August 31, 2012

Jonah Goldberg Pastiche

Ah yes, I'm always reminded why I'm not writing for National Review when I sample a snippet of the ever-interesting Jonah Goldberg. There's humor, substance and common sense:
I thought he [Clint Eastwood] was great ("Oh come on. Talking to the furniture?" -- The Couch). First of all, the convention desperately needed something a little less buttoned-down and programmed. Getting that from Clinton Eastwood riffing on Obama is damn near a coup. Yes, in a perfect world, he should have had something that was better prepared and polished. But Clint's not a target shooter, he's a gunfighter, damn it.

Moreover, I think all of the people attacking Eastwood are doing Mitt Romney an enormous favor. The clips I've seen on the news aren't incoherent, rambling, or even weird, as some of the talking heads are saying. By my lights they're charming or funny. Chris Rock said on Twitter this morning something to the effect of "Clint Eastwood on phone with Obama this morning: Everything went as planned sir."

I like Chris Rock, but his grasp of politics is ludicrous. Eastwood's speech is going to be water-cooler talk all day today. If people don't like what he said, they won't hold Eastwood's comments against Mitt Romney. If they like what he said, that's bad for Obama. And lots of people who haven't focused on the election will now hear about how Clinton Eastwood -- a compelling American badass -- thinks it's time for Obama to go. I understand people who want to say Eastwood's act wasn't good for Eastwood or all that useful for Romney. But I'm baffled by the claim that there's an upside for Obama in what Eastwood said.

But let them attack him. If the Democrats want to berate an American icon for being too old, let them (just please do it loud enough so they can hear you in South Florida). If you want to bleat about how it was inappropriate for an actor, please ask Alec Baldwin or George Clooney to make that case.


About That Other Guy

Obviously, Romney's speech wasn't aimed at me. Or, in all likelihood, at most of you. It was aimed at various flavors of independents, moderates, Hispanics, and single women. The same, for the most part, can be said about the whole convention. Mitt Romney needs large numbers of people who voted for Barack Obama to either vote for Romney or stay home on Election Day. Therefore he needs to talk to Americans like he's trying to get a little squirrel to come over to him and eat out of his hand (as Elaine from Seinfeld might say). That's why there was so little red meat on the menu this week. Personally, I like a few guys like Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York, slicing great slabs of red meat to dispense as treats for his loyal minions. Instead we got some poached chicken, maybe a few lamb chops when we were lucky, and the occasional amuse-bouche of actual steak (can you tell I'm hungry?).

Everything was more in sorrow than in anger. Obama's not a bad man, he's just in over his head. Besides, as Rubio put it, "it doesn't matter how you feel about President Obama. This election is about your future, not about his." That line carries a lot of water. It let's people off the hook for voting against a guy they like personally, a guy who's also the first black president, and it subtly calls attention to the fact that Obama is divisive.

But the two most effective and representative lines of the whole convention came from Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (as it should be).

From Romney: "President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."

While this isn't necessarily red meat, it's got a nice pinkish hue bordering on red at the center. It also shows why red meat can be effective. Liberals hate this line because they think making fun of global warming is sacrilegious and "anti-science." So they're attacking him for it. But the average voter doesn't hear anti-scientific blasphemy, they hear, "Obama talks a big game about things that either don't matter or he can't do. Meanwhile this guy says he's going to focus on the economy and getting my kid a job that gets him out of the basement."

Which brings me to what I think was easily the best line of the night, from Paul Ryan.
We are four years into this presidency. The issue is not the economy that Barack Obama inherited, not the economy as he envisions, but this economy that we are living. College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life.
That is brilliant and one of the few lines of the whole convention that elicited serious pangs of writerly envy. It works so well because it is poignant, funny, and feels very, very true. It captures the faded coolness and fizzled hype of the original Obama frenzy. That's a great message from a young (younger than me!) politician aimed at young people. But it also works very well for older people. People who are no longer all that young understand the pain and anxiety of wasted time and unfulfilled potential. The image makes you feel for the young adults effectively trapped at the bottom of an economic escalator that seems to be moving down as they try to climb up.

Drama Obama

I could be wrong ("You? Never." -- The Couch). But I think the Democrats are setting themselves up for a really awful problem. Already they're planning on a lot of "Yay! Abortion!" speakers.

As Ramesh and others have pointed out, whatever your position on abortion, odds are you don't like to hear a lot about it. Branding the Democratic party as the party that will respond to an economic crisis by ensuring abortion is as widely available as possible -- and insisting on telling you all about it -- just strikes me as ill-advised.

