July 31, 2019

Stop Me Before I Schadenfreude Part XXVI

When in Baltimore in May, I put in a good word for Hambone’s book at the Poe Museum and the lady gave me a brochure to show Ham about submitting his book towards the winning of an award which could lead, eventually, to entry on the NY Times best-seller list.  At least in my imagination.  I took some mental credit (admittedly a tad premature) for being the conduit to Ham's fame and riches,  but then delusions of grandeur keep me going.

So I eagerly relayed the contest particulars to him and he followed through...partially.

Ham o' Bone loves to error on the side of the niggardly and in this case committed a boner (thus putting the ‘bone’ in ‘Hambone’) by failing to pay a modest $25 entry fee for a submission on his artful novel And Poe Said, available wherever fine books are sold. He had gone through the laborious entry process, submitting a sample and such, but then got to the rude news that there was a payment to be made.

It does seem like the committee should’ve said upfront there was an entrance fee, which smacks of the sort of scam where you enter your poetry in anthology by paying a hefty fee. On the other hand, $25 is not an onerous fee and no one is getting rich off it.

Bone got lots of texts, emails, and voice mails today as the nominees were to be announced and apparently they just discovered his fee was not paid. He replied, Marianne Williamson style, that he romantically believes a book will find its reader absent the grubby dollar. (Now I don’t disagree that books have an uncanny God-directed way of landing where needed, but at the same time I’m not above allotting an advertising budget for a book.). But it was as though paying an entry fee was an insult to the labor that went into the book, a stain upon its reputation.

It looks by all appearances that they want him to be included but are struggling with the fairness of allowing someone in who did not pay the fee everyone else did. It speaks well of the book’s chances, I think, that they’re even struggling over that. (He eventually offered to pay, but apparently paying after the fact is ethically challenging.)  By the end of the day they promised to let them know their decision...  (to be continued)

Update: no nomination.

July 30, 2019

Seven Quick Takes

Maris is the rabbit scholar of the family. Of the dogs we’ve had, she’s the most dedicated to keeping them clear of our forty acres divided by a hundred.  She’s watchful as she waits, sitting in prime locations for hours.  When she finally sees the tell-tale white tail, she springs into action, running with abandon along the muscle-memorized contours and detours of our backyard.

After the rabbit is far gone she rests not: she does a post-mortem, sniffing the path the animal went as if looking for clues next time on how to prevent the next infiltration.  She treads the ground with her nose to the grindstone, er, I mean the ground, and like Detective Bosch attempts to solve a mystery.  Then she waits anew in case the criminal returns to the scene of the crime.
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Our neighbor is to noise-making machines (leaf-blowers, edgers, lawn mower, hedge trimmers, etc...) what Pete Rose was to base hits.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Every night between 6:30 and 8 he’s cutting one-inch high grass or trimming invisible leaves from perfectly square bushes.  He’s actually getting worse with age which is the general trend I hear:  you get more “more” when you hit your 70s and 80s.  His major hobby in life is making noise, and he’s doing it more of it of this year.

But the irritation I feel at having to retrieve my noise-cancellers is immediately assuaged by the very effective blocking combined with some good jazz or classical music.  It’s actually an opportunity to hear more music. It does feel “wrong” somehow that you can buy your way out of irritations like neighbors.  Although it’s kind of fitting: the first world gave us omnipresent engine noise but also gives us noise-cancelling headphones.

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Reading moon book and newly amazed that astronauts covered 240,000 miles to moon. One way trip. That’s equivalent to going from Ohio to Australia twenty-four times.

Also impressed USSR could pull off a feat like going into space far ahead of us.  I thought we were ever the technology super power.  But it’s true that although they put a man made object on moon in 1959, we were only ones to actually walk on moon.

