December 19, 2013

This & That

Andrew Lang, "Ballade of the Unattainable," Books and Bookmen (New York: George J. Coombes, 1886), pp. 174-175:
The Books I cannot hope to buy,
Their phantoms round me waltz and wheel,
They pass before the dreaming eye,
Ere Sleep the dreaming eye can seal.
A kind of literary reel
They dance; how fair the bindings shine!
Prose cannot tell them what I feel, —
The Books that never can be mine!

There frisk Editions rare and shy,
Morocco clad from head to heel;
Shakespearian quartos; Comedy
As first she flashed from Richard Steele;
And quaint De Foe on Mrs. Veal;
And, lord of landing net and line,
Old Izaak with his fishing creel, —
The Books that never can be mine!

Incunables! for you I sigh,
Black letter, at thy founts I kneel,
Old tales of Perrault's nursery,
For you I'd go without a meal!
For Books wherein did Aldus deal
And rare Galliot du Pré I pine.
The watches of the night reveal
The Books that never can be mine!

ENVOY.

Prince, hear a hopeless Bard's appeal;
Reverse the rules of Mine and Thine;
Make it legitimate to steal
The Books that never can be mine!

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To lyrics of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing":

Get up, get up, get up, get up!
Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up!

Oh, baby now let's read books tonight

And when I get that feeling
I want textual healing
Textual healing, oh baby
Makes me feel so fine

Helps to relieve my mind
Textual healing baby, is good for me
Textual healing is something that's good for me


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The "whys" have it: started search for "why can't" and found the most popular suggestions interesting given that those two seemingly most natural of things, sleep and pregnancy, are sometimes elusive (the latter not for the Darwins or Duffys): 

 


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A sad but funny from the Dispatch:

December 18, 2013

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

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux :
India—something of a madhouse with a touch of anarchy, yes, but an asylum in which strangers are wel come, even inquisitorial ones like me; where anything is possible, the weather is often pleasant, and the spicy food clears your sinuses. Most of India embodies Blake’s dictum that “energy is eternal delight.” All you need is a strong stomach, a little money, and a tolerance for crowds.

The austere torpor of the Stans had been wearing me down—the humorlessness and paranoia of a police state, no outward indication of struggle, a kind of beaten-down acceptance. Acceptance is not an Indian trait. In India, no one takes no for an answer: policemen are jeered at, authority exists to be defied, walls are erected to be defaced, and everyone is talking, often in English.

Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis by Mark Binelli :
A few days after the new city council was elected in the fall of 2009, it was reported that five of its nine members had CCW (carry a concealed weapon) permits and regularly carried firearms. Around the same time, a robber made the mistake of breaking into the Westside Bible Church—where he was promptly shot by the pastor. A resourceful AP reporter had followed up on the gunslinging minister story by conducting a quick poll of Detroit churches and managed to turn up a number of other armed men of the cloth, including Holy Hope Heritage’s Rev. William Revely, who admitted to occasionally preaching while wearing his .357 (and who kept in practice by target shooting at a gun range with a fellow pastor), and Greater Grace Temple’s Bishop Charles Ellis III, who insisted he didn’t wear his concealed weapon during services, but then again, he didn’t have to, as the church had its own armed, eighteen-member Ministry of Defense present at all major functions.

I soon learned that country rules applied here, too—if you smiled and gave a little wave or a head nod, you’d generally get the same back, saving, of course, the dope boys, whose hard-gazed dedication to radiating inscrutability and menace convinced me to drop the smiling part. Mostly, though, the menace was due to the absence of people, and thus far more rural than urban, putting me in mind of Seventies exploitation movies like The Hills Have Eyes or Texas Chainsaw Massacre, in which naive cityfolk venture down the wrong dirt road and find themselves on the business end of a meathook.

Corine turned down the only street not barred with cement barricades. Strewn with detritus, at points nearly impassable, the block made me think of Humvee footage from the early days of the invasion of Baghdad. We maneuvered around shredded tires, jagged stacks of roofing tile, torn panels of Sheetrock, neat little mounds of broken glass, busted pallets, tangles of tree branches, unspooled cassette tapes, VHS tapes still in the box, a broken television, an empty purse, a pair of blue jeans. You could no longer see the sidewalks, the grass had grown so tall. There were one or two stop signs left, and a light post so stripped to the frame a person from a part of the world without light posts would have been hard pressed to discern its purpose.

The takeaway from the census stories revolved around Detroit plummeting to nineteenth place on the U.S. city-size list, behind Austin, Jacksonville, and Columbus. (Columbus!)

There were shady no-bid contracts; kids had to bring their own toilet paper to school. The principal of Finney High got his jaw broken after being punched by a student wearing brass knuckles...The new emergency manager was a polished bureaucrat who spoke in tough-sounding platitudes; his opposition, meanwhile, came in the form of shouting inner-city parents and a board that included the dimwitted “Reverend” David Murray, who had legally changed his first name to Reverend as an adult, and Otis Mathis, the board president who graduated from a DPS public school with a D-plus average, took fifteen years and a lawsuit against Wayne State University in order to receive his bachelor’s degree (claiming in his lawsuit that an English proficiency test required for graduation discriminated against African Americans), was forced to resign after fondling himself in front of a female school superintendent, and whose emails, leaked to the Detroit News, suggested a literacy on par with the majority of his failing students.

My Struggle: Book 2: A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard:
They’re Pentecostalists. I grew up there and was riddled with guilt about everything, the tiniest little thing. But they’re good people. It’s their life’s work. When the snow melts and sand is left on the pavement after the winter do you know what they do?” “No,” I said, since it was me she was looking at. “They sweep it up and give it back to the highways department.” “Is that true?” Anders asked. “Ha ha ha!” “They don’t drink alcohol, that goes without saying. And my father doesn’t drink tea or coffee, either. If he wants a treat in the morning he drinks hot water.” “I don’t believe that,” Anders said. “But it’s true,” Geir said. “He drinks hot water and they leave the sand by the gate for the highways department. They’re so good it’s almost impossible to be there.

Before Dostoyevsky, the ideal, even the Christian ideal, was always pure and strong, it was part of heaven, unattainable for almost everyone. The flesh was weak, the mind frail, but the ideal was unbending. The ideal was about aspiring, enduring, fighting the fight. In Dostoyevsky’s books everything is human, or rather, the human world is everything, including the ideals, which are turned on their heads: now they can be achieved if you give up, lose your grip, fill yourself with non-will rather than will. Humility and self- effacement, those are the ideals in Dostoyevsky’s foremost novels.

I found everything subterranean fascinating, it was like an adventure, I suppose this must have originated in my childhood when a cave was absolutely the most exciting find we could have made. One winter, I remembered, more than two meters of snow had fallen, it must have been in 1976 or 1977, and one weekend we dug small dens connected by tunnels stretching right across the garden to the neighbor’s. We were like creatures possessed and totally enchanted by the result when evening fell and we could sit chatting deep beneath the snow.

You can spend twenty pages describing a trip to the bathroom and hold your readers spellbound. How many people do you think can do that? How many writers would not have done that if only they could? Why do you think people spend their time touching up their modernist poems, with three words on each page? It’s because they have no other option.

Paul Celan’s mysterious, cipher-like language has nothing to do with inaccessibility or closedness, quite the contrary, it is about opening up what language normally does not have access to but that we still, somewhere deep inside us, know or recognize, or if we don’t, allows us to discover. Paul Celan’s words cannot be contradicted with words. What they possess cannot be transformed either, the word only exists there, and in each and every single person who absorbs it.

Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert:
The old women in black at early Mass in winter are a problem for him. He could tell by their eyes they have seen Christ. They make the kernel of his being and the clarity around it seem meager, as though he needs girders to hold up his unusable soul.

Why the mouth? Why is it the mouth we put to mouth at the final moments? Why not the famous groin? Because the groin is far away. The mouth is close up against the spirit. We couple desperately all night before setting out for years in prison. But that is the body’s goodbye. We kiss the person we love last thing before the coffin is shut, because it is our being touching the unknown. A kiss is the frontier in us.

We are given the trees so we can know what God looks like. And rivers so we might understand Him. We are allowed women so we can get into bed with the Lord, however partial and momentary that is.

The intimate body of the Valerie I know is not the secret body my friend knows. The luster of her breasts is conditional: clothed or not, desired or too familiar. The fact of them is mediated by morning or the depth of night when it’s pouring down rain. The reason we cannot enter the same woman twice is not because the mesh of energy flexes. It is a mystery separate from both matter and electrons.

It started when he was a young man and went to Italy. He climbed mountains, wanting to be a poet. But was troubled by what Dorothy Wordsworth wrote in her journal about William having worn himself out searching all day to find a simile for nightingale. It seemed a long way from the tug of passion. He ended up staying in pensioni where the old women would take up the children in the middle of the night to rent the room, carrying them warm and clinging to the mothers, the babies making a mewing sound. He began hunting for the second-rate. The insignificant ruins, the negligible museums, the back- country villages with only one pizzeria and two small bars. The unimproved.

