October 21, 2015

Florida Man

This documentary set in Florida was strangely riveting: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/florida_man

October 20, 2015

Pope Francis on His Bible

Talking to German youth affectingly about his old, worn out Bible.

Ali-Frazier and Black Shaming

Interesting article on Ali-Frazier bouts of yore.   I was never a big boxing fan but somehow the Ali-Frazier fights of my impressionable years felt of disproportionate import. I always liked Frazier and loathed Ali, and they seemed to embody opposites that clearly allowed you to identify with one or the other – for me at least, the more reserved over the liberal, the tongue-tied over the braggart, the overly sensitive to the thick-skinned, the underdog over the favorite. Even as a pre-teen I liked the quiet guy with the loud punch over the dancer with the big mouth. The only surprise was why everybody didn't see it this way, and why Ali was treated like a god by the media.

Of course Frazier was no saint and Ali no devil but... we do like to cast things that way.

I can't help being reminded of Clarence Thomas, of how for a black man the ultimate insult is to be called an Uncle Tom.  It's an example of how potent shaming is in the black community, and you can see how Thomas has withdrawn and simmered similarly.

From the article:
Randy Roberts says: ‘One of the many paradoxes about Ali is that he embraced an ideology that disparaged white people, yet he was never cruel to white people — only blacks.’ And Frazier, he adds, was treated most cruelly of all.
Frazier explained his feelings by saying Ali had robbed him of the gift he most prized — the American public’s respect. The cruelly inaccurate ‘Uncle Tom’ had stuck with him, tarnishing his legacy.
‘You don’t do to a man what Ali did to Joe,’ says Bob Watson. ‘People only saw one Joe; the one created by Ali. If you’re a man, that’s going to get you in a big way.’

October 16, 2015

Seven or So Quick Takes


The fascinating thing about the '16 election is that there are these two huge tides pulling in opposite directions and it's uncertain which will prevail.

One tide is demographics, which of course greatly favor Democrat nominee (presumably Clinton).  I said back in 2000 that GW Bush would be the last Republican president in a generation due to demographics. (And of course Gore won the popular vote as it was!)

Another tide is overwhelming thirst for authenticity, which, of course, Shrillary has none of.  She's the poster child for inauthenticity.

So these two titanic forces are going to do battle....

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R.R. Reno talk here.  Why the Old Testament matters talk here.

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Day-dreamed of Irishfest, and how quantitatively different the first weekend of August is from, say, the first weekend of September. Just a month, but a season apart. In early August you're wrapped in the secure womb of Summer, in September you're in the capricious slant-light of Autumn.

For someone who doesn't much like change, the change of seasons seems not ideal. But I recall now what a motivational speaker said recently, that he thinks people who don't like change are fundamentally selfish because they think the world revolves around them and the world should suit their needs rather than vice-versa. A lot of truth in that - certainly in a business setting my wariness of change is centered around me wanting to do something familiar and thus not as challenging.

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Ronald Knox hits it out with this, written in the late 1950s:
If [politicians] seek to bludgeon us into their own special point of view, that is only what big business has been trying to do these decades past, assailing eye and ear with slogans not meant to persuade, but to “get in under the skin.”
I can read this two ways: that that is how Obama came to power, on the strength of the silly “hope and change” slogan and thus Republicans in this election must likewise do, or, alternatively I can resist the times we live in and try to be part of the solution instead of the problem by wanting Republicans to offer substance and plans, not eye and ear candy.

I'm torn. I tend to think winning in '16 is more important given how if Hillary wins liberals will take over and dominate the Supreme Court for generations.

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Ultimately you can't have a mismatch of a large number of super-safe House seats with competitive seats without ending up fracturing the party.  Seems like Big Data and government's overzealous monitoring end up allowing lawmakers to carve these ridiculously safe seats that produce artificially dramatic imbalances between members.

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One of the more impressive liberal delusions is thinking that a government that can't keep illegal drugs off the streets over the past half-century can keep guns off the streets.

