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The Habit of Being Buying

The ratio of religious to non-religious books I've bought during the past year has exploded compared to past years. Not that this means I'm reading more religious books though. It's just that I can more easily talk my Inner Accountant into buying them because it's for a greater purpose. My Conscience tells the Inner Accountant, in proper King James-ese: "Wouldst thou let $15 stand between me and what may profit my immortal soul?" and I.A. retreats to his corner, thoroughly beaten. Of course it's a rationalization, but as rationalizations goes it's pretty effective.

posted by TSO @ 17:22

April 30, 2004

The Big Lie is Always the Most Effective

The archives aren't working, but I wrote last year about the rise and fall of our corporate library, once a source of new novels and interesting biographies.

"The library was a symbol - a chivalric nodding of the head to the liberal arts - of our inheritance from preceeding generations. I know not what rough beast, its hour come round at last, that slouches towards us with budgetary panic writ upon its face. But I am saddened that the library, which stood athwart the fortress of ignorance yelling "Stop!" is now defunct. As Shakespeare wrote: 'Sir, those cold ways that seem like prudent helps, are very poisonous.'"

So imagine my surprise when I stand outside and it proclaims its new birth. I see cheery helium balloons and two large signs saying, "Visit our newly remodeled library!". I walk in and lo and behold everything was the same - except it was reduced by half in space! I almost laughed.

"What kind of spin is this? It looks half its size!"

The librarian shrugs, smiles and says, "You're right, it is almost exactly half its size."

"So what is there to celebrate exactly?"

"I guess that we're still here."

Oh. Well, yeah that's true.

posted by TSO @ 17:18

Derbyshire on Yeats:

... "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" still makes the bristles stand up on the back of my neck. Yeats came to hate this poem, through having had to recite it, by request, at every reading he gave, all his long life. (He wrote the poem when he was 23; he lived to be 73.) You can understand how he felt, but there is no denying that it's an exceptionally beautiful poem, one of the half-dozen best in our language.

It is a measure of the greatness of poems like this that they almost cannot become trite or worn. They are like gold, which never rusts. ("Almost" because obviously the poor poet, having to declaim the thing to a roomful of adoring listeners for the 1,079th time, is an exception.) The same is true of Wordsworth's "Daffodils," which still does it for me, though it really ought to come across as corny as Kansas in August.

Now, here in a Long Island suburban April, the daffodils are out all around. The poem comes to mind at the sight of them, and is as fresh and lovely as the flowers themselves.

This I hope I shall never lose — I mean, I hope I shall never get so world-weary that these spells no longer work for me.

posted by TSO @ 15:37

Pondering St. Paul's Conversion

I'd always thought of St. Paul's experience on the road to Damascus in isolation, as a stand-alone event in which God said to St. Paul "let there be light" where light was his enlightenment.

But at Mass the priest started his homily by mentioning the reading from Acts 7 earlier in the week and I had one of those "ah-ha!" moments. I knew where he was going and he didn't disappoint. He linked the last words of Stephen as he was being stoned - "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" - with Paul's conversion. Stephen was praying for Saul during his moment of maximum suffering and one could scarcely imagine a more powerful prayer.

I think it suggests anew our interconnectivity and mutual influence. I don't think it an accident that Paul's conversion in chapter 9 followed so closely after the prayer of the first martyr, another Christ who followed in his Master's footsteps by asking that He not hold their sins against them.

posted by TSO @ 14:53

Excerpt from Randall Sullivan book about Medjugorje "The Miracle Detective":

"It is difficult to be a visionary and mother at the same time," she said suddenly. "I love my children, my husband, my family. But there is nothing that compares to my time with Blessed Mother. That is greatest love I know, and in every other moment of my life, even with children and husband, I wish more to be with Our Lady."

There was a poignancy in Mirjana's voice that disarmed me utterly. I felt closer to her in that moment than I ever would again.

"People envy us, that we see the Blessed Mother and speak to Her, but I would not wish it for anyone else," Mirjana told me. "To know Heaven and live on earth is pain no one else can imagine."

posted by TSO @ 09:44

Flannery O'Connor, from a commenter on Fr. Rob's blog:

One of the tendencies of our age is to use the suffering of children to discredit the goodness of God, and once you have discredited His goodness, you are done with Him. The Aylmers whom Hawthorne saw as a menace have multiplied. Busy cutting down human imperfection, they are making headway also on the raw material of the good. Ivan Karamozov cannot believe, as long as one child is in torment; Camus' hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ, because of the massacre of the innocents. In this popular pity, we mark our gain in sensibility and our loss in vision. If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.
And more:
To have the church be what you want it to be would require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs, whereas it is our dignity that we are allowed more or less to get on with those graces that come through faith and the sacraments and which work through our human nature. We can't understand this but we can't reject it without rejecting life. Human nature is so faulty that it can resist any amount of grace and most of the time it does.
I think I could feel about Flannery the way Donna Marie Lewis does about Cardinal Newman.

posted by TSO @ 09:38

Friday's Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items...

the weekly lightning round of quick thoughts and links

If you're so inclined, email Deal Hudson at as I did and ask him to ask Sen. Santorum why he cost pro-lifer Pat Toomey the election in Pennsylvania. Hudson regularly gives Santorum column space in his magazine.

Am I the only living American to have never seen American Idol?

On Wednesday I celebrated "First Day For Pasty, Fat Guys to Jog Without Benefit of Shirt". Just doing my part for neighborhood beautification.

More on Toomey's loss.

They Know Not What They Do.

A ringing endorsement. (not for the easily offended.)

posted by TSO @ 09:25

Spectator Cartoon

‘You’d think he’d do more with his mind control.’


Let's play... Why Is My Bookbag So Heavy?

Maybe because of these?

The Path to Rome - Belloc
Jefferson Davis, American - William Cooper
Bleak House - Dickens
The Grand Miracle - C.S. Lewis
Anecdotes of Destiny - Isak Dineson
Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones - Fr. Benedict Groeschel
The Human Stain - Philip Roth
Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love - Thomas Keating
Spiritual Despondency & Temptations - Fr. Michel
Revelations of Divine Mercy - St. Faustina
Those Who Trespass - Bill O'Reilly
The Miracle Detective - Randall Sullivan

posted by TSO @ 13:55

April 29, 2004

Okay, But What I Don't Understand...

Greg Popcak writes about Sen. Santorum's support of anti-lifer Sen. Specter:

The sense at the table was that Santorum, who has his eye on the White House, simply cannot afford to buck the Party "wisdom" on this issue, and so had to play the game to (hopefully) do greater good in the future.
Understood, although it sounds weasley. But what bothers me far more than the support of Bush and Santorum was that the voters listened to Bush and Santorum*! Perhaps I'm too much of an individualist to be a good party man, but it wouldn't sway my vote in the least if they came out for Specter as they did. I'd say to myself, "they have to do it for the sake of the party, but I don't have to vote for Specter." I don't know what led PA primary voters to be swayed by B & S (or b.s.) but perhaps it's the simple matter of a voter being only as good as his information (including mine - see UPDATE). NRO writes:
One dentist in Lower Paxton calls himself a conservative and a pro-lifer, but Bush's relentless campaigning made the dentist think Bush needed Specter if he was going to win the November election. This reasoning is faulty, but local media parroted it, and it pervaded the state enough to push Specter over the top.
But when is a victory not a win? How about when this happens (from Greg Popcak):
Unfortunately, if Specter manages to get himself re-elected, he will have a shot at becoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of the most powerful committees in congress. The irony of Bush's endorsement of Specter is that if Specter gets this plum position, Bush won't be able to get any pro-life judicial nominees past his own party's leadership.
* - a very small but significant group. Toomey received almost 50% of the primary vote. Given that probably 40% of Pennsylvania Republicans are moderates who would've voted for Specter anyway, that leaves a very tiny but ultimately extremely powerful group that were swayed by Bush & Santorum.

Update: Okay, Don Boyle on Amy's blog suggests that perhaps "Specter promised Santorum and Bush that he will not block prolife judicial nominees from getting through the Judiciary Committee and onto the floor of the Senate." I'm not sure I'm buying, but it's plausible and would make Santorum's decision comprehensible. It'd also a deal Specter couldn't make public, else he'd lose votes in the general election.

Update II: Okay, okay, the typically wise Mike Petric says, "Politics is the art of the possible. There is a place for principle and a place for compromise. Selecting the wrong approach at the wrong time can derail many a good cause. I have no issue with those who question Sen. Santorum's judgment in choosing compromise over principal in this instance. They may be right -- it is hard to say. But those who see fit to question Santorum's sincerity because of his support for Specter are being uncharitably presumptuous given the totality of Santorum's record in my view."

posted by TSO @ 12:56

John F. Kerry & the CINO tag

It's always painful when one of your own urinates on Church teaching, as John Kerry does with regard to the life issues. I can listen to, and even enjoy, a pagan like Christopher Hitchens because his viewpoint naturally flows from his lack of faith. It's much more grating to listen to John Kerry who arrives at the same place from a different starting point.

Wanting to shame Kerry by calling him "Catholic in Name Only" is a temptation but a tag I think should be avoided like the bubonic plague. That's why I liked Mark of Irish Elk's line about Kerry believing in the divinity of bread but not the humanity of unborn life - there's a winsomeness in assuming Kerry believes in the Real Presence unless proven otherwise. Likewise Kerry is fully Catholic until proven otherwise (and not by us but by his bishop in a visible earthly way, though ultimately only by God).

But shaming does work. It's how the Amish, remnant though they be, have survived. It works in that it discourages bad behavior even though it might leave the heart unchanged. It can lead to works without faith because someone is doing a good action (such as going to church every Sunday) because of peer pressure rather than out of God's grace. But who knows how many souls have been saved by doing "A" (and being present for the action of God's grace) even if they were doing "A" for the wrong motives? And which of us does anything from entirely pure motives?

We know there are many "C & E" (Christmas and Easter) Catholics. My evangelical stepson recently used this an epithet in connection to Kerry. My stepson understandably likes that his church is full of fervent believers with accountability (a watchword often used), while implying, but politely not saying, that ours lacks accountability and has a lot of slackers. (The irony is that he thinks I'm not one of the slackers.) But what I want to point out, given the right opportunity, is that the wheat and tares are to grow together and we cannot pull the roots out without destroying the other. The Catholic Church is just that - catholic or universal - and that means you'll have tares. It's not a self-selecting group. A parish is defined by geographic boundaries, not by enthusiasm. (KTC made this point to me last year.) The 153 fish will strain at the net.

So I can't have it both ways. I can't despise Kerry and sing my stepson's tune while playing a different tune when holding to the wheat and tares theory and how the RCC will have people of every gradation of devoutness, or lack thereof.

Mark of Minute Particulars made a particularly (pun intended) powerful mention of how ironic it is that orthodox laypeople would de-emphasize the Sacrament of Baptism:

I suggest to you that this facile treatment (it is ironic that those laypeople who purport to be orthodox would treat the Sacrament of Baptism so glibly, presume so boldly, and suggest that being Catholic might be solely a matter of a few statements one makes) does a great disservice to those who take evangelization seriously...

posted by TSO @ 09:46


Fr. Rob delivers the definitive post on why abortion is the issue: " the eyes of some, making moral distinctions between abortion, the death penalty, and the War in Iraq is reminiscent of Clintonian equivocation. However, making moral distinctions is something we must do as responsible adult Catholics...the attempt to put the death penalty on equal footing with abortion is simply incorrect, and not consistent with Catholic teaching. "

David Mills resists Christian casualness:

One can just imagine the Apostles, whose successors an Episcopal minister claims to be, wearing such t-shirts around Jerusalem in the weeks after the Resurrection. One can imagine Perpetua and Felicity ordering one to wear in the arena. One can see crowds of Sudanese Christians standing before army firing squads in such t-shirts. One can . . . oh never mind.
Mills also discusses college binge drinking: 'drunk without leisure'.

posted by TSO @ 13:08

April 28, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

As a Catholic, you perceive divinity in a piece of bread. Is it such a leap to discern humanity in an unborn child? - Mark of Irish Elk about John Kerry

The people who point out that congregations skew female are not being caricatured. The people who say the reason congregations skew female is because the priests aren't manly enough are. The only grown-up reason to go to Mass is because you love God too much not to. - Tom of Disputations

"Diary of a Soul"... St Faustina's diary changed my life. Taught me about obedience to the church under tough circumstances. And I was intrigued to see how she perservered no matter what. A true inspiration. - Jeanne on St. Blog's Parish Hall, concerning recommended reads

I had been a DJ and a bouncer; I worked in nightclubs, hung out in nightclubs (you get the picture) and then? I started dating the woman I adore, got married, became catholic and settled down and started having children. So I can understand these old friends having a certain degree of apprehension when it comes to hanging out with me. After all, the majority of them are in denial about the looming specter of middle age, and haven't really much advanced past the entire "lets get drunk on Saturday night and hang out at the club" phase. So here I come, jeans, tennis shoes and St.Thomas Aquinas T-shirt on, with two children under three in tow... Steve of November Song

Did you know that anthropologists have a hundred different words for Eskimo? - Julian of "the julian calendar"

Who wouldn't know an Irish-Scotch / Predestinarian from the mouth of his empty bottle / but allow me one last drunken reverie / before Providence overtakes my intentions - excerpt of a poem from Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

But by removing the protection of unborn life to an undefined Democratic utopian future, one might as well say "come the Parousia, then we'll do something about abortion." It turns protecting unborn human life into a meaningless abstraction. It puts defending innocent unborn life on the back burner. - Fr. Rob of Thrownback

A poet for whom prolixity is often a byword: the veritable apotheoisis of what happens when a poet succumbs to hypergraphia. But there are moments when what he says is said perfectly and captures the mind and heart. - Steven of Flos Carmeli, prefacing a Wordsworth poem.

Q: Tell me something about you that I don't know: A: After a year and a half of blogging, I'm not sure that's possible. - Kevin Miller of "Heart, Mind & Strength" responding to a quiz question

Melville on Emerson: "I could readily see in Emerson, notwithstanding his merit, a gaping flaw. It was, the insinuation, that had he lived in those days when the world was made, he might have offered some valuable suggestions." - via Mark of Minute Particulars

We are admonished to ponder daily the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. After avoiding the unpleasantness of number one, I'm pretty good with the last three. Numbers two and four aren't a worry, because I've always presumed God's mercy, for me if not for others. Number three provides fertile ground for hours of dreamlike revelry, as long as we don't recall too often Newman's reminder of how difficult it is to get there, that the nature of sin is this: 'it and God cannot be together.' It's number one that gives us grief and misery. It's the nature of Nature that becomes the stumbling block; to imagine ourselves without ourselves, as not ourselves, seems like something we ought not have to do, a task only a hard master would assign. You would think the deaths of others would assist us in this labor, but they don't. The event may get us to thinking, but we end up putting it off to another day because we just can't get to the bottom of it. Life in the body is all we know; it's a cruelty to have to give it up. We can't even imagine it, though we try endlessly, and worse, we can't accept it. I've heard there are some who can, saints, I suppose. More than accept it, they welcome it. So I hear. I don't happen to be in their company yet ... " - Bill Luse, via Jeff's El Camino Real

The cheerful are much easier to guide in the spiritual life than the melancholy. - St. Philip Neri, via "Fiat Mihi"

Nuremburg March on Washington for Men's Free Time - Thomas of "Endlessly Rocking" on the recent pro-abortion march on Washington

So much is made of choosing the right patron saint for oneself, but hardly anyone stops to think that patron saints can do some choosing of their own. It's almost as if we see the Communion of Saints as completely indifferent to the Church Militant until they are asked to intercede--or completely powerless until they are invoked below. Yet, Kimberly's story of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (and my own story of St. Therese of the Child Jesus) remind us that the saints are as proactive in Heaven as they were on earth...All our patron saints ask for in return is our collaboration. Cirdan, one of my Opus Dei friends, is particularly POD about how he does this. He always has in supply dozens and dozens of stampitas of his patron saints, which he hands out the way other people hand out their business cards. (In a way, he is handing out "business cards"--they just happen to be those of St. Nicholas of Bari, St. Thomas More and St. Josemaria Escriva, instead of his own.) - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

posted by TSO @ 10:37

My Love/Hate Affair with Spam

I know there are those among you (maybe Bill Luse?) who would like to see more spam poetry on this blog. Oh but alas the muse cannot be forced. Sadly, I think I've taken that as far as it could go, an art form that rose phoenix-like only to return to ashes with astonishing rapidity. Maybe I can fashion something from the Google searches that have met their end in my blog:

violence damnation cormac mccarthy

hook fish "cicada nymphs"

poncer blog

wb yeats golden dawn da vinci code

Or maybe not. Back to spam. A week ago I decided to set up rules to try to defeat it and so I now automatically delete any domain address of ".de" or ".biz" or any subject headline with the phrase "Your Loan" or "Viagra" or "Vagra" or any of variant misspellings. I've experienced a 30-40% reduction in spam. But even if an individual rule only kills one spam in two million I feel I have won a small - if pyrrhic - victory for now it's a game. The spams that failed are routed to a "Neer-Neer, I got you folder". Spams that I still get are examined and see if they could've been defeated by looking for reoccurring domain names or subject headers. It's actually gotten rather enjoyable, especially when I look at my "Neer-neer, I got you folder".

posted by TSO @ 09:26

Offending Everyone - including myself

Liberal Catholics are interested in loosening Church rules and in government solutions to poverty (i.e. exhortations to give privately are rare, and I do note the oxymoronic quality of 'government solutions to poverty')

Conservative Catholics are interested in a governmental banning of abortion (i.e. exhortations to donate to housing unwed mothers are rare)

Traditionalists are interested in putting an end to liturgical abuses and restoring the Latin Mass.

Perhaps if instead it went:

- Liberal Catholics are focused on Christ.
- Conservative Catholics are focused on Christ.
- Traditionalists are focused on Christ.

...we'd all meet in the same Place. (Gosh, that's so obvious you're saying 'why'd you post that?')

posted by TSO @ 09:00

Oh No....

Looks like Toomey might be in trouble in the Pennsylvania Republican primary. From the Corner:

"I saw your post regarding Toomey ahead in Lancaster. That is bad news for Toomey. He needs huge margins in the Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg areas in order to offset anticipated Specter wins in the Philly suburbs. If he is only winning 52-48 in the Lancaster area, he is toast."
Update: bummer.

posted by TSO @ 15:46

April 27, 2004

Precocious Child!

Via Steve of November Song

posted by TSO @ 10:43


Well, now, I hadn't read Thomas's moving declaration against the tyranny of experience until after I'd just posted something along similar lines, at least about how God can seem the trickster in probing our faith.

Experience can be used to our advantage, of course. It's helped me during those times I've been extremely wrong about something. (My wife doesn't know this has ever happened before and I don't advertise it.)

You would think to be absolutely, freakin' wrong about something or someone would not be a good thing, but it's been extremely profitable because it allows me to say, "well, if I was so wrong about that, maybe I'm wrong about this," where "this" is imputing something to God that just isn't so.

I heard a story once about a guy named Joe and he was following Faith and Feelings while walking single-file atop a narrow bridge. Now Feelings, unlike Faith, could make a right-turn into the river at any moment. But as long as Joe is following Faith and not Feelings he'll make it across.

posted by TSO @ 09:50

Life as a Test & Christ's Encounter with the Gentile Woman

Too often my idea of life as a test is "how many beers can I drink without getting a headache the next morning?". This is not exactly the test God has in mind. To put "life as a test" more positively is to say that life is a constant vehicle for our santification.

Rev. Michel makes this point in his book when he says, "Indolence or aversion to everything that gives trouble is common to all men. When we have devoted ourselves to God's service, we would like to enjoy the happiness of our condition without costing us much...St. Paul declares: "He also that strieveth for the mastery is not crowned except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5). To aspire to the crown of justice without fighting is a contradiction to the truths of faith - to expect to fight and yet not to suffer is contrary to common sense...Therefore [the enemy] does set before our eyes a lively representation of the difficulties [while] concealing the peace of heart which we shall find in obeying God."

This testing or probing includes a Christ-approved exercise of our faith. Thomas Keating in "Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love" shows how in the gospels Jesus attempts to bring out the greatest amount of faith in a person that He can. And much of it requires losing our sense of entitlement. Of Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the gentile woman who begged for a cure for her son, Keating writes:

Jesus knows the material with which he is dealing. He is dealing with a woman of extraordinary dispositions. Gradually he leads her on from one peak of faith to another. But notice his means: silence, coldness, rebuff, humiliation.

What is her reply to this indignity?

She said, "You are right, Master." She accepts humiliation. "You are dead right, there is no question about it. It would be wrong to take the children's bread and throw it to dogs. No argument whatsoever. I agree with you wholeheartedly."

And then comes one of those answers which the Holy Spirit inspires, one of those marvelous distinctions which comes from no human wisdom however elevated. It is one of those fine distinctions only love can come up with. After having fully accepted the humiliation, her position there on the ground, and his apparent refusal, her is her reply: "It is true, everything you say Lord. But how about this? The dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table."

In other words, "I'm not asking for food which I deserve. For I acknowledge that I deserve none. I have no merits of my own. But after the children have eaten, aren't there always a few crumbs left over? How about dropping me some of these?"...

She conquered the heart of Jesus. The text reads, "Jesus acquiesced." He was beaten at his own game. But with great pleasure, because he cried out in delight, "Oh woman, great is your faith! can have anything you want!"

This heroic act of faith was what Jesus was waiting for. Had he acceded right away, granted her petition at the first or second request, she would have never risen to these heights. There is no way to spiritual maturity, to grown in faith, except by this road.

posted by TSO @ 07:47

Blame the Beatles?

WASHINGTON - Teresa Heinz Kerry says she's pro-choice but believes abortion is "stopping the process of life," it was reported yesterday.

"I don't view abortion as just a nothing," said Heinz Kerry in an interview with Newsweek, in which she took a side in the long-festering debate over when life begins.

Heinz Kerry once said that she was "not 100% pro-choice," but told the magazine that now the issue is black and white for her.

"I ask myself if I had a 13-year-old daughter who got drunk one night and got pregnant, what would I do. Christ, I'd go nuts," Heinz Kerry said.

Asked if he shares his wife's views, Kerry told Newsweek, "I do not know the answer to that. We've never - she's never had to vote."...

Both husband and wife agree that she is more traditional in her values than the Massachusetts senator, owing to the fact that she's five years older.

"He's of the generation of the Beatles, and that's the line of demarcation," Heinz Kerry said.

posted by TSO @ 22:44

April 26, 2004

Kids Are So D*mn Cute

Here's my niece holding her brother Aaron Zachary, born eight weeks early but holding his own.

posted by TSO @ 18:02

Abortion & Slavery

Henry Dieterich made an interesting comment concerning an Amy post (highlight is my emphasis):

We had the same incremental vs. no-compromise debate over slavery 150 years ago. The Republicans were the incrementalists, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and their allies were the no-compromisers. The slave interest could see no difference between them, and when the incrementalists came to power in Washington, they started a war to preserve slavery. The war, and the end of slavery that it brought about, would not have happened if the ghost of John Brown had not been standing over Abraham Lincoln's shoulder. Eventually, I fear, we will come to a showdown on this issue as well. Incremental measures may preserve some sort of peace for a time, but in the end, the two sides have entirely incompatible goals. The valuable thing about incrementalism is that it can build an alliance that will make the final confrontation winnable. Outright abolitionists were a minority even in the North in 1859; but in many states you could get a majority against the Fugitive Slave Act.

posted by TSO @ 11:00

Defining Difficulty Downward

Okay, so it's Sunday and I'm out in our private glade, out on the back porch framed by the Norway spruce and mulched beds and the glass table is post-Windex pristine and I'm caught up in the rapture of reading (aka "verweile doch"). My wife & son are asleep.

And it's always when I try to define time as mine that I'm reminded otherwise.

In other words, there's no chance in hell I won't be interrupted.

Our neighbor, with whom I feel I have nothing in common given our age/sex/religion/reading differences (although to be fair I tend to feel that about most people) is a sixty-plus retiree and is the neighborhood expert on the other neighbors. Nothing escapes her gaze. She ferrets out information better than any reporter and I look up long enough to see that she spys me through sprigs of pine needles. A quick wave. I re-bury my head in my book but it's too late. She breaks the imaginary Maginot line and thirty minutes later I've finally exhausted her interest.

What interests me about this episode are various & sundry. One is the clash between theory and actuality. In theory I'm a small town guy, singing John Cougar Mellancamp's song. I'm all for neighbors being neighborly and I'm always railing against the atomistic, individualistic, cold world we live in, while, frankly, being atomistic, individualistic and cold. I like the idea of Gomer Pyle, small-town neighborliness better than the reality of it. This is extremely off-putting.

Second, I made a common mistake. I considered not this individual visit, harmless in and of itself, but looked ahead. Never look at the future for today has problems enough alone said God. The future presented itself as an endless series of these visits because she is obviously lonely and will be getting lonelier since her husband is in extremely poor health. She will be a widow and there will be much more call to be neighborly, even to be surrogate family since her children never visit her. Time to call on St. Therese.

Little Flower, give me your childlike faith, to see the face of God in the people and experiences of my life, and to love God with full confidence.

posted by TSO @ 10:16

Belloc 'Path to Rome' Excerpt

His long walking journey wasn't all sweetness and light:

... I had marched 180 miles. It was no wonder that on this eighth day I was oppressed and that all the light long I drank no good wine, met no one to remember well, nor sang any songs. All this part of my way was full of what they call Duty.

I watched a train come in. It was full of tourists, who (it may have been a subjective illusion) seemed to me common and worthless people, and sad into the bargain. It was going to Interlaken; and I felt a languid contempt for people who went to Interlaken instead of driving right across the great hills to Rome.

After an hour, or so of this melancholy dawdling, I put a map before me on a little marble table, ordered some more coffee, and blew into my tepid life a moment of warmth by the effort of coming to a necessary decision. I had (for the first time since I had left Lorraine) the choice of two roads; and why this was so the following map will make clear....I say a day without salt. A trudge. The air was ordinary, the colours common; men, animals, and trees indifferent. Something had stopped working.

Our energy also is from God, and we should never be proud of it, even if we can cover thirty miles day after day (as I can), or bend a peony [editor's note: but not Peony of Summa Mama's! (an intentional sic)] in one's hand as could Frocot, the driver in my piece—a man you never knew—or write bad verse very rapidly as can so many moderns. I say our energy also is from God, and we should never be proud of it as though it were from ourselves, but we should accept it as a kind of present, and we should be thankful for it; just as a man should thank God for his reason, as did the madman in the Story of the Rose, who thanked God that he at least was sane though all the rest of the world had recently lost their reason.

Indeed, this defaillance and breakdown which comes from time to time over the mind is a very sad thing, but it can be made of great use to us if we will draw from it the lesson that we ourselves are nothing. Perhaps it is a grace. Perhaps in these moments our minds repose ... Anyhow, a day without salt.

posted by TSO @ 08:07

April 25, 2004

Movie & Hike

Caught "Shoes of the Fisherman", starring Anthony Quinn on Turner's Classic Movies. The film feels dated because it was respectful towards the Church. How sad is that? I'm surprised that Hollywood was still capable of showing respect towards the Church in 1968. The film depicts a newly elected Russian pope (Quinn) having to make a tough decision. When I was a kid, I thought being elected pope was something to celebrate and be thrilled about and was pure joy for the recipient. Now I don't think so. I see the responsibilties they labor under, and how the more you are given the more is expected, and how difficult it is to discern the will of God for an individual, let alone for the Church. There's a nice moment though when Quinn realizes/reminds himself that he is protected from teaching error and you can see the consolation he takes from that.


I hike three miles in the woods every weekend, 52 weekends a year. It's interesting to watch the seasons unfold and mark exact boundary lines of events. I think the first bit of greenery (grasses) was the last week of February. Then come the shrub-like plants and finally the leaves on trees.

Although only seven sunsets and sunrises separated this week from last week, nature seems to have turned a corner and gone beautiful. Switched to glide. In midsummer and you see only the green leaves. Midwinter you see only the knarled, twisted trunks. But this time of year you see the delightful minuet of green and brown, of St. Jerome trunks and Little Flower leaves. One without the other feels false. And since the canopies haven't formed, wildflowers like children are scattered providentially over hill and dale. White and purples tossed recklessly about.

I visited a small lake last weekend and brought the essentials: beer, books & a folding chair. The Canadian geese have nearly taken over though. Their poop was literally everywhere, and I tried to tell myself that they are far enough down the food chain that it doesn't matter. (For example, no one is bothered by worm dung.) After a couple beers, the manure didn't bother me as much.

posted by TSO @ 19:42

April 24, 2004


Interesting discussion (scroll down) of bible translations. Be sure to read the comments.

posted by TSO @ 00:53

Bookstore Tour

Country singer Clint Black sings that “love always looks the same” and so do rare book stores. They also always smell the same and I love that. I walk in and my senses heighten and take on the acuteness of a hunter’s, abetted by the adrenal shot of book dust and leather bindings. However different than scent of hotel rooms, this hits your gut the same way: the thrill of the undiscovered lay in front of you. Gleam volumes in neat rows, like soldiers in dress or spiffy orphans looking for a a home. I pick up a biography of Evelyn Waugh’s last years. Endings matter.

posted by TSO @ 00:05

Friday's Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items - the weekly lightning round

Do you ever get the feeling that through pure, cussed persistence Steven will make Carmelites of us all?

Good question.

Has Gresham's Law come to St. Blogs?

Sometimes I'm tempted to think that religious blogs should have an expiration date on them. It seems a sort of scandal if we don't evince a certain amount of spiritual growth over a given stretch of time (to the extent that can be ascertained in a blog). Spiritually, it's okay to be at any given point, but it doesn't seem good not to be moving much from that point. (I'm speaking only of my own blog here.)

Blogger Sulpicius Severus has left the building.

My slightly younger brother finds things with a GPS. I've joined him on "treasure" hunts, the treasures being junk toys and stuff. That I can't really share his enthusiasm makes me feel old.

posted by TSO @ 00:01

Book Thoughts

I'm reading the parts I'd previously skipped of "The Miracle Detective" by Randall Sullivan and although I've tended to be skeptical concerning the authenticity of the apparition of Medjugorje I do marvel at times thinking, 'yes, that does sound like something God would do'.

Little things make it seem plausible, like the fact that the children were not only disbelieved by everyone but experienced persecution from the secular authorities. Also, the visionaries made an assumption about when they thought the visions were over, which proved to be false since they experienced them even when they weren't together at the apparition spot. It is typical to come to our own conclusions about what God will or will not do and have them smashed.

Mary doesn't watch them pray, she prays with them, though her prayer is like music. She isn't depicted as some messenger who has come down to monitor and straighten out the kids, she's portrayed as utterly at peace but still humbly and devoutly praying the "Our Father":

The absence of grandiosity on the part of the visionaries was immensely reassuring to all of the clergy who came to investigate their claims. Vicka, asked by a priest if she experienced the Virgin "as one who gives graces or as one who prays to God," replied instantly, "As one who prays to God." When the same priest asked her if a prayer in the church at Medjugorje carried more power than a prayer in another church, the girl said she would ask at the next apparition. The Madonna had told her that the power of prayer varies only according to a person's faith, Vicka reported the next day.
It is interesting how the apparition is embraced by some pious Catholics who surely wouldn't like to hear the famous line from the apparition: All religions are similar before God. "Although six days later, in answer to a question from one of the seers she said, 'There is one mediator between God and man - Jesus Christ'".

The author also obliquely address why these seers seem not to fit the Fatima and Lourdes mold, where the visionaries became cloistered nuns:
"Why are you appearing to us? Mirjana asked. "We are not better than others."

In response, the Madonna smiled again, then told the seers, "I do not necessarily choose the best."
She suggests they fast on bread and water but tells them constantly they are free. Free to choose.

posted by TSO @ 11:36

April 23, 2004

Nash has an Equilibrium?

Good to know the money spent towards our son's education has not been wasted. He weighs in on this:

I think the real result of increased productivity is exactly what he touched on, a shift from the manufacturing sector to the service sector in all post-industrial economies. People won't "not work", it's not a rational decision, it's not an equilibrium if nobody works and we keep our present standard of living.

Think of it this way: All haircuts are done by machines and nobody works, I start cutting hair and I'm a person and I'm the only person who cuts hair. If we assume a preference for diversity, some people will want the "natural" hair cut, and I will make a huge profit (as I am the only human cutting hair), so my standard of living goes up. Then my neighbors see there is money to be made and they start cutting hair and the process continues.

Basically I believe that if enough people don't work, the marginal profit of working would be so high in service sectors that everyone would start working again until it reached a market clearing price where the cost of working was equal to the gain from just hanging out. It would be sort of like Organic Food, it would be more expensive to have a person do it but you would want that "personal touch". In summary I think he's been proven right by the shift from manufacturing to service industries, but I believe that same argument won't carry an economy from a service based economy to utopia, not as long as money still exists anyway.

So, the answer to: "Is there anything in the realm of pure economic theory which says that a very large society couldn't simply exploit the highly productive (and therefore highly compensated) labor of a relatively small few? Or am I missing something having been absent from this issue for so long?" is: Yes, Game Theory, this set up is not a Nash Equilibrium as long as a profit can be made ie as long as we have a monetary system and a society that focuses on aquiring material wealth.

posted by TSO @ 11:10

Democrats and Catholics

A local minister who hosts a radio show asked African-Americans to call in and explain why, despite their conservatism on social issues, they continue to vote Democratic. Most who called pointed to the party's record on civil rights.

The loyalty of blacks to the Democratic party is understandable - even admirable - given that in the '60s the Democrats were the party of civil rights. But parties are not human beings and loyalty is misplaced when the party changes and becomes the standard bearer for death, as the Democrat party has.

posted by TSO @ 09:54

Pope John Paul II on Mercy

What took place in the relationship between the father and the son in Christ's parable [of the prodigal son] is not to be evaluated "from the outside." Our prejudices about mercy are mostly the result of appraising them only from the outside. At times it happens that by following this method of evaluation we see in mercy above all a relationship of inequality between the one offering it and the one receiving it. And, in consequence, we are quick to deduce that mercy belittles the receiver, that it offends the dignity of man. The parable of the prodigal son shows that the reality is different: the relationship of mercy is based on the common experience of that good which is man, on the common experience of the dignity that is proper to him. This common experience makes the prodigal son begin to see himself and his actions in their full truth (this vision in truth is a genuine form of humility); on the other hand, for this very reason he becomes a particular good for his father: the father sees so clearly the good which has been achieved thanks to a mysterious radiation of truth and love, that he seems to forget all the evil which the son had committed.


The cross is the most profound condescension of God to man and to what man-especially in difficult and painful moments-looks on as his unhappy destiny. The cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man's earthly existence; it is the total fulfillment of the messianic program that Christ once formulated in the synagogue at Nazareth and then repeated to the messengers sent by John the Baptist.

posted by TSO @ 08:19


We've been discussing/recussing anger and Traditionalism over at El Camino Real, and how some Trads could profit from an anger management class (Jeff excluded). For those in communion with Rome, I'm personally pro-Trad. For those not, I think they show - unwittingly - why the Chair of Peter is not vacant.

Why so? Because just as Jesus had "liberals" (Saducees) and "conservatives" (Pharisees) on his right and his left, so has the Church naysayers outside its Body who represent heretical doctrine on both the right and the left (using those horribly imprecise labels - but this is a blog, so what do you expect?). The truth is that truth and orthodoxy usually lie in the middle.

But Trad anger strikes me as a wrongheaded even from a purely strategic standpoint. It didn't work on me, and given my embrace of all things middlebrow I'm pretty much your average American. I started smoking cigars just before the boom. I embraced country music in '90, just after it started getting hot. I began blogging in late 2001, after Amy paved the way. (I often think that if I'd simply invested in the stocks of products I liked, I'd be rich. But if I'd have been smart enough to have done that I wouldn't be everyman would I?)

This is just a preface to say that my reversion, as incomplete as it is, was not due to anger but to beauty, and if my reversion is typical then it suggests anger won't work. Pointing to a defining moment is relatively simple. It's when I read Scott Hahn's exegesis of John 6 in Rome Sweet Home. Did not my heart burn within me?

posted by TSO @ 16:31

April 22, 2004

Charitable Home Run

This looks like a very worthwhile cause.

posted by TSO @ 11:35

Interesting Hot Potato on the Corner


...To sum it up, Americans -- like everyone else in the industrialized world -- are having too few babies. If, by "too few" you mean not enough babies to replenish the workforce going into entitlement-rich retirement. Not enough workers at the bottom of the system means not enough taxpayers to generate Social Security checks. In America we offset this problem to a certain extent with immigration. We import young workers to make up for the ones we don't manufacture at home.

Anyway, suddenly, some liberals are becoming pronatalists (i.e. someone who favors policy supporting higher birthrates) when a little more than a decade ago they were saying folks like Wattenberg were right out of the Handmaid's Tale. That's cool.

But here's my question and it is entirely theoretical (for I am still very much a pronatalist): Don't the unprecedented increases in productivity mitigate the pronatalist argument somewhat? In theory couldn't we make a comparatively small handfull of workers (or, heh, nanobot androids) so productive that we wouldn't need that many more workers? Is there anything in the realm of pure economic theory which says that a very large society couldn't simply exploit the highly productive (and therefore highly compensated) labor of a relatively small few? Or am I missing something having been absent from this issue for so long?


Emails are piling in. Let me clarify one thing. I wasn't proposing, even hypothetically, that only a handful of people work and the rest of us spend our time around the pool (or reading the Corner). No, what I guess I'm getting at it is this: Couldn't you have a system extending pretty much the trends we're already seeing in which a huge proportion of the society are in service-area and artsy-fartsy jobs and a tiny number of "productive" workers do the same amount of work it took hundreds of people to do just a few generations ago. After all, a couple guys with tractors and combines do the work of hundreds of field hands today. Anyway, economics isn't my strong point but it just seems to me that if productivity keeps soaring that the old arguments about importing labor and/or increasing the birthrate change. That's what I'm really getting at (though I'd love to discuss the Nanobot Androids all day). Am I missing something on that point?
I'm no economist, but I wouldn't want to deny you my ignorance, so here goes: Why do we see so little fruit (in terms of leisure) from increased productivity? Because we spend 90% of any raise we get. The square footage of the average home has exploded over the past fifty years despite smaller families. That a couple guys with tractors and combines do the work of hundreds of field hands today is true, but the hundreds in the field turn around and want a bigger house, a pool, a DVR, etc...So we basically take all the benefits of technology and exchange them for more stuff instead of more free time. That's my best guess. Email me your best guess and become eligible for a drawing to win stuff.

posted by TSO @ 10:55

Stalin Biography reviewed in the NY Times, reminding us of the mystery of iniquity:

What we do learn is that Stalin had an unexpected human side to his personality. He could sentence thousands of innocent people to death with a stroke of the pen and then go to his private cinema to enjoy an American cowboy movie, yet he could also display affection and tenderness...There are numerous examples of Stalin's affection for his children and friends of his youth. And he looked after his associates, making sure they took good care of themselves. Once, when Artyom Mikoyan, designer of the MIG aircraft, ''suffered angina and was put to bed, he was aware of someone coming into his room and tenderly laying a blanket over him. He was amazed to see it was Stalin.''

How to reconcile such manifestations of humanity and intellectualism with the persistent sadism, clinical paranoia and debauchery that fill so many of the pages of this book? For life at Stalin's court was a kind of Grand Guignol, dominated by the unpredictable and irrational behavior of the leader -- with his ''swarthy pock-marked face, gray hair, broken stained teeth and yellow Oriental eyes'' -- who kept his entourage in constant dread of his outbursts. People were expelled from his presence for no apparent reason, sometimes simply demoted, sometimes arrested and tortured. In 1937 he had the Politburo formally authorize physical torture of ''enemies of the people,'' and he would add the words ''Beat, beat!'' next to a victim's name...Perhaps the explanation for the contradictions in his character is that the savage tyrant needed to calm his conscience, to assure himself that he was really a decent human being.

posted by TSO @ 20:24

April 21, 2004

Willie Mays steals third (from NY Times, 1960)

I love those oldey-time baseball pictures.

posted by TSO @ 15:51

Sad Situation

Drove by the seedy part of town and saw a young waif, as poor and bedraggled as anything in Dickens. She was obviously a prostitute, and like most of the prostitutes on Broad St, there was nothing erotic about her. That seemed odd, like a mathematician not good at numbers. But such is the result of drugs and hard-living.

I was tempted to drive around the block and give her a $20 for free, if it be used for her "prostitute retirement fund" and not a fix. As unlikely as that might be. More likely a cop would charge me with soliciting. No good deed...

posted by TSO @ 15:13

West Virginia Rust-Proofing

via Hokie Pundit

posted by TSO @ 13:02

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Again, it'll probably be years before this is directly relevant, but just as the Day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night, I suspect that True Love sneaks up on people as well. - Robert of HokiePundit

I would like to cut their pitiful arguments to shreds like a Zorro- but not only do it with a smile on my face- but to conjure a smile from their bleeding lip as well. I do think that the "offensive" strategy is working to a degree. The louder we shout the more people will hear. - Michael Brendan Dougherty, a "non-angry" Traditionalist. (I'd hate to see an angry one.)

My wife, a convert to the Faith, found the Baltimore Catechism much more useful in learning about Catholicism than the R.C.I.A. documents she was given. Without something like the B.C., and yes, an insistance on memorization of basic dogma, too many Catholic kids grow up religiously illiterate, easy marks for the secular and religious hucksters who infest our culture. -Donald M. on Amy's blog

Introducing Pope-In-A-Bag©, all you need to fulfil your plan for yourself. With Pope-In-A-Bag© you get these great components. • Personal Papal Smoke Generator - Safely generates white smoke to announce the day you elected yourself to the Papacy. Crowd cheering sound effect is available in both CD and Cassette. - Curt Jester, offering accoutrements to those declaring themselves infallible on faith and morals.

When I was in high school, girls aspired to become cheerleaders for laudable reasons. Primarily, it was all about a concept called “team spirit.”...My motives for coveting a spot on “The Saint James High School Something-or-Others” cheerleading squad were a tad different. First, the glory! After all, being a cheerleader was a sure-fire ticket to, if not immortality, then at least popularity. No cheerleader in my high school lacked for week-end dates! ...I couldn’t lose. Except I lost. As one of the judge’s explained to me, I lost a lot of points because I didn’t bother mentioning the team’s name in my cheer. And why should I have done that? As should be painfully clear by now, the entire fiasco was, as is so often the case, all about me. Not, in my opinion, unlike the upcoming Boston College Conference. If you go to the conference web-site, you will find that there is no mention of the Name of Jesus. What does that tell you? Is there no room for Jesus in the “Church That Women Want?” The first workshop is entitled: “Women Leaders Creating Church.” I’m not kidding! Never mind that Jesus Christ created His Church a couple of thousand years ago. These “ladies” — like that insufferably arrogant would-be cheerleader — seem to believe, God help them, that the Church is all about them. - Pew Lady

Tom doesn't disagree with Steven, Steven doesn't really disagree with Tom, and the Carmelites don't really have dramatic 'night and day' differences from, er, most Dominicans. There, that was helpful and worth the time, wasn't it? - Thomas of 'Endlessly Rocking' on Tom of Disputations & Steven of Flos Carmeli

Try suggesting that John Kerry's views are not consonant with Catholic teaching. They call you Torquemada for that. - Rod Dreher on Amy's site

"No fecal material, Sherlock," you are no doubt saying to me now in a grim tone... And we all need to guard against is an attitude like this one: "Well, if there is such a thing on earth as 'UUU-nion,' then, by golly, I demand to have it! "I study and work hard on my faith--I honor God and my family and neighbor. "What am I, chopped liver?" In the words of Francis de Sales, if God chooses to make a marble statue, then leaves it alone to remain motionless till He returns to gaze upon it, why should the statue complain? Remember, if we desire UNION with Him, we must desire HIS will, no matter what it may be. - Kathy of GospelMinefield

For men, it is a great misfortune to have never fought in battle for a noble cause. Miserable is he who has never been a crusader or a warrior or a soldier. Of course, a crusade might take many forms other than literal military warfare -- but woe to the man who does not answer his call to arms! And where are such calls and such causes today? At best the crusading spirit has been emptied of noble motives: we are exhorted to fight for "freedom" and "prosperity" rather than truth or virtue. That is, if we fight at all, and most of us don't. - Jeff of El Camino Real

My lovability quotient is how lovable I am divided by how lovable I should be; my only concern with it is that it not decrease with time.-Tom of Disputations

...Courtesy of Video Meliora. Speaking of whom, I find myself often trying to write clever, profound observations in the hopes of being included in T. S. O'Rama's weekly quote round-up. Of course, trying to be clever or profound never works. It's like watching for a pot to boil. - Michelle of "And Then?" I'm amused & honored that people care about being on this list. It goes without saying that I miss more good quotes than I catch.

Charity toward others is the desire for their salvation, not the desire for the satisfaction of telling them you doubt their salvation. I am not very perceptive spiritually, but I do not discern much desire for the salvation of others in the henhouse, compared to the desire for the satisfaction of seeing someone else get it in the chops from a stud bishop. If, however, the "that" that Cardinal McCarrick is like is "kind," then those who think the times call for him to be more like something else would do well to pray that his kindness grow to encompass that something else, rather than that he stop being kind and start being their puppet. (By the way, I'm inclined to think that how much and how earnestly people pray for something -- and I mean full-bore prayer, with vigils and fasts and candles and Rosaries and kneeling and maybe even some tears -- is a much better indicator of whether they truly desire it and whether the desire comes from God than how much and how earnestly they complain about it on the Internet. And that includes, naturally, complaining about complaining.) - Tom of Disputations

Standing between the wasteland and the valley is one little book, The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Everything changed after I met St. Therese, so much so that I started to think I was special to her in some way. It was a conceited way to think, I realized, but I had no other explanation for the great interest that it was obvious (yes, obvious) she was taking in me. What did she see in me that made her stick around even after my reversion? It seemed that the hard work had already been done and she was free to leave. Yet it was almost as if she wanted to be . . . friends. Now I see why! She is my Confirmation patron, though I didn't choose her. At the time I was confirmed, I didn't even know her. So it was she who chose me. I still don't understand why she wanted to do that, given how unlike her--and ignorant of her--I was for a long time. It is very humbling . . . and beautiful... A few years ago, I read a review of Saving Private Ryan that described Private Ryan as "Everyman." Well, St. Therese of the Child Jesus is "Everysoul." This is why everyone--missionaries, martyrs, priests, religious, lay people, parents, children, scholars, etc.--can be moved by her story and touched with devotion to her. She gives new meaning to the expression "kindred soul," for she is everyone's kindred soul. - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

posted by TSO @ 12:09

Corporate Comic Relief

A couple hundred of us received this seemingly non-controversial blah-blah:

From: John R.
To: Diversity Invitees
Subject: Diversity for 2004


Welcome to the continuation of our series of Diversity Round Tables, now in our third year. The first presentation for this year is on Gender. The title is "He Talks ... She Talks". Please go to our website to see the particulars, and register using MS Explorer (only). As usual, the meeting will start with lunch. If you need vegetarian, please let me know.
Which was followed up by this missive:
From: Sarah, Senior Consultant Human Resources
To: Diversity Invitees
Subject: Diversity for 2004

John, I think it would be helpful to put "Gender Differences in Communication at Work" .....instead of just Gender.
The obligatory comment is to say "I see gender differences at work already!" Russell took the bait and replied to everyone:
See, and I understood John just fine. John: I hope you are attending!

To which Sarah replied:
Let me apologize to everyone whom I offended by sending the note to John asking him to clarify the title of the Roundtable. I received a note from someone who called me ignorant and rude....and said I should not have sent the note. It was not meant to embarass John in any way!
Stand I dumbfounded, thinking, "you can't make this stuff up".

posted by TSO @ 12:00

Say it ain't so

What fresh hell is this?

posted by TSO @ 07:56

That's What Makes a Horse Race

Alice von Hildebrand received some interesting letters (scroll down if you hit the link) concerning her article warning that we not disregard feelings in the spiritual life:

Alice von Hildebrand delights us with her defense of feelings in our psychic and spiritual lives, yet she inserts one lone paragraph into her article that she doesn’t explain and that appears to be out of context. I quote: “Original sin, however, has not only affected man’s feelings. Both his reason (intelligence) and his free will have also fallen victim to man’s revolt against God.” It is a hair in the ointment.

She is not alone, of course, in assuming that Adam broke something in us that Christ did not fix. Father Kenneth Baker, S.J., for example, wrote that “as a result of original sin man is burdened with concupiscence, which is an innate tendency towards evil and rebellion against God”. We agree, of course, that after Adam and Eve sinned, sin now abounds on the earth. But do we, as individuals, walk as crippled human beings even after Christ restored us to the state of grace in baptism? Pope Saint Leo the Great, on the contrary, tells us to be jubilant because Christ restores what Adam had lost for us:

Old becomes new. Strangers are adopted and outsiders are made heirs. Rouse yourself, man, and recognize the dignity of your nature. Remember that you were made in God’s image; though corrupted in Adam, that image has been restored in Christ.

There was a time—before we were baptized—when our nature was still fallen. There can be a time when we fall again—by mortal sin. But happy are the adopted children of God who flourish in the state of sanctifying grace, whose souls God enriches lavishly with the infused theological virtues; with faith to be loyal to Him, with hope to expect heaven, with love to adhere to Him and to reject rebellion.

From the baptismal font, we jump up totally restored, as did the crippled man to whom Peter said: “Silver and gold I have not, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).

Admittedly, a few theologians actually hold that original sin has affected our natural faculties adversely, rendering us less inclined toward good and more disposed toward evil than we would be in the purely natural state. Canon J. M. Herve mentions four of them in a footnote: De Lemes, Contenson, Sylvius, and Schmid...Herve disagrees. He finds that there is no proof in the sources of revelation that the natural powers of will and intellect were diminished by original sin... -Rev. Anthony Zimmerman
Alice von Hildebrand responds:
...St. Benedict prohibited his monks from having private possessions but nevertheless found it necessary to check regularly whether his sons had not hidden some forbidden object in their beds. We can assume that those who enter a monastery aim at holiness, and would therefore abstain from committing an act of disobedience to which teenagers are prone. Does Father Zimmerman imply that this could have taken place before original sin?... Original sin did not deprive man of his ontological freedom but very many men have lost what St. Augustine called their moral freedom. Those hooked on alcohol, drugs, and sex have become slaves to their concupiscence. He who would rather die than ask for forgiveness is a slave of his pride. How things were before original sin, I simply don’t know and feel incompetent to discuss.

...My husband was converted upon discovering that the Church produces saints. It would be strange indeed if his wife challenged his profound conviction that man can “be transformed in Christ” and become a “new man.” But the way to holiness is a very narrow one. Man’s pride remains throughout our lives a re-doubtable enemy. Our self-will constantly tries to assert itself. Our heart can become a heart of stone. That grace can triumph is something that no Catholic can doubt. This triumph implies that our self-will joyfully accepts being defeated by Christ.

posted by TSO @ 17:18

April 20, 2004

Leave Comedy to the Professionals? Heaven forfend!

Scene: the elevator at our workplace.

A distinguished-looking grey-haired gentleman walks in. Sees someone coming just as the doors are closing. Extends hand to prevent closing. Two fellow 60-yr olds enter elevator. He knows them.

"Hey I wouldn't have held it had I known it was youse guys!"

Loud guffaws & hilarity ensues over the witticism.

As an amateur studier of human nature, I'm amused by their amusement. Perhaps a bit jealous that grown men could grow so jocular over this joke, sans liquor. One of the men entering perfectly executed the ol' fallen-face pratfall, a regular Screen Actor's Guild member was that guy. Scarcely a week goes by at the ol' workplace in which someone isn't trottin' out this ol' "I-wouldn't-have-held-it-open-for-you" chestnut. Ham of Bone and I had a saying for this form of perennial comedy: "ngo!" meaning, "never gets old!"

Tom mentioned that a religious fanatic is sometimes defined as anyone more religious than ourselves. A corollary is that a silly person is anyone who is more silly than ourselves. Less silly then us and they have no sense of humor. Obviously.

Sometimes I imagine how fun it would be to see how WFB and Kirk interacted. But have I not sinned? Didn't I say last week "it all goes to the same place" when our secretary insisted on separate plates for her spinach & mashed potatoes? Didn't I say, "that wasn't so bad" ten seconds into my dental exam? Didn't I give my number as "522-7282, in that particular order" last week? Sometimes it's hard to be a Midwesterner. :~)

posted by TSO @ 13:47

Click & Say Awe

It's really amazing how beautiful some blog templates are.

posted by TSO @ 09:35

Kreeft's Story

I used to wish the Church's infallibility claim be downgraded to just a claim of authority, since I can understand authority, it being a purely human thing and more easily believed. But then I realized that if the Church taught, for instance, that Jesus wasn't really God, then the gates of Hell had, in fact, triumphed.

And then there's also a nice parallel between Christ and His Body as Peter Kreeft points out in his conversion story:

The parallel between Christ and Church, Incarnation and Church history, goes still further. I thought, just as Jesus made a claim about His identity that forces us into one of only two camps, His enemies or His worshippers, those who call Him liar and those who call Him Lord; so the Catholic Church's claim to be the one true Church, the Church Christ founded, forces us to say either that this is the most arrogant, blasphemous and wicked claim imaginable, if it is not true, or else that she is just what she claims to be. Just as Jesus stood out as the absolute exception to all other human teachers in claiming to be more than human and more than a teacher, so the Catholic Church stood out above all other denominations in claiming to be not merely a denomination, but the Body of Christ incarnate, infallible, one, and holy, presenting the really present Christ in her Eucharist.
He also had a good line in this: "I think that in Heaven, Protestants will teach Catholics to sing and Catholics will teach Protestants to dance and sculpt." I can country line-dance, that's about it.

posted by TSO @ 07:53

Around the Blog Horn

Say it ain't so. A "Catholic Nigerian scammer"?

Henry is a truth teller concerning health care.

posted by TSO @ 11:49

April 19, 2004

Book Recommendation from Bill Bannon

Over at the parish hall, the learned Bill Bannon has an interesting suggestion to an inquirer asking which spiritual book to read. He suggests Thomas Keating's, "Crisis of Faith/Crisis of Love":

Excellent and by a Trappist Abbot...Often goes into the deeper reason for apparent roughness of Christ even toward those He is healing and shows the Love beneath the appearance. His approach cannot be replaced by simply reading ancient authors. The Holy Spirit guides in different ways in a given century.

posted by TSO @ 10:58

Monday Silliness

I've noticed that a song will occasionally come to mind when I see a given blog title.

Some are obvious. "Secret Agent Man" goes with the song of the same name. "A Plumbline in the Wind" nicely morphs to Elton John's "A Candle in the Wind". Others are more inexplicable, such as:

Camassia ("Camassia, Camassia" to '80s song "Amadeus, Amadeus")
El Camino (sing like "Operator" from Jim Croce song)
Curt Jester ("Moon Raker" as in Bond, James Bond)
Swimming the Tiber ("swim that tiber" to ragtime tune "Catch That Tiger")

Please remember what you paid for this.

posted by TSO @ 10:53

Belloc "Path to Rome" Excerpt

So little are we, we men: so much are we immersed in our muddy and immediate interests that we think, by numbers and recitals, to comprehend distance or time, or any of our limiting infinities. Here were these magnificent creatures of God, I mean the Alps, which now for the first time I saw from the height of the Jura; and because they were fifty or sixty miles away, and because they were a mile or two high, they were become something different from us others, and could strike one motionless with the awe of supernatural things. Up there in the sky, to which only clouds belong and birds and the last trembling colours of pure light, they stood fast and hard; not moving as do the things of the sky. They were as distant as the little upper clouds of summer, as fine and tenuous; but in their reflection and in their quality as it were of weapons (like spears and shields of an unknown array) they occupied the sky with a sublime invasion: and the things proper to the sky were forgotten by me in their presence as I gazed.

To what emotion shall I compare this astonishment? So, in first love one finds that this can belong to me.

posted by TSO @ 18:44

April 18, 2004

A Connecticut Yankee in Santa Anna's Court

I tend to have an overly romantic view of Mexicans because I perceive them as being poorer and more devout than most Americans. Thinking theirs is a country of saints is flawed - all of us are pocked by Original Sin - but leave me my illusions and I'll leave you yours. It's not that there is anything intrinsically good about being poor; it just seems to offers you fewer obstacles to union with God and a greater sense of dependence on Him.

I hike in a park in Central Ohio that is exceedingly popular with Mexicans. So much so, that this Caucasian is in the distinct minority. I often get suspicious, stony-eye'd looks and I want to reassure them... (Fade to music...)

"Greetings my Mexican brothers and sisters!" I say to a family walking in the opposite direction. "I welcome you to the shores of America on behalf of our shared patroness, Mary the Blessed Virgin."

Though I am reading from a prepared script, I try to make it natural by maintaining eye contact as much as possible. I talk slowly in what is called "broken English". But unfortunately they don't even stop or acknowledge me!

I continue up a high ridge and there's a bench where two teenagers are holding each other passionately, but chastely. I know about "Latin lovers" but I also know that as Mexican Catholics they hold to the Magisterium.

"May God bless your union and make it fruitful!" I exclaim. "Remember that the unitive aspect is secondary!". Again, blank looks. I figure perhaps it's because they don't know English. I remind myself to pick up a Spanish phrase book, preferably one with terms like "hypostatic union".

I continue the hike in a more pensive mood. I've not made the connection I sought. I arrive back at the parking lot where some sort of loud Mariachi1 music is coming from the open windows of a vehicle containing two young men in their early 20s. One is wearing an Indians uniform top and the other is shirtless.


They turn down their stereo.

"Thank you for sharing your music, the fruit of a culture with with roots that go back to the Mayan civilization. Beethoven said that music is more revelatory than philosophy--"

They flipped me the bird as they drove off. I never even got the chance to quote from JPII's "Letter to Artists".
1 - Not really Mariachi, but I'm playing an ignorant American in this post (not exactly a stretch). Erik Keilholtz suggests that I was hearing "norteno or banda sinaloense, pure German/Moravian polka/schotisch/vals accordion music sung in Spanish". Yeah, that's what I meant (wink, wink). Erik's reaction reminds me that some posts are here only for my own amusement. :) This post is, of course, fictional - beginning with the word "Greetings"...

posted by TSO @ 18:57

April 17, 2004

Random Thoughts

Monday we go to Larry’s bar and the passionate poet reminds me of my own lack of creativity. Shouldn’t Maslow have included “creative writing while drinking beer” on his list?

I’m ready to dive into my books; the latest arrival is a sweet firebird-red 1905 edition of Chesterton’s “Heretics”. The cover alone breaks your heart with its beauty, the simplicity of that single word in the typeface time forgot. Nearby is Paul Theroux’s odd “Hotel Honolulu” and next door is Belloc’s wonderous travelogue “Path to Rome” where all the reds in the obscure European villages he traverses are of a remarkable vintage. I note the little TAN insignia at the bottom of Bellocs's neighbor “This is the Faith” and it warms, just the mere insignia. It reminds me of TAN’s “Glories of Divine Grace” and how I treasure it by not reading it. That is the fate of the books in the rareified air of the top .01%. They cannot be read because they would disappoint, or even if they didn’t reading them would be consuming them and I prefer they not be consumed. They are worth more in their virginal state. Pearce’s “Literary Converts” shares a similar fate, to be read when no other Pearce books are available, or on my deathbed, whichever comes first. A book can be too highly valued to be read. I've managed to avoid this practice with respect to the Bible, convinced by the truth of St. Jerome's “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”.

I tire easily of the endless debates about lax bishops and GIRM and modern liturgical music and other hot-button St. Blog issues. And unfortunately I’m usually not pious enough to appreciate the posts of Steven Riddle or Mary of Ever-New. So I look for something else, something surprising and artful, something Dylan-esque. Something I can’t even define it other than I know it when I see it. Mostly it’s the case of someone saying what I’m thinking but am too reticent to talk about, like the Internet Monk's refreshing “I Hate Theology” bit. (He doesn’t really hate theology so much as he hates how it tends to make one proud, less appreciative of devotional practices and too vigilant of other’s error.) Ultimately world politics and church politics and theological debates all tend to exercise the same overused (left-brain) muscle. There’s a need for beauty, but it shouldn't be mere afterthought, as if to “set the plate” for more politics. Politics is an accelerant. Beauty is often a somnolent. Lush prose or poetry rests me. A strange word or bucolic image will strike a chord of a memory past and I’ll slide to dreamland.

