August 31, 2011

Mark Shea Quote

I have no intention of voting for Bachmann, who I distrust deeply (as I distrust almost all the embarrassments the Right is anointing). But the difference between her and Gore's demagoguery about Anthropogenic Global Warming Climate Change Global Climate Disruption the weather is that she makes jokes and the press treats her with panicky seriousness while Gore speaks with prophetic certitude and the press treats him with reverence. I fear, far more, the politician the press imagines to be a prophet than the one it (rightly, I think) regards as a buffoon.  - Mark Shea

August 30, 2011

Spotted on the 'Net


NavBar Hits

In olden times, and sometimes newer times for many, you get all kinds of interesting searches that result in hits to your blog. But nowadays I get a lot of "navbar" hits, derived by someone hitting "Next Blog" on their navigation bar. I'm surprised this feature is apparently used as much as it is - I don't use it much and one would think there's less chance of someone finding a blog liked that way than through search engine strings. The strings at least have something to do with some subject you're interested in, while "next blog" is the very essence of randomness.

In the early days of blogging, you'd get all kinds of hits because blogs were really high up the totem pole on the Google search engine. Now not so much.

Sun-Greed & Book Readin'

Yesterday I followed the sunscape around the yard, sun-junkie that I am. (A Concord pastor offers a morning offering about the onset of autumn and upcoming loss of summer.) I enjoyed the light shining on the Kindle as I read more of Mark Steyn's compulsively readable "After America" which certainly paints a grim picture. What greater symbol of our ineptitude, he says, than rebuilding a big nothing in lower Manhattan since 9/11? Steyn also didn't leave me unscathed, for he quoted de Tocqueville concerning the tyranny that democracies are prone to, and that is an anesthetizing comfort, an inward self-absorption which Steyn says is well-illustrated by our compulsion to watch "Dancing With the Stars" and engage in social media. The problem lies not in the stars, as the Bard wrote. Steyn says convincingly, "Tocqueville knows us better than we know ourselves." A prophet indeed.

Also couldn't resist Lino Rulli's "Sinner", which I bought on Kindle. Next up, the great Heather King.
*

Reading one of the "curse" psalms, number 108, reminded me that Jesus Himself dealt with a diversity of Scripture. He could've chosen a cursing psalm as one to follow but he did not, thankfully. The CTS notes say, "In praying this psalm the Christian can only be humbly grateful for the advance in morality." Indeed, amen.

August 29, 2011

Photos Monday


Fisherman (or is it 'fisherperson'?)




Grandson (or is it 'grandperson'?)




Park path

Flâneur

Sunday, or "sun day" yesterday in these parts, held weather almost too perfect to be salvaged. I could scarcely give the weather its due and found myself dozing off and on repeatedly between the hours of 11am and 2pm though I did manage a mile hike with Buddy (I repeated the French word "Flaneur" for purposes of savor). When you don't want to miss a minute of this precious dapply 80 degree sun, it's difficult to spend it reclining. On the hike I did see all manner of people out and about making good use of it: dog walkers, child baseball players, and fishers of fish.

I grabbed some reading early and didn't let go but for moments of somnolence. Books, books, books! I've suddenly got on onrush of new volumes vying for buying. There's of course Heather King's new book, but also a new John Zmirak "Bad Catholic" book (heard a bit of an interview between him and Lino Riulli on satellite radio and it was sublime). The latest Zmirak is on the seven deadly sins. Then too there's the book about Paris. And finally the Jacobs book on "The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction". I think I'd do well with just the Zmirak and King.

Also came across a website - wonder of wonders, is there not a web page for everything under the sun? - which concerns itself with Bible bindings and printings. In other words, simply a sort of review of the physical beauty of newly published Bibles. It's called "Bible Design and Binding" and the author is sufficiently self-aware to refer to himself as shallow for blogging about the externalities of Bibles rather than what's inside. It's pretty beautiful blog because he peppers it with a myriad of pictures.

*

Been a long stretch of social obligations on weekends, such that I've lately cherished the weeknights from 6pm-9pm spent reading under a dimming eastern sky. Will have to start relying on light-emitting iPad rather than dark Kindle between 7:30 and beyond. (Ironic that I'm so tempted to buy the book by Alan Jacobs titled "The Pleasures of Reading in a Distracted Age" just to hear more about his solution to the problem of technology: more technology. He found himself reading real books less and less and surfing the 'net more and more until he got a Kindle and reintroduced himself to longform reading.)

*

Fr. Larry Richards, on local Catholic radio, praised one of my favorite books of all time, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" by Pope John Paul II. That he would pick that book, among all others, to recommend says something about our commonality. He said it was the most liberal of books and it was from the Pope - by liberal he gave examples, such as how the Church is silent on even whether there is anybody in Hell. Even Judas is not definitively damned. Fr. Larry is one of those rare birds: orthodox as hell (pardon that locution) and yet merciful as heaven.

The Fr. Larry anecdote that gave me pause was the story of Padre Pio being beaten by demons in the sanctuary of church (no less!). I love anecdotes about St. Pio, and there are so many as to seem inexhaustible. After experiencing this, Padre Pio chastised his guardian angel for not defending him and the angel sheepishly apologized. The scandal for me is that the angel could've sat back and watched it happen without jumping in. I thought the good angels are perfect since they are in or of Heaven, and so I'm trying to make sense of that. Seems like Padre Pio, of all people, should've been able to depend on his guardian angel for guarding purposes. The angel could say, perhaps, he wasn't asked, which suggests we better be doing a lot of asking! Certainly this type of story is not part of the deposit of faith and is open to question, but when there's a lot more authority suggested when it comes from a saint's mouth, one would think.

*

A desperate man came to visit the other night. He was fit as a fiddle and engaging as a politician. A meat salesman, he showed his wares with a dexterity and swiftness born of countless hours. I felt bad I couldn't commit to paying the $400-plus for the all the frozen steaks and hamburgers. Here was a thankless job, a job so difficult that he goes about neighborhoods looking for people sitting on their front porch so as to avoid the endless ringing of doorbells. I learned later they chew through salesman in that business.

*

Now listening to a pleasingly modern classical piece by Aaron Jay Kernis titled "Musica Celestis for Strings". Sometimes you really want the modern sound, sometimes you feel in the mood for it, especially when everything else seems like a cliche, when you want to be startled out of your mediocrity. It feels stretching, transcending. I forget how satisfying those unmelodic modern stochastic pieces can be. They are as opposite to Bach as Black Sabbath is to Abba, and I take no comfort in the fact that I seem to relish the modern classical more than that spiritual wunderkind J.S..

August 26, 2011

Photos Friday

Pictures made in and around Columbus yesterday, inspired by this Heather King post:

A Columbus favorite, the North Market...



...where inside you can see fish...



...and colorful scenery



Nearby, the O'Shaugnessey Pubic House



On the mean streets of west Columbus, "Love in the Ruins"



A Columbus Blue Jackets jacket



Back home


Why's My Bookbag (or e-reader equivalent) so Heavy?



From the novel Middlesex:
Most were last remodeled in the seventies and have the colors of suburban kitchens from my childhood: avocado, cinnamon, sunflower yellow.
__

Planning is for the world’s great cities, for Paris, London, and Rome, for cities dedicated, at some level, to culture. Detroit, on the other hand, was an American city and therefore dedicated to money, and so design had given way to expediency.
__

Zizmo harbored vaguely yogic beliefs about the mental benefits of semen retention, and so was disposed to wait until his wife’s vitality returned.
__

In the eighteenth row my grandmother gave her critical opinion. “It’s like the paintings in the museum,” she said. “Just an excuse to show people with no clothes.”

