February 28, 2010

Line from Louise Erdrich novel....

Funny line: "Private Scranton Theodorus Roy was the youngest son of a Quaker father and a reclusive poet mother who established a small Pennsylvania community based on intelligent conversation."

February 26, 2010

Piquant Facebook Post...

...via Jeff Culbreath:



I don't agree, but I can see how one could come to that conclusion. It's certainly eminently quotable.

February 25, 2010

The Stubborn Brothers: Barack & Bush

Both have/had a pet issue that they were sure they were right about.

For Bush, the war in Iraq. For Obama, health care.

Both were/are determined to ram their issue through come what may, regardless of world or American opinion and regardless of its political consequences.

Both started/wants to start a huge undertaking with only a vaguest notion of whether it would/will work out.

A difference? Bush was willing to spend billions while Obama wants to spend trillions.

Various & Sundry

I haven't been watching the Olympics but this picture, on the front page of the Dispatch, caught my eye:

...as did this recent New York Times article on breweries:

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Long-neglected, my journal, my journal (to be said as "my country, my country" or "My Antonia, My Antonia")...Yes I wrote not recently and superstitiously feel that is the reason for the lack of sleep. Mostly I had that old-fashioned craving for literary sustenance, having watched too much television political and otherwise (i.e. 24). Sleeping is no way to go through life isn't quite as memorable as fat, drunk & stupid but it applies.

But enough of sleep, that blaguard of infidelity, that chieftain of muse-ish inconstancy, that hidebound of rearguard obstinacy! My hunger for poetry doth increaseth, even for the lyrical prose of The Shadow Country. I hunger for the Other-touch of words on paper, old-fashoned paper extravagantly presented in hard-cover as witnessed recently in the redolent public library. I picked up Cardinal George's book on what it means to be Catholic and The Long Fall starring a familiar type: the pleasingly hard-boiled dectective who is not too far afield from yesteryear's hardened cowboy.
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Lents perenially provoke the question: "is this difficult enough?" which is always answered in the negative though it's not the right question. I feel vaguely shamed by Aaron's heroic giving up of alcohol during Lent, which certainly seemed imprudent given that he just has a new child and will already be giving up sleep. Ideally I'd make Lent not about me but about Him and not measure myself against others or past disciplines but as preparation for the future. "I must decrease, He must increase" is the reason for the season.

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I scarce see my wife anymore given her long working hours combined with visits to young Sam and her Christian small group. But it's worth it to hear how much visits to the grandchild re-energizes her, how it refreshes her from work. It was startlingly similar to what my boss said about the photo of Sam in my cube, how it gives him a great peacefulness to look at the little guy.

And so what does Sam look like? How can one describe such a young member of the human race without falling into cliches? His features are all so minituarized but perfect in their trueness to form, brand new ears and eyes and hands. He has the perfect amount of hair, but then I would say that being a proud grandpa. His scalp is neither bald nor overgrown but looks as if he's just came from a haircut from a skilled barber. He looks not particularly like one parent or the other yet but like...himself. A new creation.

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"As countless theologians pointed out, it was only because of His divine nature that Jesus' sacrifice was "perfect" and efficacious...Had Jesus been simply an exquisitely holy man, His martyrdom would not have accomplished much." writes John Zmirak in one of his books, to which I add that believing in His divinity is what makes the Incarnation, in my opinion, even more incredible than the crucifixion. It's infinitely impressive for God Himself, with all He had to lose, to come to earth given that the best day on earth is mere shadow in Heaven. It's telling, as Zmirak points out, that the point at which we bow during the Creed is at the Incarnation and not the crucifixion or Resurrection.

_______

Sometimes you just want to drink and read a bit, as Tom of Endlessly Rocking recently wrote:
"I've also set some ridiculous goals for this coming year, and need help in managing my time. I can tell you that every eight weeks or so I plan to fly away somewhere and just sit for around four days, staring at an ocean, say, and reading and drinking..."
But no vacations in sight for me given my recent Florida trip. Being Lent, this seems appropriate.

First, Do No Harm

A fine rebuke from today's Columbus Dispatch:
If and when the health-care system of the United States is overhauled, it should be by way of a carefully thoughtout plan driven by the need to provide effective care to the maximum number of people at a price that individuals and the nation can afford.

The health-care plans put forward so far by Congress and President Barack Obama have been anything but. They are creations whose primary motivations have been to secure a political victory for the president by buying off (or at least not entirely alienating) major constituencies in the Democratic Party’s coalition. The plans might expand coverage to many more people, but they would do so in a way that will more quickly bankrupt the nation and drive up the cost of health care for virtually everyone. Or, to avert that, result in rationing of care.

The bungled handling of the matter is a testament to the administrative and political inexperience of the president. Having campaigned on a promise to overhaul health care in a bipartisan and transparent way, he left it to the U.S. House and Senate to craft separate and incompatible plans, then swooped in at the last minute, summoned a select cabal behind closed doors and still failed to produce a plan that could win the votes needed to pass it...

By unveiling on Monday a “new” health-care proposal little different from the congressional plans, the president displayed a remarkable ability to ignore clear and overwhelming public opposition to this approach. Ten major polls taken in the past month show that an average of only 38.2 percent of respondents support the plans, while an average of 52.5 percent oppose them.
Today there's a big healthcare summit in Washington -- never before has so much brainpower been assembled since Pauly Shore dined alone. Republicans and Democrats gathered together for an extensive photo op to prove to the American people that Republicans and Democrats could gather together and disagree.

I certainly see why Obama's trying to push it through pell-mell. History has taught us that huge monstrous pork entitlement programs never go away and the founder gets credit. FDR initiated Social Security and is widely praised for it despite the fact it's a ponzi scheme little different than Bernie Madoff's. LBJ started Medicare and even though it's bankrupting us, no one blames LBJ. So he likely figures once this gets into law it'll work out because, really, no one cares about that Bermuda Triangle of government "waste, fraud and abuse". Medicare is overripe with all three but there's no outcry because once you get the public hooked on a system that relies on future generations, it's very hard to wean off.

February 24, 2010

What Thomas Sowell Won't Address

Generally I'm a big fan of economist/columnist Thomas Sowell, but I really don't get this piece on the bank crisis. Or rather, I understand what he's saying but wish he would address derivatives, credit default swaps and any of the financial instruments that greatly magnified the effect of the housing bust. He writes:
Take Wall Street “greed.” Is there any evidence that people in Wall Street were any less interested in making money during all the decades and generations when investments in housing were among the safest investments around? If their greed did not bring on an economic disaster before, why would it bring it on now?
My response: Because they had new financial instruments! If there was a nuclear war with unimaginable damage - would someone say afterwards, "Take human nature's propensity for war. Is there any evidence that people in the past were any more interested in war than us? If war before did not bring about such widespread death, why would it bring it on now?" It's true human nature doesn't change, but the technology available to do damage has greatly increased. A housing bust is to what actually happened as a fist fight is to semi-automatic gun fight. It's disappointing that Sowell doesn't seem to address this (nor does he apparently in his book, from what I can recall from checking the index).

The bottom line is that busts and booms happen in every asset class be it gold, oil, housing or ... tulips. That's the nature of capitalism. So the question becomes why does a relatively modest 5% foreclosure rate bring the world economy to its knees? I think it's because of the magnifier effect of banks who stupidly made bets that housing would never go down.

