of Socrates,
But to a disorderly people,
In an evil time, in the flesh
Of innocence and humility.

...

Autumn comes
And the death of flowers, but
The flowered colored waves of
The sea will last forever
Like the pattern on the dress
Of a beautiful woman.

This Post Dedicated to Steven Riddle...

...who noted in an email the paucity of posts (say five times fast) on this blog lately. It does feel like it's been awhile since I last virtually-ink'd the white magic of a Word document or blog post equivalent. I've looked lately askance at my little word processor, preferring instead the narcotic of OPW (other people's words), of the amazon Kindle and the fascinating Robert Reich book called Supercapitalism. It's eye-opening and a fine background to what I've seen in my own workplace; half the time I think all the corporate fads that we're exposed to would be more bearable if only we knew of them in advance. And in Supercapitalism there is described less fads than long-time processes that are shaping the workplace.

Fell in read-love with the novel "South of Broad" by Pat Conroy. He's got that Steinbech romantic streak, with a willingness to risk his prose being called sentimental or over-the-top. I appreciate the desire to be lyrical, given how rare it is these days in modern novelists. Tried my best to go at the other Arthur Philips' novels but they are a whole different animal than "The Song is You". Conroy's novel is a pretty darn appealing yarn about a man who waits eleven years for his true love, a nun, to become his wife. Fortunately she is discharged of her sisterly obligation with the full blessing of the church.

* * *

Posting dreams is the last refuge of a shark-jumper, but last night had a repeat dream from what seems like years ago, that I discovered a huge old, finely-bound volume with the title Justice and Mercy, which I eagerly leafed through looking for the "answer", for whether mercy or judgement triumphs, only to come to the end and learn the book was printed/written by an evangelical church and was thus dogmatically suspect, even should I find the answer.

* * *

Is there a song in the universe deeper than Rio by Duran Duran? It's the Proust of four-minute fifty-second rock songs, chock-full of the nostalgia of longing and the longing of nostalgia.

How evocative the refrain!: "Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand / Just like that river twistin' thru a dusty land / and when she shines, she really shows you all she can / Oh Rio, Rio dance across the Rio Grande!"

In the foggy haze of my 20s I thought the lyric had Rio dancing "on the Sands", the casino in Vegas, but how much better is the singular sand with its pure vision of a beach full of the elemental things: heat, wind, water the saltiness of blood, and all things estrogenic. Dancing on sand is a perfect image in part because of the degree of difficulty. Anyone can dance on a slick dance floor under the cover of strobed disco lights; only the pure can dance under the transparency-providing sun on step-deadening sand. It's like dancing on water.

The next line, "just like that river twistin' through a dusty land" evokes a man thirstily in search of God and brings to mind the Brooks & Dunn lyric about a "cool glass of water." The verb "twistin'" is meant to remind us of Rio's dance and "dusty" of the great thirst of both the land for this river and the singer for Rio.

"And when she shines, she really shows you all she can" tells us that when Rio is at her best, she is telling us as much as she can safely tell about herself without losing our respect. It's important to note that she's not showing all she has, but all she can, meaning that there are unexplored depths. This is a veiled euphemism to God, to how he shows us all we are capable of grasping.

"Oh Rio, Rio dance across the Rio Grande!": here we have the confirmation of what we earlier suspected, that is that Rio can dance on water. Also note the thrice repetition of "Rio" in this line. The singer achieves an ecstatic state merely by repeated the beloved's name.

Later we have "And I might find her, if I'm looking like I can."

This sings directly to the male's heart, a hunter's heart that humbly realizes that finding his prey is dependent on intangibles. "If I'm looking like I can" is as accurate a statement as was ever made because it consists not of a list of the hunter's assets but if he's looking like he can. Purists may call this tautological it is what it is.

* * *

Sigh. It's come to this: I received a work email requesting I go to a meeting concerning how to "establish my personal brand". Branding, like sola scriptura, has come to the individual. I'm thinking my "brand" of being a beer-drinking, lame Christian perpetually longing for a vacation may not be the best thing to advertise.

* * *

"Your comment is awaiting moderation." goes the Wordpress commentary. With God our comments are moderated in real time.