Blogs can provide the “surprise” that newspaper columns can’t or won’t. They seem more human - there’ s an element of self-disclosure found previously only in diaries published after famous person’s deaths. I venture occasionally outside of St. Blog’s though it’s usually a fool’s errand. Most bloggers are young and most of the young are simply foolish (I certainly was/am). I come across a blogger who links to a site that raises money for breast cancer by having women bloggers submit pictures of their breasts. Has it come to that? That we have to see naked pictures in order to donate to charity?


Our bed is a magnet for animals. No, not that. I mean first our cat & now our dog. Obi lays his head so sweetly against the pillow, intuiting its purpose if by accident. He understands creature comforts and we share that trait in our mutual embodiments. Oh but what of responsibilities? They sleep free of care, their small brains their comfort.


My evangelical wife decides, for the first time ever, she wants to go to a Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Where this inspiration came from I know not. After a few calls I find a Stations and it’s at a parish I infrequent, at 7:30pm. Her sister Karen joins us, and it’s as desultory as Roman church services are reputed to be. The church is nearly empty, the priest old and limping and skips every other station’s singing verse presumably in order to shorten the service. It seems to reinforce the reasons they left the Church: a lack of excitement, the lackluster crowds, the minimalism rather than maximalism. But it is not my business but God's.

posted by TSO @ 01:03

On Blogway

From a Wash. Post article:

...This may change, of course, as the blogosphere moves further into the mainstream. Already there are turf wars, low-level spats. No doubt a pecking order will gradually materialize, since even cyberspace operates according to the familiar logic of Animal Farm: All bloggers are created equal, but some are more equal than others. There will be stars, contract players, boffo traffic numbers. There will be a proliferation of advertising on the most visible sites -- there is already, in fact -- and a defiant tug-of-war between the early bloggers and their entrepreneurial successors.

Perhaps I'm being too cynical. If the blogosphere turns out to be a brave new world after all, where logrolling and cronyism fear to tread, I'll be the first to applaud. In any case, there's no denying that the practice is on the rise: According to a recent study by the Pew Institute, up to five percent of all Internet users have created blogs in the last year alone. We do seem to be on the verge of that radiant future in which everybody, as the saying goes, is a critic.

posted by TSO @ 21:00

April 16, 2004

Internet Monk

It is amusing how I end up by the side of the road watching theological debates that have only been going on, oh, for say hundreds or thousands of years. Lots of 'been there, done that's' I suppose.

Several years ago, I was reading A.W. Pink's book, The Sovereignty of God. I knew nothing about Pink, except that my friend was convinced if I read Pink, I would become a Calvinist. (I later joined the Reformed camp, but it was in spite of Pink, not because of him.) At the end of Pink's book was an appendix on John 3:16 and Pink's view that God doesn't love everyone. If you have been around Calvinistic circles, you know that the question, "Does God love everyone the same way?" is a live wire, and you also know there are lots of Calvinists who say "No. God does not love all people in the same way." In fact, there are people quite excited by this doctrine.

Pink's appendix made me angry. I found myself thinking of a song we used to sing when I was a child: "Jesus loves the little children. All the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world." I imagined a little children's choir, made up of all the children in this song. Pink was saying God didn't love some of those children. He was so devoted to the "L" in the TULIP, that he wrote an appendix telling me I cannot look at a room full of children and truthfully say, "God loves all of you."

Could Pink come up with the scriptures and the logic to sustain his theology that John 3:16 isn't true for all the children of the world? Certainly he could. Would Pink vigorously defend his theology as being a true presentation of who God is and what God is like? Is this about the Gospel or about Spencer's schmaltzy illustration? Does it matter that it's offensive? Pink would defend his interpretation as God's way of dealing with human beings. If I don't like it, that's my problem. I should quit trying make God into nice and let him be Yahweh. Well, I'm feeling it again. I hate theology that is this inhumane. --Internet Monk

posted by TSO @ 18:28

Friday Hodge-Podge of Sale Items - 50% off; volume discounts in select markets

This is an occasional Friday tradition where we visit the "staging area" of wannabe posts, posts that just didn't quite make the blog. Here I exercise mercy and give them their fifteen seconds of fame. Call it the land of misfit posts:

"It is in the nature of civilization that it must be in constant conflict with barbarism. Very few empires have been the result of a deliberate ambition. They have grown, inevitably, because it has been found necessary to expand in order to preserve what is already held. The French had to annex Algiers because it was the only way in which the Mediterranean could be made safe from pirates. Empire moves in a seties of 'incidents,' and these 'incidents' mean that it is impossible for a country to live in isolation. Barbarism means constant provocation."
-----From "We Can Applaud Italy" (1935), in The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh.
I recall Billy Graham saying his constant regret is not "being prayed up enough". If prayer is the oxygen of the soul, as St. Padre Pio said, then we're all chronically gasping for breath!
I was thinking the news of a recent devout Catholic’s marital woes; I realized anew the truth of the cliché that no two marriages are the same. The two who-shall-become-one have a fingerprint all their own. Two country singers were apparently happily married when they became fabulously wealthy and famous in the “oil boom” of the ‘90s country music landscape: Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. And both marriages went through tremendous strain with the avalanche of money and women and fame. But Jackson’s endured and Garth’s failed. What was the difference? We look for formulas in a world that resists formulas as vampires do garlic.
Stepson calls his mother. "Did Tom spill ketchup on my bookbag?" His mother: "No...I'm sorry, I did." (Rant ensues.)
Now what fascinates me about this little exchange are two things. One is that he owns what looks to be a plain, firecracker-red burlap bookbag. But turns out there's nothing plain about its worth -- $400. Now I'm sure he got a "deal", although I'm skeptical how the word "deal" can ever be used in connection with a originally-priced $400 bag. I guess the name is "Prada" or "Pravda"; it's some sort of elite name brand that people feel compelled to own so that they can report its original price. My take on the matter is that since the bookbag has been present in the kitchen about 50% of the time during the past two years, it's downright miraculous that nothing has been spilled on it before. That's worth $200 right there.
Robert E. Lee
-steady, even-tempered horse "Traveler"
-devout Christian but saw slavery as allowable
-aristocratic Virginia cavalier
-died of natural causes

Abraham Lincoln
-mercurial wife Mary Todd
-struggled with faith, but understood the evil of slavery
-poor, born in log cabin
Why do I knock my head against the wall trying to reconcile the irreconciliable? Paul tried valiantly to communicate it to me in Romans 9 & 10 but all I could come away with is that God hardened Israel's heart and Israel hardened herself against God, leaving me back at square one.
Last year I read Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Last American Man", the story of the modern American frontiersman Eustace Conway and I was struck by how similar his true story is to the fictional “Ladder of Years” by Ann Tyler. In both cases you have someone living by themselves in hermit-like conditions. Both initially exult in the freedom and isolation. But eventually both strive to enmesh themselves again in families and relationships, messy as they might be.
"Knowing your love for hearth and home, Mystery Blogger Not Exposed hooked me, fileted my Ham of Sole, and left me wishing I had belaid (belied?) my plans and gone." - Ham of Bone, regretting that he didn't go to Larry's bar, as well he should.

posted by TSO @ 10:54

"You're Fired"

I got sucked into The Apprentice whirlpool last night. A two-hour "live" episode with only 15 minutes truly live. Truth-in-advertising laws, where are you? But it was entertaining. Someone said the show is all about schadenfreude, but how seriously can you take getting fired? They've all got plenty of job offers as well as their 15 minutes of fame. Bill might be the real loser because he has to work for the demanding Trump for $250,000 a year. $250K has got to be a come-down for someone who made a ton of money in a start-up cigar company. Omarosa might make that much just from her book and radio show, sans the heavy lifting. But of course it's not about money with Bill, he's a true believer and wants to learn from the Trumpster.

I'm amused by the helicopter with the huge name "Trump" landing on a hotel with the word "Trump" emblazoned on it. On the show it's everywhere and it strikes me as similar to the way you see a dictator's name and image everywhere in fascist countries.

The worst thing about The Apprentice is the materialistic bent. "The Donald" shows his apprentice-wannabes his apartment and says, "this could all be yours". Bwwaa-haa-haaa! I think, "who cares about this stuff?" But of course, if he had some tremendous floor-to-sky library I'd probably feel differently.

posted by TSO @ 09:13

Diocesan Newspaper Excerpt

Mercy is woven throughout the entire collection of Sacred Scripture. Yet we dare not forget that mercy does not exist unless there are those who are merciful. The world we live in had a "show no mercy" predominance that is contrary to every line of the New Testament. Without mercy there will never be peace.- Fr. Lawrence L. Hummer

posted by TSO @ 07:31


I'm hypnotized by Christian hawks, jealous of the level of self-confidence they have regarding war. Mind you, the Iraq war is something we now have to carry through, so there's no doubt there. But VDH goes a step further and says that we should've nipped Islamic fundamentalism in its 1979 cradle.

I have no such confidence concerning war. It seems resistant to formula (even the Just War theory forces you to make some rough guesses) and the unforeseen ramifications of going to war unforeseen. And lacking order and principle. Saul Bellow wrote that part of the attraction of his friend Allan Bloom was his coherent world view. Bellow wrote that "order is charismatic".

This is a prelude to Victor David Hanson's interesting article which is nakedly pragmatic (a particularly American trait/sin). Sometimes the Christian has to be unpractical, and I wish Victor David H. had said more words from that perspective, though I realize he's arguing purely from history. (Brian Lamb once asked him if he was Christian and he said he was, although "not a very good one" (who is?). When Lamb asked how it was that he was such a hawk and Christ apparently not, Hanson answered that from the 4th century on Christianity has accepted that war can be just.)
In the article linked VDH imagines a world in which the U.S. stood up to Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic fundamentalism back when the hostages were taken, but the truth is that Iran's experiment has failed, a failure that could only have been known in the full ugly "blossoming" of that state. Iranian citizens are about the only Muslim Middle Easterners who don't blame their problems on the U.S. (they blame their cleric leaders) and that seems like it ought to be worth something.

Imagine a different November 4, 1979, in Teheran. Shortly after Iranian terrorists storm the American embassy and take some 90 American hostages, President Jimmy Carter announces that Islamic fundamentalism is not a legitimate response to the excess of the Shah but a new and dangerous fascism that threatens all that liberal society holds dear. And then he issues an ultimatum to Teheran’s leaders: Release the captives or face a devastating military response.

When that demand is not met, instead of freezing Iran’s assets, stopping the importation of its oil, or seeking support at the UN, Carter orders an immediate blockade of the country, followed by promises to bomb, first, all of its major military assets, and then its main government buildings and residences of its ruling mullocracy. The Ayatollah Khomeini may well have called his bluff; we may well have tragically lost the hostages (151 fewer American lives than the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would take four years later in a single day in Lebanon). And there may well have been the sort of chaos in Teheran that we now witness in Baghdad. But we would have seen it all in 1979—and not in 2001, after almost a quarter-century of continuous Middle East terrorism, culminating in the mass murder of 3,000 Americans and the leveling of the World Trade Center.
He whips out convincing classical allusions:
As long ago as the fourth century b.c., Demosthenes warned how complacency and self-delusion among an affluent and free Athenian people allowed a Macedonian thug like Philip II to end some four centuries of Greek liberty—and in a mere 20 years of creeping aggrandizement down the Greek peninsula. Thereafter, these historical lessons should have been clear to citizens of any liberal society: we must neither presume that comfort and security are our birthrights and are guaranteed without constant sacrifice and vigilance, nor expect that peoples outside the purview of bourgeois liberalism share our commitment to reason, tolerance, and enlightened self-interest.
Most of the left simply spout slogans, which have all the thought of a squirrel. Alternative solutions are rare. But I do recognize that for Christians "doing nothing" (other than prayer and fasting) is sometimes the valid solution. On the other hand, sometimes we must fight. Where is that line between self-defense and aggression?

posted by TSO @ 14:17

April 15, 2004

Et Tu, Sen. Santorum?

One of the pro-life movement's best friends appears to be actively supporting one of the pro-life movement's least favorites (at least from the Republican side of the aisle) - Sen. Specter. To email Sen. Santorum go here. To contribute to the Toomey campaign go here.

posted by TSO @ 11:32

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I was thinking tonight about Graham Greene and John Kerry. I was thinking about Greene's relationship to the Church - one would never call him pious, but the odd thing is how clearly he seemed to get what the core of holiness is. He may not have lived it, but he wrote about it, powerfully. I'm not really clear what Greene's exact intellectual and spiritual stance towards the Church was during all those decades after which he'd left his wife and had affairs with/lived with various other women. I imagine his stance ranged from vaguely interested to indifferent, and I recall reading that near the end of his life he referred to himself as something like a "Catholic atheist." I've never had a sense of any great torment or struggle, just acceptance of who he was and where he stood in relation to the Church. And there was a priest around at the end, the model for the priest in Monsieur Quixote. So there's no nobility or sainthood there, but there is honesty. There's a recognition that here is the Church, and here I am, and while I may live outside of the Church and sin and cast a jaundiced eye its way - there it is and there I am. No matter what I think of it, I'm under no illusion that all the Church needs is to be remade in my image or even "accept me as I am" in all of my choices. God's mercy is wide and deep and always waiting and found in the oddest ways and by the most flawed people, but mercy it is, mercy in light of my sins. Which are sins. - Amy Welborn

gk: what is "the truth?" smockmomma: quid est veritas? quid est veritas, claudia? uncle christian: she takes calculus for a whole semester and doesn't understand a thing, sees the passion three times and she's speaking latin. -Smockmomma of "Two Sleepy Mommys"

I once wrote a play that is a two hour long review of itself. It has never been staged. I don't think it ever will be staged. I don't think I would go see it if it were staged. -Erik of Erik's Rants & Recipes

From [Chesterton's] Lepanto:

“Dim drums throbbing, in the hills half heard,
Where only on a nameless throne a crownless
prince has stirred,
Where, risen from a doubtful seat and half-
attained stall,
The last knight of Europe takes weapons from
the wall,
The last and lingering troubadour to whom the
bird has sung” …

If our troubadours, our poets, now sing of our demise—and they do, so many of them—then where may we find such a poet? In a democratic system, where a prince? We post-moderns would do well to recall now Roman poet Juvenal, when he wrote, “Count it the greatest sin to prefer life to honor, and for the sake of living to lose what makes life worth living.” We, the living, must turn a deaf ear to the living dead. - Robert Bove of Spinsters

John Forbes K has the Thurston Howellian Cocktail Party Laugh – chin jut out, head tossed back, hail-fellow HAW-haw-haw-haw-haw – down pat. Those years at St. Paul's and Yale were not wasted. - Mark of Irish Elk

Cold winds toss
our ashes through the air
but our Lady wears
those ashes in her hair -

rough daybreak filled
her childhood womb with flame
that makes a fragile
army of her name. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

I, for one, have never understood those who would express a desire to join in the celebration of communion at another denomination's church. Why? I'm not united to them- why would I want to lie/pretend? By the way, a friend of mine once went ot a Lutheran church (don't know which kind, sorry.) Right before communion, the minister said, "Those of you who are visitors and would like to receive communion - " (dramatic pause) - "are welcome to see me after the service for information on how to join our church.") - Amy Welborn

Add white text to your resume. - HR person to Ham of Bone, in order that he might defeat the computer program that keys off certain text in the resume. You can't make this stuff up.

As I heard Fr. Groeschel say in one of his Lenten meditations (I'm paraphrasing): "Don't ask God to glorify you. If you do that, He *will* and it might be more than you were anticipating (suffering). Ask God to be merciful, instead." -Signe on Disputations

posted by TSO @ 09:15

April 14, 2004

What happens when the anal-retentive reads?

He analyzes things to death. (That is something I'd surely do.)

posted by TSO @ 09:12

Spam Received

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posted by TSO @ 09:05

"They need mercy even though they often do not realize it" -JPII

I've been recently thinking more about God's mercy. The knee-jerk tendency, in a sinful age, is to think we need to be made more aware of God's justice. But Pope John Paul II seems to think otherwise and he points to prophetic souls who think similarly in his Dives in misericordia encyclical.

He writes, "The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy."

This makes sense because I think if someone doesn't believe in mercy then they can't much believe in sin because otherwise the tension between who we think we are (basically good) and who we really are (poor sinners) has to be squeezed to a small, palatable distance. (Despair being the alternative.)

Those who take the Faith seriously need copious amounts of the medicine of mercy. It would be well if we made ourselves read the God-appointed saint for our time: St. Faustina and her "Revelations of Divine Mercy". The messengers - St. Faustina, St. Therese, and JPII - are all around us.

I tend to think first borns have an especially hard time with the idea of mercy, because we're used to being strong, self-reliant, helpful to authority figures rather than a drain on them. And yet we are a drain on God, always needy. Perhaps that is why first-borns in the bible (with the exception of Jesus) are so often not chosen by God. (See David over his brothers, Jacob over Esau, etc.) First borns in some sense are already strong in this world by virtue of their advantages: their ability to lord it over their siblings due to greater strength and by having the undivided attention of their parents for a few early year(s). The first shall be last indeed.

So the Holy Father's encyclical continues:

The word and the concept of "mercy" seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it. This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one-sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy.

And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God. They are certainly being moved to do this by Christ Himself, who through His Spirit works within human hearts.

Love, so to speak, conditions justice and, in the final analysis, justice serves love. The primacy and superiority of love vis-a-vis justice - this is a mark of the whole of revelation - are revealed precisely through mercy...Connected with the mystery of creation is the mystery of the election, which in a special way shaped the history of the people whose spiritual father is Abraham by virtue of his faith. Nevertheless, through this people which journeys forward through the history both of the Old Covenant and of the New, that mystery of election refers to every man and woman, to the whole great human family. "I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." "For the mountains may steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed." This truth, once proclaimed to Israel, involves a perspective of the whole history of man, a perspective both temporal and eschatological.

posted by TSO @ 16:54

April 13, 2004

Mystery Blogger Not Exposed

Every year or two Ham, Cal and I break inertia (but not wind!) and make a pilgrimage to a smoky, quirky little bar on the campus of OSU. Monday's are poetry nights, and Bone goes up and reads my poetry for the petite price of a few bottles of Blatz, or some other homely brew.

So when I read this entry from Thomas, I knew that he meant Larry's, and a plan emerged. I would surprise the artful blogger there!

Now, normally the idea of going anywhere after work is about as appealing as going to the dentist. A soft recliner and a good book offer bliss. A long, painful drive to campus is anything but. But I'd extended the Easter holiday so there was an energy born of being "on vacation".

I called Bone but he had other plans (he's surprisingly busy for being unemployed if'n you ask me). Cal was busy too so my wife stood in for them. (She's reading this entry over my shoulder, btw, & wants to assure Thomas that we weren't stalking him and nor would we stalk any other blogger. I'm harmless. Is that okay honey?)

We arrived at this bastion of antidisestablishmentarianism (I don't know what that means, just sounded good) around 7:30, in plenty o' time to hear the main act. But I loathe the smoke. This bar is to smoke what Willy Wonka's Factory is to candy. Smoke competes against smoke which competes against more smoke in a sort of secular-incensed Final Four: Winstons versus Camels versus Virginia Slims...

Zee problem was, of course, identifying Thomas but I wouldn't have it any other way. Part of the joy of this enterprise was to be surprised, to break iconoclastic images that naturally spring of "what bloggers look like" as if the 1's and 0's incarnate flesh and bone. I also share every writer's joy of observing without being observed. "You're invisible now you got no secrets to conceal."

I rule out the 20-somethings and others who look a bit too "hardened", like the guy with wooshy grey hair wearing a black leather jacket and draining great cannisters of whiskey that defied the term "shot". Eventually I settle on a thirty-something intellectual-looking guy with cascading hair tied in a ponytail. My wife picked out a person who could be Ham of Bone's double, a serious sort who studied his poetry with great scrutiny and intensity.

The headliner poet began and it wouldn't be Larry's without a profanity-strewn shot at those wascally Wepublicans, George Bush in this case. At a venue like Larry's, establishing your anti-Bush credentials is like saying "Heil Hitler" at a Nazi gathering - it establishes instant rapport with the crowd. She stated that everything is politics and politics is everything, which seemed a sad reductio ad absurdum. However, she did read a couple fine poems, although my wife said she likes mine better. There's no accounting for taste.

The last poem was "interesting". When she said it was about the Virgin Mary, I flinched. But it was semi-respectful, at least for Larry's. In this version, Mary is portrayed as much aggrieved, royally peeved-off by the inn keeper who slammed the door in her face, as well as by the whole insult of birth. This was Mary ever-angry, the world's proto-feminist. It ends with a snarling, "And this is MY son!", a Mary alarmed by the very notion of sharing Him. I tell my wife she must be an ex-Catholic, for whom axes-to-grind grow on trees.

On to the open mic session, where I remind myself that "bad poetry ain't kilt no one yet". The litany of angry lesbians would be interrupted by Thomas of Endlessly Rocking, and then we'd introduce ourselves after his reading. But of the six poets that ascended to the throne nary a one seemed to fit the Masked Blogger's description. I drained my Pale Ale and left the smoky bar. Turns out that Thomas had left early. Too much smoke.

posted by TSO @ 10:31

Blog Not, Lest Ye Be Blogged

Enbrethiliel has experienced one of those "predictable crisises in the blogger's life":

I've known from the beginning that not everything is 'bloggable. Before I had a 'blog, I had a private journal in which I wrote about all the graces I had received in prayer. Even though no one else ever read it, Antony discouraged my recording of God's graces. Part of the reason was that my writing was proving distracting: immediately after receiving a grace in prayer, I'd stop to think about how to write about it the next day. (The same thing still happens because of my 'blogging, except that it happens to conversations I have with friends rather than prayer--which is still pretty bad.)
I mercilessly excerpted her post here, so do go and read the whole thing. I received a few singular graces about three or four years ago, which I ended up (despite misgivings) mentioning to others and it's something I've always regretted.

As for Enbrethiliel's quote about blogging conversations, I often compose blog entries prematurely or experience experiences for blogger's sake. I imagine newspaper columnists who write about everyday matters have a similar impulse, but at least they're getting paid for it. The value of blogging is as nothing compared to silence and Scripture. (BTW, I recently listened to James Earl Jones read the KJV - my wife has the NT on tape - and I highly recommend it even though I wish he'd read the JB or RSV versions).

posted by TSO @ 07:04

Interesting Transcript Excerpt from Booknotes Interview:

Brian Lamb: You mentioned that the popes [of Luther's time] were corrupt, but you say that the popes were the vicars of Christ. Why would the average person then follow the pope if they were corrupt? Why would Christ establish a Church that would allow popes to become corrupt?

Martin Marty: That's the question Luther asked. That's what the Reformation was about. On the one hand, Christians always believed that God could work through brokenness. Somebody once asked me: "You're a Lutheran and you write history - but where's your Lutheranism showing?" Luther once said, "God carves the rotten wood; God rides the lame horse." That's a big part of the Christian understanding. You want nobility, you want sacrifice, you want humility, you want honesty but you don't always get that but I think that Christian people have been trained that no matter what the act - the technical word is ex opere operato- going thru the act however corrupt the person who is doing it, the act is God's way of acting upon you.

posted by TSO @ 14:52

April 12, 2004

Our Pastor's Easter Message

He began his Easter homily by saying how Christmas and Good Friday are accessible to us in a way that Easter isn't. We all can relate to birth and death and suffering. We can't in any way relate to the Resurrection. This means that Easter is the least "individualistic" of Christian feasts and is a feast of trust - trust in God and trust in the apostles who saw the Resurrected Christ. It is the feast in which we are most dependent on the Church and the community of believers. For if we were to pick and choose what to believe, this would be the least believable because it is least in our sense-experience.

I wondered if his message was especially targeted to the contingent of twice-a-year Catholics who make Easter and Christmas the SRO events they are. After his homily he welcomed our guests and then seemed to draw a distinction by inviting St. Margaret's parishioners to sign up for Eucharistic Adoration. Was this purposeful? Was he highlighting, via the homily and post-homiletic comment, the inadequacy of individualistic cafeteria Catholicism, most obviously shown by twice-a-year Mass attendance?

posted by TSO @ 13:17

Curmudgeon on Movies

I looked at the top ten movie grosses of all-time and can you say 'weak'?

1 Titanic (1997)
2 Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
3 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
4 Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
5 Spider-Man (2002)
6 The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of The King (2003)
7 Jurassic Park (1993)

Titanic is movie greatness compared to a lot of those schlubs. LOTR is legit, but E.T. and Star Wars and Spider Man? Very, very forgettable I think. (I apologize to sci-fi fans.) Jurassic Park didn't look good enough to rent. Other than LOTR, I wasn't tempted to see any of them again. If you compare the top ten grosses of all time in, say, 1966, compared to the current clunkers, it pretty much says it all:

1 Gone With the Wind 1939
2 The Sound of Music 1965
3 The Ten Commandments 1956
4 Doctor Zhivago 1965
5 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937
6 101 Dalmatians 1961
7 Ben-Hur 1959

Of these, I have seen or would see all but "101 Dalmatians" a second time. Ham of Bone noticed the "New Age-y" feel of the current top seven as opposed to the biblical feel of the old list - we went from biblical epics to "the force is with you". From strong meat to a much thinner gruel. (The right way to measure it though is adjusted for inflation).

posted by TSO @ 10:15

Thomas Hibbs Compares the Exorcist to TPOTC

...The Exorcist, [is] a film that juxtaposes, on the one hand, a modern, enlightenment faith in the ability of science to explain and treat human afflictions, even evil, and, on the other, a primitive, religious world in which mysterious and super-human cosmic powers are at odds. Gibson has raised the eyebrows of many, including Diane Sawyer, for suggesting, "There are these realms colliding," a statement that is an affront to our comfortable Enlightenment confidence that we have transcended religion as a comprehensive conception of reality. The Exorcist and in its own way The Passion stand at the very center of the modern tradition of horror, a tradition that arises as a reaction to the excessive claims of the Enlightenment. Against the Enlightenment's faith in progress and scientific explanation, horror reasserts the primacy of primordial guilt and expiation. The horror genre not only insists on the limits to the modern project of mastering nature, but it also suggests that an overweening desire to know and control may give rise to terrors never imagined by modern rationalists...The deeply divided opinions of the film may have something to do with a gap between those who, in Jeffersonian fashion, see a set of Enlightenment teachings as the core of what's worth preserving in the Gospel and those who see the bloody sacrifice of the God-man as its core.

posted by TSO @ 10:06

Monday Quiz

Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, find line 4. Write down what it says:
"...January of 1794 his condition became rapidly worse, and he..." -Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What do you touch first?
computer monitor

What is the last thing you watched on TV?
CSPAN's Booknotes episode with Martin Marty on his book about Martin Luther

What is on the walls of the room you are in?
photo of my wife, picture of the dunes of beach at Hilton Head, photo of gargolyes of Notre Dame cathedral, newspaper clipping depicting page from "The Book of Martyrs", framed 1912 Cap Anson baseball card (faux), pic of Shakespeare bust.

What is the last movie you saw?

If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy first?
Land, Scah-let, Land! Acreage in the country.

Tell me something about you that I don't know:
I was runner-up B-league fraternity champion in racquetball. In other words, I finished second in a second-tier league in a second-tier sport.

posted by TSO @ 09:59

It's All Relative

...relatively speaking. In conjunction with an Easter trip home, I visited my pre-maturely born nephew (who has taken up residence at a Cincinnati hospital). Looks like he'll be there another four weeks, poor piker. But it's sobering to look around and see babies in worse shape than him, such as a baby named "Mryacle", which, as the name suggests, was born in big trouble at 1 lb and a some ounces and has made a "mryaculous" recovery so far.

Also had an exchange with a relative over the weekend concerning religion. Whenever that comes up I'm on edge since this - and only this - is truly important in life and I tend to say things unguarded and "without a filter", although I am getting better. "First, do know harm" is crucial.

The Church has such a difficult job with disciplinary practices, doesn't She? Too loose and the salt goes flat, too stringent and the salt despairs. Maybe we have to just be comfortable with failure (and putting it in the Lord's hands where it belongs) because I tend to think that our "good" Lents wouldn't reach the level of John Henry Newman's worst Lent, for example. Ideally, for me, fasting leads to more prayer and more spiritual reading in order to stay sufficiently motivated to keep the fast (however weakly 'the fast' is defined, emphasis on 'weak'). It becomes a "gracious cycle".

These thoughts were triggered by a family member who lamented the "hard" six weeks' of Lent just past. He complained about the fish on Fridays (he doesn't like fish). I tell him that this was nothing compared to the way it was in the past. Before Vatican II every Friday was a Lenten Friday. And he said he would surely become an Episcopalian if they still had that rule. I'm tempted to say, "That's why there was Vatican keep us schlubs in the church." My father, unlike me, encouraged him. I told him basically, "you don't know easy we got it" and my father basically said, "well, you made it, good job". I think my father probably chose the better way.

But more in tune with the season is this wonderful Easter sermon from St. John Chrysostom (of all people!).. (link via Amy & Thomas):

Are there any weary with fasting?
Let them now receive their wages!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,
rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

posted by TSO @ 07:49

Various & Sundry

On the origin of a favorite Easter hymn: Jesus Christ is Risen Today.

Times review of a new book about Mary Queen of Scots.

posted by TSO @ 18:17

April 11, 2004

"Behold, I Make All Things New"

Christ freeing Adam and Eve from the grave

posted by TSO @ 07:50

April 10, 2004

Maundy Thursday

Daily dust over the jagged
stair steps of toes, between the cracked
skin; heels bruised by heat,
small toes stoned by cobblestone.

The wrong one is kneeling,
sprinkling water over the wounded,
a stream of fingers cleaning disciples' feet
as boils and blisters burst with new
covenant balm of blood and bread.

Good Friday

Holes as oval as this
lopsided earth, the black skin
of space filling in with red
against the spike that fastens
tendon to tree, bone to board,
skin and sin to sacrifice and servant.

In the human/divine pores: pain,
prophecy, the prodigal and unrepentant.
Their sounds pound the galaxies;
nowhere to walk or run
but Thy will be done.

Holy Saturday

Now unnailed,
calluses washed clean
with the converted Centurion's crying,
arch and ankle wrapped
for the new tomb hewn
from a rich man's cave,
the Savior-slave rots,

descends to the depths
of paradox, cleanses
each brimstone foot
of the dead and damned.

Easter Sunday

he has abandoned the sepulchre.
Clover between his toes,
he hoes the graveyard garden
waits for the women
to come with scents and spices.

The unrecognized one,
afterwards he watches them run,
hysterically hollering hallelujah!

--Marjorie Maddox

posted by TSO @ 13:25

April 8, 2004


Ash Wednesday

We wear black crosses,
Dismissed to a holy Lent.
How shall we keep it?

Palm Sunday

Today, Palm Sunday.
Then Good Friday five days hence.
Easter but a dream.

Maundy Thursday

Christ dies tomorrow.
Today we eat bread and wine.
The altar’s left bare.

Good Friday

The cross before us
Blocks out the rest of the world.
The Lamb of God dies.

Easter Vigil

We start in darkness.
New light proclaims the Good News—
Jesus is risen!

--Lionel E. Deimel

posted by TSO @ 13:03

Book Tryouts

Haven't read too much lately other than some spiritual reading (though I haven't finished my Lenten commitment of Rev. PJ Michel's book yet). I've heard so many good things about "Death on a Friday Afternoon" by Richard John Neuhaus that I ought to read that too.

I picked up a few books at the library for post-Easter: "Jonathan Edwards: A Life" by George M. Marsden and "The Soul of Battle : From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny" by Victor Davis Hanson, "Chesterton on Dickens" and "Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America" by David Hackett Fischer.

I'm ready with the brackets.

posted by TSO @ 16:21

April 7, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

They give the sign of peace like they mean it. - Lee Ann of Literarium, on her parish

Man's natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence, it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life-be it family, or civil-with his fellow men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied. But, as no society can hold together unless some one be over all, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good, every body politic must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its Author. - Pope Leo XIII, via Bill of Random Notes

Abortion is a demonic, false liturgy wherein the child is offered up in celebration of the putative absence, or even non-existence, of God. The precise counter liturgy to abortion is baptism. - proposal of Thomas of 'Endlessly Rocking'

Steven, frankly, what I need to do is become holy, then report my findings. Watch this space. - Tom of Disputations

I find the interaction between you two, Tom and Steve, endlessly fascinating and instructive. - David on Tom of Disputations' blog. David, you're the one? Good Lord, don't encourage them.

[Lileks had] a great zinger on the generation gap between people like Kerry, who think that all of American history was preparation for -- and then commentary on -- the sixties and early seventies, and people of my generation and older, who just associate that time period with riots and ugly clothes and a bunch of pop music stars who are going to be eligible for Medicare soon. - Peony of "Two Sleepy Mommys"

Coeds in the Hands of an Angry God? -- Mark Byron on Hokie's blog, in reaction to Robert Bauer's line, "I don't want to go Jonathan Edwards on her, but I really feel like she needs to be shocked into action with evidence directly from the Bible."

It has been brought to my attention that I don't have a girlfriend. Upon having my secretary search through my records, this has been confirmed. - Robert of Hokie Pundit

Once again, a gaffe is defined as accidentally telling the truth. - Jonah Goldberg of "The Corner", on Paul Hornung's recent remarks

I'm a left-handed, Dvorak-typing, Natural-Family-Planning-teaching, old-time-radio-listening, book-devouring, movie-loving, number-crunching, happily-married, proud-papa, enthusiastically-Catholic average kind of guy. - Tom Bress of "A Thing Worth Doing"

Here´s what Federico Suarez says about Mary visiting Elizabeth [after the Annunciation] in his book "The Virgin, Our Lady,": 'But Our Lady didn´t do anything else but the vulgar and normal, something that millions of people do every day: She went to the house of a relative, to greet them, to smile, to help them out in little household chores... Really, what more could she do? It is very likely that the Lord doesn´t expect anymore of us than similar things. He doesn´t expect us do incredible or extraordinary actions, but to do the little, common everyday items, that are apparently monotonous, and which could include a greeting or a visit. But we, just as the Virgin Mary, are bearers of Christ, and therefore as instruments we have the quality that the Lord expects of us ...' - Robert Duncan of Santificarnos

I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much. --Mother Theresa, via Pigeon Pi

posted by TSO @ 13:54

Three Books

The latest issue of Crisis has an irresistible column about a subject I'm a sucker for....which three books "would explain in clear, profound, and incisive terms the whole structure of human life, its destiny, and how it stands before God and the world"?

That's all I ask. Fortunately, Rev. James Schall is up to the challenge. Here's an excerpt:

I am aware that the disorders in the world stem mainly from the will, not the mind, even though a mind component is found in any disorder or sin. Often in my thoughts I mull over what I would recommend to someone who really wants to know the truth of things. What would I tell him? Where would I tell him to go? Whom should he consult? I have multi-lists of ten books, 20 books, 25 books. “Acquire these,” I tell anyone who will listen.

I know about Scripture, Aquinas, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and the rest. I have long given out lists of what I call “minor” classics, books that no one tells us about in the university or in the culture, but books that nevertheless explain the essence and right order of things. At the top of this list is probably, for me, Chesterton. Nothing is quite like him...

Read carefully and leisurely together, [the following three] books give a better and more coherent overall picture of the unity of intellectual things, the relation of reason and revelation, the order of knowledge, the meaning of modern thought, of virtue and vice, than anything else that one could read, except perhaps Chesterton.

These three books are the following: (1) Josef Pieper: An Anthology (the German book); (2) Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien; and (3) Ralph McInerny, The Very Rich Hours of Jacques Maritain: A Spiritual Life. None of these books is very long. Each is relatively easy to read. All three are as profound as any book ever written. They all deal with what is.

These books cover every issue of any importance about how to live and what is true. Each of the authors knows classic and modern thought. None of these books intends to be apologetic; yet taken together, they constitute the finest apologetic imaginable. They are all lyrical. They deal with evil. They take us to the order of things in a way that nothing else will in quite the same way. “Read them!”

--Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., teaches political science at Georgetown University

posted by TSO @ 12:55

Excerpt from Magnificat 'zine

What Judas refused wasn't the cross, but the laying down of his arms before forgiveness. It's no longer a question of being strong, but of being sufficiently humble for love to be able to triumph in our lives. Now, our strength depends much less on ourselves than does our humility and weakness. This is the secret of happiness, and this is the secret of the Beatitudes.

posted by TSO @ 12:54

From "Pinball Wizard" - The Who

'How do you think he does it? I don't know!
What makes him so good?'

He ain't got no distractions
Can't hear those buzzers and bells,
Don't see lights a flashin'
Plays by sense of smell.
Always has a replay,
'n' never tilts at all...
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pin ball.
Another thing about Gibson's movie was how ignored the devil figure was. For Jesus and Mary, the devil was a distraction from God the Father and Christ (respectively). Jesus doesn't even look at Satan, and when the Blessed Mother does (during the Via Dolorosa) she immediately looks away...

posted by TSO @ 15:45

April 6, 2004

Magnificat Quote

From the Holy Week issue:

My judgments of other men are related, for the most part, to what I would like to be, and if they are cruel, it is because I am punishing myself in them...Every soul bears within it an aspiration which remains forever unsatisfied because the infinite is its aim. Consequently the man does not exist who is not conscious of his insufficiency; but sooner or later every other man shows him his, and the realization of this common weakness may become not only a double consolation, but a mutual stimulus. For I transcend myself the moment I go out from myself. The mere admission that I am not sufficient until myself, that you are not sufficient unto yourself, creates between us a communion which provides each of us with what he lacked when he was alone. To know that one's wretchedness is shared is to begin to overcome it. But this is not all: a moment ago I knew of no balm for my distress, but when I applied myself to bring you comfort in yours, I found my own comfort in the act.

--Louis Lavelle, prisoner of war in WWI and French philosopher

posted by TSO @ 13:42

Opening Day

It’s spring and a semi-youngish man’s thoughts turn to baseball and Opening Day. We capitalize it in Cincinnati because the Reds are to Opening Day what Harry Caray was to the 7th inning stretch. Sadly, the long-held tradition of having the Reds open the season was dismissed a few years ago by those who would slough off tradition in the service of money.

I see that Ken Griffey Jr. isn’t playing and it irritates. Spring training did him in apparently. I struggle to banish negative thoughts - like the fact that surely he’d get injured picking his own nose. And don't get me started on the Red's pitching staff. You've heard of "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain"? For the Reds it's just pray for rain.

Baseball is a sluggish game, delivered at a contemplative pace, so I supplement it with a stroll down memory lane with my baseball card albums. Imagine, I think, at having had the time to worry about how much my ’78 Topps Molitor rookie card was worth? Or better yet, the time in the late 80s spent traveling to baseball card conventions and wandering gape-jawed amid the offerings. For better or worse I seem to have lost the “collector mentality”. I collect books but for utilitarian reasons; any reading copy will do. I don't have any first editions. I haven’t bought a single baseball card since the last baseball strike, but that was just a welcome excuse. For a few years prior I was going through the motions.

But it was nice to re-visit the old cards. I hadn’t looked at them in three or four years and there was a freshness in returning to them. There is Harmon Killebrew again and damned if he doesn’t look sixty years old on his ’69 Topps! Baseball in the ‘70s seemed to span generations. Killebrew didn’t look like a father to his teammates, he looked like a grandfather. Balding with gray hair but only 33 years old, I guess everyone aged more quickly back then. I “killed a brew” in his honor.

I turn to Ferguson Jenkins, who with his sober mien and artistic pitching somehow reminded me of Langston Hughes. But his was no dream deferred, his string of 20-game win seasons was not only a marvel but a source of comfort. The security of changelessness always is, like Pete Rose’s magical array of .300 seasons. These were the saints of the baseball card world. But Dale Murphy lost his halo quickly. There was nothing more shocking than his descent from greatness, from sure HOF’r to solid big-league player. One minute he’s hitting 30 dingers and .280 a year to .220 and 10.

It's sure good to hear baseball Hall of Fame announcer Marty Brennaman again. The native North Carolinian still drops his g’s (“tyin’ run at third”) and I await, cringe at the ready, for his advertisement for a local restaurant in which he pronounces cuisine as “quee-zine”. Some things are timeless.

posted by TSO @ 13:30

Nonsense While Jogging

Catching brill and rays
with the bill of my cap
on a sun-bint day
white ball
playing pinball
without a bumper cloud in sight.

Pounding the pavement,
punishing the 'phalt
hoarse-man pass by--
retiree with hoar-frost hair
struggles to say:
"You're in good shape young man!".

Barkeep, I'll have what he's having.

posted by TSO @ 13:28

First Things reviews TPOTC:

Gibson says that he set out to “transcend language with the message through an image.” Chances are that even the film industry, skeptical and skittish about the project, will have to recognize his artistic triumph. How its millions of viewers will reckon with the movie is another story. We think that it will induce humility rather than triumphalism. The film is so enthralling that perhaps some viewers will have to remind themselves that it is just a movie and not a substitute for the New Testament, much less for sacramental liturgies or the stations of the cross familiar to so many Christians during Lent. If, having seen and endured the film, Christians are able in a fresh way to wonder at the vault of the Sistine Chapel, if they can humbly return to their churches to participate in the spoken and sacramentally enacted Word, then Gibson’s Passion will have proven to be something even better than what it certainly is—the best movie ever made about Jesus Christ.

posted by TSO @ 20:05

April 4, 2004

Good News!

Thanks for all who prayed for my nephew born prematurely. He apparently does not have meningitis; there was no infection in the brain. Alleluia!

posted by TSO @ 20:05

John Henry Newman Excerpt

Our sin will be if we idolize the work of our hands; if we love it so well as not to bear to part with it. The test of our faith lies in our being able to fail without disappointment.

Resignation is a more blessed frame of mind than sanguine hope of present success because it is the truer and the more consistent with our fallen state of being and the more improving to our hearts. And resignation has been conspicuous for the most eminent servants of God. To expect great effects from our exertions for religious goals is natural indeed, and innocent, but it arises from inexperience of the kind of work we have to do -- to change the heart and will of fallen creatures. It is far nobler frame of mind to labor, not with the hope of seeing the fruit of our labor, but for conscience's sake, as a matter of duty. And in faith, trusting good will be done though we see it not.

Even the successes of the first Christian teachers, the Apostles, resignation to apparent failure is evident. After all the great works God enabled them to accomplish, they confessed before their death that what they experienced and what they saw before them were reversals and calamities, and that the fruit of their labor would not be seen till Christ came to open the books and collect his saints from the four corners of the earth.

posted by TSO @ 18:22

April 3, 2004


An interesting thing that Gibson does in his movie is show sin tangibly as physical marks on the body. After Judas betrayed Christ, his lips began to show marks of corruption and later his forehead showed striations. Similarly the woman caught in the act of adultery (Mary Magdalene) has scourge marks on her face. This was a way to physically show the correlation between sin and physical death/corruption, and also to physically show Christ taking on our sins, in bearing the same striations all over his body.

posted by TSO @ 18:14

Why Men Don't Go Through Labor

The sadist is ready to see you now

When I was young I had a bit of a martyr-complex. This has carried over to adulthood in climactically favorable situations, such as when I get cavities filled.

They stick me four times with novocaine and I want to make sure they don't underdo it. Though I weigh 214 3/4, many mistake me for a 180 pounder. I wear weight well, which is normally an advantage but isn't when a dentist is determining how much novocaine to give you.

"Uh, is this based on weight?"

The dentist nods his head.

"Well, I weigh 214...just FYI...sometimes I don't get enough novocaine."

The assisting dental hygienist humors me. "Don't worry, we'll find out!"

"That's what I'm afraid of." Gallows humor.

They wait for the gums to numb and I try to get them talking because I don't want them to start before the gums are properly numbed.

They begin and the doc does about ten seconds of work and withdraws his Instrument of Terror and I say, "Well that wasn't so bad" and it got a surprisingly enthusiastic laugh from the dental assistant. She's obviously starved for entertainment, though oblivious to my pain.

The operation proceeds apace and the doctor grinds away part of the tooth. Apparently the dentist's motto is "first, do harm". I grip the chair arms like they're the sides of a Titanic lifeboat. Eventually he reaches a nerve and I realize that "pain-free denistry" is still a oxymoron.

I'm not especially good at having my mouth open at a 90-degree angle for long periods of time, so the doctor admonishes me that if I de-sanitize the situation he'll have to start over. This is supremely motivating. After this I'm the model patient, gag-reflex or not. The fact that I'm suddenly able to take things up a notch and perform at a higher level as a patient makes me think that in my spiritual life I could do better given proper motivation. This bothers me, though not at this particular moment.

The doc and assistant take a break after finishing one tooth. Doc says he's leading a bible study tomorrow night and I'm somewhat relieved that I have a Christian doing it and I hope he has that famed "Protestant work ethic". I love Spain but no siestas please while I'm in the chair.

But he does seem to take a siesta. It's a good fifteen minutes and I've relaxed too much, slumped in this supine position. I've gotten downright comfortable and put my hands behind my head. It's practically over.

He comes back and begins anew and it's like, hey-oh, this ain't ovah. More drillin', more fillin' and more 90-degree angles. Whenever you anticipate a finish you only prolong it.

Eventually the doctor lets me go and I feel the euphoria that only comes after an end to fasting or a dental visit.

posted by TSO @ 23:09

April 2, 2004

The Ballad of Lager Bier

Go, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed maiden,
My German Hebe! hasten through
You smoke-cloud, and return thou laden
With bread and cheese and bier for two.
Limburger suits this bearded fellow;
His brow is high, his taste severe:
But I'm for Schweitzer, mild and yellow,
To eat with bread and Lager Bier.

Go, maiden, fill again our glasses!
While, with anointed eyes, we scan
The blouse Teutonic lads and lasses,
The Saxon—Pruss—Bohemian,
The sanded floor, the cross-beamed gables,
The ancient Flemish paintings queer,
The rusty cup-stains on the tables,
The terraced kegs of Lager Bier.

And is it Göttingen or Gotha,
Or Munich's ancient Wagner Brei,
Where each Bavarian drinks his quota,
And swings a silver tankard high?
Or some ancestral Gast-Haus lofty
In Nuremburg—of famous cheer
When Hans Sachs lived, and where, so oft, he
Sang loud the praise of Lager Bier?

--Edmund Clarence Stedman. 1833–1906

posted by TSO @ 21:24

When Post-It Notes Attack

via In Dwelling

posted by TSO @ 15:07

Question Asked on EWTN

Q: Why does the world post-Pentecost look just as bad as the world pre-Pentecost? I thought the Bible said that the Holy Spirit would usher in a new age. I suppose the answer is our free will...

Answer by Fr. John Echert: Do not Imagine for a moment that the world redeemed by Christ is no better than the world apart from Christ. We have inherited a world in which the Gospel spread rapidly from one end to the other, as is evident from the early writings which comprise the New Testament. In a matter of a couple decades the Good News of Jesus Christ and the knowledge of the one true God began at its center in Jerusalem and had reached the center of the Empire of the time at Rome. What would the world look like without Jesus Christ? Think for a moment the visible indications of the breaking in of God's Kingdom. Jesus cast out demons, restored sight to the blind, gave hearing to the deaf, raised the dead to life. The physical miracle were authentic and signs of a deeper reality: Jesus had power over sin and death. Imagine the difference had Jesus Christ not risen from the dead. You would have no hope for eternal life and would see only darkness in the world. By now the darkness may have overtaken any natural hope for life and destroyed any natural goodness. Given modern methods of warfare, the world might by now have destroyed itself or be barely habitable. Yes, Thomas doubted and Saul persecuted the Church. But they were won over by the grace of God experienced in a visible manifestation of the Risen Christ. For the rest of us, we depend upon faith and the witness of those who personally experienced the Lord in the Gospel period and the Apostolic Church.

What a blessing for us, undeserved by accepted in faith. Believe me, you cannot imagine the darkness and hopelessness that would by now envelope the world, had not the Son of God taken upon Himself our humanity and redeemed us from sin and death. Yes, human freedom remains and so does sin, since each person has the ability to choose sin. But grace has made an incredible difference; a grace which does not compel but works to wear down our resistance and find a place in our hearts and minds.

posted by TSO @ 14:11

Look Out Below!

Lee Ann of Literarium brings out the atomic weaponry against St. Blog's. The writing is so good who could feel insulted? The downside of blogging is that we begin "to see agendas" everywhere (say like the kid in the Sixth Sense about dead people) even when they're not really there or don't really matter:

Since becoming a regular St. Blog reader I found myself nitpicking at Mass, trying to detect the creeping heterodoxy that so shivers the online timbers. I examined actions and gainsaid motives like I was the bastard child of Sherlock Holmes and Madame LeFarge. I finally found the impediment to the full flowering of true Catholic faith: my own blog-o-rific Heterodoxy Hunt.

posted by TSO @ 13:43

Around Blogdom

Get yer Passion desktop wallpaper here....Cardinal George on why the Crucifixion (via Amy W.)....Ireland's history via maps....On NRO, Carl Olson discusses and recusses the latest Left Behind book.

I'll have to keep an eye on this election projection map even though it is absurdly early. I'm surprised Illinois is such a "blue state" - 21% lead for Kerry. But I can't think ill of a state that counts Bill of Summa Minutiae and Ellyn of Oblique House among its residents. The site might be showing some bias however, because it shows Bush doing better in Ohio than the polls I've seen.

Jessa Crispin of BookSlut offers good rules for reading on a plane:

Do not bring well known books unless you want to get into conversations with annoying people. Once you pull out Harry Potter or the Da Vinci Code, your neighbor will feel free to tell you what they thought of the book, how amazing it is, and will never let you actually read it.

Don't forget to pack books. Looking for something decent to read at the airport is like a vegetarian trying to eat at Red Lobster.

Don't be like me. Do not bring a dozen books in your carry on just because you haven't decided what to read on your three hour flight. You'll hurt yourself.

posted by TSO @ 12:39

Passio ChristiFor me, the signature statement of the film TPOTC was when Jesus said to Mary, "I make all things new". This is the essence of everything, the reason the sun rises each day. The daily sunrise is a reminder of the sheer constancy of God and of His resoluteness and of His ability to change dark into light. In the scene mentioned, Jesus was completely striped by the marks of the scourgers and He appeared like a physical representation of our souls ("he was made sin for us"). He looked in a state of utter ruin. But behold, he makes all things new. He can even make us "dead men walking" live again. In our death, we will rely on Him utterly and completely, our dusty bones offering mute testimony to our absolute lack of control. Lord, let us rely on you today in the same way. "Two will die as many must, / And fitly dust will welcome dust; / But dust has nothing to do with one— / She dies as soon as her dream is done." - Hazel Hall, "Three Girls"

posted by TSO @ 11:18

Of Lent

The saying goes, "A bad day on the golf course is better than a good day at the office". And though I tend to believe it only fleetingly, a bad Lent is better than a good vacation.

Our pastor compared Lent to a tithe. Forty days is about 1/10th of the year, this is a special time we give over to God. But an analogy he said he preferred is that of a time of training. St. Paul compares the Christian to a spiritual athelete, and athletes require training.

The words of a hymn from my youth come to mind:

This is our accepted time,
This is our salvation;
Prayer and fasting are our hope,
Penance, our vocation.
God of pardon and of love,
Mercy past all measure,
You alone can grant us peace,
You, our holy treasure.
Lord, look down upon your sons,
Look upon their yearning;
Man is dust and unto dust
He shall be returning,
Lift him up, O Lord of life,
Flesh has gained him sadness,
Hear his plea, bestow on him
Everlasting gladness.

posted by TSO @ 11:16

Talking Summa

Christian Classics publishes the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, and I find the disclaimer on the back cover interesting:

The Church believes today, as she believed from the first, that Thomism is an ark of salvation, capable of keeping minds afloat in the deluge of doctrine. She does not confuse it with faith, nor yet with knowledge in all its fullness, she knows that it is fallible, and that in respect of passing theories, it has shared the errors of different times, but she judges that its structure as a whole corresponds to the constitution of reality and of the intelligence, and she notes that both knowledge and faith converge on it, because it has taken up its position between them like a fortress at a meeting of the roads."
-A.G. Sertillanges, O.P., The Intellectual Life
Now, this Dominican says that the Summa has "shared the errors of different times" - I wish he'd said more words and given specific examples. Would it be obvious, when reading the Summa, what was simply an error of the time? Biological, historical, or theological?

posted by TSO @ 19:15

April 1, 2004

Biblically Speaking

I love the New Jerusalem translation, mostly because it combines study notes1 with an accessible and often lilting language. Taking Deut 6:5-9 as an example, the RSV has it:

And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart;
and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. - RSV

While the New Jerusalem has it:

You must love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let the words I enjoin on you today stay in your heart. You shall tell them to your children, and keep on telling them, when you are sitting at home, when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are standing up; you must fasten them on your hand as a sign and on your forehead as a headband; you must write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I realize the choice of "Yahweh" over "Lord" is off-putting to some, but I think it sounds more personal2, emphasizing to Israel how unique her God is. "Lord", even though it's usually represented in all caps, has connotations of an earthly lord while Yahweh refers to God alone.

I like the use of "You must love Yahweh..." instead of "You shall love...". "Shall" is a little weaker and I do better with commands, disliking free will. Woody Hayes used to dislike the forward pass, saying "there are three things that can happen when you pass, and two of them ain't good." I feel similarly about free will; lots of bad things can happen that ain't good because it's man exercising it. Poetically speaking, I like "Let the words I enjoin on you today stay in your heart" better than "And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart" although perhaps theologically one could read the latter as more of God's work and the former more as man's, and God is obviously more dependable so in that sense the RSV is better. And I'm not real fond on the "headband" thing. This isn't Welcome Back, Kotter.

I don't have a clear favorite between the Douay-Rheims and KJV. The KJV is a little inaccessible, and the "sittest" is distracting. But how poetic is "they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes"! This is cryptic language that is paradoxically clear - "frontlets", whatever they are, imply a permanence, like bumpers on a car. This drives home the permanent nature of this command and how it is to be ever before us.

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. - KJV

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.
And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes. And thou shalt write them in the entry, and on the doors of thy house. - Douay-Rheims

The NAB, is a bit more prosaic and mechanical (see 'drill'). May the repeated quoting of this passage drill it into our heads!

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.
Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.
Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.
Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. - NAB

1 - (I've been surprised how often I look up something in Scott Hahn's new RSV-CE version and there aren't notes on the verse in which I'm interested. Nothing beats the Catena Aurea or Bernard Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture - I like how they aren't afraid to take a wild stab concerning unclear passages.)

2 - It seems appropriate Pope JPII so emphasizes a personalistic philosophy given that our age is so atomistic and individualistic.

posted by TSO @ 14:45

Ruined by Fudd

Mark of Minute Particulars has an interesting post about Latin as it really sounded:

The best argument, though, against the "classical" pronunciation is the fact that Caesar's "Veni, vidi, vici," [I came, I saw, I conquered] would sound kinda' wimpy as: "Waynee, weedee, weekee." Try it fast a few times. It's hard not to laugh at that pronunciation. And when I imagine wascally Caesar trying to sound important with his pronouncement, Elmer Fudd's voice always creeps in.
Good point. As much as we try to escape our own subjectivities, proclivities and imbecilities, it's well-nigh impossible. At times I've gone to different Civil War battlefields or different historical places such as Lexington Green and I think, "yeah, this is how it really looked". But did it? Can one arrest the trees, which have grown 100 to 200 years older and have such a dominating presence on any landscape? Even the sky, the same sky Christ looked upon, is marred by tracks made by jets.

The crumbly 19th century books I hold in my hand didn't look like that in 1850. They were new and clean and vigorous and lacked that "old book" scent. So too with language. How can one hear "Waynee, weedee, weekee." except through the "ear lens" of Elmer Fudd?

posted by TSO @ 13:34

Intriguing swag at how rank translates to book sales.

posted by TSO @ 12:45

Moving testimony from the Real Live Preacher.

posted by TSO @ 12:45
Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor
I see the right way, approve it and do the opposite - Ovid

posted by TSO @ 15:35

May 31, 2004

"The beauty I beheld transcendeth measure
Not only past or reach, but surely I believe
That only He who made it enjoyeth it complete."
--Dante (Paradise, c. XXX, 19-21)


posted by TSO @ 18:15

May 30, 2004

Revenge of the Cicadas

Born during the Reagan Administration,
we lived invisible to each other.
Until now.

Their parent's incarnation was opaque;
I was outside nature then
for nightclubs don't have seasons.

Though who can begrudge this summer rental?
Seventeen years underground gives reason to sing
though I wish someone had told me
to bring earplugs along.

And if their song displeases?
Then let its intended audience judge:
God and female cicadas.

posted by TSO @ 18:02

Caution Will Robinson

NY Times article about the Internet's effect on the social lives of the young:

The Internet was billed as a revolutionary way to enrich our social lives and expand our civic connections. This seems to have worked well for elderly people and others who were isolated before they got access to the World Wide Web. But a growing body of research is showing that heavy use of the Net can actually isolate younger socially connected people who unwittingly allow time online to replace face-to-face interactions with their families and friends.

Online shopping, checking e-mail and Web surfing — mainly solitary activities — have turned out to be more isolating than watching television, which friends and family often do in groups. Researchers have found that the time spent in direct contact with family members drops by as much as half for every hour we use the Net at home.

posted by TSO @ 12:24

‘Mummy, what’s play?’

U.K. Spectator cartoon

posted by TSO @ 08:18

Thugs Are Innocent Until Proven Guilty

It's been fascinating watching the dramatic split between CNN's Capital Gang conservatives concerning the war. Kate O'Byrne and Bob Novak have rarely parted company so completely. I'd love to see a full half-hour debate between just them.

So does Bob or Kate have the greater credibility? The tendency is to lean towards someone with something to lose, in this case the one bucking the (Republican) party line. Which means Bob Novak.

But I submit that democracy in Iraq isn't the purpose of the war and so is not a marker of the war's success. All the little side-effects some dreamt of - i.e. Iraq as a bourgeois bohemian spreading capital instead of war - seemed a bit utopian. The purpose was to finish the Gulf War. If another thug comes to power in Iraq, so be it. Thugs are innocent until proven guilty and Hussein was proven guilty when he marched into Kuwait and again afterwards when, unchastized, he continued towards the goal of acquiring WMDs. Certainly the threat to our national security is greater than it was when we intervened in Kosovo. Kosovo was purely humanitarian. This war appears to be both humanitarian and in our national interest, although about the latter there is understandable disagreement.

posted by TSO @ 08:17

Various & Sundry

Cool new blog discovered: haLf-baKed 'tAteRs. Love the quote: "dum spiro, spero quia Dominus illuminatio mea" (as long as I breathe, I hope, for the Lord is my Light).

smockmomma of Summa Mamas posted the following link:

Smock was doing this in part as a favor for a "virtual" friend and my first inclination was to post it on my blog - which I have now done, though not for the reason I initially wanted to. Rather, I'm interested in exploring whether this sort of thing is counterproductive. Why? Because those who know they can't vote for a pro-choice candidate already know it (i.e. this preaches to the choir), while those who are on the fence are supremely offput by anyone telling them how they should vote. The site is well-done and cites the Catechism, so there is a degree of distance. Rather than "I'm telling you you shouldn't vote for a pro-choice candidate" this one is buttressed by Church documents.

But still there's a point at which the message oversaturates and induces an equal and opposite reaction. I think there are some people who refused to see Passion of the Christ simply because the "group-think" surrounding the movie galled them. It threatened their nourished sense of individuality. Ultimately I suppose the hype worked because more people saw it because of the hype than those who didn't see it for the same reason. But if I am limited in who I can vote for - if I am given less choice, and believe me America today believes in choice and I'm not even talking about it in relation to abortion - then it must be delivered in very gentle terms.


I read one of my posts aloud to my wife, one which concerned humor found at a company bulletin board (and was personally unflattering).

"You didn't post that did you?" rolling her eyes.

"Yes I did...I don't want to seem holier-than-thou on my blog. Don't want to put up a false front."

