January 31, 2012

Life Before E-Readers

Found here:
Ottoline Morrell describes the travelling library she devised for her European tour in 1896. From Memoirs of Lady Ottoline Morrell: A Study in Friendship, 1873-1915 (New York: Knopf, 1964), p. 45:
I had also another brilliant idea, which was to put strong pockets all around the thick, full, red cape I wore, into which I packed a rampart of books. It made my cape extraordinarily heavy, and I had to walk with the utmost balance and care not to fall over. It was surprising and rather hard to anyone whom I happened to knock against.

Gleanings from Twitter & FB



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Let's Play...Why's My Bookbag or E-Reader Equivalent So Heavy?


From The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes:
Some of the freckles I once loved are now closer to liver spots. But it’s still the eyes we look at, isn’t it? That’s where we found the other person, and find them still. The same eyes that were in the same head when we first met, slept together, married, honeymooned, joint-mortgaged, shopped, cooked and holidayed, loved one another and had a child together.

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nor do I want to deceive myself sentimentally about something that wasn’t even true at the time—love of the old school, and so on. But if nostalgia means the powerful recollection of strong emotions—and a regret that such feelings are no longer present in our lives—then I plead guilty.
From "Lucking Out" by James Wolcott:
“There’s something unsubtle in the LA psyche,” Valentine observes in New York Rocker. “Maybe it’s the perpetual sunshine, or maybe it’s living in a bunch of suburbs looking for a city. But the New York cool of Patti Smith, Television and Richard Hell didn’t take. Safety pins, leather, chains and vomit—the whole UK thing—did.”

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Porn has all the attributes of junk, wrote Norman Mailer, and I interpreted his use of “junk” not simply as a synonym for trash but as a slang term for heroin and any other hook-sinking hijacker of body and soul...Punk and porn both regarded the body as unconsecrated meat, a punching bag for blows inflicted and self-inflicted, pain being the price of admission into the sideshow. Punk, however, sought transcendence from a launchpad of sound, a release from bondage; porn operated under a lower ceiling, its repetitions feeding on themselves, a cycle of recurrence in which those who didn’t become jaded simply became affectless, devoid, not much caring what was done to them, drugs and disassociation providing cloud protection. It wasn’t too long before they looked on camera the way many punks looked offstage—slugged.

Come Out Ye Manatees! (Four days in Florida)







The thrill of athletic competition, the constant variety of sport - that was Thursday, which began with a giddy two mile romp down the beach in the near record temps. I ran alongside the wind, thrilled to be in this place of sunshine and warmth, running down those lane-less sand strips. Afterward a short bike ride followed by a brutal tennis match. So lots of exercise this first day of vacation which is good because who could sit still in such weather? What restlessness it imbues!

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The drumbeat of nostalgia sounded sudden, soddened as I was by the sight of the sign, "Sweet Melissa's Cafe". It instantly launched me into the Manilow tune: "Sweet Melissa / Angel of my lifetime...". I sang as I rode a bike on that earthly paradise, Sanibel Island.

I walk now down the shoreline, escorted by hosts of funny-looking birds, arrayed by absurd stripes of orange across their big beaks. They walk a bit and then stand like statues until upon some silent cue they all wing up, the black "v's" arching in an artistically-arranged formation.

When I was a kid at the beach birds were not a figure of interest: only the inanimate objects of shell and wave held my interest. Now the waves look uncapturable, somehow ungraspable, while the birds are like colorful pieces of walking, squawking art. I can imagine touching their sleek, feathered bodies. The waves? They are too many and too cold.

FRIDAY

To savor this: this morning, reading in bed the freewill offerings of various and sundry bloggers. Follow that with morning prayer. Follow that with a cigar, a stolen pleasure, out on the lanai, that fancy-Florida word for screened-in porch. Then a breakfast omelette and the consolations of hot coffee on a pleghm-y, half-sore, throat.

Tis bliss itself to wear oneself out on day one of a vacation, to jam-pack it with activity, to engage in brainlessness to the near point of exhaustion, and then to sleep in and lazily begin the next day appreciative of reading, writing, and the natural world.

Read I did too of Heather King's plaintive post about her faraway mother, far away both physically and mentally. It was grievously affecting. We all fear dying alone, which we all must, even the married and otherwise in community. "We must walk this lonesome valley..." goes a lonesome hymn, though surely there is a note of hope in HK's post?

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A blur of stars last night, I remember my brother holding his iPad to the sky and it pointing us towards the brightest star, Sirius, and the even brighter Jupiter. We stumbled around in the dark, the moon just a sliver of a nearly eaten pie, the winds chilly and bracing.

And now today, Friday afternoon, and I want to never end this time of music, playing the typing fool, with the promise of ale in the foreground. Time, ever a river, passes by too quickly on vacation. I long to swim in the print of a novel, the tome-ish, tumescent "11/22/63", Stephen King's latest, beckons at the little bookshop down the way. There familiar novels gathered like justices at the State of the Union. I think back to the kindly children's author who signed a book for my niece and who sported an authentic New Hampshire accent as I watch the birds fly. I could watch them all day. I slip into a virtual slipcase of sand, sitting in a low-slung beach chair, grateful for the grand setting.