As a symbol of American greatness and excellence, the moon mission seems like peak America.
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Did a really strong elliptical workout due to the unlikely reason of goosebumps listening to every Youtube version of Toto’s Africa, especially one involving a huge choir. Really the song feels full of that “holy longing” with lyrics blessing the saving rain (the word “salvation” is even used):
“The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation...I stopped an old man along the way / Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies / He turned to me as if to say, "Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you"
Has the scent of Heaven on it, the forgotten words of the gospel, the ancient melodies of the psalms, the “old man” like the one who’s on the cusp of Heaven and can already taste it.

And then I dared imagine Jesus saying to me, ala the “hound of Heaven”:
“It's gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.”
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The undeniable thing about Trump so far as president is that he possesses a fresh set of eyes on the issues of the world.  It’s hard to imagine a career politician having the chutzpah or vision to do small things like recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or big things like a trade war with China.

And say what you want about the tariffs on China, it’s at least a helluva lot more defensible and cheaper than war with Iraq or Afghanistan. And after being burned by both Bushes on Supreme Court justices, so far the outsider Trump has done a much better with that crucial part of his job.

It’s certainly been eye-opening and even world-altering for me to go from Trump hater to having a grudging appreciation and thankfulness for him.

It’s going to be a hard path to re-election though.  For one thing, it seems like whenever a party plays to it’s “type” or “reputation”, it gets burned.   The Democrats were perceived as being weak on defense during the ‘70s and Jimmy Carter played right into that with the Iranian hostages and lost re-election. Similarly, Republicans have always been unfairly accused of being the party of racism and so Trump plays into that with “go back to where you came from”.  So we could easily get burned.
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The fascinating thing about Pope Benedict was how he was both optimist and pessimist.  Or more properly perhaps a pessimist regarding earthly things and having optimistic faith in God.  Both dreamer and realist.

Decades ago he said that the Church would become much smaller and have much less influence.  And yet a recent biographer who knew him well said,
“To me he was like a like a child, always dreaming but on a higher plane,  like someone coming down to us not from another age but another sphere... He told me one time that ‘believing is a resistance against gravity’, against the force of gravity.”
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So the force of zero-gravity (i.e. zero-gravity chairs and infinite laziness until a Saturday 1:30pm) finally forced me to take the dogs for some exercise.  We did two miles to dog park; just enough to earn a beer I guess.

Normally our summer vacation comes in early June which can feel pre-“full summer”, while during the August week our vacation feels like fall is near, with school and cicadas and football season imminent. So to take some days off in July this year was nice.

July is unabashedly peak summer.  I’d say June 15-July 31st is the most quintessential summer period there is and yet I rarely take much take time over those six weeks.  It’s crazy to slog to work every day during the best weather time of the Cloudumbus year.

By mid-July you’re starting to get a feeling of satiation of great days - you’re not so stunned by the good weather that you can’t even enjoy it as can happen in the manic period of early June.
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This Facebook phenomenon is kind of odd in some ways.  It feels wrong, like the blood/brain barrier breached, when I see a friend suggestion for my general physician.  I find myself looking at pictures of her husband, kids, politics (not good!), camping photos, etc... It’s sort of invasive and tmi but I can’t, naturally, look away.
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Reading some of Kevin Williamson’s new book The Smallest Minority.  He seems bitter. He says we are "monkeys with wifi" and has gotten increasingly elitist and snobbish over the past decade, although quite likely his views are not wrong.

July 15, 2019

Rapid Decline

It never fails to be amaze me at how quickly things have fallen apart.  It’s stunning to think that something like 93% of Americans called themselves Christians in 1965.  Or that out-of-wedlock births were exceedingly rare then. Or that sin wasn't celebrated or inspired pride.

All of the societal pillars seemed to began falling almost simultaneously, be it religion, the family, schools, and politics.

I’m wondering how much of it was top-down, of college professors becoming radicalized during the ‘60s and ‘70s, which led eventually to compromising all of education, which led to the collapse of religion, morality, family, etc.

Recently I've become more aware of how school discipline has cratered. It seems partly due to legal actions that prevented schools from expelling students.  I have no idea if corporal punishment in schools was effective, but it's been banned in 32 states, mostly happening during the 1980s.

I roughed up a graph with some of these factors, emphasis on “rough”:


July 11, 2019

Got a Craving for Latinos?