"Yeah but you don't need to have your underwear flapping around." (Metaphorically-speaking of course.)

I took the post down.

posted by TSO @ 23:41

May 28, 2004

John-Boy Walton & Alex P. Keaton

Our family used to take long vacation drives in a tan Dodge Dart with us kids taking turns sleeping in the back dash, a shelf small even for sixty-pounders.

The sun baked you, the motion of the car lulled you; I recall hearing Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” over and over on a trip to the Great Smokies and I’ll never forget my mother saying how horrible it was. Hill’s voice broke from emotion but Mom took it for a note he couldn’t reach. But it was a romantic era where standards musical and moral were subject to negotiation.

Art was bad but sincere. John Denver could sing, “you fill up my senses” with a straight voice. Neil Diamond soberly sang “I am I said / to no one there / and no one answered / not even a chair” or something like that. An overwrought operatic song like MacArthur Park became a big hit.

The ‘70s and ‘80s repeated in reverse order the 1700s and 1800s, with Beethoven exchanged for Barry Manilow and Alex Keaton for Voltaire. Kids are naturally histrionic so we took to it like ducks to water. Adults were acting like children and the children could relate. Parents were experimenting with open marriages and designer drugs and children experimented with life itself since life was all the high required. A game of tag or hide-n-seek at dusk with the foreknowledge of an early bedtime produced its own sort of high – we ran faster, hid harder, wanting to leave nothing behind.

Alan Greenspan was the uber-adult who ended the 70s. He came and mended a self-indulgent Nixon/Carter economy with tough love. A recession in ’82 brought about the conditions for a sustained recovery. If the ‘70s were right-brained, the ‘80s were left-brained. The pendulum swings, as it does in a micro way from our weekdays to our weekend and in a macro way the centuries.

Similarly, moralities tighten and loosen like the movements in a stock chart. But are not the lows lower and the highs not as high nowadays?

posted by TSO @ 22:31

Another Book Review

...of a book I really liked:

Turmoil and Truth; The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church, by Philip Trower

posted by TSO @ 13:24

New Book by David Brooks interestingly reviewed by left-leaning Michael Kinsley here.

Near as I can tell, Brooks's argument is a variation on the famous Turner thesis. The historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in 1893, just as America's western expansion was more or less complete, that the empty West had served as the country's defining fact and safety valve. The ever-present possibility of picking up and moving west had made Americans free and equal, and had spared us the conflicts of class and nation that infected the Old World of Europe.

Brooks's thesis -- to give it more clarity than he does, at the risk of getting it wrong -- seems to be that the suburbs and exurbs play a similar role in 21st-century America. Although sometimes he seems to be saying that the "move on" energy of Americans comes from technology like the Internet, or is more spiritual than geographical or material anyway. In any event, our defining -- and uniting -- characteristics as Americans, according to Brooks, are that we'd rather leave than fight, and we're always thinking about the future instead of dwelling on the past. That means the enormous gulfs in values, aspirations, understanding of the world and food preferences he outlines so wittily in the first part of "On Paradise Drive" don't turn Americans against one another (as they would the folks of some clotted and backward Old World nation). We all prosper in our various cultural cul-de-sacs (or as Brooks puts it, much better: "Everybody can be an aristocrat within his own Olympus"), and we don't trouble ourselves about what the folks in the next cul-de-sac might be up to.

posted by TSO @ 13:17

Harper's Index

Remember the Harper's Index column where they list "interesting" statistics?

Let's do the same with the NY Times (courtesy O'Reilly):

- Number of times in last 28 days that Abu Ghraib story was on the front page of NYT: 28
- Number of NYT front page stories on Abu Ghraib during past 28 days: 50
- Page on which news of seven al-Qaida suspects and summer terrorist alert appeared: 7

I did like that the NYT published this thoughtful column by Kenneth Woodward explaining the background behind the John-Kerry-and-the-Eucharist-debate, which seemed to spring out of nowhere.

posted by TSO @ 09:07

The Scandal of Instrumentality

The "scandal of particularity" - that Jesus came into history in a specific time and place - seems to me to be an on-going scandal, if you can call it that, in the sense that God comes to us in a particular person or place or sacrament. Those who are healed praying at Lourdes may not be healed praying in the 7/11 parking lot. Those who receive grace in the sacraments may or may not receive that grace outside the sacrament. I read on another blog a St. Philip Neri quote: "It is not enough to see that God wishes the good we aim at, but that he wishes it through our instumentality, in our manner and in our time; and we may come to discern all this by true obedience."

posted by TSO @ 09:00


Jonathan Yardley discusses books, specifically "Speak, Memory":

Precisely how many times I have read [Nabokov's Speak, Memory] I do not know, nor do I recall when I read it for the first time, but this can be said with certainty: It is a book that I absolutely, unconditionally love...There are remarkably few pieces of writing about which I can say that: a number of poems (though I rarely read poetry anymore), James Joyce's story "The Dead," "The Great Gatsby" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude," some Faulkner and Dickens, "Jane Eyre," a handful of books treasured in childhood and youth. The list could go on a bit longer -- Shakespeare, of course -- but not much. Four decades of reading for a living have made me difficult to satisfy, easy to displease, reluctant to give my heart to any old book or any old author.

Contemplating his family's lost fortune -- when the Nabokovs fled to Yalta and then to Western Europe... -- he gets it exactly right: "The nostalgia I have been cherishing all these years is a hypertrophied sense of lost childhood, not sorrow for lost banknotes." The impulse to rediscover and reclaim childhood is deep in human nature, and thus the chord "Speak, Memory" touches is truly universal....
"As with smarting eyes I meditated by the fire in my Cambridge room, all the potent banality of embers, solitude and distant chimes pressed against me, contorting the very folds of my face as an airman's face is disfigured by the fantastic speed of his flight. And I thought of all I had missed in my country, of the things I would not have omitted to note and treasure, had I suspected before that my life was to veer in such a violent way."
- from "Speak, Memory"

posted by TSO @ 16:56

May 27, 2004

Different Book

The cube-owner gone
I walked in
made myself at home
figured him a holy soul
for the book of Holy Writ
upon his desk.

Curiosity itched,
open it was
to the book of Job?
Or is he a Psalm-reader?
A fan of Second Kings?

The text came into view
dry and tasteless,
dull as a blade unsharpened.
I flip to the black leather cover
where gilt words proclaim:
McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated --
Section 2201-3013

not the laws I was looking for.

posted by TSO @ 15:18

Pray for Dylan

There are times I suspect that the only real reason for "St. Blog's" is that we might pray for each other (something I think Steven of Flos Carmeli has already intuited). And I've recently learned that probably no one needs prayers more than Dylan. So, if you're bad at long-term intercessory prayer like me, maybe we'll improve together.

Also if you could pray for Ham of Bone, who is now out of work a year and thinking of mortgaging his house. Finally, KTC and her family could use your prayers too.

posted by TSO @ 14:19

Queue Behavior

Our workplace cafeteria has four cashiers, one of whom is such a personal favorite that I feel unfaithful when I stray. She happens to be African-American (such is the tortured syntax we must employ - I'm old enough to recall a day when one could say 'black woman' and imagine a day we'll have to say 'a woman who happens to have a slightly darker pigmentation, which is not to in any way imply an aesthetic judgment, than those of European heritage.' But I digress...)

I started going to her because, quite simply, she's the best cashier. Quick, efficient and jocular about my big lunches. And what I've noticed is that her line generally includes two groups of people: 1) white males with hurry-sickness who want to get through line faster and know she's the quickest and 2) African-American females, who feel a solidarity based on race and gender.

Group number 1 makes this cashier even faster, because they pay cash and have their money ready. This is partially offset by group number 2, a warmer, caring set who look through purses the size of Manhattan and occasionally find what they're looking for.

I can't think of a pithy ending to this so I'll just leave it there.

posted by TSO @ 11:52

Thought This One Up Myself

Our company offers fifteen minute "Chair Massage".

Now I can understand my wife or myself getting a massage, but the hell my chair's getting one!

posted by TSO @ 11:02

Lettters to National Review on Outsourcing

Daniel Griswold recently wrote an article for NR pro-outsourcing. Following are letters to the NR editor along with Griswold's reply (insert your own National Lampoon joke here). Personally, my heart has been inclined towards saving U.S. jobs (I've never bought a foreign-made car though now that's somewhat academic since U.S. cars are made mostly from foreign parts), while my head says that is nonsensical: free trade benefits everyone involved. India is experiencing a small financial boom due in part to American outsourcing and that's a good thing, as Martha might say.

From NRO:

I find two faults with Daniel Griswold's argument for outsourcing ("Outsource, Outsource, and Outsource Some More," May 3). First, outsourcing jobs does have a negative impact on low-skilled workers. Mr. Griswold seems to assume that there are types of work only Americans can perform profitably, and which low-skilled workers can be retrained to do. But it may not be the case that today's low-skilled workers are capable of such a switch.
Second, virtually any job, white- or blue-collar, can be done more cheaply abroad than in the U.S. — if not now, then certainly in the future. Mr. Griswold argues that so far we have not lost that many jobs to outsourcing, but what is now a trickle may become a river if the economic logic behind outsourcing becomes the fashion in all our major industries. --Barton L. Ingraham Santa Fe, N.M.

Griswold makes a convincing argument that foreign outsourcing is not a bad thing — and is quite possibly a good thing. But he exposes a faulty assumption when he says: "IT companies are increasingly outsourcing thankless jobs — routine programming, data entry, and system monitoring — abroad." There is really no such thing as "routine programming." We have not yet advanced to a point where programming can be performed by anyone but a highly educated, experienced person. The construction of a software project is still a creative endeavor, more art than science.
Thus the jobs that are being exported in this field generally require a college degree and/or substantial work experience, and are very much in demand by highly trained professionals. If this foreign outsourcing is to have the effect of producing higher-level jobs at home, then it seems the only way to stay employed in this country is to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. --Darrell Wilson DeSoto, Kan.

Daniel Griswold replies:

No one argues that foreign outsourcing will leave every American better off. Some people will lose their jobs because of off-shoring, just as others will lose because of imported goods, new technology, or domestic competition. Millions of jobs are created and destroyed in the U.S. economy every year. Rather than trying to block change through protectionist barriers or other regulations, we should equip ourselves to make the transition to better jobs.
America's experience with trade has been what trade theory would predict: We do more of what we do best, and we import more of what people in other countries do best. Meanwhile, over the long haul, employment keeps rising with the size of the labor force. Americans retain tremendous advantages in creating, managing, making, and marketing higher-end goods and services.
By "routine programming," I meant those tasks that are more limited and more easily delegated.

posted by TSO @ 09:44

Faith and the Tall Guy

I'm 5'11", neither tall nor short, and because of that I learned something recently from Jeff Culbreath:

Before I converted to Catholicism, I was invited to attend one of Pastor Drollinger's Bible studies with a friend who has political connections. The former basketball champion towers over his pupils at 7'2" tall -- one of those rare men I am forced to look up to. And, I should add, there are few things more intimidating for a tall man (I'm 6'3") than talking with someone a foot taller than himself. We're just not used to it.
What intrigues me is how difficult it is to escape your own experience. Tall people don't intimidate me in the least (except when I had to guard them in basketball). Jeff's point is an excellent example of something I could only learn from a tall person, not something I could necessarily "reason to". Lord, let me take on faith the spiritual lessons you teach through the saints.

posted by TSO @ 09:35

Fictional Thursday prose for Nigerian scammers

It's not widely known that Hitler didn't commit suicide but escaped to the spas of Baden-Baden where he taught German as a second language to American ex-pats.

I lived there briefly in the '60s, attracted by the nearby Black Forest which had fascinated me from my youth because of its depiction in Disney's "Snow White". I was also there because of a family rumor that my great-grandmother had emigrated from Baden-Baden. I wanted to find ancestors and distant cousins to see how the family tree branched in the Old Country, to try and discover how geography affected our psychic and spiritual landscapes. I also wanted to know why it wasn't just called Baden.

I sat in on one of Hitler's classes on a tip from a friend who'd already been there awhile; I sat in the back of the room expecting an explosion of rage at some point, perhaps over a split infinitive. I reminded myself the camps were no longer in use. It didn't take him long to mention his past.

"And then I took over the north countries. Which countries are those? Does anyone know?"

A young girl raised her hand.


"Ja, sehr gut."


"Nar-vy, ja."

He hadn't aged well and seemed a pathetic figure. He also didn't seem repentant. He boasted of taking countries as if they were fraternity pranks of a misspent youth. The deaths of so many people - did he not realize what he had done or would the knowledge have been too much to take?

"Don't you feel responsibility for the millions killed?"

"I feel responsibility for teaching you Deutsch."

The banality of evil.

I visited Baden-Baden and found my relatives, who were smoking pot and listening to John Travolta records. I wondered at their musical taste until I realized they were laughing at him, although it might've just been that the pot made you laugh at everything.

I asked them about great-grandmother and how it was said in America that she escaped Germany because of Bismarck's Kulturkampf and persecution of Catholics.

I had trouble making out their English but the phrase that jumped out was disturbing: "actresses could make more money in the States..."

posted by TSO @ 09:29

About That Post... (concerning post-Post regret)

Bill White of Random Summa Minutiae knows that "morning after" blog hangover feel:

I recognize [sarcastic] posts after I have them up for a while. It feels good posting them, then after they percolate awhile I begin to realize the spirit in which they were posted. Not an entirely objectionable spirit, but not as good as it could be...So the posts weren't objectively evil, but my motivation in posting them were far from the best...Sheesh - this blogging stuff is complicated when you think about it.

posted by TSO @ 15:14

May 26, 2004


Her enthusiasm is catching isn't it? Today Donna Marie Lewis pulls out all the stops concerning St. Philip Neri.

The only thing I knew about him before reading DML's blog was his remarkable prayer, "O Jesus, watch over me always, especially today, or I shall betray you like Judas."

You might want to visit this Oratorian Litany; especially pertinent for bloggers.

St. Philip Neri, pray for us!

posted by TSO @ 13:47

Kudos MamaT of Summa Mamas for finding this column on reading the classics.

Ham of Bone is reading The Grapes of Wrath , and after finishing The Human Stain I'm ready for something older. Maybe JF Powers or Steinbeck.

posted by TSO @ 13:11

Satisfied Customer?

See here or here, in which depicted is the unlikely event of an unsuspecting mission worker held at gunpoint to read this blog.

Thanks go to Terrence Berres, who was on mission in Guatemala, for sending this hilarious image of a Guatemalan reading about cicadas. It would have to be something completely frivolous, wouldn't it?

posted by TSO @ 09:55

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I am probably the only person in the history of the old CNN/SI message boards to bring up G K Chesterton and St. Thomas Aquinas on one of their discussion forums. (And for the most part it did not go over well unfortunately.) - I. Shawn McElhinney of Rerum Novarum

I get the impression a lot of feminists have been disappointed with the sort of women who've attained positions of leadership. They didn't expect the first female prime minister of Britain to be Margaret Thatcher, or the top female CEO to be Martha Stewart. But I suspect that many of what they identified as male problems are really power problems. It takes certain types of behavior to get to those top positions in our society, and a lot of them aren't very nice. It takes a certain type of person to be put in charge of a prison, and to work in one. And once that power is in your hands, the temptations will be the same. - Camassia of Camassia

It may be that one of the issues that a beginning blogger must confront is that of what to blog and what not to blog. Some blogs stick to issues while others are more inclined to record the minutiae of their owners' daily lives. Oddly enough, although I greatly enjoy reading about others' minutiae, I am reluctant to write about my own, feeling that no one could possibly be interested, and that anything I blog should "amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb." This is, no doubt, vanity; so, to mortify my vanity, I shall write at length about myself....The girls and I went to the 11 AM Mass, at which the Storm Queen, who on Friday finally grasped the concept of the potty, demonstrated her mastery by six times requesting to be taken there. - Bob of Trousered Ape

A while back, I mentioned the friendly staff member at my local Curves fitness center. She got evangelized by me, more to my surprise than hers. Since then, I've run into her a few times, most recently last night, and now she has "I'm talking to a nun" disease. Remember that affliction? It's when you talk to a religious and the only subjects you feel able to bring up are churchly ones. You just can't figure out what else you both might have in common. A life lived more and more within the Church family cures that disease pretty thoroughly, but right now this lovely person has it. She has to tell me only about religious issues in her life (child's First Communion, church picnic). I find myself deliberately changing the subject to non-religious issues, just to bring the conversations back into balance. I don't want her to feel uncomfortable thinking we can only have a one-track conversation, since we started without that topic. - Therese Z. of Santificarnos

....Senor Rodriguez,the last great /Cuban cigar roller,who kept the revelers /of Duval Street,Key West in divine / smolderings,will be eighty this year,and Ps 90:10 claims that humans / only get eighty years of high rolling. /The ear-Horowitz,is dead.The tongue- /Richard Burton,is dead.The voice-Roy Orbison,is dead.The eye-Picoso(everyone / knows that womens' breasts are / divine,plain artists gave us larger and / smaller,Pab gave us more),is dead. - the enigmatic 'crossquad' on St. Blog's Parish Hall

Luke 1:28 "Hail, Nice Person, the Lord is relatively fond of you. Well-respected are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus." - commenter on Dave Armstrong of "Cor ad cor loquitur" on a post imagining a "Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version (RFBV)" New Testament

Luke 18:18-25 (RFBV): “And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I believe to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said, ‘All these I have observed from my youth.’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Know that the commandments have nothing to do with your salvation because they concern works. Have faith alone in Me alone, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard this he became sad, for he lacked faith alone. Jesus looking at him said, ‘How hard it is for those who lack faith alone in Me alone to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a man who lacks faith alone in Me alone to enter the kingdom of God.’” - Dave Armstrong of "Cor ad cor loquitor", Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version of the New Testament

When was the last time you stopped to consider that you were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be God's own possession? It's a vertiginous thought, one might even say that it is an amazing thought. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

Every household, like every religious order, must be primarily a place of prayer if it is to be genuinely Catholic. And this prayer must be regular. The genius of St. Benedict's Rule and its amazing success have largely to do with the element of regularity he introduced into monastic life. Before Benedict, monasticism was either the pursuit of solitary hermits, often given to grotesque excesses of asceticism, or of communities with practices too severe to be borne for long by ordinary men. St. Benedict devised a way of life by which any man of good intention whom God had called might exercise his vocation in a sane, safe and effective manner. Regularity was the key. And so must it be for us. A reasonable schedule of some sort must be made and adhered to, especially by the head of the household who stands in the position of abbot and must lead more by example than by word, as St. Benedict tells us. - Edwin Faust, via Jeff of El Camino Real

It's getting to the which representatives of the Catholic Church won't be able to send a steak back to the kitchen without having to answer for abuse. - Amy Welborn

I am now officially sick and tired of the sanctimoniousness of so many Christians who have to let all the rest of us know that they haven't seen The Passion. I am sick of the foreboding tones with which they hint that the film contains some dark, cancerous infection from which they are keeping themselves safe and pure. I was at a party last night and had yet another exchange with "Another Holier Than Mel Christian." I got mad when he had to interrupt a group of us talking about the beauty of the film by shaking his head piously and looking at some gnostic horizon, saying, "I haven't seen the film yet. I don't think I will." BRN: Oh? Why is that?...GATG: Well, I don't want Gibson's images to replace the ones I have in my head. BRN: Interesting. Are you afraid of other kinds of art too? GATG: What?! BRN: Do you avoid Medieval and Renaissance Churches, old prayerbooks, and pretty much any museum with an art collection worth showing? GATG: I am not against art. BRN: No. I don't think you are....Just so we're clear.-Barbara Nicolosi of "Church of the Masses"

St. Thomas clearly articulate the need, and indeed the duty, to love what is above the soul (as the highest good) and to understand what is beneath is (as another aspect of this highest good). In each case the best is done with a given faculty--the intellect or the will. In articulating this understanding St. Thomas set the groundwork for all of western science. By declaring it both good and almost a duty, the search for understanding of the world received yet another boost from the Church. By setting this agenda St. Thomas and the Church fueled the revival of arts and knowledge that we call the renaissance.Unfortunately as time passed, the understanding of St. Thomas's teaching became distorted and unclear, as Tom points out. There is a modern tendency to love what is beneath and to dimiss or analyze in a pseudo-scientific way what is above. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

My Mom is fond of telling me the story that when I was waiting to be adopted my Foster Mother called me "Smiley", because I was always smiling and was in general a happy baby. I like to think that I smiled so much because of you, and what you did for me. Thanks Mother, and Happy Belated Mothers Day.I love you....because. - Steve of November Song, offering a nice tribute to his mom.

posted by TSO @ 09:29


I've become astonishingly impolitic lately concerning politics, showing scant respect for other's opinions and dogmatically asserting my own. The mantra I remind myself is "people have the right to be wrong". I certainly want that right and so have to extend it to others.

My pledge to you, the American blog reader, is more poetry, more Spanning the Globe, and less fractiousness in the form of political opinionating. Today at least.

posted by TSO @ 08:04


I'm impressed by folks who have a strong opinion on issues that are close calls ('barkeep, I'll have what they're havin'), such as the war in Iraq. If nature abhors a vacuum, then so do tough issues abhor indecisiveness.

Were the anti-war folks exercised over economic sanctions, which killed many more people than the war, albeit indirectly? Kudos for consistency go out to those who can say they a) did not support the original Gulf War and b)protested the economic sanctions. Pacifism obviates the need for thinking and for that reason alone should be applauded.

So isn't the Iraq war a continuation of the Gulf War? In the time of "peace" between the wars, 500,000 Iraqi children are said to have died due to economic sanctions. During the time of "peace" the U.S. spent billions on Iraq, enacting no-fly zones and such. If a judge lets a three-time convicted murderer loose, the judge is blamed when the murderer kills again. If George Bush had let Saddam go his own way and ignored the "jail sentence" that was imposed on Saddam after the Gulf War (which he flouted), then who would we blame when he exploded chemical/biological weapons? Bush, because he failed to honor the agreement that Saddam ignored. The die seems to be cast when the inspectors were ejected in '98. But Clinton had Monica troubles.

I'm all for letting go and letting God. But does He really want us to do nothing in the face of evil? To let evil go unchecked is good? Why not empty the jails today? Why not simply rely on God for a continuous series of miracles to prevent chaos?

The Iraq war may turn out to be a mess in hindsight. But that's in hindsight, which has a way of making us brilliant (which is why I like reading history - it's one time I feel smarter than the principals.)

Bush and Blair tried to do right by the lights given to them. I won't second guess them. I wouldn't have had the courage to do what they did, first because I could not have rebuffed my Pope and second because I doubt I would've stood up against European pressure. But I'm not a leader. It's possible they did do the right thing. God bless George Bush.

posted by TSO @ 18:20

May 25, 2004


I don't have the book handy, but Tom Holland in his "Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic" prefaces the first chapter with a blank page but for two quotes making exactly opposite assertions. One is from Julius Caesar and the other is someone whose name I can't recall now. Caesar said that every man longs for liberty and the other said that every man secretly longs for a master so that he might be a slave.

I was thinking about the slave/liberty quotes with regard to the Iraq War. The French helped us secure our freedom during the Revolutionary War, but we really really wanted freedom. The Iraqis, for all their suffering under Hussein, don't appear to want freedom that much, with the possible exception of the Kurds. And you can't force freedom on people, as oxymoronic as that might sound. George Bush constantly insists that the freedoms we enjoy are universally desired. Maybe, maybe not. Given Saddam's abuse, perhaps the kid getting beaten up on the playground doesn't want help.

Ramesh Ponnuru quotes David Brooks today and comments, "'[Bush] began this war in Iraq repeating the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that our creator has endowed all human beings with the right to liberty, and the ability to function as democratic citizens.' I see two problems with this formulation: God has manifestly not 'endowed all human beings with...the ability to function as democratic citizens,' and the Declaration of Independence says no such thing."

posted by TSO @ 11:06


The tagline at left is from Spaten beer. I don't know about you, but I get a little nervous about Germans making "purity laws". (Just a joke, I kid the Germans.)

posted by TSO @ 09:05

The Dignity of Man and the Awesomeness of God

I've become more adept at picking up differences between current theology and theology 50 and 100 years ago or more (already obvious to most I'm sure). Under pressure from a culture that devalues life, the Church has switched from emphasizing the great and unfathomable gulf between God and man to the inherent dignity of man and how he is loved by God and made in His image.

And for good reason: over the past fifty years there's been an astonishing disregard for the value of human life and dignity. In this culture humans are disposable and an instrument of use. It could be thought that God treats us similarly, as mere objects of use, but the teaching of the Church has moved to correct this even to the point of speaking of the gradual divinization of man, as in the phrase "God became man that man might become God".

I see the change in bible commentaries on a passage like Isaiah 45:10. In a commentary from the 1940s there is the straightforward "creatures are as clay in the hands of the potter and must submit to their creator's demands." By the 1970s with the New Jerome we have this nuance: "God's demand of absolute obedience is not based, however, on blind subservience to fate or on the passive acceptance of brutal power, but rather in his delicate concern implied in the image of a potter, on his paternal love expressed in the phrase 'my children' and on his personal attention, emphasized by the repetition of the first person."

This move from depicting God's love as contractual to familial is something Scott Hahn is famous for. Theological conservatives like Hahn and the Pope are preaching a kindler and gentler message. I've been listening to Hahn's tapes on faith and justification (I often like his tapes better than his books - I didn't think "Hail Holy Queen" was that good while his tapes on the Book of Revelation were excellent) and in them Hahn talks about the theological virtue of hope in regard to assurance of salvation and makes the point that God loves His children more than human parents love theirs and cares more about our salvation than we do. Hahn admits, surprisingly, to sometimes wondering if he is a child of God, and he said that the Holy Spirit turns the question around: "How do your kids know they are your children, Scott?". Hahn lists: they eat at my table, they celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, they do chores, they are sometimes chastized. He then relates those to the life of the Christian: i.e. the Eucharist, saints' feast days, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, etc...Hahn points out the need to understand that God takes us as we are and doesn't expect us to grow to full maturity over night. He says that if his two-year old wets the bed he isn't the least bit angry. If his twelve-year old does, that's a problem...

In my own journey, I've decided to turn a deaf ear to the voices of those who would tear down, those who are constantly critical, and to treasure the pure golden love God has for me.

posted by TSO @ 07:46

Fr. Groeschel Message

We’re coming now to the time of Pentecost, this is an important time for anyone who is trying to deal with a serious problem, suffering or catastrophe because the Holy Spirit lifts Himself far above the world. It was known even in the early Church, that in the worst of situations when the martyrs were facing a cruel barbaric death at the jaws of wild beasts that they called upon the Spirit of God. If you get a devotion to the Holy Spirit and if you have a devotion to the Holy Spirit and you cultivate it, and let it grow, and read on the Holy Spirit, you will find that you have much greater strength. In your own life cultivate a devotion to the Holy Spirit and you will find that you have a strength that you do not know the origins of. Try it; it works! Let us continue to pray for each other! --Father Benedict

posted by TSO @ 15:59

May 24, 2004

St. Rita

I went to Quenta Nârwenion because I wanted to see how many of the past ten posts mentioned John Henry Newman (two this time).

And I came across her tribute to St. Rita whose feast day was just celebrated on May 22, (which is also my wedding anniversary). I'm not sure how to take the fact that she is the patroness of "difficult marriages". Consolation or worry? And isn't "difficult marriage" redundant? :~)

posted by TSO @ 10:16

A Prophet Who Shepherds

Visited another parish about a hundred miles away for my niece's First Communion and the bulletin had an interesting message from the pastor:

"...If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." I think of Robert Burns' "The world is too much with us." I am troubled because I find the role of pastor to be so conflicted with the call to be a prophet in God's name. The role of pastor, shepherd, is to keep the flock together, as we journey through life. It is conflicted with the role of the prophet to bring God's word to bear on current events in both church and society. Today's world, myself included, does not readily accept the challenge to be confronted with God's Word asking us to ever become more than we are.
So far so good. And through my lenses I'm thinking, " is difficult to pastor these days, to preach against powerful abortion-enthused politicians, against artificial contraception and the contraceptive mentality, contra promiscuity and about the reality of mortal sin..."

Wrong. He went on to explain that it was the lack of universal health care and American affluence, as well as the Iraq War that bothers him. He's certainly in good company on the war given Pope John Paul II's stance, but at this point it's sort of a fait accompli since "now that we've broken Iraq, we own it" in the famous words of Colin Powell, in the sense that we can't cut & run.

Watched Brian Lamb's "Booknotes" over the weekend, and he featured Joseph Califano, former Great Society architect and serious Catholic. I think this is one book from a liberal I think I can read without retching, and since I like to puff myself up by thinking I'm broadminded when actually I'm a fervent right-winger, I thought I'd borrow it from the library. A review of the book said,"the running theme of this frank autobiography is Califano's inner struggles to reconcile the demands of politics with the dictates of his Catholic upbringing." It's refreshing, these days, for a politician to struggle to reconcile those things (or any of us actually). He got a great sixteen year Catholic education when Catholic education meant something. Will give you recaps as nec'sry.

posted by TSO @ 20:58

May 23, 2004

Buffy & the Pope

Much in common?


Peg talks about blogs at the Parish Hall:

I began reading Catholic blogs after learning about them in an article in the Liguorian (as I recall). That was over a year ago. Now I find that I am not comfortable if I don't check in at least once a day with three blogs in particular, and a few more...There is a freedom in these Catholic blogs that I never saw growing up and I did not go to college so that might say something. I didn't know Catholics would be so opinionated and seemingly darn proud of it. I have always been more of the docile, obedient, nonthinking persuasion, but now believe a little thinking would be good for me, even if I can't come to any definite conclusions. I have learned that people can discuss, disagree and still come back for more. Most bloggers try to be courteous along with their sometimes strong opinions.

posted by TSO @ 13:41

May 21, 2004

Monsieur Belloc...

..weighs in on the tendency of the intellect to dominate and make us crabby (mea culpa):

What! here are we with the jolly world of God all round us, able to sing, to draw, to paint, to hammer and build, to sail, to ride horses, to run, to leap; having for our splendid inheritance love in youth and memory in old age, and we are to take one miserable little faculty, our one-legged, knock-kneed, gimcrack, purblind, rough-skinned, underfed, and perpetually irritated and grumpy intellect, or analytical curiosity rather (a diseased appetite), and let it swell till it eats up every other function? Away with such foolery... Note that pedants lose all proportion. They never can keep sane in a discussion. They will go wild on matters they are wholly unable to judge, such as Armenian Religion or the Politics of Paris or what not. Never do they use one of those three phrases which keep a man steady and balance his mind, I mean the words (1) After all it is not my business. (2) Tut! tut! You don't say so! and (3) Credo in Unum Deum Patrem Omnipotentem, Factorem omnium visibilium atque invisibilium; in which last there is a power of synthesis that can jam all their analytical dust-heap into such a fine, tight, and compact body as would make them stare to see. I understand [professors] need six months' holiday a year. Had I my way they should take twelve, and an extra day on leap years. --Hilaire Belloc

posted by TSO @ 09:14


Some amateurs are really funny. Here's the fifteen minute version of the movie Troy. (Not for the easily offended.)

posted by TSO @ 09:07

Artless Day for Terry Teachout

Not only did I see no plays or ballets, but I didn’t listen to any music, nor did I read any new Isaac Bashevis Singer stories in between returning phone calls, answering e-mail, and fussing with my schedule. I wouldn’t say it was a wasted day, but neither can I say that I stopped very often or smelled many roses. Saddest of all, I didn’t even remember to knock off for a half-hour in the afternoon, sit down in my living room, and look at the contents of the Teachout Museum.

Why am I telling you all this? To remind myself that each day offers a new chance to strike a better balance. I have to write a Wall Street Journal review this morning and plan to make a start on another piece in the afternoon, and I’m taking Steph, my research assistant, to an early-evening meeting of jazz archivists.. All that will surely keep me jumping from breakfast to bedtime, but I hope I remember to leave at least a little time in between for spiritual refreshment.

I live and work in an apartment crammed full of books and CDs and works of art. Outside my office window is a beautiful green tree, and a half-block east of my front door is Central Park. How can I possibly spend a whole day with my face turned from such things? I don’t know, but I’ll try not to do so, at least not today. Tomorrow can take care of itself.

posted by TSO @ 12:07

May 20, 2004

Hodge Podge of Discontinued Items ...a lightning round

"You didn't even say goodbye" --Cap'n Von Trapp

Buddy Holly, Amelia Erhardt, I'm intrigued by sudden departures in the real and blog worlds. I guess Fearsomepirate and Michelle of "And Then?" and Chris of "Maine Catholic" have left the building and you wonder why. The Mighty Barrister took a long break. Why remains unanswered. Disgust at blogging? Disgust at lack of feedback? Blog fatigue?

I know we're all crack-cocaine addicts when it comes to the discussion of great Catlicker books. Although a bit triumphalistic, if you need a fix, go here.

Was shopping at Walmart this morning and was distracted by the phenomenon of "Walmart radio", a insular ham radio type of operation that apparently broadcasts across the USA to Walmarts from Sacramento to Savannah and all points 'tween. I felt I was eavesdropping.

The announcer had that chipper "win one for the Gipper" sort of voice, a sort of Bronx cheer for the morning, which is better than Napalm in the morning. He read a list of anniversaries of employees; "Judy Smith, Benton, Arkansas, store number 1, is celebrating her 23rd year...". A cashier broke in and broke the spell: "Sherie, line one, Sherie line one." Someone's anniversary was missed, hopefully not one at this, store 36721.

Anniversaries in corporations are often tainted, since staying at one place too long often signals a lack of ambition. "You've been here 20 years and you're still a ----?". You'd prefer they thought it was only ten.

If it's La Traviata, it must be pledge week.

posted by TSO @ 11:31

Why Do I Blog About Politics Anyway?

A recent Salon excerpt, saying how the Republican party has changed:

"If you're fiscally responsible, this is not your party. If you believe in a moderate foreign policy characterized by alliances, free trade and the ability to operate in an international environment, this is not your party. If you believe in limited federal government, this is not your party. If you believe that the government should stay out of your bedroom, this is very definitely not your party. In fact, I would argue that unless you believe in the American imperium, imposed on the world by force, or unless you believe in the literal interpretation of the Book of Revelations, this is not your party."

Let's examine these:

If you're fiscally responsible, this is not your party.

What will potentially bankrupt the country is not temporary spending but long-term entitlements. To the extent current spending makes long-term promises impossible, it is a good (if very imperfect) solution. Witness Reagan's deficits which were both temporary and thwarted lasting damage. Left-of-center columnist Michael Kinsley says Americans are big babies who want big spending programs without big taxes. Deficits are ultimately the voter's decision. The die for a sizeable budget was cast when Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, and by 9/11. That said, the unfunded mandates of the No Child Left Behind program were extremely irresponsible.

If you believe in a moderate foreign policy characterized by alliances, free trade and the ability to operate in an international environment, this is not your party.

There is no party more dedicated to free trade than the Republican party. The politically popular thing would be to outlaw outsourcing, but you don't see that happening. Alliances require two to tango, and I think both sides are to blame. But this is the strongest Salon point, imho.

If you believe in limited federal government, this is not your party.

See explanation above.

If you believe that the government should stay out of your bedroom, this is very definitely not your party.

A non-sequitor. Everyone believes the government should stay in their bedroom, if it's incest we're talking. And no one cares what a homosexual couple do in their bedroom. It's the gay lobby who wants the government to stand over the bed giving its imprimatur. If it were only about financial issues, the problem would be resolved by now.

In fact, I would argue that unless you believe in the American imperium, imposed on the world by force...

Gag me. Regime change in Iraq after twelve years of brutal sanctions that hurt only the Iraqi people is imperial? The U.N. nations that voted against U.S. use of force turned out to be in bed with Saddam (not that we should care what goes on in Saddam's bedroom). Not only is America not intent on making Iraq the 51st state, but is racing to hand over power, desperately looking for a way to withdraw while saving face. Somewhere Alexandar the Great is laughing.

posted by TSO @ 10:06


Cringe and cower when you see that Blogger has made an update because it means six more weeks of winter in the form of odd outages and sluggish service. Get what you pay for, of course.

This was what I was thinking until I read today's business section of the Columbus Dispatch, when I begin to think that maybe the folks at Blogger deserved a song like other "real American heroes" have.

Dispatch columnist Barnet Wolf wrote, "If it hadn’t been for the folks at Anheuser-Busch, some of America’s authentic prodigies might have been overlooked. We’re talking about real men of genius, such as Mr. All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Inventor and Mr. Bumper Sticker Writer... These formerly unsung heroes, along with nearly seven dozen others, have been acclaimed in a series of eccentric radio and television commercials for Bud Light. The commercials broke in 1998 and since then the radio campaign has earned more than 100 advertising awards."

Inspired by the ads, I offer lyrics to "Mr. Blogger Software Developer":

Mr. Blogger Software Developer

Bud Light Presents: Real Men of Genius
(real men of genius)
Today we salute you, Mr. Blogger Software Developer
(Mr. Blogger Software Developer)
You've given us the real American dream: self-publishing for the lazy and self-absorbed
(Pinch me, I'm dreamin'!)
Toiling in obscurity, you work so that we can tell the world what we had for dinner
(pork chops & gravy!)
No clock-watcher you, you are the Helen that launched a thousand blogs
(Homer'd be proud!)
So crack open an ice-cold Bud Light blogger boy, because if not for you
this parody wouldn't exist!
(Mr. Blogger Software Developer!)

posted by TSO @ 09:20

St. Thomas

I love St. Anthony and St. Therese of Lisieux and Our Lady. I respect and admire and feel connected to St. Pio and St. Patrick. But the saint I may be most flat-out fascinated by is St. Thomas Aquinas. Here's a true blue intellectual, with all the attendant temptation to pride and spiritual dessication and doubt, who apparently didn't fall to prey to those faults but was gentle and humble and not at all abrasive in a St. Jerome sense (with due apologies to St. Jerome of course, who gives hope to many blog parishioners).

Part of what interests me about Aquinas is the sheer imbalance of his life. No wife, children, novels, hikes in the woods. He didn't join the "Inklings" and drink at the local pub as Tolkein and Lewis used to do. His productivity showed an amazing single-mindedness despite lacking (it seemed) a corresponding dose of "beauty", which many need as an antidote to too much logical thinking. But I think the fact that on his deathbed he asked that the Song of Songs be read said it all. There was his beauty and his respite: God alone.

posted by TSO @ 07:23

Celebrity Endorsers

Wow, Scott Hahn has some big names among his commentors for his latest book... And here I thought them Luddites:

Most enlightening and helpful for Catholics AND Protestants, May 19, 2004
Reviewer: Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R. from New York City
As one who has lived with a lifelong realistic understanding of the sacraments, especially of the Holy Eucharist, I found Scott Hahn's journey from Calvin's devout but symbolic understanding to the traditional realism of the Church Fathers most enlightening. This book will be a big help to Catholics confronted by careless and inaccurate teaching about the sacraments. It will also aid Protestants, who have often lost even the sacramental piety of the Reformation and who are beginning to rediscover the sacraments instituted by Christ.

Clear & compelling look at how God works through sacraments, May 19, 2004 Reviewer: Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan from Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Dr. Hahn has done it once again: he has given us a crisp, clear and compelling look at the very essence of Catholic life, the sacraments. Simply put, Scott believes the sacraments really do work. And he believes that the sacraments are God's work for us, not our work for God.

Discover a deeper understanding of sacraments in Scripture, May 19, 2004
Reviewer: Edward Cardinal Egan from Archdiocese of New York City
In Swear to God, Dr. Scott Hahn provides his readers with a fresh, enthusiastic introduction to the theology of Sacraments. His readers will be rewarded not only with clear theological information but also with authentically Catholic inspiration. His pen continues to be a blessing for all who seek a deeper understanding of what the Lord has revealed.

posted by TSO @ 07:23

There's Babies in Thar!

Amy W. links to a NY Times story that discusses how ultrasounds are leading to more respect for unborn babies.

It's kind of ironic in a way. Baby boomers who worship success know that you don't get into Groton by accident. Where a generation ago it was important to get into the right college, the right pre-school is crucial now.

This leads inexorably back where? The womb. Pre-natal care becomes vital if you want your child to recite Shakespeare at two. Fortunately the more attention paid to the unborn the more consciences may be triggered.

posted by TSO @ 13:06

May 19, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

My own mother, who is actually anti-breastfeeding, was constantly hounding me to wean my first child. Finally one day she said, "really darling, when ARE you going to wean him?" and I said very matter-of-factly, "when his five o'clock shadow starts to irritate me." She never asked again. - smockmomma of Summa Mamas

Minds are like parachutes: If you leave 'em open all the time, they get all tangled and grotty. - commenter on Mark Shea's blog

They break the most beautiful things
But I hear violins
When I close my eyes
I am at the center of the sun - unattributed, via Fr. Jim of "Dappled Things"

It's a sort of catharsis, just encountering such certainty: furious certainty of rhythym, certainty of definition that leaves the dark, nebulous spirit of neopaganism "formulated, sprawling on a pin." It is meant to be a war poem, to rouse and encourage resistance. But it is tempered with caution: the White Horse must be patiently and continuously tended, or the grass will cover it. Evil is like the grass - it cannot be conquered "once and for all" (until the end of the world, anyway). There is no earthly "end to evil." Complacency is death. In this Chesterton is very close to Tolkien (the points of overlap between the two have become more apparent to me lately), as in several other places in the poem. It is interesting to see how Tolkien quotes Chesterton in his lectures and letters. Tolkien didn't care for The Ballad of the White Horse; he thought that Chesterton didn't know anything about "Northernness" and that the ending (where the King retakes London) was ridiculous. (He didn't explain this last judgement.) Of course, Tolkien and GKC were very far apart in style and vocation and temperament. Still... both of them understood the "tree" of tradition, the power of "fairy-stories," the need for humility - and the savour of eucatastrophe. - blogger at "Basia Me Catholica Sum" on Chesterton's "The Ballad of the White Horse"

Dear Abby: Dateline Rome...I wasn't going to marry a Mohammedan anyway, being already married to the only woman who'd ever put up with me, but in case you were here is some good advice from Rome: Don't. - John at the "Inn at the End of the World", on the recent Vatican suggestion not to marry Muslims

There is *nothing* more dangerous to the soul than being really right in a fight. Under the influence of original sin, the sense of justly aggrieved righteousness (not phoney righteousness, but the real deal) is most potent blindness-inducing chemical on the planet. - Mark Shea

"Rebuke not thy neighbour in a banquet of wine: and despise him not in hip mirth." -- nice typo, from Douay-Rheims online version,

The people we meet: great sinners all. The people we meet: beloved by God all. It's said St. Catherine of Siena was able to perceive the state of other people's souls. That's not a charism I'd want for myself, tempting as it is to someone as filled with the vice of curiosity as I am, for fear that I might be able to perceive the state of my own soul. I suspect, though, that it's my dullness regarding my own relationship with Christ that makes it so unnatural for me to even consider that the people I meet each have their own relationship with Him, whether they know it or not. If I were suitably aware of and concerned with my sins, and so suitably eager to ask Jesus to give me eternal life, then I bet I'd be more honestly concerned with the sins of others, not in a holier-than-they sense, but out of a zealous (St. Catherine might say burning) desire they too receive eternal life. - Tom of Disputations

Given that 46% of the population doesn't even think that homosexual acts should even be legal, I'm practically bleeding-heart on the issue. Just keep the snake in its cage while the kids are around, and I think everyone will do pretty okay. - Robert of "Hokie Pundit"

I don't believe a person can remain in mortal sin while praying the Rosary. -Pope John XXIII

The unborn had faith in Santorum / For he said, "You bet, I'm all for 'em!" / But when their protector / Met Senator Specter, /He said, "What the hell, I'll ignore 'em." - Bob the Ape of "Trousered Ape", who humorously calls his blog an "exercise in presumption"

I don't keep these commandments in order to make God love me. This is extremely important for us to understand. I don't keep the commandments so that God will love me. God will love me regardless. God will love me, I think, even if I'm burning in Hell. I keep the commandments because they are the concrete way for me to love Him. If I ignore these commandments, it means that my love is cold. - Fr. Jim of "Dappled Things"

I've been Catholic all my life, but I've been a practicing Catholic again since March 27, 2004. I left because it seemed like it was the right thing to do. I came back because the grace of God drew me. I've been freshly acquainting myself with the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, daily Mass, morning and evening prayer (thanks very much, Magnificat magazine). I'm rich. Who knew it would be such a blessing? - Roz of "In Dwelling"

I became a Catholic because they had all the cutest girls: Italians, French, Spanish, Mexican, Brazilian, even half of the Germans and a fair number of the English, for heaven's sake. - Dave Armstrong, who forgets about the cute Irish girls.

This is your pastor...and I approve this message. - our pastor, playing comedian, after his homily

posted by TSO @ 11:12

Poetry from the latest National Review:


Raising their arms, they scream — no, squeal — for joy,
Palms up and out to press the gamboling ball.
(It frisks from side to side; they re-deploy
Accordingly, in bunches, lest it fall.)
But no one in her — is it pinafore
Or Mother Hubbard? — springs to drive a spike.
The game seems pointless (no one keeping score),
And yet a dozen bonnets all alike
Lift up and scan the sky as if this counts,
Yes, really counts. They show a rapturous care,
But unconcern at what each shriek and jounce
Makes clear: as jocks, they haven't got a prayer.
Still, twelve long skirts keep sweeping up the sands.
Still, twelve young girls abandon all reserve.
The ball leaps wildly from no idle hands,
Until it's plain: these handmaids aim to serve.


posted by TSO @ 11:11

Path to Grove City

Chapter 3

I passed a church presently and bowed my head for the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and raised it again to find an elderly woman before me, working over an embroirdery. Her art showed a bucolic scene of man and woman riding horses with a pony between them, as if guiding it to a greener pasture.

“Excuse me,” I said, “but I’m walking to Grove City and was wondering how far to Ponderosa Avenue?”

“About a mile or so,” she said, exuding sereneness and a quiet joy. Her back was noticeably humped and for the first time I realized she was blind. Appearances can be eschewed with the blind and I felt freer.

“What is that you’re stitching? It’s quite beautiful.”

She laughed softly and said she wasn’t stiching it but merely fingering it, a gift from a parishioner at the church I was passing. I wondered what it meant to get a gift you couldn’t see and marveled at the care with which it was sewn.

“You see the riderless pony? It wasn’t always so, this was the return trip. Blessed Margaret of Castello was born blind and lame and hunchbacked and her parents took a trip and left her behind. Like they used to do with unwanted cats and dogs. My parents left me on these church steps for much the same reason.”

“And yet this must remind you-- aren’t you bitter towards them?”

“Bitter, no. ‘Though my father and mother forsake, yet the Lord will take me up.’ says the Psalm. God's love is far greater.”

Infused love given the bereft of example or experience? Interesting, I thought, how those with the least excuse to believe God’s love for them tended to trust it most. I thanked her and continued towards Ponderosa with renewed vigor.

posted by TSO @ 11:07

How large are Cicadas?

The largest Cicada to appear in Cincinnati is shown above causing several hours of downtown traffic congestion... - via

I'm kind of disappointed we're not getting them here in Columbus, at least not yet. Cincy will be hit hard and often. Fortunately I'll be visiting there on Sunday, a chance to see them while also experiencing the relief in leaving them. I'm guessing a little bit goes a long way.

posted by TSO @ 14:20

May 18, 2004

On Semiotics

Walker Percy's old hobby:

Shout the word semiotics across a room today, and the room will very likely shout back at you, "What do you mean, semiotics?" It is a good question and at the same time, according to semiotics, a uselessly subjective question, for semiotics is the study of meaning itself -- or rather how images and words (like semiotics, for example) come to mean anything at all...Put another way, semiotics is about how we derive meaning from context.

posted by TSO @ 13:43

Shall we play... Why is my bookbag so heavy?

Steven Riddle posted today his reads and so I'll do likewise:

Stet, Damnit! - Florence King
Evelyn Waugh: The Later Years - Martin Stannard
Albion's Seed - David Hackett Fischer
Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love - Thomas Keating
Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones - Fr. Benedict Groeschel
The Miracle Detective - R. Sullivan
A Seeker's Dozen - Kathy Shaidle
Getting it Right - William F. Buckley
Revelations of Divine Mercy - St. Faustina
A Green Journey - Jon Hassler

That should hold me.

posted by TSO @ 13:43

Thoughts on Roth's "Human Stain"

I sent part of this in an email to Terry of Summa Mamas so I thought I'd blog it too. Cutting and pasting is a magical thing.

About the book: I have mixed emotions. Some of it I really liked. I read most of it on a cruise in January and I wonder if I was unduly influenced by the environment. I think I could read "Dick and Jane" while sipping drinks next to the ocean and think it a work of genius.

But I thought it was entertaining and parts of it exceptional. I'm glad I read something by Roth, who is supposedly the best of the best of modern authors.

One test is how many dog-eared pages (I dog-ear great passages) and there was maybe seven or so, i.e average. The character of that Delphine Roux though was as finely drawn as anything in Dickens. Really vivid.

It's nice I can read a modern author and not be assaulted by sex. It's the reason I haven't read Franzen's "The Corrections". Ham of Bone read it and said the message was basically nihilistic with lots of very vivid sexual imagery. Not exactly what I need, ya know? Call me a Puritan, but don't call me late to dinner.

posted by TSO @ 13:37

Quote Encountered

On a personal level, too, art is life intensified: it delights more deeply, consumes more rapidly; it engraves the traces of imaginary and intellectual adventure on the countenance of its servant and in the long run, for all the monastic calm of his eternal existence, leads to self-indulgence, over-refinement, lethargy, and a restless curiosity that a lifetime of wild passions and pleasures could scarcely engender. -- Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
...via a fellow Columbus Ohioian at Collected Miscellany

posted by TSO @ 10:49

Books that most influenced C.S. Lewis:

1) Phantastes by George MacDonald
2) The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton
3) The Aeneid by Virgil
4) The Temple by George Herbert
5) The Prelude by William Wordsworth
6) The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto
7) The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
8) The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
9) Descent Into Hell by Charles Williams
10) Theism and Humanism by A. J. Balfour

posted by TSO @ 10:19

Catlicker Answers Msgboard

I had a question I wanted to ask last week, but I can't recall what it was. Well, when the student is ready a msgboard will appear.

Here's an interesting one.

posted by TSO @ 13:41

May 17, 2004

Jessa of Bookslut is peeved

Dear Bookcase Store to Remain Unnamed:

Four weeks? Are you kidding me? I was all ready to hand over a full two week unemployment check for you to make my apartment into one giant library, but then you told me it would take four weeks minimum to fulfill my order. I nearly cancelled on CB2 when they told me it would take them four days to deliver my dining room table. There's just no way I'm going to spend that much money without instant gratification. But your bookcases are very pretty. You make me sad.

posted by TSO @ 10:04

I Did Not Know That... From NRO

Whether or not Bishop Sheridan's edict about the voting duties of Catholics is wise, it is not unprecedented. In July 1949, Pope Pius XII declared that any person who consciously advanced Communism was “without question excommunicated.” The declaration was consistent with the 1937 statement of Pope Pius XI that any form of support for Communism was sinful. Voting for a Communist Party candidate would obviously be a form of conscious support for Communism.

posted by TSO @ 09:43

Kathy Shaidle Quote

We offer ourselves to God, good and bad. We leave it up to God to decide which of our defects of character need to be removed. And God is the one who will remove them, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

Given our limited human perspective, it is usually unwise to embark on a self-propelled project to "make ourselves over." Traits that we think of as flaws may be necessary for us to keep, as part of God's overall plan for our lives, and the lives of others. (What if Oskar Schindler had decided to give up his slick, conniving, worldly ways, and become a cloistered monk..?)

The key word is "humbly." As Bill Wilson liked to say, "Humility has a hard time of it in our world." Many people confuse it with humiliation or obsequiousness....But humility is about being realistic. Humility is not about thinking very little of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less...Notice that the worst defects are those that interfere with our usefulness to God and our neighbors.
- from "A Seeker's Dozen: The 12 Steps for Everyone Else"

posted by TSO @ 09:30


Went to see the movie "Troy" starring Brad Pitt and Peter O'Toole. The anticipation to see how the filmmaker would depict the Trjoan horse and the death of Achilles was delicious and the film delivered magnificently. The scene that will also reasonate was Priam's (O'Toole's) visit to Achilles' tent. But I shan't spoil it.

The problem with the movie is it's almost three hours. This would be a great 2-hour movie, but they larded it with long and endless battle scenes. I'm tired of war movies but I'm also fascinated by them. They display the virtues of courage & honor & discipline but you have to wade through war pyrotechnics. The spectacle is nice but after all the LOTR movies I'm jaded. The less grandiose single combat between Hector and Achilles wore on forever too.

Bone's love for movies is one I've never been able to share. Movies are a good break from books but are so under-nourishing by comparison. Hambone is much more interested in plot than me. I finished "The Human Stain" yesterday and I remember Bone worrying about the plot and though I'm sure I miss a lot in not attending to it more carefully I like ideas and philosophical asides, not stories. I understand that "stories are more truthful" as the sages tell us but I'm not there yet. I read Updike and Roth and Shakespeare not for the plot but for the ideas and the plush word-play.

posted by TSO @ 09:17

Olde Trip

A sense of wonder is proper to travel
as homage to a king-
one can scarcely forget to pack wonder
as your toothbrush.

Eight years ago it was
our first trip to the olde sod,
every stone hid a leprechaun,
every meadow an ancestor.

How I’d planned
for that ’96 trip!
I consumed travel guides
and Celtic myths
such that if I met Cuchulain himself
I’d be at ease.

posted by TSO @ 09:16

One can forget how freeing our relationship with God should feel. One can’t tell your wife, for example, that you think she’s gained weight or that you’re struggling with the sin of lust unless it's her you be lusting after. It’s like confessing to your black friend that you have a problem with prejudice.

With God it’s so different though, in two crucial ways. One is that he already knows what’s going on, there’s no secrets to Him. And second that you’re so truly forgiven.

I feel often enough a sense of un-ease, a little underbra of anxiety which I can’t quite put my finger on though I suspect it’s a lack of sex, a handy enough excuse. With the good weather comes an astonishing lack of female clothing which often strikes a chord more of surprise than lust, since the latter takes a bit longer to develop. You don't know what hit you half the time, and the other half you're just saying how great a job God did in designing the female form.

Man seeks reassurance from food and sex, and unfortunately there’s a reason for it - I have to admit they usually deliver. I can see so clearly why the Church expresses a preference for the poor – it’s more difficult to believe you are loved when your stomach is empty. And this coming from a stomach perpetually full.

posted by TSO @ 09:08


Thomas of ER's recent lament about books got me trying to remember a quote of Samuel Johnson's which, thanks to the interent, I found here:

"Alas, Madam! How few books are there of which one can ever possibly arrive at the last page."

Others found:

General irregularities are known in time to remedy themselves. By the constitution of ancient Egypt, the priesthood was continually increasing, till at length there was no people beside themselves; the establishment was then dissolved, and the number of priests was reduced and limited. Thus among us, writers will, perhaps, be multiplied, till no readers will be found, and then the ambition of writing must necessarily cease." -Johnson: Adventurer #115 (December 11, 1753)

Literature is a kind of intellectual light which, like the light of the sun, enables us to see what we do not like; but who would wish to escape unpleasing objects, by condemning himself to perpetual darkness?

posted by TSO @ 07:15

May 16, 2004

Gospel tune heard yesterday:


When I cross over
I will shout and sing
I will know my Savior
By the mark where the nails have been

By the mark where the nails have been
By the sign upon his precious skin
I will know my Savior when I come to him
By the mark where the nails have been

A man of riches
May claim a crown of jewels
But the King of Heaven
Can be told from the prince of fools

On Calvary Mountain
Where they made him suffer so
All my sin was paid for
A long, long time ago
CHORUS --Gillian Welch

posted by TSO @ 07:13

NRODT Review of "Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology" by W. Wesley McDonald

Central to Kirk's philosophy is the connection between order in the soul and order in the commonwealth. A society's politics reflects its culture, and hence its morality. Kirk sought — in McDonald's words — to "rediscover, articulate, and defend those enduring moral norms, now blurred in our consciousness, by which civilized peoples have governed their conduct." McDonald situates this effort within the concept of "ethical dualism," as fleshed out in the work of Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More. In this view, man is torn between two natures: his lower self, which focuses on selfish and momentary goals, and his higher self, which has the ability to envision something nobler. The moral man checks his lower self and seeks to strengthen his higher self.

Out of this inner tension comes an outer tension, one between order and freedom. For Kirk, true freedom is not the libertarian's total lack of external restraint but rather the opportunity to attain one's own natural potential, and to live in harmony with the moral order. "Liberty," writes McDonald, "can be found neither in individual self-gratification (as the utilitarian would hold) nor in flowing with one's spontaneous impulses (as the Rousseauists would affirm), but resides instead in [what Babbitt called] the individual's 'ethical self; and the ethical self is experienced not as expansive emotion, but as inner control.'"

posted by TSO @ 17:12

May 14, 2004

Spiritual Interconnectivities

I recently happened upon the blog of a nurse, a blog reflecting alarming malevolence and spiritual emptiness and my knee-jerk reaction was auto-focus. Sadly, it wasn't pity or prayer that leapt to mind, it was self-pity in the form of thinking, "the world is going to hell in a handbasket and when I'm sick and in need of a nurse, they'll all be evil and full of hate."

In other words, it sent a chill up my spine to realize that my physical health in my waning years will be dependent on a generation of nihilists. And then I began to wonder if our spiritual health is tied to this generation. When I read about St. Joseph of Cafasso, and how he delivered the Balm he got from Christ, I realized anew how dependent we are on one another not just physically but spiritually.

But this is still coming at it from a selfish, auto-focus view. The real way to approach it would be to welcome the opportunity of being a force for good in that nurse's life, either now or in the future. It's going to be a target-rich environment for all Christians, spiritually speaking. Pray up, boys.

posted by TSO @ 16:49


Came across St. Joseph Cafasso and this quote: "A single word from him - a look, a smile, his very presence - sufficed to dispel melancholy, drive away temptation and produce holy resolution in the soul." -Saint John Bosco, writing about St. Joseph Cafasso

posted by TSO @ 15:00

Friday's Hodge Podge of Discontinued Items

...the weekly feature where I empty the cupboards of items that didn't make the blog during the week, for reasons that will become obvious.

I'd forgotten my Confirmation name and now after eighteen years I finally got around to calling my grade school parish and confirming (teehee) what I'd suspected: William. Must read about St. Williams's now since I know precious little about them.

Overheard someone saying that they'd read the Da Vinci Code and "didn't know there were over 400 gospels!". Oy vey.

"I stink" he said.
"Well yes but that's a bit harsh, you're not so bad."
"No, I mean I stink. Haven't taken a shower yet."

On the recent EWTN show "Church & the Culture Today", Deal Hudson and Charlotte Hayes talked about Catholic authors Jon Hassler and J.F. Powers. Hayes committed a small heresy when she declared Powers the best modern Catholic author. As much as I like Flannery O'Connor, I've always assumed Walker Percy should have that honor. I haven't read any of Powers, but you can bet I will now. Hassler too.

Catholic/Nazi voting patterns

Scott Hahn interview (kudos to Curt Jester for the find).

Added a blogger profile today.

Nice mousepads!

posted by TSO @ 11:11

If You Can't Jog, Write

Wash Post article suggests more art in our lives for better fitness:

Forget broccoli. Forget the treadmill. Go play the violin!

Doing something creative is good for your health...That's the conclusion of a recent study assessing the health effects of participating in music, art, dance and poetry programs.

posted by TSO @ 10:00

Tucker and Victor

Interesting interview with CNN's Tucker Carlson who is becoming more paleo by the minute (he even apologized to Pat Buchanan). Meanwhile, Victor David Hanson lends perspective. Fair and balanced, that's me.

posted by TSO @ 09:57

Path to Grove City a fictional journey

Chapter 2

My progress towards Grove City moved in fits and starts; the well-traveled roads often led in other directions, and sometimes I took them just for distractions’ sake.