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Sad but true carnal stories: can you imagine the pitch the producers made for Naked and Afraid: “We'll have a Survivor-like show but the twist is they'll be nude and so you get the prurient interest.” You'd think they'd get laughed at for the shamelessness of it or that enough people would be outraged, but it is what it is. Blurred or not, I'm impressed by those who can watch it sans arousal.

It's odd to read in a secular history book a link made, I thought, in primarily Catholic morality circles. I speak of the link between gluttony and lust, and how a book said it was former French president who was said to have a wolfish appetite that inadvertently displayed his sexual avidity.

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"Always, it is the things which affect us outwardly and impress themselves on our senses that are the shams, the imaginaries; reality belongs to the things of the spirit." - Ronald Knox, Pastoral Sermons

October 09, 2015

In Honor of the Playoffs, Uncle Harry, Diamond Star

I got all caught up in the drama of researching and writing up the three major league games of my great uncle Harry.  It's amazing there's statistics available for a regular season game from 1927 to this level of detail.  I read about the parks he played in (Braves Field in Boston and the Baker Bowl in Philly), the managers, the pitchers he faced, the player he replaced and the one who replaced him.  Jolly interesting fun.  He's my Moonlight Graham.  And what's the fun of a blog if you can't be self-indulgent once in awhile? 

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It all started with Dayton native Howard Freigau going 0 for 4, on the heels of having gone 1 for his last  9. 

He'd had decent production since coming to the Cubs in 1925, hitting .307 that year and .270 in '26.   But he was struggling at the plate and in '27 would hit only .233 in thirty games. The next season he was traded to Brooklyn where saw little playing time and was soon sent to the minors. In 1932 he was playing for the Knoxville Smokies and "after a long hot day he decided to take a late night swim. It was a decision that would cost him his life, as he unknowingly dove into the shallow end of a pool head first and broke his neck and drowned. He was only 29 at the time, " writes Wade Forrester.  "The way is life ended is unfortunate...but it is much more important to remember how a person lived their life, rather than how their life came to a close."  (Like Thomas Merton?) 

On May 11, 1927,  Friegau and his Cubs lost to the lowly Phillies, a team that would go on to lose over 100 games.  Perhaps this was enough for McCarthy to want to shake up the lineup by giving young phenom Harry Wilke a chance. 

May 12th dawned with overcast skies and by afternoon the game time temp was in the mid-60s in Philadelphia.  Wrigley Field was a mere 12 years old while the often disparaged Baker Bowl in Philly was entering its fourth decade.  Rodeos were occasionally held there in order to raise additional revenue and during Phillies road trips "to avoid buying lawn mowers sheep were left to graze on the field." Two days hence,  "parts of two sections of the lower deck extension along the right-field line collapsed due to rotted shoring timbers...Miraculously, no one died during the collapse but fifty were injured." 

Managing the Cubbies was future Hall of Fame manager Joe McCarthy.  McCarthy would later lead them to a pennant and would skipper the Yankees to six championships from the Gehrig and Ruth era through the DiMaggio years. 

On the mound for the Phillies was 35-year old Jack Scott, a decent pitcher in his day but now on his way to 9-21 season with a gaudy 5.25 ERA.  He would be facing my Uncle Harry Wilke, who was making his first major league start, hitting eighth and playing third.  

In the second inning, the great Hack Wilson led off with a double to right, and Stephenson singled to left scoring Wilson.  Charlie Grimm singled, and future Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett reached on a fielder's choice.  The home plate umpire ejected Phillies' catcher Jimmie Wilson after the play. 

Up stepped Harry Wilke in his first major league at bat, with Grimm on second and Hartnett on first.  He did his job and sacrifice bunted, forcing Grimm to third, Hartnett to second. 

Wilke later opened the Cubs fourth, but popped up to the shortstop.  In the sixth he grounded out to the second basemen.   And in the eighth, with a man on and one man out he was called out on strikes.  Still, the Cubs won 4-1. 