Journal du Jour

I heard one explanation claim that the annual trek to hear Messiah is a kind of Protestant fertility rite (never mind that for many of us it happens in December!). Most explanations, however, end up saying little more than that Handel, a very good composer, had in Charles Jennens's compilation of Scripture texts an exceptionally fine libretto that inspired him to a peak performance. But that will hardly do to explain the phenomenon that is Handel's Messiah. Composers at least as good as Handel who have been as much inspired by great texts have written works that have not received a fraction of the veneration that has been bestowed on Messiah. - Handel's Messiah by C. Stapert 

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A languid Saturday morning this past weekend fell by the wayside by 10am and I was off for roadly distractions, my rolling man cave. First went to pick up the ashes of my sis-in-law Marsha's dog Blossom. I went to the vet's office and bluntly said, “I'm here to pick up remains for Blossom.” They were touchingly somber and tender with me, which was nice if misplace given that I had no feelings whatsoever for this dog, not knowing it from Adam since there are so many dogs at Marsha's. They had no way of knowing it wasn't my dog of course.

Then off to Grandview to buy a Christmas gift. Arrived before the 11am opening - surprised by this and by stores that open on weekends at 11 instead of 10; seems awfully late. Went to nearby Grandview Grind - who doth not love a coffee shop?  My dog is in the car along busy Grandview Avenue, and snow is falling outside the myriad of windows. Coffee shops - the new man caves? At least the clientele here is overwhelming male and technopiliac. The sine na qua of the new breed of coffee shop is the presence of comfortable leather chairs, big and inviting. Black and white artistic photos on the walls. Given the risk-aversion of the 21st century, this is likely the answer to 19th century's opium dens.

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I recall what Lino Rulli said yesterday, about how he said he would simultaneously be extremely fun for kids to be with but also hire a nanny to take care of them 95% of the time. 

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Took dog Buddy a short walk in nothing less than frigid weather: 22 degrees but with the punishing 18-20mph winds it has a wind chill of 7. But I was extremely warmly dressed, donning even a ski mask. Buddy seemed pretty inured to the cold. Amazing they can shrug off a 60-degree drop in felt temperature. The highlight for me was witnessing a shocking climatical event: briefly there was a patch of blue sky. Real, live blue sky amid the Victorian gray!

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The annual Messiah concert was excellent as always. In fact it improves with age. Even the slower sections were so much more meaningful and peace-inducing compared to the old days when the music other than the Hallelujah Chorus was unfamiliar.

Wouldn't be the Christmas season without that delicious, inspiring, goosebump inducing masterpiece. And oh these voices, and of amateurs no less! Professional singers deserve so much more money and acclaim than folks who kick or throw balls in sports, given the way great music makes you feel. The chills from the sopranos singing And He Will Purify is as electrifying as a homer in the 9th, but longer lasting.

It's kind of interesting how “mixed” the message of the Old Testament and New is as far as the coming messiah. In one case, you have Isaiah saying, “Who can stand the refining fire?” and in the next, “unto us a child is given”. There's that familiar tension between an awesome, fearsome God who judges and inflicts pain that we may be cured, and the gentle, mild lamb who comes to us and forgives us unconditionally. Funny that tension is even be evident in today's gospel in which John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask if Jesus was the one to come or not. The NAB notes say: “The question probably expresses a doubt of the Baptist that Jesus is the one who is to come (cf. Mal 3:1) because his mission has not been one of fiery judgment as John had expected (Mt 3:2).”

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This interview with bestselling novelist Amy Tan rings with me.:

Q: If you could bring back to life one deceased person, who would it be and why?
A: My grandmother. She’s someone I never met, and I would’ve loved to have met her. She’s been a huge influence on our entire family, not just me. She is a mystery. It’s not clear exactly what about her is truth and myth. A lot has been myth, and I’m uncovering what some of those are. She had attitudes that influenced my mother, and they lie within me. So I wanted to know what in me has been passed to me by my grandmother.
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Just the most fragment of morning moments today reading Goldfinch, a novel getting a lot of Catholic press of late, particularly in First Things and mentioned favorably by one Eve Tushnet. The author is Catholic and the book a bit controversial given the nihilism within (although that seems hardly different from any other modern novel). But the author can write and I enjoyed reliving my Metropolitan Museum of Art visit through the eyes of one of her characters.

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Fondled the NOAB (New Oxford Annotated) some last night and this morning. It's so obvious that my favorite Bible is the last one I've purchased. But really the Knox and the Message are the ones that really give a vivid newness to even familiar Scripture. I always enjoy those little prefaces on different books of the Bible; today read about how the editors of NOAB reconciled Paul's writings with James's.

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Great couple Marian holidays of late! Immaculate Conception on the 8th and then Guadalupe on the 12th. Say what you will about Mexico's dysfunctions political and economic, they'll always have the Virgin of Guadalupe. It feels sort of right that rich North America takes a back seat to poor South America in that way. The first shall be last. But my own tendency to think that “Mexicans have bragging rights” regarding the apparition and tilma is not the way Pope John Paul II or Pope Francis viewed it and instructed us to view it. They both attribute the Marian gift to all the Americas, uniting us North and South. Which seems right. We in the US can participate in the devotion as well! I went out on YouTube and found a 2007 video of the basilica where the tilma image resides and everyone singing a Marian hymn famous to them (not familiar to me). Amazing to think that I'd been to that very basilica and seen that miraculous image!

December 12, 2013

This Reads Like Parody

This NY Post column has to be a put on:
The president of the United States, leader of the free world, standard-bearer for everything upright, good and wholesome about the nation he leads, lost his morality, his dignity and his mind, using the solemn occasion of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service Tuesday to act like a hormone-ravaged frat boy on a road trip to a strip bar.

In front of 91 world leaders, the mourning nation of South Africa and Obama’s clearly furious wife, Michelle, the president flirted, giggled, whispered like a recalcitrant child and made a damn fool of himself at first sight of Denmark’s voluptuously curvy and married prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Not to be outdone by the president’s bad behavior, the Danish hellcat hiked up her skirt to expose long Scandinavian legs covered by nothing more substantial than sheer black stockings....

Thorning-Schmidt placed her hands dangerously close to Obama’s side. The president’s cackling head moved inches from the Danish tart’s and yards away from his wife’s.
Obama then proceeded to absorb body heat from the Dane, which he won’t be feeling at home for a long time.
You can't make it up.

Our Dog Makes Me Look 68% Less Lazy


December 11, 2013

St. Nicholas Facts

I'm surprised that good St. Nick, so famous for easy-going largesse, once punched a heretic*.  If we tend to sometimes think of Jesus as mild-mannered and milquetoast, it seems we do it with other figures as well (St. Francis for another).   From Brandon Vogt's blog:
Today marks the feast of St. Nicholas, a saint remembered by most for his association with Santa Claus, some for his commendable charity, but a small number for his famous punch against a third-century heretic.

As the story goes, during the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea (AD 325) there was a big argument over the divinity of Christ. Arius, a heretical bishop, believed that Christ was not divine, but rather just a creature. The Council challenged him to defend his claims in front of his brother bishops, including jolly old St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas tried to listen patiently but he considered Arius’ proposal so radical, so heretical, that he could no longer contain himself. In the middle of the speech, he rose with a scowl, charged toward Arius, and punched him right in the face...

Unfortunately, the Punch got St. Nichols into serious trouble. The Emperor Constantine was present at the Council, and he was so alarmed by St. Nicholas’ act of violence that he and the other bishops stripped Nicholas of his office and confiscated his two episcopal markers: his personal copy of the Gospels and his pallium, the vestment worn by all bishops in the East.
(From here:
http://brandonvogt.com/the-saint-who-punched-a-heretic/ )

* - Speaking of heretic, I tease the pre-Vatican II church fans out there, but I think the Church's definition of being pastoral then was referring to a heretic with the softening modifier "material".  Now it's "separated brothers and sisters" ('sisters and brothers"?).

And from "Co-Workers of the Truth", we see that miracles were seen as ambiguous by the early church:
"Nicholas is one of the first of those venerated as saints without being martyrs. During the time when Christians were persecuted, those who resisted the powers of the pagan state and in defense of their faith pledged their very lives were spontaneously looked upon as the great guiding lights of the Faith. One of the sacred legends aptly states that all kinds of miracles could also be repeated by sorcerers and demons, and so they would remain ambiguous. One thing only would be totally unambiguous and not open to any deception: to practice goodness a whole life long; to live the Faith and hold fast to love in the common affairs of every day. The people of the fourth century experienced this miracle in Nicholas, and all the other miracle-stories, invented by later legends, are only variations of this one and fundamental miracle seen by the people, with admiration and gratitude, as the morning star that reflects the light of Christ. In this man they recognized what it means to believe in God made man; in him the dogma of Nicaea found its tangible interpretation for them." - Cardinal Ratzinger

December 06, 2013

Oh No! Not More on the Pope and Economics! Please Say It's Not So!

I have no idea why this picture is here.
Oh delicious, ye work days! You gentle hills and swales of Average day spent fulfilling the “holy purposes” of prayer, work, and meal. Building body, soul and mind. Oh I shall miss you someday, you work, I say only half-kiddingly!

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Just read a bit of the Pope's nutritious exhortation! Gosh but he knows how to exhort. Has a lively style and is disarmingly honest.

