January 07, 2014

Thoughts Not Imprimatur'd

Holy Car in Church Parking Lot

Watched the DVR leavenings from the Buckeye bowl game in which they lost to the Clemsonites (say like “Sodomites”).  Sunday, watched the Bengals predictably lose their annual one-and-done playoff game. At least was competitive for the first 2 to 3 quarters.

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Lavished my roll-top, a replica piece I found used for $125, with polish and oil. Found this on the 'net:
Roll top desks are a source of fascination because of their reputation for guarding secrets. Their impressive appearance and grand structure suggest to the imagination they are meant to hold items of significant value. From successful entrepreneurs to Presidents, generations have trusted desks to hold secrets they would never entrust to another living soul. Consider several factors when purchasing or building a roll top desk to carry on this tradition.
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Good to hear Lino Rulli on the radio over the holidaze even if it was a “Best Of” segment. Makes me want to pick up his book Saint again. He's amazingly over-the-top, giving away second-class relics of himself on the show and holy cards to “St. Lino”.

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A storm that was supposed to go gangbusters on us today but said weather got shy and proved elusive.  6-10 inches of snow to....zero inches. I tweeted ("tweeted out" sounds lame) I have a new weather app that's manual but effective: look out the window. It's incredible how much faith I put in weather reports when they prove less accurate than horoscopes. My weather report: mostly cold, snowy in winter. Mostly warm, sunny in summer. Mostly raining, cool in spring. Mostly dry, autumnal in autumn. That's as accurate as they get.

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Started reading a very compelling history of the watershed Vatican II council as recommended by that young whippersnapper blogger/brand-wise Brandon Vogt.  He said it came highly recommended to him (and Brandon is well-placed to receive good recommendations), that O'Malley's “What Happened at the Second Vatican Council” is the best read on the subject. I don't know too much backstory on it other than the basics, like who called it and that there was a lot of infighting which belies the final calm and peaceful final documents.

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Our culture and world view tends to make demands on God. The ancient Israelites wanted a king not because God did, but because all the other nations had one. So they demanded of God a king and got Saul.

Similarly, in this democratic age there's a demand that the Church become more democratic and less monarchical.

But I think another defining characteristic of our age is the unbelievable ease of communications. It's instantaneous and painless. There are few barriers to entry - no stamps required, no two-week (or months in old times) waits for mail to arrive.

Perhaps this leads us to expect more of God, to think he ought communicate to us plainly and easily, without intermediary, and immediately. We don't want to have to “work”, to sit in silence to discern God's message. Perhaps this is part of the difficulty we have with God in the 21st century.

Of course you can say that given how accessible the Bible is, how everyone can have access to it virtually or via print or library card, that God's message in that sense is more accessible and easy to get to than ever. Same with the Catechism and the truths of the Faith.

And yet in any case an ease of communication doesn't change the fact that He is God and we are creatures, with an infinite gulf in intelligence. Our dog ate a bunch of gum today, apparently toxic, so I had to make him vomit. There's no way to tell this being of lesser intelligence why this was happening.  He has to have trust in me.

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“The middle class is going away,” is a familiar refrain and I wonder how much of it is due to a decrease of acceptance of mediocrity due to computers and outsourcing. “Middle”, after all, implies a sort of mediocrity, a sort of middle land between top performers and bottom ones.

There seems to be less tolerance for mediocrity these days given the ruthless quality of computers and robots. You can see it in the American automobile industry, a once huge and thriving workforce of generally mediocre workers and executives. Then the Japanese came along with their robots and quality-mindedness and it humbled the American industry to the point that it's maybe a tenth of its former size in terms of workforce. Cars are a lot better these days but there also fewer jobs for workers with mediocre skills, which is most of us. You look at amazon.com and Apple and you see an excellence in customer service or product that shames many earlier companies. It's sort of like an arms' race towards quality.

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Interesting perspective from biographer Leon Edel:

“I was asked to write a fifty-page pamphlet on Thoreau. I did a lot of reading, and rereading. I came to him quite freshly. The biographers had been using their received image of him for a long time. He had become very popular in the 1960s. He was at the center of two myths: one was that he had built his hut in the wilderness and escaped from the tyrannies of civilization. The other was that he went to jail to defy a form of taxation and so stood up for civil disobedience. Both myths had in them not the truths of what Thoreau did, but the wishes of most Americans at the time. When I had looked afresh at all the data, it was clear Thoreau had not moved into the wilderness. He moved one mile from his home into the woods at Walden Pond, within walking distance of the life he had always led. So it was a gesture. And his civil disobedience had been considerably rewritten, as it were, by Gandhi, and it had worked for Gandhi. I wasn’t trying to debunk the magic of Thoreau’s myths, but I saw that Thoreau himself wasn’t at all the Thoreau of legend which biographers and folklore had built up. The biographers had all told the story of how Thoreau, in a dry season, fried some fish in a tree trunk and set fire to the Concord woods. What I saw was that he had come to be hated by the townspeople, that he was a meditative narcissist with more feeling for trees and plants than for humans. I had asked myself the question: Why did he really at that moment of his life move a mile down the way to the edge of the pond? The answer was because he had become very unpopular in the town.”
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Still can't believe how cruel this weather is compared to Orlando: what a difference only 980 miles makes, ha. As the author HP Lovecraft said in a 1934 letter, “O Floridian More Fortunate than you can Realise…” (HT: Steven R.)