But don't believe me - believe Wall Street itself. As one Wall Street titan told then Republican senator Rick Santorum, "we blew it." (Emphasis mine.) Not Freddy & Fanny, although they were egregious.

No one is a truer free market conserative than former Sen. Phil Gramm. A fierce free market advocate with a PhD in economics, he told a Senate debate in 2001: "Some people look at sub-prime lending and see evil. I look at sub-prime lending and I see the American dream in action."

And he's not necessarily wrong in that. Sub-prime lending is not evil as long as there aren't derivatives magnifying the effect. In other words, as long as any possibly deleterious impact is limited to the bank who offers the loan and the individual who signs the mortgage paper then it would seem okay, although perhaps we're all so fiscally interconnected now that it's impossible to have risk apply to only the risk-takers themselves.

To sum up here's a line from the Guardian: "Warren Buffett had long warned about the dangers of dodgy derivatives that no one understood and said often that Wall Street's finest were grossly overpaid. In his annual letter to shareholders in 2003, he compared complex derivative contracts to hell: 'Easy to enter and almost impossible to exit.'"

February 23, 2010

Is "Where's the Flood?" Still Operative?

During the '70s and '80s the fashion police would pull you over and issue the citation "where's the flood?" if you wore pants that were a bit too short.

I wondered if that was still what the kids say these days and - through the miracle of Google - found this and this.

On the hair front I've noticed, surely belatedly, that the style now for guys is to swoop it upwards a bit, defying gravity via hair gel, into a sort of mohawkian outline. It can be done subtly, such as was done by the guy in his 30s who gave a talk on the use of social media in commercial enterprises. There was a sense that it was part of his job description to be hip, and if "the medium is the message" then that warrants his 'do. My own preference is not to add anything unnatural like gel to my hair; it took awhile for me to sign on to using conditioner.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Dr. Kheriaty begins by remarking how the architects and builders of the great medieval cathedrals didn't seem to want any credit for the remarkable work they had done. Their names are not carved into cornerstones. They aren't immortalized with bronze plaques. No portraits of architects hang on the vestibule walls of cathedrals. These men preferred to be anonymous. Now, I had already known this interesting fact, but unlike Dr. Kheriaty had never given it much thought. The author goes on to describe how such personal humility is completely at odds with today's attitudes, and traces the change to the kind of self-adulation typical of Rousseau and his Enlightenment contemporaries. - Blogger at "Being is Good" on a First Things article

In the past two weeks my children have been to school once, on a two hour delay. I like having them home. I prefer being snowed in to wanting to go out and having nothing to do. It's a different kind of "stuck at home." There's some psychology at work that says it's good and right to be where you are, because there is no other option. Options, for whatever reason, create dissatisfaction in me. - Betty Duffy

The problem with the metaphors that stress the unchosen aspect of conversion is that they can make it sound like what you need to do, if you want to find God, is simply wander around waiting to be struck by lightning. Pray, go to church, but mostly wait for the experience that will dissolve your doubts. But, in fact, if you are "seeking," you might be best served by doing philosophy. Find a community or a group of friends with whom you can fruitfully argue; take the Symposium, not the Song of Songs, as your guide...Do not do this alone. Do it with friends. Loving friendship is the irreplaceable foundation of philosophy. Accepting a conclusion of philosophy is not the same as encountering the living God. But it is like that encounter, insofar as it can be the result of philosophical seeking. It is something you can work hard to find, and yet when you find it, it reshapes you. Philosophy, taken seriously, makes you change your life. But it's easy to understand that philosophy is a practice over the long term, not an unexpected epiphany. - Eve Tushnet on "Inside Catholic"

As a cradle Catholic at this point of my spiritual journey I feel like being a Catholic is like being married to the most obnoxious publicly scandalous spouse, no, it is like being born into a family (that you can't get out of no matter how hard you try) that is schizophrenically preoccupied about everything unimportant, and yet is drawn into the stillest silence from their soul of souls at the Consecration of the Mass only to return to their complete mayhem argumentations and tirades about the music, the furniture, the language, the order as if that would really cure the lack of the 24/7 Union with Christ. - "Mother of Two Sons" on "Inside Catholic"

I look at my own chicken soup posts as bread upon the waters: If there's a duck out there who eats it (and some uninspired posts of mine have been reported to really hit the spot), good! But I shouldn't insist on it happening, or even bet on it, and I certainly shouldn't think of writing it as a solemn duty. - Tom of Disputations

Jesus was gay, reveals Elton John. Any thoughts on Mohammed, Elt? - Mark Steyn of "The Corner"

I think the key difference between TR and Wilson is that TR was a fighter while Wilson was a hater. Colonel House's advice to those seeking a favor from Wilson was: "Discover a common hate, exploit it, get the President warmed up, and then start on your business."...Wilson was a categorical thinker and detested categories of people. Roosevelt was a man who disliked categories of people, too, but his categories weren't abstractions. He detested slackers and the like, but he could admire men of any race or station if they weren't slackers. They were both moralists, but TR's moralism wasn't an abstraction; Wilson's was. Disagreement with TR was invitation to a battle for victory. Disagreement with Wilson was proof that that the dissenter was evil. The difference explains why TR had an authoritarian bent, but Wilson a totalitarian one. In this sense (as well as many, many others), TR was simply the better man. - Jonah Goldberg of "The Corner"

The Catholic war paint: Just because I only get one shot at this per year. - Blogger at Defensor Veritatis picture here

February 22, 2010

On the Firing of a Co-Worker

A co-worker was "let go," in the current parlance. It was especially painful given his age (50-ish), though that's not an uncommon occurrence these days. The era when employees held the whip hand has long past - the owner/labor equilibrium is seldom in perfect balance and tends to swing from one side to the other. The abuses of unions led, understandably, to their peril. Now business feels its oats. (In my more negative moments, the employer-employee thing seems akin to the human race's battle with microbes. You try to stay ahead of a mutating fungus. Corporate leaders mutate and I sense that now that unions have loss most of their power it's carried over to non-union shops.)

What was different this time was said employee was fired by someone three levels above him. That seems to be a new corporate fad - don't trust the managers or supervisors below you, and have everyone interview for their job when a new boss comes to town which, lately, seems like every six months. I've interviewed with my great-great grand boss, my grandboss, my great grand boss and the thrill is wearing off. It was cute the first few times - oh, he wants to get to know us! How ... refreshing!

As a long-time observer of corporate fads (see my URL), I have to say this is one of the more effective. This one has some staying power. Every guy or gal who comes to town for his year or two gig wants to interview every person in the department, mainly for re-organization purposes. By definition, a "change agent" needs to come in and change things, whether needed it or not. And change is the biggest fad of all, understandably so. As is often said, we live in a constantly changing economic world.

With the latest interview/"chat", the new chief mentioned that he has an open door policy, but I find it hard to see a circumstance where I'm going to go over the head of my boss and my boss's boss. Some of this appears to be window-dressing, as evidenced by how these meetings tend to get rescheduled two or three times as more pressing items come up.

Okay I'll quit my whining...