***

The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet by Brandon Vogt

If God is construed as one being among many, then his causal efficacy competes with ours. In regard to Scripture, this means that the Bible is his book, not ours. But the Catholic sense, of course, is that the Bible is, as Vatican II puts it in Dei Verbum (n. 13), “the words of God, expressed in human language. “ 28 Given God’s unique metaphysical makeup, it is altogether possible to speak of a divine authorship that does not compete with or preclude real human authorship. But to admit human authorship means to admit cultural conditioning, historical context, the particularity of literary genre, authorial intention, etc. In a word, it is to admit the need for interpretation.
__

A difficulty I face again and again is that apparently an entire generation has been raised with very little feel for literature or poetry, for the manner in which literary texts mean. There is a marked tendency among my interlocutors to see truth as identical to fact or journalistic reportage. When I observe that certain biblical texts are metaphorical, poetic, or symbolic in nature, I am invariably accused of “cherry-picking, “ conveniently isolating those parts of the Bible that tell what “really happened” from those that don’t. I counter that nonliteral texts such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Eliot’s The Wasteland, Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Melville’s Moby Dick are bearers of profound truth indeed, though they convey their truth in a distinctively nonscientific or nonhistorical way.
___

A passage from the Book of Revelation is particularly illuminating here. John the visionary is within the heavenly temple, and he spies a scroll sealed with seven seals and representing the whole of Scripture or even the whole of history. He weeps because no one comes forward to unseal the text. Finally, the announcement is made that the Lion of Judah, who has triumphed, can perform the task. Then John sees, not a lion or a Davidic warrior, but rather a Lamb that seemed to have been slain (Revelation 5:1-7). The point is clear: the nonviolent and forgiving Christ, slain on the cross and risen from the dead, is the hermeneutical key to the entire Bible and to the whole of the human story. When Christians survey the Bible, therefore, they do so through the interpretive lens of Jesus the Lamb. Thus, any reading of Scripture running counter to that fundamental Logos ought to be regarded as an illegitimate interpretation. The God disclosed in Jesus of Nazareth simply cannot be coherently understood as a bloodthirsty advocate of blitzkrieg, arbitrary killing, and genocide.
___

since the Bible is “the words of God, expressed in human language, “ we might be sensitive to the progressive nature of biblical revelation, a theme suggested by Irenaeus in the second century. God is slowly, gradually educating the human race in his ways, and this means that he adapts himself to varying and evolving human modes of understanding. We cannot, therefore, simply isolate one passage, one moment in the Bible and say, without further explanation, this is the final revelation of God.
___

Dr. Peter Kreeft was asked what he thought was the biggest obstacle facing orthodox Christianity today, he replied simply: “Our own sins…. Only saints can save the world. And only our own sins can stop us from being saints. “35 We shape society, and the amount of God’s love we allow into our heart shapes us.

August 25, 2011

Baseball & Beer



Went to Clippers game for Buck-a-bone ribs night. it was nice to watch the sun ebb and the beautiful bright field lights ascend on that magic place, the baseball diamond. That part was relaxing anyway. The beer price was outrageous at $8.25, and they didn't have Columbus Brewing's IPA, so that was sub-satisfactory. It's amazing that at a minor league park they have the chutzpah to charge that.

August 23, 2011

EQ

Earthquake! I felt it here, hundreds of miles from the epicenter. Amazing.

Quotable

.. the first moment of true prayer occurs in the experience and awareness of one's limitations. We do not know what our real needs are, and we must learn them all over again each day. In this sense, prayer has the value of pedagogy, it is the great pedagogy of God. While evasion and distractions draw us away from the road to real happiness, prayer brings us back to what is most authentic in man's quest for happiness. "The truth will set you free." Prayer makes us free; it preserves what is most fragile and most precious in us: the integrity of our desire, that desire which, in final analysis, is nothing but the need for God. This is what prayer preserves in us, and must teach us every day, this need for God, which is the distinctive, most profound trait that separates man from the animals. Man is the only being who turns to God to obtain what is lacking for his own fulfillment.

--Bernard Bro, OP, via Magnificat magazine, meditation for the day, Tues. 23rd August 2011

Excerpt of Desert Poem

I was in a new kind of desert
where the Santa Anas lick down
your shoulders halfway through a latte,

but the Mojave’s not duped
by orange blossoms, avocado trees,
clutches of Bermuda grass

when all irrigation gives rise
to twenty million fine, identical blades.

A city-desert is a nightmare world,
a Sahara sprawled in every direction
with stucco, brick, Spanish tile, sheet metal, glass,

teak and tile playhouses in the hills
where ficus and doum palms
     disguise the dunes,

where desert cars are hallucinations
across flats of broiled land

where women wear gauzy numbers to stress
their melon breasts and men hide
their bald heads in Dodgers caps.

--Alexis Orgera

RSS Feeds R Us

I'm hyp-mo-tized by the rich harvest of blogposts Google Reader has delivered unto me. Truly some haunting melodies in there, some potent paragraphs. The three bloggers that immediately come to mind are "Kind Birds" via Betty Duffy, Heather King (and a recent correspondent) and "Beyond Blue". This appears to be my era of blog renaissance; Twitter and books have suffered. Another downside is that these posts are all so good that I feel ashamed for the dross on my blog. But the variations of quality is part of the charm; one needs the sparrows to show off the goldfinch's plumage. Meanwhile I continue my search for brightly-lit blog posts out in the wild. The Flipboard iPad app for Google is fantabulous and daily I check what the tide's brung in.

The problem is that I'll remember a line or two from a post but not its author or blog. I can save them as favorites, but that saves the whole post when there's often just a point or paragraph I want to remember.... It's odd that I'm so attracted to blogs scribed by females when it's the opposite with published novelists.

*

The weather has so obviously turned a corner that it feels like we humans should as well, like we should make some new start, fresh resolution. It feels like we should mimic our natural world and take in the fresh autumnal breezes of change. It seems as though we should prepare ourselves for winter. Summer lasted only one searing month, maybe six weeks, although obviously it shall return (if not with those absurdly long June evenings).

*

Took the dog for a walk last night because the weather is so exceptional and because it has in it that little sehnsucht of autumn, and it felt ungrateful to nature to spend the time not really noticing it. Then too the dog appreciated the walk, sniffing here and there like a mad dog. It gets his juices flowing.

August 22, 2011

My Entirely Subjective List of States With the Most Self-Pride

1) TEXAS - easy choice, there is hardly a contender. Texas is so "state patriotic" that there's talk of secession there.

2) NEW YORK - the Big Apple is self-patriotic enough to provide that impetus for the whole state. They think the own the joint!

3) SOUTH CAROLINA - they started the Civil War, so that takes some chutzpah. Plus the South is generally more state patriotic (or at least regionally so) than most.

4) MASS - a state with so much history and the most elite university will naturally be self-patriotic, and their love for the Red Sox is legendary.

5) CALIFORNIA - Despite recent problems, the "Golden State" still thinks of itself as the leader of trends, fashions and technology.