Benedict Quote & Elvis Bible

"Prayer is not a waste of time, it does not rob much space from our activ­i­ties, not even apos­tolic activ­i­ties, it does the exact oppo­site: only if we are able to have a life of faith­ful, con­stant, con­fi­dent prayer will God Him­self give us the strength and capac­i­ty to live in a happy and peace­ful way, to over­come dif­fi­cul­ties and to bear wit­ness with courage." - Pope Benedict

 *


Elvis Bible For Sale
By Jauretsi

Uncle Vester gave this bible to Elvis on his first Christmas in
Graceland (1957). For years, Elvis kept it close, and wrote tons of
notes in it. In one passage, Elvis wrote: “To judge a man by his weakest
link or deed is like judging the power of the ocean by one wave.” An
unnamed British collector will be auctioning off this item, and a few
others on Saturday, September 8th at Omega Auctions.

This, That, and the Other


Faire daffadills, we weep to see
You haste away so soone.


—Robert Herrick
*

Poets are always taking the weather so personally.

—J.D. Salinger, 'Teddy' from Nine Stories.

Often on workday mornings I'll get up and let the words of the John Mellancamp song ring in my head, "...and somehow rise, and vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico." "Somehow rise," is how I often feel when a recalcitrant body meets the insurmountable object of shower/shave/dress. Mornings are ominously darker now, but I still hang out briefly today on the front porch, hoping for some sun swag.

Funny, the first flowers of spring do not much impress me. Tulips especially seem out of place, like false promises or inelegant juxtapositions. True flowers respond to warmth and sun - they don't gaily open when the snows of Kilimanjaro could still threaten. I prefer the hummingbirds and gold finches, the latter whose colors grow more brilliant with the summer. They seem to visibly share in my exulting in the weather. The properly Christian response, I suppose, is to appreciate the paradox of life in death, of a tulip defying the odds and seeming to grow without natural supports.

Mark Hart, the "Bible Geek" and author of several books on the Scriptures said on Lino's show yesterday that the Bible is often a "loving kick in the groin". (Not sure about the adjective "loving", but some similar-sounding ameliorative modifier.) It's interesting how people see Scripture as different things, as well they might given the huge variety in it (variety in terms of not only types of literature but in terms of the message delivered).

Some see the Bible as "love letter" from God. Others apparently as a "kick in the groin" (towards the loving goal of goading us to do better). "Who do you say that I am?" resonates not only with regard to Christ but with his Word as well. The key is to not take offense at "hard sayings", not to do as those who heard Jesus in John 6 talk about his body as food and blood as drink for example.

*

Am surprised at the variety and depth of Protestant Bible commentaries although perhaps I shouldn't be - if your position is "bible alone" then you're going to spend a lot of time and energy determining/supporting your exegesis. The problem is that almost all the commentaries available through Logos software are of that variety. Even Catholic bible commentaries are iffy in the sense of not having any Magisterial weight behind it (the Church has only spoken definitively on the meaning of a few passages) so it seems obviously even more iffy and speculative to accept a Protestant rendition which normally won't even be conscious of or accepting of the goal of "thinking with the Church".

*

Found on Eric Scheske's blog:
“It is not for man to seek, or even to believe in God. He has only to refuse to believe in every­thing that is not God. This refusal does not pre­sup­pose belief. It is enough to rec­og­nize, what is obvi­ous to any mind, that all the goods of this world, past, present, or future, real or imag­i­nary, are finite and lim­it­ed and rad­i­cal­ly inca­pable of sat­is­fy­ing the desire which burns per­pet­u­al­ly with in us for an infi­nite and per­fect good… It is not a mat­ter of self-questioning or search­ing. A man has only to per­sist in his refusal, and one day or anoth­er God will come to him.” Simone Weil
*

Am slightly perplexed by the Cincinnati Reds surreal season. (Oh asterisk, thou maker of segues!) It feels like the world is slightly off axis, off-kilter, given how the Reds have won and won and won. On the other hand it's relaxing to be constantly looking at box scores of Reds victories instead of Reds defeats. It makes you feel sort of rich, looking at the standings and seeing your sports "nest egg" in such good shape, with a healthy 7-8 game lead well into late August. It's definitely a strange phenomenon, especially without Votto. They've won "only" 60% of their games this season but it feels sort of like 70-75%, I think because they've done ridiculously well since the All-Star break.

Of the starters I tend to think of Leake and Bailey as the weak links in the post-season, should the Reds make it there (and it would seem to take a colossal Red Sox-like fold job to NOT make it now). Ultimately it's pitching that wins championships, or so they say.