Various & Sundry

Had a meeting with the big guy, the new guy. One thing's for sure: the young are different from the rest of us - they have energy. A young-looking 33, Bob (not his real name) doesn't seem in it for the fame or money, to hobnob and for the thrill of a company-sponsored blackberry but to shuffle people around, especially those who resist change and therefore are suspected of underachieverhood. He offered so many distasteful ideas in such a short period that my poker face fell.

This was followed by lunch with Steve (not his real name), who is liberal as the day is long on "social issues mainly" he says, which was cringe-inducing given my own proclivities. We're almost an exact opposites - I can occasionally be squishy on fiscal issues but firm on the social, while he's firmly against the social and squishy on the financial. He's an atheist who says he doesn't ever think about death or what comes after. He was a Marxist who loved the poor when he lived in a rich neighborhood but then found the poor much less to his liking when his family moved to the big city and found them violent. A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged is the famous line, and he would probably call himself a centrist whose friend got mugged. He's seems especially interested in injustice defined the liberal way - the innocent man who is sent to jail or the prisoner who is raped. That is, worthy applications of justice but extremely limited in that the lack of empathy for the million killed unborn child. He hates pro-lifers primarily for the reason that he says they don't show enough interest in making life better after the womb. The problem with that argument is that I suspect that no matter how much pro-lifers did for the lives of children of mothers who considered abortion, it wouldn't be enough. The bar will get higher. It just goes to show how hard it is for right and left to talk.

After work I was torn between getting my haircut at the local spa where I got the equivalent of a 60-minute scalp and face massage with Candace, or going to my old 25-minute barber named Barbra, with the price being the same. The tie-breaker was the fact that Barb was a 15-minute walk away and Candace two minutes, so I dialed what I thought was Candy (if I may be so bold) but it was Barb (I'd mixed up the numbers) and I asked if she had any openings and she did so I got that done. I thought how much more she surely needed the money than newly married Candace and was glad to have gone to Barb even if I thought about how I missed the scalp massage and hot towel treatment. But Barb seems to live life with so little financial margin for error...

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Back a lifetime ago, on Thursday, I started the day with a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast because I knew it'd be a long day given all the meetings, but I didn't know the half of it. Didn't know that this would be the biggest day in my daughter-in-law & stepson's life to date - the birth of their first child.

Heard during one of my meetings that she was at the hospital and afterwards couldn't much concentrate on anything else given the eagerness to SEE the child that so long had been hidden in his mother's womb. As evening rolled in the baby was predicted in a couple hours, making the estimated time of arrival around 8:30pm, so I felt like I was in my comfort zone without a long wait, ninety minutes to further whet the appetite of seeing the new baby. But so unlike modern technology, the real world isn't about me, and it's not on my schedule. 8:30 came and went as did nine and ten and eleven and midnight. Interspersed within those hours were missives that gave us a lift: "we're giving her drugs to make the contractions more powerful," and "we'll have her start pushing around 10:00pm." It was 'round 1am that I saw the baby who, along with his momma, rightly took their own sweet time in delivering the miracle of life. The most unbearable part came in the long interlude between the sounding of Brahm's lullabye alerting us to our new family member, and the time we actually got to meet our little-fingered friend.
Bennett versus Beck smackdown!

February 17, 2010

Coffee & My Inner Jesuit

So I wasn't sure whether or not I was able to have coffee during a day of fast and abstinence, so I checked Catholic Answers and found this interesting:
The other day I caught a few minutes of [Mother Angelica's] show, recorded in Feb. 1994. It was just before Lent. A lady called in and told Mother she was a coffee addict. Mother replied (everyone gasped) that she drank at least three cups herself each day.

The caller was wrestling over whether or not, or even if she could, surrender coffee as a Lenten penance.

Mother listened for a minute and told her all she heard in her voice was "Coffee!" The lady was obsessing over coffee. Mother replied that she should be obssessing over Jesus instead, and doing whatever it was she was going to do at Lent out of love. Mother suggested the lady have one cup each morning, for her sanity, and give up coffee the rest of the day. That way, with coffee out of the way, she wouldn't be obssessing over coffee all day, could more easily give it up later in the day, and concentrate on other devotion, not to mention the rest of her life, instead.
While on the subject, here's something from St. Clement via Steven Riddle: "Let us fix our thoughts on the blood of Christ; and reflect how precious that blood is in God's eyes, inasmuch as its outpouring for our salvation has opened the grace of repentance to all mankind."

An Abstinent D.C. Makes Fewer Laws

...which is a good thing, from my point of view. An interesting Dispatch article:
“I don’t know a senator who has been a governor who is happy being in the Senate,” said former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard. “Not only do you not have any power when you are a senator — except to hold things up or filibuster — but the truth is, unless you’re the chair of a major committee, nobody listens to you.”...

Tom Korologos, a veteran Washington lobbyist, said the atmosphere is “much worse” than when, as a White House aide, he helped round up votes for President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s.

"And I have a theory: They quit drinking. Don’t laugh,” Korologos said. He said that during Nixon’s first term, he would “meet in the backrooms” with key senators and “the bottles would be open. ... Guys would sit around and talk and have a pop or two. I cut more deals there than you ever do in the daylight. That’s disappeared.”

February 16, 2010

From Old Paint Blog...


  Adalbert Stifter - Moonrise



 Conrad Witz (1400c.-1446) - St. Catherine of Alexandria

Fiction for a Tuesday

I'd long thought the corporate equivalent of the congressional filibuster is the Long, Boring Meeting (LBM), a cudgel that when used or even threatened can wield much power.

But when Phil pulled his trump card on a Friday evening and suggested a meeting, we all thought he was bluffing or at least that he'd schedule it in the hemi-distant future, perhaps a week hence. We pictured a cozy early afternoon affair on Thursday or, better yet, a Tuesday some ten days out, which from that vantage seemed as thin and gossamer as frost on a rose.

It was true we were ignorant of the sales culture, one in which meetings are held in roughly the same esteem that our moon-pie expeditions were, that is our forays around the floor alertly looking for food and near-foods leftover from birthday and milestone celebrations.

In hindsight, we should've paid attention to the whispers that Phil was a wild-eyed, dangerous extrovert capable of bending introverts to his will by promising to invite them to early morning Monday meetings during which he would carry the conversational ball and fling cringe-inducing buzzwords like Drew Brees passes. We didn't know that you don't make eye contact, which only encourages him. We didn't know that the difference between a salesman and an accountant is like the difference between PETA and the NRA.

We entered the conference room nonchalantly, examining the seating area without moving our heads, sidling up to the chairs with an athletic economy of movement. With cat-like reflexes we sat our seven derrieres (Phil'd invited four but we brought back-up) around the circular table.

And then - SLAM - we didn't know what hit us.

Displaying the full jujitsu of his ability, he "reached out", promised to "close the loop" with someone he'd already previously promised to talk to, and suggested we'd be "golden" if we did this for him.