"One did not go to Ebbets Field for sociology. Exciting baseball was the attraction, and a wonder of the sociological Dodgers was the excitement of their play." - Roger Kahn, Boys of Summer, written in 1970s, on newly integrated Brooklyn Dodgers post-Robinson.
This article neatly illustrates our lack of civilizational confidence and how companies have totally bought into the Skin Color Industrial Complex.

Instead of putting a good product on the field (the "if you build it, they will come" school), the Clippers are so pathetically desperate for Latinos to come to games that it may come to paying them to come.

And you know, there's this foreign concept that people might want to go to a game for the game, not for the team name or the music.

This is also a sign of the lack of assimilation that massive illegal immigration encourages.

July 02, 2019

Politics

Laura Ingrahm tweets of the Democrat debate the other night, “The Obamas won again. Kamala was always their choice. She filleted Biden.”

What makes this nomination interesting is the Democratic electorate is split between the mostly “normal” (mainly black and blue collar voters who aren’t into promoting trans-genderism in kindergarten or for making secularism the state religion), and crazies who currently split their vote on the socialist-secularist candidates.

You have to admire the political jujitsu and Bill Clinton-like theatrics of Kamala in the debate, presenting herself as the adult in the room who will put food on America's tables (missed that role of gov't in the Constitution; must be next to the right to an abortion), and attacking Joe Biden but coming off not as an attacker but seeming to play the victim card.  One would think that ol' Biden was at the bus stop making the young Kamala cry.

Perhaps it’s pessimism that fueled my thought months ago that Kamala will win the nomination: she could not only beat Trump, but can appeal to the two wings of the Democrat party. She’s speaks the language of blacks (she plays black on TV though she isn't) while also speaking the elite-speak of the Obamas, Oprah, and the liberal industrial media complex. Given this, she’s a very dangerous candidate. The hope for the GOP and country is that the division in the Democrat party becomes more pronounced, not less.

Part of Hillary’s problem in ’16 was lack of black turnout, particularly in places like Detroit. It’s hard to image that Harris would have that problem. And the only reason Obama hasn’t nominated best bud Biden is he really wants Harris to win.

Obama, who was politically astute enough to win two elections despite having done nothing before the first election and having created unpopular Obamacare before the second, knows that Harris is the way forward for the success of the party.  It’s too simplistic perhaps, but maybe you can tell who to be scared of by who Obama promotes.
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Another case of Mexicans doing work Americans won’t do, i.e. secure our border: 


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Who dispensed Jorge Bergoglio from his vows?  (Or are vows anachronistic and only for Pharisees?)

Baltimore Trip Log


“The yearning had no object, no subject, it was just there. And maybe her mother was correct when she said it was ’eternity set in her heart’.”

Tues:  Why Baltimore? It was partially inspired by the atmospheric writing of one Ham of Bone, who wrote a novel about Edgar Allen Poe. Then too there was the draw of the Babe Ruth museum inspired by my reading of his biography by Jane Leavey. Then there was the sentimental angle that some of my ancestors sailed into port here in the late 1880s. Finally it’s old (by American standards). What more could you want? I’ve already been to NYC, Boston, and D.C. on the northeast coast, so it was either Baltimore or Philly.

Started off on the adventure by checking into the stately Lord Baltimore. They live up to their brand, with posh, old-fashioned lobby, classical music playing, and historical markers mentioning that Babe Ruth stayed here and Amelia Earhart attended a dinner here. There’s a lot of history in Baltimore, beginning with in 1662 with the first settlement, becoming a city in 1728, being the hometown of the Charles Carroll, Frederick Douglass, and Babe Ruth among many....