I came across the sight of a women and her teenage boy having a loud argument. He sported a mullet haircut and she wore a bathrobe. For a minute I thought I was watching Jerry Springer and I shamefully slowed my pace that I might hear them, although they were screaming at a volume that one could pass quickly and still hear everything a block away. They argued with great loquaciousness and impressive word play; I was taken aback by the finely-honed verbal skills. Both cut the other with the sharpest stilettos and no mercy was shown though the woman was sobbing profusely, her face blanketed with tears.

A woman crying is something that I can't bear to hear and yet the child granted no quarter, at least not initially. It seemed that the emotions of these people were closer to the surface than most, they loved more ardently, fought more furiously, sobbed more uncontrollably. I sat at a nearby bus stop, too caught up in the soap opera to leave and hoping for a resolution, which finally arrived. They alternately gave and conceded ground before finding resolution, after which they hugged and forgave each other such that the argument seemed to serve only to bring them closer, as if the expenditure of emotional energy and the copious tears were proof of their love. And I briefly thought of Israel-

LECTOR. Israel!? What does Israel got to do with a mother and son arguing outside a bus stop? Must you always bring up religion?

AUCTOR. It’s my story and I can talk of religion if I like. As I was saying…Israel literally means, “struggles with God”, taken from Jacob’s wrestling match. God was also a parent to Israel so there is that parallel, and it was interesting to see how this mother/son struggle seemed necessary to get to a greater love.

LECTOR. I'd thank you to leave your symbols to yourself and continue the story.

I continued my travels another mile before stopping at a local tavern named the "Abner's Elbow Room”. It was dusty and quiet and dark, and accurately reflected the image of the bars of my youth, a place almost meditational at this hour of the day for it was just two o’clock in the afternoon. I sat in a stool and asked for a PBR. A man who looked hard on his luck was sitting a couple stools over, nursing what looked to be a plain water.

“Pacing yourself ‘eh?”

“I’m a recovering alchy. Been dry two weeks. Missed the quiet time so I come back for this,” pointing and grimacing at his drink.

I come to find out his name was Bill and bit my tongue in order not to ask “Bill W?”. I asked instead if he’d been to AA and he said he that’s how he’s been dry, although he shouldn’t be here now.

I’d always wondered about the “Higher Power” mentioned at AA meetings. No God who entered history, who died for you personally, no god who gave Himself to eat. Just a “Higher Power”, thin gruel it seemed but it worked. They were changed men which spoke to God’s power but also to the men themselves, men beaten down and given up, who in their misery were more inclined to say uncle to God. Prodigal sons.

posted by TSO @ 22:20

May 13, 2004

A Switzerland in British Attire:

...rather than validating the neoconservative vision, Iraq, a year on, has discredited it. For all America's brilliant show of arms, it seems likely to be another instance of Ferguson's paradox of a mighty America that miscalibrates its attempts to project that power.

The challenge for the United States, especially after our reversals in Iraq, is to model American power to fit the real strengths and limitations of our culture and political experience. The most intriguing passage in Ferguson's book is his discussion of an imperialism that would be an appropriate fit with globalization. I suspect he's wrong in thinking the answers can be found in a centuries-old British tradition. We haven't the stuff for that, as Ferguson says, but we may have the stuff for something else that will suit the world far better. We will surely fail as a modern-day version of Gladstone's Britain, but we may yet succeed as America.
What if you were given an empire but didn't want it? Yes.

posted by TSO @ 15:36

Sad commentary on the changes in society from one on the front lines: a teacher.

‘Don’t talk to that weirdo; apparently he’s got a mother and a father.’

(cartoon via UK Spectator)

posted by TSO @ 15:33

Local Columnist says 'a pox on both your houses'

The columnist for our local paper whispered sweet nothings today into the ears of political moderates, writing that "When liberals and conservatives meet, they find out what they have in common: They are equally closed-minded."

I'm obviously biased since I'm a conservative, but I'm more skeptical of moderates than he is. I'm thinking that perhaps we should be more open-minded about how virtuous open-mindedness really is. If it's is a good thing in the young it can be embarrassing in adults because it often indicates a lack of principle. In an age where social issues are extremely divisive, liberals and conservatives have at least taken stands that reflect a coherent world view.

Swing voters and moderates are the ones influenced by cheap campaign slogans like "compassionate conservative" and swayed by Kerry's supposed Botox treatments. Not something to be proud of.

posted by TSO @ 15:12

Fr. Groeschel

...still writes with humor and grace despite his pain:

As I read through a selection of the mail and e-mails that we receive in response to these daily thoughts from the hospital, I’m amazed at the number of people who speak about the fact that my problem has been the cause of their conversion. I don’t really understand this. If I was shot by the Communists or beaten up by the Klu Klux Klan, I could understand it, but I was hit by a car after buying Mexican food for the two people who were traveling with me. Somehow or other my pain and suffering has been an opportunity for a lot of people to think life over a little more seriously....God will use anything to cause grace, and if he uses my illness to cause grace in the life of others, it’s certainly worth it....Last year I published a book called The Rosary: Chain of Hope. Little did I realize that the Rosary would be my chain of hope this year. When things are going badly or when the darkness of it all settles in on me, I turn to the Rosary. I made a Rosary retreat during the first month of my consciousness while I was on the respirator. It kept me going. I wish I could convince everyone to try the Rosary. Naturally when you first get started, it seems to be boring and repetitive, but if you turn your mind to the mysteries, you will see that it is a great blessing and a great school of spirituality. The Rosary is recommended to us by Our Lady herself and by the saints. I can only tell you that I don’t know where I would be right now if it were not for the Rosary....One of the things about being quite sick and wounded is that you begin to recognize that the rest of the world is much in the same situation and those who are not will be eventually. This is why our ultimate hope and trust must be in God and in Christ, His crucified Son.

posted by TSO @ 12:44

How to See Deer
-- by Philip Booth

Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

And fog before sun.
Expect nothing always,
find your luck slowly.


things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.

posted by TSO @ 11:04

Speaking of Oil...

The Derb just linked to this dire forecast of decreasing oil supplies.

posted by TSO @ 10:42

Spring Sprang

What bliss to find a night such as last, the front porch our harbor against the sturm and drang! I alit there at 7:15 and savored a cigar, surrounded by books but unwilling to choose so I sat in sublime comfort and watched the trees grow and marveled at the beauty of the light and of the pure variety of planted things in our neighborhood, from griping pines with boughs hung low to sprightly Glendalough ferns and nubile cherries.

Neither the cigar nor my spirit flagged as I sat there for past an hour, just soaking in the splendour of summer and at this new thing that's arrived in my life, this new place to sit, this new place to ponder, this new place to ----

And then came the thunderous roar of a lawn tractor, some beastly hundred decibel maniacal noise that was three houses away but joined me on the porch. After that came our neighbor out with his gas-powered hedge clippers which also clipped my hearing faculties. I went inside briefly and got some ear plugs, and soon I was luxuriating in the fresh-tight prose of "Albion's Seed", lingering amid the foothillian footnotes and white, printless valleys sans twenty-five decibels. Or so it said on the earplug packaging.

History calms and soothes; newspapers lift our finger nails and pierce. I read with great delight of the early American settlers, of their fresh experiment about the 'city upon a hill'. The book itself is new and pristine as America herself then, with accompanying broad margins. My wife joined me and read Business Week and then a book about sled dogs in the Arctic. Soon natural light abated and our porch lamp sufficed; gorged on book and beauty, we went in to suck at the glass teat (watch TV) at a quarter past nine.

posted by TSO @ 10:26

Spin the wheel and get a random poem!

posted by TSO @ 10:23

The Sailor
-- by Geoff Hewitt:

In my movie the boat goes under
And he alone survives the night in the cold ocean,
Swimming he hopes in a shoreward direction.
Daylight and he's still afloat, pawing the water
And doesn't know he's only fifty feet from shore.
He goes under for what will be the last time
But only a few feet down scrapes bottom.
He's suddenly a changed man and half hops, half swims
The remaining distance, hauls himself waterlogged
Partway up the beach before collapsing into sleep.
As he dreams the tide rolls in
and rolls him back to sea.

posted by TSO @ 10:13

Oil - Black Gold, Texas 'T'

Well, the heading says, Oil supply 'cannot match demand' but then they have this interesting bon mot buried within: "Nowhere near all of the apparently increased demand is connected with increased consumption."

Countries are stockpiling oil, which is the demand the title refers to.

Many are upset at the absence of strict CAFE regulations, but would it in fact keep oil prices down? I'm not sure it would. Last year China was responsible for 55% of the world's concrete consumption despite having only 20% of world population. In other words, China is going to start devouring oil bigtime and that is going to dwarf the oil savings of CAFE regulations.

Even if we stopped buying oil from the Middle East, it wouldn't affect the Saudis. We'd simply buy from a middleman like Mexico. Mexico would buy more from Saudis to sell to us in a regular 3-card monty game. As O'Reilly would say, "Where am I going wrong?"

No doubt fuel prices are a big drag on the economy, but I don't think fuel prices haven't outpaced inflation since the 70s, so we certainly due for this. Obviously there's no inherent right to reasonably priced oil, so we'll have to just take our lumps with $2 - $2.50 per gallon and hope the economy can weather the new reality.

We'll have to eventually get off the oil drug, but it seems like the way that would happen would be for gas to go to $3 or $4 a gallon, which would be highly motivating to say the least. At that point we'll start looking at alternatives -- but by that time it'll be too late, since the economy will be in shambles.

posted by TSO @ 09:50

The Mystery of Dick Cheney

I've always liked Dick Cheney. He's a man's man, calm and resolute under pressure, the kind of guy who always seemed to be the "cooler head" in the phrase "cooler heads prevail".

Thus I'm kind of surprised that he was so unrestrained in his desire to prosecute this war. I think the war was a just one, but not prudent, although that remains to be seen. But what surprises me is how in Woodward's book Cheney is such an unalloyed hawk. Now Wolfowitz and the other neo-cons I can understand, but the VP always struck me as a the wisest of them all - of a higher quality of presidential timber than anyone in Bush's administration with the possible exception of Condi Rice (I might be biased).

So it's interesting to me that Dick Cheney seemed to rush into this thing ill-prepared, at least the post-war part of it. The basic misreading, I gather from news reports, is that he thought we would be hailed as liberators and be given much help by the Iraqis. This is a sort of Wilsonian optimism I'm unfamiliar with, a sort of denial of original sin. I suppose wisdom is a quality possessed only to the extent you are steeped in biblical and Magisterium teaching. The obligatory disclaimer applies: since I'm only partially steeped, take my posts with a grain of salt.

posted by TSO @ 09:24

Wilsons, Jacksons

NRO categorizes the sides as Wilsonians versus Jacksonians. To tell the truth, I can't stand either Wilson or Jackson. A pox on both their houses. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we tried to go into this thing in a middle way, and ain't nuthin' in the middle but dead armadillos. The third way was to mind our own bidness as much as is possible.

The slaughter of Berg proves that they'll see our atrocities and raise them to the nth degree. That's one bidding war we ain't gonna be able to win, and nor should we. We need to mind our own bidness with respect to the Middle East while responding ferociously when acts of terror occur. Easier said that done.

posted by TSO @ 09:17

Various & Sundry

Interesting Touchstone review of Pearce's Literary Converts:

Is the English literature of the twentieth century demonic? The French poet Paul Claudel thought so. But most English critics would settle for calling it merely secular. Enter Joseph Pearce and his Literary Converts, turning upside down both the complacency of the secular English and the asperity of the pious French...
Insert tongue in cheek while reading blogger Richard "Don't Call Me Pebble" Beach's suggestion of voluntary taxes:
One way of showing your disgust with President Bush's tax cut is to pay a VOLUNTARY progressive tax with your tax return. Pay the additional amount that you wish he hadn't cut out of your taxes. Let's show the world that we are not hypocrites. We believe in TAXES!
Those be some mighty poor book covers.

posted by TSO @ 13:20

May 12, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

It's a girl! - Kat of Lively Writer.

I didn't take my usual Lenten blog break this year and I'm feeling a little blog vacation coming on, mainly for the constant delicious feeling of neglecting something important, without really neglecting anything important. - Bill of Random Notes

Politics have been boring and no new episode of social decay has yet roused me from my cynical malaise. - Lee Ann of Literarium

May 4...Craving Log...Italian bread dunked in spaghetti sauce. - Davey's Mommy. (Gee, could I be pregnant too?)

Q: One of the things I appreciate about Catholicism is that it has reinforced a set of moral values and stuck with them throughout history. Issues such as abortion and homosexuality which seem to be "up for debate" in a lot of Protestant denominations are still solidly held in the Catholic church. Why do you think this is the case? A: This reminds me of a remark by John Paul II about the crisis in the Balkans. He said there were two possible solutions, the miraculous and the mundane. The mundane solution, he said, was for Jesus to send the Blessed Virgin with ten legions of angels and restore justice and harmony to the region. The miraculous solution, he said, was for the people living there to achieve justice and harmony. In a similar way there are two reasons for the Church's - relative - steadfastness on traditional moral teaching. The mundane reason is that the Holy Spirit guides the Catholic Church and so the gates of Hell will not prevail against her. The miraculous reason is that God has established the Church so that her legitimacy is inextricably bound up with the idea of an infallible and constant magisterium. Even if Bishops wanted to legitimize abortion and homosexual marriages (and it wouldn't surprise me if there were one or two who did), the act itself would indubitably expose the entire Catholic edifice as a sham. I realize that answer provokes many more questions, but that's it in a nutshell.-Secret Agent Man

So, let's recap: torture of prisoners=bad; women jailers of prideful men=feature, not a bug. -Robert of Hokie Pundit, on Muslim outrage at women guards at prison camps

AIDS victims in 1987: Philippines 135 / Thailand 112...In 1991 the WHO predicted the Philippines would have 80,000 to 90,000 cases and Thailand 60,000 to 80,000 AIDS victims. Thailand promoted the use of condoms in massive campaigns where Catholic Philippines promoted 'Abstinence' and 'Be faithful'.The prognosis of the WHO was wrong for both countries: 1999: Philippines 1,005 / Thailand 755,000 AIDS victims... The West's commitment to sexual promiscuity is a religion that people will both kill and die for." - Mark Shea

The last word is not “Cancer,” or “Absence;” it is not “Loss,” or “Death.” The final word is Christ crucified, that most foolish of words which is simply, as Paul says, the “power of God unto salvation.” Christ crucified is, to the ears of the faithful, the ultimate word of hope, for it is nothing less than the King of the Universe defeating death by death. Our beautiful King refused to meet the world of sin and death on its own terms, refused to fight in a tit for tat struggle for supremacy. Instead, he simply died bearing our iniquity, that deathliness of sin. No games, no struggle with death, for death is not worth the effort. Instead, he died with nothing but love for us and the whole of creation. And, having borne our sin and folly into hell itself, it is in the power of that love that he was raised on the third day, with death behind him. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

At your suggestion (for which many thanks!) I have ordered a copy of Orchard's 1953 Catholic Commentary; just now I feel rather like a kid before Christmas - reader on Jimmy Akin's blog

Sometimes this is how I see comments in some catholic blogs: "It begins with little things, Davy. Things that look harmless at first. Irritation, grumbling, resentment. Then gradually, like-minded individuals gratitate toward each other. They reinforce each other's criticisms, grow bolder, gain confidence. They tell each other that they have interpreted the Council correctly [...] After a while they convince themselves that they're saving the Church [...]" Father Elijah, Michael O'Brien -- Yann the Frenchman at dads.stblogs.orgs

I ask myself, "What's the difference between 'receiving the joy that Christ has won for me' and 'trying to experience joy because it's true that Christ has won joy for me?'" I'm not sure I know the answer, but I have a gut feeling there's a difference and that I settle too quickly into the second alternative.- Roz on Disputations' blog

In many ways, modern life has actually brought us back to the social environment of the stone age. We're mobile, even nomadic; our personal lives tend to be governed by relationships rather than rigid rules; we live in a sea of strangers, which socially speaking is almost like living in the unpeopled wilderness. It is this resemblance, perhaps, that Derbyshire and his friend are trying to get at. The social changes that industrialization brought about are as great as those that agriculture brought about, and they aren't finished yet. - Camassia

Whenever a person becomes the object of a media feeding-frenzy, look beneath the surface. More is going on. - Philip Blosser of "Musings of a Pertinacious Papist" on the calls for Rumsfeld's head.

Countless people have been restored to good health with the help of St. Philomena. Beyond physical ailments, she is one of the few saints who have been effective in facilitating recoveries from mental disorders. Because Our Lord rarely chooses to heal this type of condition through divine intercession, St. Philomena is honored as the patron of those suffering from mental illness. - Rick Medina

I constantly am surprised by people who are furious that their pro-choice stance is equated to being pro-abortion. Before I converted and began reading Church teachings, I also was pro-choice. I knew it meant supporting abortion but I didn't have any problem with that. I wasn't sure if God existed much less if that little cluster of cells had a soul. What was a soul anyway? How could anyone really know the truth? I saw it as support for personal freedom. - Julie of Happy Catholic

posted by TSO @ 08:58

Path to Grove City


I think it was Chrysostomos, frequent commenter on Thomas of ER’s blog, who said that the constant conversational writing of blogs was killing his muse, snuffing his creativity. “Video killed the radio star” you might say.

And while this may or may not be a great tragedy for the reading public, it does strike a minor key for those of us who dabble in our journals and enjoy the endorphin of an occasionally good line. In view of this I’ll try to make my blog less thoughtful and more eye-rollingly insufferable. It's summer after all. Least I can do.

As mentioned in a former post I’ll begin the travelogue concerning a trip from one Ohio suburb to another, recorded in as painstaking detail as can be produced from purely imaginative sources since I have no intention of actually walking it, for I like sleeping in my own bed.

Chapter 1

Deciding which books to bring took longer than expected, it coming down to a series of eleven hundred coin flips. Such packing decisions weighed heavy but were made lighter by the weather - a fine sparkling-wine sort of May day, the kind that makes you want to rise early to greet the 11am sun. I spent the next few hours buying things. A sturdy pair of hiking boots, a backpack, cans of Guinness Stout, a lighter and a compass all found their way into my cart. By 4pm I was ready for a “last meal”, carefully prepared and shared with my wife and daughter. Hugs and tears were exchanged; the three days I’d be gone would be hard but they were assuaged when I told them the insurance was paid up.

I began the long journey to Grove City in the glow of burnished sun assisted by a repast of Lambrusco, spaghetti, and Swiftian quantities of chocolate cake. Calories were my friend. Ham of Bone had made himself scarce; “a friend in need's a friend I don’t need” was his saying, alas. Here was a trip in which we could together fight off the dragons of fatigue and shoo the fleas of boredom. Three days…three long days. An eternity for the short-attention theatre crowd.

I chided myself for these thoughts of despair, for what were they but any other temptation? Some souls have unchaste thoughts, others tend toward avarice. Was it Tertullian who said that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your temptations?

The twelve mile journey south began in a residential neighborhood with natural hazards like lawn sprinklers, barking dogs and statues of faux deer. I wasn't packing heat, at least not yet, but I'd be going by pawn shops and I had the cash. The long boulevard took me past an ancient auto body shop and the rusted cars and sharp division of sun and shade made by the garage brought back memories of Mexico, a place I'd never actually been but had seen on television many times. I was moved by it, and by the guy in the white T-shirt who moved in slow motion, opening the car hood as if it were the weight of the world. "Blue-collar dude in his native habitat", I thought to myself...

posted by TSO @ 23:25

May 11, 2004

'Was Iraq the way it was because of Saddam, or was Saddam the way he was because of Iraq?'

I listened today to the local Baptist minister's radio program and he said, "This shows what a poor judge of newsworthiness I am, but if you'd have told me a week ago that the pictures of Iraq prisoner abuse would still be the number one news story, I'd have said you were crazy." I thought it'd be a two-day story too. The pictures are abhorrent, as everyone is quick to point out as if to show their bona fides, but what can you do besides severely punish the people & supervisors involved and move on? If you're interested in deterence and not partisanship, what will deter future prisoner abuse is harsh punishment of those involved & their supervisors, not a media frenzy. (Although credit goes to the media for discovering the abuse and fulfilling their watchdog role.)

If the networks & the NY Times want to help Kerry, you'd think they'd have enough ammo as it is. The underlying point about the war is that it was iffy in the first place and the post-war "nation-building" exercise smells more and more of failure. (Liberal pundit Margaret Carlson made an interesting comment on CNN's Capital Gang: "Was Iraq the way it was because of Saddam or was Saddam the way he was because of Iraq?")

It seems that the tissue-thin (or meters thick?) difference between this war being considered just and its current status is that the United Nations didn't approve it, and they had the right to since the agreement ending the Gulf War (and subsequently broken by Hussein ad nauseum) was a U.N. one. That the Gulf War fell mightily on U.S. shoulders and that key nations in the U.N. began doing business with Saddam (and thus have a financial incentive to oppose us) makes it more interesting.

In a way, the Bush Administration interpreted the years of resolutions as meaningful documents requiring serious consequences. But what Germany, France and Russia knew was that the vote matters, not the words. The Bush people were "strict constructionists" while the European nations knew that words could be massaged and interpreted and that the power lay in the vote, not the wording. President Bush decided that words in resolutions have meaning, but then voting has a meaning too so there's enough fault to go around.

posted by TSO @ 17:41

David Mills on the easy corruption of jailors:

I had been thinking about the subject of today's Breakpoint column, Fallenness on Display, the famous psychological experiment in which students are divided into jailers and prisoners to find out how they respond to power and powerlessness. Predictably enough, to a Christian anyway, those who assigned to be jailers often become as brutal and sadistic as the experiment allows them to be.

I don't mean to suggest that many of us would have descended to the depths the criminal soldiers did, though as pride goes before a fall, no Christian should be entirely confident in his abilities to resist evil, however repellent is that evil. The pornographic element in the abuse is foreign to most educated, middle class Christians. It isn't, if you will, our style of depravity.

But except for the occasional saint, most educated, middle class Christians might in the same circumstances become abusers anyway. We'd begin by being nice and kind, but we'd also be thinking: the prisoners are the enemy, the bad guys, and besides, they might know something that would save the life of your comrades, only they won't tell us.

posted by TSO @ 11:32

- Ralph Fabri exhibition.

posted by TSO @ 17:27

May 10, 2004

Fiddler's Green- John Conolly

As I roved by the dockside one evening so fair
To view the salt waters and take in the salt air
I heard an old fisherman singing a song
Oh, take me away boys me time is not long

Wrap me up in me oilskin and blankets
No more on the docks I'll be seen
Just tell me old shipmates, I'm taking a trip mates
And I'll see you someday on Fiddler's Green

Now Fiddler's Green is a place I've heard tell
Where the fishermen go if they don't go to hell
Where the weather is fair and the dolphins do play
And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away

Now when you're in dock and the long trip is through
There's pubs and there's clubs and there's lassies there too
And the girls are all pretty and the beer is all free
And there's bottles of rum growing on every tree.

Where the skies are all clear and there's never a gale
And the fish jump on board with one swish on their tail
Where you lie at your leisure, there's no work to do
And the skipper's below making tea for the crew

Now I don't want a harp nor a halo, not me
Just give me a breeze and a good rolling sea
I'll play me old squeeze-box as we sail along
With the wind in the riggin to sing me a song

posted by TSO @ 17:27

Belloc 'Path to Rome' Excerpt

Oh, blessed quality of books, that makes them a refuge from living! For in a book everything can be made to fit in, all tedium can be skipped over, and the intense moments can be made timeless and eternal, and as a poet who is too little known has well said in one of his unpublished lyrics, we, by the art of writing—

Can fix the high elusive hour
And stand in things divine.


It was the first part of the afternoon when I got to a place called Meiringen, and I thought that there I would eat and drink a little more. So I steered into the main street, but there I found such a yelling and roaring as I had never heard before, and very damnable it was; as though men were determined to do common evil wherever God has given them a chance of living in awe and worship.

For they were all bawling and howling, with great placards and tickets, and saying, 'This way to the Extraordinary Waterfall; that way to the Strange Cave. Come with me and you shall see the never-to-be-forgotten Falls of the Aar,' and so forth. So that my illusion of being alone in the roots of the world dropped off me very quickly, and I wondered how people could be so helpless and foolish as to travel about in Switzerland as tourists and meet with all this vulgarity and beastliness.

If a man goes to drink good wine he does not say, 'So that the wine be good I do not mind eating strong pepper and smelling hartshorn as I drink it,' and if a man goes to read a good verse, for instance, Jean Richepin, he does not say, 'Go on playing on the trombone, go on banging the cymbals; so long as I am reading good verse I am content.' Yet men now go into the vast hills and sleep and live in their recesses, and pretend to be indifferent to all the touts and shouters and hurry and hotels and high prices and abominations. Thank God, it goes in grooves! I say it again, thank God, the railways are trenches that drain our modern marsh, for you have but to avoid railways, even by five miles, and you can get more peace than would fill a nosebag. All the world is my garden since they built railways, and gave me leave to keep off them.

posted by TSO @ 16:29

A Day in May

Summer, or the near approximation we are currently experiencing, tends to banish serious thoughts. I go kicking and screaming, wanting to hold on to heavy matters for reasons I can’t fathom once I’ve experienced a couple of brainless days. And so it goes as I bask in the weightlessness of the natural world. Count me in for prayer and lyricism; count me out of politics and abstractions:

Born a poor young country boy--Mother Nature's son
All day long I'm sitting singing songs for everyone.
Sit beside a mountain stream--see her waters rise
Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies.
Do do do...
Find me in my field of grass--Mother Nature's son
Swaying daises sing a lazy song beneath the sun.
Do do do... yeah,yeah, yeah
mmm, mmm, ........
Mother Nature's son. --Lennon & McCartney
Is there anything so precious as a day rent of ruts, sans the smell of re-use and refuse, of a day clock-stoppingly gorgeous, of a May 10th gratuitously free of mischief, of music that tastes mystical, of bike rides hailed by maple helicopter seeds and effortless as carpet rides? One can scarce take in the flushness of nature after the seasonal depression. There is none of summer’s garishness, nothing but the kiss of gentle paths along translucent lakes and I stop and watch the fish flip their electric blue tailfins. I wonder at my wonder – they are magicians to pierce the hardness.
Putting it on paper is an exercise in stretching a minute at the cost of truth, for the truth is that the beauty can’t be captured. The seers of Medjugorje laughingly refused to describe Heaven because not everything is reducible to words, least of all the Word.

posted by TSO @ 14:04


I'd appreciate it if you'd say a Hail Mary for a young 16-year old we know who is pregnant and considering an abortion.

posted by TSO @ 13:54

Four Years o' Blogging

Kathy Shaidle Relapsed Catholic is taking a well-deserved break. She sort of acts as the canary in the coalmine, as far as noting the longterm effects of blogging.

posted by TSO @ 22:07

May 9, 2004

Path to Grove City

Since I can’t read without dozing, having tried it at intervals throughout the eve, I will instead endeavor to write my “Path to Rome”, hoping I can keep at least myself awake. Taking Belloc’s travel/pilgrimage/hike from France to Rome as the inspiration I will write “Path to Grove City” in which I make note of the journey from one small suburb to another small suburb to the south. Perhaps only Thomas and Bone and Steven will appreciate the enormity of the undertaking.

One of the things I treasure about Belloc’s book is his license to roam about changing the subject matter until you forget he’s hiking at all. My goal will be to do likewise. As I contemplate the journey, I remind myself that it’s not that a man can be broken that is problematical, but that he can be broken so easily.

I’d planned to set out on Friday, a glorious day of vintage bellwether until my wife reminded me of the graduation party set for Saturday. Indeed, as host it would be inconvenient for me to be somewhere on I-71, looking for the lost City of Grove. The honey-dew list threatened to break me, but then a man is so easily broken. I arrived home at noon having picked up ten 40-lb bags of mulch and eight 5-lb bags of ice. I mulched like I never mulched before, and found that I had not bought enough of it. This required thinner and thinner layers of mulch until I was threading it upon the ground with minute care, as a doctor sews wounds. Carpal-tunnel soon affected my right hand and I switched to the left, and because I’m no southpaw the mulch grew clumpier and my quest for perfection gave way though the beds looked fine enough.

From the mulching beds to making beds, the next transformation was internal. I vacuumed like I’d never vacuum’d before (‘never gets old’ to quote Ham) and the bathrooms were cleaned and all the various & the windows spit-shined (ok, Windex’d) and so it went, ad nauseum.

It was now 5pm and we collapsed only to find it time to get ready for the graduation ceremony, which was held at 7. Graduation was sweet, the graduate proud, “Pomp & Circumstance” nostalgic. Afterwards there was dinner for eight at a nice Italian place and it was half-past eleven before repose.

Saturday dawned, as it weekly does, and this meant preparation for the imminent Party To End All Parties, involving the catering of nations, a United Nations’ choice of beers and wines, tables and chairs and of every denomination, and the cakes of multiple varieties. Okay so I exaggerate, the party was for sixty not six hundred. Did I not say that man is so easily broken?

The sun it was warm and there was no rain in sight which was a great relief. The people came and we did not run out of food or beer or soft drinks and I, as host, graciously wore an egregious Hawaiian shirt that my wife asked me to wear because she doesn’t like being the centre of attention. At least that’s my theory. Also as host I was required to mingle, which I did sparingly because I also felt it was incumbent upon me to be with my peeps, who otherwise would not know anyone else.

But it was in mingling that I met my great former nemesis; the lady who caused my then-girlfriend, now-wife to throw out the Christmas tree her brother gave her. Some explanation is in order. This woman once had great influence on my wife on religious matters and is of a fringe Dispensationalism such that Christmas trees are considered pagan (I never thought to see if she wore a wedding ring, that also being of pagan origin). Needlessly to say the woman was virulently anti-Catholic, believed the world was ending in 2003, and that alcohol usage is intrinsically evil. So the Bud Light in my left hand felt like a Great Wall of China between us, but we chatted about the weather and she complimented our landscaping and she was pleasant and charming, as was her husband.

The hours wore on and after an extended game of h-o-r-s-e (did I mention I won?), the last of the partygoers left and we collapsed and I was reminded of how easily man is broken (have I beaten that h-o-r-s-e yet?). Clean up? Of course not. Where would we summon that energy? Besides, it was decided we’d host Mother’s Day since we had leftover food & drinks and a billion chairs still dotted the back yard.

Sunday morning meant church and then at noon o’clock we did it again, same foods, same cake, and by this time I’m running on exhaust. The little rituals like jogging were now felt-misses and I thought it odd that I was apparently so tired by simply talking. By 3pm I had a headache that was a spike between the eyes and it laughed at the three Advil I fed it. (This despite not having drank much at all over the weekend; a hangover without the hang glide.)

The cleaning-up-afterwards commenced and by 5pm flesh could not meet recliner without dozing off. My journey to Grove City would have to wait.

posted by TSO @ 21:45

Song of Songs III (1960) by Marc Chagall, via Pontifications

posted by TSO @ 21:32

May 8, 2004


Humorous commentary on blogging from Mother Jones.

The constellation of opinion called the blogosphere consists, like the stars themselves, partly of gases. This is what makes blogs addictive — that is, both pleasurable and destructive: They're so easy to consume, and so endlessly available. Their second-by-second proliferation means that far more is written than needs to be said about any one thing. To change metaphors for a moment (and to deepen the shame), I gorge myself on these hundreds of pieces of commentary like so much candy into a bloated — yet nervous, sugar-jangled — stupor. Those hours of out-of-body drift leave me with few, if any, tangible thoughts... The entries, sometimes updated hourly, are little spasms of assertion, usually too brief for an argument ever to stand a chance of developing layers of meaning or ramifying into qualification and complication. There's a constant sense that someone (almost always the blogger) is winning and someone else is losing. Everything that happens in the blogosphere — every point, rebuttal, gloat, jeer, or "fisk" (dismemberment of a piece of text with close analytical reading) — is a knockout punch. A curious thing about this rarefied world is that bloggers are almost unfailingly contemptuous toward everyone except one another...I imagine them in neat blue shirts, the glow from the screen reflected in their glasses as they sit up at 3:48 a.m. triumphantly tapping out their third rejoinder to the WaPo's press commentary on Tim Russert's on-air recap of the Wisconsin primary.

posted by TSO @ 10:26

May 7, 2004


On Russell Kirk:

What Kirk extracted from Burke's thought -- and found embodied in the work of British and American figures as diverse as John Adams, Benjamin Disraeli, and T.S. Eliot -- was a strong sense that tradition and order were the bedrock of any political system able to provide a real measure of freedom...For Kirk, what must be cultivated was not reason but "the moral imagination".

Kirk's "moral imagination" enabled people to see their lives as part of, in Burke's words, "a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born." The obligation to preserve old institutions and ways of life -- and to change them, if at all, only very slowly -- was not a matter of nostalgia. "The individual is foolish," wrote Kirk in The Conservative Mind, "but the species is wise." We have inherited from the past "the instruments which the wisdom of the species employs to safeguard man against his own passions and appetites."

"The Kirkian tradition is in the minority within modern conservatism," says Mr. Cheek. "It is skeptical of foreign entanglements. It believes in the minimalist state, but believes that the government does have a role. Kirk had some skepticism about capitalism, which puts him at odds with the libertarians. Our allies sometimes aren't identified with conservatism. We have a lot in common with communitarian critics of American politics and society."

posted by TSO @ 10:14

On Mothers & Jesus

If you take your mother for granted, you might want to read this powerful post. After learning that his mother was sick Thomas wrote:

"As we look around the world, we despair of finding signs that the Kingdom of God is here, now. All around us there are wars and rumors of wars, while nature seems terribly convulsed. Truly, the Kingdom is hidden from our sight. But we do see Jesus."
This emphasis reminded me of SecretAgentMan's words:
Without the divine person of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, the Bible would be at best a standing unalterable condemnation of man or at worst a sheer waste of paper. What good would it do for us to have the Beatitudes without the Person who grants the grace to understand and live them? How could we avoid damnation by the Beatitudes themselves without His forgiveness and merciful sacrifice? There are too many Protestants who think Catholics only believe in "the Church and the Sacraments" and not Jesus, and too many Catholics who think Protestants only believe in "the Bible" and not Jesus. It's important that we keep praising His name to one another so that our mutual suspicions can be lessened or prevented ... Jesus died 'for us' and soli deo gloria because God glories in the divine and triumphant condescension of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. ... The root of the sexual scandals in the Church is essentially a disbelief in the reality of Jesus Christ as King of an eternal moral universe which will triumph over conflicting human desires. Celibacy is a direct repudiation of that disbelief, not a cause of it.

posted by TSO @ 09:21

Goldberg's No Neo-Slob

Looks like the NRO'ers clean up well.

posted by TSO @ 08:56


Saw a brand new Lincoln Navigator in front of me, driven by a Hispanic in his late 20s. License plate was "RU4WAR2". I didn't know how to read it. As satirical? Or at face value?

posted by TSO @ 08:40

SAM he is

Long but rewarding Q & A with SecretAgentMan.

posted by TSO @ 14:56

May 6, 2004

Hog Heaven

Watched two great EWTN shows last night: Franciscan University Presents, a roundtable with Scott Hahn, Regis Martin, Fr. Scanlon and special guest Joseph Pearce, followed by Jimmy Akin on Bookmark.

The subject of the roundtable was Pearce's latest book C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, and it was as good as I thought it'd be. The surprising thing was to hear someone say something negative about Lewis. Regis, ol' rabblerouser that he is, said he was shocked by what a bully Lewis was. He said that Lewis had a great appreciation of laughter, but a laughter that was at the expense of other men.

Pearce immediately leaped to Lewis' defense, saying that Lewis wasn't laughing at the men per se, but at their ideas or art, arguing that that was sufficient degree of separation. Regis wasn't buying and Pearce had a gleam in his eye even as he was making the argument.

Jimmy Akin was excellent on Bookmark. He has a sereneness about him that is perfect for an apologist, and one gets the sense of matter meeting form in a fine union. He talked about his book "The Salvation Controversy", which I'd already read, in which in part he points out the similarities between Aquinas and Calvin in their view of salvation.

posted by TSO @ 13:56

Book 'im, Dano

Went to the annual OSU spring library sale and was chagrined to see that prices had doubled to $2 per hardback and $1 per paperback. No more 20-30 books, no sirree. Lord knows I don't need anymore books, but passing up a bargain, even at $2 per, is hard to do especially when I see a book I'd paid full price for recently. (This time it was Waugh's "The Loved One", already purchased on Steven Riddle's recommendation. Arrghhh.)

The thrill of discovery was excuse enough to go. You're likely to find something by Chesterton next to a Syndey Shelton novel; I love the random juxtapositioning. I ended up going with "The Priest" by Ralph McInerny, "Mr. Sammler's Planet" by Bellow, "Hotel Du lac" by Anita Brookner, Goethe's Faust, "Other People's Worlds" by William Trevor, "The Tenth Man" by Graham Greene, "An Army of Angels: A Novel of Joan of Arc" by Marcantel (recommend by Florence King no less), Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat", Waugh's "A Handful of Dust", and Theroux's Patagonia Express book.

I walked by the Oval on the way to the library. The Oval is where the kids hang out on fine spring days in as few clothes as possible. Back in my day (assume hoary old-fogey voice) butt-crack was something limited to middle-aged landscapers. I wondered how professors deal with these shocks of flesh, but(t) then I figured they're far more desensitized to it than me.

posted by TSO @ 13:01

From the UK Spectator.

posted by TSO @ 10:16

The depth of my thoughts shallows as the week wears on, and when the weather's good? Fuggeaboutit. But fortunately I don't see that as a reason not to post, do you? So even though it's a day early...

Friday's Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items - 50% off

It's odd to hear Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis, who, from what I can gather, was born in the Philippines and lives in New Zealand, use the colloquialism, "Ooops! My Bad!". Reading her blog it's well-nigh impossible to tell that there is anything different about her culture. Part of that is the flawlessness of her English, but part is also just the sense that nothing is that much different over there. The hand of globalism?

Speaking of other parts of the globe, I always look with a kind of wonder at a European who is still a Catholic. I know they exist, but still...

For my money, Camassia succumbs to the best internet memes. A lot of the CDs I have handy don't have lyrics (i.e. classical or Irish jigs & reels), but here are some that do. I doubt they'll be familiar, although I know Jeff of El Camino will know #4 (grin).

1) O then, tell me Sean O'Farrell, / tell me why you hurry so?
2) We'll be real world bachelors, Jackass Millionaires, Hey, Hey, Hollywood, Here we come!
3) I drew a bull called 'Original Sin'
4) I was sittin' in Miami, pouring blended whiskey down
5) I'll tell you the best thing I ever did do / I took off the old coat, And put on the new
6) The sun it was hot and the day it was warm, /Says I a quiet pint wouldn't do me no harm

Btw, here's number 3 in context:

"At a truck stop in St Angelo,
I saw a billboard 'bout this rodeo,
Last weekend out in El Paso,
So I signed up to ride.
I drew a bull called Original Sin,
Heard he'd killed a couple of men..."

Got a blog hit from someone at the University of Hawaii. Sigh.

But I shan't complain. Here, April is the kindest month, the sun reached from European Ash to Japanese Cherry and nature accommodated us, the weekends dry and fertile, the scent of sun baked into the cushions of the outdoor furniture.

Owing to the weekday rains the grass was freshly mown and lent a festive air. The sun sung thru the Pale Ales
and lit up the dense prose of books, and back-broke the hours erasing their importance...

I get a feeling of cognitive dissonance when the television preaches something that I can actually accept. Normally it sermonizes that gay sex is cool, or if you're a Republican you're a heartless S.O.B., but the drama "Without a Trace" recently got pious against the death penalty and it was strange to see the culture come up with something that is consonant with current Catholic teaching. So let the networks be rightetous over that, although I'd prefer they'd apply their piety to the abortion issue where it could do a helluva lot more good.

posted by TSO @ 09:29

Thomas Keating Excerpt

The first step, you might almost say, the first sign of movement, as far as getting anywhere in the spiritual life, is to begin to be anxious about whether we really are such good friends with God. I do not say this should be a terrible anxiety, but it should shake the foundations from under our colossal self-satisfaction...Most of us are not really convinced of original sin, especially when things are going well. Humility consists in accepting the whole of reality, and original sin is at least half of it.

When Jesus by his passion and death gave us back grace, he did not give us back integrity, that is to say, the perfect control of our lower nature by reason and will - that was the gift that he gave Adam. Maybe you would like to pick a bone with God for not giving it back. The only trouble with that is that we are just the clay and he is the potter. There is no use saying, "Look here, why didn't you complete the job? You did so much. You could have done one little thing more. You could have restored our fallen human nature to what it was before."

But he did not do so. And he did not do so because it was his will to show the power of his grace in our fallen human nature. He may also have wished to make sure that no human being would again make the same mistake that Adam made, which was to presume, through lack of experience of human weakness, on the gifts of God.

Spiritual progress consists first of all in embracing the reality of original sin as it exists in ourselves, but without despairing. This is difficult to do. Human nature is constantly presented with two great temptations: despair and pride. Everybody who likes to oversimplify and to solve things by the quick route, in three easy lessons, is very much tempted in one direction or the other.
Thomas Keating, Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love

posted by TSO @ 16:29

May 5, 2004

George Will on...

...the daylight between "conservative" and "neo":

Speaking of culture, as neoconservative nation-builders would be well-advised to avoid doing, Pat Moynihan said: "The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself." ....The issue is the second half of Moynihan's formulation -- our ability to wield political power to produce the requisite cultural change in a place such as Iraq. Time was, this question would have separated conservatives from liberals. Nowadays it separates conservatives from neoconservatives.

Condoleezza Rice, a political scientist, believes there is scholarly evidence that democratic institutions do not merely spring from a hospitable culture, but that they also can help create such a culture. She is correct; they can. They did so in the young American republic. But it would be reassuring to see more evidence that the administration is being empirical, believing that this can happen in some places, as opposed to ideological, believing that it must happen everywhere it is tried....In "On Liberty", John Stuart Mill said, "It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say" that the doctrine of limited, democratic government "is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties." One hundred forty-five years later it obviously is necessary to say that.

Ron Chernow's magnificent new biography of Alexander Hamilton begins with these of his subject's words: "I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be." That is the core of conservatism.

Traditional conservatism. Nothing "neo" about it. This administration needs a dose of conservatism without the prefix.

posted by TSO @ 13:32

Hambone Exposed!

I've written in the past of Ham of Bone. Well, now, he finally has a website promoting his screenplays.

Ham's agent emailed him concerning Cheapskate, "This is a really good script. Congratulations. It's unique, clever, original and funny...Great work...Structurally sound. Good characters. If she didn't play this role so often I'd go for Reese Witherspoon...A good romantic comedy like this is so hard to come by. I'm pleased and proud of you." Btw, speaking of Hollywood, Karen Hall has a handsome new website.

Update: Ham is looking for new movie ideas and asked me to think of an idea around which he could write a screenplay. Help him out if you want. Given two minutes reflection I came up with these movies:

1) American accountant wins an Irish pub in a contest and goes to Ireland to run it and.....(fish out of water ensues)
2) Very attractive girl becomes invisible every time a guy thinks lustfully about her. Only those who look upon her without lust can see her beauty.
3) historical screenplay based on the life of Cardinal Newman....or Padre Pio. Two interesting dudes, if opposities. Think "Man for All Seasons".

posted by TSO @ 09:57

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

It seems like everything has been sexualized except sex. - Peony of Two Sleepy Mommies

Won't have Nixon to kick around anymore - title of Mark of Minute Particulars post concerning Peter Nixon's depature from blogging.

Many accuse James of being prolix, abstruse, and obtuse. They mistake elegance and stateliness in prose for meandering and they do not give their minds to the subtle currents that pervade the deep waters of his short stories, novels, and, yes, even travel writing. - Steven of Flos Carmeli on Henry James

Thus Cuomo, thus Goodman. Unlike the hand-wringing pro-aborts such as Anna Quindlen and Naomi Wolf --who admit the humanity of the unborn child, furrow their brows over the so-called dilemma, and then give the baby a thumbs-down anyway -- Goodman and Co. can only try to shock us with the numbers of slain and wounded on the assumption that the fetus has the moral status of a fingernail clipping. Or a black slave in 1840s Mississippi. They just don't count. - Diogenes

I kept telling myself that this was my little entertainment that I did in lieu of TV or something, but not logging on this morning, I not only got my two and a half hours of Greek done, but read some Phaedo and actually wrote (with, like, a pen!) in a journal about things, just things. I haven't written creatively in years and, somehow, I believe the internet to be at fault (and how much has writing "conversationally" destroyed my ability to write?). - Chrysostomos

i'm grateful for women like MamaT and SpecialK because they've allowed me to enjoy women again. - smockmomma. (I'm shocked!)

The New York Times is amazed: "Fearing that the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code may be sowing doubt about basic Christian beliefs, a host of Christian churches, clergy members and Bible scholars are rushing to rebut it." We'll have to revise the old saying: Fools are amazed when apologists rush in to defend that which is libeled by historical revisionists peddling falsehood. - Shellynaa of And Then?

This book sees the most Catholic phrase of C.S. Lewis's that I've found so far - "The sacraments have been instituted. Certain spiritual gifts are offered us only on condition that we perform certain bodily acts." - James Preece of "Catholic and Living It" on his recent read of Lewis' "Miracles"

Tom of Disputations has some thoughts on the subject in a post called "What I like about grave evil." Well what I like about Disputations is the quality of monkey wrenches he is able to throw into a discussion. - Jeff of Curt Jester, but where's the love for Mark of Minute Particulars? He's pretty handy with a (monkey) wrench! (Just teasin', Mark).

Many years ago, when I was channel surfing, I came across a priest speaking on EWTN. This is all I caught: "Being Catholic means making distinctions". And I said to myself, "Ain't that the truth." -- ELC of "View from the Core"

I'm pretty well along reading "The Rule of Peace: Saint Benedict and the European Future" by Christopher Derrick. His style, like that of C.S. Lewis and Cardinal Newman and the best of the Oxford literary men, has always appealed to me: at once pastoral and dogmatic, mild and uncompromising. They present orthodox Christianity for what it is, but they understand its difficulties and empathize with those who struggle to believe...Modernity's lack of stability is tragically disorienting. Technology changes at a staggering and inhuman pace. Movies and music come and go faster than a blink of an eye: by the time a film comes around that I want to see, it has already left the theatres. Advertising generates an insatiable demand for bigger, better, faster, and sexier products...We rush like mad but we do not seem to know or care where we are going. The monks ignore it all and pray the hours behind their stone walls "as if there were nothing to do but praise the Lord" -- as Derrick puts it so well. Nothing to do but praise the Lord. Only the spirit of Saint Benedict, he says, can lead Western man to peace with God, peace with the earth under his feet, peace with his fellow men, and peace with himself. - Jeff of El Camino Real

Men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all the other alternatives. - Abba Eban (1915-2002)

One striking feature of St. Catherine's prayers is how Trinitarian they are. Not for her a pro forma "through Christ our Lord, amen," or an "and the Holy Spirit" squeezed in toward the end. She prayed as though she knew personally the Persons to Whom she prayed. In a note on the text, by the way, Noffke points out the implicit Trinitarianism of the formula, "You know how to [=wisdom=Son], and You can[=power=Father], and You want to[=will=love=HolySpirit]." - Tom of Disputations

On issues like care for the poor, Kerry comes out ahead only if you accept that his rather doctrinaire leftist proposals on these matters are actually the best solutions. That is a debatable proposition, on which you have made a prudential judgment. - Fr. Rob of Thrownback

posted by TSO @ 09:02

There's a lion loose in Columbus. A city official said we should exericise "due diligence" if we encounter the animal. What does that mean? Run like hell?

posted by TSO @ 07:35

Non-utilitarian Dreams

I was gathering books and other folderol, preparing to get off a bus. My mother is already off the bus and I see Clinton apologist/former press secretary Joe Lockhart directly behind her. I say through the open window, as if Lockhart can't hear, "Mom, look behind you."

She turns 45 degrees to the right and sees no one.

"Directly behind you Mom."

She turns 45 degrees to the left.

By this time I note, embarrassingly, that the egregious Lockhart can hear me too. Famous people aren't deaf. He could practically tap her shoulder.

Finally she makes the full turn and he smiles obligingly in that hang-dog way and moves on.

Mom, of course, has no clue who he is.

It's interesting to me that Lockhart, who I hadn't seen or thought of in years, can suddenly pop up in a dream. It's also interesting how non-utilitarian dreams are. They have a scent of uselessness about them. Frank Sinatra hated sleep and tried to get by on as little as he could. He thought of it as a mini-death.

I read a funny poem about a dilemma last week that famous people like Sinatra, and far less obviously Lockhart, don't have:


David Budbill

I want to be
so I can be
about being

What good is my
when I am
in this

Clinton's press secretary

posted by TSO @ 07:09

Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Theologians

I think I know why beer was invented. I'd originally thought it was for hard manual laborers since nothing tastes better after a long, hot day of totin' barges and liftin' bales (and vice-versa) than St. Pauli's Girl. But I think it's also effective for those putting their craft out in the cross-currents of the tossing theological sea. Not having read enough to qualify even as toe-wetter in this sea, I can only surmise that clarity is not a function of how much you've read, which, I must say, is a bit of a deterrent for future reading.

These ruminations were brought on by the excellent advice of one Daniel, responding to one Thomas of "Endlessly Rocking":

Thomas, Thomas, Thomas. You are like me in certain ways. You sometimes jump into the theological fray and end up getting drowned because of it....My advice: if theology is bugging you, find something else to post about. Just remember, blogs will never replace the one, true method of doing theology: finding the nearest bar and having a beer.

posted by TSO @ 16:40

May 4, 2004

"Our minds, as by the action of a pendulum, swing from one extreme to the other."

The rise of Jansenism in the seventeenth century would not have been an easy thing to prophesy. Had not Luther and Calvin sufficiently advertised the danger of offering ready-made solutions to the problem of grace and free-will? Had not the careful definitions of Trent so blazed the trail of orthodoxy, as to exclude, for several centuries to come, the possibility of error?...Human nature supplies the key to the difficulty. Our minds, as by the action of a pendulum, swing from one extreme to the other. Jesuit theology, in reacting against the theological determinism of Calvin, swung back, and produced a corresponding reaction in favor of St. Augustine. The reaction was Jansenism.

So far, we have only been recognizing Quietism and Jansenism as parallel developments; one is tempted to ask whether they should not be recognized as cognate developments. After all, would it not have been natural to expect Port Royal, with its emphasis on the influence of Divine grace, its depreciation of free-will, would breed a Quietist type of spirituality? That it would discourage frantic strivings of human effort in prayer, bidding the soul wait for, and quietly correspond with, the Divine afflatus instead? Was not Quietism the natural outcome of Jansenism?
- Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm: A Chapter in the History of Religion

posted by TSO @ 07:24

They Don't Make Visionaries Like They Used To

One of the small prejudices I had against the recipients of the apparitions at Medjugorje was that none of seemed all that pious. They didn't appear to be giving up anything; they lived comfortable lives filled with travel and nice cars and none became priests or nuns. My conceit was exposed when I thought: "hell, if I'd had visions of the Blessed Mother, I'd hie me to a monastery" if Our Lady asked, as she did of these Medjugorje kids. But this judging by "the fruit of the tree" is fraught with danger if I start examining my own fruits too carefully, and likewise if I cavalierly judge them, not being in their place. So yes, there was a vocation from one of the three Fatima children (Sister Lucia), but that was then and this was now. It's not that the Blessed Mother has changed, it's that we have.

posted by TSO @ 07:17


My wife recently finished, and much enjoyed, DeStefano's "The Travel Guide to Heaven". She showed me another book she bought - something called "Will Fido Go to Heaven?" or was it "Canine Slobbers at the Pearly Gates"? My unease must've been palpable; I was a victim of involuntary body language.

"Well, I just think 'The Travel Guide to Heaven' is probably more trustworthy," I said, despite not having read it, nor having no idea how trustworthy this book she was showing me was.

"Why? Because 'The Travel Guide to Heaven' was written by a Catholic?"

She got me. Times like this you gotta come clean.

"Ha, well, I just think we know where the Travel Guy is coming from."

And so it goes...I remind myself that we share a love for Christ and that she could teach me a thing or two about faith. But still...

I was recently picking out some books for her for a gift and came across two that look marvelous for the purpose of easy, yet inspiring, beach reads, both written by evangelicals: "God's Smuggler" by Brother Andrew and "The Cross and the Switchblade" by Wilkerson. I bought her the latter, although truth be told I'd have preferred something by someone who "just happened to be" Catholic. But most of the books on Ignatius Press don't look much like easy yet inspiring beach reads. (She's not a Garrigou-Lagrange kind of gal, unless she's living a double-life.) Both the books I mentioned above show the Holy Spirit working O/T in their lives, often miraculously, demonstrating that the Spirit bloweth where it will, as Peter Nixon recently wrote.

Unlike their spiritual offspring, it's interesting that the founders of the Reformation, Luther and Calvin, didn't experience much of the miraculous, at least according to this interlocuter (I can't vouch for his accuracy, being weakly read on this subject):

In the all of Church history up to the Reformation, there were numerous reports of miracles of all kinds. These happened at the shrines throughout Christendom and in the presence of the saints during their sojourn on Earth. When the Protestants began preaching, there were no miracles that accompanied them and in fact all miracles ceased in whatever area they were operating in. This was used as an argument against their position. Luther advanced the theory of the "cessation of miracles" alleging (in direct contradiction to the entire Christian tradition that preceded him) that the "signs and wonders" ended with the death of the last Apostle. He therefore stated that all signs and wonders that had happened after that were "lying wonders" done by the devil to lead people astray. Thus he dismissed all post-Apostolic miracles as demonic. It was rather convenient, since his movement didn't have any! Miracles among Catholics continued throughout the Reformation and to this very day...

posted by TSO @ 07:11

Reads to Suit a Mood

....sometimes you want the brocade prose of the baroque past. This from Donald Mitchell's "Reveries of a Bachelor" written a century ago:

Reading is a great and happy disentangler of all those knotted snarls - those extravagant vagaries, which belong to a heart sparkling with sensibility; but the reading must be cautiously directed. There is old, placid Burton when your soul is weak, and its digestion of life's humors is bad; there is Cowper when your spirit runs into kindly, half-sad, religious musings; there is Crabbe when you would shake off vagary, by a little handling of sharp actualities... There is Rousseau, when you want to lose yourself in a mental dream-land, and be beguiled by the harmony of soul-music and soul-culture.

And when you would shake this off, and be sturdiest among the battlers for hard, world-success, and be forewarned of the rocks against which you must surely smite - read Bolingbroke; - run over the letters of Lyttleton; read, and think of what you read, in the craking lines of Rochefoucauld. How he sums up in his stinging words! - how he puts the scalpel between the nerves - yet he never hurts; for he is dissecting dead matter.

If you are in a genial careless mood, who is better than such extemporizers of feeling and nature - good-hearted fellows- as Stearne and Fielding?

And then again, there are Milton and Isaiah, to lift one's soul until it touches cloud-land, and you wander with their guidance, on swift feet, to the very gates of heaven.

posted by TSO @ 14:09

May 3, 2004

Paisley & Prayer

Flashed back to last July 4th, sitting under the St. Louis Arch, feeling like a ‘Where’s Waldo’ given that six hours earlier I was enroute somewhere in Indiana, listening to Frank McCourt’s audio version of “Tis” while the pavement gleamed in its neverending double yellow’d stretch until - there – was it really there? – yes, the Arch.

Bleary-eyed and monospaced from the long drive, I found my compatriots and we copped a spot on the grass. We were there for the free Brad Paisley concert. He came on the stage and his banter was so refreshingly … un-amped? It was almost embarrassing; kind of unprofessional. It appeared he didn’t care, or maybe it was just that he was so unwilling to fake any enthusiasm that he was here. With us. On this hot July 4th in St. Louis, MO.

And yet as the night went on he got into it. We got into it. The band took it up a notch and then another, and it took us to a place that we didn’t really think was possible at the concert’s start.

Sometimes it's like that in prayer. We try to manufacture enthusiasm and false banter. Better just to say at the outset, 'Lord, open my lips that I may declare your praise' and trust that whether enthusiasm arrives or not what is important is that what we're doing is likely the most important thing we'll do all day.

posted by TSO @ 10:56

New Diet Drug Breakthru!

Scientists at 2Phat Pharmaceuticals have developed the ultimate weight-loss drug, one designed to allow you to lose weight painlessly while you sleep! Losing weight is often associated with hunger pangs, but with LethargoTM there is no sensation of hunger. LethargoTM is a strong sedative that works by rendering you unconcious for 20-28 days. When you awake you are 15-20 lbs lighter!

Lethargo's premise is a simple one: you can't eat while you're sleeping. After your "Rip Van Winkle", you'll be slimmer and trimmer. Experts agree that it is the natural way to lose weight.

a canine client

Disclaimer: H20 iv included. Some assembly required. Side effects from LethargoTM include coma, death, bed sores.

posted by TSO @ 09:39


Reading the wonderful "Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America", which describes how four group migrations from different parts of Britain during the long period from 1630-1775 created cultural characteristics that have influenced and assimilated subsequent non-British immigrations persisting even to the present day. It illustrates the amazing persistence of culture - a term that the author pins down as concretely as possible by using various measurements.

He begins with the Puritans, who felt they were doubly-elected: elected by God, Calvinists as they were, and elected by the Massachusets Bay Colony, which held exacting standards. Not only was the quality of emigrant pretty impressive to start with, but once there a Darwinian process kicked undesirables to other colonies or back to England.

Reading about the Puritans and their 16-century spiritual leader led me to Belloc's chapter on Calvin in "How the Reformation Happened". Belloc writes,

Calvin took what is one of the oldest and most perilous directives of mankind, the sense of Fate. He isolated it, and he made it supreme, by fitting it, with the kneading of a powerful mind, into the scheme which Christian men still traditionally associated with the holiness and authority of their ancestral religion. God had become Man, and God had become Man to redeem mankind. That was no part of the old idea of Inevitable Fate. On the contrary, it was a relief from that pagan nightmare. We of the Faith say that the Incarnation was intended to release us from such a pagan nightmare. Well, Calvin accepted the Incarnation, but he forced it to fit in with the old pagan horror of complusion: "Ananke." He reintroduced the Inexorable.

posted by TSO @ 21:44

May 2, 2004

Hearts & Minds

Well, the bad news is that 70% of Iraqis now think of the U.S. as occupiers instead liberators. The famed quest for 'hearts and minds' appears to be o'er. Gratefulness in any individual or country is extremely perishable. Kuwait's fifteen minutes of thankfulness after the Gulf War was literally just that, and the youth of South Korea now march in the hundreds of thousands in support of kicking the U.S. military out. Iraq's appreciation for our removal of Saddam has also expired and will soon turn to anger. We simply don't have the five or ten years that a democracy requires in order to develop.

No one doubts that a democratic Iraq would be preferable to an autocratic or theocratic one. Democracies have the well-earned reputation of finding war more unpalatable than do other forms of government, if only because it interferes with trade. The bourgeois vote their pockebooks. So the idea of having a little bastion of democracy in the Middle East seemed a faint and beautiful dream, this little oasis that would transform nations like Iran and Syria by showing them a wealthy and stable Iraq. They would become capitalists and start exporting goods and services instead of terrorism.

But it seems that democracy must come from within unless imposed with overwhelming force. The successful model often pointed to is Japan, but we can't do what we did in Japan morally or politically. We changed Japan into a democracy through force. There was no kindness & gentleness, no hearts & minds rhetoric. Japan became a democracy because we crushed the will of their people through military force. Dropping atomic weapons will do that.

The Iraqi experiment is an interesting one, to see if there was a "middle way" using both carrot and stick, of appealing to hearts and minds while employing tanks and guns. The answer appears to be no although perhaps it is still too early to say.

posted by TSO @ 12:41

Rosaries for Soldiers

What a great idea.