Our eyes glazed from his finely-tailored suit to the certificates on his wall attesting to his prowess in the Meeting form, and swift indeed did we move action items from his list to ours.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

The Saints are a sign of that radical newness which the Son of God - with his Incarnation, death and Resurrection - grafted on to human nature. As outstanding witnesses of faith, they are not representatives of the past but rather constitute the present and future of the Church and of society. - Pope Benedict, via the blogger at "Beggar for Love"

I HAVE BEEN DULL to-day, haunted by the thought of how much there is that I would fain know, and how little I can hope to learn. The scope of knowledge has become so vast. I put aside nearly all physical investigation; to me it is naught, or only, at moments, a matter of idle curiosity. This would seem to be a considerable clearing of the field; but it leaves what is practically the infinite. To run over a list of only my favourite subjects, those to which, all my life long, I have more or less applied myself, studies which hold in my mind the place of hobbies, is to open vistas of intellectual despair. In an old note-book I jotted down such a list—“things I hope to know, and to know well.” I was then four and twenty. Reading it with the eyes of fifty-four, I must needs laugh. There appear such modest items as “The history of the Christian Church up to the Reformation”—“all Greek poetry”—“The field of Mediaeval Romance”—“German literature from Lessing to Heine”—“Dante!” Not one of these shall I ever “know, and know well”; not any one of them. Yet here I am buying books which lead me into endless paths of new temptation. What have I to do with Egypt? Yet I have been beguiled by Flinders Petrie and by Maspero. How can I pretend to meddle with the ancient geography of Asia Minor? Yet here have I bought Prof. Ramsay’s astonishing book, and have even read with a sort of troubled enjoyment a good many pages of it; troubled, because I have but to reflect a moment, and I see that all this kind of thing is mere futile effort of the intellect when the time for serious intellectual effort is over. - From Bill of Summa Minutiae; George Gissing, "The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, XVI"

Epic Self Examination Fail: Writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, a philosophy professor from University of Denver considers the question of "Why do liberal arts professors lean left" and determines, "Oh, it's because we obviously understand the nature of reality better than everyone else." - Darwin Catholic

Somewhere along the line, though, the word "vacation" stopped sounding like a relevant description of what actually happens when my husband and I, and our five children set out for some destination lasting more than two days. Some people know they're on vacation when they're spread out on a poolside lounger drinking a pineapple cocktail. I know I'm on vacation when I'm huddled behind some bushes, hiding from my kids, so I can smoke a cigarette in the middle of the day. I like to smoke on vacation because it's the only thing that really distinguishes a vacation from any other day of breaking up fights and wiping bottoms, albeit in a different location. - Betty Duffy

I've grown very wary of the pretty conclusion, the spiritual lesson learned, the great insight gained through the grind of daily life. I know why writers use this trick, and I've done it myself -- hard up for something, anything, to post, I remember this little anecdote that could just do for posting if I can put some little inspirational twist on it. And people seem to eat the stuff up, so it must be fine, right? Of course people draw inspirational conclusions from daily life all the time. What I find tiresome is the... craftedness of it all. Of course good writing must be crafted, not just flung at the page, but it takes a particular talent to draw inspiration from the ordinary while not seeming gimmicky or easy...I don't even want inspiration from the internet anymore. I've been trying to immerse myself in Scripture, reading passages from the Wisdom literature each night. This is real. This is what can reach into my soul and open me to God in a way that reading a blog can never emulate. Who can say anything that Qoheleth didn't cover 23 centuries ago? And that's fine. I like reading funny stories about people's kids, with no moral tacked on. I like musings on the political situation (to a point). And I love good, true writing -- not flashy, not gimmicky, not designed to lift me up or force a life lesson or "make me think". Bloggers can do the writing and I'll do my own thinking, without a serving of Chicken Soup for the internet soul. - Mrs. Darwin of "Darwin Catholic"

Michelle Obama is beginning a campaign to fight childhood obesity. Now if we can just get her husband to do something about government obesity. - Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp"

I would like to submit that this could increase the credibility of the IPCC, not decrease it. Aren't mistakes human? Even the IPCC is a human institution. - Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice chairman of the IPCC

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only thing moving
Was the steam of the coffee. - Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp"

I still remember sitting on the dryer in the laundry room of my uni hostel, reading this book while waiting for my washing to get done. Certain lines made me feel as if the earth had just moved under me, and I actually nearly lost my balance once or twice!...I also remember reading it at night, by the light of a small bed lamp, and feeling as someone had just blown a bugle outside my window. The world is more heroic when the Incarnation is allowed to be at the heart of history. - Enbrethiliel at "Shredded Cheddar" on first reading Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man"

February 15, 2010

Sunday's Gospel: the Beatitudes

Found the follow commentaries online: first, from the Word Among Us:
Whenever we read passages like this, it’s helpful to keep one truth in mind: Jesus always spoke from experience.

So when he said that the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful, and the persecuted were blessed, he was not just presenting a fanciful or idealistic set of dreams. He was speaking out of experience about what it was like to have his life shaped by his Father and not by any philosophy of worldly success.

Jesus knew what it meant to be poor and yet have the kingdom of God as his inheritance. He had nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58)—but not because he had no other option. No, he chose a life of simplicity because his heart was set on higher riches (Matthew 6:33). He deliberately chose to pray throughout the night (Luke 6:12) and to fast for forty days and nights (Matthew 4:2) because he wanted God to fill him up.

Jesus so wanted to give people everything he had received from his Father that he openly mourned his disciples’ unbelief and Jerusalem’s rejection of him (Mark 9:19; Matthew 23:37). Finally, he knew that, like the prophets, he would be hated, reviled, and persecuted—not because he was obnoxious but because his words struck against the hardness of sin in the human heart. But again, like the prophets, he could not keep from speaking out, so greatly did God’s love for his people compel him.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to be poor, hated, and sad. He came to reveal the kingdom of God to a fallen people. Likewise, he doesn’t call us to become poor, hated, or sad. No, he offers us an experience of his Father’s love so great that everything else pales in comparison. He offers us a kingdom so magnificent that we will willingly endure hardship for the sake of embracing this kingdom and spreading its message into the world. With such promises, why would we ever fear God’s calling?

Scott Hahn comments today's readings:
The blessings and woes we hear in today’s Gospel mark the perfection of all the wisdom of the Old Testament.

That wisdom is summed up with marvelous symmetry in today’s First Reading and Psalm: Each declares that the righteous—those who hope in the Lord and delight in His Law—will prosper like a tree planted near living waters. The wicked, who put their “trust in human beings,” are cursed to wither and die.

Jesus is saying the same thing in the Gospel. The “rich” and “poor” are, for Him, more than members of literal economic classes. Their material state symbolizes their spiritual state.

The rich are “the insolent” of today’s Psalm, boasting of their self-sufficiency, the strength of their flesh, as Jeremiah says in the First Reading. The poor are the humble, who put all their hope and trust in the Lord.

We’ve already seen today’s dramatic imagery of reversal in Mary’s “Magnificat.” There, too, the rich are cast down while the hungry are filled and the lowly exalted (see Luke 1:45-55 also 16:19-31).

That’s the upside-down world of the Gospel: in poverty we gain spiritual treasure unimaginable; in suffering and even dying “on account of the Son of Man,” we find everlasting life.

The promises of the Old Testament were promises of power and prosperity—in the here and now. The promise of the New Covenant is joy and true freedom even amid the misery and toil of this life. But not only that. As Paul says in today’s Epistle, we’re to be pitied if our hope is “for this life only.”

The blessings of God mean that we’ll laugh with the thanksgiving of captives released from exile (see Psalm 126:1-2), feast at the heavenly table of the Lord (see Psalm 107:3-9), “leap for joy” as John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb (see Luke 6:23; 1:41,44), and rise with Christ, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

February 14, 2010

Palin in Game Change

The best-selling book is really hard on Sarah Palin, but she did help McCain since it energized the base (certainly energized me) even if he made a questionable choice in terms of picking someone who should be VP.

