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Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I will admit that my heart sank when the story broke as well. Not an unfamiliar feeling these days. I felt a similar sensation when I read about the McFarland divorce and throughout the sex abuse scandal. To be an orthodox, practicing Catholic these days means having a thick skin and a stiff upper lip because, (to quote the novel I just finished reading) 'you ain't got nothing coming'! As a woman I wonder why so many men think with that small organ between their legs instead of the much more intricate and well developed one between their ears! Is it the thrill of getting caught? or is a live-for-the-moment kind of thing? My husband thinks its because these guys aren't busy enough. This from the guy who owns his own business, takes up side jobs, coaches soccer and teaches PSR to 6th graders as well as being a dad to his 5 youngsters and a loving friend and spouse to me. With that much on his plate he obviously doesn't have the time or energy to pursue illicit sexual adventures. Maybe Mr. Pete is right - there's no such thing as a vacuum, something will come up (excuse the pun) to fill the void. - Elena of "My Domestic Church", on the news about Deal

A commenter is concerned that Catholic resettlement will "further marginalize us from those whose souls we are charged with evangelizing". This strikes me as a very Protestant view of the Christian life. I remember hearing a Lutheran sermon in which the pastor said emphatically that the only reason we are living is to evangelize, to be a witness so that others might be saved. Since Christians are already saved, there is nothing left for them to do but "go out into the world and make disciples of all nations". This is a very dangerous idea indeed. How different is the Catholic view! We learn from the Baltimore Catechism that God made man "to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." In other words, our first priority is to become holy and get to Heaven -- to save our own souls and those in our specific charge. - Jeff of "El Camino Real"

As preparatory introduction to the Culture of Death, [I] studied Kubler-Ross's On Death and Dying. I remember the five stages of the dying person (which along with Avogadro's number and the Gaspee incident, are the three things that have stuck with me since then). Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I wonder, do these stages have any parallel/relationship with the commission of mortal sin or repentence? - secret agent man on St. Parish Hall

I suppose that could be even more scandalous, especially when one considers the fact that Christ Himself refuses to let us off the hook when we excuse ourselves with "well, i didn't actually do anything." that sticky point of lust in the heart being equated with actual adultery ... boy, that one smarts. - Smock of Summa Mamas

But, really, I had no time for these higher pursuits. The Catholic aesthetic and the rapine in Sudan could wait. I wanted to know the deal on Deal. I wanted to gorge on gossip...One got a sense of the writer licking his lips with each keystroke. The Bible says that that which has been done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops, but I guess this divine duty has devolved upon the organs of the modern media. Heaven (or hell) can wait...Before running the story, the editors had to confront an obvious truth: this could at the least sorely embarrass Mr. Hudson and at the worst destroy him. And how do you suppose they resolved it? Good, that's what we're trying to do. It's not complicated. - Bill Luse of Apologia

About Rod Dreher and the "Mr. Ives' Christmas" controversy ... I enjoyed "The Power and the Glory", and even though it did contain sexual situations that probably crossed the line of good taste, these were not presented to the reader in the form of literary porn. It was gritty, sure -- but not pornographic. I don't know why it is so hard for people like Mr. Dreher to see the difference. - LeXuan, wife of Jeff Culbreath of "ECR"

Is there not some sort place I can set this cross down for a spell? Or a Walmart where I can return this particular cross?! 'Cause I know that they take exchanges without a receipt. I'd even settle for swapping for a couple of days. A fresh new set of trials and tribulations. It could be a whole new spiritual reality show, "Cross-swapped" or "Extreme Cross Makeover" I pick up your cross and you pick up mine, slap on some rouge and throw in a new appliance from Sears. Sound good? Reread Job ch. 38+. Job's answer to the Lord "Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes." Second thought, I think my cross is a keeper. - SpecialK of Summa Mamas

Men learn to love the women they’re attracted to while women become attracted to the men they love. ..our dear mr. luse posts a lengthy article entitled philosophy on the rocks that has me thinking so hard my head hurts. two words in mr. luse's article immediately caught my attention: philosophy -- which was my minor in college -- and unchastity -- which was my major. - smockmomma of Summa Mama's

I admired Elisabeth. Ross's work very much. Her book was very helpful to me when my favorite uncle and grandfather died within a year of each other and I was going through tremendous grief. Since death WAS her work, I wonder if she looked at her own demise with a little more curiosity and with her researcher's eye. I wonder if all of that made the experience different for her somehow. Although I didn't agree with all of her conclusions, I admired her work with the dying and her importance in the hospice movement. - Elena of "My Domestic Church"

Why have we so demonized alcohol, anyhow? It can be misused, like so many of the other gifts that God has given us. I was at a bris a few weeks ago (long story). The mohel joked that the reason alcohol abuse is so rare among Jewish men is that the first time they taste is they are 8 days old, and that taste is followed immediately by getting circumcised. - Alicia of "Fructus Ventris"

I think I like characters like the gang in Ocean's Eleven because I have in fact met con men and thieves who had the stuff, and wistfully remember how my Old Man tried so hard, bastard though he was, to measure up to 'em. As for me and my house, my brothers and I inherited the aspiration, but seem better at the execution. Consider our chosen professions - the law, sales & marketing, and preaching. Anyone who's not a bit of a con artist will never make it in those callings. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

The Bill Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail -title of Jeff of "Curt Jester" post after news that Gates contributed $400,000 to the campaign backing a California ballot measure that would make billions of dollars available for human embryonic stem cell/cloning research.

'Best of all, you should be on your way about 45 minutes after the procedure.' The question is.....on your way to where? - Ellyn of Obhouse, quoting an advertisement for a new permanent birth control procedure.

I sometimes find that the Catholic Classics fail me, not because they are not good works, but because so few of them come from a time near enough to address the issues I face every day. Yes, they teach immortal principles and should be read for that reason alone. But sometimes it is good to hear a voice, like that of John Paul II who faces what I face today and who gives me some guidance as to how to deal with. For that reason, I do read a variety of spiritual works from all times, not wishing to succumb to chronological snobbery in either sense. - Steven Riddle of "Flos Carmeli"

The word "no" in a woman's mouth is the most powerful protest in the language. It's what separates the victim from the participant. - Bill Luse of Apologia

Effective today, the Catholic League has a new requirement for all future employees: all candidates must show proof of being immaculately conceived, that is, they must demonstrate that they were conceived without sin. - William Donohue, after NCR's hit piece on Deal Hudson

Angels are in heaven because they take themselves lightly. - GK Chesterton of Heaven

posted by TSO @ 13:45

August 31, 2004

Voice from the Past

Family remembrances will necessarily be minutiae to outsiders, so feel free to move on (dot org - not!). Blogging has a tension in how much to reveal.

My great uncle, who died in '73, was a priest in the Cincinnati diocese. And I listened today to a cassette tape of him practicing a homily to be given at the commencement of a high school graduating class. It was made just nine months before he died. How special to be able to hear a voice from the past! How grateful I am to be able to listen to someone I barely knew growing up and to "flesh out" what was just a distant memory. To hear the way he said certain words, the accent and inflections, and best of all the words themselves which centered on Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, was inspiring.

I hope it's not too personal to bring up something that occurred in the last year of his life. When a family member told him that she was flouting Humane Vitae, calling it unreasonable, it hit him hard. He grew up in a different era, an era in which the pope was considered infallible by nearly all Catholics. And to hear this was so painful to him that he didn't talk to her for months and stopped visiting. But just a week before he died he visited and was warm and friendly and able to let go not of his orthodoxy, but perhaps his method of dealing with her unorthodoxy? Maybe he came to understand that you catch more flies with honey. He died of a stroke suddenly and without warning and in retrospect the last visit feels providential.

posted by TSO @ 10:21


Ran across this site. Isn't "credentialed blogger" an oxymoron?

John McCain gave what will probably be the best speech of the convention, including this line:

I said earlier that the sacrifices in this war will not be shared equally by all Americans. The President is the first to observe, most of the sacrifices fall, as they have before, to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. We may be good citizens, but make no mistake, they are the very best of us.

Ain't that the truth? To extend the metaphor into the religious realm, sacrifices, be they carried out by homeschooling mothers or as priests or nuns or the sick or suffering, are always disproportionate.

McCain also made the case that the Bush Administration should have made from the very start:

After years of failed diplomacy and limited military pressure to restrain Saddam Hussein, President Bush made the difficult decision to liberate Iraq. Those who criticize that decision would have us believe that the choice was between a status quo that was well enough left alone and war. But there was no status quo to be left alone.

The years of keeping Saddam in a box were coming to a close. The international consensus that he be kept isolated and unarmed had eroded to the point that many critics of military action had decided the time had come again to do business with Saddam, despite his near daily attacks on our pilots, and his refusal, until his last day in power, to allow the unrestricted inspection of his arsenal. Our choice wasn’t between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war.

Rode my bike through a poor neighborhood and saw one of those "little pink houses" that Mellencamp might sing of. Maybe 800-1000 square foot, maybe go for $50,000. And out in their tiny yard was a big "Bush-Cheney" sign, and it was inspiring to me. This was perhaps an example of the working poor not influenced by the class warfare of a John Edwards. They probably pay nothing in federal taxes and so would appear to be voting against their pocketbook by not voting for the party that promises more government services. Whatever your politics, subordinating your financial interests to something greater is a beautiful thing.

posted by TSO @ 09:08

Belloc Excerpts from The Path To Rome

...politically incorrect back when you could be:

It also showed me something intimate and fundamental about the Germans which Tacitus never understood and which all our historians miss—they are of necessity histrionic. Note I do not say it is a vice of theirs. It is a necessity of theirs, an appetite. They must see themselves on a stage. Whether they do things well or ill, whether it is their excellent army with its ridiculous parade, or their eighteenth-century sans-soucis with avenues and surprises, or their national legends with gods in wigs and strong men in tights, they must be play-actors to be happy and therefore to be efficient; and if I were Lord of Germany, and desired to lead my nation and to be loved by them, I should put great golden feathers on my helmet, I should use rhetorical expressions, spout monologues in public, organize wide cavalry charges at reviews, and move through life generally to the crashing of an orchestra. For by doing this even a vulgar, short, and diseased man, who dabbled in stocks and shares and was led by financiers, could become a hero, and do his nation good.)
... and always humorous
I had marched 378 miles and some three furlongs, or thereabouts. Thus did I break—but by a direct command—the last and dearest of my vows, and as the train rumbled off, I took luxury in the rolling wheels.

I thought of that other medieval and papistical pilgrim hobbling along rather than 'take advantage of any wheeled thing', and I laughed at him. Now if Moroso-Malodoroso or any other Non-Aryan, Antichristian, over-inductive, statistical, brittle-minded man and scientist, sees anything remarkable in one self laughing at another self, let me tell him and all such for their wide-eyed edification and astonishment that I knew a man once that had fifty-six selves (there would have been fifty-seven, but for the poet in him that died young)—he could evolve them at will, and they were very useful to lend to the parish priest when he wished to make up a respectable Procession on Holy-days. And I knew another man that could make himself so tall as to look over the heads of the scientists as a pine-tree looks over grasses, and again so small as to discern very clearly the thick coating or dust of wicked pride that covers them up in a fine impenetrable coat. So much for the moderns.

posted by TSO @ 21:41

August 30, 2004

More Protester Coverage!

I'm protesting the lack of protester coverage. I was saddened to turn on C-Span this morning and see talking heads on Washington Journal. A more fascinating, creative and deluded group we may never see again in our lifetime and all I can do is read about it secondhand. The sheer variety of leftist lies is impressive and oddly compelling. They do spectacle well, and I think given their radicalism they actually help Bush.

I wondered whether there would be counterprotestors and sure enough there are, the authors of counter-signs like this. So what about counter-counterprotestors and counter-counter-counterprotestors? From the Lowrey link:

We passed a group of counter-protesters from the group, who were holding up signs mocking the protesters: "World Workers Party...the last thing we do is work." A guy just ahead of us in the march was covered in green make-up to look like the statue of liberty and was wearing just a robe, with a skeletal, scary-looking set of teeth painted on his face and — for some reason — a little flower in his ear. By any standard, this guy was dressed like a freak. But he stopped us to ask, in scandalized and mystified tones, of the counter-protesters, "Who were those people?"
Ideally the silliness of the extremes (i.e. anyone to the right of me or to the left of Bob Dole) might provide the comedy needed to lessen the tensions of a divided country.

posted by TSO @ 12:01

Sunday Relearnings

On my way to church today I was listening to NPR* since even conservatives like dulcet tones and a lack of jarring commercials. They mentioned that somebody, whose name slips me now, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I began considering whether that was worse or cancer and determined it was Alzheimer's.

Switch to near the end of the liturgy. A line from a song registered and reminded me of the ride: "we have no fear of evil news". Perfect. That is who we are supposed to be - fearless of evil news like cancer or Alzheimer's. And yet I have to relearn that constantly. The surprise in the spiritual life is this relearning process. I know that 2+2=4 and I know that all things are possible (and bearable) with God, but I have to relearn the latter.

Later in the afternoon I went to an Egyptian Festival at a local Coptic church. They were having church tours and I learned things like the Sunday liturgy was 2-3 hours long and that Copts heavily influenced St. Patrick by way of Egyptian monks transplanted in Gaul. The strange thing was seeing these four white ovals hanging in front of the altar. Turns out they were actual ostrich eggs. Why? Because ostriches apparently watch their eggs with unswerving dedication until they are hatched. This is both a metaphor for how God watches us and how we are to attend the events of the altar. Beautiful.

It was nice also to be among so many folks who looked like they could be terrorists, like the guy at the bookstore who looked like Muhammed Ata, but were in fact sweet Christians. It is good to experience firsthand the universality of the Church. The girl giving the talk was born in Egypt and the nervousness in her voice suggested that this was not without cost, which made it the sweeter since she was doing it for Christ. Her description of the changing of bread into the Body of Christ combined with all the Marian iconography in the church made me feel at home.