November 09, 2010

List o'Tuesday

Favorite Beers

Harvest Moon
Guinness
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada Tumblr
Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
Lion Stout

Favorite Liberals

Robert Reich
Eugene Robinson
Peter Beinart
Christopher Hitchens
Alicia Menendez

November 08, 2010

Link o'rama

Ode to Daylight Savings Time:

The decks we built, the lawns we nursed,
We’ll next see on March the 1st,
And soon we and our time-zone fellows
Will feel like human portobellos...

DST, you clock magician,
You moved the sun to good position.
You did your job and never pandered
To devotees of Eastern
Standard —
* * *

I find the subject of national catechisms interesting, vis-a-vis the universal catechism. One might be tempted to think the latter is sufficient, but there are regional differences. I wonder if any Catlick blogger has examined differences in tone/emphasis between USCCB catechism and the universal one?

* * *

Interesting post from the Chesterton Society of Ireland on why Chesterton doesn't matter.
* * *

<--- Wow, the poll results on the left side of the blog on Republican prez candidates couldn't be more split. I kind of like Haley Barbour.
* * *

I'm not at all surprised Nancy Pelosi wants to maintain her leadership status. She who wrote the book titled "Power", seeks it avidly.
* * *

I find it shocking that Keith Olbermann was suspended for concretizing in money what he says every day in words. Jonah Goldberg writes:
"the larger problem with these kinds of rules is that they do little to prevent media bias and a great deal to hide an important form of evidence of it. Banning liberal journalists from giving money doesn’t prevent them from being liberal, it just gives them a bit more plausibility when they deny it...It doesn’t fool anyone, but gives the accused a lawyerly rebuttal to accurate accusations."
* * *

Pat Conroy has a new non-fiction book out about his reading life that would seem irresistible to me. It's less a question of if I buy it but when.
* * *

So here we have Jack Donvan, the all-seeing, all-knowing voiceover for ABC's This Week, insisting the midterm election wasn't all that historic. Fine, but is there any chance in Hades that if the Dems had won by that landslide that This Week would be the voice of moderation? Double standards reveal poor sportmanship.

Notes from a Retreat

Heard retreat master Fr. W say that about half of Catholics shouldn't be presenting themselves to Communion. Said that he doesn't want to have to install "metal detectors at the communion rail". Said that this came up during the pro-abort politicians receiving Communion, and how it opened up a can of worms. Said that we need to catechize; many don't know, thankfully, that they shouldn't be presenting themselves for Communion. The greatest sin is sacrilege, is receiving Christ unworthily. That's why the priest prays, "May this communion not bring me condemnation."

* * *

He said that two kinds of love, eros and agape, were brought together in Christ on the Cross. Eros <> sex. Because Jesus was simultaneously offering Himself to God (eros) and laying down his life for us (agape). Beautiful imagery about the Vine and the branches: what do vines do? They split themselves open to let the branch come out. .

Said Jesus didn't use his divine powers to defeat the devil (in the garden and in the desert) but purely human power. His divine power was limited until after the crucifixion and resurrection. It was the faith of the people that worked the miracles, such that he couldn't do miracles in his home town because there was too little faith. It was only after the Resurrection that his powers came to such fulfillment, as a message to us that our greatest powers lay only after the cross. Remember, Jesus was still in Heaven, in his divine nature, while his earthly soul was on earth.

The wounds on Christ's resurrected body were not to show us what we did to Him, but to show the devil that death, wounds have no power. It's to use the devil's greatest advantage, death, and to use it to save us. It sort of a taunt to the devil.

* * *

Fr. Wehner said that seminarians may want to be priests for reasons A, B and C, but remain priests because of D, E & F. Similarly we may marry because of beauty, attraction or what not but stay married for completely new reasons.

Faith alone leads to superstition. Reason alone leads, ironically, to madness.

It is unthinkable that Jesus lust after a woman because He created her and that would be incest.

* * *

I was delighted to see donuts after breakfast and and I thought about the coolness of us having the same reaction to the goodness of donuts. Our shared humanity - that which I find delightful, others do too. A simple thing.