He writes of how sweet a God is who says in Scripture (Sirach):
“My child, treat yourself well, according to your means… Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment.” (Sir 14:11, 14)
Of course the downside of Bible commentaries is they often throw cold water. The NABRE mention “three realities govern Ben Sira's advice on wealth”, one being the lack of post-earthly life reward or punishment.  The Collegeville chips in similarity, pointing out that Ben had a traditional Jewish view of death as the end and thus of the “enjoy it while you've got it” philosophy:
In his teaching on the good use of wealth (vv. 11–19), Ben Sira is no Christian ascetic, practicing evangelical poverty. Rather, he acknowledges the wealth and position of his disciples and counsels them on the best way to live in their conditions. First of all, enjoy wealth (v. 11, the theme). The motive, surprisingly, is the approach of death.
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On the Pope and economics, I'm completely confused by all the cross-talk and chatter, some folks saying the Pope didn't even use the word capitalism and thus this was all about consumerism, and others calling him a Marxist and still others defending the Pope by saying he's not a Marxist but isn't a fan of unfettered capitalism and then someone else saying there is NO SUCH THING as unfettered capitalism given the government beast and that seems true and so I'm more confused than ever, and it hasn't been helped by my not reading the Exhortation yet, nor by my not reading it in the original Latin where supposedly the term “trickle-down” doesn't appear.

I's so confuzed!

But one thing's for sure: I'm not so much bothered by the pope's view of economics as the seeming lack of humility around the issue. I think it'd been grand if he said something to the effect that he wasn't an economist and that many people differ on these questions. Somebody wrote that the Church, for all her incredible works, has done less to lift people out of poverty than the free market. Perhaps one should feel a smidgeon of gratitude for something that has benefited so many, it seems like. The Church in general seems skimping in its praise of science, especially in advances in economics and medicine. On the other hand science is as nothing compared to religion given that the comfort of our earthly lives are as nothing compared to the importance of our eternal fate. Pretty hard to get worked up over a cure for polio when more and more souls are potentially damned.

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But.... when Heather King expounded on the minimum wage, there wasn't even the slightest nod that it could possibly cost jobs. (Although perhaps more likely the increase in wages will get passed on to the consumer, which is certainly much preferable to lost jobs.) But to have not even mentioned that that is a possibility seems to show a lack of nuance and ignorance at best, or a lack of charity towards ideological opponents at worst. Either way it's needlessly off-putting but could be addressed simply by admitting you're not an expert and that there these things are debated among people of good will on both sides.

In the end, I suppose everyone thinks they can play economist, much like everyone feels they could be a opinion columnist.  And certainly there's tremendous disagreement within the profession given the likes of the Austrian school versus a Paul Krugman.

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So there was Adoration, where I prayed for poor a Therese, a blogger/writer suffering from a depression intense and enduring. She says in an interview with OSV:
People who told me to find meaning in suffering meant well, but it contributes to self-hatred because I thought they were right, that it was a blessing to hurt and that I should want to hurt for Jesus.
It was nice though to be reminded by God that He loves her far more than I do, knows her far more than I do.  And providentially I came upon some beautiful Scripture in the Morning Prayer: “I will turn their mourning into joy…never again shall they languish…Then the virgins shall be merry and dance.” And the depressives as well!

Also liked this, from Isaiah (the book of the season of Advent):
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor.
I like this because it says in the first part the savior, the righteous one, will not judge by the senses. It's the polar opposite of my one-time lament, some 20 years ago, daring God to be as real to me as the raging of my hormones.

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I wrote something for Mrs. D's blog on her annual “I remember Mrs. Darwin…” theme but, as always, I find what Elizabeth Duffy writes so witty: 
You reached out your thin wrinkled and freckled hand and said, “Sometimes I wish I'd spent less time with my kids and more time building my personal brand. The kids are a thankless bunch, but the internet was always appreciative.” 
She's a laugh riot!

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UPDATE:  Peggy Noonan rules! She writes of Pope Francis:

The pope has a way of colorfully saying, through words and actions, that the church is on the side of the poor—the materially and spiritually poor—and always has been. I think he's saying that here: that the Church has a bias for the poor and impatience toward those who would abuse them. And he is speaking not infallibly but as a matter of a worldview rightly shared.
The popes of the modern era have been more or less European social democrats, of the economic left. I've never heard a pope worry about the depressive effects of high tax rates, have you? Or the dangers of high spending? Popes are sometimes geniuses but not economists.
And priests are like soldiers. I've never met a member of the military who cared much about taxing and spending. Their general view is that taxes should be high enough to allow a great nation to support a first-rate military and keep you safe, end of story. Soldiers aren't really paid commensurate with their responsibility and importance; it's not as if they're in the 60% bracket. Priests tend to be like that, too. They're not paid much, they're housed and fed by their order or parish. Taxes are more or less abstract to them. How high should taxes be? High enough for a first-rate country to help its citizens get the good things they need, end of story.

Related Video

Declarations columnist Peggy Noonan on what the President should do to end the Healthcare.gov rollout debacle. Photo: Associated Press
Priests know what's important in life, and it isn't money. You have to factor that in when you talk economic policy with them, just as you have to factor in that soldiers would give their lives for you.
Back to Francis, previous popes and economic policy. Our experience forms us. It shapes our thoughts and assumptions. John Paul II and Benedict XVI came from a particular 20th-century European experience. In their youth it was the rise of Nazism, and through their adult lives it was the constant threat of Soviet communism, which was both expansionist—it took John Paul's Poland and half of Benedict's Germany—and atheistic. They saw communism as a limiter of freedom and a distorter of the human heart.
The great foe of Soviet communism? America and the West, which had the wherewithal and spiritual strength to resist it. The West brought with it—was rich because of—free-market capitalism. John Paul and Benedict, whatever their private thoughts on how nations should arrange themselves economically, came to have a natural appreciation and respect for what made the West wealthy. They understood its positive utility.
Francis may turn out to be different in this regard. It is possible his appreciation for the wider apparatus of economic freedom does not run so deep. He is from Argentina, not a frontline state in the Cold War, and not necessarily a place—Peronism, corporatism, the military's influence, the intertwining of money and government—that would give you a dreamy sense of free-market potential. Trickle-down didn't always work so well there.

December 03, 2013

Linkages...

Higher education bubble?

Funny Christmas list making the Facebook rounds.

For breast-feeding moms, milk stout's the thing!

E-readers more effective than paper for some dyslexic readers.

Eric Sheske on Rush Limbaugh calling Pope Francis a "Marxist"

Another response to Limbaugh (Fr. Z). And Ross Douthat.

Concerning a Beagle and Translations of Aquinas

So gruesome: one of my sister-in-law's five dogs attacked and killed another dog last week while she and her husband were out.  It looked like a crime scene.  My sister-in-law now loathes the beagle perpetrator and wanted her out of the house immediately, and euthanized.  We are taking it until passions hopefully cool.

I'd searched the Internet and there are studies showing that dog-on-dog aggression was far more prevalent by boxer breed (my sis-in-law's big dog) than beagles. So I'm getting skeptical of the “official” verdict, which was based on blood on the beagle (we think she rolled in it) and vomiting blood (we think she licked it up). So we  made our case, and I'm hoping they'll take the dog back.

The endurance exhibited by a howling beagle is surreal; I thought surely she would bark herself hoarse. Apparently that's not possible. They must have vocal chords made of rust-proof steel.  If anyone wants a unfairly accused beagle, comment forthwith!

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I think there's a point at which an interface is TOO attractive. That point is reached when you stare at its creamy visage just for the sake of staring at its creamy visage. That LOGOS Bible app in particular, and Apple ios7 in general, is a bit too rich. With the e-ink Kindle there's nothing to do but read and so I do. There's no distraction of shining, gleaming surfaces and elegant graphics.

It wasn't a shining, gleaming sort of day.  The psychic hangover from having worked just two days of the last two weeks presented itself in the form of a grouse-y morning mood that coffee was unable to alter. (Though the altar helped.)

The dog problem hangs over us and I feel it steeply. I fear it won't end well and I don't like the delay in having it settled. There's the unspoken tension of whether we'll take the dog semi-permanently. A week feels like a surprisingly long time when you have a dog on death row. Steph's blithely buying the dog beds and bark collars, which aren't quite in the same category as last meals. But she did send her sister the needed “come to Jesus” missive, explaining the unfairness of hanging the wrong dog. (Come to think of it, no wonder the beagle has a hang-dog expression….This completes the gallows humor section of today's post).

Sister-in-law responded by saying she didn't want to deal with that issue now. Maybe later in the week.


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A relative on my wife's side upset that his father blew through $400k in inheritance that could've/would've/might've leaked down to him. Knows he has no right to complain given it's not money he earned but it still nags at him that another grandchild did receive $400k because that grandchild's father had died.

You have to look at inheritances like you bonuses at work: I never quite got the folks who complained about not getting a bonus some year given that it's a bonus, i.e. something imaginary until proven otherwise, sort of like a unicorn. Not something to count on.

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In a not unrelated trend, article in paper said many baby boomers are moving to South and Central America for retirement, where the dollar goes farther and the climate is warm. Reminds me of that book I got when I was 25 titled “How to Retire at 35” (the short answer is: make good money, save about $200-300K and then retire in Mexico. Easier said than done on all fronts.)