6) ALASKA - the biggest state in terms of area, Alaskans are keenly aware of their separateness and rich natural resources.

7) LOUISIANA - Anchored by New Orleans and Cajun country, this state is unique enough to have a lot of self-patriotism.

8) NEW HAMPSHIRE - "Live free or die," is their motto, and their pride of rugged individualism is strong.

Opulent Summer

Found here:
Opulent Summer
Theocritus 7.135-147 (tr. T.F. Higham):
Dangling above our heads hung canopies
Of whispering elms and rustling poplar-trees;
Near us the water of the sacred well
Dropped from the Nymphs' cave, tinkling as it fell;
On every twig in shadow sat with glee
The sunburnt crickets, chattering busily;
And murmuring afar off in solitude,
Bowered in the deep thorn-brake, the turtle cooed.
All rich delight and luxury was there:
Larks and bright finches singing in the air;
The brown bees flying around the well;
The ring-dove moaning; everywhere the smell
Of opulent summer and of ripening-tide:
Pears at our feet and apples at our side
Rolling in plenteousness; in piles around
Branches, with damsons burdening to the ground,
Strewn for our feast; and from the full wine-tun
Wax of a four-years-aged seal undone.

The same, tr. C.S. Calverley:
A wealth of elm and poplar shook o'erhead;
Hard by, a sacred spring flowed gurgling on
From the Nymphs' grot, and in the sombre boughs
The sweet cicada chirped laboriously.
Hid in the thick thorn-bushes far away
The treefrog's note was heard; the crested lark
Sang with the goldfinch; turtles made their moan,
And o'er the fountain hung the gilded bee.
All of rich summer smacked, of autumn all:
Pears at our feet, and apples at our side
Rolled in luxuriance; branches on the ground
Sprawled, overweighed with damsons; while we brushed
From the cask's head the crust of four long years.

The same, in Andrew Lang's prose version:
And high above our heads waved many a poplar, many an elm tree, while close at hand the sacred water from the nymphs' own cave welled forth with murmurs musical. On shadowy boughs the burnt cicalas kept their chattering toil, far off the little owl cried in the thick thorn brake, the larks and finches were singing, the ring-dove moaned, the yellow bees were flitting about the springs. All breathed the scent of the opulent summer, of the season of fruits; pears at our feet and apples by our sides were rolling plentiful, the tender branches, with wild plums laden, were earthward bowed, and the four-year-old pitch seal was loosened from the mouth of the wine-jars.
*


OSU Campus last week...

Elvis, Jesus & Me

Heather King took a tour of Graceland and shot this picture of a statue Elvis had:



It looked so familiar, so I went upstairs to take a picture of the statue my grandmother had given me:



Nope, not the same statue after all.

Sundays with Dolan

Listened to a bit of Archbishop Dolan on the Catholic channel today. Man is he articulate and interesting or what? He's certainly made for modern media. He should have a show on EWTN. He had someone on from Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker today, and the guest told an oh-so-memorable anecdote about a lady donating a diamond. Day treated it no differently than had she received a 5-dollar bill, casually putting it in her smock. Later she gave it to a street person saying something like, "God didn't make diamonds only for the rich, you know." The Catholic worker guy cringed because he knew how much that diamond would fetch in order to pay their bills. Pure Dorothy Day.

Then I read something on the back of the Byzantine bulletin from St. John Chrysostom on moving mountains. He opined that the apostles didn't move any mountains because there was no need, but that later saints are reputed to have moved them when the necessity arose. What faith, both in movers of mountains and in believers of the stories of movers of mountains and in Dorothy Day! The saints are different from us - they have more faith! Faith is to saints what money is to the wealthy. Sometimes the greatest faith challenge is simply to trust that our sins are forgiven.

August 21, 2011

Last Day(s)

Last day of vacation and I ain't going down without a fight - which means, of course, drinking beer. I am sitting out in pluperfect 80 degree weather with "The First Tycoon: Cornelius Vanderbilt" on the Kindle. I take a picture so it'll last longer:
Also reading the latest Mark Steyn, "After America". Steyn is prone to overstatement and mild hysteria, to put it mildly, but he says things I've long thought, and we all love to see in print things we've thought. Mark writes about how we as a culture pretty much suck with respect to curing diseases these days, and it seems true. There's something symbolic about how the big advances of the '20s and beyond were prolonging the life of diabetics and in the '50s curing polio while our main claim to fame now is eradicating erectile dysfunction via Viagra. I think he's missing the advancements in heart surgery, but still... He writes that we reached our technically-proficient peak in 1969 with the moon landing and that feels true.

Vegas/Canyon Trip Log



SUNDAY

The saying goes, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," but given the day-by-day, drip-by-drip, bitter divorce proceedings of my wife's sister, our mantra is: "what's happening in Ohio, stays in Ohio". Except the text messages keep coming; modern technology knows no vacation.

Meanwhile I'm sitting on the plane bored, trying to pre-write my travelogue. It's extremely challenging but a good writing exercise. Unfortunately only the lamest of jokes occur such as: "Las Vegas" is the Native American term meaning "lost my shirt". Actually I have no idea what the words Las Vegas mean since I haven't done any homework. Haven't read any histories of the town, no books on where George Washington slept or the great Civil War battles fought here.

So I long to write the definitive travel guide to the spiritual and cultural delights of Las Vegas tentatively titled, "Vegas Without Gambling: Your Guide to the Higher Life". I go not in search of a jackpot but to see what the fuss is about and explore the cultural scene. It's one of those places they say you have to see once in your lifetime and I've never been. And I have only approximately 24 hours there.

My impressions and associations of Vegas include but don't preclude: hazy 3am joints where the Rat Pack delivered body blows to their livers. The Strip. Lots of bright lights. Desert, crazy place for a town full of fountains. Old nineteen-seventies daguerreotypes of famous hotels. Licentious, like New Orleans but without the beads. All sorts of faux things, like a fake Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty, and old rock stars playing fake versions of their old hits. Will actually going there disabuse me of any of these stereotypes?

I slow-sip Bloody Mary's on the trip, but without the alcohol. Just Mott's 100% tomato juice or "blood" as we used to call it when Dad drank it back in the day. The pilot comes on and tells us the temperature in Las Vegas is 102. At 9:30 at night. I say bring it on! It brings out all those Edward Abbey inclinations in me, like a sudden desire to walk the desert singing "Horse With No Name" just to see if I'd last thirty minutes without dehydrating myself.

Anxious to see what the landscape is like. It's farther west and south than my mental map had placed it, though the plane ride is bringing that truth home. Dallas is only approximately half-way there. Vegas is a mere skip and a jump from California. I'd somehow pictured it in northeastern Nevada.

It also appears that Las Vegas is some three hours behind us, which is rather inconvenient and quite unnecessary. It's not like the casinos or people in them care whether it's light or dark outside. We'll arrive at 9:30pm Vegas time, or 12:30am body time. I had thoughts of getting there, this first night, and walking the streets for people-watching purposes. That seems a bit less appealing, now with my eyelids beginning to droop, than it did on paper. Fortunately the 9:30am bus tour should be easy to make.

Now if this were a Betty Duffy or Heather King post the foregoing would lead to the illustration of a deep spiritual truth which I could of course supply, but in the interest of greater interactivity, I will leave space here for you to add your own:

[Insert here]

Thank you. That was excellent.