"One holy, catholic, apostolic church" is an event, not a thing. It's the entire span of time from the conception of God the womb through the Resurrection. Sacraments are "outside of time" and can thus bring us to those events again. "Sacrament" comes from the word for "mystery" which means "things we can't see but can experience." (Like love, patriotism, etc...).

Christ made the Trinity visible, the Church makes Christ visible, and we make the Church visible. Faith becomes flesh.

* * *

Visited the chapel to pray the afternoon liturgy of the hours and prayers of petition. Then read some of the book "Exercising Your Soul" and I'm surprised by how often the author mirrors something I just learned from the padre here: "Humans were created to be greater than angels!" and "Perfect union with God happens in death." The good padre says that the definition of "saved" is to be face-to-face with God, which happens only when we die. None of us are "saved" yet by that definition, contrary our Protestant brothers and sisters.

One difference is the approach of sin. Fr. W preaches against it strongly, while the author of "Exercising" argues we focus too much on it, saying "we become what we focus on. If we think we're a loser, we'll become a loser. Two thousand years of focussing on sin has got us...what?" Fr. W says that we must not negotiate with evil, not compromise by thinking "a little sin is okay" or "I can follow this or that church teaching but not that one."

November 05, 2010

Diaristic Wanderings

The big news in Central Ohio this week was that the breath of Old Man Winter came early. It got people's attention, to the point of sartorial change. Coats and hats are now the de rigueur, and d├ęcolletage a bit more rare.

October was a fine little sally, a stepping out gingerly into the colder realms of the year. Gently she led us out of the land of milk and honey, so I can't complain. In some ways I forget what a sublime creature she is on her own, notwithstanding her precursor status.
. . .

I feel so pluperfectly professional what with the Friday Wall Street Journal peeking out from a pocket of my European shoulder-bag. But looks can be deceiving: the bag carries my netbook and not a laptop and the Journal, in this case, was found abandoned in a bathroom stall.
. . .

Slogged 2.3 miles around a track and then 15 minutes on the elliptical trainer as payment for my dietary sins. Took Wednesday off and boy did that light sing, finely distilled light, there in the kitchen and out on the back patio. Tucked the garden in for the year since all the tomato plants were weeping from the first hard frost a couple days ago. It was like old times not forgotten, sitting out reading about ancient Cincinnati ("and then the dinosaurs came...") in Vas You Ever in Zinzinnati?. My only regret is not imbibing more poetry and fiction and spiritual stuff, preferably all three by reading Chesterton. Keep meaning to read "Parched", the first memoir of Heather King. I got it for like $4 on the 'net but keep forgetting it.
. . .

More big news: devoured my favorite breakfast in all of life, McDonald's, despite it being subpar in quality: the cinnamon melt flavor was a bit off, and the scrambled eggs were hard. But the sausage was pluperfect, and the bacon, egg and cheese biscuit was the usual. Splurged on a Wild Berry and it hit the spot. Will miss McDs breakfast this weekend but not the calories.
. . .

Reading the OED came in the mail today. Looks like a delicious little read. Trying to get hooked up with a new Philips novel but so far quality of the other two seems a bit questionable so far. Thinking also of getting a new biography of Mickey Mantle called "The Last Boy", something suffused with the sort of nostalgia I like.
. . .

Surprised to learn that Jody Bottum stepped down from editing First Things in order to complete a book.

Who Am I?

Mine is not glamorous work though I do get my share of ladies' undies, if slightly used. My hours are early as those of morning television hosts. Travel is intrinsic to my job and I feel an instinctive sympathy with the cowboys of the old West given my "daily roundup". It's a job of brawn more than brains and is a Luddite's dream.

Answer: (in white "ink"; highlight for best results): garbage man

Oh If Only We Had Gridlock in '09...

I amused by the MSM's hyper-fear of gridlock. From Darwin Catholic:
What both rightists and leftists should keep in mind after elections like this one and 2008 as well is that elections in the US are decided by a swing bloc which might charitably be described as pragmatic/a-political (or uncharitably as generally ignorant of political ideology and policy.) In 2008, that bloc looked at the landscape and said to itself, "Things aren't going so well, and Obama seems like he has exciting new ideas." This year, those same people looked around and said, "I keep hearing about 'stimulus' and debt and the health care bill, but all I can see right now is that a lot of people are out of work and insurance costs are going up. Let's throw the bums out."