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Read more of Ben Wiker's illuminating Moral Darwinism.  You can certainly appreciate why it gained traction given discoveries of how mathematical and mechanical the universe turned out to be, despite the irony that that only goes to show how planned and designed it all looks.  It's interesting how the philosophy got spread through indirect means such as the beauty of the poetry of Lucretius and the inadvertent ministrations of the anti-Aristotelians.

*

A blogger wrote on depression, that if our pleasures are the shifting sands on which we build ourselves then we'll crash and burn. I had thought St. Thomas said one couldn't live without pleasure.  But turns out he actually said this:
Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures.

It's surprisingly hard to track down the source of that Aquinas quote.  A ton of references on the web but no source.  Appears on Wikipedia as "unsourced".  A search of the English version on New Advent didn't get any hits on the Summa, and couldn't find it on Summa Contra Gentiles. 

I found something similar here in the Summa in English on New Advent:

Article 1. Whether joy is effected in us by charity?

Objection 1. It would seem that joy is not effected in us by charity. For the absence of what we love causes sorrow rather than joy. But God, Whom we love by charity, is absent from us, so long as we are in this state of life, since "while we are in the body, we are absent from the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6). Therefore charity causes sorrow in us rather than joy

But, beware translations!

I looked up the same passage via a Latin-English parallel version and this is what it said:

Question 28. The effects of love Is union an effect of love? Is mutual indwelling an effect of love? Is ecstasy an effect of love? Is zeal an effect of love? Is love a passion that is hurtful to the lover? Is love cause of all that the lover does? 
Deinde considerandum est de effectibus amoris. Et circa hoc quaeruntur sex. Primo, utrum unio sit effectus amoris. Secundo, utrum mutua inhaesio. Tertio, utrum extasis sit effectus amoris. Quarto, utrum zelus. Quinto, utrum amor sit passio laesiva amantis. Sexto, utrum amor sit causa omnium quae amans agit.

This Just In...

The Knox Bible and other old-timey versions stick to some rather old-fashioned book names, “Paralipomenon” and “Ecclasticus” and “Osee” and “3 Kings”. I don't know why it would kill makers of these Bibles to provide the modern names of the books next to the old names in the table of contents. Spent some time setting up a cross-reference lists. Seems complicated enough to have something like 70 books in the Bible without having some of them named three different things.

Set (trivial) rant off.

*
Lady Wisdom

Satisfying read of late: I swum in the heady sea of the Book of Wisdom, one of my favorites, and perhaps understandably so given that it's said to be the book closest in time to the New Testament writings and thus having that “modern” NT sheen to it that I find compelling. The book was written by a erudite Jew in bookish Alexandria, an intellectual quite familiar with the Greek philosophers and a sort of Thomas Aquinas of his time in his attempt to reconcile Greek philosophy with revelation.

Some of the book reads like poetry in the Knox if not in the more blue collar Message. I went from Bible to Bible like flower to flower, from the NJB to the NAB to the NRSV to the JB. These Bibles I have downstairs are inconveniently located and I dream of some innovative placement developed in retirement; a built in shelf along the edge of the coffee table or, better yet, a science fiction-inspired floating tray of Bibles. Alas and alack there is no cure for laziness I suppose.

The sheer physicality and diversity of Bibles is intoxicating. The perfect font and elegant flourishes of The Message:Catholic Ecumenical Version seem to in some ways undercut the “vulgate” language. I can't hold the Knox and not dream of getting it rebound like the blogger at Catholic Bibles did. The Little Rock Study Bible (NABre) was surprisingly pleasant, with graphics and sidebar. The magisterial Vatican Bible, over a foot tall and had for only $25, complements the collection by offering a stunning tableau for the Holy Scriptures, garnished with medieval art. It's the closest thing I have to an illustrated manuscript.

Then after having drunk my fill of those wondrous words, I caught some of Karl Ove's My Struggle and was lucky enough to hit a bright spell, a stretch of happiness, in the life of the main character. Then onto Mobius Dick, for a rich taste of that quintessential New England chowder, but not before a bit more of Wiker's fascinating history.

Pope Francis Links Perhaps of Interest

http://www.aleteia.org/en/arts-entertainment/article/the-cosmic-struggle-between-darkness-and-light-18084001
Gosh, this following link seems crazy. Who knew? It's possible the "I felt something was wrong from the very beginning" was Satan talking:

http://blog.steveskojec.com/2013/11/13/intuition-infighting-and-our-divided-house/

Trip of Logs, Log of Trips

Land ahoy skipper we've hit sea! Ah 'twas bliss to be in the land of half-sleep on the plane, thinking about achieving Florida, the land of my dream.

On de plane, de plane, enjoyed coffee while reading the memoirs of U.S. Grant, a sort of salve for the too much of-the-moment news I've been recently deluged in (i.e. the Obamacare Obomination and Wreckovation Act).

I was ruffled by want of a cigar, and the golden turd stud like a sentry on the coffee table of our new digs at Island Inn, a quaint l
ittle series of cottages. The lanai is expansive. Plenty of room for a touch football game if one so desired, but of course I won't.

After checking in we got our bikes right at the place then we headed, ravenous, to the nearest food joint. We took a short-me-cut, an unpaved road (“Island road” creatively called) and it was fabulously uncrowded to the point of it being our private road with no through traffic. It adjoined a small nature preserve  and there were many signs warning of “alligator habitation”, which was music to my ears. Must run there, ride there.

Suddenly it was 5 and the sun was threatening to set so my brother & sister-in-law headed out on their bikes back to their place while Steph and I touched beach for a precious 45 minutes (20 of it I spent running, or what passes for 'running' these days).

Now at 6:20, it's completely dark, way too early. We plan on going to dinner with D & P at the joint here. Live music at 7.

So a full and pleasant day. Check in at 2pm, lunch al fresco, then shopping, then a brotherly visit and capped by a run on the beach. Nice work if you can get it.

Heard my brother talk about his kids and am tickled by how Allison loves words, especially unfamiliar words. (He, who tore the pages from books in high school as he read the hated pages.) She likes to write and read; I tend to think once that hook of reading literature has ensnared you, you are hooked for good.

SUNDAY

Oh the glories of morning sun. Sitting in the lania, the sun shafts rays upon the edge of it, lighting up the translucently green leaves of tropical-looking plantings. A rich harvest of sun in this state, no wonder it's called “The Sunshine State”. They know how to market, witness the popularity. The morning drew me irrepressibly to the beach so we walked along it while Steph looked for shells and I admired the calming sound of waves gathering and falling and the scalloped shore. Heard the pleasing rattle of waves jingling her sea jewels, the shells that lay at shoreline.

Very simple continental breakfast here but at least there's hard-boiled eggs (if no milk or cereal). Pleasingly large buffet room with plenty of windows. Nearby there's a little library even more filled with south-facing windows and I dreamed of how great it would be to call that oasis my study room. Sat for awhile on the guest chairs out on the property, the sand at our feet. I read some of Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage and a non-fiction book about risk and modernity's approach to it.

*

A full, fun day. First church, inspiring and soul-restoring. Long, but not burdensomely so. Four and five verses sung of all the songs, these retirees have a lot of time on their hands.

Mass was preceded by speeches by a group supporting education among poor black youth. Opening song was about 10:42am, just in time for D & P to make it (they'd gotten lost on the way there again.) Huge crucified Christ above the altar, and it spoke to me of intercessory prayer, of Christ's intercessory prayer on our behalf to the Father.  There's no better way to “ground oneself” than to look skyward.

After Mass brother Doug & P. headed back to our place to plan the day. P wanted to spend some time reading and lazing around the beach or pool, of which I could relate, so we decided to do a quick lunch at the famous Bubble Room in Captiva followed by a kayak ride. Get home around 3pm was the plan, plenty of time for P to unwind in the sun, but needless to say that didn't happen till dusk.

In the meantime, Doug & P. had to bike back to their place, then come back and pick us up on the way to the Bubble Room. It was fun to show off that one-of-a-kind restaurant to newbies Steph & P. It does kind of take your breath away the first time you're in there, if less so the second. Not a calorically friendly meal but then we would be kayaking -- if the kayak rental lady would stop talking. It was almost comical how garrulous she was, how any stray comment by us could be expounded upon at surprisingly discursive length. It made you want to holster your comments lest she get started, but gosh you have to love how dedicated she was and how indifferent to her own situation because she had somewhere to tonight which was dependent on us getting back promptly at 4, but given the length of her commentary we were lucky to even start the trip at all before 4. (We ended up getting back around 4:15, which was pretty good all things considered.)

It was a pleasure to show Steph and P. the wilds of tunneled swampish land where big black crabs like spiders lurk. Very atmospheric to the point of spooky. We saw the snout of a big manatee above the water in the marina area and then had the pleasure of a “welcoming committee”, as the kayak lady described it, of a corcorman begging for treats, right next to the boat. Later, a graceful dolphin.
After the trip we headed back and out directly to the beach where sand fleas predominated, driving me to the pool and eventually driving me to the safety of the lanai. Those guys can itch you! Now a grand sunset and that bright Polaris (?) star hold forth. Palms and a species of evergreen I can't identify stand in silent witness to the scene. Absent “no see ums”, thank you.