Update: Commenter's on Dom's site:

The most popular and useful rosaries for Army and Marines grunts are the plastic, black ones. The guys have to carry enormous loads, move as quietly as possible and show only subdued or camouflaged colors. Soft plastic beads can be carried in a pocket or worn around the neck without fear of causing an impact injury.... The cheap BLACK plastic rosaries richard w mentions can be obtained from at the price of 100 for $20.00. i have heard some complaints they break in combat areas,but maybe the reports were exagerated, please remember the BLACK ones, troops dont want to atrack the eyes.
Update II: More info here.

posted by TSO @ 22:10

May 1, 2004

Various & Sundry

Went to the 1st Annual Central Ohio Folk Festival. Loved the banjo music and dulcet vocals but the problem is those folkies are so rowdy. The riot police came out thrice and had to use mace and pepper spray. (Just a joke.)

Posted a poem on my Nigerian Scammer website if you're starved for entertainment.

"Then I took your sin, the calf which you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that descended from the mountain." - Deut. 9:21

posted by TSO @ 18:25

Pastoral Thoughts

Red, he wore,
for the Roman martyrs,
a pastor who shepherds
with consistency if not flash
and in his everydayness
provides stark contrast
to the victims of Nero.

And yet there’s something oddly comforting
in his workmanlike performance
in the heavenly task
making bread Body
and wine Blood.

A one-to-many relationship
has priest to congregation
such that I thought myself
contentedly invisible
until he stuck out his hand
and called me by name.

Like Jesus.

posted by TSO @ 20:05

June 30, 2004

Auf Deutsch

German is apparently harder for babelfish to descipher, but I get the jist of Scipio's comments about death and about how the approach of the moderns differs from ages past.

posted by TSO @ 19:30

Whoville Residents

We've all heard stories of 120-lb women who are able to lift cars if their children are in danger of being crushed. Somehow they find an energy that is superhuman, or at least far greater than anyone could've predicted.

I wonder if there is a spiritual analogy when it comes to faith. if our daily hypochondriacal faith struggles make us feel puny perhaps, in the face of seeing someone else for whom we're profoundly moved to pray for, our faith will grow like the heart of the Grinch - 3 sizes that day!

posted by TSO @ 19:29

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I realized that one of my great accomplishments in life has been to do contour plowing on perfectly flat surfaces. When I look back over my Christian life it is a history of setting hand to plow and looking back. - Steven Riddle isn't alone though few of us could've said it so well.

At the root of plutocracy is the awful idea of Efficiency. But human beings are inefficient. Families are models of human inefficiency; that is why they are, and always will be, even unto the end, the final guarantor of liberty. All the world may be an anarchy of efficient inhumanity; a mechanized madness of perfect efficiency; and yet, if human beings yet flourish, even in such dark days, they will flourish because Efficiency is checked at the solid door of the family home. For liberty itself is inefficient. What is efficient about free men trading stories over mugs of beer? What is efficient about a woman cultivating her own garden, a small but soaring slice of creation, wherein she becomes and embodies the imago Dei? - Paul Cella, via Jeff of ECR

I see many, many attempts at [fraternal] correction that appear to be cause-oriented, along the lines of, "But what that guy's doing is wrong! I've got to say something!" That's a mechanical response, and humans (as reason and faith together proclaim) are more than machines. If the effect you want is to release the emotions what that guy's doing causes in you, then go into a deserted place and reel off an imprecatory psalm or two. If the effect you want is for that guy to stop doing something wrong, then first ask yourself whether he will acknowledge your authority and perceive your love if you say something to him...Put this way, it sounds obvious, but in practice I find it's hard not to leave it up to others to find the love in the way I express myself. That, of course, is to put love of myself ahead of love of others, and who would fault the other for not doing the work to perceive my love for him buried under my love for myself? - Tom of Disputations

You know, if PapaC were really smart....he would pay 1/2 Price Books a small sum every month to bar me from the store. He would come out ahead. - MamaT of Summa Mamas. Don't tell my wife.

If The Flintstones is supposed to be set in the time before Christ, why was there a Christmas special?....If you try to fail but succeed, then which have you really done?...Check out Extreme Catholic's St. Blog's word frequency count. Some words I'd like to see next time: buy...kathryn...lively's...books - Kat of Livelywriter

esperando nacer - (Spanish for "hoping to be born") - evocative title of Hernan Gonzalez's new blog.

Someone once remarked that if German theolgians saw two doors, one marked "Heaven" and the other marked "Discussion on Heaven," they would go in the second. There is no doubt in my mind which one the Swiss father would enter. He loved knowledge because it led to the Lord. - Ronald Reagan in a speech on Hans von Balthasar, via Philip Blosser

What are the odds that Kerry has ever even *heard* of von Balthasar? How many American Presidents or politicians can *you* think of who could discourse about von Balthasar? The trope that Lefties are Highly Intelligent and Educated while those on the right are all brainless monobrowed rubes has *really* shot its bolt. - Mark Shea on Philip Blosser's post

posted by TSO @ 13:26

Various & Sundry

I don't recall any Scriptural references to Jesus being tempted by the devil in the Garden before his Crucifixion but it's an interesting aspect in Gibson's movie because it gives light to the parallel between the two in the garden, Adam and Jesus, and how their choices differed. If Adam's paradise was in fact paradisical then you have a sinless man (Adam) choosing to sin amid plenty, compared to a sinless man (Jesus) choosing not to sin amid a poverty.


Mary asked why, of all the great writers, I'm attracted to Flannery so much. I think it's because she combines everything I'd like to be: heroic, a great Catholic, a great writer. She was a modern who was thoroughly un-modern and that speaks to me profoundly. Of the Catholic writers I'm familiar with she's the only one who seems truly a saint. I've read Merton's journals, and he's not the person I thought he was. Percy I like and find great sympathy but I don't look up to him. Flannery I do, and her Habit of Being is the sine qua non of my affection for her.


I'm seeing anew the necessity of courage. In Pearce's book about C.S. Lewis he said that courage is the basis for all virtues.

On the drive to work I'm listening to the life of John Calvin and it's intriguing how terror appeared to play a role in the beginning of his (and Luther's) ministry. Calvin had planned to be a private scholar and wanted no part of Christian ministry. He stopped in Geneva, intending to stay one day, but Reformers there begged and pleaded with him to organize a new church (the citizens of Geneva had just voted against staying Catholic and in the chaos needed an intelligent man with vision). The Reformers resorted to threats when Calvin refused, one of them putting a curse on him if he did not stay. Calvin was terrified by this and agreed. Luther is said to have been terrified by a thunderstorm walking home from the university and made a similar decision in its wake.


Went to CommunistFest, the little Columbus music festival where women supposedly bare their breasts though I’ve never seen it. I go every year in search of the Other, to see different looking and acting people. Many walk around with enough metal in their face to set off the airport radar gun. The fest seems to draw misfits and misfits are what the Church ought to be welcoming. Our churches should be a magnet for misfits.

Maybe they're doing crazy things to themselves in order to provide a reason for their ostracization. Then they can feel good knowing they're being rejected for superficial reasons. Why give them a reason for being ostracized in the first place?


Humbling article containing a minefield of stiletto points:

Hence Keck’s baleful assessment of contemporary Christianity: "The opening line of the Westminster Confession is now reversed, for now the chief end of God is to glorify us and to be useful to us indefinitely."

No wonder that Flannery O’Connor likened sentimentality in religion to pornography in art: they both cultivate immediate sensate experience for its own sake.

T. S. Eliot once observed that our unconscious habits, especially our leisure lives, serve to shape our souls and form our imaginations far more decisively than all our deliberate efforts to acquire high culture.

William Temple spoke similar wisdom when he declared Christianity to be the world’s most materialistic religion. Redemption is an outward and public and visible thing wrought by the flesh-assuming, world-inhabiting God. The objective work of Jesus Christ is the center of the Christian life, upon which all subjective conversions are based, themselves enabled by God’s own gift of faith.

posted by TSO @ 09:04

A Flannery O'Connor Blog

Finally done what I've wanted to do for awhile - collect all the Flannery O'Connor quotes I've collected into one blog. For future reference, I'll link it on the left side of the stage.

posted by TSO @ 16:38

June 29, 2004

Populist Elitists

There's a constant tension in our political arguments to move from an elitist disgust of the masses to a reverence for them depending (of course) on whether we agree with the masses on a particular issue.

Neither the left or the right is immune. One self-described "moderate" newspaper columnist said she now calls herself an elitist, apparently having given up on democracy. She knows best, but in lieu of not having power, she hopes the Supreme Court will set things right by allowing gay marriage and continue to protect the killing of babies.

Victor David Hanson sings the praises of democracy in his book on Sherman in but he doesn't try to square two main points he subscribes to:

A) the Civil War was really about slavery, notwithstanding the hollering about states' rights.
B) 75% of Confederate soldiers did not own any slaves

There seems a problem. Either the large number of Southerners who approved of the war despite not owning slaves were dupes of the plantation elite or they really believed in the war wasn't about slavery but about theories of how the Constitution should work. Perhaps it was just the natural nativism that Southerners didn't like Northerners telling them what to do.

I was thinking about this while reading of Michael Moore, who turns out to be something of an oxymoron - a populist-elitist.

posted by TSO @ 12:25

Sancta Sanctis

Cat got my tongue today so I'll post this piece from Enbrethiliel:

"What Alkdilwen said, I will never forget: 'Why can't a saint have a mental illness? I've known holy people with mental illnesses. I believe St. Anthony really did see the devil, but would it have made any difference if he had just hallucinated? God can work with that, too.'

She's very right. If God can use something like wealth, which seems so opposed to His ideal of poverty for the sake of the Kingdom, as a channel for His grace, then He can also use mental illness. In fact, since mental illness is much more of a cross than financial wealth--and true poverty compared to mental health--it must be a greater means of sanctification than many people give it credit for.

Now back to Brideshead Revisited for a bit. (SPOILER WARNING!) One of the characters starts out so unhappy that he becomes an alcoholic. With great naivete, I assumed that, the novel being about how God's grace touches different people, he would completely conquer his disease by the end of the story and even be able to drink normally once more. Well, that's not how it turns out.

Still struggling with his alcoholism, Sebastian (for that is his name) makes his way to a monastery and asks to be taken in as a novice. (Aha, I thought: he shall become a monk and that shall cure him.) The Superior wisely turns him down, as he later explains to one of Sebastian's sisters: "I did not think that there was anything I could do to help him except pray."

Then the sister, who is telling the story to yet another character, says of the monk's treatment of Sebastian, "He was a very holy man and recognized it in others." (I thought: yes, I understand that the monk is holy, but Sebastian is still an alcoholic. What is so holy about that?) A few pages later, she gives one of my favourite passages in the novel, which serves to explain:

I've seen others like him, and I believe they are very near and dear to God. He'll live on, half in, half out of the community, a familiar figure pottering round with his broom and his bunch of keys. He'll be a great favourite with the old fathers, something of a joke to the novices. Everyone will know about his drinking; he'll disappear for two or three days every month or so, and they'll all nod and smile and say in their various accents, "Old Sebastian's on the spree again," and then he'll come back dishevelled and shamefaced and be more devout for a day or two in the chapel. He'll probably have little hiding places about the garden where he keeps a bottle and takes a swig now and then on the sly. They'll bring him forward to act as a guide, whenever they have an English-speaking visitor, and he will be completely charming so that before they go, they'll ask about him and perhaps be given a hint that he has high connections at home. If he lives long enough, generations of missionaries in all kinds of remote places will think of him as a queer old character who somehow part of the Hope of their student days, and remember him in their masses. He'll develop little eccentricities of devotion, intense personal cults of his own; he'll be found in the chapel at odd times and missed when he's expected. Then one morning, after one of his drinking bouts, he'll be picked up at the gate dying, and show by a mere flicker of the eyelid that he is conscious when they give him the last sacraments. It's not such a bad way of getting through one's life.
Sebastian's alcoholism was not healed (on earth, at least), but it was made holy. That line about the generations of missionaries who would always remember him made me cry the first time I read it. Making someone that low and humble and simple part of the hope of what are already very hopeful "student days" is the kind of beautiful idea that only God would have. Blessed are the poor in spirit indeed."

* * *
I'm not an alcoholic, having tried but found that it unduly interfered with my reading, but I think that most of us are poor in one sense or another and can relate to her post.

posted by TSO @ 11:54


Belloc Quote

The air was full of midsummer, and its mixture of exaltation and fear cut me off from ordinary living. I now understood why our religion has made sacred this season of the year; why we have, a little later, the night of St John, the fires in the villages, and the old perception of fairies dancing in the rings of the summer grass. A general communion of all things conspires at this crisis of summer against us reasoning men that should live in the daylight, and something fantastic possesses those who are foolish enough to watch upon such nights.

posted by TSO @ 15:06

June 28, 2004


Sherman defended his destruction of Southern property by saying it's "better Southerners be poor and alive in Georgia than rotting in the mud of Northern Virginia." That may well be true. There is nothing poorer than being dead to quote Flannery O'Connor. The dead cannot speak; aborted babies have no voice. We have to be their voice.

I like that this organization because it speaks to women, who are the decision-makers both literally at the point of a crisis pregnancy and figuratively in the voting booth (Clinton's pro-abort judges would not have been nominated because Clinton wouldn't have been elected without the support of women).

I also tend to think that the "feminist" tag has been hijacked.

posted by TSO @ 09:51

Kill All The Terrorists?

I'm reading a short bio of William Tecumseh Sherman in "The Soul of Battle" by Victor David Hanson and the Ohioan comes off rather well: "Sherman, we forget, really was a professor and college president. Of all the major Civil War generals in the field, Sherman was the best educated and the most voracious reader...Sherman was naturally bright and superbly educated in both abstract and practical sense - while in transit to California, he drilled his soldiers between reading Washington Irving, Shakespeare, and 'everything I could get'...". The real dilemma of Sherman, Hanson writes, is "to understand a man who wrote of the need to slaughter hundreds of thousands but killed very few, and with real reluctance."

Sherman came to the conclusion (unlike Grant & others) that the way to peace was not by killing as many Confederates as possible. Hanson quotes Liddell Hart:

"He had come to realize that in war all conditions are more calculable, all obstacles more surmountable, than those of human resistance. And having begun the war with an orthodox belief in the sovereign efficacy of battle as a 'cure all' he had learnt that the theoretical ideal of the destruction of the enemy's armed forces on the battlefield is rarely borne out in practice and that to pursue it single-mindedly is to chase a will-o'-the-wisp. Because of his original orthodoxy it is all the more significant that he reached the conclusion that the way to decide wars and win battles was 'more by movement of troops that by fighting.'"

Hanson writes, "Sherman also understood, as did no other Union general, the close tie in the Southern mind between pride and property. If he burned Georgia unmercifully, it may have been because he had lived in George, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana and knew exactly what material damage would do to the psyche of the South."

So Sherman discovered that the way to change hearts and minds in the South was by burning property and not by killing soldiers. So how to break the will of the terrorists? I don't know the answer, but I suspect, like Sherman, it's not the wholesale killing of them.

The war in Iraq, for me at least, was never about terrorism although I don't know that you can separate the two in the terrorist mind. I think we were obligated to either go to war or withdraw completely by lifting the economic sanctions which killed far more Iraqi civilians than did the war. For me, the policies of George Herbert Walker Bush are more suspect that George W. Bush. Whether we should've gone to war in '91 is a far more interesting question than whether we should've gone to war last year. But, and I really mean this, what do I know?

posted by TSO @ 14:04

June 27, 2004

Sylvan Thoughts

"Trees of Miami, Beautiful Trees…
Truth, Remembrance, Youth –
Of These You Brood
In Your Ancient Reveries."

--Percy MacKaye
(poet laureate of Miami University in Oxford during the '20s)

I'm not a tree-hugger but I play one on hikes sometimes. I'll hug a tree and inhale her mossy bark. John Derbyshire in NRODT writes of them:

What wonderful, mysterious things they are! We have been sharing the natural realm with these creatures since the very beginnings of human consciousness, yet they are still as strange to us as, if they had any sentience, we would be to them. One is not surprised to recall the quantity of lore and superstition our remote ancestors attached to trees, much of it gathered up in Sir James George Frazer's vast book named, significantly, The Golden Bough. The historian Paul Johnson, who is also a weekend artist, has written somewhere of the great difficulty of painting trees - a thing that, after several decades of trying, he still does not feel he has got right. One of the best known (and most parodied) American poems is titled simply "Trees".

posted by TSO @ 13:54

Dick Cheney & the F-word

What bothers me about Dick Cheney's use of the f-word in conversation with Sen. Patrick Leahy was not its usage per se but that he lost his cool. The other party is often rightly accused of "rule by emotion", so for the conservative and normally cool-headed Cheney to lose his cool is especially noteworthy.

But this is mostly a problem because I fear it means Cheney will be less likely to espouse prudent policy decisions because of his animus towards Leahy and others on the left. Now granted Leahy is mostly a purveyor of evil, a marcher and flag-waver in the culture of death, but he could be right occasionally. And unfortunately policies don't come from the sky untainted but arrive surrounded by personalities. And it's much harder to do the right thing when those you dislike think it's the right thing.

posted by TSO @ 13:45


Alas, I'm the Irish storyteller who wasn't. Only my dreams tell tales; in my conscious state I couldn't make up a story to save my life. But in my dreams there are wonderous concoctions that keep my interest far better than any movie. Dreams are tailor-made movies - tailor-made for our unique recipe of issues and pushing our unique "buttons".

The less fiction I read, the more likely I am to dream, as if the night's responsibility is to make up for the day's loss. And if my days be Jeckyl-like in their constant reproachments towards the positive, the nights can be Hydes.

Dreams tend to crumble into dust upon entry in the morning sun. I can pick up a piece here or there, sniff a narrative thread for awhile, but great chunks of it have dissolved by the time I'm fully awake.

posted by TSO @ 08:07

Excerpts of Poems by Diana Der-Hovanessian


Sometimes it takes five words
of buoyant, tensile English
to explain one ancient leathery word.

Old words lie weighted, glittering
for centuries in the sun
like brittle stones.

And Armenian words have worn thin
like old coins, changed, exchanged in vain,

gaining a soft patina unmatched
except by old monasteries in the rain.



Tonight, feverish, head-aching, trying to sleep
I mumbled "Leave me alone", then leaped
up, frightened you might really go,

to write the words you dictated one by one,
wondering who (you or me) was meant
as the lost exile you wanted found.

I could sleep without you prodding me awake;
and read merely for pleasure's sake.
Without you my day's pace, quick or slow

would be guiltless. I could like in the sun
or work without your persistent
"It didn't happen unless it's written down."

posted by TSO @ 22:17

June 25, 2004

From Today's Magnificat magazine

Cardinal Newman, who my great-grandchildren will probably refer to as St. John Henry Newman, on what faith is:

...without knowing accurately what we are doing, not knowing either what we give up, nor again what we shall gain; uncertain about our reward, uncertain about our extent of sacrifice, in all respects leaning, waiting upon him, trusting him to fulfill his promise, trusting in him to enable us to fulfill our vows and so in all respects proceeding without carefulness or anxiety about the future.

posted by TSO @ 12:34

Old Journal Entries Never Die...

...they just get posted some day. I'm going through old entries for a project I'm working on and came across a couple that were kind of interesting. The first is from June 15, 1997 and describes that initial talk that Scott Hahn gave after Mass. I didn't know him from Adam at this point, and got it quite wrong that he was an Episcopalian (he was a Presbyterian pastor):

Nice chat at Mass today from a former Episcopalian minister who converted to Catholicism. He admitted in his former life he had tried to subtly convert catholics to protestantism, but in the end finally couldn’t square John 6 - “those who eat of my flesh and drink my blood shall have eternal life” since the original words pre-translation meant this literally & not symbolically. You could tell he’d struggled with it, taking a leave of absence and probably losing a some friends. Jesus said, ‘they know not what they do’, and cradle catholics could say ‘we know not what we have’ with respect to the Eucharist. His family huddled in group prayer after Mass, combining the best aspects of the Prot’s outgoingness with the Catholic’s Mass. Too bad this guy had to take a demotion; he obviously can’t become a priest.

posted by TSO @ 09:29

Ham of Bone Starts Work Monday!

Great news - Ham got a job. Longtime readers will remember him as my out-of-work friend. He'll be working on a 2-month consulting contract with the option of perm hiring. Thanks for your prayers.

posted by TSO @ 09:12

Why'd the Democrats Make it Close?

It's not my job to question the wisdom of Democratic primary voters, but Sen. Kerry seems an odd choice. He might win in November but why did the Demos decide to even make it close if they really hate Pres. Bush so much? I think any number of other Dems would've made better candidates and probably had Bush in a choker hold right about now.

It goes without saying that I wouldn't have voted for any of the Democratic candidates. But if I, a conservative, can see some good in a candidate then it stands to reason that he or she would get a large proportion of moderate and swing voters. This was proven back in '91 when I could see some good in Clinton and he was subsequently elected. I couldn't stand Al Gore and he narrowly lost.

So, drawing on my credentials as your average, conservative Midwesterner whose state will play a major role in this year's election I'll mention my take on the former Democratic candidates for VP-picking purposes. Since they all share policies that I don't like, this will obviously be subjective, but I take it that's how the swing voters vote. Without further ado: 1) loathe: Kerry, Wesley Clark 2) Can tolerate: Lieberman, Graham of Florida 3) Could almost like: Gephardt, Edwards.

posted by TSO @ 08:07

Washington & the Seeming Aloof

Steven Riddle makes an interesting point about the fallacy of first impressions:

There was a time at which I believed all of the revisionist "stuff" about him [George Washington]--an incompetent leader, a cold and distant unfriendly man, a dullard. But as I have come to know him better I realize that were people to judge me by demeanor (which, of course they do all the time) I would be set with the same labels, and yet, I have to confess a certain amount of confusion about this. I am not deliberately cold nor distant, but someone who does not know me well will often discribe me as aloof and terrifying. (You can't even begin to imagine how funny this is without having seen me--I'm about as terrifying as a gerbil.) So I have felt a certain kinship in judgment.
I used to work with a guy back in the '80s who was a very strong Christian but never said three words together. His face was ashen and you got the sense he didn't get out much. His cubical was festooned with words from Scripture. He was not unpleasant to work with and he never said a bad word about anybody but I always wondered if this was his natural personality or if his single-minded devotion to Christianity made him quieter and more reticent and retiring. A natural reserve that does not cozy to too-soon intimacies is probably the mark of better Christians than me. Thomas Aquinas was so reserved he was considered a dullard and acquired the moniker "Dumb Ox" by schoolmates. That was soon disproven.

Postscript: Steven's musings on history got me thinking. The great thing about an interest in history is how it feeds itself in a search for first causes. If I study the Civil War period, it's natural to be interested in what actually led to it, leading to the 1820s-1850s when the debate raged. This leads back to the Founding Fathers, to figure out what they thought of slavery and states' rights. A strong interest in John Adams led me to the David Fischer's "Albion's Seed" which describes the Puritan migration, which leads to an interest in 16th century England...etc...

posted by TSO @ 09:44

June 24, 2004

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

...The weekly exercise where everyone not listed feels p*ssed off.

Even a well-catechized 18-year old, or at least most of them in North America, would benefit from a university-level introduction to theology, philosophy, and literature. Campion was never about secluding the students and innoculating them against modernity as your post implies. We offered the students a series of courses which showed them the amazing interrealted nature of the above-mentioned disciplines. We wanted them to exercise truly human powers and conder what it really means to be a human being. We never tried to have them flee the world--we gave them the opportunity to live in it and not have to be of it. We gave them the opportunity to be adult catholics. Even the best confirmation program cannot and should not do or be that. Faith formation is not the same thing as intellectual formation. Pray for the small-minded souls at Guadelupe Associates and never buy a book from Ignatius Press. - Professor Stephen Cordova, commenting on Campion College's demise via Erik's Rants & Recipes

When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have. --St. Aloysius Gonzaga, via Steven Riddle

I feel he [John Senior, author of The Restoration of Christian Culture] is right about a lot of things--the predominantly evil tendancies of television, the need for devotion to our Lady, family and small nature-and-Reality-based community as foundation for genuine Christian culture... He is evidently a Distributist, which name is noised about quite a bit at school, but doesn't come out into the open very often, except in the Poli-Sci department which tends to be Capitalist. The big question: how much is idealism and how much is practical--or how much *needs* to be?.... - Therese of "Destination:Order"

Help me think of other saints who blazed up early and died young. I am very attracted to them, probably as contrast to the scratched, bug-covered windshield through which I view the Lord and His Mercy. - Therese Z of Exultet

Men have forgotten the greatness of God. - Bishop Sheen of Heaven

I survived five days and four nights of solitude while the rest of the family was up in Massachusetts. I got very little done around the house (though I didn't let the dishes pile up), but slept a lot. I got very little done around the house (though I didn't let the dishes pile up), but slept a lot. I rented the MST3K The Brain that Wouldn't Die and Emma Thompson's Sense and Sensibility and watched the former twice and the latter three times (once with Thompson's commentary); I think she did an excellent job with it. - Bob, the Trousered Ape. Three times? I'm impressed. Bob is one heckuva sensitive male.

Magnitude in spiritual things is not measured by poundage but by perfection. - Fr. Farrell via Bill of Summa Minutiae

Our emotions are slippery and autonomous things. Even once we learn to calm them somewhat and keep them in check, they will still come and go as they please. Just because you have emotions that nudge you toward evil, that doesn't mean you have sinned. Just because you have lovely emotions that nudge you toward benevolence, that alone doesn't mean you've done anything praiseworthy or that you are particularly spiritual. What have you chosen to think, and what have you chosen to do? What have you chosen to say, and what did you decide to leave undone? There's where you can see whether you love your neighbor or not. - Fr. Jim of "Dappled Things"

One line is ringing in my head today - offering God thanks for the "joy that has come to us out of our work" during the past week. I often feel a bit rueful when I hear it. The line makes me think of the swinging of an ax or hammer, putting up preserves, painting a house, toting that barge and lifting that bale on a brisk autumn day where you can do a solid something with tangible results, take a deep satisfied breath, and brush the sawdust off your hands with a sigh of satisfaction. What is the Work from which I rest on the Lord's Day? I talk to people, hunch over my computer, sit in meetings, develop that flat left ear from lengthy phone conversations, encourage, write and rewrite, grouse, snack and sit. I'm not sure what to think or say about that. It doesn't feel virtuous. I suppose it's worthwhile, though the connection between work in Corporate American and doing genuine good seems tenuous at best sometimes. - Roz of "In Dwelling"

There's the pragmatic, "ours is not to reason why" approach, which points out that Scripture tells us to choose good and avoid evil if we want to be saved, not if we know we are going to be saved. We follow Christ's commandments because following His commandments is our job; worrying about how what we do meshes with Divine predestination is above our pay grade. - Tom of Disputations on Predestination

Every society has the means to protect itself - even if it means the temporary loss of civil liberties. - Walker Percy

posted by TSO @ 09:29

O'Reilly's Populist Factor

I get a kick over how little Bill O'Reilly cares about appearances. He is a true populist, ambitious for ratings but indifferent to critical approval. You'd think his thirst for audience, now slaked, would morph to a thirst to be taken seriously by the elites but it seems just the opposite. O'Reilly not only does not even try to make the show look more PBS-y, but seems to consciously or unconsciously run in the opposite direction. He hasn't forgotten his roots. Last night he had on detective Beau Dietl, who perpetually manages a three-day beard and looks and sounds Levittown-ish. O'Reilly hired a reporter named "Aphrodite" covering the Scott Peterson trial. No kidding - Aphrodite. She's pretty and tends to ramble a bit. Somehow I can never picture Lehrer or Jennings saying, "What do you think, Aphrodite?". But I guess that's part of Bill O'Reilly's charm. Given Fox's reputation for being a network of bimbos, other TV journalists would say, "I'm not going to hire someone named Aphrodite. It would hurt credibility." There is something wonderful about someone who knows who they are and is impervious to the opinion of the elites.

posted by TSO @ 09:12

Clothes Horse...Not

My interest in clothes over the years has waned, going from "small" to "can be seen only with the aid of an electron microscope". This has some unfortunate side effects, such as ignoring this tear in my Dockers. I think it's a well-placed rip though. It's just below my back pocket. My take on this is this: no straight man will ever see it because no straight man looks at another man's arse. So this eliminates 55-60% of the population at work (the ratio of men to women here). Of the women, 20% will not notice either. Of those who notice, 30% will take pity, thinking it must've just happened when actually it happened weeks ago, and 70% will correctly assume I'm a slob. So if I've done my math right only 22.4% will think I'm a slob. Not bad.

posted by TSO @ 08:54

On a bike ride through a poor neighborhood

Two houses, alike in dignity, in fair Columbus. One bears the fruits of neglect, weeds garnishing an exposed foundation. It recalls the 1930s: low and dishonest. Across the street stands a quaint chalet, a house as small as it is gem-like. The windows are festooned with lanterns, baskets of flowers warm the window ledges and the hedges are clipped to English garden perfection.

posted by TSO @ 18:01

June 23, 2004

Whole Lot o' Scandalizing Going On

Therese (Destination: Order) reviews H. W. Crocker and his book "Triumph":

He was one of our Major Speakers last semester, beginning his speech with a "joke" that scandalized the student body and maybe some professors as well. A girl at the DSMME retreat recommended this book to me: a dynamic, page-turning 500-pg history of the Church! Well, it is amazingly dynamic, fitting in lots of history and dates while still being engaging and slightly novelesque. Mr. Crocker does *tend* to emphasize the more gossip-rag elements that pop up over the course of the centuries, or at least phrase them in modern vulgar attention-grabbing phrases. When Origen goes to certain extremes, I prefer not to hear it, or if at all, not at the head of the chapter in sensational tones. I do plan to read this book, however, as a good Church History refresher, and to compare with what I've learned before.
I emailed asking what Mr. Crocker's joke was, just for my own edification. I wonder what constitutes scandal for a Christendom student and I suspect it's far to the other side of my own. The ongoing "uber-Catholic" college experiment (Christendom, Campion (now defunct) and Stuebenville & others) is extremely interesting, especially in watching students emerge from protected environments and in watching their reaction to culture.

posted by TSO @ 16:57

June 22, 2004

That's about how many of the 100 top-grossing films of all-time I've seen. Via Hokie Pundit. The ones I haven't are:

8. Jurassic Park
9. Shrek 2
11. Finding Nemo
19. Pirates of the Caribbean
23. Matrix Reloaded, The
25. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
26. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (film, not cartoon)
31. Toy Story 2
38. Cast Away
39. Lost World: Jurassic Park, The
40. Signs
41. Rush Hour 2
47. X2
52. Exorcist, The
53. Mummy Returns, The
54. Armageddon
58. Toy Story (1995)
66. What Women Want
70. Jurassic Park III
72. Planet of the Apes
78. Ice Age
81. Elf
87. Tarzan (1999)
89. Chicago
92. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
93. Hannibal
94. Catch Me If You Can
99. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

posted by TSO @ 12:45

Happy St. Thomas More Feast Day

One of my patron saints. Family of St. Thomas More:

"I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning." - from a letter written by Saint Thomas More from prison to his daughter Margaret

posted by TSO @ 07:48

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, known for purity of heart

Thoughtful post from ThereseZ reflecting on the innocence of St. Aloysius Gonzaga and the differences between saints who "have a past" and those who don't. The opening prayer at Mass today is deeply affecting:

Father of love,
giver of all good things,
In Saint Aloysius you combined remarkable innocence
with the spirit of penance.
By the help of his prayers
may we who have not followed his innocence
follow his example of penance.

posted by TSO @ 17:33

June 21, 2004

Of Interest to Germ Phobics

I'm unduly fascinated by this discussion around Karl Keating's newsletter, where he says: "The chalice or cup used at Mass is just as likely (or just as unlikely) to transmit disease as is any other cup that is shared among multiple people. The Consecration has no effect whatsoever on this."

This is why I tend not to partake of the cup. The Byzantine Catholic Church I favor has the Eucharist by intinction, but I don't think that's germ-free either since they deliver it via a spoon and although you're not supposed to clamp your mouth down on it, surely some do (infants might - the Eastern rite give the Eucharist to all the baptized).

Think this is a problem only with the new Mass? Not to gross you out (okay, to gross you out), here is what one commenter wrote about pre-Vatican II:

Having served as an altar boy prior to Vatican II changes, I am always surprised by the fuss that is raised about germs. It was not at all uncommon to see string of spit extend from the communicant's mouth to Father's finger as he drew back, having put a thin Host on their tongue. It was, and still is, difficult to put the Host in someone's mouth far enough that it will not fall out, and not make contact with their tongue or lips. And I have yet to see a priest even wipe his fingers (except for the foregoing example; Father would wipe hie hand on the purificator on my left arm). So I fail to see the issue of "germs" from the cup, and not from the receipt on the tongue as opposed to in the hand.

posted by TSO @ 13:17

We Can Swear!

This line is pretty sad:

"We don't have those constraints, which provides for more colorful coverage," said Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose Daily Kos is among the most visited political blogs. "If I want to use profanity in a post, I'll use profanity."
...from here. Is this all that blogging offers? Opinion with profanity? "Wooo! We can cuss and the mainstream media can't!". That's not something to boast about that.

posted by TSO @ 10:29

Against Happiness

This NY Times article scribe apparently hasn't read the Beatitudes. Interesting though:

Sad people are nice. Angry people are nasty. And, oddly enough, happy people tend to be nasty, too.

Such (allowing for a little journalistic caricature) were the findings reported in last month's issue of Psychological Science...The very idea that happiness could harm a person's character -- that it could be associated with prejudice, for example -- would have been unthinkable to ancient philosophers. They believed in an indissoluble bond between happiness and virtue. The virtuous man, they held, was bound to be happy, since he knew himself to be in possession of the highest good, a good that could not be taken away from him even when he was being tortured on the rack. With modern times, however, came the subjective "well-feeling" definition of happiness: when the fellow in the white coat asks you if you're happy, just check your mood, compare your circumstances with those of the people around you, then tell him how contented you feel.

posted by TSO @ 10:17

Various & Sundry

Sadly, had to go to a funeral visitation this weekend. One person told me of the pain of the last days of the deceased. She said bitterly, "we don't allow animals to suffer like that!". What does one say? I asked if the morphine was working and she said she thought so but it was so unsettling to see her regain consciousness only to moan and see her eyes rolling around unfocused. I quoted Flannery O'Connor saying that tenderness apart from Christ leads to the gas chamber, but talking about suffering when one doesn't suffer much leaves a bad taste.

Also found out an acquaintance is a fan of the Brown's DaVinci Code. She says she is open-minded about the historicity of the DVC so when she heard who I went to see she said she wants a copy of Amy's book. The harvest is rich.


Speaking of Amy...My brother has a master list of every major celebration in the world and wants to hit them all in his lifetime. Cinco de Mayo, Oktoberfest in Germany, Mardi Gras, the running of the bulls, etc...I have a less ambitious plan, and to even refer to it as a plan would be a stretch. I'm meeting bloggers! Yeah I can claim two sightings: Eric of "The Mighty Barrister" and now Amy Welborn.

Combined a visit to the 'rents Saturday with hearing her deliver a talk in a Cincy church. The accoustics left something to be desired (fortunately Amy, being a former teacher, projected better than the previous speaker) and the ineffective cooling system caused one poor man to pass out (9-1-1 was called and the paramedics assisted him).
My mom requested a book, so I had one signed for her. It's fun to see bloggers in person. I'd have liked to have stayed till after her signings, but the book-signing queue looked daunting. I looked around for Michael (I'd spied him while waiting in Amy's line) but couldn't find him. Meeting bloggers reverses the natural order. Instead of seeing a person and then learning more about them, you learn about a person and then see them.


I had an email correspondent mention that he was tired of seeng the papist hat. The hat might get old but it was funny for me because it symbolized a certain catholicity. I could see some over-the-road trucker with two-day old barbecue sauce on his bib overalls, cigar stains on his teeth and a scraggely Ernst Tubbs beard and lo & behold! Atop his head sits a papist hat slightly askew, incongruous with its Baroque script and also for its irony since "papist" is historically a term of derision, not something worn as a badge of honor.

posted by TSO @ 07:39


Before our dreams (or terrors) persisted
in mythology and cosmogony,
even before time coined itself in days, there existed,
already, the sea. It was. Who is that old, undisciplined,
violent creature, who's gnawing away under
the pillars of the earth, who's also chance and wind,
one and many oceans, and abyss and wonder?
Staring upon the sea, we see it as though
for the first time, sensing the splendor of all free
and elemental things: like afternoons, the glow
of the moon, or a blazing fire. But who is the sea?
And who am I? In time, when my days are passed,
and my final agony's done, I'll know, at last.
-Jorge Luis Borges (translated by William Baer)

posted by TSO @ 16:47

June 18, 2004

There's Something Oddly Appealing...

...about A "Papist Trucker Hat"

Via The Ratzinger Fan Club. If your taste is more animalistic, try Reginald.

posted by TSO @ 13:42

Et Tu Fox News?

Meanwhile...the cover-up of the homosexual angle of the scandal is mentioned by newspaperman Rod Dreher:

...your comment did bring to mind something a Fox News staffer told me at the Dallas bishops’ meeting two years ago. I told this person that Fox should find and interview Michael S. Rose, whose “Goodbye Good Men” had just come out, and who could illuminate a key aspect of the scandal that most media wouldn’t touch. The staffer told me that they had orders from the very top of the network not to touch homosexuality in their reporting from Dallas.

posted by TSO @ 12:59

It's Always About Faith

Dom reports there's a bad moon on the risin'. Don't know about you, but I'm suffering from "shock fatigue" when it comes to scandal revelations. The troubles ultimately come down to a lack of faith, as Ratzinger said. But why should that be surprising? Jesus asked if there be faith in this world when He comes again. And Randall Sullivan, author of "The Miracle Detective" detected this too:

One thing that was troubling was that so many people I dealt with in the Vatican in positions of authority seemed almost half-hearted about it. I was more reverent in a lot of ways than they were, and more able to see the absurdity, the limitations of an overly rational, skeptical, scientific perspective. These limitations were more obvious to me than to many of them. But that is really about the Church as a human institution, but the faith itself, the Catholic Church is still for me the ultimate guardian of the faith, it’s closer to the origin of the faith. That’s what I’m pulled back to.
Walker Percy writes about the lack of faith in "The Thanatos Syndrome":
"But when he invited me to serve Mass routinely, I refused. I told him the truth: that since I no longer was sure what I believe, didn't think much about religion, participation in Mass would seem to be deceitful.

He nodded cheerfully, as if he already knew. 'Don't worry,' he said, doing a few isometrics in the hall, pushing and pulling with his hands. 'It is to be expected. It is only necessary to wait and to be of good heart. It is not your fault.'

'How is that, Father? I ask him curiously.

'You have been deprived of faith. All of us have. It is part of the times.'

'Deprived? How do you mean?'

'It is easy enough to demonstrate," he says, shrugging first one shoulder high, then the other.


'Sure. Just consider. Even if the truths of religion could be proved to you one, two, three, it wouldn't make much difference, would it? One hundred percent of astronomers have discovered that the universe was created from nothing. The explanation is obvious but it does not avail. Who can handle it? It does not signify. It is boring to think of. Ninety-seven percent of astronomers are still atheists. Do you blame them? They are also boring. The only thing more boring would be if the ninety-seven percent all converted, right? It follows that there must be some other force at work, right?"

posted by TSO @ 09:30

"Everyone who would live piously in Christ Jesus shall suffer Persecution" - 2 Tim 3:12

There's a tendency to swing towards one extreme or another with regard to suffering - either loathe it and avoid it at all costs or see it as an end in itself.

A quote from Wilde in "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde" (written while in prison):

'Sorrow, then, and all that it teaches one, is my new world. I used to live entirely for pleasure. I shunned sorrow and suffering of every kind. I hated both. I resolved to ignore them as far as possible, to treat them, that is to say, as modes of imperfection. They were not part of my scheme of life. They had no place in my philosophy.'
Joseph Pearce continues:
Each individual passion play of each individual life was but a dim shadow of the Passion Play enacted at Calvary...[But Wilde's De Profundis] overstates in its sorrow the place of the Passion, ignoring the Resurrection. The crucial nature of the Crucifixion is seen by Wilde almost as an end in itself and not as a means to an end. Yet the Passion of Christ, properly understood, pionts always to the Resurrection. His mysterious Sorrow carries with it the promise of a mysterious Glory. In his suffering Wilde allows the darkness of the sorrow to eclipse the brightness of the glory. The means eclipse the end.

posted by TSO @ 08:58

Saying the Surprising

Hokie Pundit has left the building, or at least his current blog, in search of a bit more camouflage.

Part of the appeal of reading blogs, or books, is to see the universality of the human condition by hearing what we might be thinking but were unable to articulate for one reason or another. Maybe we didn't even know we thought it.

But this universality can be experienced only when the writer is honest and blogs are often that. Bloggers are also willing to surprise. Where else would you hear someone say they'd happily repeal the 19th Amendment, as Jeff Culbreath wrote? So Robert of HP seeks a place where he can surprise more often. Happy Trails RB!

posted by TSO @ 19:36

June 17, 2004

Ode to a Donut

I've decided to live for awhile off the capital of the physical activity I did at the beach last week by starting every morning with a donut to go with my coffee. The coffee is there out of habit; I started drinking it in the hope it would improve mental alertness in the morning. It now serves mainly as an oral pacifier. It's especially useful during meetings because you can disguise inappropriate emotions (such as anger or laughter) with a sudden lurch towards the cup. A co-worker refers to coffee as his "morning Guinness" but that is a tremendous insult to the Dublin brewer.

But this donut thing is new and entirely different. I don't know much about donuts, never having much of a history with them, but let me tell you: they are good. I had a white-topped one today with cream filling and the juxtaposition of textures and the symphony of sweetnesses is something hard to describe. I nearly swooned at the scent of vanilla that was unexpectedly encountered just before taking a bite.

Needless to say, I'd better grab the jogging shoes.

Update: Bill Luse dashes cold water via email: "Some people don't realize that the risen dough of a doughnut (of the kind, anyway, that most people scarf like popcorn) is not baked, but fried in deep fat like french fries. I'd advise not thinking about that while you're eating them."

posted by TSO @ 18:41

Poem from a Nun

The Divine Poet

As she read,
she was simply ecstatic
"Shakespeare", she said
"it's a sonnet."
Words he had penned so long ago
And to this day
They overflow.

So rich this man's words -
They intoxicate,
Like rich liqueur defies the taste
Filled with the echo
of God's Grace.

But now,
not of Shakespeare
do I wish to speak -

I think of the
One Word
that speaks of Peace.

This Word,
as you may have already guessed
Was uttered but once,
One word, not a line -
Uttered by God, the Poet Divine
This Word is His Son
and this Word is now mine.

- Sister Mary of the Holy Spirit, O.P. via Disputations

posted by TSO @ 16:12

A Click Away

via Half-baked 'taters

posted by TSO @ 15:39

PKD & Artist Types

Bone and I were discussing and recussing Phillip K. "Don't Call Me..." Dick and his rather tragic end. Artists and poets tend to live short miserable lives often marred by addictions and mental illness. I finished the Oscar Wilde story and his end was likewise inglorious. For my lack of true creativity, thank you God. (Although thanking God for that which does not personally ail me, when it ails my brother, seems weak. Thanking Him for the gift of life and his life he offers all of us - those are treasured and savored.)

How long you live is obviously no indication of goodness but it is interesting that non-fiction writers live longer than fiction writers and fiction writers live longer than poets. Writers of non-fiction, it seems, have to go outside themselves. They have to do research and the job uses less of the right side of the brain. Poets tend to go inside themselves and use primarily the right brain.

Walker Percy blamed the short lives of poets on a "re-entry" problem; artists leave the world and receive a creative high in their poetry and when they return to the seemingly mundane they have trouble readjusting. This was the problem Ignatius Reilly of "Confederate Dunces" had in prayer. After spending time with Jesus, your neighbor can seem a letdown if that prayer wasn't truly for God and was not infused with the desire for service.

posted by TSO @ 15:36

Quotes from Pearce's "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde"

On the delights of the Greek NT in prison:

Every morning, after he had cleaned his cell and polished his tins, Wilde began to read the Gospels afresh from a Greek Testament, a dozen or so verses every day. 'It is a delightful way of opening the day...Endless repetition, in and out of season, has spoiled for us the naivete, the freshness, the simple romantic charm of the Gospels...When one returns to the Greek it is like going into a garden of lilies out of some narrow and dark house.'
On the Blessed Sacrament:

..'Rome Unvisited' is shrouded in the imagery of masks. There is, however, a crucial and fundamental difference. Whereas physical masks can be lies or distortions which conceal the facts, metaphysical masks can be signs or sacraments which reveal the truth. As Wilde would state many years later, 'the truths of metaphysics are the truths of masks'. Thus in 'Rome Unvisited', the Pope, in elevating the consecrated host, 'shows his God to human eyes / Beneath the veil of bread and wine'. The Blessed Sacrament is a mask which shows God to the people. It is a veil that reveals.

posted by TSO @ 09:42

Hodge Podge of Discontinued Items...

Yahoo Headline says: "Court Allows 'Under God' on Technicality"

...God replied that he would allow the court to continue to exist, but not on technicality since His Mercy isn't a technicality.


Oscar Wilde's favorite Christian book was "The Imitation of Christ" when he was in his 20s and Dante's Divine Comedy when he was in his 40s (and in prison). Wilde ended up in poverty and his wife said that to give him money would only result in drunkenness and no work. I guess many writers (like Ham of Bone, whose unemployment stint resulted in three screenplays) need to have their back to the wall in order to work. I wonder how much art has been lost with the rise of the middle-class (and its attendent comforts). Not that I would trade.


Someone visted via the Google search:

"kathy shaidle jeff culbreath"

Something you're not telling us Jeff?

Who knew Newt was so busy?One of his reviews was for O'Reilly's "Those Who Trespass":

"It is a double-edged mystery with a clever New York detective and an attractive New York columnist, who, of course, fall for each other (actually told with more subtlety than I associate with O'Reilly). But the real entertainment is in the devastating description of television news and the maneuvering, commercial/careerist values, which dominate the profession."

Speaking of O'Reilly, I think he must be reading this blog. Yesterday he opined that Iraq will eventually have another blood-thirsty dictator because people get the government they deserve. Back here I suggested another thug may come to power but thugs are sane until proven insane, as Hussein was. Not that I'm taking any credit; pessimists will be proven right 70% of the time and are thus taking the easy way.


For Debate: Laura Ingraham is more attractive, truthful and fun than Ann Coulter.

Sent letter to the editor of our major metropolitan newspaper concerning recent frontpage headline that went, "Kerry Speaks Up For Middle Class". Used Reagan's line "there you go again" and said I was middle class and he wasn't speaking for me. The editor responded: "I was a bit surprised to see the headline yesterday morning. I've spoken with the headline writer about it. Kerry can claim to speak for anyone he wants to speak for, but the headline stated it as fact instead of a claim."

posted by TSO @ 08:59

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I am deeply grateful, gentlemen, but I think I've seen my name cheek to jowl with "horse's ass" just one time too many. -Bill Luse, on defenders asserting on Paul Cella's blog that Bill is not a horse's ass.

Cella had the right idea, which is: don't feed the troll. Sorry to see that TSO, Chris, Culbreath, and Mr Luse himself violated this good advice. - Commenter Scott, reflecting on the wisdom of responding to ad hominems.

TSO, Chris, and Culbreath often set bad examples. I was just following along. - William Luse, serving up his own ad hominem *grin*

I remember the first "hobby" headstone I saw - a golf bag and clubs - in a Catholic cemetery, of course. I would say, THAT was so important? except that I spend a lot of time on the 80 or so blogs I regularly visit. How does one engrave a picture of the Internet on a headstone? - Robert Wenson via email

There is a sense in which the spontaneous outpouring of emotion at the passing of President Reagan is a great sign of hope for our country. That millions of Americans awash in the world of shock-jocks, shopping malls, and MTV can still muster this much respect and gratitude is a good thing in itself. If I may be so bold, this proves once again that even Americans are monarchists at heart: we instinctively long for that benevolent patriarchal authority that is represented by men such as Ronald Reagan. Perhaps all is not lost. - Jeff of ECR

Absence makes the writer blog longer - Jeff of Curt Jester

My Father knows what I need and if I humble myself before Him (and perhaps even if I don't) He will provide it. However, if I do humble myself before Him, I will begin to recognize what I need, embrace it, and live the life of joy that comes from true service and true alignment with God's will. So long as I continue in my prideful way, I will fail to see anything and continue not to be able to separate my needs from my wants--and this way is purgatory here and hereafter. Directionless, waffling, pushed by every minor breeze. And as a son of the Living God, I do not need to accept that fate. Instead I can claim my inheritance by relying upon His grace. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

The question shouldn't be, is there a rule against premarital sex in the New Testament or isn't there. It's, 'can a premarital sexual relationship image the love and faithfulness of Christ?' - Camassia

What comes after the good old-fashioned Catholic statement, "We have the Real Presence and Protestants don't."... "Ha ha!" is good old-fashioned Catholic triumphalism, and perfectly ridiculous when frankly expressed. "So what?" is religious indifferentism, and completely incompatible with a Catholic understanding of the Blessed Sacrament. "Let's pretend they have It." is religious liberalism, and fundamentally incompatible with a Catholic understanding of the Sacraments. "Let's give It to them." is, as standing policy, to seek a great good at the expense of a much greater good. "Oh no!" is, I think, a suitable reaction when you think about what, or rather Who, the Eucharist really is, and what it means to receive Holy Communion, and what it means to be unable to receive It. - Tom of Disputations

I had a consolation! (small "c"). I realized that being as overweight I am is actually conserving on WATER consumption! I don't have to fill the tub with hot water nearly as much as I had to when I weighed 130#! So. See? There's always a bright side! - Alexa of "Domestic Excellence"

Most things remind me of Belloc sooner or later, and Dvorâk does, unmistakably. Why? Perhaps it is the delicious mix of pathos and frivolity in his art - that, and his ability to drink everyone else under the table... - Basia me, Catholica sum (Kiss Me, I'm Catholic)

I remember reading an interview with Barney Frank in the Post a few months back in which he said that if you engage in political tactics that feel really, really good, it's probably not the right approach. - Patrick Rothwell on Disputations

They're being seeker-friendly at the cost of feeding the sheep they already have. And, to be honest, few seekers I've met are really interested in a church that has a rock-climbing wall. - Robert of Hokie Pundit on the tendency of some churches to go a little overboard

posted by TSO @ 11:14

June 16, 2004

My Precious

I tend to make purchases in $10-15 increments (i.e. books) so these bookends are out of my comfort zone price-wise. But I'm a sucker for artistic representations of the choice between good and evil, like the Bird Girl of Savannah. They are bracing images.

posted by TSO @ 09:07

You Better Not Think...

They say the way to ruin your golf game is to think about your swing. And while that might not perfectly mirror the spiritual, Peter Kreeft makes a great point in his "Yes or No?" book using the Socratic method he favors:

Sal: Aren't we supposed to be thinking about our consciences, our sins?

Chris: Only to repent and confess and then to forget. If we keep thinking about how well we're doing, we won't do well. And we'll get into the trap of thinking one of three unhappy thoughts: either we'll think we're doing really well, and start feeling proud and self-satisfied and self-righteous, or we'll think we're doing badly and start feeling depressed and self-hating or despairing, or we'll think we're not particually good or bad, and start feeling bored and wishy-washy.

Sal: What's the way out? Those sound like the only three alternatives.

Chris: To stop thinking about ourselves so much. To forget ourselves and think about God and other people instead. That's heavenly.

posted by TSO @ 08:59

RR Revisited

George Weigel on the Pope & the President:

Yuri Andropov, no fool, knew that the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope was very bad news for the Soviet external empire and the Soviet Union itself; he set in motion operations that led, eventually, to the assassination attempt on John Paul in May 1981. But John Paul's "soft power" revolution had a chance for success because of the "hard power" context in which it unfolded throughout the 1980s: the rearmament of the West on which Reagan insisted and the robust ideological challenge that Reagan (who also survived a 1981 assassination attempt) mounted. Neither the Pope's soft-power revolution nor Reagan's hard-power challenge could have done the job by itself. Each needed the other. Together, they provided the keys to victory. Without formal coordination, even without very much discussion between the principals, Reagan and John Paul pursued, with astonishing success, parallel courses toward the same end: the defeat of Communism and the restoration of east-central Europe to freedom.
Steven F. Hayward on comparisons between Reagan and Churchill:
Despite Reagan's improving reputation since leaving office, this comparison will strike many as a stretch. This tells us more about how political life at the highest level is thought about today than it does about Reagan — or Churchill. Churchill's most popular biographer, William Manchester, employed as a hortatory theme the viewpoint that Churchill was "the last lion" — the last man of superlative virtue and courage, whose supreme greatness shall never be seen again on the human stage. Manchester attributes Churchill's greatness precisely to the extent to which Churchill was a Victorian anachronism in 1940, just as even some of Reagan's own senior staff and public admirers see him as an American anachronism.

Of course all of us are powerfully affected by our environment, yet the case of Churchill and Reagan offers a decisive refutation to the historicist premise that human beings and human society are mostly corks bobbing on the waves of history. Churchill and Reagan prompt this question: Given that both had numerous capable contemporaries from similar environments, why were they virtually alone in their particular insights and resolves? The answer must be that they transcended their environments as only great men can do, thereby bending history to their will. The political philosopher Leo Strauss wrote of Churchill: "A man like Churchill proves that the possibility of megalofuxia [greatness of soul] exists today exactly as it did in the fifth century B.C."

Reagan would resist being called our last lion; to those conservatives dispirited that there can never be another Ronald Reagan (forgetting that so many thought there could never be a Ronald Reagan in the first place), Reagan would say: Of course there can. To borrow from his first inaugural address, you "just don't know where to look."

posted by TSO @ 21:17

June 15, 2004

italicized lists

It appears that the talented Lee Ann Morawski has left the building, or at least lacks a computer and the capability of blogging. A shame.

There seems a kind of poetry in simply listing one's ephemera, if it be neither too obscure or too familiar. In the niche between the two lives a liveliness:

I am very likely to read the traffic cone orange Assyriology books, the vintage 50’s mystery novels, the economic theories of Adam Smith and Alexander Hamilton, and the collected works of Shakespeare auf Deutsch in Fraktur. My poetry shelf is breaking. I finally unpacked my stereo and can assure you that a house is not a home without the following: Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Boston Tea Party, Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quartet Live in Australia 1954, Smetana’s Ma Vlast, Gin Blossom’s New Miserable Experience, and The Ramones Ramones Mania. The Mavericks’ Trampoline is handy and so is all the Cake you can stand, but the CDs mentioned above are required. Cardboard makes your whole place smell funny. Beer tastes good.

posted by TSO @ 13:55

go figure

In the history of blogdom I doubt there has ever been, or will ever be, a blog as well-named as "Disputations". My jaw slackened and grazed the floor while reading commenters musing on whether St. Peter's denial of Christ wasn't a sin.

Tom doesn't miss fat pitches, so you'll have to see his replies. More happens in his comment boxes before 9am than happens on most blogs all day long. I applaud the courage of those who make Light Brigade charges under the Disputation cannon fire. It's a narcotic entertainment.

Tom used a phrase I thought was oxymoronic: "High Church Methodists".

posted by TSO @ 09:41

Ham of Bone is reading a biography of writer Phillip K. Dick, whose work inspired "Minority Report" and "The Truman Show". A quote from "I Am Alive And You Are Dead - A Journey Into The Mind Of Philip K. Dick" by Emmanuel Carrere:

The concept of the Eucharist haunted Phil. He took completely to heart such expressions as 'whosoever eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood has eternal life.' To be able to say that a piece of bread is the body of Christ and have this piece of bread immaterially but incontrovertibly become the body of Christ seemed to him the greatest gift a man could receive, even though it was one that cannot be possessed. This was why it so saddened him when Bishop Pike renounced his ministry to start over in 'the private sector.' In The Man in the High Castle, Phil himself had celebrated - or at least had had his fictional double celebrate - the mystery of the Invisible Kingdom, albeit in a profane and inferior way, by depicting a world different from the one his contemporaries saw and holding this other world out as the true one. And in some mysterious way that neither Phil nor anyone else could prove, he was right.

"Phil continued to reproach himself for having committed the sacrilege of describing a negative Eucharist in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. He felt that in doing so he had empowered the evil demiurge...."

posted by TSO @ 07:53

Scammin' the Scammers

It's always a joy to receive unsolicited fictional writings from friends half-way across the world. So without further ado...



Dear Friend,

I am Mr. BASHIRU,the director in charge of auditing and accounting section Bank Of Africa(B.O.A) Ouagadougou Burkina-faso West Africa with due respect and regard. I have decided to contact you on a business transaction that will be very beneficial to both of us at the end of the transaction.

During our investigation and auditing in this bank, my department came across a very huge sum of money belonging to a deceased person who died on November 2000 in a plane crash and the fund has been dormant in his account with this Bank without any claim of the fund in our custody either from his family or relation before our discovery to this development....

Proposed Reply:

Dear Mr. BASHIRU (may I call you "Bash" for short?),

I thank you for your inquiry. I always enjoy the fine prose styles of those who con. Desperation makes the best writing don't you think?

You are in charge of both auditing and accounting. Isn't that a bit like the hen guarding the chicken house? Couldn't you just arrange for the bean counters to count creatively and then, as head of auditing, hold your palm out? That seems easier than trying to get money out of my pocket. But I don't want to tell you how to do your job. "I know nothing" (say like Sgt. Schultz).

You mention a deceased person having a large amount of dormant money, "U.S $20.2M (Twenty million two hundred thounsand United States dollars)" to be precise. Well I shouldn't have to tell you that twenty million doesn't go very far these days. Have you seen what they want for a Prada bag at the local mall? And have you been pricing beachfront property? Fuggedabout it.

To be honest, I wouldn't cross the street for thirty percent of twenty million. What you need to do is add some zeroes on that baby. I want to see your next note read, "U.S. 200.2 Trillion (Two hundred trillion twenty million United States dollars)". Or better yet "20.2 Fillion", which you will need to explain is a number so high that the United States government has not yet coined the term. Then you'll be talking. (I'd also bump up the percentage of the take to fifty percent; no reason to leave a sour taste in people's mouths. You get them to read that far you don't want to end on a low note.)

You're surely pinching yourself, amazed that I give this advice free of charge. I give and I give. However, if you found this advice helpful, please send money. This transaction is 100% risk free.

posted by TSO @ 14:24

June 14, 2004

My Heroes Have Always Been Converts

I'm fascinated by conversion stories, be they creed, politics or breakfast cereal. There's something very credible about someone who has moved from the "default" position; it implies they've learned something and grown. There is something credible in the fact that President Reagan was middle-aged before he became a conservative. There is something credible about formerly-staunch Calvinist Scott Hahn becoming a Catlicker. (By the way, the SC paper down there says a Calvinist in Savannah is someone who has a rear window decal with the boy peeing on a Chevy or Ford sticker...but I digress.) And there's something very credible this post, from a former liberal. I say all this with a tinge of sadness because I can't be a convert. I already have all the right religion and probably correct politics. But don't cry for me, Argentina! Now I must practice what I know to be true, the most difficult part.

posted by TSO @ 12:28

How Ronald Reagan Eased My Burden Saturday

Ronald Reagan will likely have a higher place in Heaven than me despite lacking the advantage of being Catholic and despite being divorced. He did too many good things while the camera was off; his charity appears to be much greater than mine and that is how we will be judged.

His divorce was something that bothered me back in the 80s. But over time I began to see how good someone could be despite having failed in that area. And this weekend, when I had to meet my stepson's father for the first time, I went in with negativity. But then it came: what if he were Reagan? Would I be so reluctant to shake his hand? Should forgiveness be extended only when it's not personal? And so it went smoothly, i.e. no fisticuffs...

posted by TSO @ 08:03


If you can say a prayer for Ham of Bone I'd appreciate it. His humor, if gallows, is still there - on a web forum he listed his occupation as: "i make withdrawls from my bank account".

Second, a powerful memory at this blog - the "Mr. French" Theme song! Hit the play button on the left side of her blog.