Obama bet big that either he would have the magical ability to fix the economy, or it would fix itself, within two years. He lost that one. Now Republicans are betting that things will either look better in two years, or it will be possible to pin remaining problems on Obama. Only time will tell.

As someone who does have a formed political and economic philosophy, it's frustrating to me that elections are decided the way they are, though probably less so than for progressives since gridlock is not all that bad a thing according to my philosophy, while theirs require that the helping hand of statism shepherd us firmly and rapidly into the brave new world that is ahead.

How Millennial Are You?

Me, not so much:

George "Sparky" Anderson, R.I.P.

November 04, 2010

Takes All Kinds

From Reading the OED, quoting Thomas Nashe from The Anatomie of Absurditie concerning the "eight kinds of drunks":
1. Ape-drunke - "he leapes, and sings, and hollowes, and daunceth for the heavens."

2. Lion-drunke - "he flings the pots abut the house, calls his Hostesse whore, breaks the glasse windows with his dagger, and is apt to quarrell with any man that speaks to him."

3. Swine-drunke - "heavy lumpish, and sleepie, and crises for a little more drinke."

4. Sheepe-drunke - "wise in his owne conceipt, when he cannot bring forth a right word."

5. Mawdlen-drunke - "when a fellowe will weepe for kindnes in the midst of his Ale, and kisse you, saying; By God Captaine I loue thee, goe thy waies thou dost not thinke so often of me as I do of thee, I would (if it pleased God) I could not loue thee so well as I doo, and then he puts his finger in his eie, and cries."

6. Martin-drunke - "when a man drunke and drinkes himselfe sober ere he stirre."

7. Goat-drunke - "made lascivious by alcohol"

8. Foxe-drunke - "when he is craftie drunke, as many of the Dutch may bee, and neuer bargain but when they are drunke."

Elective Politics

Too much political stimulation Tuesday night. Was compulsively checking Twitter feeds and Dispatch election results to the point of parody. John Kasich won a surprisingly close race for governor; you get the feeling he'd have never have one except in this Republican tsunami, which takes away some of the gilt tint of the victory. But whether he won by 1 or 20 points, he's now governor, or will be shortly, and we're going to see up close and personal just what a real governor looks like. Now we get our own Christie and it's going to be interesting to see what happens. I do wonder, now, at the wisdom of some of my colleagues feeing for the greener pastures of the state guvmint teat. Looks like risky time to be sucklin'.

The election is a reaction to the tremendous overreach in the Obama administration, a choice they made willingly even knowing the potential result because they reckoned, quite rightly, that 2008-2009 was THE period to ram health care through since the presidential party always loses seats in the midterms. They gamed the system about as well as can be done, realizing they were given a gift in terms of the anti-Bush backlash (due to a desire to punish him for Iraq) and pro-Obama sentiment (given the love for the underdog and for the potential for absolving white guilt). Walking voters through a recession is small potatoes as a legacy; Obama coldly calculated that the long term favored historic legislation aimed at making the middle class more dependent on government and creating more debt for future generations to pay.

November 02, 2010

"Election Day" & "Day of the Dead"

...and sometimes, especially in Chicago, the dead vote.

November 01, 2010

Ay-yi-yi....

AP story tells us we're going to get "free, expensive" contraception:
... another birth control revolution may be on the horizon: free contraception for women in the U.S., thanks to the new health care law.

That could start a shift toward more reliable – and expensive – forms of birth control...
Silly liberal media strikes again.

McMurtry Book

Read with great interest the chapter in the Larry McMurtry autobiographical work about his bypass heart surgery and subsequent inability to read (he never uses the word 'depression', but that's surely what it was). His inability to find pleasure in reading, that "most stable of pleasures", was due, he thinks, to the violence perpetrated on him in the form of his chest being sawed open, his heart & lung function replaced with a machine for some minutes. He takes an almost mystical view of it, that he was a different person after the surgery, that he died in some sense. You can tell he has regrets, that he let doctors have a control that he wouldn't think of allowing in any other facet of his life. Yes they are the experts, but you can tell McMurtry would've preferred to take his chances of having a heart attack over the alternative. He hangs on wistfully to the last books he read before the operation, Woolf & Proust, seeing them as last links to his old self. The great advances we've made are not without their costs, and McMurtry's distrust of the unnatural finds a sympathetic audience here.