Regardless of what happens post-season it's been an amazing season already. Whoda thunk Ludwick would have 25+ home runs? Or that we'd have Chapman making the 9th inning a foregone conclusion? How many times have I heaved a sigh of relief (no pun intended), knowing that the game was over at the end of the 8th inning? The whole thing feels so strange for a small market team. The 1990 World Championship felt like a fluke given the lackluster Reds decades of the 90s and the 00s. Somebody has to be a Cinderella team and maybe this is the Reds turn.

*

Yesterday was presaged by a tragically foreshortened (due to getting up late) morning patio read. I did read a tiny bit of the blog of a Christian missionary and while it was compulsively readable it also was a bit depressing, given how far I've got to go towards holiness. She seems something of a "justice craver", painting most of the First World as "strangling on comfort" while the Third World desperately seeks the basic necessities. She also said she found herself becoming legalistic in terms of judging people on things like what sort of coffee and chocolate they consume -- I assume because of the slave labor conditions of some coffee and chocolate farms. Made me want to go back to buying my chocolate, at least, from "Fair Trade", a division of Catholic Relief Services that sells chocolate that gives a fair profit to the workers. More expensive and not as good, which is sort of a bad combination though I think I'll go back to Fair Trade for my next one. It appears my coffee of choice, Green Mountain, is a good corporate citizen. Based in lefty Vermont, I doubt it would be involved in rapacious trade practices though Michael Moore, of all people, treats his employees like dirt so you never know.

*

"My per­son­al expe­ri­ence, indeed, is that the inges­tion of alco­hol, in the mod­est quan­ti­ties I affect, is not only not dam­ag­ing but actu­al­ly very ben­e­fi­cial. It pro­duces in me a feel­ing of com­fort, of ami­a­bil­i­ty, of tol­er­ance, of mel­low­ness. It makes me a more humane and sym­pa­thet­ic, and hence a hap­pi­er, man. I am able, thus mild­ly ether­ized, to enjoy and applaud many things which would oth­er­wise baf­fle and alarm me. . . And that effect is not mere­ly idio­syn­crat­i­cal, but uni­ver­sal. It appears in all nor­mal men. Alco­hol in small doses dilutes and ame­lio­rates our native vileness.” - H.L. Mencken

*

Coworker Neil seems to be landing on his feet. After 28 years at the orifice he's going to retire to his three acres, raise chickens and restore an old barn. Says that he originally bought six acres up in Mount Vernon but that the hour drive seemed too much, so he's selling it.

I told him I'm "right behind him" retirement-wise but when he asked how long I had and I said six years he said I wasn't right behind him at all. I said time is supposed to go faster as you age but another guy at the party said that's true up until the time before retirement when t-i-m-e ss-l-l-o-w-s d-o-w-n. I guess I can believe that. The light at the end of the tunnel just makes you watch the pot, to badly and baldly mix metaphors.

August 27, 2012

Poetry

Spotted on the web:
Timothy McSweeney: Why write poetry?

Rebecca Lindenberg: I think there is a general misconception that you write poems because you “have something to say.” I think, actually, that you write poems because you have something echoing around in the bone-dome of your skull that you cannot say. Poetry allows us to hold many related tangential notions in very close orbit around each other at the same time. The “unsayable” thing at the center of the poem becomes visible to the poet and reader in the same way that dark matter becomes visible to the astrophysicist. You can’t see it, but by measure of its effect on the visible, it can become so precise a silhouette you can almost know it.

Ryan's Taxes

Kind of amused and bemused by a conspicuously placed story in the local newspaper with a big headline about Paul Ryan releasing his tax returns - really? Slow news day? I find this faux imbroglio more interesting about what it says about the media than the candidates: President Obama's strategy of making this election about legally paid taxes might work if the media complies.

I also find it funny and hypocritical that the tax returns of Obama's Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner (which, unlike Romney's or Ryan's, were actually not in compliance with the law) doesn't seem to bother Obama or the media too terribly much.

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

Damian Thompson in "The Fix" defines an addiction as that which slowly (or speedily) substitutes things for people. He centers on video games, sweets and internet porn. But what about reading? Isn't that an addiction in some of us by his definition?

*
From Beautiful Ruins by Jess Waters:

Pat, she said quietly. Listen to you. You’re like some kind of epiphany addict.

*

The space-age Millennium Bridge fed like a spoon into the mouth of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London crashing its tones, eras, and genres recklessly, disorienting Pat even more with these massive, fearless juxtapositions: modernist against neoclassic against Tudor against skyscraper.

The city walls were like a series of cliff faces, the oldest part—the Royal Mile—leading from the castle and curling like a cobblestone stream down a canyon of smoke-stained stone

*

He knew it was a different world, a different time—bands expected to blog and flog and twit and fuck-knew-what. Hell, Pat didn’t even own a cell phone. Even in the States, no one got away with being a quiet, brooding artist anymore; every musician had to be his own publicist now—bunch of self-promoting twats posting every fart on a computer.