Listened to music in particular, the song Near You - a duet by George Jones and Tammy Wynette - which continues to enthrall me. I'm not sure why but the song has legs for me. Heard Patty Loveless sing That Kind of Girl via the magic of YouTube. I recall that song, sung on a country awards show, as the final “straw” as far as converting me to country music back in the '90s. Her hairstyle in the video was off-puttingly unfashionable and yet no doubt at the time (not so long ago!) it was so fetching. Fashions change but I didn't think I was caught up in them so much. I thought that if you were young during the '80s you wouldn't ever think the '80s hairstyle outdated, much as you might always appreciate '80s music despite subsequent musical evolutions. But for whatever reason those hairstyles seem dated and unattractive even though at the time they were seen as fantastic. This doesn't seem to always happen though, since in the old movies of the '40s, doesn't Lauren Bacall's hair look fantastic? Or Grace Kelly's? I guess there's a classic look that never changes.


MONDAY:

Boy but the “no see 'ums” last night were fierce! This morning Steph has scores of bites along both legs and back despite being out by the pool for just a matter of minutes. Seems to have continued to itch her at night, while my bites didn't and haven't seemed to have raised any welts. We put on some insect repellant but apparently too late. It does make me realize how important insect repellant can be even on a beach trip. It's certainly the first time I'd been chased off a beach by insects.

Last day for Doug & P, and they invited us over to their place to grill out hamburgers and hotdogs tonight. The huge downer is that Steph got eaten alive by the “no see ums” on Sunday and is itching like crazy. For some reason she's more allergic than I was. Apparently it takes a loooong time (3-4 days) to get over the itching so we're looking at maybe Thursday for relief for her.  (Later in the week her skin would look as though she had leprosy given the thousand bites-on-bites.)

We had breakfast at the impressive Over Easy Cafe. Despite a very large breakfast crowd we got very fast service. And it's a very short bike ride of a half a mile away. After breakfast Steph was in her heaven at a dog-themed shop, buying a t-shirt there. I looked around and then sat on a rocker outside.  Oh glories of glory the morning Floridian sun!  It is a sheer unparalleled blessedness! It blows away such trinkets as diamonds and jewels. Too often it's overlooked because it's free, or at least sometimes is.

*

Doug told us the wild story of his long-time friend once spread-eagled naked on a four-lane road in Iowa, and how he spent the night in jail. The judge gave him credit for time served if he agreed never to come back to Iowa. So his friend is banned from Iowa!  If you're going to be banned from a state that's not the worst one I suppose.

*

After breakfast we headed out for a bike ride on a spectacularly gorgeous day. Pure-spun weather with the gilded leaves of tropical plants and flowers flanking the bike path along the West Gulf. P. set a 1:30 nails appointment for her and Steph and so they went to that while Doug & I rented kayaks. We headed straight out, towards Havana, Cuba, but only made it one mile before turning around. Still it was pretty neat to be a mile off the beach under our own power. Doug got out of the kayak just so he could say he swam a mile from the beach. We saw a dolphin pretty close by. A fishing boat came towards us but seemed to have saw us and thus, thankfully, not run us over.

After kayaking we went to play tennis. But wow am I not in shape for tennis or what? Fun and intense but it made my legs into jelly and I couldn't imagine riding bike back to their place that night so we ended up wimping out and getting a cab for $10.

TUESDAY

Finally le' Beach! 11am on Tuesday and it's the first full beach time. Crazy. To mark the occasion there are a couple of dolphins swimming in tandem in front of me. Ahhh….this is a life.
This morning another lovely breakfast at Over Easy Cafe followed by a bike ride around the paths near Island Inn. Impressive number of trails. And we're so close to not one but three book stores! And much closer to Ding Darling than before. Nice part of the island for sure even if a (slightly) longer cab drive from the airport.

Watching the birds on the shoreline.... In the latest NR, a columnist argues that “Far from presenting any threat to human dignity, animals and their moral claims upon us [not to be cruel] are a constant hindrance to human presumption. What is the mark of that special status of ours, anyway, if not precisely the ability to be just instead of merely dominant, to be the creature of conscience and bring mercy into the world?”

Also reading today the novel Goldfinch and some of Charles Krauthammer's latest book of columns. He's the new George Will. Krauthammer can be funny!  Who knew?  And, of course, very smart. Also read a bit of Ann Coulter's latest, “Never Trust a Liberal Under 3”. Unfortunately her style is often childish (such as that title!) that it sort of plays into the trope that conservatives are stupid. Which is ironic because in her book she rails against Tea Party stupidity, not in policies but in political strategy (i.e. talk about rape, rarely a good idea). Not sure reading political books is the best use of vacation time though.

WEDNESDAY

After a good night's sleep started off with Mass at St. Isabella's. It's an easy bike ride, about 1.6 miles away, and the starting time is a gentle 8:30. Not too early, not too late. The gospel was from Luke about the parable of the use of talents and how one fellow thought that the king was a hard man, reaping where he did not sow and “taking up what he did not lay down”. The ultimate refutation of the notion of God as a “hard man” was that Christ did "lay down" (his life), which is where He was heading at the time he gave that parable: to Jerusalem and his death.

Back at the Inn, we made breakfast. Keen idea, especially since there is nothing better than scrambled eggs with diced ham along with a side of bacon. Yum, yum.

Then what to do with this “summer” day? We decided to ride bikes to Ding Darling park, a capital idea. On yet another sunny day, we hit the path and ended up doing about 13 miles, four of it inside Ding Darling. We saw plenty of kinds of birds: a flying pink one (flamingo maybe, though it looked smaller) and my favorite, the white ibis with their handy exaggerated beaks made for sand-pecking with minimal effort. How convenient.

We caught up with the tram tour group and the guide gave a garrulous account of the evolution of Sanibel, the future (“will eventually be washed out to see by rising sea levels”), the genesis of mangroves, how baby mangrove trees are born and raised (not via seed), speculations on why fish were joyously leaping high up out of the water (they did so often as fireflies at night), and the rarity and endangerment of the sawtooth sharks we saw in the water.

No gators were sighted despite a big sign that said, more or less, “Caution: You Are About to Enter the Gator Zone”.

Anyway the bikes were a great way to see Ding Darling - made you feel a part of the surroundings, under your own power at your own pace and with the rhythm biking provides.

Then we headed out of the park to Bowman's Beach, which supposedly has good shelling. While Steph did her thing I rested and read Ben Wiker's book via Kindle. The shelling wasn't spectacular and Steph came back after about 20 minutes. Gathered up my things and helped an old lady over a sand dune and then to the parking lot when I realized: no Kindle! I ran back and found it totally submerged under a wave! Never a good sight, to see an electronic device in sea water.

Fortunately it's still working, though I haven't charged it yet and don't know about the longer term effects of the salt corrosion.

We rode back to the inn and fried up some delicious ham & cheese sandwiches before heading to the beach. Very late start today - around 3:30! Read some of Ben Wiker's book and then the Every Day is Saturday the home-made book by a Sanibel fisherman.

Nature-wise, a fine variety to the day: from the fecund tropical leaves and flowers jungle-like flanking the bike path to the “desert” image of just ocean and sky, the clean line of horizon meeting sea. Biking and sunbathing complement one another.

Then, precisely at 4:40pm, the little munchers (“flying teeth” as the natives put it) came out, the dreaded “no-see-ums”. They didn't seem particularly repelled by the insect repellant I'd applied, so we headed back to the relative safety of the screened-in lanai where I smoked a cigar as additional insurance. Then some Ballast Point Big Eye IPA, appropriately appointed with a big ol' fish in this land of seafood.  Only a single star visible in the south sky, night after night, and it's gaudily bright. I learned from Doug it's not a star but a planet: Venus.

We had a delicious if ridiculously expensive “to go” dinner from Traditions, the restaurant on the property. Had the three course early bird special for $70 (gratuity auto-added for takeout!). But the food was good: steak in a wonderful sauce; sautéed potatoes, mixed veggies, a salad, awesomely good bread and key lime pie for dessert.

The grounds here are physically quite attractive, especially the old, gnarled trees that almost make you feel like you're on a southern plantation. There's a nice history to the place, having become established by the Matthews family in the 1890s and eventually becoming financially strapped in the late 1950s. They sold it for $12,000 to a group of loyal guests, and those guests or heirs to this day own it.

Weather-wise, you can't go wrong with south Florida in November. It's only in January & February  it gets dicey.

THURSDAY

Tis a blast to start the day “crisp”, to hit the lanai running and via the magic of YouTube listen to sentimental oldies like Today, While the Blossums, Lord of the Dance (with the understated lyric concerning the Crucifixion, “it's hard to dance with the devil on your back”), Andrew Gold's Thank You for Being a Friend, and Sinatra singing Younger than Springtime.

Now at 8:30 the sun is crisp as well, with plants and trees casting crisp shadows and the hue of blue ocean sharpened. I thought about walking the beach in the 6:45-ish era but sat down instead even though it is special to see the sea at various times of day and in manifold conditions.