I did not know that Jeff Culbreath's printing business is struggling. See him if you work for an organization that needs printing. Jeff should've charged more for the handsome prayer books; a working man is worth his wage, and those books are worth more than we paid.

posted by TSO @ 20:05

June 13, 2004

Had occasion to go to a Commencement today and saw this poem in the program, from the Poet Laureate of OSU:

Pomp, circumstance, and other songs of a lifetime

If you're like me, you've got a big head,
not to mention a funny robe, full of music--
poems and melodies, the tunes
we move to, shower and shave by,
study, write to. Not just the incidental,

but the momentous music keeping time.
Our histories are measures of song,
Listen to your heart: drums of Africa,
sea-spume of blind, far-sighted Homer,
Sappho's honeyed love lyrics. Often,

music speaks for us, one note saying
a thousand words. Like Rodolpho
in Puccini's La Boheme, Sono un poeta.
I am a poet. Che cosa faccio? What
do I do? Scrivo. I write. This ceremony

is loud music--pomp and circumstance
of the life you began freshman year
or that first day of graduate school.
In my head I press Play, and the CD
of Big Days kicks on. I leap and linger

over moments too sweet, nearly, for words.
I'll never escape rhymes from the nursery.
Up above the world so high, like a diamond
in the sky. We knew from the start
our universe was aglow with wonder.


You're filled to overflowing with
the notes, the poems we've written
together. You know the score.
Continue to work hard for yourselves,
and one another. Find the ones who need

you to sing to, for them, in the world.
Graduates. this joyful litany, this hymn
our ancestors collaborated on with us,
the calling of your name today is music
to our ears. Sing that name proudly

- David Citino, Ohio State University Poet Laureate

posted by TSO @ 19:31

The local newspaper regularly makes mistakes. Recently a fellow who is very much alive was depicted in an obituary. Here is my parody of an imagined misque:

JournalNews Regrets Printing Error

On Friday, the JournalNews was delivered to 90% of our subscribers with entirely blank pages. While this is not technically an error, since nothing inaccurate can be printed on a blank page, it is still an embarrassment given that some depend on the JournalNews for timely information. A normal day's paper will include thirty to forty errors, all of which were avoided by Friday's blank newspaper. Still, the corrections column in tomorrow's newspaper will include the entire text of the omitted paper.

Although we have checks and balances to catch false information, we do not have checks and balances to catch blank newspapers. To remedy this, we've hired a special proof-reader who will check to make sure there is print on pages in the future.

posted by TSO @ 11:15

Vacational Postscript

Of the 20+ books I brought down with me, the ones I actually felt like reading included: a novel by Paul Theroux, "Kings of Infinite Space" novel, Victor David Hanson's "Soul of Battle" (about Sherman's campaign down south), Hahn's "Swear to God" and Pearce's "The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde". And of those, Pearce's book became the star, the only thing I read after Tuesday even though throughout I had a craving for something by Clive Cussler. Before I started this blog vacations were always a fecund time for writing so that post came by its length honestly. But partly I just wanted to see if I could write more words than Bill Luse in his comeback post.

posted by TSO @ 09:10

June 12, 2004

President Ronald Reagan, R.I.P.

Prompted by Steven Riddle's blog...

I think it's wonderful that so many are recognizing Pres. Reagan by waiting many hours to view the casket. The more I read about him the more I appreciate him - how deeply he loved Nancy (i.e. his recently published letters), how optimistic he was (given how easy it is to be pessimistic), and how deep his religious faith ran. A very remarkable man and worthy of imitation, he made tremendous contributions to America and the world by his strength of character. "How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life" by Peter Robinson and Peggy Noonan's "When Character Was King" are highly recommended. "God and Ronald Reagan : A Spiritual Life" by Paul Kengor looks interesting.

President Reagan and the Pope had such a close relationship - much closer than the Pope & either of the Bushes or Clinton. So I wonder if things would've gone differently in '91 if Reagan were in office when JPII came out against the Gulf War. I wonder if either man would've influenced the other concerning what to do about Iraq's incursion into Kuwait. Those "alternative history" books fascinate. So often history is impacted simply by the personalities of the heads of state involved, how they get along and how much they communicate with each other.

I recall thinking, "what a dreamer!" when he gave the "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech. I guess it turned out I was the dreamer, in thinking Communism could survive as a system.

posted by TSO @ 16:43

June 11, 2004

140 Years After Sherman
...another Ohioan goes South

Ze Flight

He’s in his early 20s, polite, well-groomed & well-dressed. In his hand is, yes, the DaVinci Code. The book has more lives than Bush has enemies. He apologizes needlessly for our getting up (he had the window seat). Sigh.

The plane lifts off and my wife notices what I’m doing.

“That’s an accident waiting to happen,” she says as I put a full cup of coffee in the seat pocket, balanced precariously between Skymall and the Delta magazine.

“That’s for sure,” I say, undeterred. She keeps an eye on the coffee and for the next ten minutes I take a perverse satisfaction, a vestige of Original Sin. I decide to remove it so as to avoid I told you so’s, having waiting long enough to have my own.

I notice that the requirements for those sitting in exit rows continue to grow more stringent with every flight. Someday there will be exams and physical tests to determine suitability. Standards for exit row husbandry grow while those in education and morality decline.

I can’t seem to get the '80s song “All You Zombies” out of my head, probably because I feel like one. 6 A.M. flights will do that. My fatigue is drug-like in its effect and I recall how my stepson once told me of a drug - peyote or something - that makes you feel really tired. I'm thinking, “why not just get early?”. It’s cheaper and I hear the rehab's a breeze.

Ze Arrival

Cardinal Newman once said that the man who confuses a feeling of physical well-being with any sort of internal goodness is a fool. The animal high spirits that a vacation engenders are of no merit. One runner said, “a good run makes you feel sort of holy” which is rot. The hell with feeling holy, I’d rather be holy. But I wonder if there’s a tendency to discount or diminish the natural even if it might serve the supernatural. If, after running five miles, I’m much more pleasant to be around, then I probably should run five miles often while not mistaking it for spiritual progress. God prefers to use natural means and it could mean that God led me to the book “The Joy of Running” and that I’m expected to use that. We are bodies, as well as souls. Johnny Cash used to sing, “Keep movin’ if you got the blues.” Good advice whether you got the blues or not I suspect.

I’m of two minds on bodily comforts. One is that it’s good to forgo them for the purposes of spiritual training. The other is that it is not my place to remove temporal supports, that that might be “tempting God” in the sense of asking him to do what I could, in a limited earthly sense, do for myself. Lent answers this question in the sense that there are seasons in which to purposely remove bodily comforts for spiritual training.

"They Say I’m Lazy But It Takes All My Time" - Joe Walsh

I read a line from a Paul Theroux novel and I think how true: “Far from making them seem like menials, these chores gave them an air of authority. Each time Ronda polished or dusted something, she seemed to be taking possession of it.” It’s usually when I’m mowing my grass that I not only become acquainted with the lay of my backyard landscape but feel a sense of ownership.

Another startling line from Theroux (which reminded me of Joseph Stalin, who was great with children but tortured his “friends”): “He was sentimental as well as sadistic - not so unlikely a combination of traits, a natural pair in fact.” It also recalled for me Flannery O’Connor’s line about how tenderness cut off from Christ leads to the gas chamber. And while I'm quoting: a Samuel Johnson line was remembered on the front page of today’s island newspaper: “I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am.”


A vacation is a weight-bearing instrument, sometimes buckling under the load. She bears the weight of months of numbness, the numbness induced by the auto-pilot life of regimentation. I read much of Joseph Pearce’s book on Oscar Wilde this week and Wilde wrote about the danger of jobs: “The evil that machinery is doing is not merely in the consequences of its work but in the fact that it makes men themselves machines also. Whereas we wish them to be artists, that is to say men." Pearce said Wilde words were prophetic and preceeded the code of the distributists several decades later. “His words could very easily be the utterances of Eric Gill, G.K. Chesterton, or Hilaire Belloc.” Wilde went on to say that art “must not begin in the scholar’s study not even in the studio of the great artist, but with the handicraftsman always. And by handicraftsman I mean a man who works with his hands; and not with his hands merely but with his head and his heart.”

I look from the balcony and the vista appears unreal. My doppelganger is here but I’m too enmeshed in the mundane to absorb this wonder, this massive ocean in front of me. I seek to confine its confines to what I can see - this stretch of beach and horizon - unaware that it goes and goes and goes. The priest began his sermon Sunday by telling us how Tillich began his theology classes. He’d say, “Who do you think of when you think about God?” (Pause.) “Everything you just thought was wrong. Too narrow. God is much more than we can conceive.”

We decided to fly this year because of a prior commitment on Friday and wanted to save time by avoiding the 12 hour drive there and back. But lacking this “down time” - the 12-hour trip to mellow and prepare - seems a loss. When we drive we hear music, we listen to books on tapes, we see the gorgeous mountains of North Carolina and the long, patience-testing plains of the Low Country in South Carolina. You arrive tired but your previous life is already half-way shelved, you are already in the zone of being “ready for surprise”. A jet flight is so quick you bring your troubles with you, like going to Heaven without Purgatory.


Mass Sunday at Holy Family. A gigantic crucifix hangs behind the altar and I don’t remember that being there in ‘01 when I last visited. It’s so big that I can see the blood on Christ’s knees from almost the back of church and the huge wood of the cross extends so far below His feet that it gives an odd feeling of superfluity, as if to show his sacrifice so extraneous and generous that it extends far beyond what mere utility would proscribe.

Before the final blessing the priest says, “I don’t like to embarrass anyone but I did notice that Scott Hahn and his family are here today” and then he thanked Scott and talked about how the parish is involved in a bible study on the book of Romans and that his commentary is being used. I lingered after Mass and watched a small group gather around Scott to shake his hand and speak of how inspired they were. “I’ve listened to all your tapes,” said one man. I didn’t introduce myself, thinking I had nothing to say that he hasn’t heard before, in fact nothing unique from what that man had just said. Also this wasn’t a book-signing, it was Mass. My wife - who I can usually out-cynic in a New York minute but not this time - said, “but we pay his salary” (interesting use of the word “we” but that’s another story). Suffice it to say Scott deserves his privacy. It was about seven years ago, before I’d ever heard of Scott Hahn, when another priest on this island introduced him before the final blessing, unstinting of his praise of him. I recall thinking, “who the heck is Scott Hahn?” and wishing the encomium were truncated. It was about six months later when I found “Rome Sweet Home” and recalled the priest’s introduction. I think it ironic that I’d brought his latest “Swear to God” and would be reading it within a few miles of where the author was staying.

On to the beach! Foreward ho!

Another run on the beach and my legs are so fresh and the surface so giving that my arms can scarcely keep up. This will not last, but I’m enjoying it while it does. By nightfall I feel more torn up than a defeated bull rider. I feel every muscle but the joy of movement lives. I've gained the athlete’s economy of motion and there is a small pleasure in sitting or getting up, in walking or standing.

Midway through the second day’s run I can feel my quadriceps begin to give out and the surrounding muscles are compensating - which isn’t good in the “long run” because they will eventually fail since they weren’t meant for forward locomotion though very helpful in the short run. I do feel a tinge in the groin, never a good sign. Muscles not meant to carry the load will do so uncomplaining only for awhile. A possible analogy: During the 50s the clericalism caused the Church to rely too heavily on priests for her forward progress. But when they gave out under the strain, the laity not only did not compensate but joined the ruin.


I notice that the roofs on the hotels look like pagodas. The beach is emptying as we linger late in the afternoon, kissing early the eve. A storm visited and left a debris of driftwood and chilly temps. But here at half-past six the sun still has palette enough to paint her warmth upon us. The unblemished sand lies billiard-smooth, its magic dust reflecting a hatchery of pointillistic lights stretching to the breaker of grass and thistle where the rabbits hide. A strange - if human thing - is to attempt to preserve or extend time by writing it down.

Eating is something of a chore now, something to be sandwiched (pun pretended) between reading, swimming, running, biking. When it’s dark there’ll be plenty of time to eat. A 90-year old disabled person I know says that meals on one of her few remaining joys.

Marsh grasses lip the dunes and small crabs locomote distinctly. My wife is nearly finished with a book I’d borrowed from the library for myself, James Hyne’s “Kings of Infinite Space”. I started reading it on day one and found it unpalatable. I don’t want to read about work on the beach.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t keep an eye on cultural concerns here. The local legislature apparently passed a law requiring all women under the age of 30 to wear really small bikinis. Coverage here is receding faster than a balding man’s hairline. This “modesty” was presaged by a lean girl wearing a T-shirt that exclaimed: “Objects under this shirt are larger than they appear”. They walk the beach like aristocrats. Hopefully this post is long enough to discourage everybody except the terminally bored or those who might profit from it (they may overlap). Towards furthering the latter (at the risk of offering something that is obvious), here is a quote from the Pope in “Love and Responsibility”: “The sexual urge in man is a fact which he must recognize and welcome as a source of natural energy - otherwise it may cause psychological disturbances. The instinctive reaction in itself, which is called sexual arousal, is to a large extent a vegetative reaction independent of the will, and failure to understand this simply fact often becomes a cause of serious sexual neuroses.”

Tuesday in Paradise

the sea
A lapidarist works
with sound effects
and egrets have no regrets.

At Mass today they sang a hymn which I can’t recall now but with words significantly altered to avoid the loathed male pronoun. But not just “God’s love” instead of “His love”, which is understandable, but actual changes to the meaning just to avoid the whole subject. It ruins the song for me and I suppose it will for most of my generation except ardent feminists. (In a perfect world I would be lobbying for gender neutral songs and women would lobby for the classical renditions, but alas..) On the bright side the young who haven’t heard the song will hear this new rendition untainted. Our generation will pass soon enough and it will make little difference.

As a youth I loved the song “Praise the Lord, ye Heavens Adore Him”. I loved that the moon, sun and stars became animated in their praise of God. The words were completely changed in the song “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus” and I cannot approach it with anything close to objectivity. It was satisfying to hear the original words sung at our wedding. They couldn’t find the lyrics and I knew only the first verse by heart but fortunately I was able to find it in my library, in a 1970 hymnal I’d picked up at a garage sale for a quarter.


The foliage-draped paths are restorative. The beach inheres restlessness with the wind and the call of the surf and the wilding of the blood. The quiet bike paths are antipodal and soothe, creped with hanging moss and shade trees and dappled sun. I am the coxswain of peace:

ridin’ to a trance
like the dance
of the natives in Dineson’s book.

Spanish moss dances with dendrites
ghost ghasts hag the trees.


I hold the door for Scott Hahn after leaving morning Mass. I don’t think I consciously arranged that. Honest. But in a celebrity culture I suppose the best we can boast of is to trade up: J-Lo for Scott Hahn. My wife keeps nagging me to talk to him so I decide that better than talking to him I’ll see if I can arrange to be blessed by him. I’ll just sit behind him and greet him at the Sign of Peace. Would I not kick myself if he were canonized some day? Stranger things have happened and I suspect he’s farther down that path than most of us.


We saw a figure walking down the beach who looked like Jesus. He had the beard and long flowing locks, was carrying a bible in one hand and a stole in the other and wore the long white robe. Pretty well-done. My wife wants a picture so I go up to him and ask if I can take one and he says sure. He said his name was James Joseph and that he travels around like a missionary. He was featured on 20/20. I told him I saw him at Holy Family and he asked if I knew they had Eucharistic Adoration 24-7 there. I did not. He said that Mother Teresa said she got her energy from the Eucharist.


Ideally vacations, like movies, allow you to suspend disbelief by making you think “this is my life now”. When you’re a kid, this isn’t a problem; a week to a ten year old feels like a month to an adult. I wonder where the line is. I’ve never gone on more than a nine-day vacation so have never had the opportunity to really go in believing “this is my life now”, a belief that eradicates a sense of urgency, that “if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium” mentality.

We don’t go to the beach, we take it - like the forces at Normandy but with more planning. Like gypsies we follow the tide but when she rolls out she creates long supply lines and logistical nightmares, the bedevilments of generals before us. Our base camp is far to the North now; to retrieve a beer requires a long hike across hostile territory in the form of hot sand and flying balls. The base camp consists of an extra chair, an umbrella, a cooler of beer, pop and water, seven or eight or nine books, a cigar and a lighter, a watch and earplugs, a walkman, a beach towel, tennis shoes, a sheet and a cast of thousands more.

Even longer supply lines lead to the condo - mondo distance away…


On the beach at night
in the utter darkness you can’t see but don’t fear
There’s nothing to bump into.


The waves are scattered with catamarans
skiffs that skate the sea’s surface.

Galloping steeds of surf
send armies along the coast
a vigil motion omnipresent
with water having salt
tasted but not seen.

In the haste to tick of the ToDos - groceries and bike rental on day one - I told my wife I’d take care of the latter. Two days later I noticed the sin of my haste - the rental car must’ve gotten scratched during the loading of the bike into the too-smallish trunk. And so we await the verdict from the Enterprise jury as to its severity and our expense.

A sense of constantly being responsible is one of the things vacations are meant to escape, as long as that responsibility is not of a moral nature. Given a key to our place without a keychain didn’t set off any alarm bells but it should have. It was lost in the afterglow of a two-hour bike ride.

Pearce writes that Wilde had the “wisdom of foresight which is the mark of prophecy”. On a trip to America Wilde said that “everybody seems in a hurry to catch a train.”

“This is a state not favorable to poetry or romance. Had Romeo or Juliet been in a constant state of anxiety about trains or had their minds been agitated by the question of return-tickets, Shakespeare could not have given us those lovely balcony scenes which are so full of poetry and pathos.” Well I’m feeling some self-pathos for the rental car situation.

Wilde called America “the noisest country that ever existed” and this was before the days of leaf blowers and gas-powered hedge clippers.


Clutch & grasps he at the extended hours
catching waves that never felt the human touch
grasps too the shrieking bird
talon’d fish a shish-kebob.


I like to get to the beach early
and bow to the unexpired day
By noon fed by prose and doze
By four on waves and haze.
Days’ consecutive don’t break my ardor
but gathers like the sea.

Day Five

One hopes to find some “action items” as “take aways” from down here, if you’ll forgive that brazen bizness-speak. I hope I take more long, leisurely runs. I’m certainly not in good enough shape. Swimming, biking and running down here are exhausting, and I never realized how in shape you have to be to have fun. Running, to be really useful, should be at least forty minutes long and that’s a stretch for me, a once-a-week effort. Once a week does not a habit make. Note to self: get in shape for the beach next time. My wife tells me of her co-workers who are triathletes, running 26 miles and biking 50 and swimming who knows how long. They are strange beings from another planet to me.

It’s day five and my previous writings look like feverous drivel. I look out at my “co-workers” on the beach and some of the faces are familiar now. Ralph McInerny wrote that he built a beautiful study at his house with large windows overlooking a golf course and sharp built in floor-to-ceiling book shelves but that, in the end, a study is a study and the environment matters little when your face is a few inches from a computer screen all the time you’re there.

But it’s different I think with this beach, my “study” for this week. The room at the hotel is infiltrated with shade and faux coolness and newspapers but most of all enclosure, that amputation of the sky, that which appears as a huge basin or, as Oscar Wilde put it: "clouds are the only thing unchanged from the beginning and they remind me of Renaissance paintings”.

One could have worse studies. The shock of reading under the quintilliant (if it ain't a word, it should be) sun at noon reminds me why we’re here. It all becomes clear after assuming the horizontal position. In the condo we bravely say that we’re ready to go back home. But when supine before the truth of the sky's majesty and beauty we remember why we came but also why we don’t want to leave.

It is interesting that one can’t get from here to there - i.e. feel like I do on Day 5 on day 2. I’m speaking of getting to the more sanguine, laizze-faire, sang-froid, “how many cliches can I sling” sort of attitude. You can’t hurry love. Technique is effected when the heart is changed.


Reluctantly, I sit behind Scott Hahn today at Mass today. Directly behind him would be too obvious so there’s a row between us. At the Sign of Peace he didn’t shake my hand but half-turned and smiled reticently, if that’s not an oxymoron. His child (maybe eight) raised his hand in blessing towards me and I felt like here was my blessing, the one I didn’t ask for and the one from who’d I had ignored. And it finally occurred during Mass to pray for Hahn, and for his apostolic endeavours, so there’s progress in that.


One feels keenly the sense of loss when the end approaches. The sun, the dying Gaul, stands in the Western sky as we turn our back from mother ocean that we might have the company of the Gaul. A week at the beach seems insufferably long given the Spartan entertainments of just book and radio and exercise. But it passed surpassingly fast and now we cast a gimlet eye at the prospect of that last mourning, a half-day at the beach, a grotesque centaur at which we stare at in disbelief, so fast went this second-to-last day.

A final bike ride. In the patches of sky in the dappled-noon schwarzwald I catch glimpses of the past. Was that my best friend’s father’s car? Are we on a camping trip to Lake Hope?

Back to the beach. There’s 1985 music on one station. It sings the truth - that I’ve become my father. His music stopped in 1958 and mine around ‘85. Did they make a bad song in ‘85 or is it just me? A couple Pale Ales serve as consolation and fortification for leaving this brine of sea, set in equal part salt as my own blood. Why do vacations open the trap door of memory so readily, music or not? Nabakov and Proust are good company, in their seeing something in the past worth recovering. I decide that the mass of men lead quiet last half-hours of desperation on vacations. But one can no more hold back time than the tide.

And so tomorrow the lifeguard will perform her umbrellic rituals again. And the turtles big as canned hams will pee on someone else when they carry him to safety. And the birds will go about their business as the rabbits will theirs and so. must. we.

Wash, waves, wash
in your climbing cliffs
and thunderous crashes!

posted by TSO @ 15:41

Dr. No's

A local Protestant minister has a radio show and he performs bits about a fictional character called "Daryl Deacon" who finishes every rant with "...This is Daryl Deacon, and I'm agin' it!".

In this political season blogs are more comfortable being agin' it than for something. But the flip side of conservatism should be a sense of gratitude. We are comfortably middle class but even poor Americans are well-off relative to large parts of the world and well-off compared to all who have ever lived. My complaints about my job are as foolish as the leftist who sees America as the root of all evil. In fact I am to my job what Michael Moore is to America. I was also recently "convicted" of my reluctance to really appreciate and honor the ultimate sacrifices made for us over Memorial Day.

I think if we're not careful reading blogs can make us ungrateful and chronically dissatisfied. The glass is always half-empty and moving towards three-fourths empty. We grow relentlessly critical of ourselves, of our neighbors, of our country, of our world and the net effect - I'm speaking for myself - is not an awareness of the goodness of God or his creation. The net effect is that our joy is robbed by our refusal to be patient. We are not little children, we are unpaid societal critics.

Railing against political candidates is easiest of all. That no one can live up to our standard or what we perceive God's standard to be is a given, and there's a certain cache of sophistication to say "I dislike both candidates." It's becoming passe to stand for any candidate, flaws and all. It's embarrassing. Like patriotism.

posted by TSO @ 14:27

June 4, 2004

'Round the World in 80 posts

Roger Simon - screenwriter, award-winning crime novelist, and now blogger. It's interesting to me that those who already write for a living still have a yen to blog. I'd always considered the blog the other way around - a recompense for those who don't write for a living.

PJ O'Rourke, tongue in cheek, wants us to take our ball and go home: "The benefits will be immediate. We can cut $300 billion from our defense budget. This will be almost enough to pay for the aging baby boomers' prescription drug benefits, which can now include Levitra, Botox and medicinal cannabis. America will enjoy cleaner air and less traffic congestion as oil goes to $200 a barrel due to chaos in the Middle East. A U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East will cause chaos, of course. Then again, a U.S. intervention in the Middle East has caused chaos already."

On art as descriptive: "Cubism disturbs us not because it is abstract: it is descriptive. If it were abstract, we could let go, relax, be moved. But Picasso and Braque were not abstract painters, and cubism claims not to be beautiful, but true. It takes seriously the avowed aim of every painter since the Renaissance to depict the world as it is."

John Updike on writing: “Writing is a way of taming the world, turning the inchoate, often embarrassing stream into a package...[Writing] makes the world seem more real."

Updike appears to have great self-control despite writing about adultery and sexual perversions with relish and seeming experience (oh isn't that what they said about Greeley?).

Historian and best-selling wise man Paul Johnson writes in the WSJ: "Unlike Montgomery in 1944, who never underestimated the German genius for counterattack, and made provision against it, the allies this time did not study and prepare for the peculiar Arab genius for counterattack, which is to carry out prolonged and vicious guerilla warfare, completely disregarding human life, including their own. Moreover they did not study and prepare for the difficulties of meeting this form of counterattack against the political background of a free society at home, reacting nightly to what it sees on TV, and reading highly critical reports from the front written by journalists who have their own opinions and agendas and feel under no obligation to pursue the war (and peace) aims of the allied commanders. Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair are currently suffering from their lack of provision and foresight. Given patience and determination, all will be well in time: Democracy and the rule of law will grow in the Middle East, and the roots of terrorism will be destroyed. But we are learning, once again, that the lessons history has to teach are inexhaustible and that statesmen should never plunge into the future, as we did in Iraq, without first examining what guidance the past could supply."

Terry Teachout teaches lessons learned from an illness: "Did I learn anything from being out of the loop for six whole days? We’ll see. I can’t honestly say it was fun—I felt crappy, after all—but there were moments when I caught a glimpse of how it might feel to put down the reins and really take some time off. I’m no good at that, but I’m trying to become so."

posted by TSO @ 16:20

June 3, 2004

The Air and Water Diet

So I was standing in line waiting for something called the "Mexican Sizzlin' Salad", a welcome conglomeration of chicken, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese served in a large tortilla bowl. There appeared to be two stacks of tortilla shells with a sign that offered a "low carb" option.

My wife's on something called "The South Beach Diet" and we joke that I'm on the "North Beach Diet" - lots of bread, cereals, and alcohol. So I thought what the heck, I'll try the low carb option today. Those shells looked pretty darn similar to me and there's no use in useless carbs. So when it was my turn I quietly asked for the low carb edition.

Well it turns out the low carb edition looks awfully similar to the no carb edition. They simply proffer you no shell. I believe in duty, God and country but not in changing an order and thus making people behind me suffer for my change of mind, so I grimaced and bore it. I know y'all are impressed.

As I move away the very overweight woman behind me is speaking loudly for my benefit: "I'll have the FULL carb. None of that low carb stuff for me." Cruelty thy name is woman.

I understand the cafeteria's offering a new low-carb drink. It's called water.

posted by TSO @ 15:09

Bone's Story

Speaking of the regenerative aspects of vacation, just how regenerative is a sabbatical? That's what Ham of Bone had for the past year and I could wish he were a blogger who would give - in the immortal words of Cincinnati talk show host/raconteur Willie Cunningham - "a full report". How can I live it vicariously when Bone's so niggardly with the play-by-play?

Long-time readers and first time callers will recall the saga of Ham of Bone. Smart guy and a hard-worker, Bone got caught looking for another job and was given the axe and has exhausted the unemployment compensation. He's now really looking for a job.

Part of the lure of sabbaticals, voluntary or otherwise, is they unfracture time, unparcelling it and altering its "if it's Tueday and 4:30 I'm doing this" quality. Vacations also restore the senses, especially the sense of sight which is always the first to go. I drive to work and most days couldn't tell you one thing I saw. Worse, I can eat dinner with my wife and never really see her. Hearing, smell, taste and touch seem a bit more insulated from the ravages of art-poor living.

I sense that renewal is a process, not an event. When I catch myself engaging in negative emotions it's usually because of a faulty world view. If I'm discouraged it's insufficient belief in God's power. If I feel self-pity, it's due to a sense of entitlement and presumption. If I'm hurt, it's often pride. Angry, anger. Lustful, lust. Not exactly brain surgery but no one equates goodness with intelligence. This is not to say we should be emotionless robots but I do wonder at the negative emotions as a symptom of something else.

But back to Bone. His year had much to show for it. Three screenplays, lots of quality time with the children (I can't speak to quality time with the wife) and lots of reading. He says the year went by fast and I don't doubt it did. I'd always wanted to save up money and take a year off work but by the time I saved up the requisite money I realized two things:

a) a year is to a 30-year old what 3-months is to a 15-year old. In other words, time speeds up as you age in sensation though not in reality and this cheapens the value of a year off.

b) one looks askance at the idea of needlessly devastating the nest egg. See Albert Brooks' "Lost in America" for details.

Thoreau cautioned the poet against waiting to retirement to begin his art, but you gotta eat too. Can you have your art and eateth too? I guess if you own a blog!

posted by TSO @ 14:15

Beachy Goodness

Please excuse a certain amount of giddiness as I approach the upcoming week at the beach. I look forward to it for possible regenerative possibilities both bodily and spiritual because I hope to do some spiritual reading on the trip between the long sandy runs. The "Hope Springs Eternal" department sees to it that I always bring Love and Responsibility along and it bears the scars. It got soaked by seawater one summer, victim of a rising tide. Fortunately the pages didn't stick together so it's still readable.

Good intentions often suffer. A tendency to save the best for last can be self-destructive. Perhaps I should save O'Reilly's "Those Who Trespass" for last this time.

Because I tend to be more monogamous in my reading habits during vacations, trips often become bonded in my mind to a certain book. For example, Sanibel Island reminds me of Russell Kirk's "Sword of Imagination". The Caribbean cruise calls forth Roth's "The Human Stain". A vacation to Hilton Head back in '89 reminded me of a book about the three popes of 1978 and explored Pope John Paul I's mysterious death. There's anticipation in wondering what this year's book will be.

Apropos of nothing, but it occurs to me how tremendously well nature parallels the spiritual world, not surprising given God created both. And not just the dying and rebirth as shown in the seasons but also the parallel of trust a child has for his father. This is exactly the same trust we must cultivate for God. The child hears for the first time about sex, for example, and it's not intuitive that this activity would bring great joy. But the parent explains despite the child's protestations to the contrary that sex is fun. The child's experience is that the opposite sex is yucky and thinks this sort of clinical procedure can be ruled out as fun apriori. And yet...the father is proven right.

Note to Bill Luse: be careful what you wish for. I've decided to let loose with a torrent of posts today so that you'll have a lot to read while I'm gone. *grin*


Watched part of the library-rented "Gangs of New York" Scorsese film because I was curious about the recreation of the infamous Five Points era of 1850s New York City. I'm a sucker for period pieces and I'd read a book about the Five Points so there was a natural interest there. Not to mention that Irish connection since so many of the residents were Irish immigrants. It's a bracing antidote to sepia-tinged nostalgia - the inhumanity is startling.

I recently read "The Human Stain" and it's such a surprise to read about someone who wants to so utterly define themselves outside of race and religion. There are those who want nothing to do with their heritage and I can't understand that. If I fall into any of the positive stereotypes of my background I rejoice because it gives a sense of belonging - I'm a member of this group because I've been gifted with this trait. Any negative stereotypes of a heritage are also good because it lessens culpability and allievates some personal responsibility. And I'm all for that for me of course. Don't try that at home.

posted by TSO @ 13:30

She Said What?

Al Gore's former campaign manager, Donna Brazille, recently said that if the Dems lose this election they'll be wandering in the wildnerness forever.

I really don't understand that. If they lose this election, they'll still have their shining star in Hilary Clinton for '08. The Republicans will be left with who? Mayor Guliani? Schwarzneggar? No way, not given their pro-death stance. The Republican party will fracture if it tries to elect a pro-abort politician. Not to mention that the demographics all favor the Democrats in the years ahead.

Regardless, this election looks more and more dire. But perhaps the media will get Bush re-elected. How's that? Maybe the elite media will overreach in its hatred of Bush and create a sympathetic backlash.

posted by TSO @ 10:49

Drawing Lines

It seems as though what is so obviously "over the top" in regard to letters like the one sent by the leader of Human Life International is in the eye of the beholder, sort of like pornography. To call that letter heavy-handed is like saying Idi Amin was just grumpy. (Not to be sarcastic.) But is not the spirit with which something is composed important too, and not just the message itself? Is satire often wrong because it is by its nature ridiculing? A NYT review of a recent book had it: "One of the unexpected depths of this book is the real moral grappling with satire itself, the way it demeans and wounds, as well as enlightens and amuses." Personally, I didn't find the sarcasm in this letter all that funny. (To be honest, if the brilliant but deadly Rev. George Rutler had written Nancy Pelosi I'd probably have more trouble knocking it...) About the best you can say is that it refutes Yeats' line about the "best lacking all conviction", at least in the sense that this Reverend is defending "the best" - children who are being murdered. It does seem as though he undermines his own argument by saying that her letter manifested an "utterly infantile understanding of the Catholic Faith" which means that her culpability is lessened, unless that infantile understanding is willed.

Here is the original:

My rewrite:

Dear Congresswoman Pelosi,

Thank you for clarifying for all U.S. Catholics the meaning of the word "apostasy." Your May 10 letter to Cardinal McCarrick qualifies for what the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines as the "total repudiation of the Christian faith" (§2089). That, by the way, is a document you may wish to consult before writing another letter to a prince of Christ's Church.

Not only did your letter manifest an utterly infantile [incomplete] understanding of the Catholic Faith-the Blessed Sacrament is properly called the Eucharist, not the "sacrament of holy communion," please-it was intellectually dishonest in the extreme. Your lip service paid to the teaching office of the bishops while knifing [undermining] their authority in the back is a treachery that deserves the scathing contempt of every honest person, Catholic or otherwise.

You have lost your faith. Just admit it. One either accepts the hierarchy of truths and the hierarchy of authority, or she doesn't. You obviously don't. In such case by continuing to call yourself Catholic you are gambling with the most precious of all birthrights, your own soul; and it's yours to lose. I can understand that it is not politically correct to care about your immortal soul-prescription drug benefits are more popular in Washington-but at least have the decency not to make the souls of others "twice as fit for hell" as you. Have you forgotten about the millstone? The Lord delivered that image to another group of sophisticated public officials who scandalized the weak in faith.

All those who dare call themselves Catholic while shamelessly advocating the death of Christ's "least brethren" will not have the Supreme Court to appeal to on the Day of Judgment. There is a Supreme Judge that you should be more concerned about. However, He obliges no one to remain in the Catholic Church. Membership is, above all, a free "choice." The door of the Church that opens wide to welcome every repentant sinner swings both ways. In the Name of Jesus, use it and spare the rest of us your perversity.

I hold out hope that some day you will see the light and want to reconcile with the Church you have so brazenly betrayed. If so, call me. I will hear your confession. But get ready to do some serious penance.

posted by TSO @ 07:39

Graves Ain't What They Used To Be

There were pictures in the local paper today featuring the latest in tombstone fashions. And it depressed me. Lots of Dale Earnhardt stones and favorite pro sports team monuments and carved likenesses of yourself with the message "Ken's Gone Fishin'".

It depresses me because worse than death is to trivialize death. And I long - nay ache - for centuries past when their stones shared a favorite verse of Scripture. A whole lifetime summed up in a verse. (I'm currently liking "by His stripes we are healed".) It's cool to think that you can speak to people even on your tombstone, maybe have some influence. It certainly is more dignified, perhaps because our relation to God is what gives us dignity. Not our hobbies. I think that's why it's sickening to me to see Earnhardt etched in marble, it just seems an absurd reduction, a waste.

I don't think about Heaven much for a couple reasons. One is that it likely won't be my first stop (i.e. see Purgatory) and I have a tendency to focus on the next leg of the journey rather than the finish line. Two, I can't fathom it, so attempts to do so seem painful, like off-key notes. Whatever heaven is, I can't imagine it involving Nascar races or the Bengals winning games. And even though I'm Irish I'm not a big fan of harp music. Maybe that sounds overly gnostic - God made bodies and we're going to have them again and so I shouldn't be so off-put about earthly things and of a new earth. The best I can figure heaven is the closest you ever felt to God on earth magnified a hundred times or so. And serious unconditional love. Beats them seventy-six virgins the Muslims get, don't it?

posted by TSO @ 16:20

June 2, 2004

Matthew 19:14

Scott Hahn offers a pleasant image in trying to understand St. Paul's words that we are "co-workers with God". "What does that mean?" he asked, "that God can't get the job done on his own?"

He said he was out jogging one day when he saw a father cutting grass while his four-year old son weaved in and out of the path with his little plastic mower. The father looked frustrated and Scott wondered how he'd handle it. Hahn circled the block and when he jogged past again he found the father guiding the mower with his right hand while holding his son in his left, who gleefully pushed with both hands, thrilled to be helping.

Scott points out that this wasn't the easiest way for the father to mow the grass but it was the most fatherly way. Similarly God doesn't need our help but elevates us and allows us to collaborate with Him in order to manifest his fatherliness.

posted by TSO @ 15:52

Less Moore, More Filling

You probably heard by now that Michael Moore won an award at Al Jazeera Film Festival. Well one good satire deserves another. What if Osama bin Laden took note? (Whoda thunk they had cable access in those Pakastani caves? Modern technology!).

I located a short tape of bin Laden congratulating Moore:

Transcript of Osama bin Laden videotape
June 1, 2004 Posted: 2:25 PM EST (1925 GMT)

The following transcript of a videotape of Osama bin Laden talking with others, translated from Arabic into English, was issued by the U.S. Department of Defense. He is identified as UBL in the transcript.

(Transcript and annotations independently prepared by T.S. O'Rama, translator, Diplomatic Blogging Services.)

Shaykh: (...inaudible...) You have given us weapons, you have given us hope and we thank Allah for you. Say, didja hear Michael Moore won "Best Documentary in the Propagandist Category" over at that Allie Jeer?

UBL: Yes, thanks to Allah. I appreciate this Michael Moore. He "gets it". He's one American I'd kill semi-reluctantly. Still kill him, but make it quick. [And that's when we lost transmission.]

posted by TSO @ 15:30

DVD Widescreen or Fullscreen?

My wife bought me a DVD player for our fifth anniversary which means that I can no longer proudly say "I don't own a DVD player". I like to nourish my individuality (as well as a sense that I'm not completely matierialistic) by not buying every new toy that comes down the pike. Fortunately I still don't own a cell phone. (Individuality can be so inconvenient, can't it?)

My question to you is this: I'm about to pre-order TPOTC and I can't decide between widescreen and fullscreen. My understanding is the widescreen has those annoying black bars at top and bottom, cutting off precious inches from my 27inch television. So I'm thinking about going with the "fullscreen" option but am also loathe to miss any film, since they have to actually cut out stuff in order to fit. Your thoughts on this amazingly trivial matter?

Update: The ayes have it. Everyone says "widescreen" although I should've asked what size their TVs were.

posted by TSO @ 11:53

Oy vey... mean this isn't a parody? It's an actual letter?

I'm no fan of Pelosi, but that's an embarrassment. Jesus wasn't big into taunting and name-calling. If you're in the futures market for civil discourse, short it.

posted by TSO @ 10:25

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

He who wishes for anything but Christ, does not know what he wishes; he who asks for anything but Christ, does not know what he is asking; he who works, and not for Christ, does not know what he is doing. – St. Philip Neri

as y’all know i just started selling avon. well, let me tell you something, with the way some people act you’d think i was peddling dope. today, one woman cringed when i showed her a brochure; yes. she actually cringed like i was trying to hand her a poopy diaper instead of a little avon brochure. i offered another female a brochure and she sneered, “i don’t need any of that.” i swear i thought she was gonna pimp-slap me. what’s going on here?... when the “no” is at least civil, it’s much easier to try to not take it personally and go on my merry way. however, you treat me like a walking hemorrhoid and my feelings get hurt. - smockmomma

The brighter and more imaginative you are the more fearful you will be. We get more fearful as we get older because we become more experienced. - Vernon Coleman

Lots of questions running through my mind now...and how to reconcile them to one another to form a coherent, legitimate, and above all, Christian, answer to the question that constitutes my life. But the answer should not just be Christian for the sake of sake of appearing Christian but Christian because you truly love Christ for what He is and despite the little you know of Him or understand His ways, you still want to emulate His example in every little way, in every faculty, with every pore of your being, in every moment. Not to demonstrate or show off to others, consciously or otherwise, what Christians should be, but because there is simply no other better alternative for you. To be like Christ or not to be. 'Not to be' would be out of question for a believer, while 'to be' seems to require too much from the person. Being contented with the middle-ground stand, i.e. being lukewarm, is not viable either since it is rather tantamount to players anticipating failure at the start of a football match and thus, not much effort is being put into scoring a goal or keeping your opponents from scoring. The end result? It would certainly not be hard to guess. There are lots of people who are plagued with these questions as well, and now's my turn, I suppose. The beauty of it all is that there will not be a stock answer to this eternal Christian question. That is, everyone may know what one ought to be: "You must be a good Christian. You must love God. You must love your neighbour as you love yourself. You must be meek and humble of heart. You must love the poor and your enemy...." The same end result is required from all of us, but from the starting point, everyone's journey diverges because of the differences in our personalities, our backgrounds, our train of thoughts, our aspirations and expectations. Some paths may converge from time to time, to bolster us up and serve as encouragement, but even so, it is a uniquely personal and individual journey that could resemble another but yet is not wholly similar in nature either. Therein lies the creativity of the Holy Spirit. But for us who cannot fathom the ways of the Lord, what an utter mystery it is! And how it often seems as if we are groping in the dark! - half-baked taters

Where shall we find God? Sometimes he is hidden under poverty, as he was the day he was born. Other times he is disfigured by the sins of man, as he was on the day of his torture. And then there are times that we are so self-absorbed by our own despair that we can not see him even though he stands in our midst arrayed in beauty, just as the disciples missed him on the road to Emmaus. I pray that God will allow me to discover his hiding places. I hope that I can see him under some unexpected mask and that the Holy Spirit will train my eyes to see past the disguises that hide my Lord, the way that Veronica saw the Christ under his injuries. - Mary of Ever-New

It's not really very clear if the church body's goals are that different from the goals of any decent-minded person. Make the world as peaceful and happy as possible. Avoid war as much as possible. Gain the world's respect. All those are worthy goals, and few would disagree with them, but that's why Mark didn't really see it as falling under religious expertise. Do Christians have anything unique to bring here? - Camassia

Scruples and melancholy, get out of my house! - St. Philip Neri

Since, as you say, the teaching on the death penalty is inferior to that on abortion, asking me to give equal submission of mind and will to both is like asking me to assent equally to the teaching on limbo and the dogma of the Holy Trinity. A perhaps more interesting question is why you would want it to be so. -William Luse

One of the thousands of library books that haven't been taken out in ten years or more is Tuscans and their Families: A Study of the Florentine Catasto of 1427 by David Herlihy and Christiane Klapische-Zuber. - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis...I'm shocked this hasn't been taken out more frequently. Just shocked.

How outrageous do I have to be? Only one brave soul has commented on my last two (possibly controversial) posts. - Henry Dieterich of "A Plumbline in the Wind"

By "liberal" I mean nothing more than a personality for whom orthodoxy and the conservative status quo, no matter how correct, will always be somewhat unsatisfying -- a personality that occasionally flaunts tradition and teases the borders of propriety, not because he actively opposes them, but because he doesn't quite fit them. This sort of liberal doesn't want to re-make the world in his own image, he merely wants the least place at the foot of the table for himself and his fellows. He will bow to the rules of the house but he has genuine difficulty observing them. The key, however, is this: In order for such liberal personalities to exist at all, there has to be an orthodoxy to begin with, there has to be a tradition to flaunt, there must be borders to tease, and there must be propriety to stretch. Insofar as the present reign of Liberalism seems intent on dissolving these things, it is the true enemy of a liberal personality. -Jeff Culbreath of ECR

God bless anyone who's reading this. - Bob of "Trousered Ape"

posted by TSO @ 10:15

There but for the grace of God...

I recently saw a car with the license plate "BLOGGER". God help us. Has it come to that? I picked up speed and drew up next to him wondering what a blogger looks like. (I hadn't looked in the mirror that morning.)

Yep. White guy. Early to mid 40s. Receding hairline. Mustache.

Except for the hairline & mustache it coulda been me.

But here's the really sad thing:

It's captioned "Richard Wiggins did not abandon his Web log while on vacation in Key West, Fla."

Well, I'll be on a beach in South Carolina next week and have no plans to blog. If you see posts here, I'm in worse shape than I thought.

posted by TSO @ 09:38

Quotes I've Collected

"Every day is a gift - even if it sucks." -- Sherry Hochman
"There's never enough time unless you're serving it" - Malcolm Forbes
"All right everyone, line up alphabetically according to your height." -- Casey Stengel
"The faster we go, the longer it takes." - Einstein
"The highest form of bliss is living with a certain degree of folly" - Erasmus
"The majority of men are subjective toward themselves and objective toward all others. The real task is in fact to be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others." - Kierkegaard.
"Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer." --Dave Barry
"Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance." - Chesterton
"I am not deprecating your individual talent, Joseph," the Bishop continued, "but, when one thinks of it, a soup like this is not the work of one man. It is the result of a constantly refined tradition. There are nearly a thousand years of history in this soup." - Willia Cather
"Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again." -- F.P. Jones
"The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis." - Chesterton on Dickens, 1911
"I bought some powdered water, but I don't know what to add to it." -- Steven Wright
"Logic merely enables one to be wrong with authority." -- Doctor Who
"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye." -- Saint-Exupery

posted by TSO @ 17:10

June 1, 2004

Mr. Luse Returneth

Nice to see him back. Bill Luse of Apologia writes with abandon and makes no apologies with his latest post, a real stem-winder. He wasn't kidding about not having writer's block. Yet he says of his recent quietitude, "And then (to be perfectly honest) there’s the problem of feeling that one has nothing important to say, or nothing that makes any difference. It’s not writer’s block, because I can write on any number of things in any variety of directions till the sun blinks out. It just doesn’t seem important."

My gosh Bill I didn't know importance and influence were relevant. If they were, would I blog spam poetry? I figure it's better than watching TV though not as good as spending time with family. Whether it's as well-spent as waxing Elizabeth's car I dunno.

posted by TSO @ 16:58

Heavy Load

I have to fight a tendency to despise Catholics like Garry Wills, John Cornwell and pro-abort politicians.

There is no such tendency with respect to Andrew Sullivan. With Wills, Cornwell and politicians there is a degree of distance: writers Wills & Cornwell skew history and politicians politic in order to get elected. But with Sullivan you can see it's personal. We know where he's coming from.

His tendency to want to redefine sin is understandable. I watched the movie "Miracle" over the weekend (about the 1980 US Olympic hockey team's victory) and U.S. coach Herb Brooks kept emphasizing the need to "sacrifice for the unknown". What was unknown was how they would do at the Games. He could guarantee them nothing but asked them to sacrifice all the same. We're all called to sacrifice, i.e. carry our crosses, and some look heavier than others. Sullivan's is no splinter. He would have to go without sex the rest of his life, and that's large, as my stepson would say.

There seems little artifice from him. He wears his heart on his sleeve and if he looks at the world through the prism of his personal cross I can't bear him ill will. The reason "Mothers Against Drunk Driving" is so effective is because the group elicits similar sympathy. It wouldn't behoove us to let MADD make our alcohol laws - they would enact a second Prohibition if they could - but one can look at them with sympathy for the cross they've carried.

posted by TSO @ 07:15

Defending Polarization ...but not propaganda

I received an interesting email today from a gentleman who suggested there needs to be a re-emphasis of style over content in religious institutions and political parties. He equated George Weigel and Garry Wills, calling them "absolutists".

I agree that style needs to be re-emphasized, but only in the service of content. The content in the case of an abortion is a dead child, and we owe that child not only our speaking, but our speaking in a style that is persuasive and will woo and not repel those who are on the fence. That's why I like FFL which doesn't demonize opponents but explains how pro-life is pro-woman, and doesn't make religious arguments (i.e. Truth capital 'T') but broader ones (truth, small 't').

Christ was a polarizer, but he never engaged in untruths, half-truths or propaganda in seeking his end. Just as God uses flawed individuals to effect his will, I believe he can use the flawed - though superior to the alternative - Republican party also. It's the increase in half-truths and propaganda in the parties that is worrisome, not the polarization between them.

posted by TSO @ 12:10

July 31, 2004

Things You Won't Find on Video Meliora... inspired by Jeff Culbreath

1. Nudity other than in animals.
2. Explanation of the Video Meliora Official Blogroll Policy.
3. Payment amounts required for Spanning the Globe inclusion.
4. Payment schedule for the above.
5. Midway rides.
6. Nigerian scams.
7. Full-assed opinions (all guaranteed 100% half-assed).
8. Examinations of Marxist concepts that can be related to Barthian conclusions.
9. Lyrics to Good Morning Starshine. (whoops!)
10. Stealing ideas for posts from El Camino Real.

Prairie dog naked but for his fur

posted by TSO @ 23:28

July 30, 2004

Fr. Groeschel, National Treasure

Excerpts from his recent thoughts:

One of the hardest of all virtues to acquire is humility. Once you realize you have it, it’s lost. God gave me a little lesson in humility just this week. I never watch my programs on television, in fact I saw one twelve years ago at a rectory, where I was visiting and they had it on. I couldn’t believe that I was such a peculiar looking fellow...
Whether you are young or old, as you read this message, think of the day when you will leave this world. Remember it, because that’s the day when you will understand completely the mercy of God, when you will have to put yourself completely at His mercy. You will have to trust God that He will go with you, that Our Blessed Savior will receive you. If you are a Catholic, you have been saying all your life, “Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.” Death is not to be feared; rather it is something to anticipate. If you make death your friend, you will not spend your life being terrified.
Sister Mary Anastasia, a wonderful old Carmelite sister from Alhambra, California, just passed away. She was filled with wise observations about life in general, the spiritual life, and everyday life. One of her best remarks is, “If it doesn't’t hurt, it’s not a sacrifice.” When we make up our mind to do things for others, it should be a sacrifice, it should hurt a little bit. I once heard a rabbi say to an audience, “You’re not giving till it hurts. You’re giving till it feels good.”
We Catholics, along with a number of other religious denominations, think that God takes care of us first and that other people are rather on the outside, although they might make it to eternal life. These religions are convinced that they are the true religion, as we are convinced that we are the true Church. I am absolutely convinced that we are the true Church because we couldn't’t go on if we were’t. On the other hand, I think our view of God is rather narrow-minded. He loves all His children. He seeks the salvation of all, and Christ came for the salvation of all. It changes your view of reality. This is one of the things that the Pope has tried to stress in his twenty-five years as he worked so hard for ecumenism and received the leaders of so many religious denominations.

posted by TSO @ 16:05

Honin' Down the Book List

Steven's post reminded me of a Columbus Dispatch book reviewer's column, in which he said that being a reviewer means reading many books at one time. He remarked how surprisingly easy it was to pick up something that he'd left weeks or months ago.

But Mr. Riddle's post has inspired me to try to re-group and face a reading situation that is dissolute and full of disarray.

I want to read mainly three or four types of books: Fiction which cleanses the palate of "too much journalism" and, if the author is good, provides a bit of beauty. Non-fiction historical, which is time-travel. Non-fiction spiritual such as "Father Joe" and "The Miracle Detective" which attempt to sort out grace from nature. Non-fiction prayerful books, like the marvelous "The Great Means of Salvation and Perfection" by St. Alphonsus Liguori which is a soul food beyond comprehension.

posted by TSO @ 16:02

Fictional Friday...old journal entries never die...(aka more pointless fiction)...-written 7/8/00

It was ’79 and Laura was a classmate of mine at the Livery Day School for brilliant pre-pubescent children of vicariously overachieving parents. We had a latte before our first lesson, a droll lecture from an ex-hippie on potential career choices (I thought he spent too much time on School Administrator).

In the cautious Livery system, controversial subjects like religion and politics were never discussed because they weren't considered to be in the "value-added" category. The only reference to things spiritual was how God could best be used to improve productivity. Something about studies proving that meditating on a God-force gives you more energy. When Laura devil-advocated him on the oxymoronic notion of reducing God to servant status he mumbled something like, “don’t let your opinions get in the way of the value the lecture has for you.” Laura seemed satisfied with his response.

During breaks we licked orange Tang crystals and felt the burn. Laura was a smart-aleck as usual; she called all my ideas either “sad” or “deluded”. She had granny glasses and read the poetry of Adrianne Rich. I read Shakespeare, but only Falstaff’s lines. We had nothing in common, as is appropriate for the male and females of the species, marriage being a microcosm of the Jew-Arab conflict only more intractable.

posted by TSO @ 11:16


This is a keeper - scriptural commentaries from St. Thomas. I was just looking for something like this the other day, go figure. Via Thomas o' Endlessly Rocking.

posted by TSO @ 10:47

Democracy's Good Side

My take on representative government is you get the government you deserve. We the voters are ultimately responsible. The "Pox on Both Your Houses" is an understandable sentiment this election due to the controversy of the war, but if that attitude is chronic it screams of utopianism. I like that the blame or credit for a government lies with me, to an infinitely small degree, rather than with a monarchy in which you roll the dice. When monarchy is good, it's very good, and when it's bad it's a dictatorship.

In a democracy you get a real sense of interdependence, which I think is precisely what God wants us to feel. In a monarchy, you are dependent on your sovereign. In a democracy, like it or not, I am dependent on the 20-year old down the street who listens to death metal and votes for pro-abort candidates. And there is something very right about that. I should be somewhat dependent on her, because she is my neighbor and potentially a sister in Christ. This interdependence ideally should make me, if only for selfish motives, pray for her.

I like the long-view of Elena of "My Domestic Church", who understands how individuals make a difference within the Church or society even if it not be in our lifetime and even if it not be through converting our opponents but by outlasting them (although converting them should be our goal and not 'let them eat cake'):

It's a matter of mathematics. If Liberal Catholics have embraced a culture of elective sterility, (contraception, same sex unions, some even support abortion etc.) it's only logical that they will have fewer offspring to carry on their liberal causes. Catholics practicing their faith, open to new life will just logically have more children, and raising them with solid Catholic teaching, will produce the next generation of church leaders.

So I don't lose any sleep over my "faith coming crashing down" around me. Because I've done my homework and with each diaper change, each boo boo bandaged, each wet sticky kiss, each heart-to-heart talk with a teenager at midnight over a cup of coco at the kitchen table, I've helped changed the culture and the church. I'm very optimistic about the Catholic Church!

posted by TSO @ 10:23

Lying about Lies

Sen. Kerry said last night that he will tell the truth to the American people, implying that George Bush has lied.

Every third word from Michael Moore's lips is "Bush" and every sixth is "liar".

It looks as though the left is going to try to make Bush seem untruthful, which is, ironically, a lie. If you want to make it about incompetence that's one thing, but about lying? This is part of the ongoing effort to destroy the meaning of words. The 9/11 Commission says there is no evidence Bush lied about WMDs. Clinton, Putin, Blair, Chirac all thought Hussein had WMDs, so it can scarcely be called a lie, but I looked up the definition:

1) A false statement deliberately presented as being true; a falsehood.
2) Something meant to deceive or give a wrong impression.

A key word is "deliberately" and a key phrase "meant to deceive". Here's an excerpt from the Moore/O'Reilly debate, an endless tail-chasing on the word 'lie':

O’Reilly: You’ve been calling Bush a liar on weapons of mass destruction, the senate intelligence committee, Lord Butler’s investigation in Britain, and now the 911 Commission have all come out and said there was no lying on the part of President Bush. Plus, Gladimir Putin has said his intelligence told Bush there were weapons of mass destruction. Wanna apologize to the president now or later?

M: He didn’t tell the truth, he said there were weapons of mass destruction.

O: Yeah, but he didn’t lie, he was misinformed by - all of those investigations come to the same conclusion, that’s not a lie.

M: uh huh, so in other words if I told you right now that nothing was going on down here on the stage…

O: That would be a lie because we could see that wasn’t the truth
and on and on and on it went...

posted by TSO @ 09:14

Real Courage

Mary has the pluperfect rejoinder to the "I Had an Abortion" t-shirt: the "I Have 4 Children" t-shirt.

Now that is something to be proud of and takes real courage. My mother-in-law had six children in six years (no multiple births). Try that Kate Michelman.

Even marriage takes courage, although far less than having six children. I think back to my bachelorhood, that long-nursed self-sufficiency out of which grew a false sense of heroism, such that I thought marriage do-able. Only a foolish bachelor, ensconsced in his ritual relaxations, would have the confidence to get married. A married man is humble, understands his limitations, and would not be so bold. No wonder it is single men who marry. *grin!*

posted by TSO @ 09:09

Angels & Bread

I was thinking the other day about how the angels worshipped Jesus while he was in his human appearance. For humans, Jesus is an impressive figure whether or not his divinity is believed. History is divided into "B.C." and "A.D.", and most honest non-believers will admit the beauty of his ethical teachings and how so thoroughly he understood human nature.

But to angels, whose intellect far exceeds that of humans, Jesus in his human form must've cut a less impressive figure. But still they worshipped him for who he was. That's why the prayer "O God, as once the good angels humbled themselves to adore You appearing before them as a man, may man humbly adore You appearing before us as bread" is such a moving one.

posted by TSO @ 08:59

Bush Hatred

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, thinks there are three reasons there is so much polarization and hatred of Bush:

1) Bush lost the popular vote but won the election and the left expected him to govern more in the center.

2) Because many young people feel they "missed out on the anti-war movement during Vietnam and now they get their chance".

And later in the interview he came up with a third one:

3) Because the issues are "life and death - abortion, stem cell...". "We're not dealing with whether to add an extra hundred million to Medicare".

posted by TSO @ 16:14

July 29, 2004

Losing Our Say

Of the three branches of government, the judicial began with the least amount of power, or, more precisely, exercised the least amount of power out of custom and a respect for the words of the Constitution. The executive branch has also increased its power. Which branch has been the loser? The most democratic one.

The scariest grab of power has been the judicial's, which looms with increasing menace. This was recently brought home to me when a half-million Ohioans signed a petition to get a defense of marriage issue on the ballot this November. Ohio law is pretty straightforward: if you get more than 323,000 petititons from 44 of our 88 counties, it goes on the ballot. End of story.

Or not. The legal-wrangling is going on now, and there's a chance it won't end up on the ballot.

One thing lawyers will tell you is that ultimately the wording of a law or statue is somewhat academic. If not meaningless, it's becoming less meaningful all the time. When Clinton asked what the meaning of "is" is, he wasn't kidding. The point is that he who interprets the law can make the words mean whatever he wants them to mean. Scary.

Catherine Crier, a lawyer who wrote a book making the case against lawyers, quotes De Tocqueville who predicted that Americans will eventually lose their liberty to lawyers.

The unborn already have.

posted by TSO @ 15:06

Fictional Thursday ...remember what you paid...

Hannah Cleary wore perfume of rose-honey and planted dogwood blossoms in her sheened hair. It was ’41, just afore the war took our innocence, and we danced till our nerves wore off. She wore out them leather shoes, the shine did fade with the sweat and floor paste. Her hair‘s bob-weave did prance about in the light, liquid as amber. The bands from Nashville, one after another, kept goin’ till the cool dew-hours. My straw hat come off from the dancin’ going on and from lookin' at her smile pert and compact as a sweet little put-together puzzle. She wore toe necklaces of goldenrod, perched there on gentle-feet, little feet-falls of girlishness. She impregnated the silences with quick-drawn breaths and her dimpled gaze swung adoringly from me to her shoes and back, shy as'n if she couldn’t look up for long. When the bluegrass came on, her feet'd divinize and she’d dance like a silly colt and we all’d pretend-gape & then join in. The bluegrass was gas to her fire, and her feet would blur to “Polly, Pretty Polly” or “How Mountain Girls Can Love”. She’d beat that floor, and I reckon such a floor should count itself lucky.

Afterwards we hung the curves of that dark country road, so silent and still, the only sound the crickets and the whistle-tunes of the wind. The mountains loomed like stage props in the distance, melting into benevolent distant guardrails, and it felt as if no matter what we did they’d hold us in, close to their bosomy mountain fastness. The guazy haze of fog enveloped us and made us believe we were immortal.

posted by TSO @ 14:56

Journal Entry on Travel...written 4/2/2000

I ache to travel. Real travel, not beach slumming. I ache to throw myself into some other world There is little more delicious to me than the role of unobserved observer, to be able to surreptiously delve into the way another culture handles the human condition.

I ache to drive a rental through the cajun country of southern Louisiana, up and down, east and west, where they begin drinking at 9am and begin dancing at noon. Is the longing to travel inseparable from lust though? Where does the itch to experience the "strange", as a co-worker called it, in women, part from the strange in language & culture? They may be of apiece.