*

The earth is full of the grandeur of God. There are sun-laden clouds with strati of grey and blue and white. Even when cloudy it's so much brighter than indoors - I can tell by the setting required on my iPad.

And now the sun moves along its appointed route, occasionally with stretches of open sky else patches of mordant clouds. I've had so much sun that I regret not the clouds and, in fact, rather relish their contemplative air. I feel full to the brim with summer, glad tidings running over. How appropriate we celebrate the Mother of God's assumption, the fruitful one, at this time of summer's maximal fruitfulness.

*

I read a good chunk of "The Church and Social Media" on the trip to Dallas and it's an enjoyable and edifying read so far. The proceeds for the book go to charity, which is like the greatest excuse to buy a book ever. That pushed me over the indecision line and I'm glad it did.

MONDAY
"Las Vegas is a city that’s surrounded by spectacular mountains but that’s built with little recognition of them: it’s a warren of parched parking lots with majestic desert peaks peeking out over endless repetitions of Targets, CVSs, and TJs Maxx."
- Jon Bruner, FORBES magazine
A new hotel in a strange city is akin to the first day at a new school - all new and bright and shiny. On this trip we would see some beautiful man-made architecture and some beautiful God-made architecture, although since He gave us the wherewithal - the intelligence, the raw materials, and the aesthetic sense that separates us from chimps - it all comes from God, wittingly or unwittingly. This desire to create beauty is part of what makes us human.

Despite the late hour, at least for our body clocks, Joe and I explore the grounds of the huge 7,000-room hotel, which includes indoor and outdoor gondola rides as well as a shopping/dining area with a faux blue sky and lit such as to make you feel it's early evening even in the dead of night. The opulent lobby and frescoes reminded me of something of the hallways of the Vatican Museum. The place feels in some ways like a cruise ship, an entertainment center of its own. The Phantom of the Opera theatre is there, some thirty-two eating establishments and, of course, a large casino. It was easy to get lost in the latter, which my dad said was intentional since they get you to stay longer.

*
"We're still hayseed enough to say, 'Look who's in the big town'." - John Mellancamp song
Arriving in the room we note the remote control on the wall which controls the draperies that reveal a view of the Strip. I could've played with that all day. A "wow" factor, although the more amazing thing, on the negative side, is that a hotel of that caliber could make it so difficult to find a cup of coffee. No coffee pot in the room, not even instant coffee, and the places in the lobby area produced long lines even at, say, 6:50 am in the morning! You can't make it up, but it's a small detail that for all the glitz and glamour making the customer happy isn't job uno. We noticed that also with the fact that there are serious lines to check-in, something that normally takes nominal effort.

On the floor of the casino you see that there is little effort to have equal opportunity (unlike with the airline flight attendants) in wait staff; the girls were all thin and wore absurdly short dresses. Subtlety is not a Vegas thing. There were "Thank You for Not Smoking" signs but every third person had a cigarette in hand, so somebody feels ungrateful. "Cigarettes, cigars," announced one young lady as she made her way through the crowd, which was reminiscent of the "Cigars, cigarettes," line Bugs Bunny used to say in a cartoon I seem to recall.

We made our way to a restaurant with a breakfast buffet and it may've been the most delicious breakfast I'd ever had. Everything perfect and the price not unreasonable. Afterwards a bus tour, where we met up with Mom and Dad. The host had what seemed to be a photographic memory for trivia concerning the business dealings of Las Vegas; Steve Wynn was the only name that sounded vaguely familiar, but I thought it interesting that he felt compelled to tell us who was buying and selling these casinos given that the names meant nothing to most of us. But tour guides get paid to talk, and there's something reassuring about traveling on a bus listening to a pleasant stream of Tour Guide Talk.

Shawn mentioned that his mother had been a showgirl, and seemed to have insider knowledge such that Howard Hughes did actually leave his room during the four years he lived in a Vegas hotel. More puzzling was learning that many bottles of his urine were found in his room - it's not like he didn't have indoor plumbing so...

We went through various and sundry casino hotels such as the Venetian, the Bellagio, the Cosmopolitan and the Golden Nugget. Saw downtown and the every-other-block tacky wedding chapels. Our guide said there was a specific scent to each hotel unto its own - the Venetian smells of perfume, the Imperial Palace of smoke. (Joke.)

Afterwards I headed to Caesar's Palace and toured the palatial outdoor grounds (and some of the interior, which included a gallery of vintage pro baseball and football photographs). The statuary and topiary of Caesar's was a great place to rest in, especially in the patches of shade on what was spectacularly sunny, if hot, day. Here was the beauty of the natural - trees and shrubs and fountains galore - from which one could observe the spectacle of Las Vegas boulevard, a sort of Times Square west.

After a gambling awhile and a quick dip in the pool, it was onto dinner which proved to be a mild disaster. As in most cases of "system fail", this was a case of safeguards not working out, like when you get water in the basement because your main and battery-powered back-up sump pumps fail. Cellphones make us think we're now impervious to failing to meet at the right place but that's not so since we had the perfect storm of me trying to call Steph while Steph tried to call mom. I received only her answering machine while she received only Mom's answering machine, because Mom didn't think she'd need a cellphone. Meanwhile my dying cellphone (it's ancient in cellphone terms) now requires nearly daily charging, and the last thing Steph had heard was that I'd be charging it during dinner, but I decided to bring it just in case, which she didn't know. The issue wasn't as trivial as it sounded because we had to leave in about an hour to go to the Phantom.

And what of the Phantom? It was haunting, Victorian and included some pretty dramatic special effects. You go to Vegas mainly for the shows and the gambling, and since we aren't much for gambling that leaves the shows. Which we much enjoyed. I wish we'd had another night to catch "The Vegas Show" that Mom & Dad went to on Tuesday night, or even maybe ol' Donny and Marie Osmond, for nostalgia's sake.

Post-Phantom we went back up to the room and I sat mesmerized for maybe a half-hour, looking out at all the lights and buildings of the Strip.

TUESDAY

I am the desert.
I am free
Come walk the sweeping face of me.


- Diane Siebert, "Mojave"

*

This is the great Mojave,
Desert of mystery --
Creosote, Holly, and Sagebrush,
As far as the eye can see.


-Gladys Merrick
The Grand Canyon, like St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, exceeds expectations despite the lofty expectations one brings to both. And pictures don't do either justice. In both you have people from every tongue visiting, making it like a mini-United Nations. On the bus ride to the Hualapai ranch there was a Parisian young woman, eyes wide with wonder in an ingenue sort of way, a German father and son and daughter, a surprising yet telling number of Chinese, a Pakistani-looking family, Italians, etc... That people from all these different countries were visiting made me proud to be an American. The Grand Canyon, if not Las Vegas, felt like a foreign country and it's a grand country indeed that has such incredible variation in landscape.

*

Sometimes I think I can bond with nearly any place given just a couple essentials: sunny weather and being off work. Food isn't even necessary, since on sightseeing vacation it generally recedes into the background. Beer as well. Thus the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas, different as night and day, both have charisms because both are warm and sunny (in August) and both have the requisite freedom from work.

Las Vegas may be all glitz and glamour but they sure do know how to put on a show. Or create a hotel lobby. Phantom of the Opera was very entertaining and makes you appreciate the strenuous effort that went into the singing, acting, and stage craft. Such professionalism in the arts is good for us if only to inspire greater attention to detail and concern in our own jobs. Which sounds utilitarian I suppose but I mean it even in the spiritual sense. To see someone else care deeply about something seemingly extraneous ("oh, it's just entertainment") is to remind us that we should care deeply about our witness. It's in that sense an admonishment.