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I love the Keil commentary on Old Testament books like Micah, who said that God would abandon Israel and I felt insecure over that harsh terminology but it appears it was already sort of taken for granted by the Jews and so not so stinging:

This is the correct explanation; for the reason why Israel is to be given up to the power of the nations of the world, and not to be rescued earlier, does not lie in the appearance of the Messiah as such, but in His springing from little Bethlehem. The birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, and not in Jerusalem the city of David, presupposes that the family of David, out of which it is to spring, will have lost the throne, and have fallen into poverty. This could only arise from the giving up of Israel into the power of its enemies.

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Got involved with documenting my Bibles. I guess if you have to document your Bibles in order to keep track of them then you have too many Bibles. There are at least four that have become obsolete or redundant given subsequent purchases. I have the translations I like: NJB, Knox, JB.  I want to like the Douay-Rheims but find in the few times I engage with that text I'm put off, off-put. 

Going through them and enjoying the various texts, so different in style and typeface, I'm struck by how surprisingly beautiful the Fireside NABre Catholic Companion Edition NABre is. Very compact and yet oh-so-readable. Kind of an underdog but it comes through.

The Little Rock NABRE is door-stoppingly huge and has a lot of boxes, little devotional asides, that I end up reading more than the biblical text! The style is to put them in the form of a question such as “How can I be more open to the will of God?”. I always tend to think questions are a way for them to dodge and seems lame.

The French Moroccan leather Cambridge NRSV seems a ne'er to be used one, alas. No notes, and no electric feelings in the look & feel. The text is redundant now that I have the awesome New Oxford Annotated NRSV with notes. Re-sold back to amazon. Not every book purchase is going to be a home run.

The CTS New Catholic Bible presentation edition tries hard but just plain comes up short. The print is a bit faint and bleeds through the pages. On the plus side there's new introductions by Wainsborough of each biblical book and some new notes. Plus it's the Jerusalem version.

The New Jerusalem leather edition holds up well and is still sharp if noteless. Very readable text both physically and comprehendingly. Hard to find a niche for it though since I'm so addicted to commentary and notes.

The New Jerusalem with Notes leather edition is physically old and “skanky”, with pages yellowing and such. But the quality of the notes and commentary is top notch and unavailable anywhere else since there's no electronic version available on Kindle or Logos. Certainly this is the edition that most complements my electronic Bible app.

The Holy Bible with Illustrations from the Vatican Library is surreally attractive but so, so huge that it sadly never gets opened.

The Message is printed in a very attractive font with decorative flourishes. Very attractive look and feel but the language is usually off-putting and jarring, like going to the opera and hearing someone speaking redneck English. It's a shame because at times the translator is lyrical but much of the time it's lowest common denominator stuff: the exact opposite of Ronald Knox.

The Knox Bible is certainly an irreplaceable treasure, something that I'm glad I purchased. It's well bound with good paper and font, but the layout leaves a bit to be desired, running all the Psalms and other poetic books together without line breaks or headings or decorative flourish. Very blue-collar inside. The language is, alas, distracting, with thees and thous and other archaisms. It's not always as clear as I might like. A random example from Micah:

Recklessly, at Lachis, harness they steed to chariot; Lachis, that first betrayed poor Sion into guilt, that was Israel’s mistress in wrong-doing! Marriage-dower this daughter of thine, Moreseth-gath, shall cost thee; here is Achsib, too, for the royal policy how rude a set-back! Thy marches, Maresa, shall be ridden once again; to Odollam …
What you talkin' about Willis?

The Message version is on the cringing side of the ledger:
All you who live in Chariotville,
get in your chariots for flight.
You led the daughter of Zion
into trusting not God but chariots.
Similar sins in Israel
also got their start in you.
Go ahead and give your good-bye gifts
to Good-byeville.
Miragetown beckoned
but disappointed Israel’s kings.
Inheritance City
has lost its inheritance.
Pretty much unreadable also. The Message lost me at “Chariotville”. (Goodbye-ville? Really? Trix are for kids!)

The NET Bible translation strikes a lucid middle ground:
Residents of Lachish, hitch the horses to the chariots! You influenced Daughter Zion to sin,for Israel’s rebellious deeds can be traced back to you! Therefore you will have to say farewell to Moresheth Gath. The residents of Achzib will be as disappointing as a dried up well to the kings of Israel. Shave your heads bald as you mourn for the children you love; shave your foreheads as bald as an eagle, for they are taken from you into exile

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Planning to read more of that Maurice and Therese book about the letters between St. Therese and a missionary priest. It was sort of billed as a book from a saint to a sinner, but it's more like conversations between two saints. Which isn't quite what I was hoping for. I'd hoped to hear St. Therese talking to me.

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