*

Pat suddenly saw humanity the same way: it was all this scramble to get higher, to see enemies and lord it over peasants, sure, but maybe more than that—to build something, to leave a trace of yourself, to have people see . . . that you were once up there, onstage. And yet what was the point, really? Those people were gone, nothing left but the crumbling rubble of failures and unknowns.

*

He had a gone-to-seed-superhero look, with blocky, side-parted hair and a square jaw, and an athletic body just starting to swell with middle age. Men have a half-life, she thought, like uranium.

This, That, and the Other



I love the hour of a Saturday morning, sitting next to the privacy-protecting hedges in the everlasting sun. It feels reminiscent of those wonderful times in San Juan when we found those little niches of private sun amid the curving paths of the handsome pool area. Makes me long for Puerto Rico over Fort Myers, Florida come November. Been looking at hotel websites and getting my juices flowing. Oh the narcotic of mentally slipping into the azure pool with its pleasing coves and bubbling fountains! So the most memorable moment of vacation in recent years was not at a beach but in the windless confines of the sun-breathed, palm-decked pool area.

I remember certain moments so clearly and vividly on that wonderful San Juan trip and far fewer from the Fort Myers trip such that I wonder if location and surroundings don't mean more than what I thought of as my bottom-line reductionism (i.e. sun, warm temps are the only things necessary). Fort Myers beach was featureless - few palms or other plants - with brownish water. Being on the Gulf side of Florida can be a glorified lake experience. Perhaps it would be worth it, after all, to put up with the hassle of a longer flight and changing planes in order to go to the Intercontinental in San Juan again.

*

"Freud said that... vulnerability to depression was one of the hazards of loving and connecting and particularly of over-identifying with the things and loves. Anybody could fall into melancholia from time to time but particularly at risk were those who find their self-worth in attachments and achievements rather than inside, and of eager to please individuals who keep their aggressive feelings pent up inside." - sighted on web.

*
One of the things I love about the internet is any old song that suddenly comes to mind can be experienced in its visceral then-ness: today, for example, apropos of nothing, Wang Chung's To Live and Die in L.A. came to mind and in seconds I was magically listening to it. The wistful song took me back to an earlier me. Out of the mouths of babes, or in this case Wang Chung, came this theological question: "Why do we waste our lives here when we could be in paradise?" I suppose the temptation is to see this life as a test for our worthiness of that paradise, a sort of a "barrier to entry", quality control if you will. But in the end I suppose if you want to protect free will you have to have an earthly probationary existence in which to hopefully say "Yes". One can look on the bright side: "To be born into this earth is to be born into uncongenial surroundings, hence to be born into a romance." Chesterton in Heretics

Am reading N.T. Wright's book on the gospels about "When God Became King". Provocative for sure. On the surface pretty arrogant of him to say, basically, "You know, all Christian factions have misunderstood the gospels for the past 2,000 years," but to the extent I can get past that, he is interesting.

He says that at least for the past 400 years we've become obsessed with going to Heaven and thus misread our Bibles. The gospels are not so interested in us getting to Heaven as in Heaven coming down to earth, i.e. in the form of a theocracy. He says it's as if we received a note saying that the President of the United States wants to invite himself to our home, and we misread it as saying he's inviting us to the White House. Wright says that when you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail and thus we read Scripture as a "how to get to Heaven" manual when that's not what it's about. "Eternal life" in the NT really means, he says, something like, "life in the age to come," meaning our present age, the last age, the age of Christ. Similarly, the rich young man in Matthew is not asking how to get to a place of eternal bliss after this life, but how to share in the life of the coming messianic age.

August 21, 2012

Dispatches from the Lake Cave


Mancave-away-from-mancave: Lake Turtle, I'll call it, one of the small lakes at a local park, where I deposed a shiny turtle for log ruling privileges. Here I can write, listen to music, read thousands of books on the Kindle, smoke a cigar and drink a beer. (The question being: how many of these activities can I do without risking falling into the drink, i.e. the lake, and thus despoiling my iPad & Kindle, etc?? Well I suppose I'll find out. No risk, no reward as they say.)

Started out by finding wondrous new trails. Ran about 3.5 miles, a modern day record, or at least over the past year, whichever is shorter.

Now sitting in the shade with the iPad on my lap. Schweet. What a scene. Feel almost deserving given the stressful workweek last week. "Work hard / pray hard" goes the t-shirt but I think "Play hard" should round out that trifecta.