Thursday afternoon alas. There's never enough time unless you're serving it. Every droplet of literary goodness from the Kindle feels unexpectedly nourishing. Charles Krauthammer's new book reads like gold when overlooking the spectacularly civilized white buildings and finely landscaped acreage. I sit in the splendor of “old Florida”, sipping a Two-Hearted ale and admiring the fantastically shaped trees. It's a windswept, manicured oasis and deserving of a little “sit out” time, even if it's stealing time from the eternal beach.

We hit the beach early today, 10am, because it was supposed to be cloudy and rainy all afternoon. As seemingly always happens on beaches (as opposed to Cloudumbus), it was sunny and mild all day. A few clouds, textured like pachyderm skin. I trotted out an obligatory run on the beach, my legs feeling thud-heavy, and ran by a huge whelk (still living) and a decent-sized live fish, flapping away. Sighted a dolphin, or maybe a shark. I later even swam for a bit, in waters a tad chilly. Then we headed off on bikes down that treasured Island Inn road, a wide private bike path, past the alligator habitation signs We went down one of the alleys but no gators were found and I thought about photoshopping myself with one as a joke for grandson Sam's sake. Then I headed to the local bookstore and checked out the treasures, feeding my desire to read (and also incurring pangs of nostalgia for newly printed books) while Steph headed to the local shell store. The shell she was looking for, has been looking for for ages, was there but $100. She said she doesn't want to buy the shell but would almost pay $100 to find one, and I'm sorely tempted on romantic impulse to buy it tomorrow for her and plant it on the beach near our chairs. It's the sort of extravagant un-conservative gesture I'm so not known for and thus ought do. I would have to tell her, of course, it was store-bought - which might take the whole thrill of finding one away from her - but who knows if she'll ever find one? Is there joy in looking apart from finding?

Being indoors, even in a bookstore, when earth and sea are becomingly beautiful seems wasteful but I've decided if you wait for rain in the Sunshine State to hit a bookstore, you'll never hit one.

We also stopped for yogurt-ice cream, or ice-cream yogurt, some sort of newfangled shop that serves something that bends boundaries and we had some of that fine product. Then back to the Inn for a hotdog lunch, courtesy my brother's leftovers.

And now already at 4:25, the flies are biting and the light is aged on the day before the day before we leave.

FRIDAY

Fiftieth anniversary of JFK's death. Astonishing how much coverage it's been receiving this month. Six days of coverage in local paper and scores of television programs, books, etc…

According to some authors, JFK was maturing spiritually in the last months of his life, getting closer to Jackie. But that contradicts recent sordid revelations of him with a teenager in late '63. It's puzzling to think of St. Padre Pio's assertion that JFK went immediately to Heaven.  I googled for "Padre Pio" and "John F. Kennedy" and there was an article conjecturing about the possibility of Kennedy, who was actually a pretty devout Catholic despite his flaws, might've gone to Confession the morning of the 22nd.

*

I used to think vacations were wasteful, too evanescent. What have you to show for them? You buy a television or a gemstone and you have something tangible forever, or what passes for "forever" in human terms. But a vacation is over in a week, maybe two. But what a wrongheaded materialistic view! What of experiences for their own sake? If we think of ourselves as machines, we deny ourselves rest. There is a humble creatureliness in recognizing the need for something seemingly so extraneous and “wasteful' as a vacation.

Found a hidden-away bike path that runs parallel to Rabbit road, so was able to avoid the latter. Lots of alligator habitation signs subtitled in various languages (“Achtung!” started one) but no alligators. I came to a bridge with an overlook at a lady said that you might see a snapping turtle but that all the alligators have been killed. Too near homes I would guess. Explains why the reptiles have been so elusive this trip.

*

So another fine-spun day. 'Round about noon we headed out (after a short solo trip to le beach by me, reading Wiker's book) to Bailey's General Store for a shell net. While Steph was in there I made an excuse to go to Macintosh bookstore when instead I hit She Sells Seashells. A rude balding guy who gave me the cold shoulder, ignoring me until I said I was interested in a hundred dollar shell.

Unfortunately I didn't know the name of the shell Steph wanted (I think I called it a “Nutella” after the child's dessert). He had no idea but eventually said something that was like “pneumonia” which I think was it, though I didn't take the risk and buy one. Later I found out the shell name started with a “j”. Lord almighty, would it kill them to name shells “Smith” or “Jones”?

So I headed back to Bailey's and then we headed on the loooooong bike ride to Captiva. Only about 8-9 miles one way but it was hot. We eventually landed on that blissful Blind Pass beach. The Gulf waters were amazingly clear here and Steph spent a couple hours shelling while I waded, listened to jazz on the radio and read a bit of Krauthammer. Mellow, relaxing time though the clear waters made me wish I'd brought snorkel equip this trip.

We ate at a restaurant called Flamingo near the Captiva/ Sanibel (undefended) border. Fried grouper, yum. Also a Florida Ave IPA. Michigan fan was the owner though. A humble one though given MI's recent football woes. No such humility on our part, given 23 straight OSU wins.

Then the miles back to the place, much cooler, with the slanting sun to our right.

SATURDAY

Couldn't really zone out on this last day due to the ping-ping-ping rapid-fire schedule. The golden moment was out on the surf one last brief, shining time. Just 45 minutes of kayaking and it felt like 10, which tells me that I do underestimate how much I get out of it, especially since this was my third time kayaking in a week! I rode along the beach although at about a football field's length or more. Later I went farther out and came across a swimmer! She was wearing one of those latex head coverings for swimming and I thought how it would be cool to have one of those to keep water from getting in my ears. Can't really swim with any sort of enjoyment or abandon when you're worried about water in the ears creating a month of clogged ears, as happened some years back. Or worse, a severe earache like my nephew experienced.

The swimmer, surprisingly, stopped to talk. She said the fish were nibbling at her toes!
I continued on my trek and then came across a very welcome sight: three of four dolphins playing (or fighting?) dead ahead! For about five or ten minutes I watched them, only about the length of a large room away from me. I was taken aback by how loud their snorts of water from their blowholes, and also the sleek, shine of their skin. I tried to paddle closer, using the oars as quietly as possible. I thought about just trying to go real fast towards them for that glimpse of them very near but obviously they can out-speed me and swim away. It was a special moment though, and a nice cap to the trip.

*

On the cab ride to the airport, the cabbie was none too impressed with the insurance industry. He seemed to think it an easy way to make money, which no doubt it is compared to making physical things, and pointed out how ridiculous it seemed to have insurance companies re-insuring some of their stuff. He said he was waiting for reinsurance of reinsurance companies. I tend to do a poor job of defending my religion or my company, and thought today about it further, namely that I should have said that of course it makes sense to have reinsurance since the whole job of an insurance company is to minimize risk and remain solvent.  Presumably AIG didn't reinsure and look what happened to them? The bigger the risk pool, the lower the risk, so insurance companies can do well to spread some of the risk.

Was nice to have had a long time at the airport, to decompress as it were and let the memories settle. RSW is as fine an airport as they come. Saw a young German couple.  It's funny that I'm so eager to surprise Germans with a “guten abend” when saying hello to a fellow American feels so prosaic.

EPILOGUE... Sunday

Watched about 90 mins of JFK assassination coverage from 1963 on C-Span. Sad.  People are complicated, and no one more than JFK.  If people are in fact complicated, then why do we reduce them to simply agents seeking money?

Back to O-h-i-o. Cold 14 degrees this morning!  70 degree drop!

November 13, 2013

Interesting

Household Income and Percent of College Grads by zipcode

Sundry

Spectacular sunset on the way home from work today: massive, muscular clouds surrounding streaming chords of color. Just the briefest of glimpses possible since I was driving, but it felt important to acknowledge it. As an Irish poem goes, “We wish to a new child / a heart that can be beguiled by a flower.”


*

Bought my mom The Message: Catholic Ecumenical Version since she's ever confused by St. Paul's letters and I'm thinking that will help, even though it's a paraphrase and thus understandably frowned upon. It's amazing how the same verse, with the same meaning, can feel so different depending on how colloquial or formal the translation. It's all English and yet The Message sometimes makes me laugh, inappropriately, due to the informal language. Knox never does that. What I cannot know is how formal/informal the language sounded to the original listeners in the Greek or Hebrew. Of course languages change so fast that I suspect that for most of the past couple thousand years the language of the Bible has sounded slightly archaic and once it sounds fetchingly “other” and stylistically formal then it's hard to go back. Witness the KJV phenomenon.

*

Interesting comment on the Catholic Bibles blog:
Do you think these 'themed' Bibles (like the “Social Justice Bible”) are really a good idea? It would certainly seem to question regard for the integrity of the text. It smacks a little of the 'medicine chest' approach of Gideons - go to page 80 if you're depressed etc. Coming from a Benedictine background I would certainly consider this approach as contrary to 'lectio'.

*

There have been a lot news stories about the impending fiftieth anniversary of the JFK assassination and it's easy to see the killing as an unprovoked, senseless tragedy and wonder about what might have been had it not happened, especially in regards to Vietnam. One gets the feeling that if the motorcade had simply gone another way through Dallas bloodshed would've been avoided. But I'm not so sure.