The next day they did it again at the Baker Bowl.  Wilke played third and hit eighth.  A struggling 26-year old lefty, Hub Pruett, was on the mound for the Phillies.
 
In the second inning, Wilke came up with a man on and two out and hit a drive to center that landed safely in the outfielder's hands.  He led off the fifth and again flied out to the centerfielder. Then in the 7th, game tied at 1, both Grimm and Hartnett struck out.   However mediocre Hub Pruett seemed to be on paper, today he was having a field day with the Cubs hitters, striking out 10 and on his way to throwing a 3-hitter.  Wilke stepped up and prevented Pruett from striking out the side by flying out. 

After first game jitters, and running into a buzzsaw in Pruett on day two, Saturday the 14th turned out to be Harry's final big league game.  The team traveled to Boston to Braves Field, a mile west of Fenway, where Harry Wilke's chances of hitting a home run seemed close to nil.  

"The stands were almost entirely in foul territory, leaving little in the outfield to which players could hit a home run into - with the fences over 400 feet away down the lines and nearly 500 feet to dead center, hitting the ball over the outer fences was all but impossible during the dead-ball era. A stiff breeze coming in from center field across the Charles River further lessened any chances of seeing home runs fly out of the park...Ty Cobb once visited and commented, 'Nobody will ever hit a ball out of this park.'"(via Wiki entry).  

The Braves starter was Charlie Robertson, the easiest opponent for Wilke yet, sporting a lifetime record of 49-80 with a 4.44 era.   Harry came up in the second and flied to center, and then grounded out to the pitcher in the 5th. But none of the Cubs batters were having much success against Robertson. 

In the 7th, with the game knotted at 1, Stephenson walked; Grimm sacrified him to second on a bunt and Hartnett walked.  Harry was due up with two men on but McCarthy pulled him!  He pinch-hit Cliff Heathcote, a veteran centerfielder with a lifetime .275 batting average hit, who promptly grounded into a double play.  Had Wilke been allowed to hit and drive in the winning run, perhaps he would've gone on to a Hall of Fame career. 

Instead the game went on....and on...and on.  In the top of the 18th, the Cubs finally busted loose for five runs to end the 3-hour 42-minute extravangza (now nearly the average length of a 9-inning game, ha). 

Clyde Beck, who was a rookie infielder like Harry, replaced him at third in the 8th.  He failed to reach base until singling to start that big 18th inning. 

The following two days the Cubs didn't play, but on Tuesday the 17th they'd again be involved in an extra inning game, this time an unbelievable 22 innings. It would go down in history as the 10th longest game of all time (the record being 26 innings). 

Whatever McCarthy saw in Beck, maybe the base knock that helped end the 18-inning marathon, he liked enough to start him over Harry for the 22-inning affair.  Beck went 1 for 9 with a walk  and would later go on to a six year MLB career with an average of .232.  

October 02, 2015

Extremism in Defense of Sanity is No Vice

Interesting comments by First Things editor R. Reno on the pope in America magazine:
“I think one feature of his papacy is rhetorical extremism; his gestures, like not living in the papal palace, are extreme. I don’t associate poverty with the Society of Jesus anymore, but I do associate extremism—a certain pushing of one’s charism to the limit—with it. And I do see that very strongly in this papacy. I think that’s one reason it has a kind of force to it. Also, the extremism is sometimes dangerous and unworkable. Jesuits go notoriously to the line and sometimes over it.

I think we see this experimental quality in Francis. A lot of the things he says and does are kind of about testing limits. That’s so Society of Jesus. When he was first elected, I knew nothing about his reputation, but I knew he was a Jesuit and one of my friends asked: “What do you think?” I said: “Strap on your seatbelt.” And my friend asked: “Why?” I said: “Because he’s a Jesuit.” That extremism is a strength and a weakness of the Society. And I think his papacy has great strength, but also great weaknesses.