Alas, sometimes I find myself wondering not so much, "WWJD?" but "WWIBDAHH?", standing for "What would I be doing at Hilton Head?". Apparently I think the Hilton Head week is the gold standard of leisure activity, as well I might. The short answer is always: "I'd be at the beach," which, of course, is not perfectly transferable to landlocked Ohio. But this seems the next best thing.

Perfectly designed boat allows me to put my feet up and rest my head back. Wowsa. It keeps getting better. Truly who needs a yacht or house boat when you can buy a $350 kayak and enjoy a lake fifteen minutes from your house? I can even type without looking, my head resting flat looking up at the blue sky and puffy clouds. As offices go, this would be a good one. Why have a book room when you can have a lake room? (Of course in a few short months this will be stripped from me and the book room will re-ascend in value).

August 16, 2012

This & That



My boss Philip took me aback in a meeting by asking what my favorite vacation moment in Hilton Head was. Kind of a wildcard since he generally only asks work-related questions in a setting like that. I might've said "all of it" but truly I think it was exploring those bike paths surrounded by glorious beds of red pine needles and virgin jungle. My other thought was saying, "oh, each day's third beer."

*
Feast of the Assumption yesterday and a rare "command performance", which is what I call days of obligation. I'm glad the Church has these days because I'm often edified by these wonderful feasts. It feels right to gather to recognize Our Lady's assumption in part because there's that tradition that the apostles were all present at it as well - that God miraculously arranged that they be there. I've always loved that, historically true or not.

I always want to say, "We assume Mary's in Heaven and that's why we call it the Assumption." Juvenile, yes, but it never seems to get old. Might be my favorite feast. It's joyous, it's triumphant, it's got good hymns and it's not suffocatingly crowded like Christmas and Easter.

I tend to get overly bogged down with vagaries that don't particularly appeal to me but appeal to others or need to be contextualized. Like the Magnificat, which was read at mass. I feel sheepish to confess that I like Elizabeth's husband's prayer (read for Morning Prayer in the Lit of Hours) better. Seems to me when we celebrate the feast of the Assumption we are also celebrating Mary's leave-taking from culture: she now transcends it, which is shown by her many appearances/apparitions in different guises around the world.

*

Oh but come now, won't I miss work when it's gone? What will I have to push against? How will the daytime hours shine when they've no foil? Tell me truly, does not the Midwesterner appreciate the sun more than the Los Angeles'r, the latter for whom warm temps are taken for granted? Similarly how can one appreciate time off work without time at work?

We listened to a informational conference call on retirement yesterday and all they talked about was money: incoming and outgoing. But should we not fear the lack of a work as much as we fear outliving our savings?

Amy Welborn sees the inability to retire as a GOOD thing! How's that for a counter-cultural view. She writes also of the beach as her perfect venue:
"When I consider where I could see myself spending the rest of my days, especially once the boys are up and out (I don’t say 'retired' because there’s no 'retirement' for a writer, and that I see as a good thing)…it’s the beach I see. More precisely, I see myself as one of those wizened, brown women you see striding on the beach in the early morning, firmly and purposefully. She never looks at you, the visitor, the tourist. She doesn’t seem to resent you, but neither does she have much use for you. I don’t know what she does the rest of the day, but in the morning and early evening, she’s out there, striding – or maybe sometimes riding a bike. Sometimes with a dog, sometimes with a cigarette.
Sans cigarette, that’s me, I hope.

I also figure that if I live on or near the beach, my children will always be ready to visit, yes?

Actual visits to the beach sometimes give me pause on that goal, though. That sandy state of life starts to get on my nerves after a bit, and I wonder about the folly of it all – living in a home that might be knocked down tomorrow..to be rebuilt..and knocked around again…and rebuilt. I’m not sensing that many – if any – of the houses around here are the homes of permanent residents – it’s got a more vacation rental feel up and down and all around than some parts of Florida I’ve been to, as well as Maine (which, I hasten to add, holds no temptation for me…I spent every summer there as a child and have spent many days on beaches in southern Maine, and it’s all very nice, because it’s the beach..but that water. Sorry, but Florida and Alabama have spoiled me.)

The residents here don’t seem to live on the beach, but back away from it, more in the direction of the bays and channels – which is probably far more sensible, when you think about it.

Me? Not a boat person, so it’s the beach, not the bays, for me. So yes, it’s crazy and impractical, I imagine, but still. I can’t imagine myself anyplace else when I hit that age when I’ll be alone, yet still able to get around. Here – or somewhere like it – on the deck (after my walk) , a steady breeze, the constant muted sound of the surf reminding me of how big life is, and how it really does go on far beyond what I can see right now."