I ache to re-visit Ireland, and travel by bike mile upon precious mile, small town after small town, collecting and comparing them. I long to see old, laconic farmers in their fields and thatch-roofed houses and indigenous pubs. I long to smell the earth, the sky. I long to gaze upon the green-greens stretching out in that idiosyncratic tree-less landscape.

I long to visit Arches National Park and get lost amid the dust-red roads and weird wind-shaped monuments. I long to ride my bike until the sweat and red dust commingle and I am no longer an outsider but an Indian, a native.

I long to visit Iran, the secret society where I am hated just because I'm an American, where the women where veils and the men beards. I long to explore it so I will be able to differentiate what in life is cultural and what is our shared humanity - I long to find the border where culture and politics and religion and race end and our simple basic universal humanness begins, and there is no greater opposite to America than Iran. I long to see Damascus, Syria and touch centuries-old Persian carpets in the Muslim holy places. I long to visit Middle Eastern bazaars and wander the maze-y streets.

I long to eat a big, fat pizza on the terrace of a Zoder Motor Inn room at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where a mountain stream, as pristine as creation, gurgles with godlike endlessness.

I ache to see new things so I can see the old anew. I ache to re-open these uncurious dead eyes, and give them a small resurrection.

I long to hear Mel & Pam Tillis sing in Branson, Mo. And to hear the original Baldknobbers, the blue-grassy real country group that started Branson - oh I love even their name! The Baldknobbers! It puts me in mind of some reclusive mountain pasture. Now there's a name not driven by a poll!
"I have never been anywhere but sick. In a sense sickeness is a place, more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it's always a place where there's no company, where nobody can follow..." - Flannery O'Connor

posted by TSO @ 14:37

Chesterton Is Never Boring:

By insisting specially on the immanence of God we get introspection, self-isolation, quietism, social indifference - Tibet. By insisting specially on the transcendence of God we get wonder, curiosity, moral and political adventure, righteous indignation - Christendom. Insisting that God is inside man, man is always inside himself. By insisting that God transcends man, man has transcended himself. - GKC

posted by TSO @ 13:31

Audacious Hope

Conservative NRO writer praises Democrat speech, apparently for good reason. Now there's a man bites dog story!

posted by TSO @ 09:21

Myrna Blyth on on what women want

...a new Gallup Poll of women ages 18 and older published in the August Marie Claire notes that today abortion is practically a non-issue for most women. In fact, only six percent of pro-life and three percent of pro-choice women say it will matter when they go to the polls in November.

Actress Ashley Judd...found the polls results "amazing" because she is so "passionate about reproductive rights."

Ashley even confided that she disagrees with her mother, country star Naomi Judd, about the issue and tells Marie Claire readers, "My mother always talks about how she chose not to have an abortion when she was pregnant with Wynonna. But I'm like: Mom, it was illegal at the time." Bet sister Wynonna loves to hear Ashley's views on what Mom should have done. Personally, I'd take a pass on their family's Thanksgiving dinner next year, wouldn't you?

posted by TSO @ 09:17

More Good Quotes

" one who experiences this difficulty should think that the mystic, with his apparently immediate experiences of divine things, has an easier life. For every true mysticism, however rich it may be in visions and other experiences of God, is subject at least as strictly to the law of the Cross -- that is, of non-experience -- as is the existence of someone apparently forgotten in the desert of secular daily life. Perhaps the mystic has to pass through dry periods that are even more severe. Where this is not the case, where we are offered acquirable techniques to attain a mysticism without bitterness and the humiliations of the Cross, we can be certain that it is not authentically Christian and has no Christian significance. [pp.

--Hans Urs von Balthasar, via Ratzinger Fan Club Blog ... from "Experience God?" New Elucidations Ignatius Press, 1986

"The temptation to turn Christianity into a kind of moralism and to concentrate everything on man's moral action has always been great. For man sees himself above all. God remains invisible, untouchable and, therefore, man takes his support mainly from his own action. But if God does not act, if God is not a true agent in history who also enters into my personal life, then what does redemption mean? Of what value is our relationship with Christ, and thus, with the Trinitarian God? I think the temptation to reduce Christianity to the level of a type of moralism is very great even in our own day ... For we are all living in an atmosphere of deism. Our notion of natural laws does not facilitate us in believing in any action of God in our world. It seems that there is no room for God himself to act in human history and in my life. And so we have the idea of God who can no longer enter into this cosmos, made and closed against him. What is left? Our action. And we are the ones who must transform the world. We are the ones who must generate redemption. We are the ones who must create the better world, a new world. And if that is how one thinks, then Christianity is dead." -Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

posted by TSO @ 16:09

July 28, 2004


Ye olde Literariumian returneth, as Florence Kingish as ever.

posted by TSO @ 16:07

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

We are limited in our lack of imagination. We can not imagine how merciful and how loving God is to us. All of our methaphors and comparisons are insufficient. But we must try. - Jeff Miller of Curt Jester

I take my problems to the Lord on Sunday, I take my blues to the honkytonk. - lyrics to country song by "Pirates of the Mississippi

I've read a lot of comments recently that don't seem to appreciate what it means for Christian forgiveness to be based -- as all things Christian are -- on love. In particular, the "God doesn't forgive unconditionally, so neither should we" sort of argument that I've already looked at betrays a misunderstanding of mercy. If you love someone, you forgive him the reparation that is due you out of love. Love doesn't wait to be asked before it acts, thank God. - Tom of Disputations

Sinners must also endure purgation in order to be in shape for eternal life, which God doesn't forgive (at least not entirely), because He "can't" forgive it, in the sense that He wants us to be the kind of creatures who must endure purgation in order to be in shape for eternal life. It all sounds a bit screwy to me, and it can be mercilessly proof-texted against, but today I think it would hold together and even resolve some standard "justice vs. mercy" problems....Of course, Christian forgiveness happens by grace, and becomes a virtue by practice...And once you've forgiven someone, what's to stop you from unforgiving him later? Nothing, as far as I can see, except grace. Christian forgiveness, then, demands all sorts of prior virtues and is given in an intangible and so-to-speak insecure manner. - Tom of Disputations

I was reading a reprint of an old catechism and it had a chapter entitled, "Our duty to God." It made me realize that our treatment of God is a neglected topic. It even sounds weird to ask "how do you treat God"? ...In terms of our relationship to God 'being good' means fulfilling our duty to God. It's not only about how well we treat others: "I don't steal, lie or cheat so I'm I good guy."...What are our duties to God? What do we owe him? This neat book spells it out like this: A-C-T-S. A is for Adoration C is for Contrition T is for Thanksgiving S is for Supplication - Mary of Ever-New

Another NYT column by Barbara Ehrenreich urged women to stop listening to the cultural ordering of "good" and "bad" reasons for abortions, and just stand up and say they did it for whatever reason. It's hard to imagine, though, that a woman who wrote about how she killed her dog because it got in the way of her lifestyle would win any sympathy. Not because anyone this side of PETA thinks dogs are equal to humans, but because they think dogs are worth something, and that wanton cruelty to animals is immoral and, in some cases, criminal. That seems to be more or less the position that Kerry is taking about the unborn -- that there's an "evolution" (ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny?) that winds up with a full person, but it doesn't happen all of a sudden. - Camassia

The Passion of the Christ is not a documentary any more than the Gospel according to St. John is journalism. Like Brother Sun Sister Moon...[these] films are, for good or ill, less concerned with facts than with meanings. They are also intensely personal, the fruits of their respective directors' meditations on Scripture or the life of a great saint. People who quibble about the historical accuracy of the The Passion somehow remind me of skeptics who reject Sacred Scripture because the creation account in Genesis is not scientifically accurate. For the umpteenth time, the creation story is symbolic, emblematic, idiomatic . . . fill in the blank with your adjective of choice. Cosmological books may be dazzling and exciting reads, but they are only about what has happened to the universe; they say nothing about where the universe came from or why humans are such freaks of nature. The Scriptures do, but they cannot be faulted for having been written in a style vastly different from that of a scientific dissertation. Similarly, it is unfair to reject The Passion only for being too much like a Eucharistic celebration than a reconstruction of an historical event. - Sancta Sanctis

The Church is a place where healing takes place, a hospital for the sick. But it is not only men who are waiting for their final redemption, but also the creation itself. When you look at the example of Saints like St.Seraphim, or St. Anthony (so sanctified that wild beasts were not adversarial towards him), you get an idea of how another world is possible. In fact, glimpses of it are seen, here and there, even now. One interesting example in the case of St.Seraphim, was the fellowship he had with wild beasts. The animals did not fear him, nor acted with hostility towards him. He was even known to sit serenely, as a gigantic brown bear approached...but it had no malice, but was his friend, and St. Seraphim would smile and feed the wild animal as if it were a pet. -commenter on a msgboard, on the tension between a world created good but also wounded. - poster on a message board

The loss of joy does not make the world better -- and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the courage and impetus to do good. We have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to makng sure that other people, too, can rejoice and receive good news. -Cardinal Ratzinger

Will someone explain Ms. Kerry's Clintonian semantics in her Tuesday DNC address where she said America should be a "moral nation" but not a "moralistic" one? - Hambone

I do want to become a saint. I want it for a great many mixed reasons, some good, many bad. But the desire, the longing to know God face to face, is a gift from Him. It is an undeniable grace, and having been given it, I would be less that grateful and less than saintly were I not to act upon it. I act upon it most effectively when I do so least consciously. Self-conscious saints (in the way we understand the term self-consciousness) seem to be an oxymoron. Normally we think of saints as selfless, but I would say rather that they participate in the great Self and this cannot happen if you choose to separate yourself in a self-conscious way. The long and the short of it is, that God grants the longing to be with Him. He will use, I think, almost any motive and turn it to good. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

(art credit: Disputations)

posted by TSO @ 16:05

Bourne Supremacy

Saw the above movie over the weekend and really enjoyed it. Sure the car chase scene went on forever and bordered on parody, but what was really fascinating was to be placed in the places the main character goes. From Moscow to Berlin to India. Arm-chair travel with an attitude!

posted by TSO @ 15:45

Found this interesting old journal entry from 1999. Pardon the self-indulgence in posting it, but it is interesting how I viewed things then (i.e. Faith not as a supernatural gift but the natural gift of native confidence):

I think I can understand it better now, for the one thing Joe [false name] and Bob [false name] and Ern [false name] all have in common (and you thought there was surely nothing they all had in common? how wrong!) is that they all have rock-hard faith. I mean undentable, diamond-hard faith. Their combined faith’s could not only scratch glass but pierce the devil’s heart. Their faith resides not only in the traditional sense – i.e. faith capitalized as Faith (in God) – but faith in their own visions. Each has a surreal belief in other things - stocks or a girl for example. Is it just their natural inclination to trust?

Joe showed me that he could believe, despite incredible evidences against it, that Susan was the girl for him. Bob believes this particular stock has only one way – no doubt – and though it may not go up, he has the same undoubtable belief in God, and that is infinitely desirable.

It is attractive - how doubt plays no role. Joe is Ern reincarnated – and Bob – all three believe, BELIEVE, that their way is correct, whether it be their vision of God or in self, Bob’s utter belief that this stock is on a highway to heaven, Joe's vision that if you want to do something, you have to do it ‘his way’, aka right.

I wonder if you get one without the other. If Bob or Joe is to believe in God utterly and completely, they have to believe that their way is the only right way. It’s feast or famine.
And another from a few months later...
It seems God made the female form too well, the lush curves but simple design. I obey the laws of nature, I am subject to them as much or more than most. The female form is endlessly, addictingly attractive. I wonder why it seems that God puts these endlessly inviting targets and then asks us to resist them? Do we have the smallest doubt the account in Genesis is true, that of the forbidden fruit, for has human nature not succumbed over and over and over to forbidden fruit? To the endless pursuit of knowledge that turns out to be meaningless? I may uncover her form and find in it nothing that teaches me anything, and yet I am drawn irresistably. In the end it seems God puts these targets here and asks us to choose Him over them. Fasting is choosing God over food. Chastity is choosing God over sex. Martyrdom is choosing God over life. Being continually chaste is a form of suffering, it seems to me, so either suffering is a positive or what sense can you make of it?

posted by TSO @ 14:34

The Pope on Beach Attire

There's been a call to modesty in female bathing attire in certain quarters of st. blogdom, and it's a healthy thing. I'm all for the mercy shown by a woman who covers herself and helps us avoid sin. But on the other hand it seems that context and "what we are used to" plays such a big role in lust. That many Islamic men have a fetish for women's ankles (because that's all Muslim women show) leads one to despair or to at least to a focus on the viewer rather than the viewee.

The Holy Father wrote in Love & Responsibility that context is important. "When a person uses a form of dress in accordance with its objective function we cannot claim to see anything immodest in it, even if it involves partial nudity. For example, there is nothing immodest about the use of a bathing costume at a bathing place, but to wear it out in the street or while out for a walk is contrary to the dictates of modesty."

One could say that the function of a bathing suit is to swim, but the real function is to tan, which requires less clothing. One might question the importance of this goal, but there it is. The Pope is saying that context matters, but what I don't understand is that my eyes don't understand context. In other words, mine react to the provocation of skin whether it be on the street or on the beach.

And the Holy Father recognizes this. "Although physical immodesty cannot be identified in a simple way with nakedness as such, it none the less requires a real internal effort to refrain from reacting to the naked body in an immodest way."

It seems that much of it might be what you are used to. If you are used to seeing women in burqas, it doesn't take much to provoke arousal. Since many of us rarely visit a beach...

posted by TSO @ 13:20

Various & Sundry

Read O'Connor's short story "Revelation" last night. Riveting. Then went to "The Habit of Being" and read all the commentaries on the story in letters to friends (HOB is well indexed). Speaking of F.O., I've updated the blog thanks to a generous reader.
Excellent Amy Welborn column on the problem of evil and the differing attempts to explain it, via working papers.
Mario Cuomo's advice to St.Thomas More? "Just tell the king you're personally opposed to divorce."
Reading this, one understands why Rod Dreher gets paid to write: "About Teresa Evita Rodham Streisand Lollobrigida Lady MacKerry, my first instinct is: I like this dame. She's an exotic flower, a loose cannon, a firecracker." Too funny.
Shades of O'Connor's "she woulda been a good woman if..."? Overheard Laird Hamilton, big wave surfer on Sixty Minutes, (transcript here):

Does Hamilton understand why he needs this danger in his life?

“Probably not. I know that if I scare myself once a day, I'm a better person. And I think everybody would be. I think it's part of actually existing," says Hamilton.

"I think that we've gone so far away from that [physical fear]. A dinosaur was chasing you [in pre-historic times] and wanting to eat you. I think we need [some fear].”

posted by TSO @ 10:47

Running the Race

I've been thinking a lot about Steven's candid I want to be a saint post (an antipodal to Garbo's "I vant to be alone"?)

St. Paul likens the Christian journey to a running race and that we must train. And training = pain. (I ran cross-country in HS, and it wasn't a bed of roses.) Studies have shown that long-distance runners deal with pain in two ways: associative and dissociative.

Elite marathoners use associative techniques, which means during a race they constantly monitor themselves and their environment. They monitor their form, stride-length, where their opponents are, whether that twitch in calf is something to be concerned about, etc... They are aware.

Mediocre marathoners use dissociative techniques, which means they try to get their mind off the pain by listening to Beethoven or the theme from Rocky on their headsets. They might think about what they're going to do next week, the vacation next month, a particularly memorable moment in their past, etc...

I was trying to apply this to the spiritual life, with mixed results. Most of us use dissociative techniques, by using distraction to avoid the message God might be sending. I'm not sure associative techniques are that helpful either, because they place the focus on self and on one's performance, rather than on the Other.

So the third way might be the coined term Deociative, which means focusing on God and seeking first his kingdom. Everything one needs to know about the Christian life is contained in the single Gospel scene of Peter attempting to walk on the water but only being able to do so as long as he was focused on Christ.

But Steven asks a good question in wondering why we want to become a saint. Fortunately - Thank God! - He works with impure motives. Steven writes, "He will use, I think, almost any motive and turn it to good." I fear I'm motivated mostly by pain avoidance, but that since the option is to become a saint or be damned, I'd just soon get it over with (i.e. become a saint). It can happen now or later but either way it's gonna hurt. So why procastinate?

Another reason to want to be a saint is that it is where the action is. Just as it is more fun to play sports than to watch them, it's more fun to be in the game. Sometimes we're on the sidelines because we reject God's initiative, preferring the pine time. But Mother Teresa played every snap. Have I exhausted the hard corn sports metaphors yet?

Ultimately, Jeff Miller applies hammer to nailhead with this response:

I see my goal as loving God for God alone. Not for any grace that I might receive, not for the myriad blessing involved in following Christ (and the plentiful crosses). Not for the fear of hell. While I will never receive the purity of this goal in this life if I can slowly crawl forward I will be happy. Maybe the hardest part of this moving forward is trusting in God to bring me forward.

posted by TSO @ 20:22

July 27, 2004


I watched Clinton's speech yesterday, proving I have latent masochistic tendencies. But the real irony was listening to a MSNBC reporter ask former California Gov. Gray Davis what Kerry must do to win the election. Delicious.

I dedicate the following Seamus Heaney poem to Carter and Clinton and myself sometimes, to all afflicted with I-Am-Always-Rightitis...

Heroes. Victims. Gods and human beings.
All throwing shapes, every one of them
Convinced he's in the right, all of them glad
To repeat themselves and their last mistake,
No matter what.

People so deep into
Their own self-pity self-pity buoys them up.
People so staunch and true, they are pillars of truth,
Shining with self-regard like polished stones...
I hate it, I always hated it, I am
A part of it myself.

--Seamus Heaney

posted by TSO @ 20:06

Mary of Ever-New posts a moving reflection (go and read the whole thing), including this quote from the Catechism quoting St. Catherine:

"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 of Siena, Dial. I, 7.)
(art credit: Fra Angelico. The Last Judgement. c.1431) via Mary of Ever-New

posted by TSO @ 10:12

J. R. R. Tolkien said:

I can recommend this as an exercise: make your Communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children -- from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn -- open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to Communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same as a Mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand -- after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.)
- in a letter to Michael Tolkien - November 1, 1963

posted by TSO @ 09:57

Cajun Country

Heading to Louisiana for 4 days in October and hope to find some authentic cajun music. Came across the following link during that search (btw, if you find authentic cajun music via a website, can it really be authentic?).

Experiencing the Cajun culture is like no other. The Acadians of today are a thrifty, hard-working, fun-loving, devout religious folk. They work and play with equal enthusiasm.

The Cajun's pleasure-loving nature expresses itself in the community festivals, dancing and food that are integral parts of bayou life. Cajuns are known for their "joie de vivre" (joy of living), and to add excitement to their food they experiment with herbs, spices and ingredients to create some of the most flavorful dishes that people throughout North America now enjoy.

Latin blood shows through: Cajuns can be quick to anger, quick to laughter, and quick to change from one to the other. The Cajun can still "make do" from the abundant resources around him. And he still wonders sometimes why anyone would want more. And there are subtler aspects: The Cajuns are a tolerant people - perhaps to a fault. They sometimes tolerate a little too much drinking, a little too much dancing, some chicanery in their politics. Some outsiders cluck their tongues and wonder why. The Cajun suggests that some things just aren't worth the trouble to change.
Some cultures sound so Shangri-La, don't they?

posted by TSO @ 07:08

Not a parody.

posted by TSO @ 12:06

July 26, 2004

KTC Blogs!

Kathy the Carmelite is reprinting the 1973 autobiography of KGB man-Turned-Defector Sergei Kourdakov, a modern hero of the faith.

Does anyone know how to get the posts to sort in reverse chronological order?

posted by TSO @ 10:59

Godspy Articles

The Pope on Hell:

The thought of hell... must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the Spirit of God who makes us cry ‘Abba, Father!’
Interesting Godspy article by a would-be evangelizer.

posted by TSO @ 10:25

The Other Mary Poppins

About the book by Pamela Travers from whence the movie came:

PL Travers's Mary Poppins is plain and grave, has airs and graces, is prickly and can be mean, but she is reliable. Her very bareness, her "non-explaining'', is a crucial part of her surrealism and, when magic is around, she becomes almost benign. As the stories progress, she becomes a Seer. She is the most bizarre, most looked-for of literary nannies and it is on the page rather than the screen that she lives. On finishing her third book, one small boy wrote to Travers: "Madam, you have sent Mary Poppins away. Madam, I will never forgive you. You have made the children cry." Michael Banks, watching her figure sweep back up into the sky, presages the feelings of generations of young children as he weeps: "but she is the only person I want in the world". Pamela Travers was never so loved.

posted by TSO @ 09:59

Intuiting Goodness

Edifying message by our learned pastor, who will be giving a talk about the Early Church at the Coming Home Network's annual Conference.

Sunday's First Reading concerned how Abraham bargained with God in trying to save Sodom. Abraham asked if there were 50 righteous people would God save the city and God said yes. Same with 40, 30, 20, 10.

Our pastor said that each one of us has a divine spark within us, an "intuition of goodness". And what Abraham was acting on was that intuition of goodness. Our pastor suggested it would've been nice if Abraham would've gone further and not stopped at ten (and thus possibly save Sodom), but the lesson is that Abraham was going deeper and deeper towards that divine spark, which is what we must do in our prayer if it be authentic.

posted by TSO @ 09:38

Pope & Council Documents

I've noticed that the Vatican II documents and the writings of this Pope share a spirit of optimism. This goes against the tenor of the times as well as my own temperament, so they act as a kind of balm of Gilead for me.

It's interesting how they manage to thread the difficult path between being too "Up With People" sugary and too "let us count the ways in which we suck" morose.

Viva our Pope!

posted by TSO @ 09:34

Praying for the Dead

"You love the dead more than the living," ran a recent allegation, and I must admit it has the ring of truth. Given their state of utter helplessness, my sympathy for the dead is unbounded. Their decisions have been made and now live with the regret full knowledge must reveal.

Man is the most pitiable of creatures. Animals live happy, if ignorant, lives free of anxiety. But if a living man possesses scarce power and control, the soul in Purgatory possesses even less.

posted by TSO @ 09:33

New Form of Blogger Comedy?

William Luse rewrites Faulkner for the sensitive types. Very funny:

...(the sisters were twins, born at the same time, but both were, unfortunately, very weight-challenged. It wasn't their fault. It's a genetic thing.They had made up their minds to enter a twelve-step program for poor people who were compelled by class injustice to subsist on diets heavy in starch. Problem was, that couldn't help her at the moment.), the sister, as I was saying (sorry about the unwieldiness - is that a word!? LOL! :~))
“He was an independent and highly articulate African-American, I tell you...

Really gives you a sense of time and place, doesn't it? Very (19)90s. I'll have to try to cook me up something similar, although I suspect Bill's already parodied the good stuff. Save something for us next time Bill! LOL! :)

posted by TSO @ 09:33

Today's Embarrassing Moment... being mentioned by Steven next to Tom of Disputations and Karen of Anchor Hold. No one ought come to this blog without first going to theirs because they provide answers while I mostly have questions. Albeit I don't always follow my own advice.

Steven offered an interesting perspective here, in wondering what "level of distraction" is good for us. It's something I've wondered too. He writes:

I think early in the Christian journey all legitmate and licit pleasures are good and should be gratefully accepted. However, as we grow in the faith, it seem to me that the things we take pleasure in should also advance. That is, that while we might enjoy light reading at the start of our Christian career, as our lives move into conformity with God, we might move on from this legitimate interest to more profound things. Perhaps Scripture reading replaces some of the light reading we do. Perhaps reading of Christian classics, theology, and other spiritual helps begins to move in. "how fanatical should I become?". I suppose as fanatical as God desires, which is difficult to discern. Where does a wholesome hunger for God end and scrupulousness begin?
Excerpt from 'The Wishing-Caps'
--Rudyard Kipling

Life's all getting and giving,
I've only myself to give.
What shall I do for a living?
I've only one life to live.
End it? I'll not find another.
Spend it? But how shall I best?

posted by TSO @ 09:21

Stranger than Fiction

Father Tom Sherman

Interesting story of how General Sherman's son became a Jesuit priest, and how he came to be buried next to kin of the vice president of Confederate States of America.

So many 19th century stories are a potent cocktail of odd coincidences, episodes of madness and deathbed conversions.

posted by TSO @ 22:47

July 25, 2004

George Will on reading:

There have been times when reading was regarded with suspicion. Some among the ancient Greeks regarded the rise of reading as cultural decline: They considered oral dialogue, which involves clarifying questions, more hospitable to truth. But the transition from an oral to a print culture has generally been a transition from a tribal society to a society of self-consciously separated individuals. In Europe that transition alarmed ruling elites, who thought the "crisis of literacy" was that there was too much literacy: Readers had, inconveniently, minds of their own. Reading is inherently private; hence, the reader is beyond state supervision or crowd psychology.

In 1940 a British officer on Dunkirk beach sent London a three-word message: "But if not." It was instantly recognized as from the Book of Daniel. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are commanded to worship a golden image or perish, they defiantly reply: "Our God who we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods."

Britain then still had the cohesion of a common culture of shared reading. That cohesion enabled Britain to stay the hand of Hitler, a fact pertinent to today's new age of barbarism.

posted by TSO @ 23:18

July 23, 2004

posted by TSO @ 20:57

A tip o' the Guinness (this blog's sponsor) to the dapper Thomas of Endlessly Rocking, who I finally got a chance to meet. Long o'erdue, we made haste by enjoying some fine fried fish at Ol' Bag of Nails Pub and by solving all the world's problems. He's to the left of me politically but to be always in agreement wouldst be boring.

posted by TSO @ 20:52

Varying Opinions

It's always interesting how the same object can provoke equal and opposite reactions in people.

Alan Epstein, who is Jewish and wrote a book about Rome, called the Catholic Church "an institution that is the most successful idea - in the sense of longevity and loyalty - the species has ever produced."

Diarmaid MacCulloch, an atheist, recently mentioned on C-Span that the span of 2,000 years is nothing and the Christian Church is finally reaching adolescence. He hopes that the Church will grow out of the childishness of reactionaries like Mel Gibson & Cardinal Ratzinger.


posted by TSO @ 16:25


The Onion sizes up the Democratic Convention schedule

posted by TSO @ 14:27

Intriguing Excerpts...
...from the 100 greatest books, via Steven Riddle:

27. CERVANTES. DON QUIXOTE... Cervantes' great, ironical, romantic story is written in a style so noble, so nervous, so humane, so branded with reality, that, as the wise critic has said, the mere touch and impact of it puts courage into our veins. It is not necessary to read every word of this old book. There are tedious passages. But not to have ever opened it; not to have caught the tone, the temper, the terrible courage, the infinite sadness of it, is to have missed being present at one of the “great gestures" of the undying, unconquerable spirit of humanity.

86. GILBERT K. CHESTERTON. ORTHODOXY...Mr. Chesterton has his own peculiar “religion”—a sort of Chelsea Embankment Catholicism, in which, in place of Pontifical Encyclicals, we have Punch and Judy jokes, and in place of Apostolic Doctrine we have umbrellas, lamp-posts, electric-signs and prestidigitating clerics...If we don't become “like little children”; in other words like jovial, middle-aged swashbucklers, and protest our belief in Flying Pigs, Pusses in Boots, Jacks on the top of Beanstalks, Old Women who live in Shoes, Fairies, Fandangos, Prester Johns, and Blue Devils, there is no hope for us...

87. OSCAR WILDE...His supreme art, as he himself well knew, was, after all, the art of conversation. One might even put it that his greatest achievement in life was just the achievement of being brazenly and shamelessly what he naturally was—especially in conversation. To call him a “poseur” with the implication that he pretended or assumed a manner, were just as absurd as to call a tiger striped with the implication that the beast deliberately “put on” that mark of distinction. If it is a pose to enjoy the sensation of one's own spontaneous gestures, Wilde was indeed the worst of pretenders. But the stupid gravity of many generals, judges and archbishops is not more natural to them than his exquisite insolence was to him.

posted by TSO @ 13:53

A New View

I'm always grateful when I hear a sermon that presents a very familiar gospel passage in a new way. That happened with this parable:

Jesus said, “Hear then the parable of the sower. When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Now what the priest started to say was something about how fruitfulness is a cooperation (..."between God and man" I finished his thought -- but no!) between the Word and the Holy Spirit, as would be happening at the altar. The Holy Spirit works through the priest as He did with Mary, the Mother of God, and in both cases the fruit is Jesus.

So where is the work of the Spirit in this parable? It is implied by the fact that the Spirit's seven gifts are the antidotes to infertile ground. Thus:

-"When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it..." prevented by the gift of Understanding

-"As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away." prevented by the gift of Fortitude

- "As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word." remedied by the gift of knowledge, which enables those who have it to "judge the whole spectrum of creatures and objects from a supernatural viewpoint" which is to say a rightly ordered view of created things and money.

posted by TSO @ 13:00

The Shock of the Unexpected

The 25-mile bike ride I spoke of in an earlier post was to & from a small town, the home of the private and politically liberal Antioch College.

The quaint college town was lined with bookstores "callllin' my name" as Clarence Carter would've sung. There were four of them, all delightfully mom & pop-ish, all as left-leaning as a punch drunk.

One in particular was memorable. Inside were loads of books about female goddesses, lots of Buddhas and Eastern philosophy books, books like "The Lesbian Body", which suprised me because I didn't know they had a different one!

Bookshops like these often have three or four rooms and so I wandered into a far room that really was the study or office, but I couldn't help taking a peek before exiting. And on the walls, amid posters of winsome mermaids and such were a dozen statues and photos of Our Lady of Gaudalupe. It was a shock but perhaps edifying to see something so familiar and personal to me in a setting so politically and religiously alien.

posted by TSO @ 10:17

And I Thought it Was Because of Beer!

Funny line from a co-worker from Ghana, who said that his father used to say "A man's belly grows big so he can stomach all the family problems."

posted by TSO @ 09:36

Since it's a rule around our house that no Civil War movie can be missed, I was only in temporary violation when I missed Cold Mountain at the theater. I got the video and am half-way through it. I'm struck by the spiritual parallels.

The bare bones story is that Inman is an idealistic soldier going off to the Civil War when he meets Aida, arriving just as he's leaving. For the briefest moment they imagine a life together and baptize it with a kiss. On that slim hook she promises to wait for the end of the war, presumed to be a month.

Inman's journey parallels our own. He's trying to get home, to somewhere heavenly. The pilgrimage is fraught with dangers - demons in the form of Union & Confederates trying to catch him (he's on the lam), temptations in the form of prostitutes and lonely widows - while having to fend off disbelief in Aida's love given how fragmentary the vision.

The disbelief weakens as he gets closer. He has sacrificed so much to get this far. Meanwhile, Aida is waiting.

posted by TSO @ 07:12

For comedic purposes only. Please use as directed...

9-11 Commission Finds Guilt, Guilt, Guilt!
The 9/11 Commission today ruled that several key players lacked omniscience.

"The fact that many in our government could not predict the future accurately is an abomination," said a commission member today.

Additionally, the Commission found out that communication within and between the FBI and CIA was grossly inadequate. They also discovered that dogs chase cats and revealed that the earth revolves around the sun.

When asked about the Commission's findings one member, who declined to be identified, said "Hey, we're a hangin' jury here. If we don't find someone guilty then what'd the taxpayers pay us fer? As for recommendations, I recommend a terrorism czar. It worked with drugs and home security, didn't it?"

Sandy Berger Rues the Day He Bought Socks
Former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger admitted today that buying to-the-calf socks that contained pockets was probably a mistake.

"The appearance of it is questionable. I'm a suit and tie guy, I dress pretty well, so wearing tube socks with specially-made pockets in them looks pretty damning. But the truth is I use those pockets for my Pocket FishermanTM."

Former President Clinton commented at a recent booksigning. "We're all laughing about it. That wild Sandy getting in trouble again. There is nothing in those charges."

Clinton then winked and said, "of course, if you lie only for yourself what does that say about you? If you can't lie for your friends then-- hey, this is on background, right?"

It was not.

France Stops Air Travel, Declaring U.S. a 'Nincompoop' Nation

In his harshest criticism to date, France President Chirac declared that the U.S. would never be able to fly planes over French territory again, including commercial jets, helicopters, hang-gliders, model airplanes and paper planes.

"No longer will an American plane fly over French soil!" Chirac said in French.

When asked how long, Chirac said "until America stops enforcing U.N. resolutions!"

posted by TSO @ 15:41

July 22, 2004

Project Blog

Whoda thunk it? Sounds like a good, if torturous, idea. The quality of those 3am entries might slip just a bit. "Boy am I tired. Tahhh-erd. Tarred. Tear-d. Ty-erd. T-i-r-e-d. Did I mention I was tired?":

Project Blog is here because we care and because we want to make a difference. On July 24th, bloggers from all around the world will be updating their own blog every 30 minutes for 24 solid hours all in the name of each blogger's favorite charity.

posted by TSO @ 14:38

'I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go.’ Spectator cartoon

posted by TSO @ 10:20

Reading Takes Work

David Mills on the decline of reading, with reader response.

posted by TSO @ 10:18

Sea Change

From Amy this morning:

I'm telling you, this is where we are. For a long time, pro-lifers thought that getting the message out that what abortion is is killing a human being was the bulk of the job we had to do. (Besides giving material and emotional support to women in unexpected pregnancies). But I think a lot of people are beginning to see that for a hard core, this is irrelevant. They know what it is perfectly well, and they don't particularly care, and they aren't interested in any kind of moral analysis as to why it's okay to end the life of a baby in the womb but not outside. I started seeing this fifteen years ago, when I was reading a lot of pro-abortion rights feminist material. These women were not stupid. They knew what was going on in an abortion. They just felt that women's rights took precedence, period. I also started seeing it in college groups to whom I was speaking. Once I addresssed a group, along with the PR person from a local abortion facility. I took the opportunity to push her on how far they performed abortions - up to 24 weeks - and how they did it. She responded coolly, describing dilitation and extraction. A young man sitting nearby murmured "chop-chop" and there was a small swell of laughter from others. Perhaps uncomfortable, but still laughter. And not a bit of outrage in that group.
How chilling is that? The slippery slope from callousness to extreme callousness always applies. Between 1800 and 1860 slavery went from being seen as a "necessary evil", something that even the big plantation owners were sheepish about, to being defended by Calhoun and others as a positive good! The small lie becomes the big one.

One effect of horror is to galvanize. To see the starkness of inhumanity, such as that perpetrated by Stalin, can have the unintended effect of making us want to be more humane. The Crucifix can have a similar impact - I see where my sin leads.

posted by TSO @ 09:19

The Priest Who Hears Confessions

they'd keep a distance
walking three paces behind
as if I were leading a parade
and they were keeping
the proper Float distance.

A shame,
twas only their indoor plumbing
I'd seen,
one blockage the same
as another.

posted by TSO @ 04:25

True Words

Hernan mentions a positive of blogging: "And -last but not least- another reason: the most interesting (and very different) people who I have known this way."

Very true. You would think that the self-selection that goes on in St. Blog's, i.e. Catholic, literate, etc... would ensure more uniformity, but I'm often surprised at the diversity of personalities, styles and opinions of different bloggers. One could never, ever, confuse Tom Kreitzberg, Steven Riddle and Bill Luse to name a random three. Each is larger than life on the blogging canvas.


Went on a 25-mile bike ride with my uncle yesterday. He's a fervent Audubon Society, National Wildlife-subscribing lover of nature. He talked about how different plants and animals not native to Ohio are taking over the landscape and how species are disappearing. We're seeing an homogenizing effect in nature. We see it with race, a good thing, since intermarriage between blacks and whites will ultimately fix what we can't on our own. We see it in gender, as men become more womanly and women more manly. We see it in cities too, where Honolulu is Chicago with a Polynesian accent, and in regions, where the South has lost so much of its unique culture.

So it is reassuring to see the diversity within St. Blog's, a healthy sort of diversity indeed, though we might appear similar to outsiders.

posted by TSO @ 11:27

July 21, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

One of the pictures I took was from the large front porch. I wanted to capture What Flannery Saw. But of course, no one but Flannery could do that. - Amy Welborn, on a visit to Andalusia, home of Flannery O'Connor

I live alone. I have no kin less than a full day's drive away. I'm chronically ill with a disease that is incurable and fatal. Though I am doing all the things I need to do to collect on the "15 to 20 years of medically manageable symptoms", such as taking all my medicines, doing my physical therapy, using my oxygen, and so on, the fact is that I could easily be Called at any time. And the first notice of my passing, when my body finally stops working entirely, is very likely to be a blaring loudspeaker just like the one in the cafeteria this noontime, at some hospital or skilled nursing facility. I hope that when my time comes, and the loudspeakers start hollering about my room, that there is someone who takes pity on me and prays for me. It's on that list of the Things Catholics Do, the Works of Mercy: Pray for both the living and the dead. - Karen Knapp of Anchor Hold

A 'virtual benediction' is the ecclesial equivalent of 'cyber sex'. One is just as joyless, lifeless, and ridiculous as the other. If you can't get to a parish for whatever reason, you're better off just praying Scripture and the Office with whatever prostrations, bows, signs of the Cross are proper. And please, please, please don't get caught up in the illusion that anything on this screen is 'really present' to you. - Thomas of ER

My country just keeps on suckin' - title of Kathy Shaidle post, who is a Canadian

mmmMMMmmm Krispy-Kreme. i love food porn! - smockmomma on Bill Luse's blog

I think the Church is still discerning what voting and cooperation actually mean and I think they're coming to terms with the fact that it isn't as far from us as we might once though it had been. Also, this is a sign of the struggle against the culture of Death, whereas in the past some of these issues were nonexistant, now we must deal with the ascendant, destructive reality of those who deny God and seek to become gods. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

I'm no intellectual, you understand, but I like Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Hemingway, John P. Marquand, Louis Auchincloss, and Simenon. - Bing Crosby, via Terry Teachout's blog

Offering up the sacrifice of my efforts, the time spent, the work done, IN AND OF ITSELF, makes my attempt pleasing to God. He can bring out of it what HE chooses. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

My travels around St. Blog's over the last couple of years have taught me a valuable lesson: I'm not as smart as I thought I was. I don't know as much as I thought I did. I'm not as articulate as I thought I was. The end result has been a reduction in my posting. Certainly, my busy schedule is the main culprit of my lack of posts, but when I do get time, I usually don't post anymore. So how does pride fit into this? Perhaps I'm too concerned that if I post, I will only reveal how truly ignorant I am. When that thought hit me yesterday, it really caused me to pause and think. Certainly blogging can stem from pride, but not blogging can also stem from pride. See how ignorant I am? LOL!!! - Tom of Santificarnos

I look(ed) up the following prayer of Dr. Johnson's (it is in Boswell's Life under the year 1764): "I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake. Amen." - Derbyshire of the Corner

This makes me an even more ardent propopent of teaching a certain amount of skepticism early on. It's like push polling. People will call and say, "If you knew that George Bush was accused of molesting children and once was detained for loitering outside a YMCA would that affect your intention to vote for him?" Now, the point is that none of this is true, but enough doubt is introduced by the question that it often affects the decision-maker's choice. - Steven Riddle in an email stressing the importance of skepticism given how so many uncritically accept the "history" in the DaVinci Code.

I'll adopt one of them, or two if you want. - Jane Wangersky, commenting on Amy's blog, on what she would say to the woman who wrote a column in the NY Times who learned she had triplets and wanted only one child. The women had two of her unborn children killed.

There's always a girl, isn't there? I even married mine. Which was, of course, a horrible mistake. When we finally split up in '97 my brothers, my mother, Roy, my best man Robert, and all my other friends, told me to a person that they had agreed the marriage was doomed from the start....And yet, they did nothing to stop me. Now, it's true that you can never talk someone out of getting married if they are, for whatever reason, determined to go through with it. But you can take 'em to Key West and get 'em so drunk that they miss the wedding altogether. - Thomas of ER

Our refutations of the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus will always be an argument from silence, since history doesn’t speak of it at all. Thus, our arguments will always allow people to believe that He really did have sex with “that woman.” - Steve of "Fifth Column"

But as a priest friend of mine once told me and I go back to it as often as it makes me feel better: "The spiritual life is like a pendulum always swinging one way then the other and there's always some time spent hanging straight down in between." - commenter Alexa on "Barefoot & Pregnant" blog

I believe that the tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction. I believe in the instinctive use of spondees. I believe in Rossetti and pine-cones; Alighieri and effervescence. I believe in matrigna mia, who left us not too long ago. I believe in my friends. I believe in my enemies. I believe in Ecclesiastes and the Gospels and the Psalms. I believe in the first Epistle of John. I believe in the poetry that Daniel Berrigan wrote, before he became a leftist sloganeer. I believe in construction-workers and carpenters and in people who do things that I can't do. I believe in Mozart and Tracy Chapman and Oscar Wilde and in the invaluably salvific properties of a really good laugh. I believe in dew and frost, forests and deserts, Carretto and Campion, rain and fire, light and darkness, speech and silence. - from Dylan's archives

Too bad I can’t get a copy of the X-ray. I’d like to have put on a T-shirt so people would stop asking me what’s wrong with my leg. I could alternate with a shirt that says, “THIS IS MY BAD LEG - THE GOOD ONE WAS STOLEN BY AN ITINERANT BIBLE SALESMAN” on the front and “HULDA” on the back. - Ellyn of Oblique House

posted by TSO @ 09:31

Yin and Yangs

Read books last night about two men at opposite ends of the spiritual spectrum, Hendra's "Father Joe" and Montefiore's "Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar". The contrast is edifying. Father Joe is as unselfish and loving as Stalin was selfish and unloving.

Of Father Joe Warrilow, well, too often I appreciate saints for their heroism (St. Perpetua is a favorite) or intellectual prowess (St. Thomas Aquinas). But Father Joe is only about love. He wasn't particularly bright nor particularly heroic, in the sense we are accustomed to.

Stalin was almost a relief after Father Joe since it quit me from thinking about myself, which books about spiritual giants sometimes do in one prone to pride and the desire to avoid pain in the form of Purgatory (i.e. one sees how dauntingly far the journey to holiness is after seeing saints like Fr. Joe).

posted by TSO @ 08:55

"Behold the body of the most holy virgin Cecilia whom I myself saw lying incorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble expressed for thee the same saint in the very same posture of body." - the artist Cicognara

posted by TSO @ 15:34

July 20, 2004

What if William F. Buckley Had a Blog? (a parody)

WFB's recent travels on the talk show circuit reminded me of an old post and inspired a new one:

Went on a Fox News show called "Hannity and Colmes" to promote the new book. Mrs. Buckley suggested afterwards that my oratorical metabolism, uncompensated by gesticular flourishes, seemed phlegmatic compared to masters Hannity and Colmes. She recommended an aperitif in the Green Room before Hardball.

Posted by WFB 6:35pm July 20, 2004

Spent the morning at the NR office followed by lunch at an Indian food restaurant called "Curry in a Hurry" at Lowry's suggestion. Some have questioned handing over the NR reins to someone so young but they forget I began National Review at a younger age. Lowry's choice in restaurants does give me pause though...

Posted by WFB 11:15am July 12, 2004

Received a call from Don King, the fight promoter, regarding a possible allumette-vers le haut between myself and Gore Vidal. I replied in the negative.

Posted by WFB 3:01pm July 11, 2004

The thought of Catholic politicians who openly controvert Church teaching receiving at the communion rail is reminiscent of the bride who, expert in matters carnal and caught in flagrante delicto with the postman, still chooses the whitest white in wedding apparel. The small hypocrisy of the shade of gown pales before the taking of Communion, so the bishops must untangle a twisted skein given the on-going, unrepentent nature of the sin. The bedlamitic uncle in this attic appears to be the fact that John Kerry could not successfuly export his odious views on human life issues but for the enabling votes of millions of Catholics, begging the larger issue of an apparently new thing - the wholesale disregard the majority of Western Catholics have shown towards the Magisterium in their discarding of Humane Vitae and support for pro-choice political candidates.

Posted by WFB 2:12pm July 9, 2004

posted by TSO @ 14:21

Michael Oakeshott Quote:

Everybody's young days are a dream, a delightful insanity, a sweet solipsism. Nothing in them has a fixed shape, nothing a fixed price; everything is a possibility, and we live happily on credit. There are no obligations to be observed; there are no accounts to be kept. Nothing is specified in advance; everything is what can be made of it. The world is a mirror in which we seek the reflection of our own desires. The allure of violent emotions is irresistible. When we are young we are not disposed to make concessions to the world; we never feel the balance of a thing in our hands - unless it be a cricket bat. We are not apt to distinguish between our liking and our esteem; urgency is our criterion of importance; and we do not easily understand that what is humdrum need not be despicable. We are impatient of restraint; and we readily believe, like Shelley, that to have contracted a habit is to have failed. These, in my opinion, are among our virtues when we are young; but how remote they are from the disposition appropriate for participating in the style of government I have been describing. Since life is a dream, we argue (with plausible but erroneous logic) that politics must be an encounter of dreams, in which we hope to impose our own. Some unfortunate people, like Pitt (laughably called "the Younger"), are born old, and are eligible to engage in politics almost in their cradles; others, perhaps more fortunate, belie the saying that one is young only once, they never grow up. But these are exceptions. For most there is what Conrad called the "shadow line" which, when we pass it, discloses a solid world of things, each with its fixed shape, each with its own point of balance, each with its price; a world of fact, not poetic image, in which what we have spent on one thing we cannot spend on another; a world inhabited by others besides ourselves who cannot be reduced to mere reflections of our own emotions. And coming to be at home in this commonplace world qualifies us (as no knowledge of "political science" can ever qualify us), if we are so inclined and have nothing better to think about, to engage in what the man of conservative disposition understands to be political activity. --via the Corner

posted by TSO @ 11:28

Provoking Sympathy

Here literature's weakness - that, unlike philosophy, it is unsystematic - becomes its great strength. It draws on all our ways of knowing at once: not just the analysis of the outer world, but introspection and intuition as well. We can understand what is going on in the hearts of others because we know what stirs our own hearts, and what could stir them. When a writer imagines his characters' inner drama, his description rings true to us because we have felt similar impulses or imagined analogous situations, and , further, can identify sympathetically with something beyond our ken. We grasp intuitively the complex internal mix: the simultaneous interplay of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and hopes, of conscious and subliminal impulses - as pity combines with social anxiety, say, or eros or vanity or sudden insight to impel a character to behave as he behaves. Literature is the great school of motivation: it teaches us how, out of the complex welter of impulses churning within us, we make the choices that define us and seal our fate.
-- Myron Magnet, from the preface to the ISI edition of Dickens and the Social Order...via Collected Miscellany

posted by TSO @ 10:47

Teasing Tidbit from Terry Teachout

A regular "About Last Night" reader writes:
In general -- and with all exceptions duly noted -- I think your preferences reflect a taste for lightness over heaviness, for charm over depth (as conventionally understood). As I grow older, that is the direction in which my taste is headed. Do you agree that aging has something to do with it?
Very perceptive. But while I think aging may have something to do with it, I think the effects in my case are limited. My taste has always run more or less in those directions: French over German, "comic" (broadly speaking) over tragic, short over long, color over line. In the best of all possible two-kinds-of-people divide, that formulated by Schiller, I tend to opt for "naive" over "sentimental." As Sir Isaiah Berlin explains, "naive" artists are those "who create naturally, who are not troubled by the burden of the tragic disorder of life, who do not seek salvation in art as some people seek personal salvation in religion or Socialism or nationalism." He cited Verdi as the quintessential example of the naive artist of genius. For me, it's Balanchine.

posted by TSO @ 10:45

Asking the Saints to Intercede For Us

There is something charismatic about St. Thomas Aquinas apart from the charisma every saint has in being close to God. Something about his sense of order and the sheer comprehensiveness of his writings, and the confidence with which he teaches! Here is a rich vein on why ask the saints to intercede for us:

According to Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. v) the order established by God among things is that "the last should be led to God by those that are midway between."...It is not on account of any defect in God's power that He works by means of second causes, but it is for the perfection of the order of the universe, and the more manifold outpouring of His goodness on things, through His bestowing on them not only the goodness which is proper to them, but also the faculty of causing goodness in others.
Why ask prayers of lesser saints?
Although the greater saints are more acceptable to God than the lesser, it is sometimes profitable to pray to the lesser; and this for five reasons. First, because sometimes one has greater devotion for a lesser saint than for a greater, and the effect of prayer depends very much on one's devotion. Secondly, in order to avoid tediousness, for continual attention to one thing makes a person weary; whereas by praying to different saints, the fervor of our devotion is aroused anew as it were. Thirdly, because it is granted to some saints to exercise their patronage in certain special cases, for instance to Saint Anthony against the fire of hell. Fourthly, that due honor be given by us to all. Fifthly, because the prayers of several sometimes obtain that which would not have been obtained by the prayers of one.

posted by TSO @ 20:46

July 19, 2004

Another Chesterton Excerpt...Everlasting Man

This excerpt is so indisputably true. I can never for the life me understand how anyone can say the Catholic Church is "strict". Have they read the Gospels?

We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has hidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors till it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is that it is the image of Christ in the churches that is almost entirely mild and merciful. It is the image of Christ in the Gospels that is a good many other things as well...The Church can reasonably be justified therefore if she turns the most merciful face or aspect towards men; but it is certainly the most merciful aspect that she does turn. And the point is here that it is very much more specially and exclusively merciful than any impression that could be formed by a man merely reading the New Testament for the first time. A man simply taking the words of the story as they stand would form quite another impression; an impression full of mystery and possibly of inconsistency; but certainly not merely an impression of mildness....I have deliberately stressed what seems to be nowadays a neglected side of the New Testament story, but nobody will suppose, I imagine, that it is meant to obscure that side that may truly be called human. That Christ was and is the most merciful of judges and the most sympathetic of friends is a fact of considerably more importance in our own private lives than in anybody's historical speculations.

posted by TSO @ 14:43

There's No Business like Show Business

Longtime-readers-first-time-callers will recall the long saga of Ham of Bone, father of four children and three screenplays. We had lunch today, and I'm sure he won't mine this reportage as long as I spell his name right. (Bone, correct me if I'm wrong.)

"IT is dead to me and I am dead to IT," he began*.

I didn't know quite how to respond to this dramatic declaration, although I admired its clarity. I probably could've said something like IT might be dead to you, but it's providing a paycheck, which is nothing to sneeze at. But where's the poetry in that? How much more Wildean to say, "IT is dead to me."

Of course he is not quitting his job, but has discovered a new way of expressing his desperation: a self-financed movie. The idea is to convert his screenplay 'Cheapskate' (the main characters being Bone and myself) into a movie for as inexpensively as $10,000.

Sounds like a good idea. He has prodigious amount of energy and $10,000 is only six month's worth of savings for Bone. The one negative is he wants me to play myself, because I'll work cheaply (i.e. for free).

* - (IT stands for information technology, which is his field of expertise. I offered him a book on job burnout but he's too burned out to read it.)

posted by TSO @ 14:33

Reading Like It's 1999

It takes discipline to read on a sunny Sunday afternoon and not fall prey to the honey-do list. I did succumb to Thompson water-sealing the new mailbox, which took all of ten minutes but made my wife happy. Nice bang for the buck there. She knows Saturdays are fair game where work around the house is concerned but expects nothing from me on Sundays.

I recall fondly how Peggy Noonan tried to put the best spin on negligent housekeeping by calling spiderwebs "Irish lace" and by saying the reason the Irish don't keep their houses pristine was because who has time to clean when there is Joyce and Yeats to read? Amen to that.

So I'm proud to report I was up to the challenge of not doing much work around the house Sunday. I read till I could read no mo'. As can be discerned from recent bloggings, I re-read parts of the Pope's "Love & Responsibility" and Chesterton's "Everlasting Man". Then there was also an Updike piece in the New Yorker, which led me inexorably to the book "John Updike and Religion".

After that a dollop of Victor Hanson's "Soul of Battle". He's now on to Patton, and I made a mental note to read Shelby Foote's thoughts on Sherman in his Civil War narrative.

Channel-fipping led me to a Discovery show on the fall of Rome, which eventually led to a few chapters of Epstein's "As the Romans Do: An American Family's Italian Odyssey".

Finally, Tony Hendra's "Father Joe" rounded out the elixir.

I guess reports of my book monogamy are greatly exaggerated. So many books, so little time.

posted by TSO @ 13:27

Take Me Out to the Convention

Ham of Bone, writing under a psuedonym, cracks me up.

posted by TSO @ 09:47

More DVC

Steven Riddle emailed me with a counterpoint that I could've/should've anticipated. He said that there's nothing sinister about Brown's sales because:

"I would point out that... Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy and others routinely sell this well or perhaps a bit better. Further, I would point out that the errors in Crichton are every bit as profound, pernicious, and irritating at those in the DaVinci Code, but they don't happen to reflect on religion."

This is true, but I think that errors regarding religion are more catastrophic than errors in science since the former involves the soul, the latter the body. But Steven makes a good point on the ability of fluff to have large sales.

The only answer I have to that is that, whatever their merits, Crichton & Clancy & others are living off the fame of their past books. They are a name brand now and could put out anything and it would sell. The key is their FIRST book, their break-out book. DVC is Brown's break-out book and there is something in a breakout book that might say something about a culture...

posted by TSO @ 09:20

Keeping an Eye on Fast Food you don't have to

Sign of the Apocalypse: Burger King now has a Low Carb Menu. Oy vey.

Sign of the Apocalypse II: McDonald's new oven-roasted sandwiches aren't bad (I asked for a sample of the Grilled Reuben and they gave me some). The Cobb Chicken salad isn't bad either. This from someone who used to eat at McDonald's (other than breakfast) once or twice a year.

posted by TSO @ 07:29

Equal Time for Pullman

Though I dislike DVC for personal reasons (i.e. relatives have been disturbed by its 'history') the Pullman stuff is worse. Christopher of Ratzinger Fan Club Blog provides a round-up on Phillip Pullman.

posted by TSO @ 07:25

War & Peace...a Chesterton Excerpt

G.K. writes about how Christ does not offer platitudes (like the earthly philosophers that some in the Jesus Seminar are wont to compare Him to), but paradoxes. Chesterton makes the point that it gives Christ's teaching a universal application and helps disprove those who say his teaching came out of his culture. Here is one on peace and war, from the perspective of someone reading the NT for the first time:

He would find several paradoxes in favour of peace. He would find several ideals of non-resistance, which taken as they stand would be rather too pacific for any pacifist. He would be told in one passage to treat a robber not with passive resistance, but rather with positive and enthusiastic encouragement, if the terms be taken literally; heaping up gifts upon the man who had stolen goods.

But he would not find a word of all that obvious rhetoric against war which has filled countless books and odes and orations; not a word about the wickedness of war, the wastefulness of war, the appalling scale of the slaughter in war and all the rest of the familiar frenzy; indeed not a word about war at all. There is nothing that throws any particular light on Christ's attitude towards organised warfare, except that he seems to have been rather fond of Roman soldiers...

There is nothing that wants the rarest sort of wisdom so much as to see, let us say, that the citizen is higher than the slave and yet that the soul is infinitely higher than the citizen or the city. It is not by any means a faculty that commonly belongs to these simplifiers of the Gospel; those who insist on what they call a simple morality and others call a sentimental morality. It is not at all covered by those who are content to tell everybody to remain at peace. On the contrary, there is a very striking example of it in the apparent inconsistency between Christ's sayings about peace and about a sword. It is precisely this power which perceives that while a good peace is better than a good war, even a good war is better than a bad peace.

posted by TSO @ 17:53

July 18, 2004

Where We Find Ourselves

My oversimplified and perhaps flawed view of the pre-Vatican II era (after all, I wasn't even alive during it) is that you didn't do (fill-in-the-blank) because the Church said so. Vatican II tried to offer why, to give reasons for our observances and to emphasize the positive over the negative, as exemplified by the lack of anathemas in the Council documents.

Similarly, Pope John Paul II emphasizes God's love, his mercy, and consistently sees in man a grandeur that comes from a deep faith. I think that this passage from the Pope's Love & Responsibility speaks volumes about how the Church has changed:

For man is a being internally constructed that the promptings of carnal desire do not disappear merely because they are contained by willpower, although superficially they appear to do so; for them to disappear completely a man must know 'why' he is containing them. It may be said that the prohibition is self-justifying: 'why not?' - 'because I must not' - but this does not solve the problem satisfactorily...Only when the will is confronted by a value which fully explains the necessity for containing impulses aroused by carnal desire and sensuality. Only as this value gradually takes possession of the mind and the will does the will become calm and free itself from a characteristic sense of loss.
Doesn't our recent history mirror in some micro way the differences of emphasis in the Testaments? Wasn't the OT (and pre-Vatican II) mostly about telling you that you'll do this because...God or the Church said so? And the NT (and the Vatican II documents) reminded us why? (i.e. Love, i.e. Christ, i.e. because God so loved the world that he sent His only son.).

It seems as though a "hard ass" method was employed pre-Vatican II, while a more "here's why" way was employed post-Vatican II. But is it any wonder that the Church struggles with where to draw the line respect to dissident theologians or how strict to make the fasts when, in our own lives, we have so much difficulty determining whether we are too easy on ourselves or too hard? It'll be fascinating to see where we go from here.

posted by TSO @ 14:43


Oh, print the Psalms
and plant them like flags
in the ground of your soul!
Apply your patch of Scripture
like the ex-smokers do
and sing them in the shower
read them on the subway
so that Christ may get inside.

posted by TSO @ 23:29

July 16, 2004

Be Not Afraid

...from the Pope's "Crossing the Threshold of Hope":

Of what should we not be afraid? We should not fear the truth about ourselves. One day Peter became aware of this and with particular energy he said to Jesus: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man" (Lk 5:8).

Peter was not the only one who was aware of this truth. Every man has learned it. Every successor to Peter has learned it. I learned it very well. Every one of us is indebted to Peter for what he said on that day: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Christ answered him: "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men" (Lk 5:10). Do not be afraid of men!

Do not be afraid of God's mystery; do not be afraid of His love; and do not be afraid of man's weakness or of his grandeur! Man does not cease to be great, not even in his weakness. Do not be afraid of being witnesses to the dignity of every human being, from the moment of conception until death.

posted by TSO @ 21:35

Beauty Going, going...?

I think it was Walter Kerr in The Decline of Pleasure who said that the capacity to enjoy poetry decreases as you age. If this is true, then I wonder if it also holds true with civilizations, for ours is one who no longer appreciates poetry.

Poetry is to fiction as fiction is to non-fiction - the former is more beautiful than the latter and the latter is beautiful just for beauty's sake. In a utilitarian age where bodies are used as a means to ends it's perhaps not surprising that non-fiction is prized because it's more useful than fiction, and fiction more useful than poetry. So withers a whole category of books.

Poetry might be the "canary in the coalmine" signalling the decline and fall of good fiction. (Note to Bone: if you're going to write that novel, best do it soon.) Newsweek reported recently that fiction book buying was down 14% last year and literary fiction - the kind that often tries to be beautiful - is down the most.

posted by TSO @ 16:52

CS Lewis on Beauty & Desire (from Pilgrim's Regress)

There is a particular mystery about the object of this Desire. Inexperienced people suppose, when they feel it, that they know what they are desiring. Thus if it comes to a child while he is looking at a far off hillside he at once thinks "if only I am there"; if it comes when he is remembering some event in the past, he thinks "if only I could go back to those days". If it comes (a little later) while he is reading a "romantic" tale or poem of "perilous seas and faerie lands forlorn," he thinks he is wishing that such places really existed and that he could reach them...

Every one of thse supposed objects for the Desire is inadequate to it. An easy experiment will show that by going to the far hillside you will get either nothing, or else a recurrence of the same desire which sent you thither. And once grant your fairy, your enchanted forest, your satyr, faun, wood-nymph and well of immortality real, and amidst all the scientific, social and practical interest which the discovery would awake, the Sweet Desire would have disappeared...

This hunger is better than any other fullness; this poverty better than all other wealth. And thus it comes about, that if the desire is long absent, it may itself be desired, and that new desiring becomes a new instance of the original desire, though the subject may not at once recognize the fact and thus cries out for his lost youth of soul at the very moment in which he is being rejuvenated. This sounds complicated, but it is simple when we live it. "Oh to feel as I did then!" we cry; not noticing that even while we say the words the very feeling whose loss we lament is rising again in all its old bitter-sweetness.

posted by TSO @ 14:05

Interesting review of Hans-Hermann Hoppe: "Democracy, The God That Failed: The Economics and Politics of Monarchy, Democracy, and Natural Order":

I value what I can have now more than what I cannot have for some extended period of time. But if I valued only what I can have now, I would spend all I have right now and never save. The more I value things NOW, the higher my rate of time reference. The more I can put off consumption, the lower my rate of time preference. Keep this distinction in mind as we proceed.