One of my short list of 8-10 “must see” ballparks happens to be in Baltimore. (List off the top: Wrigley, Fenway, Detroit, Yankee stadium, Dodger Stadium, SF park and Camden Yards.). Today I got to see Camden Yards. I love that I was able to walk there rather than Uber or drive and park. What a thrill to “live” close enough to walk to a ballpark. Thankfully the O’s are wOeful, so tickets were easy to come by. It helped that it’s a Tuesday evening I suppose. Maybe 9000 fans?
A google search shows attendance terrible in April: "The paying attendance of 6,585 last Monday night was the lowest crowd in Oriole Park at Camden Yards history, and that’s just the start of an ugly story."  (Amazingly, the Clippers draw about as many as Camden Yards!)

The park reminded me of our own Huntington Park in Cbus, not surprising since Huntington was modeled after this park I believe. I still think Great American’s more impressive, but this park is certainly charming and “old school”, built in ‘92 in the intentionally retro fashion.

My first surprise was during the penultimate line of the national anthem: “Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave...”. I was startled by crowd yelling “oh!” (obviously because the Orioles are the O’s).

I find a spot in the right field stands just above the scoreboard where you can stand. I had no desire to hunt up my seat in the nosebleeds. And immediately, first half of inning number one, there’s a line drive headed directly for me and Lord it was hard-hit. I shamefully backed up instead of try to catch it but I felt better when the young guys next to me said they did the same thing, saying they weren’t gonna try to catch that thing. It’s a 21 foot scoreboard and he hit the 20 foot mark and I’m standing at 23 feet.

Post-game I looked for a convenience store and found one in a sketchy part of town. You know when the store has a sign saying, “No ski mask and hoodies inside the store” that it feels legit. I documented my bravery by taking a picture of it, making up for the backing away from the fly ball.

Wed:

Next up was the great Peabody Library. There was a Shakespeare concordance a mile thick and proof that Bardolatry was alive and well at time of publication. How many authors, save the Biblical ones, have concordances?

Words fail at the beauty of that “cathedral of books”, a masterpiece of a library. I walked around it, explored it’s side “altars”, took pictures and breathed the smell of old books. Thought it would be a great place to read except for the temperature (near freezing). I also considered how it’s kind of a shame that the Internet has taken over the knowledge search business, to a great extent. I kind of envy those 17th century learned souls who actually could read everything important enough to have been put on parchment. There was, then, a circumscribed limit to what we knew, while now it’s sort of hopeless.

Afterward I walked to Mount Vernon square and it was a stunner. Really it’s only equal were some I’d seen in London. Just plain beautiful. In the middle a great pillar to George Washington, completed well before the Washington Monument and far more attractive. Herman Melville wrote of it in Moby-Dick:
“Great Washington … stands high aloft on his towering main-mast in Baltimore, and like one of Hercules’ pillars, his column marks that point of human grandeur beyond which few mortals will go.”
A beautiful pool and fountain of a Naiad completed the tableau. On the other side another fountain, which wag once called "Washington's urinal".

Afterward I headed south to the Baltimore Basilica, the oldest in the United States. So much history there, including “visits from at least 15 saints or potential saints”. St. John Paul II, St. Mother Teresa in our day. The genesis of the Baltimore Catechism. The oldest churches in America, in “Mary’s Land”.

Afterward walked through Little Italy, including the street named for Nancy Pelosi (she grew up on the street). It was sad, kind of, seeing how little effect the efforts of so many priests and teachers could not keep her Catholic enough to vote like one. But so it’s always been; if our physical lives are vulnerable how much more our spiritual.

A guy with booming stereo speakers in his car sat at red light with his windows down, and you could hear an African-American motivational speaker exhorting from a half-mile away: “If you mind is weak, you a motherfucka! You’re no Schwarzaneggar. I don’t care if your body is strong, if your mind is weakling then you ain’t no f-cking Mr. T.”  Not in Kansas anymore.

I get a ride to Admiral Fell’s Inn on the wharf and walked the dock. The Fell Inn was okay but the feel of the area was very much like Columbus German Village and thus a bit too familiar. I wasn’t too sad about skipping out staying there.

Come 2pm I had a pretty-looking Guinness and lunch at The Horse You Rode In On Saloon, one frequented by no less than Edgar Poe. Including supposedly on his last day on earth.