The choice was a good one from the perspective that it further pushes the Republican party to the pro-life position. Republicans who are politically astute now see what pro-life Palin did for the ticket - it gave it life and money & zest. The very act of picking a pro-lifer as VP by McCain was self-fulfilling in the sense that perceptions are often reality in politics, and the perception taken from the '08 campaign: Rudy went nowhere and McCain picked a pro-life running mate instead of Lieberman. That speaks volumes.

McCain didn't lose by much and he lost mostly because of the financial crisis and his ridiculous response to it, and NOT because of Palin's disastrous interview w Couric.

February 12, 2010

Stop & Smell the Lichen



There is cold, and then there is really cold, and I happened across a blogger from Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska (say five times fast) where it is really cold. Found via Meredith, it's a riveting read:
Yesterday I sat in the house, carefully scraping the membrane from a wolf skin. So far this winter we have been blessed with five wolves. With seven red foxes. With one wolverine. It's hard to explain the wealth this brings to mind and body and soul. Most people just see dead animals. We see wealth. We see parka ruffs. We see gifts to family. We see parka trim. We see materials to ward against the unimaginable cold. We see Natures way of providing us with the best to survive. We see protection. We see Inupiaq wealth, which is measured in usefulness and not green smelly money.

It's not as easy as it looks either. We spend at least a hundred fifty dollars a week to be able to even sustain this type of life. And most weeks we gain nothing. Most weeks there is no pay back. but I live with a very lucky man. A very good man. A man they say attracts the animals with his generosity. With his humility. With his willingness to give more than half of his catch to those who need it. With his kind heart and kind words. This is the old way. A way we try our hardest to uphold. It's both simple and complicated but extremely rewarding life.
Her writing is pleasingly lyrical:
I have almost forgotten what it feels like to be in the sunlight. Aapa Winter has completely dominated the land in his gruff and tough love. I have gotten used to wearing down snowpants and my heavy hunting parka. I have gotten used of wearing layers and gloves and heavy face masks. I have gotten used to checking the dogs feet for cuts and broken nails. I have gotten used to seeing the mountains wearing white parkas dappled with tiny floral patterns in gray.

February 11, 2010

Parody blog....

....has been updated with word of Couric's installation of a crayola up her nose (thanks due to Darwin Catholic for the inspiration), and a post about iPhoneitis, a dangerous new medical affliction.

Photo Thursday


At Alefest last weekend, drinking a Greenflash IPA (offscreen)

Inspired by this found comedy:



_________________________________________




"...[this] poignant debut novel is an emotionally riveting tale of one family facing unimaginable stress."

Least likely book blurb:

"...this poignant debut novel is an unemotionally riveting tale of one family facing unimaginable leisure."

February 10, 2010

Sounds Suspiciously Like a Journal Entry...

...but it's not!

Watched a bit of Morning Joe and then tasted a bit of the rich broth of Healing the Family Tree by Fr. Hampsch, a book that is more than quote-worthy. It's put together in a delightful Q&A format, perfect for bloggy, groggy, morning tidbits. The pure poetry of his Bible translation is affecting: don't know where Fr. Hampsch found this for Job 38:2, but it's superior to the translations I have: "Why are you using your ignorance to deny my Providence?"

Speaking of Job, I only recently learned that it's said to be the oldest book in the Bible. That is something I wouldn't have guessed without, oh, at least 30 guesses. But it's interesting that it be the first since it poses the sort of initial framework for the whole Bible: "I am God and thou art not!"
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Indecision is the handmaiden of poor decisions, and I lacklustedly drove into work despite the optional nature of it. I could've worked from home, given the avalanche of snow. Instead the commute took twice as long as usual, although I did profitably use the time by saying another rosary for the blogger Mary's father. What was cool was finding this website to gauge the traffic (before the commute, I hasten to add, not during). It tells you how congested the roads are (they received a 5 on a scale of 1-10, with the warning that it was "building", a way of saying 5 going on 6).

So I got into work late, semi-disgruntled despite it all. Five more inches of snow fell and I have to say it was semi-festive, what with the white confetti orbing through the sky. If I could just mentally disassociate it with the work it involves on the driveway adn commute I might enjoy it. Looking at all the green trees sheaved in purest white, how can you not see it for the spectacular show it is?

After work & the shoveling of snow was done, had an exquisite Sierra Nevada Pale Ale that I'd saved up for with twenty minutes on the elliptical. I figure that should just about cover the caloric cost.

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Been lapping up Game Change like all good political junkies, a delectable read about the '08 campaign. I certainly didn't know George W. often calls Clinton when he's bored and how during the campaign called to say he didn't think Clinton was a racist: "The irony of the situation tickled Bush, but he also felt sympathy for Bill. Hey, buddy, Bush said, I know you're coming under attack; you just gotta keep your chin up." Indeed lately I've begun to like the Clintons more. Mostly I like them because now they see, at last, how the press treats conservatives. It's a personality flaw of mine, I suppose, to want to see people humbled given how little I like to be humbled. Christians are to be like Christ, and Christ went around healing and loving people and decreasing their misery, physical and spiritual.

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I must be comfortable in my masculinity given how I like this Kenneth Cole netbook bag I got for Christmas. It's been called by various family members as a "murse" (male purse), a "European shoulder bag" (by my father-in-law who chortles when he says it), a "man bag" by my wife. Yes, it's the bag with ten names. I do like the leather and smooth way it carries around my coveted CTS Bible, other books, and Kindle. I feel so stylish, which is unlike me. Then too I'm not sure what it says about me that I like women bloggers so much. Spanning the Globe's are starting to become Spanning U.S. Female Bloggers East of the Mississippi. All I can say is if I start appreciating shoes, just shoot me.

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I'm momentarily euphoric over finding a extra wireless mouse my wife had hidden in her discarded-but-not-throw-away computer supplies quiver. Saved me $25, which is $50 to most people and is $500 to Ham "One Square Per B.M." Bone. The netbook is much more friendly now that I can cut & paste and/or surf the web so easily.
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Enjoying blues music lately. I have to smile when I turn on the blues station because I always think of how Tom of Disputations once said that the whitest thing I ever wrote was attributing Sweet Home Chicago to the Blues Brothers. He's right of course, I know nuttin' about blues music. But ever since that riff in Adventures in Babysitting I've been hooked on the concept. I knows what I likes, and I likes that familiar "cool" rhythms and repetition and how it sort of matches my middle-aged metabolism in being not to slow and not too fast. It's sort of the halfway point between old country and new rock 'n roll, with the former too slow and the latter too fast.

February 09, 2010

Silly Season

I watch the network news about as often as I drink castor oil, but did catch a bit of Katie Couric's little show and was astonished by the continuing trivialization of our news.

Years ago I recall network anchors complaining about the precious brevity of their alloted time, of how only 22 minutes after commercials was available to tell us what happened in the past 24 hours. And yet in the brief amount I watched the CBS Evening News, Couric wasted my time telling me that Sarah Palin had notes scrawled on her palm. This was supposed to make us feel like Palin was a hypocrite for calling out Obama about his teleprompter habit.