October 29, 2010

Bush & the Pope

From Drudge Report on new George Bush book:
In the chapter "Stem Cells", Bush describes receiving a letter from Nancy Reagan detailing a "wrenching family journey".

But ultimately, Bush writes: "I did feel a responsibility to voice my pro-life convictions and lead the country toward what Pope John Paul II called a culture of life."

In the book, Bush describes an emotional July 2001 meeting with the Pope at the pontiff's summer residence.

Savaged by Parkinson's, the Pope saw the promise of science, but implored Bush to support life in all its forms.

Later, at the Pope's funeral -- and after a prodding from his wife that it's a time to "pray for miracles" -- Bush found himself saying a prayer for the cancer-stricken ABCNEWS anchor Peter Jenning

October 27, 2010

Quick Quotes

Now THIS is a zinger:
"Fr. James Martin, SJ -- who often has interesting things to say about Catholic culture -- makes a disappointing foray into the "tone of the Catholic blogosphere" melee. (To call it a "debate" would be an insult to televised senatorial and presidential debates.)" - Tom of Disputations
And Darwin Catholic weighs in on the NPR debacle:
In a sense, NPR's decision to fire commentator Juan Williams, for saying, as a guest commentator on Fox's Bill O'Reilley show, that he finds himself feeling nervous when he sees people on an airplane flight dressed in traditional Islamic attire, is entirely explicable and normal. Most cultures punish people for saying or doing things that violate cultural taboos. It is most unquestionably a major cultural taboo of the American Left (of which NPR has long made itself both spokesman spokesperson and totem) that one may not admit to being scared of non-white people who show signs of belonging to particular cultures through their dress or demeanor. Thus, you can admit to being scared of a white person in a religious t-shirt because you're concerned about "right wing violence", but you can't admit to being scared of a non-white person dressing in a way that suggests to you correlation with criminal or dangerous activity.

Williams violated this taboo when he talked about being nervous when he saw people in traditional Muslim attire on airplane flights and so it's not surprising that NPR chose to ritually drive him out.


This & That...


Chesterton poem:
THE HOLY OF HOLIES

'Elder father, though thine eyes
Shine with hoary mysteries,
Canst thou tell what in the heart
Of a cowslip blossom lies?

'Smaller than all lives that be,
Secret as the deepest sea,
Stands a little house of seeds,
Like an elfin's granary,

'Speller of the stones and weeds,
Skilled in Nature's crafts and creeds,
Tell me what is in the heart
Of the smallest of the seeds.'

'God Almighty, and with Him
Cherubim and Seraphim,
Filling all eternity—
Adonai Elohim.'


* * *


View outside my door...


View on my TV...

* * *


The sky is a subdued blue, a far cry from apricot-colored Sunday. I truck to the car and open all the windows in order to smell the itemized rain, intermixed with the whine of tornado warning sirens. The hum-echo of the sirens sound vaguely haunted, like the muezzin call in a forlorn desert. It makes me long to read a travelogue.

And a boundary so marked one can scarcely recall! The pre-rain day poignant with clouds but surprisingly warm, until the deluge begins and a forceful chill descends. The rain pours in great gusts and it's a pleasing sort, for the seasonal aspect of it. Do we not long, deep down, for spring to look like spring, winter like winter, summer like summer and fall like fall? Don't we want the essence of a thing mirror its surface?

Have moved ever-briefly to the friendly confines of a nearly empty cafeteria, looking out the rain-soaked windows and half-listening to the light jazz in the background. Missing only my decanter of coffee, the necessary accompaniment to bloggish journeys. Read a bit of the Dispatch and how taken the academic community is with the Burning Man festival. I'm ever hyp-mo-tized by how the academics are wont to fall for the notion of Utopia, especially when it involves nekkid folks. A LA Times piece says that one dissertation writer couldn't "help noticing the dichotomy between female empowerment and male lust." The empowerment being all the women who took a bare-chested ride on bicycles outside Reno. The male lust is obvious. It's clear what men are thinking when they see a topless girl, it's a bit less clear, to me anyway, why girls going naked would be a symbol of power. "It was women celebrating being women," said one. Okay then.