I picked up some of the brochures at the information booth. There was the occasional swipe at Rome but it didn't bother me since it was like one beautiful woman pointing out the flaws of another beautiful woman. I'm attracted to the "let mysteries be mysteries" attitude of the Orthodox church. And in the material I picked up there was even a positive, even beautiful, spin on one of the things I've often considered with disdain: free will. From the handout:

The Holy Bible presents God to us as a "Lover" of mankind; for He crowned man with free will as the greatest gift offered to His most beautiful and dearest creature on earth. He granted him authority over everything; thus man invaded space and other planets. God offered man complete freedom so as to accept God as his Beloved, to ignore Him, or even to resist Him. In all this, God tolerates man with love, not to condemn him but rather to attract him as a friend, raising him up to heavens to partake in His glories without forcing or pressing him.

* - National Propaganda Radio

posted by TSO @ 13:21

August 29, 2004

Green Acres Is the Place To Be?

I don't know much about Distributism (it's always sounded utopian to me, plus Belloc & Chesterton wrote contra capitalism at a time when the latter involved child labor and 80-hour weeks, so times have changed) but I found this comment from Peter Westmore compelling:
How can the God-ordained nature of work be realised if neither his hands nor his mind manipulate materials provided to him directly by the Hand of Almighty God according to forms that are derived, through the agency of the human intellect and imagination, from the natural created structure of the world?..As G.K. Chesterton states it, "Now what is the matter with the financial world is that it is a great deal too full of imagination, in the sense of fiction."
But are we blaming the economic system when the culture is at fault? I'm reading As the Romans Do: An American Family's Italian Odyssey by Alan Epstein and I'm struck by how idyllic it all sounds. The Romans put other things before making money. The author provides anecdote after anecdote about how Romans choose family, food, and siestas over the making of money. So it sounds (anecdotally) feasible to have a capitalistic system while not losing our humanity. Still, if Italy is more warm and human it is also culturally dying since population is below replacement. The Distributists see farming as the answer by restoring the way children have been seen since Old Testament days - as assets in every sense:
"The common man in his material life is separated from God, the Cause, and a loss of human happiness and holiness results. Thus, "a man who suplies his own needs is needed." Or rather, a man who sees his needs supplied from God's creation - in the form of spouting seeds and newly-born livestock, and children suckled at the breast - is needed. A society full of machine-dependent men need only to take small steps between thinking of children as cash drains, to children as crises, to abortion as a good...[This] would give way [under Distributism] to God's design of large families comprised of needed children.

posted by TSO @ 12:58

Catlicker Novels about Sin

The two big thumbs-up recently (from Amy & a Godspy writer) for Graham Greene's "The Power & the Glory" got me thinking, or what passes thereof. This will probably state the obvious, but books like Greene's can have two effects, one positive and one negative. The positive effect is the message that no one is beyond God's mercy and that we are all broken. Novels can show us our own thoughts, in all their depravity and carnality, but can also show how God can overcome them. The greatness of God is made more dramatic by showing the baseness of man; the redemption of the worse is a message of hope, which is sorely needed these days. The negative effect, of course, is that these novels can induce a sense of complacency, or worse make the sin more attractive in the sinner's mind.

posted by TSO @ 07:24

Nobody Does It Better

Bill Luse has the perfect send-up on the Hudsonian situation. The whole post is a Murderer's Row of Spanning quotes to which I can only enviously sigh, "I wish I'd written that".

One of my guilty favorites:
"I guess the calm, clear air of those Aristotelian heights doesn't stand a chance against the hot wind generated by an 18 year old belly button staring you in the face."
And oh so painfully true:
"I had no time for these higher pursuits. The Catholic aesthetic and the rapine in Sudan could wait. I wanted to know the deal on Deal."
Bill's description of seeing college aged girls in various stages of sartorial disarray doesn't surprise me except inasmuch as it takes that much these days to excite the interest of college boys. To me, there's almost an evolutionary thing going on - women are growing more blantant in having to attract attention. Reminds me of a John Updike parody I wrote for an Eve Tushnet contest on the farm bill:
Angstrom held the Times with a gathering anger, the serrate-edged pages garlanded with those ads of models, all svelte with their ring-appointed mid-drifts, slices of skin endlessly beguiling and faithful to the long evolutionary line of tricks women have used to overcome a man's fear of rejection, a display designed to marry pistil and stamen. Amid the skin and sex and perfume his attention ratcheted, quite perversely, upon a news item regarding the farm subsidy bill. This was the source of his inchoate anger, and to his Dell he flew, typing furiously into his forgiving, warm, blogger spot: "'Don't have time to link this, but it was in the NY Times today - the bastards passed a $190 billion dollar farm subsidy bill...'"
It takes real spiritual maturity for a middle-aged man to live chastely on the college campus. Or even watching the Olympics? One EWTN priest said for most men sexual sin is the easiest way to fall into mortal sin - "just two beers and a soft-porn R-rated movie away" (presumably because the beer lowers your defense, providing the opportunity for the will to give full consent to lust). TV sports, once a refuge from sexual sin, is now an "aider & abetter". When Jesus equated lust in thoughts with adultery, He gave away my moral high ground.

posted by TSO @ 20:30

August 28, 2004

Olympic Update

I wouldn't walk out to my driveway to pick up the newspaper wearing what some of those Olympic athletes wear in front of an audience of a billion. I assume they're too focused about the competition to think about how much they're showin', but it's close to those dreams where you show up for work wearing your birthday suit. As a friend said, you know exactly what some of the women looked like naked. But even from a utilitarian, functional viewpoint, what's up with the woman's v-ball? Doesn't the sand go places you don't want sand to go? (Okay, ok, it's all for ratings.)

In more positive Olympic news, Australia is the real winner so far (among the top 7) based on this unscientific percentage of medals to population:

Australia 19.3 million = 47 medals = 2.43
Germany = 82 million, 47 medals = .57
Russia = 144 million, 76 medals = .52
France = 60 million, 31 medals = .52
U.S. 290 million = 90 medals = .31
Japan = 127 million, 36 medals = .28
China = 1.2 billion, 58 medals = .048

The Aussies, a nation founded on Irish rebels and criminals sent by Britain during colonial times, has reason to be proud. They also have the reputation for being fun-loving, Foster-drinking and not overly concerned with the life of the mind. It's certainly served them well in Greece.

posted by TSO @ 13:01

Field Guide Dog

Pigeon-toed in a field
of Queen Anne’s Lace,
Obi snoutdriven and laced
with white weed whiskers
sings the song of dog-fealties,
tongue side-long’d in praise
of his father’s idea:
a walk thru paradise.

posted by TSO @ 01:23

Via Smock & Mama T

Hardback or Paperback (although I mostly buy the latter)
Highlight or Underline
Lewis or Tolkien
E.B. White or A.A. Milne
T.S. Eliot or e.e. cummings
Stephen King or Dean Koontz
Barnes & Noble or Borders
Waldenbooks or B. Dalton
Fantasy or Science Fiction
Horror and Suspense
Bookmark or Dogear
Large Print or Fine Print
Hemingway or Faulkner
Fitzgerald or Steinbeck
Homer or Plato
Geoffrey Chaucer or Edmund Spenser
Pen or Pencil
Looseleaf or Notepad
Alphabetize: By Author or By Title (neither)
Shelve: By Genre/Subject or All Books Together
Dustjacket: Leave it On or Take it Off
Novella or Epic
John Grisham or Scott Turrow
J.K. Rowling or Lemony Snicket
John Irving and John Updike
Salman Rushdie or Don Delillo
Fiction or Non-fiction
Historical Biography or Historical Romance
Reading Pace: A Few Pages per Sitting or Finish at Least a Chapter
Short Story or Creative Non-fiction Essay
Blah Blah Blah and Yada Yada Yada
“It was a dark and stormy night…” or “Once upon a time…”
Books: Buy or Borrow (buy early & often)
Book Reviews or Word of Mouth

posted by TSO @ 01:11

The New Tom Wolfe Novel

...doesn't look to interesting to me. At least judging by this chapter, which I shouldn't do.

posted by TSO @ 16:02

August 27, 2004

David Mills takes down the NY Times on TPOTC:

Laura M. Holson writes in the mode taken by secular papers from the beginning when writing about The Passion of the Christ: a) assume the movie is an ideological production, by both those who made it and those who watched it, and b) treat its enormous appeal as a matter of marketing and sociology and do not — not not not — admit that the story may have some power and interest on its own.
This is a mindset of many secularists - that all interests can be explained by advertising. The story itself is compelling and the movie is devotional, a video Stations of the Cross that will disappoint anyone watching it for ideological reasons.

posted by TSO @ 10:46

Interesting GODSPY article...

...on a writer's faith:

An unbelieving teacher of mine once said: 'I am not a Christian — I hate Christianity, but when I read Flannery O’Connor, for the time that I am reading her, I believe.'

I'm not sure many people think of stories as a means of thinking. We think of stories as entertainment, and we think of them as expressing ideas and values. That is not what the person who will write takes them to be. The fictional process (says John Gardner in The Art of Fiction) is the writer's way of thinking, a special case of the symbolic process by means of which we do all our thinking. Though it's only an analogy, and in some ways misleading, we might say that the elements of fiction are to a writer what numbers are to a mathematician, the main difference being that we handle fictional elements more intuitively than even the subtlest mathematicians handle numbers.

Think how powerful stories are. As a man thinks, so is he, the Scriptures say...I understand how [Leopold] Bloom [in Ulysses] looks at the world from the inside out. If Joyce were alive to write another book in which Bloom figured, I feel as if I might almost be able to predict how Bloom would act—in the same way as I might be willing to predict how an intimate friend would act in a hypothetical situation. The communion we have in friendship breaks down the ego barriers in this way.

I am not sure, however, if we are able to empathize with Christ in the way we can with a merely mortal friend or even a fictional character. Chesterton, I think, said that all heresy begins in psychology, meaning that when we try to see the world from Christ's perspective we are far too inclined to see it through our own, and then validate our own perspective by virtue of this inadequate process. Saint Paul, on the other hand, can teach us much. He recommends that we identify with him as he identifies with Christ. That has always seemed to be part of the saint's own often noted egotism. And yet in this context we can see that Saint Paul was talking about the communion of the saints as a key to the Christian life—the way in which the friends of Christ fill out our imaginations of what it must be like to be Christ's friend.

I found my first vicar of belief when I found the whiskey priest in Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory. As I have said, the intellectual and emotional profile of those around me as I grew up, at least in their representations of what it was like to be a Christian, struck me as alien, impenetrable. When I came to Greene's whiskey priest I breathed a sigh of relief and found, at last, a saint with whom I can identify.

posted by TSO @ 10:12

Newman Sermons

Around the office when someone is too cryptic they might hear the response "say more words". That was my response after a taste of Cardinal Newman's sermon notes. It also brings home the (perhaps obvious) fact that he wasn't just an intellectual but a pastor. Can you even imagine him as your parish priest? Your confessor? Hearing his sermons? In these days of weak preaching it boggles the mind.

But I digress. Donna Lewis has an excerpt that makes you wish you heard the whole sermon. Here is a snippet: "Gratitude is even a kind of love, and leads to love. Against hard thoughts of God. Not [being] too proud to admit to ourselves, 'At least He is good to ME.'".

It seems to me we can error on gratitude in two ways: one, seeing others with greater gifts and given being ungrateful for what we have been given, and two, having more than others but being ungrateful out of a sense of undeservedness or because of a failure to be a good steward of them.

One book I've always wanted to read is his "Grammar of Assent". I've never been able to find a cheap used copy, but it is online. Here is an excerpt:

Here we have the solution of the common mistake of supposing that there is a contrariety and antagonism between a dogmatic creed and vital religion...The propositions [of the Creed]... are useful in their dogmatic aspect as ascertaining and making clear for us the truths on which the religious imagination has to rest. Knowledge must ever precede the exercise of the affections. We feel gratitude and love, we feel indignation and dislike, when we have the informations actually put before us which are to kindle those several emotions. We love our parents, as our parents, when we know them to be our parents; we must know concerning God, before we can feel love, fear, hope, or trust towards Him. Devotion must have its objects; those objects, as being supernatural, when not represented to our senses by material symbols, must be set before the mind in propositions... It seems a truism to say, yet it is all that I have been saying, that in religion the imagination and affections should always be under the control of reason. Theology may stand as a substantive science, though it be without the life of religion; but religion cannot maintain its ground at all without theology. Sentiment, whether imaginative or emotional, falls back upon the intellect for its stay, when sense cannot be called into exercise; and it is in this way that devotion falls back upon dogma.

posted by TSO @ 09:57

Ne'er Old Till Heimer...

Received three more Nigerian scam emails. It's getting old. We had a co-worker named "Heimer" and I tend to share his tendency to beat dead horses. We had a saying that "it's never old till Heimer says it" which, by definition, never got old since Heimer never said it.

The three emails differed in the sum of the untapped funds. One was for 15 million, one 30 million, and one for 47 million. All are careful to specify the denomination as U.S. dollars, lest we think it's Confederate money or Guinea pesos. Two want to give me 30%, the other doesn't specify.

The Nigerian scam writing genre could use a bit more creativity, imho. My take on the scammers is that if everyone replies to them their inboxes would crash. Towards that goal I offered this reply:

Hallo Chide John!

Iô ouk oid' hopôs humin apistêsai me chrê, saphei de muthôi pan hoper proschrêizete peusesthe: kaitoi kai legous' theossuton cheimôna kai diaphthoran morphês, hothen schetliai proseptato. aiei gar opseis ennuchoi pôleumenai es parthenônas tous emous parêgoroun leioisi muthois ô meg' eudaimon korê, ti partheneuei daron, exon soi gamou tuchein megistou; gar himerou belei pros tethalptai kai sunairesthai Kuprin thelei: FOURTY-SEVEN MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS(US$47M)? Su d', ô pai, mê polaktisêis lechos FIFTY-SEVEN MILLION? (U.S. opseis). Al' exelthe pros Lernês bathun leimôna, but boustaseis te pros patros, hôs an to Dion omma lôphêsêi pothou.