August 14, 2012

Going Dada

Occasionally I'm in the mood for a pessimist or the near-cheerful apocalyptic. In this case Thomas of formerly "Endlessly Rocking" and now "The Pebbled Shore" has a lot to quench one's thirst:
We must be prepared to turn the world upside down. Only then will we right it.

Who are the Allies? The Vatican, Moscow, Missouri, an assortment of Calvinists, Baptists, Methodists. It’s not promising.

Most on that roster lack a sense of humor, and there is nothing more indispensable in this hour than a sense of humor.

Now, I’m relaxed. It’s a delightful day.

It’s good to take a break from the Apocalypse.

*

Revolutionaries use magic words. They indulge in magical thinking. ‘Change,’ ‘activist,’ ‘equality,’ ‘reproductive health care,’ ‘hate,’ ‘love’ – all these and more have been invested by the revolutionaries with magic qualities. Counterrevolutionaries are not as practiced in the use of magic words. We can rarely hear them as such. We usually imagine they’re simply words. This is why we failed... The Revolution must deal harshly with those who refuse to be saved. It does this not by rounding up the reprobate and throwing them in a Gulag Archipelago. That’s so modernist. No, it does so by so controlling the language that even the reprobate must speak and think in terms and categories given them by the Revolution. The reprobate thus will subtly, yet inexorably, punish themselves for their thought crimes. They will censor themselves. They will come to hate themselves more than even the revolutionaries do. And through it all, the reprobate will never even notice their defeat.

*
Seems Narcissism Inc has Chic Somethingorother [Chick Fil-A] in its sights. If Chic Somethingorother doesn’t spare their tender feelings, then Chic Somethingorother is manifestly intolerant. Wheeeee! I always say that when I fly off the edge of absurdity into an abyss...

*
The Revolution is over. It was in fact over long ago. You won. Follow the money. You have achieved broad corporate sponsorship for what a more benighted age called perversity. Not only can you kill children for convenience, but you have found a way to make child sacrifice a multibillion dollar industry. We stand amazed at the Late Capitalist Revolution of the Left in this country. You even control the language all of us use when we ‘debate the issues’. (It is touching, the way you allow us our illusions.) Of course, controlling language is the key to winning any ideological battle. You grasped this and acted, we did not. We don’t have corporate sponsorship, our parades will always be way too solemn, and we don’t define the language. So, given that we’re in this absurd situation, let’s act like it. Embrace the absurdity. Use outrage, provoke insult. They’ll insult you anyway, so enjoy it. Don’t expect nuance, historical accuracy, philosophical sophistication. To their non sequiturs offer your own. Go Dada on them.

*
The desire to rebel, to curse God and man, while not believing that one is cursing God and man... is itself a variation of the narcissistic need to define oneself by a story told rather than by one’s actions. It’s about being seen as daring, which is easy to do once your party controls the ever-dwindling money supply, the hierarchy, the seminaries. It’s also about being seen as open-minded, cool, hip, exciting, and full of love. One needn’t actually be open-minded, cool, hip, exciting, and full of love. It really doesn’t matter, because those are not real qualities of real human beings, but tropes that define a brand.

*
Yes, the American Left is authoritarian, totalitarian even... Their control of public discourse is absolute. They achieve this with an elegant simplicity: their polemics are all variants of the classic trap, ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ Once you realize that, you can begin to work out ways of evading their rhetoric. If you don’t realize that, then their rhetoric is for you.

*
To be in the ’99%’ it suffices to have all the vices of the ’1%’, and none of their virtues.

*
Has it occurred to anyone that ‘The Cloud’ is really just an aggregation of server farms, all connected by cables and powered by electricity? Cut a few of those cables, or overheat the servers, and ‘The Cloud’ dissipates faster than the value of Facebook stock. What does ‘The Cloud’ signify in reality? We’ve decided not to store stuff on our own machines. Instead, we pay others to store stuff on their machines. This is the reality behind the alleged Technological-Epistemological Revolution Of Our Times. Try not to give in to despair.

*
Yes, we’re that powerful, even fallen and frail. We are, after all, meant to be gods. It’s just that, fallen and frail as we are, we’re all stupid, so we don’t know how to be gods in the image of the One True God. We think it’s about calling down fire from heaven, so that’s exactly what we’ll do. Remember one of the fundamental axioms: we get whatever we want.

August 12, 2012

Kayaking Seven Short Takes







I feel the sudden euphoria of gap-toothed freedom finally ahoy'd. Land sighted after a run of turbulence. Went to the lake and rowed between the cattails. Four or five fellow boaters today; we all know a good weather day when we sees one. 74 degrees and sunny, pluperfect. Saw a lady reading a book while smoking a cigarette on her craft, anchored to the shoreline. The very picture of bliss. I thought about how there isn't a better place on the planet to read, out there on the water without distractions.