This city is a highly social one. A loud, talkative city. At Barnes & Noble, you’d think there wouldn’t be a cacophony of voices, but there is - both inside and on the full-of-potential third floor outdoor covered deck. The downside of a social nature: loud arguments, this time a very angry young man in his 20s who was yelling and mad at a spurned lover but no one did anything for the 20 minutes it went on.

Sitting in Poe’s saloon today it felt ... hard to imagine him sitting in there. Sure, the wood looked old and perhaps even original, but... I thought about the elements that were different, starting with the way folks were dressed. And even if re-enactors came in, in period dress, it wouldn’t be the same. It would be phony, like a man dressing up like a woman. Plus there’s the language that’s changed, the proprieties, the customs and coinage and music and even the drinks, to some extent. Even if you got all those externals right, you can’t get inside their head - or can you? Are they basically the same as us on the inside? Or is the past like a “foreign country” and if you begin from such different world views and media inputs... Does it mean anything really that Washington slept here or Poe drank here if the externals have changed, let alone if what made them tick is foreign? Is it the externals - the horse and buggy and tight clothing - that makes them who they were or the shaping of ideas and world views?

We’re searching, I think, for solidarity with the past not so much on the cheap celebrity plane in which we get selfies with TV stars but that if Washington slept here than that some of his patina may rub off on us if we can imagine him being here. We can feel connected with him and thus connected to his patriotism and mission. Sort of the Jesuit school of spirituality: put yourself in the gospel scenes.

Thurs:


I didn’t see Poe’s original grave site on Wednesday and it turns out that’s where the famous “Poe Toaster” laid roses and cognac annually. Oddly, it almost feels like this legendary homage to Poe has eclipsed where his bones actually lie. Or at least it feels just as iconic. It seems strange that the choice of cognac toast was not where his bones are, but it does feel like I missed something in not seeing that shrine. (Later: saw the original site on my way to Ruth museum.)

Lovely morning. The only downside of this hotel room is the dearth of natural light. But I sit next to the nearly lightless window surrounded by buildings, prop my footsore feet on the bed and read my purchase at B & N yesterday: The Judge Hunter by Christoper Buckley. Set in the olden time of the 1660s, it’s a tasty read so far. Something about those old Puritans that attracts.

Walked in the surreal heat and wonder-sun (it sure feels like the South here, and we are south of Mason-Dixon) to the Babe Ruth Museum. Some really “interesting” streets, hard-looking for sure. The museum highlight was the rosary that he carried with him all his days and which were hanging on his hospital bedpost when he died. His love and outreach to sick children reminded me that despite his faults he sure had some huge virtues.

Then walked to Poe house, straggling down dull-looking, unshaded streets towards the manna of air-conditioning. The house was ok; he lived there only two years and I feel like it wasn’t a formative influence, didn't feel like he'd haunt it. And I’ve never been that much into Poe although I appreciate his genius and influence.

Ubered to Washington Monument and felt in sync with driver. He lived most of his life in Cincy and Indiana and wants Skyline Chili in Maryland pronto. Said he roots for Reds/Bengals “when they’re good”, which means not much of late. Said he can’t root for Ravens since all his friends are Ravens fans and he wants to be the contrarian. He said people are much different in Midwest, more laid back and more accepting of obstacles. Uptight types in Baltimore apparently.

A return visit to the Peabody Library. It seems the sense of satisfaction the space presents is that all knowledge could be contained within. Or at least all written knowledge as circa 1750. It’s the same desire to complete a baseball card set, to collect all cards issued in one year. Similarly this container of books acts like a complete set of knowledge, or seems to promise it.

And of course there’s the pleasing “variation within order”, like a symphony. The varied hues of books versus the stately repetitive order of the balconies and cornices and wrought iron, all of muted grey with gold relief. Very much a great sense of order and cleanness here.

It’s like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls. Or a super large six-layer wedding cake.

Afterward, since the art museum was free and close by, I headed there and looked at some great art... Dawdled over dinner plans; I wasn’t particularly hungry but felt like I wanted to get it over with. Finally the weather decided - a storm coming in 6 minutes! Had to hustle back to hotel just in time. Well, thirty seconds to spare. Kindle, iphone and AirPods represented vulnerable electronics on me. 