*

The Grand Canyon reminds me of the first time I saw Niagara Falls, a wonder of the world, an astonishing natural sight. Took a walk down the dusty horse path towards the spectral canyons. Some looked like Mayan Temples, with the red blood of sacrifice dripping down the stair-steps. The red blood was actually the iron-tinged red rock, and the stairs were created by the water table of the Colorado River, which one tour guide said has maintained its current depth for millennia but which sinks lower over time, leaving a strata-by-strata of rock exposed and eventually forming this Grand Canyon.

I stirred up no rattlesnakes but only a cottontail rabbit and a large black bug the size of the Hoover Dam. Walking the empty landscape reminded me at times of some of the desolate areas of Ireland, despite the difference in average rainfall. Maybe it was only the feeling that was similar.

We met on this trip a collection of folks as garrulous as I'd ever seen. One, a 1st generation American by way of Mexico was a political pontificator of the highest degree. ("A Mexican communist," summed up his boss, the pilot.) Remarkably thin, boyishly enthusiastic about his causes, his energy and looks belied his fifty years on the planet. Later a cowboy at the ranch named Evan chatted us up quite amiably. No taciturn cowhand, this California transplant of Italian extraction was expansive and apologetic over the situation of some Chinese tourists taking over our room due to a mix-up. It seemed to take a remarkably long time to clear up. He was from Meadview, a tiny little community that from the air looks as isolated and lonesome out in the middle of the barest Nevada desert as was ever invented. I asked the pilot about it and he said it was so isolated they had to drive an hour for groceries; Evan however, when asked, said there was one grocery store in town.

At night there was to be the much-heralded campfire where the cowboys come round and tell stories and make S'mores, but apparently campfires are barely tolerated out of fear a spark will cause a fire, especially if there's any kind of wind. Which apparently there was, enough to cancel first, then delay it. Meanwhile Chinese karaoke was transpiring in the eating hall (labeled "Dance Hall"). The scene was an acquired taste - I lingered not even though there is something satisfyingly surreal about seeing karaokers singing Chinese words rolling up on the big video screen here in the setting of an 1880s old west town.

WEDNESDAY

Sleep in the Mojave Desert

BY SYLVIA PLATH

Out here there are no hearthstones,
Hot grains, simply. It is dry, dry.
And the air dangerous. Noonday acts queerly
On the mind’s eye, erecting a line
Of poplars in the middle distance, the only
Object beside the mad, straight road
One can remember men and houses by.
A cool wind should inhabit those leaves
And a dew collect on them, dearer than money,
In the blue hour before sunup.
Yet they recede, untouchable as tomorrow,
Or those glittery fictions of spilt water
That glide ahead of the very thirsty.


I think of the lizards airing their tongues
In the crevice of an extremely small shadow
And the toad guarding his heart’s droplet.
The desert is white as a blind man’s eye,
Comfortless as salt. Snake and bird
Doze behind the old masks of fury.
We swelter like firedogs in the wind.
The sun puts its cinder out. Where we lie
The heat-cracked crickets congregate
In their black armorplate and cry.
The day-moon lights up like a sorry mother,
And the crickets come creeping into our hair
To fiddle the short night away.
Woke up early, 5am early, to view the sunrise over the canyons. It was quite lively even at that hour; Chinese visitors emerged from their cabins, cameras in hand. I think we were the only Americans. One tour guide said that, for whatever reason the Chinese LOVE the Grand Canyon and, I believe, Bryce Nat'l Park for the similar reasons . I find that sort of national penchant for some specific travel experience interesting, as if there's something in the Chinese psyche that is specifically attracted to canyons, though it's likely as simple as word-of-mouth and how when one family shows another their U.S. travel photos, the other family wants to go. A status thing.

While waiting for the sun to do its ever dependable thing, a couple fat goats, who on this ranch free ranged on native plants and tourist largesse, got some trail mix from Steph. After our own satisfyingly full breakfast at the Old West dining hall, I raced out to take that "last walk", a ten minute excursion down the wagon path. Ten minutes was painfully short, especially given it meant the effective end of our vacation.

Back at the tiny Indian reservation airport, I took another stroll, this time down the road towards the canyons. A couple of tenths of a mile later I was "pulled over" by a security guard who said that I had to obtain permission to do something as risky as walk down the generous shoulder of the roadway, due to safety concerns. I found the head of security and he denied the request and said that instead I could walk the other way, away from the canyons. Put a badge on a man and he's a changed man, mad with power! It's sort of ironic because they let people walk right up to the edge of a canyon where a slip means death. But you can't walk near the roadway. (One of the photographers at the Skywalk said that no one has fell there yet, but it's early since the tribe has only recently agreed to this development. Glad to see our safety mania hasn't so extended such that you can't go up to the ledge of a great vista.) So I walked down the other way and came across a dirt road that led to a small development of wistful houses and trailers, presumably the workers at the tiny terminal and gift shop.

*
Before moving to Mojave I was a park ranger at Alaska’s Katmai National Park & Preserve, five million roadless acres of spruce trees, brown bears, spawning salmon, and volcanoes. Here, I thought, was an unequaled example of “the Wild.” When I signed on to Mojave National Preserve in Southern California, I felt resigned to the fact that I was leaving true wilderness behind.

I was wrong. I soon learned that nearly half of the 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve is an incredibly diverse wilderness, ranging from the vast, desiccated playa of Soda Dry Lake, near Zzyzx, to the limestone crags and ancient white fir trees of Clark Mountain.
- Michael Glore
*

The plane ride to and from was more trying than I expected. Instead of underpromising and overdelivering, there was a lot of overpromising and underdelivering from the airline. Flying there and back took about twelve hours, and despite the thrill of the flight I wouldn't have done it that way again. But travel is like that, and you have to go with the flow and expect the unexpected. I did enough "research", i.e. asking the airline in advance, to discover the trip would take about six hours so I can't fault myself for not enough advance work. (Although I was suspicious and somewhat put off by the fact that I couldn't find a review on the web either for or against what I didn't realize was a very young (3-month) operation.)

On the way back to Vegas from the reservation, I was struck again by the singular impact of a dearth of water. Being from an area where water is abundant, it brings home why it's the quintessential symbol of life. I look down from the plane at dirt roads that have a tendency to STAY dirt roads simply because there isn't sufficient water for anything else to take root. The old Walker Percy "love in the ruins" thing where the plants eventually take over is meaningful in an area where if I go two weeks without weeding the garden it looks like a jungle. Here out west there seems a stasis born from lack of rain. This is the flip side of my fascination with how you can leave your tame backyard grass and given enough time you'll have a mature forest. Out west feels more timeless if nearly uninhabitable, such as Death Valley, California which I presume is even more forbidding than the nearly uninhabitable Vegas (but for A/C and water). It would be interesting to see what would happen to an acre or more of desert wild area was merely given Ohio amounts of water. What would grow there? What would it look like in five years?