And then the birds all stand at attention, as if they were listening to a music all their own, the national anthem of Birdlandia. The ocean sings it's tune, accompanied by pouched pelicans dive-bombing the invisible (to us) fish of the brine furrows. Now the previously standing-at-attention birds have come nearer, right in front of me, as they silently say their prayers or pledges.

Precious little time: it's 2:45 and novels and brews are calling to me. I want to delay the pleasure, extend the anticipation, and wait for the sloshing, joshing of print & beer and let them both run all over my head and face. I think I'm the only one sitting out on this beach. Everyone else is walking it, but I see no reason not to don a sweatshirt and make this place my campsite, this exquisite real estate.

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From the RSS feeder I learn things, occasionally about drinking. Like Wheel of Fortune hosts Vanna White and Pat Sajak used to go out for 3-4 margaritas in between show tapings. It seems like a decent fit, talk show host and drinking. And I also learned that the shortest lifespans are of those who drink nothing, second-shortest is of heavy drinkers, and longest is of moderate drinkers. I'll drink to that, although truth be told I'd drink to it even if it were the reverse. Didn't Chesterton say that drinking for your health is the worse reason to drink?

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Energy and ecstasy go together in perfect harmony, side-by-side like my 'iano keyboards oh Lord....Sprint run down the beach because I still can, because at my age I still can, and because the weather is so nice and the sand so soft and because I still can! Rejoice I do in whatever remnant of athleticism still remains and the funny thing is, even though I'm a step or five slower, it still feels the same, still I receive that adrenal burst, still my lungs fill and ache from the good, hard, honest, clean effort, still my legs pump and swiftly I dance on the white sands before the beach, as if David before the Ark. Yes, I feel the goodness of being made, of the pleasures of existence, of the rich unfolding of this wondrous thing called life. Now to share it and to "run for His pleasure" as much as mine. Because He's not indifferent to our pleasures and happiness. To the extent I think He's indifferent to our happiness then surely I will think I can be indifferent to my neighbor's happiness!

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Read, yesterday, of "A Million Miles" by a story-lover, and "overcomer" who found out belatedly that it's the goad of challenge that exercises our character and it's the character refinement - not the search itself! - that is meaningful. i felt guilt for so often wanting what I want without the effort, while not understanding that it's the effort that obtains, not the result. Cart before the horse indeed.

Saturday

After breakfast off to Captiva where we did a 90-minute kayak ride through the manatee'd bay (we saw a dolphin instead) and then through a tunnel-like riverine snaking its way through swampish quarters. Then back to the full bay, a resurrection of sorts, the sun giddy and free with herself while we tooled up the open waters. Beforehand we had a lady train us on proper kayak use, something she evidently saw as a calling, so serious and dedicated was she. Then afterwards we had lunch at the Bubble Restaurant, a place with innumerable small rooms decorated with all sorts of memorabilia. I splurged on chocolate cake because I could, having just rowed for 90 minutes.

So an excellently physical, brainless day that went wickedly fast. The beach keeps strict hours and by 5 she's toast. The chill and darkness come early here in the dead of "winter". But now I'm in my second skin, here at the beach with my writing instrument and my iPod and beer. I'm wholly chagrined at how this is the last full day, and how mordant that feels. Set whine off.

SUNDAY

Sunday, and I feel the lack of sun for having Friday's all-day, all-cloud miasma. Suddenly it's 12:45pm and I have an hour left of purblind sun, just an hour to install this grade A light into my skin membranes in order to hold me throughout the rest of the cold, dark winter. I would I had another day, he wrote.

I drink because I can, because I'm on the vacationeer's plenary indulgence plan that allows for 12:45pm drinking. Oh yew days, you dew days, were too full and keenly I missed the beach yesterday. I'd have given up the kayaking, seeing how it commandeered a terrible lot of day, from, what, 10 am to 3 pm? How does that happenstance happen? Via long, an overrude obsequiousness to the rite of dining, an extraneous lunch. Wasteful recriminations, fair to say these was too little beach time, too much squanderization.

Keen feel I the lack in advance, oh zephyrs of vanishing sea winds! Shore friends unite! Overthrow the tyrant work and let me spend another day or thousand with you dulcetly twittering birds. All you beach denizens hear me! Throw off my yoke and let me skip along with you, here by the flashing sea! Bright you in the Florida sun, having to fear only alligators and hurricanes, a fair trade for the environs of cloudy Ohio. Sing oh muse of the dolphins! Come all ye manatees who loped beside the tranquil kayak there in Brainyard Bay!

And me, drink now for tomorrow you will die (to self) and resume the goadstone and loadstone of daily living! Farewell sweet sea and fair pool youth! Farewell fine smokes and drumming nostalgia! Goodbye sweet movement on the Wimbledon greens and companionable happy hours on the lanai. Chug now ye IPA man, chug ye ale at the ringside of seaside and sun tide! Now the sky is wide ope and free with sunshine and I play Roger Miller's "King of the Road". One last kingly walk along the sun-blown beach, where I feel remarkably proprietorial towards the seabirds. I practically think of them as pets and come close enough to touch them.