Next up is Ascension Thursday Mass at the traditionalist parish of St. Alphonse. Only time you can view the church is when it’s open for Mass so...when in Baltimore, .... Read up on it and it was built in the mid-1800s and was pastored at one time by St. John Neumann! Wow. Likely the first U.S. parish I’ve ever attended Mass which was pastored by a saint. I imagined the saint preaching from that same (extremely) high pulpit.

It was known as the “German parish” back in the day, and it’s gothic to the max. Unabashedly gothic. It has a lot going on, a million statues. It’s sort of like every single space in the church has some flourish. I had hoped for a short half-hour mass but it was a Latin high mass, which means long mass, but I couldn’t seem to justify skipping out early and thus skipping communion in favor of getting back to hotel for beer o’clock. Just a really bad look there, so I stayed and profited.

I thought of how Babe Ruth’s mentor, the guy who changed his life, was a Catholic religious at St. Mary’s Industrial School, and how that fellow ought be the famous one. The greater our grasp of reality the more our celebrities are the saints and religious heroes. Brother Matthias Boutilier was a Canadian who moved to the States and became a Xavierian brother at age 20, in 1892.

Baltimore was the second U.S. city to have a presence of the teaching brothers; first was Louisville, KY in the mid-1800s. The order was begun in 1839 by a former Dutch shoemaker, Theodore James Ryken. 

So the road for Ruth’s success began with a humble shoemaker who, at age 19, felt a calling to God to become a Catechist.
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Not my idea of entertainment: 
Skye acknowledged that some Baltimore teens seem to use public spaces as an opportunity to meet and hash out beefs — something she feels is a form of play that has become more common.
"It gets boring, so they try to make fun out of anything,” she said of her peers. “It's entertaining to watch a fight. You get videos out of it or bragging rights.”

Fri:

Did an hour walk towards downtown east and south. Very pleasant warm and sunny day. Got to love the nearing summer equinox. Saw the modest red light district; with the tree-lined streets and absence of actual red light it seemed almost gentrified. It's right by the police station, ironically or not.

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Postscript: Feel a bit of pine for olde Baltimore, the baroqueness of it, the germination of Catholic America, the dare of slum streets, the small but real thrill of finding a “clean, well-lighted place” for morning breakfasts, the twilight at Camden Yards, the breath-take and peace of Peabody Library, the bright, beautiful sunlight, the topography of Federal Hill, the run till the (near) rain to Lord Baltimore, the classical music and elegance therein, the plenitude of hat ladies wearing their grandiose hats, the excitement of the check-in and checking out the new pad, the light of the old Cathedral, the graveyard worthy of Savannah and her ghosts, the cigar enjoyed mid-city, the somber London-fog view out the hotel window, the squirreling of beers and chocolate cake in the ‘fridge, the puzzling if pleasing interior of the Barnes & Noble’s at Inner Harbor, the refresh of fresh reads on Baltimore and Poe and a novel of early America, the retracting Ruth’s & Pelosi’s youthful steps, and the theater of how a minute into the Oriole’s game there’s a double a foot below me...


Reading Bone’s book
At the boneyard
Where Poe ghosts trellis
Beside the greystones.

Later at lordly Lord Baltimore
Inked sheets of King-sized expanse
Emblemed flora and font-a
Olde English ye
The lush of covenant time
I lozenged the lilting silence
Waiting for a boredom that never came.

Mornings brought the stream-sun
Amid the salmon-run
north to the wonder-bus of a breakfast joint
pregnant with tweed’d professors and the gilt-interior
Befitting a former bank.

The plaintive rain drops outside St. Alphonsus Liguori
(Oh, Grandma’s Liguorian magazines!)
Mornings mapping out le’ day,
Evenings in the 19th century,
And the lure of the lobby and its Mozart and leather couches
Where laptops like lit jewels spawned from wired girls.





















































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