Leioisi muthois ô meg' eudaimon korê Reserve Bank of South Africa eoikotes ômophagoisi e-mail nêusin pesseuonto, 30%. aiei gar opseis 35%?

-kaitoi, TSO

posted by TSO @ 09:27

Iris Review

Interesting Amy Schneider review in Gilbert magazine of Iris, about English writer/philosopher Iris Murdoch and her husband:

The key to the film... is hinted at in something one of the characters says in Murdoch’s 1961 novel A Severed Head. “In almost every marriage there is a selfish and an unselfish partner.”

It is vital to understand that the Iris we see in every scene of this picture is never shown except from the perspective of her adoring husband. Iris is always center stage; every scene is about her and her painfully evident self-centeredness. Well, she’s a genius, isn’t she? And there in the background, or in the audience, or on the sidelines, we see John. He sees Iris clearly, inflated ego and all. He has no illusions about her. He simply loves her. His is that unconditional love we hear of so constantly, and so seldom ever see.

It is John who watches in growing dismay as his beloved Iris slides into the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease. It is he whose memory is jogged back to their younger days by these horrific events in the present. What happened when these two first met, for instance? For Iris, nothing happened. For John it was an earthquake. They court or date or whatever it was called in their circle. Iris is casual; John is buffeted between joy and despair. Iris seduces John. She is by no means faithful to him, however, and that he does not complain reveals rather than hides the depths of his hurt.

Iris loves John in her own way, but her own way is “free.” Chesterton called free love a contradiction in terms: by its very nature love seeks to bind. Iris Murdoch never understood this. John Bayley did. He bound himself to Iris knowing that she would never, by her own will, be bound to him. And then the day came when her will had nothing to do with it, when her will retreated to places her intellect could no longer understand or express. John Bayley, watching that slow retreat, realizes that at last she will be his.

“Where are those others now?” he shouts at her in a moment of angry frustration.“I have you now, don’t I?” And then the movie asks its big questions: Does he still want her now? Is it possible to love someone who doesn’t know who she is or where she is? And are we really loving her, or only the shadow, the memory of her? And lastly, is it possible that this person with her mind in a fog might love you back.

posted by TSO @ 10:25

August 26, 2004

Good thread on joy here.

posted by TSO @ 10:04

The Grey Lady's Slip is Showing

Hilarious - from NRO's Nordlinger:

Readers of conservative material know that we have long had an interest in the obits of Communists published in the New York Times. Why? Because they're hilarious — outrageous and hilarious. The Times is ever reluctant to call a Communist a Communist. We're apt to hear that the deceased had "strong beliefs," or "unpopular opinions," or maybe even "radical politics." But the Times will seldom blurt out the raw truth. They might call the guy a "victim of McCarthyism" or something — and then savvy readers will have to infer all the rest.

Well, the Times published what ought to be a classic obit the other day, of Elmer Bernstein, the composer...This is what the Times wrote: "His career was sidetracked in 1950 for five years because he considered himself a Communist."

Don't you love it? Because he considered himself a Communist! I note and make fun of this because I consider myself a conservative anti-Communist who knows when a sometimes-great newspaper is acting foolishly.

posted by TSO @ 09:52

We Like Beer

Somewhere it's Tuesday?:

...[C.S.] Lewis [drank] beer at the Eagle and Child pub on Tuesday mornings. Not only is beer a Taoist-like drink that enables the drinker to obtain a small amount of inebriation that shrinks the self and enables the objective goodness of things to shine through the soul, but the Tuesday morning gatherings at the pub were good and Lewis, a man of the Tao, was able to see it and take it in.

To the average man, Tuesday morning drinking sessions are outrageous. Tuesday, after all, is a far cry from the weekend, the “proper” time for drinking. Tuesday morning drinking interferes with one’s pursuits and ambitions; morning beer makes you drowsy; spending time in a tavern in the morning takes away some of the most productive hours of the day.

But Lewis didn’t care because he didn’t care about ambition and the efficient use of time. The Tuesday morning beer sessions were good. His friends were good. The beer was good.
Enjoyed this also from Eric Scheske:
I'm thinking about becoming an alcoholic. Beer and wine are my favorites, so I'll drink a lot of them. I don't like hard liquor, but I'll drink it if that what it takes to realize my ambition. Unlike some people out there who want things handed to them, I'm willing to work and am dedicated to achieving my goals.

I have little doubt that alcoholism is a good career move. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers can't take adverse employment action against a reformed alcoholic based on his alcoholism.
Art credit

posted by TSO @ 07:47

The Pope & Realpolitik

This looks interesting (found via Collected Miscellany). Book blurbs include:

This is a very valuable book. There are many treatments of the various aspects of John Paul II's philosophy, but very few that study the application of his philosophy to practical political thinking on the international scale, as does this one. Drawing on a thorough knowledge of John Paul II's philosophy, of which he gives a fine initial exposition, and a wide reading in contemporary political theory, the author shows the profound practical relevance of the pope's central ideas on the dignity of the individual person, the necessity of taking into account spiritual values and not just material and economic ones in making political decisions, and the guiding ideals of a family of nations and a civilization based on concern for the common human good rather than a competition of power centers. Yet he is critical of the consistency of the pope's application of these ideals to certain difficult cases, such as humanitarian intervention in another country.--W. Norris Clarke, S.J., Fordham University

For those unfamiliar with the influence of Scheler on the thought of John Paul II, this book is a welcome introduction. However, Jeffreys also helpfully puts his account of the pope's moral and political thought in conversation with the realist school of international relations. No doubt some will challenge his account of realism, but at the very least he has begun a conversation that needs to take place.--Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School

posted by TSO @ 07:47

Econ 101

Provocative thoughts on economic issues.

posted by TSO @ 13:02

August 25, 2004

Dealing With It

One punishing aspect of all the Deal Hudson coverage is dealing with the rampant wordplay on his first name, a veritable Hudson river of punnery not seen since the last Scott Hahn book.

posted by TSO @ 11:01

The Therese Film!

"A lot of people aren't going to sit down and study doctrine or read theology, but they will be inspired by seeing God work in her life. I know that's what inspires me." Link here. Coming out October 1st.

posted by TSO @ 10:43


Been pondering Steven's post, specifically Willard's line "As this revolution culminates, all the forces of evil know to mankind will be defeated and the goodness of God will be known, accepted, and joyously conformed to in every aspect of human life. He has chosen to accomplish this win and, in part, through his students."

In a recent conversation I was told that no one can look at the face (metaphorically-speaking) of God and reject him because he is so beautiful. And I certainly believe that is true. So my response was "so are people who reject God rejecting a false notion of God?" to which he replied, "No, God reveals just enough of himself and gives enough nudges to make a rejection meaningful."

I've also been thinking about Christ's words, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light" in light of Fr. Joe's comment to Tony Hendra that "the whole point of the mystical path to God is that it's arduous. That's why it's often called the Way of the Cross. It takes years of dedication, hard work, and discipline, with few rewards. There are no shortcuts. Certainly not the coup de foudre you're looking for. We leave that to the holy rollers. The trouble with being a holy roller is, it's wonderful at the time, but what do you do the next day - and the day after that?"

I suppose the answer to the paradox between the ease of the yoke and the arduousness of the path is Mother Teresa's words: "I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy, I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy."

posted by TSO @ 10:32

Remembering George Sheehan

This'll probably be minutiae to most but I liked reading marathoner & philosopher George Sheehan in Runner's World years ago. Just came across some of his essays online:

On family ...On running & religion...On the importance of play...and on heroism:

"George Sheehan," one critic has said, "is a legend in his own mind." Of course I am. So is the shingler. You should be, too. Each one of us must be his or her own hero. Our highest human need is to be a hero; we are here to lead a heroic life. When we cease to be heroic, we no longer truly exist. A.E. Housman describes that condition well: "Runners whom renown outran? And the name died before the man." What fame, you ask? The only true fame, I say-the inner celebration of self. Heroism is ever available to each of us. Through ordinary experiences, the ordinary person can become extraordinary. Life boils down to finding the best means of expressing heroism; each of us needs to find our own personal arena, our true talent, our gift, our vocation. We all must be heroic, but in our own way. That way can include shingling a roof or running an hour on a sultry summer's day.

posted by TSO @ 09:14

Clinton & Hudson?

Those who see the world through a liberal lens want to equate Deal Hudson with Bill Clinton. I'm not buying that dog food.

Clinton's problem was the cover-up (just ask Dick Nixon) and Clinton's "impeachable moment" was not the sex but the perjury. The chief law enforcer of the country showing a contempt for the law is newsworthy. A thrice-removed Presidential advisor engaging in a grave sin is not.

Second, not all public figures are created equal. We don't seem to be very good at drawing distinctions these days are we? Not all public figures should be held to the same level of scruntiny and accountability. Clinton was leader of the free world and, not to diminish Deal, but he's a spectacularly marginal figure in the big scheme of things. We are increasingly defining the term "public figure" down. I think it's silly to think the character of the guy who tells Bush's chief of staff which Catholic cardinal to visit, or that pro-life issues are important to Catholics, matters, except with respect to his own immortal soul and the Body of Christ.

At this rate, hit-man politics will soon reach the shores of - yes - blogdom. If Mark Shea started getting too influential then what's to stop NCR from hitting him? As was said of the Nazi's: 'First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.' Do we really want NCR snooping into our backgrounds?

posted by TSO @ 07:56

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Deal Posts

Dr. Deal Hudson got a raw "deal" from the National Catholic Reporter. And later this week, I'm going to spend $24.95 and subscribe to Dr. Hudson's magazine, just as a protest. If you want to do the same, check out Crisis magazine's Subscription Services link. (I get no commission for this.) As I said, I'm not a Roman Catholic, but I know a mugging when I see one. - Mark Kellner of

All I ask is that you spend at least as much time praying for Deal Hudson as you do commenting about him. May God have mercy on him and on all of us. - Patrick Madrid

Way on the other end are those who some of us, for one reason or another, look to for some kind of wisdom or witness or inspiration. It's different for all of us. For me, it tends to be writers. Graham Greene has prompted me to reflect very deeply of various issues of faith, but his life is not something for me to emulate. We could multiply that example by the dozens, uncovering lots of people who, from the midst of messy lives, somehow, in some small way, and certainly incompletely and sometimes even paradoxically, witness to the love of God and the truth of faith. - Amy Welborn

Among the grave injuries done to the Church in the United States through imprudence in the years following the Second Vatican Council is the distrust, among those reacting against that imprudence, of compassion and love as motives. As someone commented below: "I am also sick of charity being used as an excuse to cover up, if not ignore, the doctrines and dogmas of the church. This is the approach that has been used since the late 60s, it is time we see it has not worked, and has led millions upon millions of souls astray." This seems to be where we are. One generation called ignoring the teachings of the Church "charity"; the next generation regards expressions of charity with suspicion. If we don't pay attention to the doctrines and dogmas of the Church in order to produce compassionate hearts, though, why do we pay attention? - Tom of Disputations

The "logical pressure" of Christian division ended up "distancing theology from its sources of cogency, vigor and cognitive power," whether they be Scripture or the Creeds or the Sacraments, because these sources could not by themselves distinguish between the true and false churches. Perhaps we see the same "logical pressure" in discussions WITHIN our now polarized Church, resulting in an unrelenting focus on what we do not share in common and how to distinguish ourselves from those who must be condemned. Thus the endless parade of imperfect Roman Catholics and the neverending game of Musical Judgment Seats. And our 'notes' are those familiar neologisms: orthodox, conservative, traditionalist, liberal, progressive. The prognosis is, I would say, rather grim. - Neil on Tom's blog, concerning the effect of the Reformation on theology

I am beside myself with joy! I have just been pointed toward this site, put together by the Contemporary Christiam Evangelistic Library, which is a licensed copy of The Persecutor, ONLINE! I have posted several excerpts from this book on here--in all honesty, I think it's my all-time favorite autobiography (sorry, St. Therese. :-( ). - Kathy the Carmelite? *grin*

I'm a recovering alcoholic, and I *do* take the Cup at Mass. It has never tempted me to relapse. In fact, I'm often lost in wonder that what was once a means of death to me is now a channel of grace and life. - commenter on Mark Shea's blog

A few years ago, Crisis magazine published a glowing review of "Mr. Ives' Christmas", a virtually pornographic novel written by Oscar Hijuelos. (I read most of the book but tossed it aside in disgust before finishing it.) I don't remember who wrote the review, but the book would have easily earned a place on the Index in years past. I think this is what Al might be getting at with respect to the neo-conservative's (including Crisis and Deal Hudson) embrace of a thoroughly decadent popular culture. If I know that a certain person believes "Mr. Ives' Christmas" is a great Catholic novel, I will be less surprised to hear about him doing what Deal Hudson is alleged to have done. There is a connection. - Jeff Culbreath on Amy's blog

My friends all think that I am mad because I am making my own copy of Uncle Gilbert's Orthodoxy by hand. We live in an age of flatbed scanners and printers, they tell me, and I don't have to use stone-age technology like notebooks and pens. Sigh! Obviously, none of them was ever a child who daydreamed about being a monk....Anyway, until Kiwis discover the greatness of Uncle Gilbert and start stocking their bookstores accordingly, I'll be transcribing away, as happy as a monk. - Sancta Sanctis