Couric soundedlike a fourth-grader tattling on her neighbor for sticking a crayon up his nose. You really can't make it up.

February 08, 2010

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

It made me think of the bit in The Two Towers where Frodo and Sam are traveling through a blighted landscape toward Mordor, and they see, for a moment, a glimpse of the stars through a tear in the black clouds. That reminder of a beauty and goodness that exists outside the cruelty and ugliness that surrounded them gave them strength and reminded them of their purpose. As I read I thought of the victims of Communism, perhaps shut away for years in prisons, perhaps tortured relentlessly, who might have taken strength from a memory of real beauty that cannot be blotted out by the consuming hardness of their physical surroundings. - Mrs. Darwin

It was the first anniversary of Michael’s death, but what was I going to do? Sit around? No need to do that in order to contemplate – every hour was marked anyway and wouldn’t be denied in my head, even as I argued with myself about the arbitrary nature of “year.”...

The electrician spread out his papers on the kitchen island. He moved some other papers out of the way and said something, and his words confused me at first – I thought he was talking about my house-in-process, but that made no sense at all.

He said, “It’s gonna be so pretty, isn’t it? I can’t wait.”

Then it hit me. What he had picked up and glanced at, a year after, almost to the minute, what had moved him to casually share a spark of faith, was a Mass card sent to me by a friend, a Mass card with a picture of Jesus walking in clouds, clouds with light emanating from them.

I can’t wait.

A year…maybe not so arbirtrary after all. - Amy Welborn

I could never be bored or mentally lazy in his presence. I suspect the same might have been true for the family as they were growing up -- in how many families would it become an annual tradition to read the Christmas story aloud in Greek? - Roz of "In Dwelling" on her father-in-law, recently deceased.

I was on the phone with my mother, who recommended that I see Avatar. Trying to explain my lack of interest in it, I said, “I’m tired of high-tech anti-technology movies!"...Technology is naturally a friend to the artist, because all major advances provide new means of expression. We are taught that the invention of metallurgy was crucial to human culture because of its impact on agriculture and weaponry, but at the time I’m sure people were just as excited about what it did for sculpture and musical instruments. Likewise, intellectuals of all stripes feel the magnetic pull of gadgets. Who has been more enthusiastic about the latest smartphone or online-journaling technology than my neighbors here in the land of books and bureaucrats? And on a larger scale, they feel they are greatly fortunate in having things like modern medical and transport technology, and instinctively want to share the benefits with people in more “backward” parts of the world. Yet the same people who do all this often seem implicitly to accept the idea that technology is ruining the planet. Hence the dreams of the age have been more about returning to Eden than heading toward the Promised Land. - Camassia

[It is an evil] if we do not seek recourse to God with our petitions and prayers and seek comfort from Him, but instead, in a certain downcast and desperate frame of mind, try to escape our awareness of sadness by looking for consolation in sleep. Nor will we find what we are looking for: losing in sleep the consolation we might have obtained from God by staying awake and praying, we feel the weary weight of a troubled mind even during sleep itself, and also we stumble with our eyes closed into temptations and the traps set by the devil. - - St. Thomas More, "The Sadness of Christ"

Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed. - Pascal

My claim is that, since some time in the first decades of the twentieth century—after the best work of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather, that is—American novelists have narrowed the idea of sex to genital friction. - Blogger at "A Commonplace Blog"

The stay-at-home mom can exercise the freedoms of the creative class, if we allow ourselves. My room of my own is my head, and I inhabit it with varying degrees of contentment all day every day. All I have to do is put my findings down on paper. I for one am going to quit thinking of myself as a witless nobody confined to a life of vacuums and diapers. I prefer to think of myself as a British aristocrat without the quail eggs and castles. I spent some time with a group of wealthy British Socialists at Oxford, who brazenly proclaimed that their Oxford education was solely for the purpose of finding interesting things to say at dinner parties. So here, my blog is my dinner party. My unfinished graduate degree is a lifetime supply of quail eggs. - Betty Duffy

February 07, 2010

Alefest '10 Report

I'm listening to Down at the Corner Bar by Tony Booth while heading home from Alefest with Hank, which seems somehow appropriate given his - and the song's - straightforward appeal. There are few nicknames that fit as well as "Hank" for Ron. When you think Hank, you think bigger than life but having common sense. He arrived slightly late but with the excuse of helping others, which, as far as excuses go, is as good as it gets.

It didn't look like the outing would happen due to the dumping of twelve inches of snow, but the plow-crews came out and the worse I experienced was the shelling of horseshoe crab-sized snow blocks from the car in front of me. Which provided no trouble greater than the momentary distraction of white discs exploding on the dark, nearly dry asphalt.

Ron says he is reading the Reeves' biography of Bishop Sheen and sees the paradox in the man, and thus the paradox within us all. Sheen fought the sin of vanity while quietly doing works of charity. I ginn'd up the early eve by bringing up the controversial subject of the church carpet replacement. Hank's not a fan of church expenses.

As you enter they give you all sorts of things to carry around: party favors, a pen, a sampler glass, a program, matches. I try to keep track of the beers we drink and find with every drink my dexterity at writing while walking actually increases, ala my grandpa who was said to drive better after a couple.

In the meantime we burnt through blue tickets like confetti at a parade. Somewhat shamefully I note six unused tickets even now, but there are only so many beers one can taste without it feeling a duty. Chesterton said that the purpose of an open mind is to clamp on some truth, and the purpose of an open palate is to clamp on one taste. Later I would find out that it's best to stick to pale ales before IPAs before stouts. Everything to its season.

While still early in the tasting Ron brought up, out of the blue, the idea for a bet: $3 to the person who finds someone he knows in this venue. It seemed a longshot that we'd know anyone, but I took him up on it as we began our journey to some thirty-nine tables of beer, each with at least three varieties. We started, randomly, at table 33 and tried the Great Flash West Coast IPA. IPA is the beer lover's beer, hoppy and bitter, and I figured it was a good starter beer. It was as advertised: hoppy & bitter. He bumped the bet to $5.

We decided to go in order from there on in, and table 1 brought a Edmund Fitzgerald Porter that piped a very earthy, bass note. Table 2 was Sam Adams, and it proved a pleasure to introduce Ron to the double bock. I relished his appreciation of it.

Tables came and went: Brooklyn Chocolate Stout, which wasn't as chocolately as I thought, and then a Rogue Chocolate stout that was. Onto the Bluegrass Bourbon Barrel Stout and a fine refreshing pale ale at table 10. The Belhaven Twisted Thistle was on draught, and Ron tried and liked the Drop Top Amber. He also liked the Xingu Black Lager, while I tried, naturally, the St. Peter's Organic Cream Stout. Stouty goodness.

Ron paid me the compliment of wanting to read my journal entry from our last gathering, while a man walked by wearing gold beads. "Not a good look," I said, to Ron's approval, as we tried an Abita Purple Haze (Raspberry).

Ron tried a Trappist Tripel, finding it sour and bitter and inconspicuously pitching it, while I was in the mood for something sweet, a Samuel Smith cherry. One Flying Dog Gonzo imperial porter later, I had the Mad Hatter "Poet", a serviceable oatmeal stout. And then, just as things were winding down I run into Neil, a former work comrade. The little bet paid off. And, coincidentally, Neil was raving enthusiastically about the first beer we'd tried: the Green Flash IPA.