*

Been doing some "reverse traveling" - research done after the fact. I greedily consumed wikipedia articles about areas I flew over, such as the dramatically exotic-sounding "Mojave desert" as well as the ironically-named town of Meadview -- which offers no view of Lake Mead. There's something about the Southwest that makes me want to live there, likely the sun. But then I say that about ocean-front property, historic Boston, and happening Manhattan as well.


Flying over Meadview


Downtown Meadview

Las Vegas is like New York in that both are ruled by money. No sentimental keepsaking of historical locations, unless there's a boatload of money to be made by it. That isn't all bad since you get a dynamism that is exhilarating. The modern Cosmopolitan casino in Vegas may not appeal to all, but it is something to behold and Vegas would be less without it.

*

GALLERY:























*

[Dick] Barnes´ subject matter is the Mojave Desert, and–though he writes poems on other subjects, certainly, most of them beautifully crafted and subtle in their sensitivities to sound and form, including a range of elegies, satires, and frankly pointed humorous verse–it´s the Mojave Desert poems that lure the reader in; Barnes writes about it with the intensity that a lover might fix upon his beloved, and there are times in this volume when the Mojave Desert (in California) takes on the visionary heft and import of a Beatrice for Barnes´ Dante.

*



August 12, 2011

From Dublin Irishfest Site

Photography seems like a cool hobby. Pretty good amateur photography found here:




New Yorker Follies

The New Yorker attempts to discern the cause of the riots:
"What are the British protesting, and where did the rage come from? 'The urban youth are very angry and largely ignored, and it’s blown up,' said the photographer Jocelyn Bain Hogg, who has been photographing the country’s young people since 2008. 'There’s a sense that the world is passing them by...'
Jonah Goldberg notes:
One of the most interesting things about [the riots] is how people react to them. There are few topics that can separate people ideologically as efficiently. If I ask you what you think about, say, Communism, your answer will tell me a lot about what you think (and what you know). And if you begin your answer with something along the lines of "It's complicated," odds are you're a liberal or some other species of leftist. This is not to say that Communism isn't a complicated subject in terms of its history, its varied manifestations, and all that. But when you start out with the "it's complicated" business, more often than not you're about to front load some apologies for something that deserves no apologies.

The same goes for riots. If you begin a sentence saying that nothing excuses wanton mob violence and theft, but refuse to come to a full-stop with a period or, better yet, an exclamation point, you know that there's a "but" coming that will invalidate all of the platitudes that came before it. When someone says, "There's no excuse for violence, but . . . ," that "but" is a Pandora's box of leftist banshees that have left human wreckage in their wake for millennia.

Ultimately, the Left's weakness for riots stems, I believe, from two things: statist paternalism and power-worship.

Wide Awake or Sleeping....

"In New York people are either sleeping or completely wide awake and full of energy, never in between."


Campus Reveries

I'm like Pavlov's dog when it comes to starting up my word processor. "Oh good!" I think, "it's time to play with words!" Or to vent, spleen, appreciate, or enshrine various and sundry thoughts. I find out what's on my mind, oddly enough, by writing and see what pops up. Usually not much of consequence but one never knows; hope springs eternal.

Be nice if I could organize my journals into one. I have five or six years' worth in one big Word doc, and the rest scattered, but would like it all in one cloud doc, or at least have it in a format that isn't dependent on an expensive piece of software like Word. Perhaps, all this time, I should've been writing in pen and ink, ala the olden times, ala Betty Duffy!

*

Am paralyzed by the fact that somewhere, out there in cyberspace, there's a great blog I'm missing. It's like the baseball card collectors who only want complete sets, and yet there's no way to get a 'complete set of good blogs' given the numbers.

Odd because I'm not that way with books as much. I understand there are great books untapped but they seem more ethereal, harder to find. With blogs, it seems like if I did more research via either googling or checking friends' bloglists, I may find more to add to my already lengthy RSS list. It's getting so that when I see those orange RSS feed buttons I want to click them, whether or not I'll want to read the website underlying them. I used to collect books, but they take up too much space and are too difficult to move someday so now I collect feeds. While still craving books, of course.

*

I've catbirded a seat on a swelling knoll overlooking part of Ohio State campus. The day is mint, full of sharp sunlight settling agreeably on the old grounds of campus, shining cheerfully on Mirror lake and lending a postcard-perfect air to the Victorian buildings.

Spiffy the buildings look, and made more so by the briny gloam seen in through the windows of the impassive doors. Around me a ring of trees: a hawthorne (?) above me, an oak to my left, an osage (?) on my right, and evergreens in the foreground. An eclectic mix. The campus grasses are dappled with shadow and light, a mix that I enjoy for the mix of heat and cool on my limbs.

Campus is busy with undergraduates and their perfect legs, a byproduct of youth, which they often coil under themselves with pretzel-like flexibility. One couple romantically hold sway on a bench overlooking the pond, living life at that leisurely and civilized college-pace. They look more at each other than the sylvan water.

*

I sit now in the capacious west atrium in comfortable leather chairs and a table to put my feet up on. Who does not love a library? Out the north windows I see what look like two old-fashioned smoke stacks. Campuses, like females, are full of unexplored wonders. The floor here is full of cacophonous words, which are made fragmentary by the chairs which obscure full lines. A selection: "The cult of the emperor - Nero - Rome Burns - the..." and "They came across a cave where..." and "Unofficials decided it was..."... "Cave paintings offer stylized...". They run both east to west and west to east but not north-south.

The seats first taken are naturally in front of windows but I enjoy this middle of the room view of things as well. Later I move to a window and enjoy the largesse of trees and sun glint and the non-roil that seems to speak to the permanence of these institutions of higher learning. On all campuses in summer one sees the backward-walking guides talking to their groups of disciples as they cross the green lawns.

*

The blogger at Catholic Bibles has a winsome way of writing and is persuasive in his biblical enthusiasms such that even the NRSV, the king (er, queen?) of "inclusive" language, sounds pretty good. He ranked it number 3 on his top 5 list, and part of the reason is its clear, modern language that makes Old Testament stories lively. I'm amazed at those who can read the OT in the King James or Douay-Rheims for long periods. Meanwhile I've been thinking of reading Tobit, in the much-maligned New American Bible Revised Edition (simply because it's the only one handy on Kindle that has in modern language).

August 11, 2011

Msgr. Charles Pope & Others on the Poor

Interesting link on being poor in America. Excerpts:
I have been reading a rather lengthy report on poverty in America...The authors use substantial data from the Census Bureau and the Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) of the Department of Energy to paint a portrait of poverty in America.

*

We have obligations to the needy, the poor and the destitute, but it also helps to see that there is a range to the problem. Further, we actually have made some progress, if we look deeper into the data. The graph at the top of this page shows the steep decline in the Black poverty rate from 1966 to now. The strong emergence of the Black Middle Class is a hidden secret of this land.

Progress HAS been made – There is work to do, but simply saying that the poverty rate in this land has never budged from 30% may not be an accurate picture, for how the poor live and what it really means to be poor in America are poorly understood by most Americans. Progress has been made.
The comment section is especially riveting:
Mark Webre says:
August 10, 2011 at 6:26 am

I appreciate you sharing this data. I had a sense that something along these lines was occurring. One other convenience that is not reflected in this data is the matter of travel. In this post I am only able to identify a problem in hopes viewers can contribute possible solutions to it. Speaking intuitively, there seems to be a small percentage of poor who don’t own a car. So travel to pick up groceries, seek medical help and other support requirements is difficult. I have heard of food deserts which I understand are areas that are fifteen minutes or further away from grocery stores. With one in four children going to bed hungry here in America, we need to be strategic in making these conveniences accessible.
Reply
Msgr. Charles Pope says:
August 10, 2011 at 8:19 am

Thanks for this reminder about stores. One of the things we did when I was living in a poorer neighborhood was to work with the grocery Chains to place stores in Southeast Washington. Both Giant and Safeway have done so in the past decade.