Makes, what a difference a day. Yesterday was cold and damp, today (Sunday) lively and sunny. Now I'm under the poplar on the hammock, enjoying the svelte weather while my grandson sleeps. (A precious time this, just as it's also precious when he's awake.)

No reading when Sam's on the march; he has a full slate of activities for me and I'm congenitally unable to say 'no' to him. Basketball, wagon-pulling, pool-swimming: I'm plumb wore out now and am particularly desirous of a soft bed and a good book. I pull evasive maneuvers on the mosquitoes and silently mourn the death of the London Olympics.

My approach to the Olympics has been hit or miss. A bit there, a bit here, without much sustained viewing though grateful for its presence. I like how the Olympic bodies are shaped by their sport - one couldn't mistake a gymnast for a basketball player or a weightlifter from a swimmer.  They seem to embody, literally, the essence of their respective sports.  Their game to some extent molds their bodies (environment) but also their bodies pick their sport (heredity).  Olympic athletes seem to showcase the "variety of saints", to use a metaphor. Neither could one confuse a St. Jerome with a St. Therese.

I like the track and field and basketball and swimming even though there are far too many qualifying events. Just get us to the finals, pronto. The gymnastics seems overly long but also worth watching if you can pick your spots. The women's beach volleyball shows again that sports determine the bodies - big thighs and small breasts help power those girls above the net.

What I long for with the Olympics is hardly possible these days. It's to simply watch it all. To soak in it the way I did in, say, 1976.  I had time to burn then and so it was nothing to become truly immersed in the games. Now I try to split my attention so many ways which is ironic given how on paper unbusy my life is compared to much of humanity. It seems surprising that I don't seem to have time, for example, to watch a movie every week.  And I think there is something missing from having immersive experiences, be it with prayer or art or what have you.

*

I play the Latino station in homage to Hilton Head.  It also reminds me of a recent bike ride in the heat not long afterward when the sun was so intense and I remember vividly that remarkable Queen Anne's lace growing despite the drought in especially heat-prone areas along the sidewalk: uncle Mark was unromantic: "that's why they call it a weed." It can survive adverse conditions. He has a point but I prefer to think of it as a flower misunderstood. 


Meanwhile the sun dyes the sky with orange. The light ricochets and repents, sails and suggests. A variety of trees of all maturities enrich the landscape. Oh Ohio, I love your trees even though they all bespeak such transience! As the years pick up speed the seasons correspondingly say sic transit gloria mundi. In southern California, where the seasons are muted, the climate might be said to symbolize the permanence of God. Isn't their symbolism best?

Tis unnervingly fall-like. Has it ever been thus? Has early August always felt this way or is this just a temporary thing, another example of the common occurrence of weather patterns sometimes mimicking those of a month or six weeks ahead?

Today the skies were Michigan blue, the humidity low and the morning sun of a September variety. Now at eve the crickets or locusts sound subdued, as they often do in late September or early October. Seems like I frittered away vacation days here and there. The only full week I took off during the first seven months of the year was at the end of July. I'm thinking of a short October trip to New Mexico. Amy Welborn's recent pictures of the place are attractive. The mesas anyway appeal to me as does the sunny, arid climate (which, no doubt, will be especially appealing in late October).

*
Shocked by news reports that Randy Travis, the singer who helped bring me to appreciate country music, was found drunk and naked. That can't be good.  He also got cited for public intoxication in February.  What I can't believe is how much alcohol it would take to drive around naked.  That's a freedom from inhibition I have trouble imagining. No wonder he crashed his car as well.  It sort of makes him more interesting, sadly. I mean before he seemed sort of predictable and devout.  Now you realize there are demons there and you root for him to overcome them and make of it a beautiful story.  Stories need overcomin', need conflict and he's got a lot of that in his life now.

*
Heard a convert (Episcopalian priest to Catholic priest) on the radio mention how he gets more out of the documents of Vatican II every time he reads them! Swears by 'em! Makes me want to get them out and peruse. Mother Angelica said of those same documents read like Scripture and they do.

*
Fascinated by the inner lives of the parishioners of a local Byzatnine parish. Fr. T gave a very short sermon (2 minutes?) on gratitude. Meanwhile I couldn't take my eyes off the sight of two people, aged 140 together, wearing the Roman wreathes of Byzantine marriage crowning. They both seems like stars in the Byzantine intergalactic system, him driving 50 miles one way three times a week for liturgies (he's a cantor) and she a erudite OSU professor with a bright smile.