February 06, 2010

The "A" in AP Doesn't Stand for Apolitical

I often see Associated Press political stories as drinking games, where you drink every time you spot liberal bias. It seems as though nearly every semi-straight news reporter secretly wants to be an opinion-shaper, hence you get these attempts to obliquely lecture the American people.

On today's Dispatch's front page, we read the unadorned statement: "The GOP has shown more interest in opposing Democrats on the [health care] issue than in working with them." True or not, that's the sort of unproven assertion that belongs on the editorial page, especially given the flip side was noticeably absent, i.e. that Pelosi and Reid have shown precious little interest in working with Republicans.

Even better was this, in the second paragraph of Erica Werner's story: "The president's newly conflicting signals could frustrate Democratic lawmakers who are hungry for guidance from the White House as they try to salvage the effort to extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and hold down spiraling medical costs."

Now that's just plain funny. Could any newspaper that supposedly leans right get away with saying the flip side: "...as they try to salvage the effort to spend the country into banana republic status and dramatically increase the demand for health care without increasing the supply?"

February 05, 2010

Journal Excerptables



Had lunch yesterday with the good Father Deacon, as they call deacons in the Byzantine Catholic church. He suggested that the lack of a decent government among former French colonies (New Orleans & Haiti) is a legacy of the fact the French weren't into staying and building lasting settlements like the English were, which is why the Indians sided with the French during the French & Indian war. Interesting. Hadn't thought of that before.
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Read via Steven Riddle an interesting column on how most books are bought not so much to be consumed as stockpiled, and how the thrill of finding them is a joy quite separate from that of reading them. The thrill of the hunt, as it were, and a common avocation in our materialist age when "getting" is emphasized over "being". When I was younger I thought of myself as anti-consumerist even though I did collect things in moderation - baseball cards, stamps, books. I wonder if the collecting impulse is different from the consumerist impulse.

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There is precious little objective about work objectives, but what fascinates me is how they rise and fall like German reichs. For years they laid nearly fallow, being perfunctorily performed in the least unctuous manner. Now they seem revivified. It's probably partially a function of how much free time my boss has, which he has in abundance such that he's actually scheduled three meetings for each of his employees; one to discuss possible objectives, a second to review preliminary choices and a third to discuss the final choices. The third meeting is so extraneous that it rivals the extraneous makeup of Tammy Fae Baker.

Meanwhile, the objectives themselves seem self-evident to the extent they're not meaningless. New tasks spring up constantly throughout the year which either replace or subsume existing objectives. And yet my boss is positively giddy, as if he'd just discovered electricity instead of the same types of things I've been working on for the past couple years. But then it resonated in my head: that we are to take our jobs seriously, ourselves not. Not vice-versa. And so it occurred to me that he's merely following the right prescription: take your job seriously, even if it has its silly moments.

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Was driving past a really, really poor area of town. It's full of houses built around the turn of the 20th century, some with boarded up windows and having the general feel of neglect and misuse. (I can't drive by these roads and not think of my brother, way back when, driving around with his friends in a bad neighborhood blasting classical music.) I longed to drive down one of those roads to look around, to experience the other. Instead I noted the name of the first road, and the second: Yale and Princeton. Oh the irony.

February 04, 2010

Checking the Blogs..

Came across Roz's well-written tribute to her late father-in-law, a very vivid and evocative portrait:
He was someone whose salient characteristics were so clearly defined that even a brief mention will bring vivid images to mind. A watch chain and Phi Beta Kappa key will always evoke thoughts of him, even though I never saw him in his suit-vest-and-chain workday wear and only have stories from my husband to go on. He was . . . cheese and cocktails before dinner, Scientific American and New York Times Magazine, a sensible car, precise syntax, the roast carver at the head of the table, summer on Cape Cod, gallantry, respect for tradition, and (in tribute to his wife) a Woman Voter.
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And speaking of vivid, how about this fine photo of Jim Curley, looking every bit the part of bewhiskered gentleman farmer:

February 03, 2010

Ten Great Conservative Novels

...a list from NR:
"A few months ago, a professor e-mailed with a simple question: What are the great conservative novels? He was preparing a course on the history of American conservatism and wanted to include some fiction on his syllabus. I proposed a few titles, but his question lingered in my mind. So I asked readers of National Review Online for their suggestions. I also canvassed several experts on American literature. Hundreds of ideas poured in. Here is the result: a list of ten great conservative novels, all written by Americans since the founding of the conservative movement in the 1950s. Lists such as this are always (and ideally) debatable. Yet these choices represent something of a rough consensus." - John J. Miller
1. Advise and Consent, by Allen Drury

2. Midcentury, by John Dos Passos

3. Mr. Sammler's Planet, by Saul Bellow

4. The Time It Never Rained, by Elmer Kelton

5. The Thanatos Syndrome, by Walker Percy

6. The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe

7. Shelley's Heart, by Charles McCarry

8. Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

9. Freddy and Fredericka, by Mark Helprin

10. No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

Alefest '10!

Alefest

Rondo for Harmonica

I was at work, eyeball-deep in the familiar comfort-zone of Excel spreadsheets, making the equivalent of free throws (i.e. challenging enough to be interesting and but very makeable) when my wife called. "Lenny died," she said. It sounded like a joke. The husband of my brother-in-law's sister was healthy and thin and fit. He'd just had a physical. How it happened was eerily familiar: on a treadmill, running, keeled over, dead before he hit the ground. And now another middle-aged widow. So sad. And almost a year to the day of Michael D... May Lenny, who was a true mensch and all around good guy, rest in the peace of God.

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I've an RSS aggregator on the iPod and it's a headrush to see a new Betty Duffy post. It's funny how a name can resonate after the proper positive associations, such that "Betty Duffy" can eventually sound as alluring as "Bette Davis". No plain Jane, her latest post quotes her confessor nailing it: "you have chosen well." She's living the textbook Catholic life and I'm somewhat envious. A thousand pardons begged for the Betty Duffy fanzine aspect of this blog lately.

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I've been reading Healing the Family Tree by Rev. Hampsch and am surprised to learn that my self-reported heroism should not be satirized. On my blogger profile, I said that the first heroic deed of my life was being born, in shucking the amniotic fluid for oxygen. But he makes clear that birth is a traumatic event and I suppose we shouldn't shrug it off just because everybody goes through it. Heroism isn't optional to the Christian life, but it's also not exceptional, which is a comfort. The saints were heroes, but then so are those who go through Purgatory and become saints.

Modern science is finding that that which is hidden matters so much more than we know. That the first 72 hours of life matter crucially, as does the time spent in the womb (Hampsch says a baby can tell if it's wanted or not). The life before we can recall is vital, including the event (for cradle Catholics) of our Baptism. Let us never take for granted the things we cannot see or remember.

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Cranked up Mozart's "Rondo for Violin" on the drive into work today. The smoothest of smooth commutes, the 40 degree air was scented with the slightest olfactory of spring. I think I'm actually becoming a morning person. I get so much out of things like "Morning Joe", the morning java, a hot shower and the iPod. Not to mention a a creamy cinnamon roll or a bowl of Cheerios.

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Found a Facebook entry for a girl I had a crush on in college. She looks different enough that I likely wouldn't recognize her in person, despite the fact that she hasn't gained much weight. Now she's so domesticated! Such a solid citizen! Married over 20 years to the same guy. A grade-school teacher all these years. The wild streak seems gone.