But on this particular visit, I don’t think it came through. I think it was a very cautious visit. The fact he had to speak in English limited his ability to ad-lib any bold gestures. And I regret he allowed himself to be controlled by the security apparatus. The visit’s not yet over, but I had hoped he would have basically given the finger to the Secret Service and walked down the streets of New York. I think his disregard for the security apparatus is an important gesture in a global system where the Davos elite increasingly live in a bubble—insulated from everything and everybody else. And I think it’s a powerful witness on his part to refuse that bubble.”

One problem is the problem with Jesuits. Jesuits are clerical commandos, clerical Green Berets. And one of the temptations Jesuits have is that they want to turn everybody into a Jesuit when the fact is that the church needs ordinary soldiers—the church needs cooks, camp commandants, and priests who keep the parish running and aren’t on the peripheries. And I fear that all his language about being on the periphery demoralizes people who do the day-to-day work of keeping the church running.

The second problem is more something he’s inherited. He’s really the first pope who came of age in the era of and immediately after the Second Vatican Council. The church since the Council has had a fragmented, disordered language and mind. He is not a synthetic, systematic thinker. Instead, he’s a poet of the faith, I would say, rather than a philosopher of the faith. So he often manifests this kind of fragmentation and lack of coherence in the life of the church. In that sense, the weakness is that he’s a mirror of the church in its own fragmented mind in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.

October 01, 2015

Un-imprimatur'd Thoughts

WaPo analysis:
Americans, at the ballot box and in our choices of most-admired people, are drawn to those who appear to stand for something, but in a genial, hopeful way. On the whole, despite occasional dalliances with the likes of Donald Trump or Ross Perot, we are suspicious of harsh rhetoric or stern manner. Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr. — people who capture the American imagination tend to be realists who confront big, tough problems but do so with a smile, with an abiding optimism, with a message of inclusiveness.
The pope seems to instinctively feel the frustration and disaffection that has led millions of American Catholics to leave their church, the same sense of lost opportunities and diminished futures that has left the U.S. political firmament grasping for something at once angry, authentic and aspirational in the likes of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
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Mass yesterday remembered the brilliant St. Jerome. Fine tribute by the homilist. He gave the Church the definitive Scriptures for a millennium and a half. Before he came on the seen every Tom, Dick and Harry who professed to know a little Greek tossed off his own translation for the local church, sowing a lot of confusion and errors. To this day I enjoy the fruit of Jerome's labor since his is what the Knox translation was based.

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So wow, the Pope met with Kim Davis, the heroic figure in Kentucky who refused to sign fake marriage certificates. I'm surprised, in part because of the highly charged political nature of the issue and partly because she's not Catholic. A meeting is worth a thousand words.

The other surprising thing to me was her reaction being one of relief and vindication when he told her to keep up the fight. I think it speaks to the human need to have a vicar of Christ. We long for reassurance, and a Holy Father, no matter how much we may protest, and many non-Catholics feel it too.  A lot of respect still, which is kind of surprising given the church scandals and unpopular moral positions (like against birth control). There was a surety that Kim Davis felt as a result of the experience despite the fact that the Holy Father's words were non-binding on her as a Protestant. You can take the soul out of the Catholic Church but you can't take the Catholic Church out of the soul.

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This morning's commute to work was accompanied by cranking up some purchased Oktoberfest music. It does a body's ears good. Then listened to a bit of Bill O'Reilly arguing on C-Span (!) of all places concerning his latest on Reagan. Officer O'Reilly loves a fight. He maintains that Reagan was very much affected by the assassination attempt to the consternation of “ideologue” (Bill's tag for her) Bay Buchanan (an "ideologue" being anyone who disagrees with O'Reilly).

Also read some of the memoir of a British leftist concerning his idyllic days in Oxford (Magdalen College). That ol' magic pull of  the famous English university exerts its pressure, because normally I wouldn't be caught dead reading the memoir of an unknown leftist/atheist.