Now I recline in evanescent splendor, overlooking the pool and path-laden green. The hours have passed so swiftly. I listen to the Irish chunes on my iPod and I note that in the Irish temperament there is something suited to the mood of this last day. Farewell songs play, and it feels like a long time before I'll see this again, as the lyrics of "Leaving of Liverpool" go. The pool people talk loudly and with banality, utterly indifferent to a sense of the scarcity of the moment, how short lived this time down here is, at least for me anyway. It all ended too soon, a beer short, a dollar short, a day short, but then I'd have said that regardless of the length of time I was here.

EPILOGUE:

At 2:30pm we were on the road to the airport to drop my brother off at the airport and then had some time to kill before my 8:44pm flight. So we caught the movie "War Horse" and the refrain from the book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Days" by Donald Miller kept leaping to mind, that is our need for stories and how stories are defined by someone wanting something badly and overcoming obstacles to get it. If that's the definition, then "War Horse" was that in spades. A boy wanted his horse and had to go through Hell to get it back. In fact, is it a surprise that humans are so compelled by war? That it's engaged in so frequently? For someone wants something badly - land, wealth or even peace - and there are great obstacles to overcome, namely an enemy.

January 24, 2012

Kindle Lines

I occasionally check the amazon.com reviews of the Kindle. Sometimes cryptic, sometimes near erotic in terms of intensity. Here is a sampling of actual reviews in the past day or two:
I like it for the english titles.
Unfortunately there are no mobi books in greek.

The screen really has ink inside. E-INK!!
Couldn't believe it. It's true technology.

This thing weighs weighs less than anything bound,
short of a passport,
and even that would be probably be a close call.

I just hope I'm not misspeaking on the matter.

The Kindle was a present from my 97 year old mother.

It holds approximately 14,000 books
which is a good amount for me.

Oh blessed Kindle, how long I have waited for you!

I asked for this for Xmas since I'm an advent reader;
never without at least two books in my purse.

A Moving Post...

... found here. If nothing else, I've learned from the blogosphere how difficult it is to be a mother and homemaker.

Like a psalm it moves from lament to hope:
There really is no "nature" [here] to speak of that doesn't try to kill you and there are very few cultural events. Socializing requires driving all over to individual homes, which can be great but can also get old fast when many of the people you socialize with have lots of children too and you spend the majority of the time waiting on them and/or shielding your kids from learning stuff you don't like and/or talking about kids. (!)

And though this part of the South has it's own charms and benefits, I don't think a day goes by that I don't wistfully yearn for a bit of my past life.... at least.... for a bit of the ""world is your oyster" feeling I used to enjoy and take for granted. There is no glamour in poverty, there is no glamour in the ordinary cities of the south, there is no glamour in motherhood. It's a different kind of place.

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He told me:

Proverbs 23:18 -- There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

But how?? I asked. And when?? What do I need to to find it again?

Colossians 1:5 -- the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.

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Proverbs 24:14-- Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

January 23, 2012

Life and a Mystic

"Let no one despise your youth." - 1 Tim 4:12
From here:
In sad commemoration of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that paved the way for legalized abortion, the church in the United States has designated today as a day of penance and prayer...It’s interesting to note that the church is calling all of us to repent, not just those who have been directly involved in abortions. It’s a call for all of us to examine our consciences to see how we have contributed to a culture that does not value the dig­nity of every human person.
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The Anchoress below reports on a new Bottum amazon.com single on Tim Tebow. Tebow's "drunkenness on charity" reminds me of Heather King's recent piece on how the rules are not the point of it all. From the Anchoress:
Joseph Bottum, who made a big hit with his Christmas-themed Amazon Single (a short ebook) Dakota Christmas, has published another one, this time on Tebow: The Gospel According to Tim:
Believe in him, I mean: believe that he’s for real. The young man is drunk on charity, in the same way he’s drunk on the endorphins that race through his body during his strenuous daily workouts. In the same way he’s drunk on the excitement of winning and losing football games before roaring crowds. In the same way he’s drunk on what the medieval mystics used to call “the gift of tears,” weeping easily and often. In the same way he’s drunk on his constant conversation with the Lord, referring all his victories and all his losses up to heaven.