February 02, 2010

Strange But True

Seems there was a Catholic equivalent to Ripley's Believe it or Not! back in the day. Called “Strange But True”, it was scribed by a M.J. Murray:

I B Hyp-mo-tized

Today am mesmerized by Facebook, specifically after coming across my old high school class on it. Feel a tsunami of emotions. Like the fact one girl is now openly gay. Or the shocking pictures of a recent reunion and how different we look, which obviously includes me now. (It seems like pictures of the 20th reunion there is some correspondence between high school and most recent looks, while now there's much, much less. It seems the difference between ages 37 and 46 is huge, likely due to a slowing metabolism and male pattern baldness.) There are some holy folks, like Joan who is a critical care nurse who lives with the mystery of life at its terminus and who posts daily bible verses. Steve looks so cowboy you can't believe it. Moved to Oklahoma and brags about never reading a book. Looks like an extra on a Western. Then there's the almost mythical prom queen Diane, whose voluptuously unattainable good looks have now carried over to her FB page, where only friends are allowed to peruse her offerings.

I'm impressed by their lack of privacy concerns. (I guess I'm the only one out there with a FB account under a psuedonym.) It feels so natural and unnatural; natural because we're all the same age and went to the same high school and sometimes share the same values. Unnatural because I didn't know most of them that well and don't really feel entitled to more info. I see the pictures of the reunion and think, mostly, relief I wasn't there. The discomfort would be almost sublime.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china. - Oscar Wilde via Betty Duffy

I find it harder and harder every day to live up to the brilliance of Oscar Wilde's epigrams. - Mrs. Darwin

Drank many cups of coffee and related to one another our adventures during our time apart. Strange to have something to report over dinner, to have spent time doing things that feed our interests and intellects. - Betty Duffy at Williamsburg with her husband

This dialogue, like all the others in which Jesus was involved, is not in the past but is always occurring. To every disciple who asks Him - as we ourselves do - to be at His right hand in glory and to have the joy of His Spirit, Jesus lovingly shows the way: to drink His cup, to receive the baptism He received. - the book The Sober Intoxication of the Spirit"

But keep this in mind: Religion is more about God loving us than us loving God, or loving others, or loving ourselves. The first thing we have to catch is that God loves us, now, as we are. Before doing anything else, we need simply to let ourselves be on the receiving end of the goodness of the Lord. - Bishop Ken Untener

I'm darkly amused by the picture of a pro-abortion counter-protestor to the March For Life carrying a sign which says, "Won't Get Laid Without Roe v. Wade". Why, precisely, does the bearer think that anyone else should be worried by this? - Darwin Catholic

I’m always thinking that Jesus came to suffer with us. He didn’t take away the suffering of the man on His right or His left, or of His mother, or the apostles—He didn’t. Sometimes you wish He would have but you understand that He didn’t because He loves us and He wants us to fulfill our vocations. He doesn’t want to take our vocations away from us. - Vincent Nagle, "Life Promises Life" via Frederick

Aristotle argued that the purpose of tragedy is to make us feel pity and fear, and that through experiencing these emotions intensely while watching (and participating as an audience member in) a drama we purge ourselves of our pent up feelings and thus arrive at the end of the play refreshed and calmed. The thing is, I find myself a lot less eager put myself through excess pity and fear these days...This is not to say that I only want to watch pop-corn movies, but looking over some of my old favorites that I no longer want to watch, I recognize a certain sort of artistic brutality -- not necessarily movie violence, though some of them were indeed very violent movies, but rather some sense in which they were movies that treated their audience to the more extreme ends of the human experience. While these days, I seldom feel so venturesome. -Darwin Catholic

Despair is the conclusion of fools. -Disraeli

Christ is the apotheosis of loveliness. There is nothing about His person that is unlovely. If we are put off by Him, as sometimes we are, it is because His perfect light exposes the flaws in us--we think for all to see. However, Christ is altogether lovely in this as well, for more often than not, our own unloveliness is for ourselves alone--it is not shared nor bruited about nor a cause for rejoicing or ridicule. Christ, in His loveliness, holds up a mirror to us and asks us to transcend it and to reflect Him instead...Jesus Christ is altogether lovely and altogether worthy of everything we can muster in the way of love. Jesus Christ embraces us, loves us, nurtures us, protects us, and gathers us back to the Father. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

February 01, 2010

Somewhere it's Beer o'clock


Pours a handsome pint 'eh?
I have to say the difference between St. Pauli Girl's Dark and Lion Stout (or Tadcaster Porter) is the difference between coffee out of an '80s machine/dispenser and a gourmet Seattle blend. Indeedy, it seems I've upgraded my taste buds in both coffee and beer. For better or worse (the worse meaning financially) I've come a long way from the days of Busch Light and java swill. Now even what formerly was an upscale import, St. Pauli's, tastes watery compared to the stout-y goodness of Lion or a Sam Smith's. One thing that's deceptive about Lion is that it's 8% alcohol and tastes like 4%. The mark of a good beer, but at the same time every sip is a double-sip in normal beer terms. Makes for fewer trips to the 'fridge anyway. I've almost got it down to a (beer) science: how many drinks to ride the wave without making tomorrow a headache, literally.

The Dawning

by George Herbert (1593-1633)

Awake sad heart, whom sorrow ever drowns;
     Take up thine eyes, which feed on earth;
Unfold thy forehead gather’d into frowns:
     Thy Saviour comes, and with him mirth:
          Awake, awake;
And with a thankfull heart his comforts take.
     But thou dost still lament, and pine, and crie;
     And feel his death, but not his victorie.

Arise sad heart; if thou dost not withstand,
     Christ's resurrection thine may be:
Do not by hanging down break from the hand,
     Which as it riseth, raiseth thee:
          Arise, Arise;
And with his buriall-linen drie thine eyes:
     Christ left his grave-clothes, that we might, when grief
     Draws tears, or bloud, not want an handkerchief.

______


Moments of light seem fragile, perishable, like Jesus in the manger or the Host that dies in my mouth that I might live. Experience, or God, teaches me to write them down, to savor them, regardless of their seeming perishability...

I usually don't say the rosary on Sunday, since there's Mass or Divine Liturgy to attend but for some reason I did yesterday, and during the first Glorious Mystery it was as if He were saying, "you only think of suffering. You never think of the reward, of Resurrection and eternal bliss."

It occurred to me that I'd missed two "flip sides" recently: one is that if Christ would die for me alone, that means I must've killed him with my sins. If He would've died for me alone, then that means there is no one else I can point to and blame. The second is that the Cross is not a cross for cross's sake, but that it is followed by Resurrection. Oh what a difficult balance to achieve! (Or is it?) Not to think "Resurrection only" or "Cross only" but to keep both in mind and heart.

And so I must change, and hold onto the hope of Resurrection in my heart too. My focus is relentlessly logical and rational: "the Resurrection is in the distant future, our exile now, so why think about the Resurrection?" Similar is to slough off mercy, thinking in a poor analogy, "mercy, like Social Security, may be granted to me, but best not to rely on it at this point." God - that is reality - doesn't work quite that way. God is poetry, not prose.

And then, out of the blue, Dylan posted the gem at top.