* * *

This online book organizer seems intriguing.

October 25, 2010

From latest National Review

Hyp-mo-tized by the Greek tragedy of the late Joseph Sobran who, it's said, could "write like Chesterton" but who ended up underachieving, to put it charitably. A prose sample from his better days:
The highest form of appreciation is worship. I don't insist that there is a correlation between formal religion and conservatism. But there is an attitude prior to any creed, which may make a healthy-minded unbeliever regretful that he has nobody to thank for all the goodness and beauty in his life that he has done nothing to deserve. One might almost say that the crucial thing about a man is not whether he believes in God, but how he imagines God: as infinitely good and adorable, or merely as an authoritarian obstacle to human desire? The opposite of piety is not unbelief, but crassness.

October 22, 2010

The Walls Have Ears

A female employee talks to a male employee about the company co-ed soccer league:
"Girls just want to play on a good team. Guys want to be the star of the team. That's why even these guys who aren't that good are switching teams. They don't want to sit the bench."

October 21, 2010

From an 1839 Ohio Newspaper...

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

The “road to perfection” sounds so binding and final. I get hung up on that word, “perfection” and overlook the fact that that’s just the name of the road. - Betty Duffy

Darwin and I used to send each other tomes of agonized love, rich with all the cliches of the genre. I believe I fancied myself a great stylist. Upon sorting out our closet preparatory to the move, I found a box (a shoe box!) full of this old correspondence. As I paged through his letters and mine, I felt a sensation akin to that of the unfortunates subjected to the Total Perspective Vortex. Passages that once seemed so eloquent and incendiary now paraded with all the grace of a herd of hormonal elephants. The most engaging bits were the parts I tossed off as stupid filler: minutiae about family life or the weather or work. The most fascinating letter of all was one Darwin sent me from Greece, simply describing the place and his travels there. And I burned with shame to recall that at the time I'd sulked because I thought he didn't write enough about ME. - Cat of Darwin Catholic

When you go into the hospital for a risky surgery, you have to face the Big Nothing. They crack you open, and you can read the writing on the walls of your arteries. A slow recovery, big scar up your chest, short of breath, no energy—you can’t help but think. You’re warmed up by death’s proximity, softened up. You rewrite your will, amend for your mistakes. You call your kids to gather round, you tell people the important stuff, you appreciate the very little things, like urinating. But now—pfff. No risk, no fuss, one afternoon, in and out, and your heart condition is all better, and back you scurry to play golf and yell at the valet and expect your children to apologize first. Total up all the love produced by invasive surgery and subtract all the love prevented by speedy laser surgeries. That’s love lost. - Arthur Phillips novel "The Song is You"

Isn’t it exactly as I feared, that if I kept beating on that glass ceiling of my mediocrity, I’d one day burst through into the realm of holiness where all the holy people scrub the corners of their houses with toothbrushes and listen to classical music, and read only books written before 1945 with an imprimatur? - Betty Duffy

This year, whenever I approached an aid station during an ultra[marathon], I'd call out "whiskey". At Massanutten, a worker at the mile 40 aid station pulled out a flask, and poured me a half shot of bourbon, which I chased with a shot of Coke. Boy, did the next three miles of road pass painlessly! - co-worker/runner

On Facebook, links and status updates posted to one's wall are visible to everyone in one's network. Which, of course, runs counter to the most basic rule of having more than two friends in the world: you don't talk about everything with everyone. - Darwin Catholic

At the four corners of a child's bed stand Perseus and Roland, Sigurd and St. George. If you withdraw the guard of heroes you are not making him rational; you are only leaving him to fight the devils alone. For the devils, alas, we have always believed in. The hopeful element in the universe has in modern times continually been denied and reasserted; but the hopeless element has never for a moment been denied. - GK Chesterton

Inch by inch, reading the book, doing about a meditation a week, saying the Rosary, showing up at Mass during the week—practicing devotion—the decision to organize the sock drawer was somehow a manifestation of a new freedom—freedom from my chronic “No.” - Betty Duffy

Percy MacKaye's Trees of Miami (circa 1923)



(I)

Trees of Miami, -Miami,
Oracular word
In a far red dawn first uttered
By the vowelling cry of a dawn-red-
     bird
(-Miami! Miami! Miami!)
Echoed there by the muttered
Song of an ancient earth-red race
In a shadowy, sacred place, -
Trees of Miami, beautiful trees!
What do you brood in your reveries?