Lord, have mercy on me and bless them. This simple prayer is proof that you do not have to "feel" the prayer. You simply must be willing to say it, however grudgingly. Considering the circumstances that lead up to it, I always am upset and irritated whenever I say it. Do I actually want those annoying people to be blessed? Hmph, I should say not! (At least I don't feel as if I do, although I am going to the effort of saying the prayer...) In fact, yesterday I was shaking with anger when I suddenly realized that prayer was running over and over in my head. But it is the classic case of "ask and you shall receive." Whenever I say it, I never fail to be reminded of my many imperfections, my pride, and that we are all sinners together. Often that is just what I need to calm down and let my anger go. - Julie of "Happy Catholic"

This is just part and parcel of the erroneous idea that if "men were just like women wouldn't the world be a lovelier place" that *some* women and certainly the media have picked up on. And it's part of the devastating trend toward completely uncommitted men, in my opinion. Who wants to be committed to someone who is going to treat you like either a servant or another child? Smock and I have talked about this issue. We like men. We like men who aren't Alan Alda types. We like men who AREN'T like women. We want our hubbies to be who THEY are, in all their God-given maleness. Who in her right mind wants to be married to the functional equivalent of another girl??... Sure, does it make it difficult to understand sometimes? Yeah. But there is nothing like the perspective that PapaC can give me when I'm all upset about something. He's got that "cut to the chase, let's fix the problem" mentality that kicks me out of the emotional uproar. I think men in general, and husbands in particular, are the most under-appreciated resource in the universe. - MamaT. God bless Texas, and God bless Smock & MamaT

I was listening to a rerun of Raymond Arroyo interviewing Joseph Pearce about his recent biography of Oscar Wilde, and a line struck me. God granted Wilde the mercy of a deathbed conversion after a lifetime of sin and of flirting with the Church. Yes, there is hope. Hope, like faith and love, are not feelings but actions. We are commanded to have faith, to love, and to hope. That doesn't mean we can sit on our fannies and wait for the Deus ex machina - God made us for a purpose, and we have to get moving. But sometimes the most efficacious action is a seeming non-action - intense and continuous prayer. - Alicia on ECR

My position, obviously, is that Catholicism (if not each individual Catholic) is both poetic and philosophical, and rightly so. The trick is to present both story and reason in a way that isn't entirely ad hoc and self-serving. It's a trick I've by no means mastered myself, but I think it has to be based on one of the assumptions any attempt at a logos has to make: that the world is intelligible to humans. - Tom of Disputations

The National "Catholic" Reporter is supposed to be, well, Catholic. Indeed, to hear the Reporter tell it, they are far more deeply Catholic than any of those Awful Right-Wingers who practice the politics of personal destruction. But viewed from a Catholic rather than a purely journalistic perspective, I can see no justification whatsoever for the piece they ran. None.The Left, like the Right, is quite capable of showing that for it too, the most scandalous and repulsive teaching in the whole corpus Catholic moral doctrine is the shocking affirmation, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." The editorial staff of the Reporter manifestly believes in no such thing. They believe in exposure, destruction, shame and humiliation of a penitent member of the Body of Christ if that member holds political views with which they do not agree...Eggs must be broken to make the omelette of a Kerry Presidency and to see the establishment of the Correct Kind of Church here in America. Despicable. - Mark Shea

The hypocrisy of this [National Catholic Reporter] article on the heels of the McGreevey scandal is staggering! McGreevey's positives went UP 2 points after his "confession". - commenter on Catholic Answers forum

posted by TSO @ 15:31

August 24, 2004

Dealing with Forgiveness

I would never have had the brass to be so publically Catholic after what Mr. Hudson did. But I'm starting to see that not as a good thing and less a sign of humility than a misunderestimating of God's grace as George Bush might say.
What else does it mean that our past sins as far from us as "East is from the West", as it says in Scripture, if not that they have completely vanished? God is said to have "forgotten" our sins, which means that when he sees Deal Hudson writing an essay contra adultery, He has forgotten that's what Deal did. There is a freedom in forgiveness. You can write with a clear conscience it seems to me.

Like most of us, his strength is also his weakness. He sinned boldly, but the other side of the sword is his boldness in the culture wars. Yes, you can have the latter without the former, but it seems to me we who are more timid in publically standing up for our Faith should be forgiving towards him. God did.

posted by TSO @ 09:27

Let's Play...

Why's My Bookbag So Heavy? seen on Steven Riddle's blog

I need me one of these bookmovers. The one on the left I meant.

I'm reading Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for reasons unclear, finding it oddly compelling despite the suspicion that translated works lose their lyricism. I was about a third of the way through Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and it (the dialect?) began to cloy somehow. It's difficult to find fiction I really like but I recognize the need of it given a "surfeit of journalism" (and politics).

I am surprised at just how good Ralph Wood's Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South is. There are so many things I could quote from there, which is a downside of blogging because I think: "I should copy that down for the blog" instead of just enjoying it on my own. For example, novelist Mary McCarthy is quoted saying. "only good people can afford to be religious. For others, it is too great a temptation - a temptation to the deadly sins of pride, anger, chiefly, but one might also add sloth."

Next up is St. Thomas with The Summa Theologica. It is almost impossible to put down because of its arrangement into questions and answers, points and counterpoints. Very hard to disengage since it's not one long prose stream but broken into bite-sized pieces. I stayed up long into last night reading about sloth. I'd like to give more time to St. Augustine: I haven't read much of City of God, which I suppose is his Summa. Nor have I read enough of either to determine if I'm more Augustinian or Thomist. Amy Welborn and Fr. Groeschel are Augustinians, Flannery O'Connor & Tom of Disputations more Thomist.

posted by TSO @ 07:46

Writing Tips from a Nigerian Scammer

I received two mint-new Nigerian scammer offers out of the blue. What I like about scam emails is that in order to convince they need to be good. This is writing that must elicit action. There's probably some sort of theiving meritocracy here: good scam writers are "rewarded" with more fools parting with their money. After so many years of scams the letters you receive are now finely-honed, so let's tease out the first two paragraphs:

"Dear Sir, Firstly, I introduce myself as Mr. G.Annan, from Bukina faso living and working in Burkina Faso under Annan chambers with branches in most of other African countries. I am writing, following the impressive information about you through one of my friends who runs a consultancy firm in your country. He assured me of your capability and reliability to champion this business opportunity.

We discovered an abandoned sum of U.S 15 m dollars (fifteen million USD) belonging to one of our late client by name Authur Bills from China who died four years ago in a plane crash together with his entire family living behind his contract sum unclaimed in our bank. According to one of the banking policies which stipulate that after three to four years of unclaimed fund, the fund will automatically go into the treasury of the bank..."

Already we have distant locales, the bread and butter of good travel writing: Burkina Faso - wherever that is - and China. We want to read on because Otherness is fetching. The phrase "abandoned sum" suggests a treasure hunt, appealing to the Robert Louis Stevenson in all of us. He sets the mood: get ready for Adventure. But lest you think it be too much adventure, the passive "unclaimed" reminds you it's just lying there. But he adds a timer lest you grow complacent - the treasure will eventually disappear and the bank will be the beneficiary (echoes of Cinderella & her midnight deadline).

The moniker "Arthur Bills" combines the patrician "Arthur" with the perhaps a tad too obvious "Bills". This is arguably overkill. The writer wants to tell us that the guy had money, but how many Arthur Bills' are there in China? Might I suggest "Arthur Yen"? In his defense I will say that the Western mind wants a Western name in here somewhere since too much foreignness might scare him away. I'll let the reader decide.

The tragic plot twist of a plane crash adds to our interest, as well as the personal flattery of my "impressiveness" since people like to receive compliments. The writer is other-directed; we can see that he's interested in things, locations and people outside himself, though regrettably for dishonest purposes.

The rest of the letter gets bogged down in the details of who gets what, percentages, etc...but he figures if you've read that far you no longer care about exotic locales or subplots like how Mr. Bills made his money or even flattery. There is no surprise twist at the end, no "the butler did it!" moment. This is arguably one of the chief defects of the Nigerian scam-writing genre and prevents it from gaining the notice of the Nobel committee.

posted by TSO @ 07:28

Mom & Me & Vatican II

I received a catalog from Roman Catholic Books in which was a prominent ad for an anti-Vatican II book which included the word "blarney", as in "don't believe the blarney...(of the benefits of the Council)". Which reminded me of how last year, visiting my parents, I played the traditionalist because I liked the chutzpah it takes for a post-Vatican II baby to lecture pre-Vatican II folk on the real truth. And because I must like arguing. I told my mother "at least we can agree on the reverence of the Latin Mass" and she reluctantly agreed though she said that no one paid much attention to the Mass because it was in Latin and only the altar boys knew Latin. Everyone else just said a rosary or said prayers out of their prayer book.

I grimaced and moved on, since this seemed an unpromising field to hoe. I said, "how do you explain how bad things are now compared to the way things were before the Council?". And she had a ready reply that I didn't expect - she said that Protestants were much better before the Council too, at least as measured by divorce rates and crime and other indicators.

It appears that it was the culture that swamped the Church and I've suspected that one way to have avoided the culture's devasting influence was not to blame the Council but to have avoided affluence. Affluence brought us the suburbs, which brought us out of our Catholic ghetto and into the larger culture. When JFK became president and Catholics were perceived as acceptable, we seemed to lose our way. We became influenced by the culture instead of influencing the culture. And the cost has been enormous.

But back to the Latin Mass. I do have a soft spot for those who think a return would make more saints. I catch a glimpse of that sometimes in the Byzantine liturgy when I wonder the same thing...

posted by TSO @ 15:51

August 23, 2004

Defending Deal

Alicia has a fine post here. Also came across this GK Chesterton quote: always urged against the religious in the past, as a point of inconsistency and duplicity, that they combined a profession of almost crawling humility with a keen struggle for earthly success and considerable triumph in attaining it. It is felt as a piece of humbug, that a man should be very punctilious in calling himself a miserable sinner, and also very punctilious in calling himself King of France. But the truth is that there is no more conscious inconsistency between the humility of a Christian and the rapacity of a Christian than there is between the humility of a lover and the rapacity of a lover. The truth is that there are no things for which men will make such herculean efforts as the things of which they know they are unworthy.

posted by TSO @ 11:06

My Advice to Al Sadr

From here: "...members of the Mahdi army still control the mosque and portions of the vast, adjacent cemetery. (Within the mosque is the ancient tomb of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed.)"

Al Sadr could take the old hiding-in-the-mosque trick one step farther by hiding in the tomb of Talib. Think of the outrage Al-Jeezera could muster if an American or even an Iraqi in league with Americans came near the bones of a cousin of Mohammed? This was supposed to be a joke, but seeing it written out it sadly seems plausible.

posted by TSO @ 10:32

Spanning the NY Times

The Times has the useful 25 Most Emailed Articles, but the quality has deteriorated greatly during this political season since every third link is "This Just In - Bush Is Satan!" So I was pleasantly suprised to find some interesting articles today:

What Would Henry David think? is a story about how Thoreau would view our fascination with trivia. Another link concerns the Japanese discovery of depression, and the most shocking story of all is this pro-Bush man bites dog'r.

Meanwhile, did you ever wonder (hep me, I'm becoming Andy Rooney) why so many award-winning children's books are so unredemptive? From Laura Miller:

Her curiosity plunges Feinberg into the contemporary genre of young adult (Y.A.) ''problem novels,'' the bane of her son's existence. These books describe, with spare realism, child and teenage protagonists weathering abuse, addiction, parental abandonment or fecklessness, mental illness, pregnancy, suicide, violence, prostitution or self-mutilation -- and often a combination of the above. ''Teachers love them,'' the local librarian explains as Feinberg scans a shelf of such titles. ''They win all the awards.''

[Feinberg] sees the memoirlike problem novels as symptoms of ''the drastic fall from grace that the imagination has suffered in popular understanding'' and her generation's insistence on ''making our children wake from the dream of their childhoods.'' Adults, she suspects, secretly resent the sheltered, enchanted world children inhabit and under the pretext of preparing them for life's inevitable difficulties, want to rub their noses in traumas they may never actually experience and often aren't yet able to comprehend. All the better to turn them into miniature grown-ups, little troupers girded to face a world where they have no one to count on but themselves.
Now that's depressing.

posted by TSO @ 10:22

I Resemble that Remark

Bad news for Toms, although it's a matter of trivia to me now (I sniff).

Link via Hambone, who, pretending to be liberal and enlightened under the sobriquet "Richard Beach" writes that he can't quite live up to his lefty ideals:

I've got a dilemma. As a sworn imbiber of liberal enlightenism (A "bright" and proud of it), I want to jump on board the class warfare that Kerry, who's just following the party line, engages in when he talks about taxing the rich.

But I can't.

I can't because I know that rich people are a "symptom" of economic health, and I like the standard of living that economic health brings.

When a leftist talks to me about the ideals of their party - small gap between rich and poor, ultra-clean air, and free health-care for all - I always get an image of a small Third World village where there are no evil rich, the air is clean because there is no industry, and the health-care is pro bono compliments of the local shaman or missionary doctor. You get all of that...along with a laundry list of negatives that you can well imagine without me spelling them out.

Who would campaign for that way of life?

posted by TSO @ 10:21

To Write Or Not To Write: That is the Question

Whether tis better to write
and expose to yourself
unclaimed, unticketed thoughts
unwanted luggage circling
and risk in the expose
reinforcement of the negative.
Or whether tis better to be writeless
to not give negativity the airtime
to praise in the teeth of it -
that is my question.

Comfort food for ears, on “Amish in the City”

Penn-Dutch kids lapse into
fetschsome German talk
and it strikes Hefe-Weizen chords
und Schneee found Geld
flow-syllables and guttural Gs
the shock of partial recognition
like womb-talk.

posted by TSO @ 09:24

Letters From Flannery O'Connor - Excerpts

Whoever was responsible for that editorial on John Updike's novel, Rabbit Run, should be confined for a while... If you get a chance you might like to look at that book. It is true that the sex in it is laid on too heavy. It is so burdensome that you want to skip those parts from sheer boredom; but the fact is, that the book is the product of a real religious consciousness. It is the best book illustrating damnation that has come along in a great while.