Tim Tebow isn’t a Christian theologian. He’s a Christian mystic–intoxicated, as all mystics are, with God. He’s King David, dancing in the joy of his youth before the Ark of the Covenant. There is a theology, certainly, implicit in the prayers Tebow says, the hymns he sings, and the witnessing he performs. But whether he’s able to make it explicit or not, he rarely does. He expects, instead, his sheer fervorous presence and ecstatic deeds–the drunken joy he takes in it all–to do the work for him. He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
More from Bottum:
There’s another reason that younger evangelicals like Tebow have elevated an ethical verse with Micah 6:8, and it has to do with their terror of the charge of hypocrisy. An irony — aargghh — dwells here, too, for the Bible is what taught Western Civilization the great complaint against hypocrisy, from Ezekiel 33:31 (“they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with their lips they show much love, but their heart is set on their gain”) to Matthew 23:23–24 (“You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel”). But the narrative of attack upon Christians in our time is fundamentally a story of hypocrisy; reporters know, in fact, almost no other way to tell morality tales. Only with an almost pharisaical adherence to ethical standards — another irony, in a Protestantism that thought it was breaking away from Catholic law to a belief in salvation by faith alone — can evangelicals today combat the always looming accusation that any lapse will reveal them as hypocrites. And combat it, they must, for even if they hold the firmest of theological views of salvation by faith alone, the great barrier they experience in those to whom they preach is the narrative of believers as frauds: every Christian either a hypocrite already revealed or a hypocrite waiting to happen.

Is Risk Aversion a Sign of Decline?

...because we aren't risk averse when it comes to other things like, say, buying balloon mortgages without a downpayment. Anyway, an interesting jotting from the latest National Review:
Our defensiveness, our eagerness to protect the firms and the jobs we have now, is an inevitable reflection of our relative stability and affluence. Societies that believe that their best days are behind them are naturally risk-averse. This dread of change, most vividly illustrated in the fear and loathing of private equity, is the disease of stable societies barreling towards decline. But if America is going to have a bright economic future, we must fight against complacency and nostalgia, and eagerly embrace job destruction as job creation’s necessary twin.

The Subjectivity of Objectivity

Three perhaps tangentially related items. One is this, found in an article about Dan Quayle In National Review:
Yet [Quayle] can still make news, as he did on December 6, when he endorsed Mitt Romney for president. “He’s a solid conservative, and he’s our best chance to beat President Obama,” says Quayle...it had been in the works for even longer, with Romney phoning Quayle on a regular basis to talk politics. None of the other candidates had even bothered to contact the former veep. “Romney was the only one to ask for my support,” says Quayle.
So one is left to wonder: is the ego-stroking of Quayle the real cause of the endorsement? How many political endorsements are frauds in that either a) the endorser wants something (like a cabinet position) or b) simply like being pitched? (Of course, Quayle's endorsement may be an honest reflection of what he thinks.)

And second, absurdly trivial, note this blurred image taken from a basketball game:
See those circled in red: the player in red is talking to the player in white. The player in red has the ball but is moving his pivot foot without dribbling. This is ostensibly a traveling violation. There are 4 seconds left in the game. The ref is making a motion but I don't know what it means. There was no call, and time was left to expire. The rules are made in service of the game, not the game in service of the rules.

Thirdly, I look almost longingly at the new roll-top desk and it's rich compartmentalization, it's promise of hidey-hole secrets, like faux walls that conceal ornate libraries. I look at it and it's pleasantly symmetrical dimensions, it's early 1900s post-office desk feel, it's sturdy, comforting presence. But it's just a thing, an object, and has no real mass. It's seeming hardness is merely floating molecules.

January 20, 2012

Kindle DX Review

Got a kick out of this line:
"Plenty of 60+ readers out there who want the technology, but in a full easy to read adult size, not fiddly, diddly, tiny wee, have-book-must-travel micro-tech!"
That last clause has a lot of syllables.

Seven Long Takes hosted by Reversion Diary

So the holidays are over and it's back to the daily dull of work, or to put it more positively, a place where we get to find God in the small things of life - the place He loves to hide in plain sight.

I officially subscribe to Heather King's vision of an ecstatic, erotic Christianity while at the same time finding myself often in tune with Tom More, the bad Catholic in "Love in the Ruins" for whom the rules are burdensome, not opportunities to "explode within" as Heather wrote. (I like how Ellyn of "Oblique House" responded to Heather's post: "I'll have what she's having.") King, like Blessed John Paul II, has that spiritual vision that sees things and both have a hopefulness that some would call naive but sometimes impractical is the only practical way to go.

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Am pleasantly pleased I was able to find not one but THREE very promising novels. Ended up going with "A Sense of the End" by Julian Barnes, but also have another one on deck that makes for compelling & lyrical reading.

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A chilly, gloomy day. The roads are rain-slicked/ice-slicked, the temperature right around freezing. The highs in Fort Meyers, Florida for this week look like a broken record: 81, 81, 81, 81... Nice temps if you can get 'em.

Haven't done much hiking lately - I'm becoming too detached from the natural world and hope to make up for that this weekend. Not much to look at, given the leafless trees and barren ground, but it's still outside, it still carries with it exercise and charisms of its own.

So the sky is pewter but that's okay. There will be the exhilaration of Florida next Thursday and this is fine farrow ground that the Painter paints in order to provide contrast. Though I don't particularly like the cool air coming off the window and blowing lightly on my neck.