I must say though that I doubt 1 in 4 children go to bed hungry in this Land. Even among the poor obesity is a much more visible problem among the young. I’d like to know what is meant by hungry. It is true that in our school cafeteria we often fed children, but the point there was more wholesome food rather than the junk food they often had a steady diet of.

*

erica says:
August 10, 2011 at 6:54 am

Thank you for this post. When I hear statistics like these, it makes me wonder how much of an obligation we really do have to help the “poor” in our country. Do they have more of a right to our resources simply because they live in the same country than do those on other countries who are much much poorer? As a family, we have to decided that we will no longer donate to domestic charities (except pro life causes) and only to international charities.
Reply

Msgr. Charles Pope says:
August 10, 2011 at 8:13 am

Well OK, but be careful with the data. Many of the poor in this country, though not destitute, remain in a fragile situation. Hence, there is some obligation we have to help them become less so. That said, it is clear that many in other parts of the world are clearly in critical condition. I only wish I could be more sure that what I give actually gets to them. Catholic Relief Services is pretty reputable in ensuring that.

*

elcid says:
August 10, 2011 at 10:27 am

I always thought poverty in american was a relative term compared to true realities of poverty in countries like modern day Sudan and Somolia, I don’t think I have ever seen someone in these countries on TV with a cell phone or a pair of expensive Nike sneakers, much less a roof over their head or a freezer stuff with steaks (thanks to food stamps).
I think for the most part our welfare system is a racket…while I do think in some cases it helps people who really need the assistance and are willing to use it to improve their disposition, but I think it mainly keeps people stuck in a cycle of poverty that’s difficult break due to human nature, ie., why work when the government (tax payers) will subsidized you, have more kids since you get more money, etc.
I think we definitely need a restructure of the welfare system, one that places the burden on recipents to look for work, re-education, a cut off of benefits after a certain time frame, maybe a garnish of parents wages to help subsidized the payments to young girls having babies while in high school, etc., the bottom line this is not substainable.
Reply

Msgr. Charles Pope says:
August 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I certainly understand your frustrations with the welfare system. But one thing worth recalling is that, as I try to point out in the article, we have pushed back poverty in many ways. While the welfare system needs lots of changes it is not wrong to suggest that it has helped in the past to turn back the tide. That said, there are some terrible features of it, esp. the fact that it rewards single motherhood.

*

dianne says:
August 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I lived in Canada for 8 years and had universal coverage as all developed countries except the US do. However, I would rather die for lack of health care than have care that included abortion on demand.

*

Melissa says:
August 10, 2011 at 11:52 am

I agree with what MG said. We need to not only give to the poor, but people of every socioeconomic background need to learn the skills to budget and manage the money they have. I remember volunteering a to help with our youth group’s workcamps each summer in High School. We worked among the poor in West VA and North Carolina weatherizing their houses and other projects. It always struck me that the families we were helping had empty refrigerators and worn clothing, but almost every house had a nice color TV and/or a stereo system as well as a nice car. The TV’s, stereos and cars were status symbols to them.
Reply
Msgr. Charles Pope says:
August 10, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Agreed, though to be fair, overspending and terrible spending priorities is an American problem overall. Every economic class manifests it.

Skyline of Columbus

Don't know where I happened across this else I'd give attribution:

A Diary By Any Other Name....

Last eve was home under a wonderful blanket of sun and a reasonable heat index. How necessary Monday's off-work day seemed, how wonderful in hindsight, foresight and plain-sight! I dined on "Young Dubliners" cd while cooking chicken breasts under a blue-gabled sky. Monday swum with vacationish details, like the long relaxed canopy visit, the delicious anticipation of reading, the rhythm of the bike ride, the sun-run, the barbershop quartet of beers.

*

Amused to hear Tina Brown squirm on "Morning Joe", trying to defend her putting an very unflattering photograph of Michelle Bachmann on the Newsweek cover. Ah but just once it would be nice to hear someone of the liberal stripe say, with refreshing frankness, "we just don't like Bachmann, and our cover was red meat to our mostly left-of-center readership." Even when you catch the MSM redhanded, they refuse to admit guilt, just as no one arrested on COPS ever says, "that is my weed in my car."

*

Thursday already. Funny how having Monday off makes Thursday come 'round real soon. Early to bed and late to rise makes a man happy just to be alive; got a good night's sleep and in the morning had a ten minute stretch to give over to the civilized activity of drinking coffee in the book room while reading the newspaper on Kindle.

August 10, 2011

Curmudgeonly Thoughts on Latest Fads

When I was a kid, if the fashion at the time happened to be baggy jeans there wouldn't have been this sort of nonsense in which you can enjoy pants that show off your boxers without the risk of them slipping down to your ankles. The whole fun of sagging pants is the chance that they may come off while you're running from the cops on an episode of COPS. That's a feature, not a bug.

This is what's wrong with America in a nutshell: wanting your cake and Edith too. It's why the stock market is tanking (the root cause being wanting a big house with low, or no, payments and wanting big government and low taxes).

*end cranky curmudgeon impersonation*

Cellphone Photography on a Bike ride


Amid the trail-side weeds and bushes, a volunteer corn plant.



Old telegraph or railroad pole looks like cross.

August 09, 2011

Shocking Stats

Surprised to learn that if we completely eliminated the Department of Defense, we would still be in deficit spending. Same if we eliminated the Medicare program. That is scary.

Was also shocked to learn that the average household wealth of whites is around $118K and blacks and Hispanics at 5-6K. That disparity is pretty surprising.

Slow Takes

"This is June, the month of grass and leaves....I feel a little fluttered in my thoughts, as if I might be too late. Each season is but an infinitesimal point. It no sooner comes than it is gone. It has no duration. It simply gives a tone and hue to my thought."
- Henry D. Thoreau, Journal
So this is August, and this past weekend the Dublin (OH) Irishfest. It began with a bang: Brigid's Cross, a band I have more and more respect for. They sound really good these days and I'm always impressed by the beatific energy of the husband and wife team. Some great fiddle playing, and the best rendition of the Proclaimers' "500 Miles" I've ever heard.

Ancient Ireland re-enactors at the Irishfest
All too shortly it was on to another band at a small tent near the Celtic canine area. The lead girl singer was pretty good but all-in-all a letdown. Song selection was poor at best. I headed belatedly to the Celtic rock stage to listen to the surprisingly good "Young Dubliners". It was hard tearing myself away but I had to hear a bit of Liz Carrol, since I had her CD and don't remember her being here before.

Then it was onto Mossy Moran, a entertainer who did more with one guitar and voice than the the second band did with four members. Later it was time for the "Elders" at the Celtic rock stage. Somewhat a mixed bag, depending on the song, but I was engaged enough to listen to the end of their concert, which seemed to end prematurely at 9:25.