I feel that you are distracted, particularly when you say, for instance, that it is B.'s writing that interests you considerably more than he does. This is certainly not so, no matter how good a writer he gets to be, or how silly he gets to be himself. The human comes before the art. You do not write the best you can for the sake of art but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as he sees fit.

As between me and Greene there is a difference of fictions certainly and probably a difference of theological emphasis as well. If Greene created an old lady, she would be sour through and through and if you dropped her, she would break, but if you dropped my old lady, she'd bounce back at you, screaming "Jesus loves me!" I think the basis of the way I see is comic regardless of what I do with it; Greene's is something else...

posted by TSO @ 21:03

August 22, 2004

Following up...

...on that last post. That committed Christians can "sin boldly" in dramatic Jimmy Swaggart-fashion is always possible of course. And I wondered what role fear or anxiety has in preventing sin. The line to find is between being neither too comfortable or too uncomfortable. Hans Von Balthasar on the subject of anxiety:

...But from here it is only a small step to the anxiety experienced by the "righteous" man who, again and again failing, falling away, or lulling himself in false security, is led by God to the utmost brink of anxiety, so that he might pray himself back, with greater awareness and gratitude, into the midst of hope.
To the subjective inability to distinguish, in a state of anxiety, between one's own guilt and God's testing is joined an objective dialectic (which will later be Kafka's starting point): on the one hand, between Job's friend and accusers, who bring out the inevitability of guilt, and the sufferer, who protests his innocence; on the other hand, within Job himself, between God's own declaration of Job's guilt, which is incomprehensible to him in his anxiety...

Yet all these anxieties...are subsumed and rendered unimportant by the anxiety of the Redeemer himself, which signifies the difference between the anxiety of the Old and that of the New Covenant, a difference that is unique yet revalues everything.

posted by TSO @ 19:12

What Went Wrong?

So went the title of Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis's book on the Islamic world. Perhaps there ought to be a similar book for what went wrong in the Church with regard to the virtue of chastity. Under the category "too much information" falls a sad piece in NCR with revelations concerning a convert who works for Crisis magazine. I wish he'd write a book about how he overcame that problem, assuming he has. Although I suspect the answer is simply to admit helplessness and ask for God's grace.

The problem of unchastity has rocked the American church with the priestly scandal and a great public service would be for someone to figure out what works, since the 50's solution of repression* arguably didn't, nor obviously feeling a bit too - at ease? comfortable? - with one's sexuality, as perhaps some who fall are.

This is a delicate subject and I'm not sure I should write about it at all, but the revelation is not all that surprising in hindsight. College professors surely find themselves sorely tempted. And it seems the very way he found God and the Church - through beauty - might've also been the path that led to grave sin. His unabashed appreciation for art and rejection of puritanism was appealing, but the unspoken assumption was that sex was part of that appreciation but was neither repressed, nor expressed outside of marriage. I (naively) thought that mainlining Catholic novelists, as he did, helped inculcate a proper view of sexuality.

Of course I understand that he is forgiven and that this should in no way taint him (just as no one thinks less of St. Augustine because of his past) but I think looking for ways to prevent or explain lapses is a good thing, as Martha might say.
* - Since I wasn't around for the 50s, I'm coming by this second hand: via my older and wiser pastor, via anecdotal evidence in the painful books of Frank McCourt, and also via Fr. Groeschel, who mentions this in the beginning of "The Courage to be Chaste".

posted by TSO @ 19:44

August 21, 2004

Various & Sundry

Saw the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's and the lesson seems not that a “true phony” is better than a “fake phony” or that petty theft at Five & Dimes is good. It seems to be the folly in refusing to be owned, as Holly Golightly did until the end, a refusal that ironically imprisoned her. In an act of pique she set her cat free (named “cat” to ensure futher detachment) but her precious distance fell upon itself when she realized that to refuse to be owned (or loved) is to miss the whole boat.

The music of Chrissie Hynde and the Pretender’s has always resonated with me. The yearning and longing in her songs is a truth of the human condition. The opening to “Back in the Chain Gang” seems to be one of cheerful resignation, a sentiment I’d always associated with St. Thomas the Apostle when he said “let us go and die with Him”. Rarely does a song so well express the happy-go-luckiness of the already dead going about their Father’s business.

Her song “Brass in Pocket” is a pluperfect one of personal affirmation despite appearances: that every human is indeed special, if only because God says so. In this world most of us are average in every department except the only one that matters: God’s. While this, like most rock songs, can hardly be taken as Christian, the underlying tone can be seen as one of a yearning for God, to be requited in fullness only at the end of our lives, just as Abraham’s faith bore fruit only in his last days and just as Christ suffered death before his Resurrection. Much of the bible can be summed this way: that love for God will not go unrequited. The Christian can thus be comfortable with yearning.

Sitting on the front porch and the rain is falling hard, a cold stiletto rain I experienced the hard way. Retreating under the cover of the porch’s overhang I appreciated our house anew and how it is, at its most basic, protection from storm. Inside the house rain goes unnoticed but here on the porch the home’s service is marveled at.

posted by TSO @ 21:08

August 20, 2004

Appreciating Hooligans

On the long drive today I had a flashback to the Dublin Irishfest, when Hambone & I were listening to the Hooligans, America's finest Irish band.

It's a conceit of mine that we've made ourselves so vocally conspicuous that the Hooligans recognize us for who we are - their greatest fans. We have their two CDs but never listen to them since the live concert is the thing. The CDs are merely an insurance policy, a death benefit you long never to collect. The peak moment is when they sing "Finnegan's Wake" with the lyrics "Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch..." to which we respond hoarsely, in loco Mrs.Finneganis, "lunch!". When that happens the Hooligans look at us with beatific smiles yards wide, and the sheer delightful silliness of it all is on the order of a child's but hey, even now, two weeks later, it prompts a smile. So there you go.

The Hooligans are old and fat weight-challenged and that contributes to the scarcity principle - every performance could be their last, at least as an intact group. They are our hometown Hibernian secret which success would surely spoil. The group Gaelic Storm was discovered by the producer of Titanic and every subsequent CD has declined while their star has inexplicably ascended.

posted by TSO @ 18:43

August 19, 2004


I'm impressed by just how sublimely unattractive a candidate John Kerry is. The Democrats have done their level best to alienate Midwest & Southern voters and George Bush has only himself to blame if he loses. I'm politically conservative so he wasn't going to win my vote anyway. But my mom's vote was in play because she loathed the war. One of the coveted Ohio swing voters up for bids - but she's fervently anti-Kerry. Bad Dems, bad!

The latest statement that induced headscratching was Kerry's suggestion that we return to our tradition of fighting wars only when we have to, not when we want to. This redefines the word "tradition" since we've not been in the habit of fighting wars only when we have to. It might be a good policy, but it wasn't operative during the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War or the Bosnian conflict.

Most are saying that it'll come down to the debates and it's hard to imagine Kerry fumbling too badly given that he's a seasoned pro at that sort of thing and given that he's more articulate than Bush. Still I can dream...

Top Four Ways Kerry Could Fail in the Debates

1) Inexplicably lapses into French
2) Mentions that he served in the Senate too, not just the military
3) Obfuscates previous obfuscations by nuancing previous nuances.
4) Waves a bottle of Heinz before the camera and says his wife made him do it.

posted by TSO @ 18:24

Blog Forecast

Blogging will be light to nonexistent for Wed & Thurs since I'll be traveling. In the meantime here's an interesting Ratzinger quote (excuse the redundancy of 'interesting Ratzinger quote'):

In the course of history, Turkey has always represented a different continent. Making the two continents identical would be a mistake. It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of the cultural to the benefit of economics.
Personally I wouldn't mind a loss of religious cultural diversity to the extent that would mean the disappearance of Islam in favor of Christianity...

posted by TSO @ 22:25

August 17, 2004

A-Doin' Their Job

I must've missed the notice but apparently today was the weekly fund raiser for the Columbus PD. I saw three cruisers doing the radar thing within eight miles of each other. They gotta eat too.

Splendid driving conditions also make for good fund raising because Central Ohioans get lead-footed when especially good weather comes their way. I escaped notice but then these cops weren't even trying to camo themselves - they were sitting on the shoulder of a flat, straight stretch of road. Any tickets they write could only be considered a taxation of the oblivious or the blind. Which seems unfair to oblivious and blind people. Where's the ACLU?

It reminds me of a song. Guitarist/country songwriter Junior Brown has a funny ode to the highway patrolman:

Highway Patrol
by Junior Brown

I got a star on my car and one on my chest,
A gun on my hip and the right to arrest
I'm the guy who's the boss on this highway
So watch out what you're doin' when you're drivin' my way
If you break the law, you'll hear from me, I know
I'm a-workin' for the state, I'm The Highway Patrol

I'm the highway patrol, the highway patrol,
My hours are long, and my pay is low
But I'll do my best to keep you driving slow
I'm just a-doin' my job, I'm The Highway Patrol

If your drivin' to fast like you shouldn't do,
You can bet your boots, I'm comin' after you
If you wanna race then get on a race track,
'Cause if you try and run away I'm gonna bring ya back
I'm here to keep all the speeders driving slow
I'm just a-doin' my job, I'm The Highway Patrol

posted by TSO @ 19:17

The Conflict Between Poetry & Conflict

From Mark Shea.

posted by TSO @ 11:54

The Pope at Lourdes

The Pope, who on Saturday - the first of his two days at Lourdes - appeared briefly to lose his balance while kneeling down at Bernadette's cave, made a rare reference to his state of health at the start of the Rosary prayer. "I feel with emotion that I have reached the end of my pilgrimage," he said, and was seen to shed tears.

The Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls talked down the significance of the sentence. "The Pope is showing his emotion over this pilgrimage to Lourdes which he has been looking forward to for a long time.''

But many see the Pope's visit to Lourdes - only his second trip outside Italy this year - as a symbolic farewell on Earth to the Virgin Mary whose hand he believes saved his life when a Turkish would-be assassin shot him in May 1981.

posted by TSO @ 17:11

August 16, 2004

Blame it on Mr. Core

I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. Donna Marie Lewis referred to my quote of her Newman quote. Suggested here so I can't be held completely responsible.

posted by TSO @ 16:50

Sheepish, he wrote

I feel a bit sheepish. Last year, in an ad hominen to my Protestant interlocutor I said “no one who believes in Predestination believes they are not among the elect.” Smugly, I wrote.

But last night I read this, from Fischer’s “Albion’s Seed”, about the Puritans:

The Puritans of Massachusetts shared [a] feeling of insecurity in an exaggerated degree because of their theology. Their Calvinist faith was one of the most harsh and painful creeds that believing Christians have ever inflicted upon themselves. One New Englander described this dark philosophy as a “bitter pill in a chestnut burr.” The fabled “Five Points” of New England’s Calvinist orthodoxy insisted that the natural condition of humanity was total depravity, that salvation was beyond mortal striving, that grace was predestined only for a few, that most mortals were condemned to suffer eternal damnation…The people of Massachusetts were trained by their ministers never to be entirely confident of their salvation. From childhood, they were taught to believe that a sense of certainty about salvation was one of the surest signs that one was not saved.
So I feel understandly sheepish.

Relatedly, I came across this from Fr. Eckert of the EWTN Q&A forum: must continue to be on guard throughout life--though not paranoid--in order to keep from falling away or failing in the life of Christ. Unfortunately, many Christians have been influenced by figures of the past such as Martin Luther, who tormented himself with the conviction that even with baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation and in the state of grace, he was still ontologically unworthy to be in the presence of God. His solution was to create a theology in which we are all unworthy and remain such even after baptism; however, by a juridical declaration of God we are reckoned as justified and saved--no matter what we do, once we have professed faith in Christ. As the Catholic Church teaches, we do not merit sanctifying grace but once given it in baptism, we do merit heaven by the presence of such grace within us. However, we can never know for certain in this lifetime whether we are in a state of grace, and so we are urged to avoid the extremes of presumption and despair with regards to our own salvation. Now that is a biblical approach to this matter!

posted by TSO @ 15:46

A Downside of the Coming Republican Convention.. that prominent speakers will include Schwarzneggar & Guiliani. And they aren't supporting Bush (and possibly taint, by association, their own hagiographies) for their health. They're going to want to their chits cashed but there are few chits to give pro-choice Republicans imho. A test for Bushies is to remain true to this pro-life principles post-election.

posted by TSO @ 20:38

August 15, 2004

John Allen's Word from Rome

...column seemed awfully negative toward the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Even in the 4th century St. Augustine was proposing something like it when he said that all have sinned, "except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, for the honor of the Lord, I wish no question to be raised at all, when we are treating of sins. After all, how do we know what greater degree of grace for a complete victory over sin was conferred on her who merited to conceive and bring forth Him Who all admit was without sin."

posted by TSO @ 16:33

Initial Thoughts on Fr. Joe

Reading Father Joe this weekend and I can certainly understand its bestseller status. Tony Hendra can flat out write and doesn’t lard the book with unnecessary asides. Everything in it is breathless forward progress, and the story of his near Benedictine vocation is agonizing and heart-breaking. In the end it was the theatre that did it. And humor. He writes: “Save the world through prayer? I don’t think so. I was going to save it through laughter.” The use of the personal pronoun is instructive; the notion of a collaboration with God apparently gone. But it saddened me because Christians have a reputation for dourness it's a shame that humor and prayer are so often seen as either/or.

The thrilling part of the book is Father Joe’s merciful trust. Trust in God. Trust in Tony Hendra. Fr Joe's favorite writers were those who inspired rather than systematized and that was greatly attractive to Hendra. He loved Dame Julian and The Cloud of Unknowing and the passionate Meister Eckhart while running from the “adamantine desert fathers”. One can see in Father Joe a combination of humor and joy and sanctity that was so elusive both for his other monks, who were mostly humorless though saintly, and for Hendra, who was more humorous than saintly.