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I read more of Amy Welborn's frank memoir "Wish You Were Here". Her husband Michael often preached the necessity of being happy regardless of circumstance, of relying on God alone. "Am I making you happy?" Amy would sometimes ask anxiously, and he said that he would be happy even if the unthinkable occurred - her death. "God alone," was his mantra, and one that he preached to her often as if in preparation for the awful event of her widowhood. I felt a bit guilty, seeing how I so often see happiness as utterly dependent on circumstance. But while there's breath there's hope, and so I will not be discouraged. I refuse the 'broad and easy road" of discouragement!

Ran 2.5 miles yesterday + 1/2 lift and it about kilt me. Running always makes the drink go fonder, and so I relished the double helix of IPA bottles last night. 'Twas fiercely hard to resist a third, but temperance is good.

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Volunteered for snow removal Sunday at St. J's. Hoped that no snow would come when I signed up - it's a luck of a draw type thing - but it looks like we're getting snow both today and Saturday. So earlier to church on Sunday.

January 18, 2012

Liberals & Conservatives Agreeing

Like cats and dogs living together!

(I'm speaking of the right and left agreeing on the demerits of SOPA.) More via Roz.

Must be serious 'cuz Wikipedia took itself down. To tune of American Pie (the song, not the movie):
I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went and surfed to a wiki page
Where I’d read some good stuff days before
But the man there said the 'net wouldn’t play
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But every link was broken...

January 17, 2012

James Wolcott's Lucking Out

Spent much of Monday afternoon curled up with a good Kindle. Doesn't have the same ring, 'eh? I was reading James Wolcott's memoir of Pauline Kael and life in '70s New York. His prose is electric and often poetic. It's pretty amazing he can write like that for such a sustained burst. There's certainly a reason he makes a living doing it. Funny thing is I'd never head of him before; I simply thought that I'd like to learn more about what it was like living in Manhattan during the '70s.

Some excerpts:
The dance critic Deborah Jowitt had the fine-boned fortitude of a frontier settler with eyes forever fixed on future horizons;
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The classical music critic Leighton Kerner, with his stooped posture and ever-present briefcase, resembled a sad pachyderm covering Willy Loman’s old rounds.
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Office renovation removed private sanctuaries for a more open cubicle layout that allowed greater visibility for frank exchanges of differing opinions that could be overheard the length of the floor, depending on wind conditions.
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A lesson it would take me a while to learn was that nothing makes writers happy for very long, there are always ravens pecking on the roof.
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I don’t regret my days in gladiator school. Having your ego slapped around a bit helped the blood circulate and would prove a superb conditioning program for a future sub-career in blogging, where a tough hide would come in handy every time the Hellmouth opened. Every time I’m abused online with a battery of scurrilous remarks of a personal nature, I’m able to let them bounce off like rubber erasers, having been called an asshole by professionals, experts in the field.
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I was too untutored in the art of deference, oblivious to the danger signs, and lackadaisical in the time-honored mime of looking busy when there was a significant lull in the action.
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Pauline agreed with Nabokov’s contention that sentimentality and brutality were the flip sides of a subservient mind.
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De Niro’s entrance into the Little Italy bar to the sound of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” one of the great character intros in movie history, the rest living up to its kinetic promise, a film in which Catholic guilt earned its own dressing room.
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In the Blue Bar there were no table bells to ring, leaving you sitting stranded, making little hand wriggles to attract the attention of waiters who struck neoclassical poses at the bar like chipped pieces of statuary, to borrow an image from the novelist Anthony Powell.
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Her sexual forthrightness was the flip side of the pickup-artist swagger Pauline found so amusing, and here she was, seated on the edge of Pauline’s bed in the Royalton, looking up at me with licky eyes, as if I were that night’s barbecue special, or was that my tropical imagination?
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In her review of West Side Story, she talked about the unendurable vexation of dating someone whose movie tastes you didn’t share. “Sex is the great leveler, taste the great divider,” she wrote.

A Diary By Any Other Name....

Reading a bit of "Sex and the Soul", an expose of the sordid state of the college hookup culture and how spirituality and religion fit in (or don't, as the case may be). The thing that comes out loud and clear is that evangelicals take religion & spirituality seriously while those at Catholic colleges don't. But I came across a line in Marcus Grodi's "Journeys Home" about how a convert slowly became convinced that God's not as limited as we think He is by individual and institutional weakness. But not sure "Sex and the Soul" is particularly helpful in improving my sense of hopefulness!

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Work came briefly to a halt while I awaited an answer from someone in another area. So I listened to a payday Friday company radio show. It's interactive; you can instant message responses and naturally I always try to be clever enough to get a mention on air. They were talking technology but got off on a tangent about this ugly (in my view) Russian hat one of the speakers was wearing. They asked the listeners if anyone knew what type it was, and I said, "a chastity enforcing hat". No comment from the hosts on that, naturally. My other response was about Bob, a guest who was late to the gate and was scheduled to speak about new technology finds at a trade show in Vegas. I said he was, "broke and hungover". Not especially funny but I figure you throw enough out there something will schtick. No mention on that one either.