Where the freshet-torn
Clay-blue banks of the Tallawanda
Gape, to reveal forlorn
Relics of your rooted ancestors,
What do you ponder
There, on those primordial shores,
Out of the clay
Lifting green thoughts into the golden
     day?

What are the secret reasons
That stir your leaves to sing?
Out of a million seasons
Of seqent life -
Wraths of autumn, rages of lyric
     spring,
Winter's calm self-conquering,
And summer's rife
Fecundant, rapt foreseeing --
What are your vernal reasons
For this unintermittent being?

-Miami!-
In answering choir
Leafy and sibylline,
Out of the shadowy green
Echoed that only word, opal with
fire:
--Miami!--

(II)

Trees of Miami, what bird
Of your boughs will unriddle that
     word?

Flicker, --flicker,
Resolute toiler elate,
What do you iterate, iterate,
Iterate,
Tapping it there with your elfin tick-
     er? --
. . . Truth, --truth, --truth!


Redbird, burning
Heart of ecstasy, what is your yearn-
     ing? --
. . . Youth, --youth, --youth, --youth!

Wood dove, wild dove,
You that call--
In pensive music--all
Those that pass
Ever and ever over the grass
Beneath you, what are you fluting
     of? --
. . . Truth, --remembrance, --youth!
     Miami! Miami!


(III)

Ah, trees of Miami! now
The voice of a vowelling bird--
Once, twice, thrice -- from a secret
     bough
Has unriddled your sacred word:
     Miami!

Truth - remembrance - youth: of
     these
You brood in your ancient reveries;
In the flow of universal tides
This is the knowledge that keeps you
     vernal;--
Only beauty abides;
Youth is eternal.

October 20, 2010


Top 10 Reasons to Drink Craft Beer

From Old Paint Blog...

Cyber Sleuthing Results...



I'm distantly related to the guy with the goatee, who lives in Massachusetts. We share a great-great grandfather named Patrick, who had sons by the name of Michael and William. I come through the William line while he does Michael's. From what I can tell, his grandfather (Michael's son) lived in Ohio all his life but his kids moved out to Mass.

Yes, I realize there's no reason on earth you should care about this post but it's too easy to hit "Publish Post".

Post-Scandal

Hyp-mo-tized by life of a Catholic apologist post-scandal, in this case one who left his wife and took the kids. Is there public Catholicism after scandal? Apparently so, though he removed his name from his website and refers to himself on the site by the royal "we". The urge to opine publicly and connect via the internet seems an irresistible impulse, and if what you are interested in happens to be faith matters, then that is what you'll continue to opine on, scandal or no scandal.

What's more surprising is it seems he still has an audience, as evidenced by the fact that he mentions getting a heated reaction to his anti-pants commentary. He writes how pants show a figure better: "Sadly, and we understand you may not be aware of this, but almost every style of pants reveals private information about your figure (by way of contour) what only your husband... should perceive."

I'm always fascinated by the juxtaposition of shamelessness and Christianity, of how Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes and how sin does not ultimately conquer Christianity or define us. Jim Bakker, Robert Hanssen, Jimmy Swaggert - these are the folks who are fallen "but somehow rise" (to borrow from John Mellancamp's "Little Pink Houses") post-forgiveness.

October 19, 2010

October 18, 2010

Hitch Can Write

Samples of the iridescent prose of Christopher Hitchens in Hitch-22:
Once, after staying with a school friend on the Mumbles peninsula of South Wales, I had been as distressed as William Blake by my brief glimpse of the hell-mouth scenes of the steelworks and coal-pits around Port Talbot. But now I realized that, just on the other side of the bright Bristol Channel from the lovely moors and uplands of my upbringing, there was a world as remote from my own as the moon, or as Joseph Conrad’s Congo.