Sunday at the Irishfest, I head over and arrive around 1:45pm, just in time to catch more of fiddler Liz Carrol. I felt ruffled by want of a funnel cake; they looked decadently delicious but I was put off by the uber large size. Mark and Sandy were having them but they can afford the calories more easily than me. Ich mussen save my calories for beer. Priorities, priorities..

Was sitting at the Celtic rock stage, listening to my favorite (semi-obscure) band, when I was startled by the visage of an old work acquaintance, someone I knew via a former job within the company. There is something odd about how someone you didn't think you had much in common with turns out to share your favorite semi-obscure Irish band. Insert your favorite cliche here: music is the universal language, we're not all that different underneath, etc... She was even grooving to my exact same favorites, so we shared favorites songs from the favorite band.
Seconds after the set ended - or perhaps one song early? - we were told that the festival was being suspended due to "severe weather". And about twenty minutes later a massive rainstorm did ensue. Shockingly, Mark and Sandy said they weren't going to try to wait it out and were heading home. (This has to be their earliest Irishfest exit ever?) I missed the Central Ohio-famous Hooligans, but it's just as well I suppose. It's not the same hearing them without Ham o' Bone.

It's funny how one particular Irishfest song will come back to you a couple days later. In this case it's "What's Going On?" and it was sung by Brigid's Cross. The song isn't my favorite, which is why it's odd that it's the one that comes back to me.

One of the familiar tropes of musicians is that they stay up the whole night before playing the next day. And this was no exception - the lead singer said they were partying all night and that he saw the maid out cleaning the hallway. No early to bed early to rise with rockers. And yet they seemed to sound no worse for the wear, although a 3pm concert does afford some daytime sleep-time. The cliche of rockers as lazy rebels seems false. They seem to be motivated and having a work ethic. Most of them make 99% of their dates and the energy level was high yesterday.

*

This morning I said St. Basil's Morning Prayer, which is so positive. (Which reminds me of Fred of "Later Papers" blog, who attempts a deconstruction of why having positive affirmations posted in his workplace don't seem to work; I understood it not, but feel like I should re-read it and try again.)

St. Basil's prayer goes along the lines of "We bless you Father for you are always doing great and inscrutable things with us...We thank you for not holding our sins against us but raising us from despair.." (I butchered that but...) It's a fine prayer and seems much more inspiring than the typical morning offering, in which the emphasis is on what I will do for God, rather than praising Him for what He does for/with us. It's like how prayer in the Baltimore Catechism is defined as lifting our hearts and mind to God, while in the new Catechism St. Therese's definition is quoted, which talks about a surge of the heart - in other words, prayer is not completely our doing but God's.

*

The slow dance of the clouds reveals the gentleness of God.

*

The fairest of apologists are those like St Thomas Aquinas who put the contrary argument in the most persuasive way. That is what is most missing in blog discourse and political discourse, this thought that I ought bend over backward first to portray my adversary's argument in the way they would recognize as generous.

*

Monday afternoon I headed out for the Great Bike Ride to the end of the trail. I tacked on a 15 minute run to sweeten the pot. Altogether a fine hour and a half jag down the lanes of memory. Then home by 3:30, I watched a full episode of Ballykissangel for nostalgia's sake.

As I pedaled on my way I looked over the cornfields and thought of how smitten I was, that first time I experienced the feeling of getting lost in a cornfield. It's a delightfully rare occurrence, to be for all purposes invisible. My pining for a more perfect privacy certainly has a long pedigree; as early as '87 I was, partially for eccentricity's sake, planning on ringing the yard with a large corn crop. There was no figure of wonder greater than the "giant hybrid corn plants" in the Guerney's seed catalog. It felt magical as Jack and the Beanstalk. For the price of a pittance, and the labor of a less than a day, I could be shrouded in the backyard with those stalks made iconic by "Field of Dreams".

I reveled in the trees and the quaint sound of golf balls being hit at a nearby course (causing me to pine for a little golf sometime this summer). I made a note to read more of William Least Heat-Moon's "PrairyErth" as I observed the magnificent untamed prairie full of a grand mix of flowers, weeds, small poplars and maples. It was a smorgasbord brought about mostly by wind and bird, a random wild field left to pot, left to nature's natural artistry. I've long been fascinated by the process by which a grass field, left entirely to itself, will become a towering canopied forest. First the grasses grow tall, waist-high or more, followed by a variety of annual weeds entering the fray. Perennial weeds and flowers will take root, and then bushes and young trees will pop up. The trees will eventually take over, given enough time, they being the giants of the perennial plant kingdom.

*

An interesting tidbit from my reading here's Ma Joad comforting her daughter, Rose of Sharon, on the death of her grandmother and Betty Duffy's commentary after:
"When you're young, Rosa-sharn, ever'thing that happens is a thing all by itself.
It's a lonely thing. I know, I member, Rosasharn."
Her mouth loved the name of her daughter. "You're
gonna have a baby, Rosasharn, and that's somepin to
you lonely and away. That's gonna hurt you, an' the
hurt'll be lonely hurt, an' this here tent is alone in the
worl', Rosasharn."...And Ma went on, "They's a time of change,
an' when that comes, dyin' is a piece of all dyin', and
bearin' is a piece of all bearin', an' bearin' an' dyin' is
two pieces of the same thing. An' then things ain't
lonely any more. An' then a hurt don't hurt so bad,
cause it ain't a lonely hurt no more, Rosasharn. I
wisht I could tell you so you'd know, but I can't." Arid
her voice was so soft, so full of love, that tears
crowded into Rose of Sharon's eyes, and flowed over
her eyes and blinded her.
That line: "her mouth loved the name of her daughter" is one I'll take with me. But my son asked from the loft, where he was supposed to be sleeping, "What do the grapes of wrath taste like?" and I'd say, potatoes, actually, paired with a really good wine. When you get a taste of the wine, you think it's the best potato you've ever had. Put the glass down, and it's just a potato.

August 05, 2011

Sister Wendy

Link here:
"The Iconic Jesus," published by the Society of St. Paul, features 42 icons of Jesus, each of which was "painted as an act of prayer," she said.

Sister Wendy contended that reading icons is also an act of prayer.

"You cannot possibly really speak about the mystery of Jesus. It's too deep. You can just try to point people in his direction and that's what I tried to do," she said.

Sister Wendy particular focused on early icons because she found they say much about the early church "in its poetry and freshness trying to make visible the love of their blessed Lord."

"The early church had such a delicate enthusiasm that has perhaps been lost in our world where everything is handed to us on a plate," Sister Wendy said.

August 04, 2011

Recent Tweets

Reading Beats Tweeting by Brian Patrick Eha - link
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Who knew? RT @robdelaney: Women's purses are so heavy because they are filled with marbles and ham.
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Jack McKeon is a daily communicant, devotee of St. Thérèse, and manager of the Florida Marlins.. link
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The pleasure of a cinnamon roll far exceeds the $1.19 price tag. Very disproportionate.
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"...nor can you Google the answers [about Google] because Google values its privacy." link

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St. Ignatius: "It is dangerous to make everybody go forward by the same road; and worse to measure others by oneself."
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A commenter on Mark Shea's blog: "Lock congress in a brightly-lit room with no food, bathrooms, or any means of contacting the outside world until they figure out this debt crisis thing."
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The Poetry of William Carlos Williams --Wendell Berry link
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Little comfort for women: link

Edifying Link from the Huffington Post...

Am I Mine? Thoughts prompted by a thunderstorm.