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So the bitter season of cold arrives. On the bright side - literally - it's noticeably brighter outside. We've had a fine run of mild weather, and I'm mildly pleased that there wasn't more snow today (we got merely a dusting). We've certainly had the easiest winter - so far! - I can recall more or less ever. But the temp has dropped like Wile E. Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon: down to 17 from a relatively balmly 42.

The barren trees wave in the wind while I listen to appropriate music: "Hildegard of Bingen" by "O Ecclesia". Very Middle Ages-ish. Early music is bereft of extraneous instrumentation much like the scene outside is bereft of leaf or ornamentation.

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Odd website of "anarchist, feminist Christian" who seems obsessed with boobs. I assume it's a variant of that feminist obsession with vaginas, as prompted by the play "The Vagina Monologues". She's interesting though; is studying theology which makes her intrinsically interesting. Not a Scott Hahn fan but is reasonable enough not to want to come off as snobby, just saying he doesn't seem to have scholarly credentials.

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Spent a couple hours and finished "Open City". I'm getting better at reading novels, a dubious skill at best. I've reverted back to the days of the late '80s and early '90s when I fairly regularly consumed them: Dickens, Updike, Laurie Colwin etc... Now I'm reading them at a much more rapacious rate, at least by my standards.

"Open City" is a post-modern novel, a stream of consciousness, and therefore plotless. Which doesn't bother me much - plot is bonus. I read not for characterization but for the poetry of the thing. And this had much poetry as many reviewers point out. But it also had a real tinge of sadness throughout which some reviewers also mentioned. A mixed bag: a lot of beauty but too many downbeat notes. Cole wrote so movingly of going to a concert of Mahler's Ninth Symphony that it gave me a real hunger to experience a classical music concert again. It's been so long! Arguably the main character of the book is the city itself, New York City, with all it's gaudy, familiar-unfamiliar beauty.

Now I get to pick another read! I'm thinking maybe "White Teeth" by Zadie Smith. Or finish up the re-read of Percy's "Love in the Ruins". A re-try of "Swamplandia" is possible too.

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Got sidetracked during prayer - or maybe not - when I thought of the poor Rupperts, a family of 11 shot by an uncle in Hamilton, Ohio in 1975. Hearing about that was one of the scariest and awfulest things of my youth. It occurred to me that I should pray for the victims and perpetrator, neither of which I can ever recall doing. Through the magic of the 'net, I found the current owner. It takes some gumption to buy a house where you can still see the bloodstains in the basement ceiling. There's also the obligatory rumors of it being haunted.

Sometimes I wonder how ex-spy Robert Hannsen is doing in his solitary confinement in a Colorado maximum security prison. He's there with Islamic terrorists who are said to often scream, cry, or pray. I wonder if he's making any progress spiritually. The former Opus Dei member still has his wife faithfully praying for him. I just wonder how he deals with life so radically changed.

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The truck, despite never getting much use, still manages to break down in myriad ways. The emergency brake is sticking now, and we were going to try to fix it ourselves (if we could) in the 18 degree weather and so we got out there, couldn't find the jack easily (i.e. without removing the spare, it seemed) and so we said, 'let's take it to the shop". Thank God. A couple months ago squirrels had set up a nest under the hood and eaten the transmission wires, so that was costly. Truck is starting to seem more trouble than it's worth. Anyway, feel like I dodged a bullet in not having to deal with it today.

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Two Hearted ale does a heart good.

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They say only 10% of Catholics regularly confess their sins, and of the 10% I wonder how many confess sins of omission. I'd say less than one tenth of 1%. Dreamt I was waiing in line at a big McDonald's where I'm going to confess my sins to the Pope! Only the ground rules are a bit different (besides the odd location)...he's requesting every penitent preach a homily.

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Already feeling the want of a new novel. Continued my search; many candidates but after "interviewing" many (by reading the first chapter) I found most wanting. I started off with the list of best novels of 2011, then 2010, according to WaPo and the NY Times and such. I've gotten extremely lucky with the last four novels I've read, by Arthur Philips, Jeffrey Eugenides and Teja Cole.

It looks like the last remaining novelistic survivors include "The Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes and Michael Houellebecq's "The Map and the Territory".

This minutiae brought to you by Nike, where the slogan is "Just Read It!"

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Non-fiction wise I'm reading Scott Hahn's academic journal on the nature of biblical inspiration. It's a series of essays by authors known and unknown. Occasionally heavy, needlessly convoluted and/or repetitious, it's something I'm reading for the gem-like line here or there. Gotta kiss a lot of frogs, as they say.

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The world is my oyster, goes the line and sometimes I feel the Kindle world is my library. Still, the one book I feel hunger to read, May Sarton's "Recovering", is unavailable on Kindle. I'll have to wait for it to be delivered or maybe see if it's at the library. Speaking of which, check out this near erotic love of libraries written by a blogger I follow:
"No mat­ter how many times I visit the library, the premise of it con­tin­ues to slay me. I can walk into an archi­tec­tural­ly inter­est­ing build­ing and I can read the books from here for free. FOR FREE. I can indis­crim­i­nate­ly tug titles from shelves, read the inner flap -- or not -- and make a stack in my arms. And then I can scan them in a way that thrills my inner 9-year-old who must have, must have, played librar­i­an at some point, take them home, rub my eye­balls all over them and then return them. Libraries. My god. A girl could lose her mind."
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Went to store to pick up beer and cereal, the two main staples of my diet. Call them the irreplaceables. Weather is overcast as a working day is long but I listen to jazz, the music of choice. It's just so damn cheerful! Less kind souls might call it "elevator music" but I call it music to lift one's spirit on a cloud-full day! Ohioans for jazz.