Another riveting part was his discussion of art. “Here’s my problem, Father Joe: if art describes the way things are in the world, not the way things should be – and the more memorably the better – isn’t that, well, celebrating evil and sin?...Does God like art? Does art like God? Is it a substitute for God?”

Hendra takes on Waugh and other Christian writers: “I didn’t find the Catholic writers other than Greene much help in these concerns. I’d read Waugh’s Vile Bodies and The Loved One, which were cruel and hilarious; not much Christian charity going on there, and the less there was, the funnier. Eliot I worshipped, but my favorite poems (“Prufrock,” “The Waste Land”) were devastating compassion-free commentaries on desperate humanity – who presumably would not have been desperate if they’d found God.”

Apropos of nothing, Hendra adds long rants against Reagan but I see this as a price of doing business when reading “really smart guys's” books. They loathe conservativism, which is why William F. Buckley was such an oddity. Reading the NY Times is a similar case – you could forgive the bias because of the comprehensiveness and beauty of the writing at least until recently when quality declined and bias inclined.

I’m about 2/3rds and will say more about this remarkable book when I’m finished.

posted by TSO @ 16:26

Weak on Merit

The thing about taking a long weekend is you totally lose the scarcity principle with respect to time. So there’s absolutely no sacrifice involved in anything, not in doing something extra for your spouse or in taking time to help out someone. There’s no cost because you know you’re going to get to watch your movie or read your book or take the long forest hike. It’s like someone who's much more friendly when they're drinking - it’s the liquor talkin'.

And so there’s a falseness about vacation time because it’s so easy and it feels like a dead time as far as spiritual strides (other than during prayer). If something would normally get on your nerves but it doesn’t because you’re on vacation, then that has nothing to do with grace.

posted by TSO @ 16:24

Cardinal Newman..

...had an apt way of putting things, even in his sermon notes:

I said last week that no one can be saved without love of God. This the awful truth.

In fact this is plain, but considering the state of the case—the immortal soul—how tired it will get of everything in eternity, except of something which is infinite. God in Himself a world; His attributes infinite.

Yet how can we love Him? See how much against our nature it is. We take delight in things of the world, etc., etc., in science, in literature, etc. These are our aims; but to love God is an aim above our nature.

Granted it is so. However, God does not command impossibilities. Therefore He gives us grace to raise us above our nature. Even angels need grace.
Can you guess who posted this?

posted by TSO @ 19:46

August 14, 2004

Random Thoughts

I've long appreciated oxymorons, but when I saw someone at the local mart buying a welcome mat that read "Go Away", I had to shake my head.

A utilitarian notion of life has long turned me off since it reeks of “I am what I produce”. It is also essentially anti-art since art is naturally superfluous. But age sets a trajectory towards utilitarianism since we're on earth to do good and have such a short time. Heard the song “Y-M-C-A” on the radio and for the first time it occured to me: ‘it’s not addressed to me!’ I’m not the “young man” the singer kept mentioning...(plus I'm too straight).

The sheer shock of your words having impact is an oddity on the order of creation itself. Given the differences between taste and palate, it’s a wonder anybody overcomes distances with words. For fragile symbols employed meaningfully to cause even momentary gratitude is an astonishing thing and something to be cherished.

posted by TSO @ 01:07

Slightly Amended Transcript from N.J. Governor

The most surreal thing was the 30 seconds of sustained applause after McGreevy's speech, like he'd just won the Nobel Peace prize or something. New diaspora indeed Jeff C. The Governor sounded in his speech like he was St. Thomas More, like he was somehow an innocent victim in all of this. I also found it perplexing that his "identity" is connected with where he puts his organ.

Original here, slightly amended follows:

N.J. Gov. McReely Resigns

Thursday, August 12, 2004; 5:07 PM

Good afternoon.

Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity, who I am. As a young child, I often felt ambivalent about myself, in fact, confused.

By virtue of my traditions, and my community, I worked hard to ensure that I was accepted as part of the traditional family of America. I married one wife and had a lovely daughter. She then went to British Columbia and I remarried, again to one wife.

Yet, from my early days in school, until the present day, I acknowledged some feelings of unrest. But because of my resolve, and also thinking that I was doing the right thing, I forced what I thought was an acceptable reality onto myself, a reality which is layered and layered with all the, quote, good things, and all the, quote, right things of typical adolescent and adult behavior.

Yet, at my most reflective level there were points in my life when I began to question what an acceptable reality really meant for me. Were there sexual realities from which I was running?

And so my truth is that I am an American with other-sex attraction and a strong inclination towards non-monogamy. I recently came to accept my true identity: that I'm attracted to any number of women at any given time. I don't believe God tortures us by forcing us to be faithful to just one woman, especially when you see scantily clad women on TV all the time.

I am here today because, shamefully, I engaged in adult consensual affair with other women, which violates my bonds of matrimony. It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable.

I take full responsibility and expect to be applauded vociferously at the end of this speech.

posted by TSO @ 17:10

August 13, 2004

Say It Ain't So Joe

Bob Hunter column on the ruination of my old hobby:

Unfortunately, the days when kids collected cards for fun seem to be over. There are kids out there who still collect cards, but they’re more like the adults. They want the specials, the valuable ones, the ones they might be able to sell on eBay for a hefty profit.

"Oh, no, it’s not for the fun of it anymore," Reeder said. "The days when kids just collected them because they liked the cards and wanted to trade them and play with them are over, and that’s a shame."

OK, this probably isn’t near the top of the list when we talk about the decline of Western civilization; it’s still too bad to stumble across another one of those simple pleasures that we adults have gradually stolen from our kids...We’ve taught our children that the fun is in the value of the cards, so a lot of them lost interest. Those who haven’t are attracted by the same things that the adults are — cards with autographs or those with tiny swatches of that player’s game-used jersey, which make some of them worth $50 or $100.

Last year, Donruss purchased a 1925-era Babe Ruth jersey, one of three known to exist, for $264,911, then cut it into 2,100 1-inch-by-1-inch swatches to include in one of its card sets. Happy as I am for the lucky 2,100 who have one of these babies in their homes, you have to wonder whether Donruss wouldn’t dice up the Declaration of Independence or the Gettysburg Address if it could increase card sales.

Call me old-fashioned, but if it means keeping Ruth’s uniform away from the shredder, I’d rather have that bad Jose Canseco.

If I ever buy a bike, I can always put it in my spokes.

posted by TSO @ 13:53

He Comes by it Honestly

I never realized before how Scott Hahn's covenantal philosophy and his emphasis of the fatherhood of God over the master/slave relationship so mirrors the Pope's words. From Crossing the Threshold Of Hope:

Is contemporary man truly moved by a filial fear of God, a fear that is first of all love? One might think-and there is no lack of evidence to this effect-that Hegel's paradigm of the master and the servant is more present in people's consciousness today than is wisdom, whose origin lies in the filial fear of God. The philosophy of arrogance is born of the Hegelian paradigm. The only force capable of effectively counteracting this philosophy is found in the Gospel of Christ, in which the paradigm of master-slave is radically transformed into the paradigm of father-son.

The father-son paradigm is ageless. It is older than human history. The "rays of fatherhood" contained in this formulation belong to the Trinitarian Mystery of God Himself, which shines forth from Him, illuminating man and his history.

posted by TSO @ 10:25

Looking at this beautiful picture of the Polo Grounds, (via Irish Elk) it makes the retro ballpark style now in vogue seem forced or faux. It's sort of the same feeling I get when I see woman's religious orders with the full wimple when there was a break in that tradition. In both cases I'm for it, but I think it will take time to give both the unselfconscious patina of age.

posted by TSO @ 10:18

The Why of Bush Hatred

I've been unduly fascinated by the unwarranted hatred of Bush. I suspect it's not any one reason but a "perfect storm" conglomeration. Certainly Reagan was throughly hated but he was much more articulate and didn't have the Texas twang, so perhaps that's part of the difference.

That seems to be what Victor Hanson thinks, although his reasons differ from Jerry Brown's. He comes up with four main reasons (Southern, Christian, Manichaen, traitor to his class):

But what is not explicable in terms of rational disagreement is the Left's pathological hatred of George W. Bush. It transcends all contention over the issues, the Democratic hurt over the Florida elections, and even the animus once shown Bill Clinton by the activist Right. From where does this near-religious anger arise and what does it portend?

Let's start with the admission that much of the invective is irrational, fueled by emotion rather than reason. Thus the black leadership uses slurs such as "Taliban" and "Confederacy" against Bush, even though no other president has selected an African-American secretary of State and national-security adviser or pledged so many billions for AIDS relief in Africa. Liberals talk of social programs starved, but domestic spending under Bush increased at annual rates greater than during any Democratic administration in recent history. Just read howls of conservatives who worry about Bush's Great Society-like programs.

- Bush is a southerner, with a drawl — but not one who is either liberal or Democratic. We forget just how rare that is...

- Similarly, Bush's Christianity seems evangelical and literal. It comes across as disturbing to liberals of the country who see religion as a mere social formality at best..

- Critics accuse Mr. Bush of Manichaeism — of tough, black-and-white talk about good and evil...

- George Bush is a traitor of the most frightening sort to his class: He is not an ideological tribune like Roosevelt or Kennedy, but someone far worse, who seems to dislike the entire baggage of sophisticated, highbrow society.

posted by TSO @ 09:57

Outside Time

Paul Theroux recounts an episode in his book Dark Star Safari about an evangelical asking him if he were a Christian. Theroux replied, "Let's say I have a lot of questions." The Christian asked to hear them. Theroux's questions are so common and banal that you want to say, "that's what's keeping you?". Of course, everyone has obstacles to faith and when someone doesn't have your particular obstacle the tendency is towards sloughing it off instead of taking it seriously, as we should with, say, The DaVinci Code.

So Theroux asked, "do you eat crows?" and quoted Deuteronomy which approved it. Which reminds me how gay activists hold signs that satirize "God Hates Fag" signs by holding "God Hates Shrimp" signs and quoting an Old Testament passage. Theroux then went on to ask how the Christian interpreted chapter ten in the Acts of the Apostles when Peter has the vision of the unclean animals in the house of Cornelius.

Theroux was asked to ask a simpler question and so he said, "Jesus was born two thousand years ago. What happened to the millions of people who were born before Jesus? Were they saved?"

The evangelist said "no". But what is interesting is how we are so unable to think outside our own experience. It's hard to consider Jesus's actions applied retroactively. The Pope wrote in Crossing the Threshold of Hope: "The Son is always present in the history of humanity as Redeemer. The Redemption pervades all of human history, even before Christ, and prepares its eschatological future." Which reminds me of the problem many Protestants have who think that Mary conceived without sin had no need of Christ even though she was also redeemed by his grace but in a unique way — by anticipation.

posted by TSO @ 09:53

850 Pages of a Word Document

Writing about journal entries is a sign I've jumped the shark, but hey what can I say. I tend to write about what's on my mind and this is what's on my mind right (write) now.

Having sloughed through eight-hundred and fifty pages of essays, poems and stories, I'm impressed by how little has stood the test of time. My respect for writers has increased, especially fiction writers. (I was disappointed how The Path to Grove City failed to take wing.)

Fiction writing seems to require a talent that is not only nature but nuture - nursed by reading lots of fiction. Which I haven't. I didn't read it much as a teen and only in the last ten years have developed a taste for it. But I'm still far behind.

Fortunately the entries have improved over time so there's a solace in that. From a 1985 poem: "her hair / crested by oceanic blue eyes". Ripe for the Bulwer-Lytton contest. Or from the early 90s: "lovely girls pass by that make your beer wrapper look at the world thru a watery, browny bottle." And: "Guinness has the bouquet / of dried roses / and ocean voyages"

posted by TSO @ 09:44

Overheard on the Elevator

"I remember one time my daughter was so mad at me she couldn't see. And I told her, 'Brittany, why don't we just laugh about this?'. And I started laughing. And guess what? She started laughing..."

posted by TSO @ 16:16

August 12, 2004

Mo' Fiction

A blog abhors a vacuum, so since I'm fresh out of fresh material I'll post this oldie. Written Oct. 2000...

I’m a Gore operative. I'm proud to work for Albert Gore, Jr. In early 1998, at a meeting in Bevery Hills, he was slated to be our next President by the people that matter – Hollywood. The producers, directors and actors looked at the electoral map and from the start were a little worried about the Midwest. They regarded Middle America as slightly retarded and in need of a couple more years of propaganda. The personal goal of Hollywood directors was two-fold: to ease his/her guilt at the two divorces and revolving casting-couch sex, and to earn the respect of European directors where easy sex and divorce were de’ rigeur. When would the Midwest finally get with the program? The South was, of course, a hopeless case. A hundred years behind because of the Civil War, they were only slightly more evolved than the apes they refused to believe they were descended from.

My job was simple. Plant the seeds and watch them grow. Everyone knows belief follows behavior rather than than the reverse. Get them to behave badly and they’ll believe anything to excuse it. Sex is the easiest, of course. People won’t just sell their souls for it, they’ll line up and wait to sell it. Get them hooked and you’ve eliminated Christianity from their radar scope since the tension is too great for most. Now they’re into Eastern religions, and you can work with them...

posted by TSO @ 13:45


Sobering post from Terry Teachout concerning blogger's vulnerability and liability legal-wise - even for a blog's comments. Seems to me if you blog under a psuedonym you're beyond the reach of the law.

A laywer once told my friend Ham that if most "civilians" knew how vulnerable they were to lawsuit they'd scarcely leave their homes. He said he could go after almost anyone and cause them great fiscal harm. Certainly sounds like an exaggeration to me but then I'm no lawyer.

posted by TSO @ 14:16

August 11, 2004

Blog-in News

Kathy reports that Sergei Kourdakov's "The Persecutor" is already online. Her 20th wedding anniversary is tomorrow so give her a shout & a prayer.