Several aspects of this hitherto-occluded other Britain lodged in the mind. First of all, its inhabitants worked mostly under the ground, like the Morlocks in H.G. Wells. Second, they spoke a non-English language at home and at church, and considered themselves conquered and dispossessed as a nation as well as suppressed as a class. Third, they thought of going on strike as an act of unselfish solidarity and emancipation rather than as “holding the country to ransom.”

* * *
In the annals of “good-bad,” then, I would put How Green Was My Valley in the same class as Uncle Tom’s Cabin: a work that leaves an ineradicable “scratch on the mind,” to borrow Harold Isaacs’s useful phrase.

* * *
My new school was in town, and in the ancient town of Cambridge at that, instead of out on some blasted heath where long and muddy cross-country “runs” could be inflicted on you and even the nearest manic-depressive hamlet was many furlongs or versts or miles away.

Weekend Ramblings

Read some potent Chesterton this weekend, as well as "Hamlet's Blackberry" and then heard a remarkable speech from the Chesterton Conference on CD by a "futurist".

Chesterton and Mr. Futurist want us to be more outward, while Mr. Hamlet Blackberry wants us to be more inward. The difference couldn't be more vivid, such that Chesterton thought it so wrong that someone would listen to music via reproduction rather than attending a concert hall and Mr. Blackberry approves the invention of iPods, saying that it takes a previously public event (music) and makes it inward, just as reading became a private event with the introduction of silent reading around Augustine's time. The case for inwardness is that it is what creates time to think, to mull over, to acquire depth. He says that we are too outward-focussed, too shallow-thinking. Chesterton and Futurist applaud human interaction, the more tactile the better. (Mr. Futurist said the thing we touch the most during the day is a keypad, and keypads don't touch back.) Chesterton made some very interesting points about the Triune God and how the difference between the East and the West is symbolized by the wide-eyed saints (outward-looking) of the West compared to the closed-eye Eastern Buddhas (inward). The East gave us hermitages, the West monasteries such that even the Trappists are brotherly in their silence.

Futurist said many of us are suffering from distraction and A.D.O.S - "Attention deficit OH, SHINY!"

Mr. Blackberry says that we're too connected now and that's why we're so thirsty for inventions that are inward (such as the iPod). But is it a reaction to the environment that is too outward or is it something else? Writing is a semi-inward activity, at least it was for Seneca (who complained about too many books and so wrote letters).

October 15, 2010

Reading...

Read long yesterday from the November issue of First Things, a very appetizing issue full of the sort of things that fascinate me, like what went wrong with the German soul such that led to the horrors of the last century, and what did Mark Twain have to say in his one-hundred years delayed autobiography.

Then too there were piquant ratings of various religious-affiliated universities, by overall excellence and then by how Catholic (or not) they were and such. Very interesting stuff and the transparency is an excellent service. Too many still haven't gotten the memo (though admittedly they're unlikely to be First Things readers) that not all schools alleged to be Catholic are, in fact, Catholic. Of First Things' top 25 schools in America, Thomas Aquinas College, Franciscan University, Notre Dame, University of Dallas and Providence made up the Catholic list. Ave Maria noticeably absent, which is the sort of inside baseball I appreciate seeing. Protestant school Wheaton College was numero uno.

An excerpt from the article about Germany:
The problem was that Germany exalted its cultural achievements to the point of idolatry. The only prayer Goethe could utter in earnest, Rosenzweig comments, was Psalm 90's 'Establish thou the work of our hands.' Kultur became Germany's national religion, with terrible consequences...

To a great degree, the main intellectual movements of the postwar years can be understood as efforts to purge idolatries of blood and mind from our collective imaginations. Germany has all but abjured the Kultur it once worshiped; it is hard to find a German schoolchild today who can quote four lines of Goethe from memory. And at present fertility rates, the German population will shrink by 98 percent over the next two centuries.

That is not only Germany's tragedy, but ours. The great project of German theologians such as Barth, Urs von Balthasar, and Rosenzweig - to restore religious orthodoxy in the modern world after Kant and Nietzsche - was a work in progress when Hitler took power...If what was good in Germany is lost along with the ill, it will be all the harder for us and for our children to find our bearings.