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I think this weekend was the beer tasting at the Columbus convention center. Ach, I forgot, but I think it was Saturday at 7:30 and I was shortly thereafter watching a pro football game (Denver-Pats) that turned immediately into a route, the way cotton candy immediately dissolves in your mouth upon contact. Steph said that she doesn't enjoy football too much because it makes her anxious. Indeed. And you got to watch a lot of games before you get the pay-off, that transcendent game that seemingly transfigures existence around it. I felt that after last weekend's Pittsburgh/Denver match-up. There was something so satisfying about the unlikely result, the achingly symbolic win of good guy Tebow over bad boy Big Ben. It felt a proxy for the war we're all in, the war of good against evil, and it's a spur to the virtue of hope to see good win once in awhile.

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"All American Muslim" is one those "reality" shows and I've found it compulsively watchable. The original reality show, Survivor", I found unwatchable, but since then reality television has gone to interesting places, like in the swamps of Louisiana ("Swamp People"), a fishing boat in Alaska ("Hook, Line and Sisters") and now the Dearborn, MI Muslim community.

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Mostly lazy day, yesterday's off day for MLK. Went to church in the a.m. and afterwards slumped into the recliner and leisurely read the newspaper on Kindle while sipping java. Purblind bliss. Also read a fine blog post by Steve Gershom that linked to a riveting section of "Surprised by Joy" by C.S. Lewis...

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One of the mundane activities is getting one's hair cut. Interesting talk though from Barb the barber. Her daughter-in-law got in a fight with her son over a trivial matter on Christmas Day. She (the daughter-in-law) calls the police, the police arrest her because she left fingermarks on his face. She has to spend Dec 25th, 26th in jail because of the federal holiday. It feels of poetic justice, and yet force & punishment are not the answer. When D. (the daughter-in-law) was a child, her mother used to hit her in the face when she misbehaved and it seemed to have absolutely no impact on her then or now. We see also in criminals how such a high percentage of them complain of being innocent. Crime doesn't pay, but neither does punishment. It seems to me the reason to have jails is for protection of others rather than for purposes punitive. Purgatory without sorrow for sin is meaningless, but with sorrow is extraneous... similarly prison. Or so from my perspective.

January 13, 2012

Rss Roundup

These two posts in my feed were appropriately bundled together, one from Maureen in Dayton and the second from Ralph Waldo Emerson, hopefully in Heaven:

January 12, 2012

Sigh

Re: "I will insist on a military so powerful no one would think of challenging it." - Mitt Romney

Sheesh Louise, we already spend more than the rest of the world combined.

Sheesh Louise, we've just fought in two decade-long wars.

Sheesh Louise, I think the secret to voting cheerfully is to not pay too much attention to what candidates say.

January 11, 2012

Much Ado, Perhaps

I'm becoming increasingly skeptical of the old Latin adage "Lex orandi, lex credendi", especially in the context of the "for the many" controversy in the words of consecration.

And now I see Friar Minor writes of the poverty and ineffectuality of words, at least compared to the Word:
I decided to pray one of the new Mass forumularies for the dead this morning, offering the Mass for the the recently deceased father of one of the friars. Requiescat in pace.

After Mass I was thinking about how the prayers seemed like an improvement, and how they were more supplicative and contained less presumption about the deceased having already arrived at the beatific vision. But you know what? When I went back and looked at the old prayers, they weren't much different. I thought I would be writing a post about how the new prayers better recognized continued purification after death and the need to pray for the dead on their continued journey to the fullness of salvation. I was going to sing the praises of the new translation, saying that it would help restore a pastoral consciousness of the Last Things. As it turned out, there wasn't much in the old prayers to accuse them of failing in these things.

So I guess one has to say that the widespread error of presumption with regard to the state of the departed after bodily death is not the fault of the liturgy, or at least of the liturgy as the Church presents it...

A Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items

Hambone called yesterday to tell me he was about to go on John Corby's 610AM radio show. The subject was "car stories" and he proffered one on the time he ran over a brick which put a hole in his floorboard, right under his feet, and how subsequently, dressed for church and in a hurry, ran over a puddle with sprayed 2-3 gallons of water on him. Only faux paus in the telling was that he was asked if he still went to church and said, contradictorily, "I went home, because I had to play guitar at church." Turns out "home" was actually "on"; he'd lapsed into his southern accent. Tries to get fancy and ends up ponc'ing himself.