The reason monarchy is better than democracy is because a king will possess a lower rate of time preference by definition; he wishes to maximize the future capital value of his realm for himself and his heirs. His policies, if he is wise, will protect his kingdom from unrest and ultimately revolution; he will tax as little as possible, he will be eager to enlist his citizens in programs that build up the long-term health and wealth of the state. Historically, for example, as Hoppe shows those horrible old monarchies have taxed up to a huge eight percent. Democracies, however, are ruled by a cadre with a very high rate of time preference. They wish always to maximize the immediate return they get from government. (Think pay – and reelection – and pork to assure the latter.) The distant future is a time for them when they will all be dead, and few envision their own heirs as being part of the government apparatus in that distant future. Thus NOW is the watchword. What can we get NOW – myself and my family? And the situation is, if anything, worse with the mass of voters. Give us all we can get now, and we don’t care where it comes from. Grab it from those richer folks. The payola (government handouts) flies around. Taxes rise and rise. As I noted above, the going rate in the U.S. today flutters around 50 percent, and it is worse in some other nations.

Author Hoppe is no mere Enlightenment rationalist, no disciple of Voltaire & Co. who would erase religion and undermine the family. His contention: "[C]onservatives today must be antistatist libertarians and, equally important . . . libertarians must be conservatives.” Defining libertarianism, Hoppe disposes of those self-styled “libertarians” who are really libertines, hedonists, and wreckers of society. Defining conservatism, Hoppe rules out in a brief paragraph the “conservative” who would merely preserve the “existing order.” The term “conservative” can only meaningfully refer, he says, to “someone who believes in the existence of a natural order, a natural state of affairs which corresponds to the nature of things, of nature and man.” What might be some features of the natural order Hoppe appeals to? Listen to this:

“Within the realm of the humanities, including the social sciences, a conservative recognizes families (fathers, mothers, children, grandchildren,) and households based on private property and in cooperation with a community of other households as the most fundamental, natural, essential, ancient, and indispensable social units. Moreover, the family household also represents the model of the social order at large. Just as hierarchical order exists in a family, so is there a hierarchical order within a community of families – of apprentices, servants, and masters, vassals, knights, lords, overlords, and even kings – tied together by an elaborate and intricate system of kinship relations; and of children, parents, priests, bishops, cardinals, patriarchs or popes, and finally the transcendent God. Of the two layers of authority, the earthly physical power of parents, lords, and kings is naturally subordinate and subject to control by the ultimate intellectual-spiritual authority of fathers, priest, bishops, and ultimately God.”
You didn’t expect to read anything like that in an “anarcho-capitalist” text, did you?

posted by TSO @ 13:34

Mark Brumely is less than impressed by Hahn's defenders at Catholic Answers.

Has anybody heard Scott Hahn's Shem=Melchizedek thesis and how he can take that position and avoid being a young earther? If you have some info, email me and I'll post it and you'll be read by tens of people! Practically famous!

Fr. Benedict Groeschel talks about the great need of theologians who are also psychologists. And he's right but that applies to science in general; part of the problem is there are so few people who are fluent in science and theology.

posted by TSO @ 13:31

The Da Vinci Code & the movie Titanic

Prompted by Steve's brilliant post, I'm trying to think of just why the book is as popular as it is. Where is it now - seven million sold?

Perhaps the treatment of sex in The Da Vinci Code was just a component of its success, albeit the largest share. Perhaps the reason it hit gold is because it's like the movie Titanic - it crosses demographic groups. Titanic was the "perfect storm" as far as drawing diverse audiences. It was a love story, adventure story and historical drama all in one. Women tended to go for the love story, men for the adventure and unlikely movie-goers like me wanted to see the recreation on screen of a historical event.

The DaVinci Code is another perfect storm of cross-pollination. There is the strong draw of a book that treats sex as holy (luring mostly women), you have the skulldugery of secret societies and conspiracy theories (mostly men), you have the depiction of the early Church (of interest to Christians and seekers), and you have the art (gay men - just a joke!).

So the problem is collateral damage. Some innocently read it for the art or sex and came away disturbed by the history because most Christians have zero knowledge of Church history. But on the other hand, Steve of Fifth Column makes the point: "Our refutations of the relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus will always be an argument from silence, since history doesn’t speak of it at all. Thus, our arguments will always allow people to believe that He really did have sex with 'that woman.'" Interesting. I wonder if the Da Vinci Code debunker books are only preaching to the choir? It may not be reassuring to someone to simply say, "we have no evidence of that".

UPDATE: Steven Riddle thinks we protest too much: "We attack the high-profile fluff and the Harry Potters of the world, meanwhile Philip Pullman's insidious work endangers the souls of a great many young readers with nary a comment."

This is true, Pullman's stuff is pure evil. But I don't think it's either/or. I never, ever understood the hair-pulling over Harry Potter, which I thought a harmless, moral movie. Pullman's stuff is far worse than Brown's, but it doesn't have as big an audience either. Seven million copies sold of The Da Vinci Code, it can't be just because it's fun and fluff, can it? There are surely plenty of fluff books involving conspiracies out there. Why should this one sell so well?

posted by TSO @ 08:14

On the Da Vinci Code

Steve at the Fifth Column has an impressive and unique perspective on why the DaVinci Code has sold like hot cakes. Any book that sells that well must have something in it that appeals on a more "subterranean" level. It must speak to some unfulfilled need. He asks why Dan Brown's previous book "Angels and Demons" wasn't a hit (answer: it depicted sex in the typical male fantasy kind of way):

Now, turn to The Da Vinci Code. The number of beautiful women in the book is reduced to one. Langdon, of course, beds her in the novel’s final chapters, but he does so only after having protested for the whole of the book – and despite several instances of strong male opposition - that sex is sacred, sex is holy and women should be treated like goddesses. Now, why should that make the difference in sales? Because 70% to 80% of book-buyers in the United States are women and women are tired of the male version of sex: sex as fast food and women as inflatable dolls.In short, The Da Vinci Code phenomenon actually proves what the Holy Father has been saying for the last thirty years. Dan Brown is, in his own way, preaching the Theology of the Body and he’s getting better response than any Catholic has yet received.

But none of the historical “facts” he brings forward are the issue. Sex is the issue. Sex is holy. Dan Brown proves that sex is holy by asserting that Jesus had sex. Brown wants to demonstrate the divinity of sex. He knows most readers will walk away from the novel believing that Christ is God, no matter what foolish things he says in the novel. He wants to use our attachment to Christ’s divinity in order to connect Christ’s divinity to sex. If God had sex, then it must be divine.
Whatever the reason the book is selling, I know from anecdotal evidence (my aunt and a friend of my father's) that it's the "history" - pretend history - that is disturbing them and their faith in the Church. They may read it for it's resonance with The Theology of the Body, but what they are getting from it is that one can't trust the early Church or the bible that came from it.

posted by TSO @ 07:37

Sonnet 40 - Oh, Yes! They Love Through All This World Of Ours!
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours!
I will not gainsay love, called love forsooth.
I have heard love talked in my early youth,
And since, not so long back but that the flowers
Then gathered, smell still. Mussulmans and Giaours
Throw kerchiefs at a smile, and have no ruth
For any weeping. Polypheme's white tooth
Slips on the nut if, after frequent showers,
The shell is over-smooth,—and not so much
Will turn the thing called love, aside to hate
Or else to oblivion. But thou art not such
A lover, my Beloved! thou canst wait
Through sorrow and sickness, to bring souls to touch,
And think it soon when others cry 'Too late.'

posted by TSO @ 22:52

July 15, 2004

Hudson Review on Hating America:

The endlessly reiterated claim that George W. Bush “squandered” Western Europe’s post-9/11 sympathy is nonsense. The sympathy was a blip; the anti-Americanism is chronic...It sometimes seems to me a miracle, frankly, that America has any friends at all in some parts of Western Europe, given the news media’s relentless anti-Americanism. There is no question that the chief obstacle to improved understanding and harmony between the U.S. and Western Europe is the Western European media establishment. It is an obstacle that must somehow be overcome, for Western civilization is under siege, and America and Europe need each other, perhaps more than ever. More sane, sensible European books along the lines of Revel’s L’obsession anti-américaine and Bromark and Herbjørnsrud’s Frykten for Amerika can help.

posted by TSO @ 22:40

It's not true that Saddam Hussein has been asked to keynote the Democratic Convention. Just not so.

posted by TSO @ 18:35

Going, going....

I'd been fighting the temptation to buy "The Very Rich Hours of Jacques Maritain: A Spiritual Life" by Ralph McInerny from Thomas of ER's Robin Hood books and lo and behold I find it sold out. All for the best, since it would probably sit on my shelf instead of being profitably read by some soul. Tis an especial responsibility with rare out-of-print books to actually read them...Hmm...I should pull out Orchard's "Catholic commentary on Holy Scripture".

posted by TSO @ 14:52

Ben Stein:

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists...Now you have my idea of a real hero. We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives to Him, he takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves.

In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human...I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Faith is not believing that God can,
It is knowing that God will

posted by TSO @ 10:52

Crisis Story on Marriage

Fascinating article in Crisis magazine on why some orthodox and faithful-to-the-Magisterium Catholics are getting divorced. The numbers may be small, perhaps 5-10 percent of those who have 'made an effort to know, study or follow Church teachings', but Dr. Phillip Mango, a psychoanalyst at St. Michael's Institute in Manhattan says that Catholoic marriages are hurting and Tom Hoopes tries to explain why:

Catholics can sometimes convince themselves that they aren't part of the same culture as the rest of the world. But we're all part of the culture of immediate gratification that doesn't consider long-term consequences. We're all individualistic rather than communal.

But what about the Faith? Shouldn't faith steel the assenting Catholic against the culture? In fact, it's the other way around. Faith needs a culture to stay strong. Worse, a self-righteous faith can lull Catholics into a false sense of security, a new Phariseeism convinced that intellectual assent to the right doctrines - not our humility and God's mercy - is what saves us.

Fr. Brunetta said that for many couples, "an overly intellectual approach diminishes the mytery that marriage is supposed to be...If we've got it all figured out ahead of time, we might end up fighting against what our married life is [experientially] teaching us."...

I must confess, I was surprised by the story assignment when I was asked to investigate reports that a surprising number of young, on-fire, faithful Catholics were divorcing.

But the more I looked into it, the more I realized that my surprise was part of the problem. After all, from the beginning, marriage has always been the center of a great battle. No one should blithely expect that he's in a special class that is somehow spiritually protected.

Marriage was Satan's first target in the Garden of Eden, and it was one of his preferred fields of battle through the Old Testament. The British schism in the Protestant Reformation began when a committed Catholic, Henry VIII, wanted to divorce his wife...

posted by TSO @ 10:05

Church of the Masses Excerpts from a Talk Given to Seminarians

Entertainment as ‘the work between the work’ – to provide calisthenics for the soul. To stretch them so they don’t have to sin. Because Frodo lost his hand at Mordor, you won’t have to.

“The Church that marries the spirit of the age is a widow in the next generation.” (Dean William Inge)

(We need to remember that even the immensely climactic moment of the reforms of Vatican II, are still just a moment in ecclesial history. In watching the backlash against the changes of the last forty years, I can’t help wonder with a little exhausted breathlessness, exactly what will survive. There has been so much damn suffering, I hope something makes it.)

Seminarians Need Arts and Entertainment for Their Own Spiritual Growth
a) They need more beauty because more renunciation will be required of them. Arts can achieve a “storing up” of intimate encounters with God. They will need to bank these moments for the future. Since leaving the nuns, it has seemed to me at times ruthlessly unfair how beautiful the liturgies were in the Motherhouse…It made the real world outside seem like a vast desert of liturgical ugliness. Sometimes, I look around at the other lay sheep in church and wonder, “Why are you people coming here?” But I think it is as “unfair” as the fact the apostles had three lovely, intimate years with Jesus – tromping around fields and villages, sitting by late-night fires, sharing untold meals and prayers, before they had to all go live and die for Him.

posted by TSO @ 10:02

Blogs of the Masses

This is one of those times when there's a bit too much to take in. Too much fecundity. Too many good blogs saying too many interesting things. You've probably already seen them, but let's recap:

Barbara blogs in a whole other league. Much food for thought in that post, and much that I have saved off. She says more before 9am than I say all day.

Professional writers like her who blog honestly - i.e. are not overly protective of their reputations - are the creme de la creme of the blogging world. They tend to have read more and thought more and can deliver it better to boot.

Not that I've a mind to quit blogging, though, since I'm allergic to the view that anyone but the highly qualified should do anything (admittedly I do have a conflict-of-interest). But life is a participatory sport. God thinks more of love than efficiency, given the trouble He goes to in order to effect our conversions.

Another post that interested me was right chere, over at Thomas of Endlessly Rockin' who sez: "I suppose it's clear by now that I don't really flinch from saying that God has his way with all of us. It's just that we trust that his way is, you know, radically good."

It isn't a concern for abstract 'divine sovereignty' that moves Augustine, but an eschatological vision of personhood whole and restored so that one simply cannot sin any longer because one is possessed by the God who inspired one's infinite desire for him in the first place, a desire that was for so long just flailing about, coming to rest on this or that penultimate good and thus coming to grief because temporary, finite things, however good, cannot satisfy such a longing. Thus every thought of God is inspired by God, every desire for God wells up because he first desired his beloved - and thus Augustine's dark and terrible notion of reprobation stands in complete contradiction to his wonderful, truly good teaching on predestination. Wherever we wander with our divided wills and our despair at desire unfulfilled, God in Christ is already there, and he will have us. -Thomas of ER

posted by TSO @ 17:49

July 14, 2004

Various & Sundry

Is Enbrethiliel pregnant!? That's what I thought when I saw the headline "First Day of the Second Trimester"...
Anglophilic Derbyshire on Irishman Yeats
Great post from The Dawn Patrol on the folly of settling for respect.
Excerpt from a letter from St. Therese of Lisieux:

Set your mind at rest: He whom you have chosen as your Spouse possesses certainly every perfection that can be desired; but, if I may dare to say it, He has at the same time one great infirmity: He is blind! And there is a science which He knows not, that of calculation. These two points which would be most lamentable in an earthly spouse, renders ours infinitely lovable. Were He to consider our sins and reckon with them, do you not think that in the face of all these sins He would cast us back into nothingness? But no, His love for us makes Him absolutely blind!

posted by TSO @ 15:31

And Now For the Defense

Steven has a nice defense of blogging here. For Mr. Riddle - whose taste in poetry and literature is impeccable - to defend blogging is meaningful:

"Blogging may not be high art; however, I believe it a valuable and important enterprise. It deserves more respect that the outside gives and and more respect than many of us give it...There seems to be a sufficient understanding of the limits of the medium, but only a very poor understanding of its virtues. And there are a great many of them."

Bill White, who is a fine writer, defends likewise. Hear, hear!

I blog for many reasons. Partially for purposes of exhibitionism (beats streakin'!). Partially to improve my writing. And partially for altruistic reasons since I figure if something occurred to me or was interesting to me it might be to some other struggling Christian, although don't tell my left hand. Cynics might see blogging as a ponzi-scheme where there is a tit-for-tat: "you hit my site and I'll hit yours." But there is a thrill in the very personal nature of blogs. And I've learned an awful lot. That can't be all bad, although my "first readers" - i.e. my parents - are less fond of my writing saying it has become less humorous and more "intellectual". Don't know if that's good or bad.

posted by TSO @ 10:00

About Last Night

Our green Schwarzwald brims with fireflies...I'm sipping a St. Pauli Girl "special dark" while reading the elegiac prose of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath: "How will we know it's us without our past?"

...Tiki torches of citronella abut the back patio but provide more in the way of ambience than mosquito-protection. The quiet is restful, with only the sounds of nature in the background. It's like we're out camping without the hassle of a dragging the pop-up camper all over creation. Simplicity itself - our own backyard.

posted by TSO @ 09:24

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I was talking with the nurses at the hospital the other day, and we were discussing how different expectant moms are now than they were 20 years ago. Then, many moms were willing to bear pain to protect their babies from drugs, and it was sometimes difficult to help them through labor. Now, most come in wanting and expecting a painless childbirth, and even for the easiest of labors they want all the drugs available...I just had 2 post-abortive women tell me that they don't feel guilty about their abortions (though they grieve for themselves that they won't be mother to that child) because by aborting the child they saved the child from pain. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

Seems I'm not only boring, but smug and complacent as well. Who knew? I have been so without the sense of fellow feeling as to... to... read! The brute beasts in the farthest jungles have more kindness! But their judgments fall on my deaf ears and affect me not, for I'm afraid my heart is a stony, dead thing, impervious to even the most violent of sorrows. But for you, dear, misguided reader, there is still time. Get thee a Gameboy, download some porn, go see Michael Moore's latest, all to cleanse yourself. And while you so indulge in witless purgation, cast a cold eye on me, for whom all is lost, and give thanks you have avoided my fate. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking, responding to a NYT article that castigated readers.

But one thing that has disturbed me has been the number of people who, at bottom, don't seem to really believe in grace or mercy. People, in fact, who habitually tend to regard mercy as weakness and charity as stupid softness. I shouldn't be shocked, of course. I'm the one that continually says that it is the Church's teaching on mercy, not sex, that is the most offensive and obnoxious item in its entire corpus of teaching. At the same time, we constantly hear demands for "holy priests". Great souled priests full of wise counsel and abundant pastoral mercies. People like "Father Joe", the Benedictine who saved Tony Hendra's soul and who brought a rather sleazy creature of the 60s back to a serious practice of the Faith after he had been nabbed making out with a married woman and then spent the next couple decades indulging himself in the normal plethora of Baby Boomer indulgences. There have been a number of raves about this book, and for good reason. - Mark Shea

Attempting to lead people in an intellectual manner without the glue of social interaction invariably has its risks. At the end of the day, I'd rather argue with someone face to face than over e-mail. I'd also rather argue with someone who trusts me (and whom I trust) than with a stranger, since both sides will treat the discussion with charity. Lask of honesty and trust can lead to sophistry and lies on the part of the speaker and stubborness on the part of the interlocutor. ... Let us not accept the mistrust and dishonesty that has caused public political discourse in this country to turn into shouting matches. Let us speak truly, with confidence and not hubris, while at once being open to the possibility that our friends here are correct and can lead us to the Truth. - Alexander on Mark Shea's blog.

The essence of blogs - publishing one's unedited and immediate thoughts and comments to a wide range of people - is somewhat at odds with humility. - commenter Ellen Hughes on Mark Shea's blog

I'm an evangelical who has managed to make it to London, and have a feeling that Rome is my final stop, if you follow my drift...One of things that I love about Rome is the Pope. It's hard to describe the respect - affection?! - I have for him. My friends think I'm nuts (and on the road to heresy, of course), but "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" was the most Christian modern book I've ever read. - commenter on Mark Shea's blog

"People are complex," as they say, and complexity makes for both good story-telling and fruitful meditation. How can honor and nobility co-exist with a willingness to kill to preserve slavery? That's an important question without a simple answer. - Tom of Disputations

My hometown of Chico, California, is possibly home to a miraculous weeping image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While I'm not exactly a chaser of miracles and apparitions, I have no reason to doubt it. The Virgin weeps: we should be worried if she didn't. - Jeff of El Camino Real

First, resist the impulse to buy into the myth of self-righteous dissent. This has a long tradition in both our culture and its Christian circles. With both Jesus Christ and Martin Luther as handy patron saints, self-righteous dissenters imagine themselves the glorious would-be saviors of a rotten and God-forsaken establishment. Though this is sometimes the case, it is rarely so (in fact, it is less the case with even Jesus and Luther than many think). This mentality is responsible for a lot more broken institutions and abused individuals than revivals and redemptions. It feeds pessimism and cynicism among the dissenters and fear and intimidation among the institutions. This is, not least, because it assumes that God is behind you and has abandoned them. Don't go there — not yet, anyway, not as long as there is even a remote chance that (a) the Spirit still dwells and works there and (b) you might need some correction. - Telford on Camassia's blog

But when Your Sweetness added in your letter that you will continue to importune me until I write that it has been revealed to me that your sins have been forgiven, you demanded a thing both difficult and useless. Difficult certainly, because I am unworthy of having a revelation made to me; and useless as well, because you must not become secure about your sins, except when on the last day of your life you shall be able no longer to bewail those same sins. - St. Gregory via Bill of Summa (non)Minutiae

St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, had an IQ of over 200. This is evident from the scientific analysis of his writings in which he stated that the more Catholic knowledge a human intellect acquires about the science of God, the more perfectly he is able to love Him. In this way, God created our souls. He gave our souls two spiritual faculties - intellect and will. The object of the intellect is truth, and the object of the will is good. These two faculties of the human soul enable a person to know the true good and to choose it with the assistance of God's grace. God made us in such a way that we cannot choose what we do not know, and we need God's divine assistance to know the true good in order to choose it. - Rev. L. A. Stelter, preface to St. Alphonsus De Liguori's "The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection"

A slogan for Planned Parenthood, 'Keeping Minorities - Minorities'. - Jeff Miller

ABC News’ must-read The Note says some political reporters are desperately looking for Democrats who voted for Gore in 2000 but are voting for Bush in ’04. They’re having no trouble finding disillusioned Republicans but 9/11 Democrats? It’s easier to find a marriage counselor who is giving Britney’s marriage the thumbs-up. So look over here, Google: I’m a Democrat who plans to vote for Bush. Interview me! - Phil A. of

are you telling me they have to eat one of my grandbabies and then we'll talk? - Smock's grandma's comment after finding out the alligator on her property was protected

posted by TSO @ 09:19

Back in the Saddle Again

Well Hambone's long unemployment odyssey has ended and reality is setting in. From unpaid screenwriter to paid computer programmer, what a long strange trip it's been. You can hear his synapses crashing all the way to Pastakala, Ohio as he segues from the right-brain to the left.

There is a gallows humor. "I'm only two bad decisions from insanity" says he, and I can relate.

Ideas got bounced around at lunch, the first of which was that he buy a banquet hall and rent it out on the weekends for wedding receptions and such.

The second idea was more to my liking. A radio show! Yes, Bone and I will rhapsodize on the issues be they political or economic or religious, presumably for an audience of twelve. One problem is that we lack the arresting bass voice of a Rush Limbaugh or Paul Harvey. Bone began speaking in a low voice. I realized this idea was a non-starter.

The third option was to combine households and thus cut the number of needed wage earners. He said that it used to be that families would house three generations and have one wage-earner. Now we're going in the opposite direction in having two wage earners per nuclear family...So stayed tuned to find out who draws the short straw and becomes the one wage-earner! And stayed tuned (if you've got the time) for signs of maturity in us ridiculously spoiled folks!

posted by TSO @ 09:01

"Those who run toward the Lord will never lack space"

Moving letter & response concerning a rationalist in love with a fideist, via the Parish Hall.

posted by TSO @ 13:50

July 13, 2004


"The person who is ignorant of one of the testaments of the bible hobbles to Christ on one foot." - St. Augustine

posted by TSO @ 09:48

Least He's Honest

Newsweek editor Evan Thomas admits the elite media wants Bush to lose and will do what they can to accomplish that. That's like saying Wile E. Coyote wanted Road Runner to lose.

In other news, for so long I've associated Planned Parenthood apparatchiks with public readings that I was astonished to see a picture of a Christian doing a reading on another blog. I guess I should get out more.

posted by TSO @ 09:16

Takes TT tests, Doesn't Take TT Tests...

I came up with a 57 on the lengthy Terry Teachout index. If nothing else I am surprised someone else likes "To Have and To Hold" better than "Casablanca".

posted by TSO @ 16:03

July 12, 2004

Books on the Beach

Funny Guardian article on unbreakable rules on what books you and your bibliophile spouse should take on vacation:

1. Do not allow him to take any books that are more than 600 pages long. Men toil under the misapprehension that, on holiday, they really will read That Big Book, even though it has been gathering dust on a shelf at home for, ooh, only eight years. If you do let him take it, trouble will follow. Either he'll get sick of it and start stealing your books or he'll plough stubbornly on and you'll have to listen to his sighing over the whir of the cicadas. (The only exception to this rule is The Diary of Samuel Pepys, which could never be long enough.)

2. No girlish whimsy. You will never get him to open Georgette Heyer, so play fair and leave Regency Buck and The Grand Sophy at home.

3. The same goes for detective novels. Actually, I do know one boy who likes to read Dorothy L Sayers on the beach, but he is a prince among men and, I'm afraid, the exception who proves the rule.

4. There are many books that he might like but which you definitely won't, and must therefore be banned: anything by Paul Auster; sci-fi by Philip K Dick; anything involving Nearly Falling Off a Mountain; all 'cyber-punk' (whatever that is); Titus Groan; business books. Then again, if he wants to pack any of the above, ditch him and go away with a Carol Shields-loving girlfriend instead.

5. Pretty much everything else is up for discussion. However, even once your books are chosen, there is still etiquette to be observed. As you lie side by side under the azure sky, there should be no excessive chortling or disgruntled moaning from either of you. And try not to get suntan lotion on the hardbacks, girls. I like it when I open an old book and it smells headily of Ambre Solaire. But men like their books to be virginal and pristine. If you leave oily smears on the dustjacket of his Updike, he is not going to be happy.

posted by TSO @ 14:07

Honest post from Sean Johnson:

About three months ago, I had a fairly popular blog filled with thoughts about God and the meaning of life. It was intended to be a discussion of my character flaws, the idea being that by writing about them I'd reflect and be compelled to change.

The thing backfired....

I do not believe that God provides us with gifts for the sole purpose to see if we'll be willing to give them up for the sake of serving Him. I believe that when we utilize our gifts to our full potential, we are serving Him.

posted by TSO @ 13:44

Buckley for President

WFB is questioned by the NYT.

posted by TSO @ 12:24

Reading Spam So You Don't Have To

I'm always on the lookout for "interesting spam", to coin an oxymoron. Precious few appear but today there were two. One went:

I trust my Father. He gave me everything. chimpanzee

I guess that one speaks for itself, a sort of truthful haiku appended by the absurdist "chimpanzee". It's almost Dali-like in its statement of truth through a surrealist lens. (The inside advertised for computer software, in case you wondered.)

The second one went:

Looking to find sex and not necessarily love? chronic

This one bespeaks tragedy. Instead of the rightly-ordered "Looking to find love and not necessarily sex?" there is a complete reversal. But the little word "chronic" is suggestive. Chronic indeed is he who seeks sex without love, a chronic itch without satisfaction or end.

posted by TSO @ 11:28


I not only find the opposite sex fascinating in a purely physical way but also in the more subtle difference in brain circuitry. Now, psychology major Camassia once said that sexual differences aren't monolithic, in the sense that we all have a combination of male/female characteristics, and she's obviously right.

But it’s interesting to me that Mr. Akin would write an article that intimates that fathers (i.e. men) are in general more likely to basically suck it up and not be constantly looking for welfare handouts from God in the form of unnecessary consolations and assurances. That sounds vaguely familiar in the political sphere, where men are more likely to vote for the Republican (ala the famous gender gap).

The temptation is to make too much of it, I suppose. But it is interesting to see whether men are more inclined towards the justice end of things and women towards the mercy side. I don't know that that's true, and there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to refute it, but if so then men would be less likely to think that Hell is mostly empty.

posted by TSO @ 22:44

July 9, 2004

Blessed Uncertainty

See a gem of a post over at Bill's Summa Minutiae. I must hie me to the Fathers. St. Therese of Lisieux isn't an early Father, but possesses a similar wisdom:

"I have asked God to send me a beautiful dream to console me when you are gone," said a novice to St. Therese.

"Ah! that is a thing I should never do - ask for consolation!...Since you wish to be like me you well know that I say:

"Oh fear not, Lord, that I shall waken Thee:
I await in peace th' eternal shore..."

"It is so sweet to serve the good God in the dark night of trial; we have this life only in which to live by faith."

posted by TSO @ 21:44

Special Edition of Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

After the talent show, we headed for the grotto. -blogger at Basia Me, Catholica Sum

It sounded to me that [love] was the kind of test you'd have to die in order to pass. - William Luse of Apologia, from a chapter of his nascent novel.

Blogs have this terrible tendency to allow people to publish before the world whatever happens to pop into their heads. People also tend to conduct themselves in blog exchanges as if they were engaged in a private discussion or in semi-private venting, instead what they're really doing--conversing or arguing in front of everybody. - Mark Brumley of Insight...hey I resemble that remark!

The confessional is a wonderful invention! It's there as a constant open door to a new life with Christ. We (myself included) need to take a deeper look at our life and ask the Holy Spirit to root out any and all traces of stubbornness, uncharitable thoughts, and rebellion against our Mother the Church and Christ our brother. - Mary of "Ever New"

I generally expect to find discernible levels of guff in most everything written in the popular Catholic press that contrasts "masculine" and "feminine" aspects within the Church. I think people get carried away with those terms. Once you say, "This is masculine, and that is feminine," all sorts of wide, level roads open up before you. Most of them don't have "Now Leaving Reason" signs posted. - Tom of Disputations

Lane Core Jr. asks "Why is it important to have Catholics in public life if, once there, they're no different from anybody else?" Unfortunately most modern politicians who advertise themselves as Catholics are martyrs in reverse. The word martyr means witness and regardless of the mindless justifications that come out of their mouths their actions are anything but a witness to the faith. - Jeff Miller of Curt Jester

Scripture was written by human beings for human beings. Would we not expect to find in such a work evidence of a process of perfection in understanding of God and in charity toward others? If the Bible presented an unchanging view of God and others -- that, to my mind, would be a puzzle demanding an explanation. What we should do with these changes, I suppose, is try to effect them in our own lives. - commenter Tom of Disputations on Camassia's blog

I suppose from my readings of various saints, some who had visions of Purgatory, I have a horror of the place. I do not want to go there (although, between Hell and Purgatory, of course, I'd go with the latter). And something else I've gleaned from the saints: merits cannot be gained in Purgatory. We can only gain merits in this life; once we die, it's over. And the merits we gain (purely through the grace of Christ, of course) contribute to the glory and the joy we experience in Heaven. It's clear that saints attain varying degrees of perfection, and those who have made the most out of their lives on earth are the ones who enjoy the most inconceivable joys in Heaven. I suppose I really want to be one of those saints--and I can't be if I settle for second best, if you know what I mean. One last thing that motivates me: St. Paul commands us in 1 Corinthians 9:24: "Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win." Thus, we are commanded to run, not so as to win second or third prize, but so as to *win* first prize. Which means we are to strive with all of our might to do and be the best we possibly can here on earth. - commenter on Bob's "Trousered Ape" blog

In your life there are people that you admire and you respect and naturally you place them on a pedestal and when you meet them, sometimes you're disappointed, because you've built them up so high they can't possibly meet your expectations. Buckley was everything and more. He was exactly what I wanted him to be, and more so and he's remained a close friend and, I might even say a colleague...without Bill Buckley bucking the odds, alone, back in the 50s, who knows where all this conservatism would be today. - Rush Limbaugh on William F. Buckley, who helped steer conservatism away from anti-Semitism and atheistic Randism

Stigmatized: What the modernist World's Fair pavilion architect responsible for the sanctuary of the new Padre Pio church, the world's second largest, ought to be. - Mark of Irish Elk

And here I am led to say, what seems to me, as far as it is reverent to conjecture it, the fault of the holy Apostle St. Thomas. He said that he would not believe that our Lord had risen, unless he actually saw Him. What! is there not more than one way of arriving at faith in Christ? ...I say that, when he was so slow to believe, his fault lay in thinking he had a right to be fastidious, and to pick and choose by what arguments he would be convinced, instead of asking himself whether he had not enough to convince him already; just as if, forsooth, it were a great matter to his Lord that he should believe, and no matter at all to himself. And therefore it was, that, while Christ so graciously granted him the kind of proof he desired, He said to him for our sakes: "Because thou hath seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed." - Bld. Ven. Cardinal Newman on St. Thomas, via - you guessed it - Donna Marie Lewis

posted by TSO @ 15:33

and Scripture

I must have known and not
known both at once.
I must have needed
to see this love set down in
black and white
to realize it was millennia
To force me to pay attention,
life needed poetry.

--Rachel Hadas
From here.

posted by TSO @ 14:54

Ideological Soulmates Under the Skin

Goldberg has an interesting column up, looking at the positive side of the culture wars, which is that we're going to divide anyway so better issues than race/ethnicity/gender:

[T]he more educated you are, the more partisan and ideological you are likely to be. High-school graduates are more likely to vote across party lines than college grads. And education does not track only with becoming more liberal. If you're a conservative with a college education you become more conservative. If you're a liberal, ditto...

[I]n his book, On Paradise Drive, [David] Brooks compiles a massive amount of evidence that Americans are self-segregating ideologically and politically — by county, by school, by state, by church, etc. David Brooks thinks this sort of polarization and self-segregation is bad.

There's also a very good side to all of this polarization. Critics of identity politics — and I am most certainly one of them — tend to focus almost exclusively on the separations, divides, clashes and chasms such politics create between groups. Blacks vs. whites, rich vs. poor, South vs. North, Springfieldians vs. Shelbyvillians, and so on. What they rarely look at is the unity such "identitarian" movements create...

"Manifestations of ethnic intolerance today tend to decrease in proportion as ideological intolerance increases. In sharp contrast, both bigotries used to increase together," wrote Peter Viereck in 1955. What Viereck noticed was that radical "right-wing" anti-Communist groups were reaching out to blacks and Jews (those quotation marks around “right-wing” are necessary for reasons we'll get into another day). The same thing, of course, had already been taking place on the other side since Communists believe in class-loyalty and all that gibberish. In other words, pro-Communists and anti-Communists alike welcomed rich and poor, Jew and gentile, black and white into their respective ranks — so long as the applicant in question agreed on the "big issue."

Viereck called this dynamic "transtolerance," a terrible word that perfectly describes what is happening in America today. For example, there is no more philo-Semitic group in America than evangelical Christians. Indeed, they love observant Jews more than most Jews do. Why? Because the Right side of the culture war wants "traditionalists" of all stripes in its corner. Similarly, the American Right loves blacks — right-wing blacks that is.

We see this in the ghettoized communities Brooks is so adept at chronicling. I sincerely doubt there are very many affluent "red state" counties in America that wouldn't love to have a socially conservative black stockbroker move into their community...As Viereck noticed, we have something new in American history: Ideological movements used to reinforce racial, ethnic, or class bigotries. For the last 50 years they've increasingly transcended them. This is an upside of living in an ideological age — or a downside, depending on how you see things. And those who bemoan the current polarization need to ask themselves whether polarization isn't the natural order of things. And, if it is — and I think it is — isn't this sort of polarization preferable to most of the other options?

posted by TSO @ 13:44

Link or Whim (get it?*)

Washington Times review of Pearce's book on Oscar Wilde...

A chapter from a book I liked is here - Philip Trower's "Turmoil & Truth: The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church".

I've always wondered why formerly Catholic strongholds like Boston, San Francisco, and New York are so liberal, for lack of a better term. Is it because "high churches" like Anglicans, Episcopalian and Catholic tend to appreciate beauty more and therefore attract more artists? And don't artists tend to be more avant garde and less appreciative of tradition since they are seeking to create something new? Now how's that for a swag?

A recent post by Mark on Garry Wills led me to this from Richard John Neuhaus on Wills' "Papal Sin":

At points, however, Mr. Wills seems to obscure the clarity of his central argument. For example, he quotes Evelyn Waugh, who, when asked how he could be a Christian and still be such a mean fellow, answered, “Just think how much worse I would be if I were not a Christian.” Wills writes, “In the same way, as bad as the papacy has been all through its history, just think how much worse things would have been without it.” This, coming toward the end of his summation, will, I expect, be a surprise and puzzlement to the jurors. Everything that has gone before suggests the conclusion that things would have been much better if there had never been a papacy. Perhaps aware of the apparent contradiction, Mr. Wills explains that the great contribution of the papacy is that—despite itself, so to speak—it preserved the creed. He says, “The papacy did not formulate the creed containing these truths; but it has been essential in preserving them, while heretics ‘selected’ this or that item from the creed.”

But will not the jurors unavoidably ask how the papacy preserved the creed if not by the exercise of a teaching authority that the prosecution says the papacy does not rightly possess? The earlier popes are condemned—with the honorable exception of John XXIII—and the defendants are in the dock precisely because they disagree with the prosecution on this key point. According to Mr. Wills, those who are “living Vatican II” claim the right to form their own opinions and act according to their own consciences in matters of faith and morals, tolerating no interference by the papacy or Magisterium. Are they not “selecting” what they want to believe, and therefore at least in danger of becoming heretics? Why was the papacy necessary to preserving the creed in the past but is not now? It seems a pity that Mr. Wills does not address these and other questions that are inevitably raised by his argument.
* riff on 'sink or swim'. hey, hey, remember what you paid.

posted by TSO @ 09:34

Vote For the Party with the Most Confetti

Is there a sadder spectacle than seeing a candidate get a bump in the polls just for picking a VP candidate? Or more pathetically, receiving a post-convention bounce? Bush is expected to be 10-15 points down after the Democrat convention, which is amazing because conventions are designed to make no news! And news - in the form of a strong policy stand - should sway voters, right?

No, apparently 10-15% of the electorate are influenced by helium balloons and gaseous speeches served with pomp and platitudes. It's sad. This election might ultimately be decided by people who are impressed by Botox treatments and nice hair. Will we see Kerry "pull a Gore" and kiss Theresa? If he tries, will she swing her purse at him ala Ruth Buzzi? Stay tuned sports fans!

posted by TSO @ 07:40

Of Human Bondage

I've been thinking more about work these days and how fortunate I am, especially after reading a July 4th article about a Mexican immigrant who owns a small grocery mart but can't afford to hire anyone. He secured a $15,000 loan recently to keep the place afloat and works 12 hours a day seven days a week. Let me say that again slowly. 12 a day, 7 a week. He tries to take one day off every three months. Wow.

I quoted Wilde who anticipated the Distributists with a line about how machine-like jobs make machines of us and how art is the proper job of man. In this he seemed to intuit that work was made for man, not man for work, as the Catechism teaches, although the Catechism makes no distinctions between jobs (more on that later). John Adams famously said that he must study politics and war so that "my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

So Adams understood that what the generations should bequeath was not so much wealth, but wealth in the form of liberty to study porcelain instead of politics. Or wealth in the form of being able to choose your job instead of having a job choose you. But studying painting, poetry and music doesn't much sound like work to me.

My friend 'Hambone' and I hash and re-hash the subject of work and the one given in our hashing and re-hashing is that it is to avoided at all costs. (Unless it's writing.) There's a reason a job is called a "j-o-b", see the OT. But I'm pondering work and how my view of it appears to painfully dissonate with the Catechism's. Which means that my view is wrong. Ouch. The Catechism is far less disdainful of work than I:

"Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. Hence work is a duty: "If any one will not work, let him not eat."...[Work] can be redemptive. ..Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ...Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to 'be able to give to those in need.'"

The Catechism doesn't appear to be a big fan of early retirement. Although I have plans to do volunteer work and write during retirement, I'm not sure God would be impressed.

So tying up Adams and Wilde and the CCC I guess we can all agree that work was made for man. But work seems to be such an all-encompassing term given that my job is unbearably easier than that Mexican immigrant's. And yet my work is painful compared to a porcelain-appreciator, as Adams would have. We Americans are living off the capital of a system that works extremely well, and that seems to be part of a natural evolution in an industrial society. The evolution begins, like in Japan and South Korea, with low-wage industrial crap jobs. They "pay their dues" in a sense, as the U.S. did around the turn of the 20th century. Economic growth explodes and the children of those low-wage earners in Japan and Korea have reaped quite a harvest, a harvest not of their making but a harvest nonetheless. But it is hard for a nation to help the Third World avoid the dues-paying. It's hard if not impossible for America to use her great wealth to will Third World nations into the global economy. I believe in giving to charities which help poorer countries although I wonder if it may only be prolonging their pain by putting them between a rock and a hard place - neither fully industrialized nor neither fully agriculturalized. It seems misery lies in the in-between, like wars that are fought tenderly enough to afford no resolution. Paul Theroux in his book on Africa makes the point that he suspects many Africans would be better off doing subsidence farming but have now lost those skills due to reliance on aid and/or a semi-move to an industrial society.

posted by TSO @ 05:46

July 8, 2004

Haben Sie Deutsch?

Alas I'm paying the price for not keeping the German I learned in high school because this blog looks increasingly interesting though cryptic as the day is long.

Consider the first two books on Scipio's reading list: "J. Updike: Hare heart" & "J. Maritain: The farmer of the Garonne". Nice.

(The Maritain-Updike combo reminded me of how C.S. Lewis struggled to find a middle way or via media between Thomas Aquinas and DH Lawrence: "Thomas Aquinas and DH Lawrence do not divide the universe between them" wrote Lewis. He was looking for a something between Aquinas's syllogisms and Lawrence with his materialistic and sensual psychoses.)

And then there's this post, in which Scipio says:

I admit it frankly: I was not ever on one catholic day and get, I become the older, also ever less desire. But finally I do not see myself also as "Christian of age and a responsible thinking" (president H.J. Meyer), but as a "bad catholic" (Walker Percy).

My personal catholic day had I yesterday afternoon on the balcony with the reading of "four large holy ones", a book of walter Nigg (note: Oekumene!) over Franz of Assisi, Jeanne d'Arc, Franz of Sales and Teresa of Avila. There can be experienced, what constitutes Christian its, as God love and God love look, as loyalty can be lived and lived to a Charisma and a transmission - should.

This morning I saw then the Debattierer Hans Kueng and Karl Lehmann in that to local newspaper - and see: they looked like frogs. Quak, quak, quak.
Not sure what he meant but I'd like to know...

* * *

Update: I asked and unexpectedly received! Scipio provides the English translation:
Celestial Katholikentag (Catholic Assembly)

I freely admit: I've never visited a Katholikentag and don't feel more
inclined to, the older I get. But then, I am not a "grown-up and responsible
Christian" (H.J. Meyer, chair of the Central Committee of the German
Catholics), but a "bad catholic" (Walker Percy).

I celebrated my personal Katholikentag yesterday afternoon when sitting on
the balcony and reading "Four Great Saint", a book of reformed theologian
Walter Nigg (Beware of Ecumenism!) on Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc,
Francis de Sales and Teresa de Avavila. With them, you may experience, what
being a Christian really is, what God's Love and Love for God looks like,
how you may live true to your charisma and your mission - and how it should
be lived.

This morning I noticed debaters Hans Kueng and Karl Lehmann in our local
newspaper - and behold: They looked like frogs. Quak, quak, quak..

posted by TSO @ 15:46

July 7, 2004

Road to the White House

Heard curmudgeon and Southern eccentric Forrest McDonald (he writes in the nude - beware of paper cuts?) on C-Span's marvelous "In-Depth" program. McDonald is a historian who has some interesting views and was spot-on when he said that with the exception of Ronald Reagan those seeking the office of President over the past generation have been seeking the office just for its own sake. Not to really do anything, just so they could say they were President. Kerry's (as well as Gore's) flip-flopping on the issues makes that nails-on-chalkboard obvious, so I wrote a song (to tune of Green Acres):

D.C. is the place for me.
power politics is the life for me.
pride spreadin' out so far and wide
Keep your Senate, the White House I'll abide.

Penn Ave is where I'd rather stay.
I get allergic smelling hay.
I just adore an Air Force One view,
Dah-ling I love you but give me my retinue

...soak the rich!
...moan and bitch!
History shows that there's always a reaction against the previous occupier of a head of government. For example, successor popes often have different strengths and an opposite temperament from the pope before him. In some ways JPII was very much the opposite of Paul VI, for example. Kerry, being indecisive, is different enough from Bush in that sense to make that "quality" attractive to many voters. What is sad to me (sad only in the sense that one might be my president) is how terrible the Democratic candidates have been the last few years.

Conservatives have, on the whole, been pretty fortunate since 1980. First there was Ronald Reagan's miraculous journey to the White House. He wrested the party from East Coast elites before even being able to face an incumbent president. It's also easy to forget how narrowly he beat Carter. Then too conservatives can be glad that Clinton was reined in by a Republican Congress beginning in '94. The thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is Bush Sr's disastrous pick of Souter for the Supreme Court. But Bush was an Eastern elite who was never really a conservative. Reagan had to make him VP to placate the Rockefeller Republicans in '80. So I think the country has generally leaned to the left of our leadership since '80 and so in that sense we've been lucky.

posted by TSO @ 13:24

Small World Dep't

Saw a guy today wearing a Cardinal Ratzinger fan club sweatshirt.

posted by TSO @ 12:39

It Ain't Heavy, It's My Bookbag

Been too long since we played "why's my bookbag so damn heavy?". My new strategy to just read two to three books at a time has paid off although there are constant temptations. It's difficult to read a book that constantly mentions other books, as Pearce does in CSL & the Catholic Church and not sin. So most of the book list that follows are accidental tourists since I'm concentrating on Pearce and Steinbeck and Hanson.

CSL and the Catholic Church - Pearce
The Pilgrim's Regress - CS Lewis
LOTR - Tolkien
The Name of the Rose - Eco
The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection - de Liguori
Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck
Father Joe - Hendra
Letters to a Young Catholic - Weigel (library book)
Soul of Battle - Victor David Hanson
Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love - Keating

posted by TSO @ 09:52

Interesting Comment on Mark Shea's Blog

For what it’s worth, I think that this host’s tone is in general better than some others and especially more reasoned and charitable than the inhabitants of comments boxes all throughout blogdom, where I have discerned a culture of rabid dissention. I think that the medium itself is part of the problem…enforced brevity, the comparative seriousness of the written word, a lack of relationship, on and on. I do see where blogs have a tendency to angry up my blood, which kind of makes it difficult to be the peace of Christ. Religion, ideology & politics…there’s the hotbed. The observation that we’re up “against the Prince of this World and the Father of Lies” may be true, but I think that it still (even if it’s not personal) sets up a mindset of if I can only prove my point in this little box, the world will be saved…and a pox on any other with a different perspective. People constantly end up misunderstanding each other likely because they don’t know one another from Adam, and I know I rarely like to make any comments because I’m not all that keen on anyone unnecessarily getting down by back.
mcmlxix | Email | Homepage |

posted by TSO @ 09:44

Thomas Sowell Article

Hear, hear!:

Those who are constantly looking for the "root causes" of poverty, of crime, and of other national and international problems act as if prosperity and law-abiding behavior were so natural that it is their absence that has to be explained. But a casual glance around the world today, or back through history, would dispel any notion that good things just happen naturally, much less inevitably.

The United States of America is the exception, not the rule. Our national birthday on the Fourth of July is an appropriate time to ask what has made American society one to which people are fleeing from other societies around the world.

Once we realize that America is an exception, we might even have a sense of gratitude for having been born here, even if gratitude has become un-cool in many quarters. At the very least, we might develop some concern for seeing that whatever has made this country better off is not lost or discarded...

To be for or against "change" in general is childish. Everything depends on the specifics. To be for generic "change" is to say that what we have is so bad that any change is likely to be for the better.

Such a pose may make some people feel superior to others who find much that is worth preserving in our values, traditions and institutions. The status quo is never sacrosanct but its very existence proves that it is viable, as seductive theoretical alternatives may not turn out to be.

Most Americans take our values, traditions and institutions so much for granted that they find it hard to realize how much all these things are under constant attack in our schools, our colleges, and in much of the press, the movies and literature.

There are all sorts of financial, ideological, and psychic rewards for undermining American society and its values. Unless some of us realize the existence of this culture war, and the high stakes in it, we can lose what cost those Americans before us so much to win and preserve.

posted by TSO @ 17:03

July 6, 2004


Well babies in wombs across the nation today were relieved to hear that Sen. Kerry believes life begins at conception.

Or maybe they weren't.

If anything, the Senator does illustrate, as we all do in one form or another, the uselessness of words without deeds.

posted by TSO @ 16:34

Dispatch Article linguist Geoffrey Nunberg's book on politics and words:

Nunberg understands the quandary in his pursuit: Do words shape reality or does reality shape words?

Tracking the dangers of public doublespeak has become an academic tradition ever since Randall Decker put George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language in his widely used and imitated freshman reader.

(It's on your shelf somewhere. Look next to Jonathan Livingston Seagull .)

Orwell's point was that sloppy language abets political evils. Time conspired with irony to turn Orwellian into an adjective used to describe practically everything Orwell warned us against.

Nunberg rightly understands that modern marketing has corrupted language beyond Orwell's darkest dreams.

When I worked for a corporation, I was treated to a one-day group-think session in which the presenter turned the organization chart upside down. My boss was now my "coach.'' He "supported'' me. Then after we signed the "mission statement,'' I went back to reality when my coach dressed me down for missing a "milestone'' (Read: deadline. Read: no merit pay.)

Once Nunberg evokes Orwell, his focus and its limitations become clear.

The problem with public language is not just that words can be misused, intentionally or not; it's that nobody seems to think language matters.

--Rich Elias

posted by TSO @ 13:05

Ain't it the truth!

Lead 'graphs of an article that purports to be about how hard catch-and-release is on fish:

While the fortunate manage to sneak through existence with a smile and a "what, me worry?'' disposition, science continues to push modern life closer to being a grim affair among the conscience stricken, the responsible and the careful.

Among the latter, the more that's revealed, the tighter become the moral binds. Pleasures such as tobacco, owning and shooting guns, sunlight, backyard bonfires, bacon and eggs, city water and carbohydrates have been transformed by knowledge into insidious toxins to be utilized at one's risk lest they bring self-destruction and in some cases, adding the moral dimension, victimize innocent bystanders.

This, rightly, is called progress and probably worth the price in blissful ignorance lost. It has been going on since Eden.

--Dave Golowenski

posted by TSO @ 10:43

Woodsy Thoughts

A cabin in the woods. Nice Christmas gift from my wife's in-laws, 'eh? We decided to use it this weekend but felt the lack of fireworks. Like many things, you only appreciate them when you can't see them.

I sit by a gravel path and watch the sun shine on it and wonder how long I can look at it profitably. Seemingly forever. What atavatistic chord does it chime? It leads not to bombast - to conquer this blessed earth - but to rest, such as that felt on the Quixote quest to meet Thomas Merton (post-humously) amid the hills of Gethsemani. Or the rest found in reading the pointless (?-I did not finish it) meanderings in "Rembrance of Things Past".

Our neighbor was sent by God to annoy us and thus develop charity. Their dogs bark like banshees should we dare step outside. I sense they have "territorial issues" with us, thinking that their turf ends somewhere in our living room. So sitting atop this bald knob amid the rangy hills of SE Ohio engenders a sense of privacy. Stray thoughts like "would Walton's Mountain be the same if it were called Walton's Flat Half-Acre"? Deep thoughts, in other words.

The air is fresh here and scented with a thousand forest aromas, like Willa Cather's soup: "a soup like this is not the work of one man. It is the result of a constantly refined tradition. There are nearly a thousand years of history in this soup." As well in this forest, where these Appalachians look askance at Rocky Mountain newness. 57 varieties of sun and shade dapple the grounds and we'd take our leave reluctantly but for one horrible fact: there is no air-conditioning!

posted by TSO @ 10:32

Happy Feast of St. Thomas

Blessings to the patron saint of all you Thomas's out there (and we know who we are).

The July Magnficat has an edifying article on the apostle worth checking out.

posted by TSO @ 18:03

July 3, 2004

Caption Contest

here! ...Rejected captions include:

1) "You sunk my battleship!"
2) "Hey, wait, I forgot my tie."
3) "The South Beach diet really works!"

posted by TSO @ 00:02

A Midsummer Night's Dream

So it’s summer and the livin’ is easy. That’s what the adverts say and I have no reason to doubt. It hasn’t rained in two weeks and it’s as if the drier the ground gets the more Arizona-like grows the sky. Clouds puff and obstruct but not enough to cause trouble, especially given the long days. Folks are all out walking about and I can’t blame them. I race on foot a six-year old on bike and my thighs burn from the effort but there are smiles all around.

I'm numbed by exercise in this midsummer, sparked by tremendously, untouchably beautiful days. You can’t get your arms around days this beautiful. The effusiveness of leaves and trunks on the maples, the close-cropped grass that surfs over the edge of our new patio, the uber-greens of the firs and pines and maiden-hair grasses lap and frame this world. The sun gilds and imprimaturs every leaf and needle; they shine like mint silver and beckon unbearably in their tangibleness.

And then dusk finally comes only to be glorified by far-flung fireflies delightfully stochastic in their sensibilities. I get a camera and the three-second delay is laughingly ineffective. I can no more predict their flashes than God’s, so now I own a lot of pictures of an empty backyard.

And if this prose is laughably over the top I'm only imitating full-flung nature who risks her own over-the-top-ness. Just trying to keep up with her. And though her charms are passing, other bright moments aren't. Eucharistic Adoration on Thursday and I read but forty words of St. Alphonsus Liguori and it was the balm of Gilead! The mere explication of the necessity of prayer and how it is the answer to everything lends a golden sense of confidence. How sweet the reminder.

So the weather is other-worldly. My wife describes the moon as golden and I thought it poetic license until I saw it. I looked at it with wonder and a similar sense as the Mantle rookie at baseball card shows. It was time for bed and I had to get up early so I looked at it like the tourists look out of the 25-cent timed telescopes atop the Empire State Building. This moon wasn’t gauzy or yellow or halved. It was full and golden, a big glob of a moon on the horizon, fat as our own lives.

posted by TSO @ 23:24

July 2, 2004

Flannery O'Connor & Abu Ghraib

Fascinating essay on Abu Ghraib (thanks to a reader for the heads-up). Perhaps it will also go a way towards lessening the shock of the MacFarlane divorce? Some excerpts:

Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor would have considered the images of the prison scandal grotesque, but not in what she called "the pejorative sense"—of just plain images of ugliness and ignorance. For O'Connor—whose characters are some of the most memorable grotesqueries in American literature—the grotesque makes visible hidden "discrepancies" between character and belief. Such images "connect or combine or embody two points; one is a point in the concrete and the other is a point not visible to the naked eye."

Pride sets us against each other, and, most important, against God. To cure us of it, God allows us to sin. Again, St. Thomas: "the gravity of sins of pride is shown by the fact that God allows man to fall into other sins in order to heal him from pride."...

For O'Connor, God's providence was realized not despite our sins, but through them. Removing sin from life—or fiction—meant essentially cutting yourself off from the possibility of grace. Life—or literature, becomes either sentimental or obscene, and while "preferring the former, and being more of an authority on the latter," the Catholic reader fails to see their similarity. "He forgets," she continues, that:

"sentimentality is an excess, a distortion of sentiment usually in the direction of an overemphasis on innocence and that innocence whenever it is overemphasized in the ordinary human condition, tends by some natural law to become its opposite... Sentimentality is a skipping of this process in its concrete reality and an early arrival at a mock state of innocence, which strongly suggests its opposite."

The opposite of innocence? Abu Ghraib, maybe?
(Speaking of interesting posts, here's another, one by Mark Shea.)

posted by TSO @ 14:27

Have a happy 4th!

Art by Stan Street

Louisiana Saturday Night


Hey you get down the fiddle and you get down the bow
Kick off your shoes and throw 'em on the flo'
Dance in the kitchen 'til the morning light,
Louisiana Saturday night!

Waiting in the front yard sitting on a log,
Single shot rifle and a one eyed dog.
Yonder come the kinfolk, in the moonlight
Louisiana Saturday night!

My brother Bill and my other brother Jack,
Belly full o' beer and a possum in a sack.
Fifteen kids in the front porch light,
Louisana Saturday night!

Kinfolk leave and the kids get fed,
Me an' my woman gonna sneak off to bed.
We'll have a little fun when we turn off the light,
Louisiana Saturday night!

posted by TSO @ 08:25

"Courage, child, your sins are forgiven"

The story of the paralytic in the beginning of Matthew 9 had a different meaning for me when I was a kid. Jesus, in my childhood experience, seemed to have no difficulty forgiving sins (there was Confession after all) but more "trouble" with illnesses.

But for the people of the time it was the opposite. They knew of his miracles and knew he could heal but didn't believe he was God and had the right to forgive sins. I didn't have that background information when I was a kid, so I was impatient for the cure. I didn't fully connect the forgiving of sins with the cost (i.e..the Cross) and so was unimpressed with the first part of the healing. I was thinking, "if I was that paralytic, I'd be like 'hey I'm looking for a cure, not forgiveness of my sins'". But that was wrong on several levels.

First because sins are worse than illnesses and the forgiveness of them better than any cure. Forgiven sins lead to eternal life, healings to a prolonged earthly life.

But what really gets me is that I think the paralytic had the right order! I think he longed for forgiveness most. There was a horrible "double-whammy" operating at that time in the prevalent opinion that your illness was caused by your sin. So not only did he have to live with paralysis but also with the knowledge that he was a reprobate. But he was restored when Jesus read his heart and responded with the loveliest of all phrases: "Courage, child, your sins are forgiven."

posted by TSO @ 08:08

More Flannery

An email correspondent named Steven (though not Riddle) provided plenteous more Flannery quotes, so that blog was updated today.

posted by TSO @ 12:55

July 1, 2004

New drinking terms...

Those wacky kids...

13 stepper n. someone attending Alcoholics Anonymous (usually mandated by the state) while still maintaining a drinking lifestyle; the thirteenth step is forgetting the previous twelve steps.
beereft adj. bereft of beer.
treading lager v. eschewing liquor for beer in hopes of not getting too drunk.
AWOG adj. Absent Without Saying Goodbye. Slipping out of a bar or party without telling your friends.
Canadian n. bar staff slang for a non-tipper.
Monet v. someone who appears attractive from across the bar, but less so up close.
pal tax n. the act of covertly ordering a drink on a friend’s tab.

posted by TSO @ 12:54


Via Steven Riddle, disturbing report about how "Made in China" is often synonymous with "Made by Slaves". Very, very incriminating for those, like myself, who buy from Walmart and tend not to look at the tags.

Even a defender of Walmart, Jay Nordlinger, could only concede: "And, yes, the company is a heavy importer of foreign goods, including from China. This is a noteworthy development, as Wal-Mart started out with a "Made in America" theme. It was quasi-protectionist. Now the Wal-Mart theme is, "Made Anywhere, So What?" A company vice president told Business Week, "The mindset around here is, we're agents for our customers." Critics who never breathe a word about Laogai, in other circumstances, get all human-rightsy when discussion turns to Wal-Mart. (Laogai is the Chinese gulag.)"

That's Nordlinger's defense? Weak. Who cares about the critics. (Here is Walmart's take.) More blogging on the subject here and here and here.


Commentary on the NY Times piece saying that readers are boring.

Slouching towards blogdom?

Hilarious. Via Jeffrey Lloyd though I think Curt Jester must be responsible.

It's happening to Judiasm too.

posted by TSO @ 09:02

A Hundred Miles

I grew up in Cincinnati and now live in Columbus and it amazes me how different the two cities are despite being only about a hundred miles away.

Cincinnati is more cosmopolitan and interesting; her radio hosts more talented, funny and innovative. Columbus is in general more uptight and less relaxed and has the reputation of being a "cow town". Cincinnati is more like Boston than Peoria.

Recently pehaps we've seen both the upsides and downsides of the different attitudes. The inherent cautiousness of Columbus is seen in a bishop more wary of moving priests with sexual problems. Certainly now that the dust of the Crisis has settled, his reputation is a hundred times better than Cincinnati's bishop. Coincidence? Perhaps.

The downside might be a lack of boldness and a small incident occurred a couple weeks ago might illustrate that. During a homily, the pastor of a Cincinnati church asked people to sign a petition that seeks to get an initiative on the Ohio ballot to prevent a change in the definition of marriage. Afterwards we signed in the vestibule. But I remember thinking: can you do this? Whether allowed or not, I thought that our cautious bishop would never allow something like this, for fear of 501 3C problems.

posted by TSO @ 07:49