Was the assassination unprovoked? Kennedy was reportedly bent on killing Fidel Castro. According to one book on the subject, this reckless foreign policy made the assassination appear likely.  Certainly there would have been a lot of motivation for our leaders afterward to have tried to minimize Oswald's ties to Cuba and Russia as a face-saving measure, since they knew we couldn't risk a showdown with Cuba and thus the Soviet Union.

The phrase “lives by the sword, dies by the sword” came to mind and so I googled that with Kennedy's name and there's actually a book by that title with exactly that scenario, that Kennedy would've been killed by somebody sooner or later given all his (or the CIAs) persistent (and botched) attempts to kill Castro.

Certainly the whole U.S. practice of knocking off heads of state fell into disfavor immediately after the Kennedy assassination. Which is telling.  There's the sense that we learned our lesson and even forty-some years later we refused to kill Saddam Hussein except in the context of a formally announced war.

It kind of makes the Kennedy myth less “romantic” given this feud with a leader of another country. Could the killing have been the rational act of a leader (Castro) who was trying to protect himself?

Patriarch Joe Kennedy Sr. repeatedly told the young John Kennedy: “Can't you get it into your head that it's not important what you really are? The only important thing is what people think you are?” In that way Joe got his way. People think of JFK as a martyr whose death was as senseless as the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor.

*

I was too young to remember the assassination, but my wife remembers it, even at two weeks shy of four years old. Says it might be her earliest memory. She was coming in from playing and saw her mom crying and, at the time, couldn't understand why she was crying about someone on tv. But she knew it was big.

I checked the weather records database for 11/22/63 in Columbus: high of 68. Clement weather for playing outdoors.  

*


I feel that familiar post-baseball season malaise, a type of missing limb syndrome caused by the abrupt and final loss of that daily rhythm. The pure dailiness of baseball, with its scores and soap opera turns, is something I miss during the five long months without it. Other sports are sporadically interesting and frequently sporadic: pro basketball is the closest thing I suppose given the near dailiness of play but it's never been the same since LeBron left Cleveland. That was what drew me to pro basketball: the spectacle of a basketball genius available to be seen every day or three (since I'm in the Cleveland FoxSports television market). It's pretty hard to get used to Kenny G once you've heard Mozart.

*

Read more of the sobering Thomas Peters story. A saint in the making, and his wife of six months as well. I was struck dumb by how a priest said Peters' ministry was actually more effective now, to the extent Peters offers his suffers up.

Anyway, the Peters post was a useful reminder of how difficult some people have it and how easy I do. Today I was thinking about the Psalm that goes, very roughly, “I do not think about what is too deep for me, that which is beyond me.” In the past I've considered that meaning in my life to not try to imagine how the Trinity works, or how many will be saved, etc… But perhaps it could also mean I will not try to trod the paths of those who have experienced much greater pain than me, who have been asked to carry heavier crosses. Perhaps the “depth” that the Psalmist speaks can be thought of not only as the mysteries of God but the great mystery of suffering.

*

Tis the season: from First Things blog (Maureen M.):
Cajoling the dead is a pragmatic measure, pre-Christian counterpoint to a religious shudder. Yet it is not without a certain tenderness. It suffers an understanding that living and dead are bound together in defiance of extermination.
Christian trust in the communion of saints is a stream fed by more than one spring.

When You've Lost Thomas Sowell...

Interesting to see Thomas Sowell so directly criticize the tea party.  He be a truth-teller:
Third parties have had an unbroken record of failure in American presidential politics. So it was refreshing to see in the tea party an insurgent movement, mainly of people who were not professional politicians, but who nevertheless had the good sense to see that their only chance of getting their ideals enacted into public policies was within one of the two major parties.
More important, the tea party was an insurgent movement that was not trying to impose some untried Utopia, but to restore the lost heritage of America that had been eroded, undermined or just plain sold out by professional politicians....
The tea party’s principles were clear. But their tactics can only be judged by the consequences.
Since the tea party sees itself as the conservative wing of the Republican Party, its supporters might want to consider what was said by an iconic conservative figure of the past, Edmund Burke: “Preserving my principles unshaken, I reserve my activity for rational endeavours.”
Fundamentally, rational means the ability to make a ratio — that is, to weigh one thing against another. Burke makes a key distinction between believing in a principle and weighing the likely consequences of taking a particular action to advance that principle...
The only question then is: was defunding Obamacare within their power? Most people outside the tea party recognized that defunding Obamacare was also beyond their power — and events confirmed that.
It was virtually inconceivable from the outset that the tea party could force the Democrats who controlled the Senate to pass the defunding bill, even if the tea party had the complete support of all Republican senators — much less pass it with a majority large enough to override President Barack Obama’s certain veto.
Therefore, was the tea party-led attempt to defund Obama-care something that met Burke’s standard of a “rational endeavour”?
With the chances of making a dent in Obamacare by trying to defund it being virtually zero, and the Republican Party’s chances of gaining power in either the 2014 or 2016 elections being reduced by the public’s backlash against that futile attempt, there was virtually nothing to gain politically and much to lose.
However difficult it might be to repeal Obamacare after it gets up and running, the odds against repeal, after the 2014 and 2016 elections, are certainly no worse than the odds against defunding it in 2013. Winning those elections would improve the odds.
If the tea party made a tactical mistake, that is not necessarily fatal in politics. People can even learn from their mistakes — but only if they admit to themselves that they were mistaken. Whether the tea party can do that may determine not only its fate but the fate of an America that still needs the principles that brought tea party members together in the first place.

November 05, 2013

Liberal Folly

Pluperfect liberal mindset displayed by Zeke Emmanuel on  Fox News Sunday: "gov't didn't cancel policies, companies did!"  High-laire that he could miss that government action triggers responses.

That seems sort of the Original Sin of liberalism, the failure to anticipate that private entities will change arrangements in the face of government intervention. Just ask the Soviet Union how all their "Five Year Plans" went...

November 04, 2013

Detroit I Hardly Knew Ye (a triplog)

Occasionally in the course of human events it becomes necessary to go to the Columbus Zoo for a series of off-site work meetings. I made Friday pain-free by taking the afternoon off and thus avoiding the team-building scavenger hunt. Instead my wife joined me at noon-thirty and we started off in a deli, talking to a spry 83-year old woman from Charleston, WV who tries to visit the Columbus Zoo three or four times a year. She's been to forty-nine states - just missing (by a whisker) the border of Arkansas. (My thought is if you're going to miss a state, Arkansas is a good one.) She vows to make it there one day and heartily recommends swimming to keep one young.

Steph and I then hurried to the Water's Edge Pavilion after lunch to join my group for some hands-on experience with animals. We encountered a leopard, a penguin and a bear cat ("walked into a bar..."), the latter the mascot of the University of Cincy. "They're in the mongoose family and smell like buttered popcorn or Fritos,” said the handler and indeed they do, but then so does our dog's paws.

Then we were off on our own, slipping out the back, Jack, making new plans Stan… Spent some time with the elephants, the tigers, a lioness. Also saw the kangaroos but their area was locked up. They can jump 25 feet high, which is nearly beyond my frame of reference. That's over two basketball hoops high.

Actual real "live" ruin!
Seeing animals so big, especially the tiger (our cat multiplied about a hundred times) and the elephants, surprises me anew in the way the ocean sometimes does: as an aspect of a limitless Creator. A breath of fresh air the way art often provides. The beautiful pattern on the back of one of the reptiles. The thickness of a python. The snake took me aback again, despite having seen it before. My mind must've constricted it - no pun intended - over time. I must have narrowed and thus circumscribed what is possible and this rendered me capable of surprise anew. That these animals are real and not cartoon figures was driven home. Their brethren are in the wild, as we speak.

SATURDAY:

My welcome to the Islamic Republic of Michigan (just a joke!) came via a huge mosque, seemingly a mirage transplanted from Saudi Arabia, just off I-75 north outside Toledo. A pristine and clarion building with the familiarly sharp-pointed minarets. The moment was reinforced when I turned on the radio and heard a station in Arabic. I listened uncomprehendingly for a minute until I realized it was an advertisement for “Mercy Cemetery”, identified as such by the only two words in English. There's some multiculturalism. Add to that the next station on the dial was in French, and it seems I wasn't in Kansas or Ohio anymore.

The sign welcoming me to the Detroit city limits was, appropriately, accompanied by a forest of factory smokestacks emitting white smoke as if announcing a myriad of Habemus Papams. (The Vatican should call on Detroit to help with their white smoke problem.) Often a stereotype is there for a reason, and this was no-bones Detroit: unpretentious to the max. A squat cylinder was painted red, white and blue and festooned with Motor City tackiness. I felt a bit of adrenalin, driving through a strange city that has the reputation of being Dresden, 1944. (Overblown by the media, of course, but still it's supposedly a moving train-wreck of a city, a city on the decline -- thus a sense of urgency: see it now or forever hold your peace -- a city where modern ruins are a major attraction and about which books and documentaries have been made.)