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Wasted too much time the other day watching the Republican debate (their voices cascaded over my brain like rushing water, allowing me not to have to think for awhile), thus getting up later than normal which caused me to miss the Byzantine liturgy that I often irrationally crave. Christ is Christ and He is present under both liturgies. But it was nice to have these last Christmas songs even if they felt akin to Christmas in July: The First Nowell, as they spelled it, "What Child is This?" and "We Three Kings". (The Byzantine service eschews Western carols.)

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Megabus rolls by, with enticing destinations emblazoned on its side: "Cleveland", "Ann Arbor", etc... I wonder how far I have to go to encounter foreignness. One city over? One state over? One region of the country over? One country over? One hemisphere over? One world over? I'll settle for Indianapolis Art Museum. Soon.

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What a pleasing game Sunday afternoon: Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos defeating Big Ben and the Steelers. It was storybook as everyone knows by now: 80-yard td on first play in O/T. With Tebow, besides his Christian faith, he seems an underdog. Plus the string of last second "Tebow time" victories really get your attention. But now the seemingly insurmountable hurdle of mighty Tom Brady and the New England Patriots looms. It's hard to see a scenario where the Broncs don't get their asses kicked, the Peter principle in action. But of course I'll watch the game. As someone at worked mentioned, even when Tebow's a flop, it's entertaining. The NFL's got to love it.

January 09, 2012

Evolution of Nigerian Scams

I'm always interested in the latest advances of scamology, and it seems some are getting shorter, more to the point, and even show a taste for irony ("Born is dead"):
Attn: we are sorry to inform you of Mr. Allen Born's death this late. Although you might have not know that your name is written on Mr. Allen Born’s WILL; the reason for this late notification, as Allen Born’s dead, a lot of fake claims have been showing up. For more details as regards to this issue respond. Thanks, Barr Peter Morris.
Still, capitalizing "will" is a dead giveaway.

The Humility of God

"Why lies he in such mean estate / where ox and ass are feeding?"
The above, sung at church Sunday, reminded me of Scott Hahn's offering in "The Letter and the Spirit" arguing that the humility of Scripture ought be recognized more, that just as Christ was rejected, looked down upon and a stumbling block, so too will Scripture, dressed as it is in humble language (the Greek often not up to par) and with difficulties abounding.

Here are excerpts from volume 6 of Scott Hahn's The Letter and the Spirit:
I should first summarize what constitutes “the humble style of biblical language.” By this I mean those less-than-appealing features of the Word that represent stumbling blocks to a belief in the Bible’s divine perfection. For instance, one thinks of Scripture’s frequent use of anthropomorphisms and anthropopathisms to speak of God, who is otherwise said to be “spirit.” Many have scorned these as the crude conceptions of an uncultivated people. One could also point to Scripture’s unpolished diction and grammatical solecisms, features that make the Word off-putting to educated minds with more refined literary tastes. So too, its penchant for hyperbole and poetic license and approximation fails to captivate those who think that the Bible should have nothing to do with colloquial parlance and speak only with scientific exactitude. Still more scandal is afforded by the numerous alleged discrepancies that make the Bible appear inconsistent with itself, with the documents of ancient history, and with the findings of modern archeology. The collective impression of these “blemishes” causes proud minds to recoil and refuse consent. It is a reminder that unbelief will always remain an option and even the default position of many who find no way to account for Scripture’s apparent lack of sophistication.

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Recognition of Scripture’s humility invariably raises the question of its purpose. Why should God express himself and his will101 in the humble letter of the Bible? My own conviction is that it invites reason to embrace the knowledge of faith, and that it confronts pride with a summons to intellectual humility. The humility of the Word first of all represents a challenge to the supremacy of reason in the apprehension of reality. Reason, we are prone to forget, has inherent limitations with which one must come to terms. Not only is the intellectual faculty incapable of demonstrating the mysteries of faith disclosed through revelation, but it is also incapable of discovering the plans and purposes of God in history. This is a serious handicap when it comes to interpreting the Bible. It is not that we should retreat into fideism in our study of Scripture, but that we should avoid the irrationality of pure rationalism. One can say that reason functions properly when it accepts its limitations and acknowledges that there are questions it cannot answer.

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I believe that the humble expression of the Word invites us to be healed of intellectual arrogance. This is obviously related to the foregoing comments about reason and its limits. But the fact is that even when faith and reason are working in tandem, the latter is tempted to impose unreasonable restrictions on the former. In the realm of biblical studies, this takes the form of methodological skepticism, otherwise known as “a hermeneutic of suspicion.” Not only does this approach mean that the Bible’s sincerity and truthfulness must be proven before it can be accepted, but that the interpreter stands in a position of judgment over the Word, measuring its claims according to his or her own standards. This is to turn things upside down. The folly of divine condescension urges that we lay aside our hypercriticism and our educated conceit in approaching the biblical Word.
I thought though that it's precisely this humility of "Christ incarnate and Christ inspired", that is of Word and word, that makes His indwelling in me possible, in "mean estate". So the next time I struggle with a seeming contradiction in the Bible I ought simply remember to approach it as indicative of my own hope in salvation.