This is too painful to contemplate.

I don't miss the lousy Irish weather. There are compensations though.

posted by TSO @ 09:50

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

St. John Vianney, as many people know, wasn't exactly a brilliant student. One of his teachers, exasperated with his inability, snapped, "Vianney, you are a complete ass ! " The target of this remark replied, "Yes, but with God's help, Samson slew a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. Just imagine what He could do with a complete ass!" - Donna Lewis of Quenta Nârwenion

If I were a Summa Mama...I'd say something like, "Well shet mah mouth!" But I'm not, so I'll say something like "Holy Cow!" I just got one of those freebie magazines for nurses in the mail, and what do they have on the front page but a story on Cyclebeads! - Peony of "Two Sleepy Mommies"

Remember you read it here first: this election will be a Republican landslide of a magnitude somewhere between Nixon-McGovern (11 electoral votes to the Democrats) and Reagan-Carter (49 electoral votes to the Democrats). - Bill of Summa Minutiae

Persecution and red martyrdom are for the strong, and may we all find that strength. But Christendom is for the weak, in the sense that most men are and have always been weak, and in the sense that God condescends to save the weak. Every little thing Christendom can offer us -- the crucifix in the courtroom, the statue in the city square, the religiosity of popular entertainments, the "kitch" of keychains and coffee mugs, the laws and proscriptions against perversity, the "hypocrisy" of polite social manners, etc. -- all these little things, when combined, help nudge a soul towards the things of God. Christendom is worth fighting for, and dying for, and all people of goodwill should pray and work for its restoration. - Jeff of El Camino Real

The ending of this story has been haunting me for the past two weeks: Mark Twain’s wife, a prim and proper lady, tried to shock him one time out of his use of vulgar language. She greeted him at the door, cursed him up one side and down the other with all of the words she had heard him use, plus a couple more. Twain stood there quietly, listening, taking it all in until she had finished. When she was finished, he calmly replied, “My dear, you have the words, but not the music.” I have been wondering lately if I have just been parroting the words, or do I have a real feel for the music. It is easy to hear the words with my ears, and read the words with my eyes, but God’s music can only truly be heard with an open heart. Am I just fooling myself? - Mark of Cowpi

These sixties paperbacks have panache, and interesting covers. I see nothing nearly as interesting as my circa 1968 cover of Agatha Christie's Sad Cypress. Covers that, in fact, greatly excel the contents of the books they cover. I also have a very painstakingly acquired nearly complete collection of John Dickson Carr and Carter Dickson. My interest here is the enormous numbers of ingenious ways Carr found to have murders commited in essentially locked rooms. -Steven of Flos Carmeli, in a post describing his oversupply of books

It's obvious, reading between the lines, that you have come to the realization you should get rid of those old mysteries. And, as obvious, I'm intended to receive them. (Except for the A.A. Fair books; I never got into them.) Just mail them to me, and I'll reimburse you for postage. - Tom of Disputations thoughtfully offering help to Steven

What’s happiness got to do with it?... None of the people profiled were happy in their marriages, yet that is what they wanted to be, what, they conceive, they had a right to be. It was a notion that so annoyed Malcolm Muggeridge, he wished it had never been put into the Declaration of Independence, and in the sense that so many today regard it as a civil right rather than a light at the end of a dark tunnel called death, we take his point. But it is well to remember that the document asserts our right to the pursuit, not to the happiness. - Bill of Apologia, on marriage and happiness

I have never liked Nouwen's writings, and a few years ago I decided to read a biography about him to try to figure out why. I came to realize that he was a very lonely man, but here's something that was problematic: he had family money, didn't need a job or situation with health insurance, and so was able to seek out situations where he thought his needs would be met. It seemed to me that if he had been constrained by the normal situations many of us face, which require us to stay put and make connections where we are...he had opportunities that may have seemed glamorous but were self-driven. I do think he had a genuine faith, but his writing is self-absorbed and I wanted to tell him that he would never have all his needs met: that's what it means to be a human being. - Elizabeth Josephine Weston on Amy's blog

Been thinking about health care. I'm an American by birth and a Canadian since 2001. I've been on Canada's national healthcare since the end of 1997....I think there's got to be a happy median between the two systems and I think that both Canada and the U.S. should get their health ministers/secretaries together to come up with something that works for both countries. But, I'd say if I had to get sick in one country versus another, I'd pick the U.S....if I had a good job with benefits or I was dirt poor. - Alexa of Domestic Excellence

And the saints are humble, that is to say, the mediocrity of the Church does not deter them from expressing once and for all their solidarity with her, knowing well that without her they could never find their way to God. To bypass Christ's Church with the idea of making their way to God on their own initiative would never occur to them. They do battle with the mediocrity of Christ's Church not by protesting but by enkindling and encouraging the better. The Church causes them pain, but they do not become embittered and stand aside to sulk. They form no dissident groups but cast their fire into the midst. - Hans von Balthasar via Gerard's blog

Those that we know Internet from the before-mercantile times, those that we want and we needed to Internet like information means, we adored to Google. Google came to redeem to us of the compatible vestibule-finders with gifs animated, Microsoft ...However. I have discovered (snif) that Google has penalized to my blog: I have PageRank=0 [ * ], which is little less than a excomunication (pain reserved generally to webmasters inescrupulous sold the merchants). - Argentinian blogger Hernan Gonzalez, through the fracturing lens of Babelfish.

A mathematician woke up to see that his house was on fire, remembered there was a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, concluded that a solution to the problem existed, then went back to sleep. - mathematician's joke via Tom of Disputations

posted by TSO @ 09:46

Michael Potemra Review of recent Flannery O'Connor book

Flannery O'Connor shared theologian Karl Barth's "ultimately comic understanding of the gospel as undeserved mercy rather than much-deserved wrath." So writes Baylor University professor Ralph C. Wood in his excellent new book, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South... which explains O'Connor's literary and religious thought in the two key contexts from which it emerged: her own devout Catholicism and the Protestantism of her region. "The South lost the Civil War in defense of an indefensible and evil institution. Yet it proved to be a blessed defeat," Wood writes, because the South was able to retain "its truest legacy, not the heritage of slavery and segregation and discrimination, but [its] Bible-centered and Christ-haunted faith." O'Connor's work is captivating precisely because it combines theological depth with richness of material observation; she recognized that to transcend a place you had to be in it. This book is an intelligent companion to some great writing that is strongly situated both in its region and in its theological tradition.

posted by TSO @ 13:35

August 10, 2004

The Perfect Irish Dog

I posted earlier about watching a border collie trainer and his Irish dog at work. The image of that dog still resonates, as do the looks of delight in the faces of those around me. What was it that so touched our hearts, even a normally cold one like mine?

First there was the perfect seriousness with which the dog took the task. His level of concentration was fierce and he kept comically low to the ground, like cats do when stalking prey. He was oblivious to our laughter and did nothing without a whistle; his hearing was so good that he would herd the sheep right or left with the faintest sound.

We were watching an exhibition of what we are meant to be in relation to God and there was a joy in seeing that since we experience it so rarely in ourselves and others. If the rancher had exhibited a machine to round the herds, few of us would care. It was seeing this animal, who has a mind of his own, doing his master's bidding which fascinated.

The dog so learned to love the job his trainer gave him that one day (true story) his master came home and found him on the ground near death, apparently struck by a car. He ran to him and took him to the vet but the vet found nothing wrong. Later the farmer figured out what had happened; he'd left the gate open and the dog had herded the sheep for eight consecutive hours. The sheep were found with their tongues all hanging out from exhaustion. The dog who depended on his trainer for when to work also depended on him for when to rest.

posted by TSO @ 13:18

Ellyn writes,

My instincts say, “Go back to bed; grab some more z-z-z-z’s before work.” I must persevere and put one irritable foot in front of the other and get to Mass. When I start the day foaming at the mouth and ranting about the Confederacy of Dunces which broke into my house during the night, I know it’s time to work counter-intuitively... When my day starts with demeanor somewhere between Lois from Malcolm in the Middle and that kid from The Exorcist, sack time is not what is called for. Time for a little spiritual readjustment.
I've heard it said that prayer is most called for when it is the least desired. I locked my keys in my car recently which irritated me beyond ken and I vented on a bystander. Prayer effected the 180 turnaround required.

posted by TSO @ 13:06

St. Alphonsus Liguori Quote

Some devout souls spend a great deal of time in reading and meditating, but pay little attention to prayer. There is no doubt that spiritual reading, and meditation on the eternal truths, are very useful things; "but," says St. Augustine, "it is much more use to pray." By reading and meditating we learn our duty; but by prayer we obtain the grace to do it. "It is better to pray than to read: by reading we know what we ought to do; by prayer we receive what we ask." (Serm. de Moyse) What is the use of knowing our duty, and then not doing it, but to make us more guilty in God's sight?

posted by TSO @ 12:58

Schall Excerpt

I'm reading James Schall's series of essays called "Another Sort of Learning". The titles alone are rich: "On the Seriousness of Sports", "Oddness and Sanctity", "On Prayer and Fasting for Bureaucrats". A money quote:

[Plato] suggested in The Republic that a society in which there was a multiplicity of doctors and lawyers was already a sick society, that constant litigation and consultation were signs of civilizational decay. Complete absorption in the pursuit of health somehow ends up with neither.

posted by TSO @ 09:11

Various & Sundry

Former Econ Professor and current Catholic blogger makes some excellent points.

Steve of Fifth Column is optimistic about the new St. Therese film.

Paul Hindemith wrote "Music, as long as it exists, will always take its departure from the major triad and return to it. The musician cannot escape it any more than the painter his primary colors, or the architect his three dimensions..." (quote via Terry Teachout). Given the mathematical nature of music, it seems its beauty is within itself and not in the ear of the beholder. Just as 2+2=4, there is in beautiful music something universal. Hernan writes that "not to be able to understand (or to only be able to glimpse laboriously and to contrapelo) that the beauty is firstly in the things (just like the truth), is surely a typical modern tare."

Against the Grain has done some impressive homework on Bush's pro-life record.

Ex-seminarian Michael Moore's RCC misrepresentations.

Fr. McCloskey is suprisingly optimistic about the future saying globalization and the Council may lead "to the greatest period of growth, both in numbers and in sanctity, in its history."..."At this point in history, there are only two global institutions, and one nation-state, that have a realistic claim for hegemony, of different sorts, over the world. One is the United Nations; the other, the Roman Catholic Church. The United States may be a third, but empires come and go, and it is not at all clear the United States will remain the sole world superpower; China and India with their enormous populations are making rapid economic progress."

posted by TSO @ 13:49

August 9, 2004


One of the fun things about blogs is making predictions. Bill of Summa Minutiae has bravely done so.

And Michael Novak did too. I don't know who will win but I found Novak's reasons unconvincing. Here are rebuttals to his italicized reasons why the Dems will lose in November:

1. No one — neither his colleagues nor his wife nor his supporters nor he himself — has anything good to say about John Kerry except that he served bravely in Vietnam. The nearly 30 years since then have generated few boasts on his part, few commendations from others, few successes anyone can seem to remember.

Good point, but Kerry somehow seems to win elections despite having little to show. He beat William Weld for his Senate seat, an attractive candidate who had more accomplishments and was far more likeable.

2. The Democratic elite sitting in convention cannot present themselves as they are to the American people, but must stifle their deepest feelings, be silent about their most passionate aims, and hide their turbulent loathing of George Bush Republicans (lest it frighten independents with its ferocity). The Democratic elite is saying as little as possible about same-sex marriage. And guns. And very little about abortion. And not a word about total withdrawal of American troops from Iraq — quite the opposite. Democratic elites do not want the people to know what they really think. On that ground, they fear they will lose.

I don't get this one. Isn't that what both parties always do? Didn't Republicans in '00 have to hide their ferocious hatred of Clinton? Wasn't the slogan compassionate conservative designed to allay fears? Don't Republicans avoid topics like spending cuts or Affirmative Action or the problem of Medicare or much about pro-life issues?

3. Democrats must hide from the public what they truly think about evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Catholics. They express these thoughts mostly among themselves.

I think most people know what Democrats really think about evangelicals, fundamentalists and Catholics and it hasn't much hurt (after all, Gore won the popular vote). If voters don't know, then the Democrats have suppressed their thoughts effectively. Again, I don't see this as a problem for the Dems.

4. John Kerry looks sillier in the pale blue NASA rabbit suit than Michael Dukakis did in a tank.

A one-day story that I don't think has legs (or "tail"). Kerry drove a motorcycle on Leno and looked stupid but he still won the nomination going away.

5. The months of April, May, and June were so heavy with bad news for George Bush — the huge Sorosian expenditures on anti-Bush ads came at him in torrents — and still he held even with Kerry in the polls. It is hard not to believe that there will be at least a slight change in the roaring winds. When it comes (and the change is already underway), it is bound to push Bush's sails steadily ahead as the weeks roll on.

Probably true, although I assume W spent a lot of money during the same time period.

6. The worst lies told by the Democrats about Bush — those of Joe Wilson, Michael Moore, and others, saying that Bush lied about Iraq — have already been proven wrong by the 9/11 Commission (which was supposed to blow Bush out of the water just before the election, but ended up destroying his worst calumniators). These lies were also proven wrong by the British inquiry. Even the Kerry Convention in Boston ended up taking the Bush strategic line in Iraq, except for one thing: Kerry is wistful about the probability of persuading France and Germany to bear some burden on behalf of liberty in Iraq. Good luck! God knows, Bush and Colin Powell tried.

When Kerry says he would persuade France and Germany to bear some of the burden, that might not fly but it doesn't hurt him. France and German leaders hate Bush with a metaphysical hatred, so Kerry cannot possibly do worse - which is what voters will know. As for the worst lies told by the Dems, I agree, but here in Ohio I constantly see bumperstickers like "Truth for a Change - Vote Kerry" which might fool fence-sitters who don't pay attention to the news.