Through the miracle of Onstar I found my way to the hotel which was a series of six restored Victorian homes. It was almost like a bread and breakfast. I received a cardkey to the house and a room key. I made my way up and opened the door to a surprisingly large suite only to find an unidentifiable package of some sort on the bed. This was odd, I thought. Then I discovered an opened suit case and I realized – uh oh! – I was in someone else's room. Glad no one was in there and no one caught in a compromising position.

I hoofed it back to the office and they realized their error and gave me the right room and key. This room was much smaller but still pleasantly adorned with windows and a view of autumnal trees and a picture book Victorian mansion across the street with no less than five decorative pointy spikes scattered across the roofs, like the kind you saw on German WWI helmets.

It was now 3:30 so I headed towards the Detroit Institute of the Arts, which would be closing at the tender hour of five. Reports of the Christie's auction house checking out the wares helped motivate this trip. The bankrupt city wouldn't sell its treasures, would it?

But first I couldn't resist crossing busy Woodward Ave and walking through the Detroit Public Library. As is often the case with old public libraries, the glaring difference between the old wings and newer ones is pronounced and damning to modernity. The '70s-style wood-paneled new wing looked like a failure of imagination or money or both. The old part was soaring architecture of the type we rarely see anymore with large mural-size art and beautifully-tiled ceilings. Isn't there something impressive about how in previous centuries they cared not only about the walls and floors but ceilings? There's a quality of design then that seems to eerily parallel our moral and social decline. Art imitating life. The new wing looks more like a high school hallway or an institution of incarceration, those two being roughly the same.

On one of the main billboard near the entrance there were flyers for coming events and exhibitions. One was honoring the Emancipation Proclamation, and the other was a call to join “The Bookmunchers Club”. “Come chew on a good book!” it said, adding that “Anyone in grades 3-5 is welcome.” They are beginning with Bud not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis and pictured a black man with a suitcase outside of what looked to be a factory. It didn't seem geared to grades 3-5 to me.

Around 4:15 I made it to the art museum and talked the guy at the front desk to let me in gratis since there was less than an hour left. He seemed non-committal until I mentioned I'd be back tomorrow. “You're on the honor system,” he said.

I walked past and immediately was struck by the pleasant indoor courtyard beneath me where you could have coffee or a snack. Definitely thought I'd have to hit that the next day, and visions of a bold roast coffee and iPad writing instrument danced in my head.

Then into the wondrous gallery of medieval Christian art. The works of Fra Angelico are stunning, a marvel. He paints like an angel indeed.

Saw an effigy carved perhaps in the 1300s of a dead German soldier. He probably would've been on his way to or from a crusade. They did carvings like this to commemorate the dead, to remember to pray for their soul. Now we cremate, leaving not even a tombstone to remember us by. Timely message on All Souls' Day. I thought about how odd that this image of a man, now dead for almost a thousand years, was once alive on earth with flesh like mine, and I thought about how much responsibility we have in our brief sojourn.

These medieval carvings, including those of saints or our Blessed Mother, have incredible detail and nuance of expression. The intelligence and knowingness of the sculptor comes through and I couldn't help but think about the seeming dichotomy between a people who were backward in ways medical and hygienic, but who were capable of feats of such devotional art and wisdom. It brings home again how little scientific advances and better sanitation have changed our innate nature. It's hard to feel superior to prior generations when you see what they were capable of in terms of art, architecture, writing, music, saintliness.  There was also part of a Gothic cathedral on display and I was drawn to the holy water font and I put my hand in the dry font and imagined all the hands, now long in their grave, who put their hands in that same font to bless themselves.

Later I happened across what I immediately christened in my mind as the tomb of the unknown saint. It was a reliquary of a saint's bone, the saint being unknown, and so I prayed briefly to him or her. Saw the benches from a convent of the 1500s, labeled “Nuns Sat Here”.

It's odd how art like this can alter your perspective of things that you've read about a million times. There was a scene of Jesus at the garden of Gethsamene, and he is praying that the cup be taken away from him, and just with the juxtaposition of many sleeping apostles in the painting you get the feeling that part of Our Lord's human reluctance was due to the poor support he was getting from those for whom he would be dying. I'd always imagined the scene was completely and solely motivated by the understandable desire to avoid the unimaginable pain and humiliation of crucifixion.

After the museum closed I jogged down Woodward to see what might be worth seeing. Came across my first ruin: the former Caribbean and American Bar and Grill, now marked with the cryptic graffiti “Vote NOBE! NCP”. I put my face through a cracked window and saw a ruined staircase, ala the ruins of the Titanic on the ocean floor. I then wondered what sort of asbestos and other bad things I was breathing in and recoiled. 

Walked by an old Catholic Church that might've been defunct. It's always a bad sign when the front door is locked despite there being a Mass going on (in this case 5:15 Saturday night). I would hate to miss Mass again today after missing on All Saints' Day, although admittedly the latter wasn't my fault. Our priest was jet-lagged after a trip to Italy, went to bed at 2pm and woke up at 7:30 for our 7pm Mass! That's the first time I went to Mass and there was no priest to be had.

*

Later at the inn, watched a bit of the Detroit City Council on the boob tube. (Sad, I know.) Boringly low-key. No drama, just a carefully coifed black man at the head, ticking off agenda items calmly. Certainly you'd never know the city was bankrupt. When public was allowed to speak at end I thought: “here come the fireworks!” But nada.

SUNDAY:

Breakfast at the main house: scrambled eggs, fruit, banana and peanut butter on banana bread. Some bacon or sausage would've been nice but hey the price was right. Killed some time reading in the pleasant Victorian drawing room with the quiet tick of the grandfather clock. Killed more time reading the Detroit Free Press, Sunday edition, on Kindle. Felt like I'd experienced a surfeit of journalism of late. The hotel provides free WSJ, NY Times and USA Today but not a local paper. Too much bad local news? Scares off tourists?

Then to 10am Mass, an adventure to be sure. Bad mass alert! Liturgically sensitive readers forewarned. Old Romanesque church built in the 1800s, the liturgy was full of surprises. First off, the church had an interesting layout: chairs were arranged in two large sections: up front around the altar and in back around a lectern. Everyone was sitting in the circle in the back and so I copped a seat there. Mass was late beginning; turned out the priest, a Capuchin, was late due to road construction (an exit was closed). He was young, thin and wore tennis shoes under his green robe.

A more eccentric place you'd be hard pressed to find. The main cross up front was two crossed planks with words on pieces of paper pasted to it: words like “racism”, “mental illness”, “loneliness”.
People were talking like it was a social event, and one elderly black woman came over and said I looked so much like so-and-so, and of course I had no idea who so-and-so was, much less was a I member of that family. An elderly gentlemen in front of me was exposing a distressing amount of the cleft of his butt.

Finally Mass started with a boom: a full drum/electric guitar set roared to life. This all felt like a cross between the non-denominational Vineyard service, a black Pentecostal one and the Catholic Mass. One black guy in back, wearing a baseball cap, would erupt with loud “Alleluia's” and “Amens” at irregular intervals and was quite startling. You don't normally hear a loud “Amen” during the first reading. He had large 3'by3' pads under his feet in front of his chair so that he could stomp without either hurting his legs or making as much noise.

There was so much to take in that I was a bit overwhelmed. One of the bigger surprises was how after the creed, everyone got up, gathered their coats and appeared to be leaving. Turns out it was a mass migration (no pun intended) to the altar! One lady came by, surely seeing my bewilderment at Mass being apparently over and when I asked what was going on she said that they like to “change things up” and move.

The homily was about St. Martin de Porres, whose feast is tomorrow. Zaccheus got a quick mention at the end, but you could tell the Capuchin had a heart for St. Martin, saying that he was at his grave in Ecuador five years ago, a flat marble grave that pilgrims lay on and grasp the rings at the front of it.

The petitions were extremely interactive. About a dozen people asked for prayers, including some gut-wrenching stories of cancer and terminal illness. Two for relatives going through “rehabilitation”.
Now settled in the new seat, I was game for whatever could be thrown at me. Oddly, there was no offertory collection from what I could see although a guy in front of me had an envelope in his hand. Naturally at the “Our Father” everyone held hands, and since there wasn't anyone to my immediate right or left it was a long stretch for me. Then came the Sign of Peace and you can't imagine it. Pandemonium. It was like intermission at a play but more boisterous. Everyone got up and shook everybody else's hand. I didn't move from my chair and still shook at least twenty hands. It went on like this for about ten minutes.

The responses to liturgical prayers weren't according to Hoyle either. No “and with your spirits”, but “and also with you”, although sometimes “amen” was the response. There appeared to be a lively variety although you could tell their hearts weren't much in the responses anyway.

The rousing “Amen!” played with electric guitar and drums was surreally jarring coming right after the somber eucharistic prayer. The mix of the popular and the sacred was sort of whiplash-inducing.

Eventually the “Lamb of God” was sung, albeit over commotion and talking. Then Communion. And then, without announcement, people just starting coming up to the priest and to other folks and meeting one-on-one. I've seen this before at the Vineyard, where people ask others to pray over them, so this wasn't unfamiliar. If I hadn't been to a Vineyard service I'm sure this would've completely and utterly confused me.

I headed out while the individual pray-ers were doing their thing. You can certainly see the catholicity of the Catholic Church in a place like this. And I think I shook the hand of Snoop Dogg.