July 24, 2013

Random Observations and Perambulations

Flies sure seem to have better flying capabilities this time of year as this one showed surprising agility in swat-eluding. Eventually I got him and left him on the windowsill as a warning to other flies. (Who am I kidding? I was too lazy to throw him away.)

The other light domestic chore involved putting away the winter coats still hanging on the hooks of the family room entrance way. I wondered briefly what the over/under was as far as when it would make sense to put them away. I counted the months till we'd need them: half of July, August, September… Eight weeks. Right on the borderline of effort versus payoff, but I elected to go for it and put them away. Now the entrance way looks a bit forlorn.

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In the wonderful summers of my youth it wouldn't matter if I got bit by mosquitoes or ticks - back then, like much else, there was no threat. No West Nile, no Lyme disease, no skin cancer worries due to sunburn.  No mortal sin worries either.  Ah yes, those were the good old days. Certainly the natural world feels more threatening, even if the threats are vanishingly small in the big scheme of things.  No sleep apnea back then, no AIDS, much less autism… Why does it feel like we're collecting new problems without dispatching many of the old ones? The great medical breakthroughs (such as polio vaccine) came before my time in the '50s and '60s but in my day, the late '60s and '70s, I can't think of many. Sure, heart disease, but that's more for older folks.

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At a wedding Saturday night a 73-year old devout Christian (non-Catholic) man, who knowing I was Catholic, asked, “Do you read the Pope's blog?”

Took me a second to realize what he meant and then another second to realize how he knew of it.

“You mean his twitter account?”

“Oh, yes.”

I didn't “go there” but am positive that he learned of the Pope's Twitter account from those cringe-inducing headlines: “Pope offers time off Purgatory for those who read his tweets”. Which really is an all-time, all-star loss in the perceptions business, a sort of ignorance trifecta. Not only does it misrepresent the nuances of what the pope meant, but it makes the pope look like an egomaniac: “pay attention to me and I'll get you some time off Purgatory.” As a public relations move it seems pretty disastrous, and it reminds me of what I believe Flannery O'Connor once said, i.e. that voluntary conversions are miracles.

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"St. Mary Magdalen,
You come with springing tears
To the spring of mercy, Christ...
What can I say, how can I find words to tell
About the burning love with which you sought Him
Weeping at the sepulchre
And wept for Him in your seeking?...
For the sweetness of love He shows Himself
Who would not for the bitterness of tears."
— St. Anselm of Canterbury

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I've read how we are “being played” media-wise. Exhibit is the Rolling Stone cover prettifying the Boston bomber.

Relying on the auspices of good folks' outrage for publicity purposes appears to be working better now than in the past, or maybe it's just that manufacturers of outrage know how to accurately hit that line where something is wrong but not to the point where it will hit their sales. 

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The Columbus Dispatch recently had a front page article on out-of-control college tuition costs. It somehow seems "wrong" for a cost to go up higher than the rate of inflation, year after year after year. And yet a market is about supply and demand, it's not about adhering to an inflation rate.

It appears there's an “arms race” as far as giving your kids the best, or even the good.  The best, and good, go up at a greater rate than inflation in part because others recognize that best or that good.  Education and health care costs seem to skyrocket in part because there's a universal recognition that these things are among the most important things money can buy.  

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Went to Jazz & Ribs fest this weekend.  Ah bliss. The smooth jazz in the background doesn't hurt, nor does the surprisingly pleasant smell of air-diluted cigarette smoke. I pinch myself as I savor Joe Queenan's One for the Books. I have all my creature-comforts: beer, Kindle, iPad, bike.  Food! Beer! Music! Sun & warmth. This is my own sort Disney World. The adult equivalent of rides and lines and cotton candy is this: ribs, beer, sun and music.
I see a high-rise in the near distance with greater circular balconies and it makes me wistful for the sea, for that is what I associate with grand, sweeping balconies. The hint of ocean makes me prone to nostalgia; it's no wonder the wistful and sentimental Brandy: You're a Fine Girl appeals when I'm thinking of coastal vacations.

I stare up dreamily at the balconies lining McFerson's Commons. How sweet it would be to walk out your door during jazzfest and have the best seat in the house reserved for you? As much as I love our house, its semi-fatal flaw is the absence of a balcony.

Another band comes up to the stage and it's a whole lot of hollerin',  all pop-rock, or rock-pop. Anita Baker-wanna be up there, but I perked up when she said she was going to play a tune by blues great Big Mama Thornton ("can you believe I hadn't heard of her until recently?" she said, and I could believe it given her previous song selection). I felt in-the-know when an ancient black man applauded near me when she said, "y'all heard of Big Mama Thornton?" Indeed I felt more black than the singer since I'd heard of Big Mama longer. But then she said the organizers told her one more song given the imminent storm so she played her semi-milquetoast "testimony song" instead of the classic "Ball 'n Chain". 
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I wonder what the relationship between extroversion/introversion and love of reading. I've always thought it a measure, crude perhaps but...

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So last night we noticed this gushing of water despite an absence of rain - never a good sign unless you're neighbor is watering. Turns out boatloads of water were unable to get from the foundation out to the street, with predictably deleterious effects. We've since decided to never get our basement finished since you can never truly have confidence that your basement will remain dry.  Now we have to preemptively unclog our lines to the street, and it cost a whopping $258 just to have this guy snake the line for fifteen minutes.

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"I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to one, some to others.… I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one, a living faith to that one.… And so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another.… I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me."  - St. Catherine quote in the Catechism

Lit of the Hours morning prayer often has a sort of bipolar personality: where else can you pray: "Have you cast off Judah completely? Is Zion loathesome to you?" and then suddenly "Cry out with joy to The Lord!"

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Jazz fest commons

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