August 07, 2012

Memories...

Ahh...the great Willie Mays 1972 Topps card. Eye candy for the baseball fan:

August 06, 2012

Various & Sundry

On Hope:
"I’ve been thinking a lot about what William Lynch says about hope: that it is not, after all, an interior resource, not something you generate on your own...Hope is, instead, the belief that help is available from the outside."

On gratitude:
"In Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus wrote: 'In the beginning God created Adam, not because he needed man, but because he wanted to have someone on whom to bestow his blessings.'...It is the natural and proper response to your situation on earth. You are a receiver and you constantly receive blessings. Every moment you’re alive, you are receiving gifts from God—the gift of existence, the gift of health, the gift of sight and smell and sound, the gift of a beautiful world, the gift of other people. No wonder St. Paul says in his letters to the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing: you are blessed without ceasing—receiving presents without ceasing—so you ought to say thanks without ceasing."

On Berry:
"I've never read the man [Wendell Berry], so I wouldn't have known whether to like him or not. As soon you tell me he favors gay marriage, I get this feeling that things just aren't going to work out between us...All I know is that if I need me an agrarian philosopher, I'm picking Culbreath over Berry in a heartbeat."

*

Coffee's wonders in the morning: I fumble with the coffee-maker, proving the axiom that when you need it most is when you're least adept at its creation. My weary fingers find the bell cap of the thermos, cradle it carefully, and then oh how good that first taste is, that comforting elixir that is Nantucket Blend. And how blest be that ten minutes on the front porch before work taking in the morning glaze. I'll sorely miss the sun when she dries up and heads for different climes this October. I tend to think the more time I spend in the sun now, the harder the withdrawal will be. But I do it anyway figuring that it's better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.

But then that's to confuse love with addiction. The book on addictions says that the mark of one is having little rituals associated with your fix, and thus the cocaine addict sees the spoons and knives and instruments of the trade as holy things, treating them with care and getting a dopamine blitzkrieg just from the what they represent.

Watched "The Deadliest Catch" the other night, the reality show based on craggy crab fishermen (say five times fast). The captains think they're philosopher-poets, men of Solomonic wisdom. A lot of b-s'ing it seemed to me, but one guy did appeal when he said that he feared dying out on that ocean alone and that what gives him joy was "the sun on my face. That we exist." Yes, the sun on my face. Right up my alley.

I think of that "magic time" Tuesday afternoon, having had a half-day off work and it occurs that it wouldn't feel magical at all to have every Tuesday afternoon off, at least not after retirement because then "all days begin to seem the same" in the words of my mom.

*
Friday night was surprisingly engaging now that I've found the talisman of Irish rock. It seems a mite regressive, this sudden taste for rock over the more genteel folkish acts, but what can you do? You can't much change your likes or dislikes. Somewhere Jeff Culbreath must be frowning. And so I found myself at the "Young Dubliners" at the Celtic Rock stage on Friday night. It felt so good to be at Irishfest again, the summer sun still strong and that familiar vibe of peat smoke and piper music. Went to the Irish author corner but immediately a salesman, er, writer, was trying to sell me his historical fiction. I'd hoped that the authors would be giving talks like they do on C-Span book festivals, but no such luck. Instead I went home music-drunk.

August 02, 2012

Ice Road Programmers
(aka The Deadliest Loop)

It's not often I recommend television shows, but this seems like a goodie:

    
Beginning this fall there's a new reality show from the Discovery Channel: Ice Road Programmers.


See if the cast members will "crack" under the pressure of computer programming in fifty degree below zero temperatures. Watch as they attempt to code on desktops set up on fragile ice floes north of Nome, Alaska.

"*Bleep*, *Bleep* -ing program!"

Then after the season airs we'll take a behind-the-scenes look with in-depth interviews featuring all the programmers. Watch as Sharat Chidambaram tells his biggest secret, and see P. Singh break down after achieving his goal of being as bad-ass as his accountant father.

From WSJ

Poetry on the fly in the Wall Street Journal inspired by the Olympics. (via Dylan).

The Gymnast

For Gabby, Kyla, Jordyn, McKayla, Aly

Years from now,

having lost the shape

of a hard-tutored body,

you will explain to those

who ask why your feet

bear the scars of the wounded,

you will say, “See these feet

are dancer’s feet—they are

the brutality of grace,

the ugliness of flight;

they remind us of the earth,

how it holds us to itself,

punishing us for leaping

like we do.” And at

every twinge in the knee

at each stair taken,

you will remember

the clamor of cheers

filling the arena,

with you at the center,

nimble, feet planted,

muscles pulsing

waiting for you to leap

again, and fly, fly, fly.