The author, an R.W.Johnson, writes of the fatalistic British dons of the post-WW II era (understandably fatalistic given the recent history of two world wars and the Great Depression):
 “…if that meant that British national decline would continue , well so be it. At least one could preserve civilized values as one went down. There was a Private Eye cartoon of the era which pictured a Colonel Blimp sinking slowly beneath the waves, muttering 'Tide of history, old man, tide of history'.”
Where Britain rhymes with us today. Tides of history indeed.

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Speaking of inexorable tides, I have a feeling the acquisition of dog numero two is imminent. My wife's hands-off approach looks remarkably like a hands-on approach: she sends me pictures of dogs with the pleading caption, “Will you adopt me?”

Most of these rescue places have a lot of homely, rough, looking dogs. Road hard and put up wet, they look like prison inmates.

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Good thoughts from around the 4th century:
In ancient times as well as our own, people brought forward supposedly scientific arguments against the resurrection. St. Gregory of Nyssa answers them: don’t judge God’s capabilities by your own. - Mike Aquilina's intro to St. Gregory's thoughts.
"Because human reason is so weak, there are some who—judging divine power by the limits of our own—insist that what is beyond our capacity is impossible even for God. They point to the fact that the dead of past ages have disappeared, and to the ashes of those who have been cremated. They bring up the idea of carnivorous animals, and the fish that consumes the body of the shipwrecked sailor—the fish then becoming food for people, and passing by digestion into the mass of the one who eats it. They bring up many similarly trivial things to overthrow the doctrine of the resurrection—as though God could not restore man the way he made him in the first place.
But we make quick work of their convoluted logical foolishness by acknowledging that the body does indeed dissolve into the parts it was made of. Not only does earth return to earth, as God’s word says, but air and water also revert to the like element. Each of our parts returns to the elements it was made from.
But although the human body may be scattered among vultures, or the most savage beasts, by becoming their food; and although it may pass through the teeth of fish; and although it may be changed by fire into smoke and dust—wherever you may suppose, for the sake of argument, the man has been removed, he certainly remains in the world. And the world, as the voice of inspiration tells us, is held by the hand of God.
If you, then, know what is in your hand, do you suppose that God’s knowledge is weaker than your own power? Do you suppose that it would fail to discover the smallest things that are in the palm of God’s hand?"    -St. Gregory of Nyssa
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Fit Pinch of Salt. --Ephrem the Syrian:
Glory be to God on high,
Who mixed his salt in our minds,
His leaven in our souls.
His body became bread,
To quicken our deadness.
--Hymns on the Nativity 
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Shocked to see Boehner self-oust himself. A lightning rod for second-guessers and wannabes. Glad he got to see the Pope on the way out

Seventy-two percent didn't approve of his performance but hard to say how seriously to take public opinion given most people don't follow it that closely or, alternatively, naively think losing won't happen if you get the right leaders. It's like firing a coach when you're only allowed to play 10 men on football field: Truth is there are simply more people who want free stuff from the guvmint than people who want to be self-reliant. It's basic math. I'm not exactly sure how that's Boehner's fault, but I'm glad he's gone so Republicans can find a new scapegoat.

Bottom line is it's all demographics. Ronald Reagan would get killed today if he got same percent of black and latino vote he got in his 1984 landslide since there are so many more blacks and hispanics now. Ten men on the field you aint gonna win many football games. And media gives Dems a 12th man.

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“The strongest natures, when they are influenced, submit the most unreservedly.” - Virginia Woolf on Thoreau's relationship to Emerson.

Another Woolf quote that could apply to the saints:

 "The most remarkable men tend to discard luxury because they find it hampers the play of what is much more important to them."

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I'm always taken aback by resonating petition in the Morning Prayer hymn: to “check our pride of sense.” It's an interesting turn of phrase to me, and pretty accurately described given that sense can have a sort of willful pride to it.  I did a search on the Internet and as far as I can see “pride of sense” in the sense mentioned is only found in the context of that Catholic/Anglican hymn. I'd hoped that there was some further explication on it even though I suppose it's self-explanatory.