So who will win? I don't know, but the pundits say that incumbent presidents either lose big or win big so ELC & Bill's predictions are perhaps not very far out.

UPDATE: Novak got a lot of mail on his column and wrote about it today.

posted by TSO @ 09:36

The Seriousness of Sports

Fr. James Schall, Georgetown philosophy professor, defends sports (the bracketed comment is mine, not Schall's):

In our fascination at watching a game, in reading about one, we have at least one example of something that clearly need not exist [like blogs], but which, when it does, fascinates us. Games are not necessary. They are not for something else, like exercise. Can we not wonder on this basis, then, whether perhaps the higher, more serious things, such as the players themselves, also need not have existed, but when they do, they consume our attention, because of the stakes, the risk?

Let me conclude this attempt to make an intellectual case for the validity of sports and to reflect on them in our lives as also ways to the highest things by returning to my initial observation that the nearest most of us get to contemplation is when we watch a good game. Here, in a way, we near what is best in ourselves, for we are spectators not for any selfish reason, not for anything we might get out of the game, money or exercise or glory, but just because the game is there and we lose ourselves in playing, either as players or spectators.

posted by TSO @ 22:01

August 8, 2004

Godspy Link

...titled Even our virtues must be burned away:

Flannery O’Connor knew that a culture that doesn't understand the importance of ‘uselessness’—utter dependence—will be a culture in which abortion is widespread, and mentally challenged babies will be the first to go.

When I am with my mentally challenged friends, I am acutely aware of what is lacking in my relationship with God - childlikeness, amazement and wonderment.

posted by TSO @ 21:29

Livin' on Irish Time

Living at the nation's second largest Irish music festival this weekend...The sound of bagpipes always inspire and every year I say "I ought to take that up" - I've enough hot air.

It's not just about music though. Watched a border collie trainer demonstrate the obedience of his dog responding to quiet whistle commands by herding sheep.

In the Q&A someone asked if it was hard to train the dogs.

"It's difficult. Same as between God and us. I used to be very harsh with the dogs but found that I didn't get as much dog in the end. My approach is different now and it works because they desire what I desire."

posted by TSO @ 09:10

Bon Appetit!

This blog appears to be short on recipes, so I thought I'd share one of my favorites:

1) Using a large bowl (any bowl-shaped object that holds sufficient liquid will do) add four to six ounces of Life cereal.
2) This is the part that does require a bit of skill, so note well: Add low-fat milk to the cereal such that 90% of the cereal is submerged.

That's it! You're good to go. For "serial cereal", repeat steps 1 & 2.

posted by TSO @ 09:04

Vast Post

Maureen Dowd was on Imus yesterday, and she blamed the genesis of the Iraq war on the fact that immediately after 9/11 Dick Cheney holed up and began reading Islam scholar Bernard Lewis, who won praise even from Slate magazine. I recall a C-Span lecture Lewis gave a year or so ago, and I remember he had an optimistic view of things: Arabs are no different from anybody else, they desire freedom, etc... democracy is do-able. Does too much optimism spoil the broth?

This attitude must've encouraged Bush Administration in thinking we'd be liberators. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and now most everyone's having a field day declaiming Iraq (I recall Sixty Minutes airing a terrifying segment just before the war on how there were a maze of tunnels under Baghdad that probably had biological weapons that would end up killing thousands of our troops. The war made just about everyone look foolish.)

Hindsight suggests that the reticence of Iraqis to fight for liberation might've been predicted. Not only because it would require uncommon valor (Iraqis lacked competitive weaponry vis-a-vis terrorists), but also because a population under the iron rule of Saddam would naturally grow up cowed, a rational response given their environment.

I understood the rationale for going into Iraq, though I assumed (as everyone did) there were WMDs there, and I understood it would enforce the requirements that Saddam didn't live up to after the Gulf War. When you strike at the king you'd better kill the king, and the fact that Saddam tried to assassinate Bush #41 and was actively looking for WMD materials suggests he wasn't convinced the war was over. Conveniently, we had a warrant for his arrest (i.e. the flaunted agreement ending the Gulf War). Not so conveniently, the other sheriffs (France/Germany) didn't want to endorse the agreement, perhaps partially influenced by the "Oil for Food" scam lining their coffers.

But it does look to the naked eye that the Gulf War was a bad deal after all. Saddam rolled into Kuwait for her oil but Edmund Burke said, "the blood of man should be said but to redeem the blood of man. The rest is vanity: the rest is crime." What's interesting to me though is what level of shock to the oil supply is worth going to war for? Great depressions hurt the rich, cause great pain for the middle class, but kill the poor, so I don't quite get the sanguine insouciance on the part of the left concerning oil. (And yes, we should definitely be trying to develop electric cars.)

Possibly Saddam would've achieved his stated goal of Middle Eastern hegemony by taking over Kuwait and eventually Saudi Arabia. But just as Pat Buchanan once wrote how he wished that in WWII Germany and Russia had fought and weakened themselves to the point that an expansionistic USSR could've been prevented, maybe Saddam and the Theocrats would've fought themselves to oblivion? Alternative histories are endlessly intoxicating. Of course, thinking we could escape a Middle Eastern war for very long seems unlikely anyway given our commitment to Israel.

The Iraq War was a continuation of the Gulf War. The '91 ceasefire only intensified Iraqi misery - more of them died due to "post-war" economic sanctions than during the hot war. It was Bush Sr's Gulf War that was Pandora's Box, the moment of decision.

Perhaps doing the neighborly thing when it coincides with our national interest - here defined as giving American military help to Kuwait in '91 - may not have been prudent. After all, it got us into this Middle East cauldron and it was the Gulf War that led to Osama's hatred and 9/11. Whether he would've gotten around to hating us anyway - yes, probably, but it might've bought us some time. In a fallen world where wars are inevitable sometimes that's all you can ask.

posted by TSO @ 15:00

August 6, 2004

Reviews & Previews

Concerning a soon to be published David Foster Wallace book on higher math:

"[Infinity is] not just an incredibly, unbelievably enormous number" but an abstraction beyond what we normally conceive of when we contemplate numbers. Abstraction is one of Wallace's main themes, particularly how the mathematics of infinity goes squarely against our instinct to avoid abstract thought. The ancient Greeks couldn't handle infinity, he points out, because they loathed abstraction. Is infinity a valid mathematical property or a meaningless abstraction? The nineteenth-century mathematical genius Georg Cantor's answer to this question not only surprised him but also shook the very foundations upon which math had been built. Cantor's counterintuitive discovery of a progression of larger and larger infinities created controversy in his time and may have hastened his mental breakdown, but it also helped lead to the development of set theory, analytic philosophy, and even computer technology.
Meanwhile, David Gessner, author of "Sick of Nature" is sick of nature writing:
It is precisely that wildness that is missing from so much of our contemporary nature writing. There's lots of wilderness, sure, but one of the things that is lost is the element of quest -- of personal wildness -- or what we might call the Montaignean aspect of Thoreau's book. Strange that a book like "Walden," so outside of genre and driven by such a boldly personal and idiosyncratic quest -- "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. . ." -- should have created a genre that is so often dry and impersonal.

By cordoning nature off as something separate from ourselves and by writing about it that way, we kill both the genre and a part of ourselves. The best writing in this genre is not really "nature writing" anyway but human writing that just happens to take place in nature. And the reason we are still talking about "Walden" 150 years later is as much for the personal story as the pastoral one: a single human being, wrestling mightily with himself, trying to figure out how best to live during his brief time on earth, and, not least of all, a human being who has the nerve, talent, and raw ambition to put that wrestling match on display on the printed page. The human spilling over into the wild, the wild informing the human; the two always intermingling. There's something to celebrate.

posted by TSO @ 13:43

Touchstone Post II


French Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain, according to Francesca Aran Murphy in Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Étienne Gilson addressed the question, “Why isn’t Thomist metaphysics as outdated today as, say, mediaeval physics?
Since the answers to scientific questions perpetually create new paradigms, should metaphysics not do likewise? Borrowing a pair of words from the Catholic existentialist Gabriel Marcel, Maritain responds by distinguishing a “mystery” from a “problem.” Mysteries differ from problems by their greater ontological depth. Whereas the “problematic” of the natural sciences progresses by replacing one paradigm with another [e.g., Newtonian physics with quantum physics], those who probe within mysteries can only deepen their knowledge of the same reality. That mysterious reality, the object of metaphysics, is existence itself.

posted by TSO @ 10:03

But Outer Space

But outer Space,
At least this far,
For all the fuss
Of the populace
Stays more popular
Than populous

-Robert Frost

posted by TSO @ 09:45

Pearce Quote

C.S. Lewis concludes The Great Divorce with an explicit attack on Calvinism. 'For every attempt to see the shape of eternity except through the lens of Time destroys your knowledge of Freedom', explains the spirit of MacDonald. 'Witness the doctrine of Predestination which shows (truly enough) that eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real; but at the price of removing Freedom which is the deeper truth of the two.'
- Joseph Pearce, "C.S. Lewis & the Catholic Church

posted by TSO @ 09:42

UK Spectator cartoon

posted by TSO @ 09:04

Too Country - Brad Paisley

Too country. What's that?
Is it like too Republican or too Democrat?
Is it too far to the left?
Or too far to the right?
Too straight down the middle?
Too black? Too white?

Are the roses too red?
Is the sunshine too bright?
Are there too many stars,
In the heavens at night?
Are there too many fish,
That still jump in the stream?
Is the blue sky too blue?
Is the clean air too clean?

Is the grace too amazing?
Is the steeple too tall?
Are there too many "Yes sir's"?
"Yes ma'am's" and "How're y'all's"?
Is the message too real?
Too close to the bone?
Do the fiddle and steel,
Remind you too much of home?

Is honest and true,
Just not in demand?

Too country?
I don't understand.

posted by TSO @ 09:03

Clearing the Decks

This post, like the other journal strip-mines, smacks of self-indulgence. Times like these I especially appreciate the winsome reserve and posting discipline of a Mark of "Minute Particulars" or Camassia. But if you're starved for entertainment here are some excerpts from my journal since I was going through it anyway for something else:


(from 2000)
This year fate has decreed I miss the NCAA's, the tourney that was like nicotine to my adolescent self (my adolescent years occurred later than most). It was the premier sporting event of my life. This year March has come and left without a game being watched, something unthinkable a couple years ago. My single brother-in-law came over to borrow the truck and I could smell the familiar scent of bachelorhood upon his person - a metaphysical smell that bespoke a surreal amount of free time (doesn't hurt to be a high school teacher with 12 weeks of vacation a year). There were pangs of recognition, that knockout punch to the notion of time: He'd watched three consecutive games. To live in sports is to live in eternity - outside of time. I wondered at my old self that Maslow's hierarchy of needs were so well covered that I should have time to devote to full baseball game or a couple basketball games.


I see the holy, healing Sacraments I receive as recuperative instruments in restoring my lost memories. Clinton wants to build a bridge to the 21st century, while I want to build a bridge back to my childhood innocence.


"Men may keep a certain level of good, but no man has been able to keep on one level of evil. The road goes down and down." - GKC


Looking out the window into the night air, watching a tinge of dying orange twilight against the white two-story across the street, I could almost be convinced it's a replica of a painting of my mothers mother's house in Glynwood. With it's big wrap-around porch and large, bare trees it has an ageless quality. The scene has an oil-painting feel to it, a stateliness and 19th century aspect, with tinges of wistfulness and nostalgia yet also a pantina of falseness, as if it were nothing but a Hollywood set.

The oval painting in mom's living room is both personal and impersonal. It depicts a farm I never saw in a time I never lived, but stubborn facts and trusty witnesses insist my grandmother grew up there. I have a connection to it - whether I realize it or not. It takes faith to believe the grand house in the photograph is part of my heritage.


As a child my respect for the Presidency knew no bounds; I thought the wisest man in the whole country was chosen as President. Now it appears wisdom is probably detrimental to your chances. I don't blame children or foreign countries for laughing at the mockery of this [2000] election. Somehow I have in my mind's eye that 20 years ago the national press would've laughed off suggestions that a "butterfly ballot" was too dificult to use, or if a candidate complained his voters were too dull to vote correctly. Twenty years ago the voters who made the mistake would be too ashamed to admit it. A generation ago there was out-and-out fraud - votes being cast by dead people. Nowadays we perpetrate fraud by trying to divine votes cast by dumb people. It's all a bit too surreal to contemplate, as if a king were being coronated while everyone tries not to notice His Royal Heinie has a rip in his robe.


Today I got a glimpse into ancient history. I got to time-travel. No, not by reading ancient texts or visiting Egyptian tombs, no, I watched the Ed Sullivan hour. They were showing a retrospective of Sullivan and it’s interesting to me because I got to firmly see the line between the generations. It would be fascinating for me, a lover of lines and boundaries, to watch a couple hours of ‘typical television’ from each year between 1950 and 1990 because I think it would be pretty clear where to draw the generational lines. I ordered old tv tapes of Bishop Sheen last spring and finally got around to watching them. And watching Bishop Sheen next to the Rolling Stone’s last appearance on Sullivan was this side of surreal. What an amazing difference! If the 60’s were exotic, the 50’s were too. It is unimaginable that Bishop Sheen be a hit tv show today. And Ed Sullivan? There is no way he’d make it in TV today. He was stiff too, stiffer than Al Gore on a bad day. I don't understand the famous line from Nixon, “sock it to me” on “Laugh-in” . What was Nixon thinking? Stuff like the Nixon appearance, Bishop Sheen’s tapes and Sullivan’s show makes me feel truly an outsider, like I am a visitor from a different century observing. Even watching earlier Presidents on TV, like Kennedy and Nixon have a feel that is alien to me. Kennedy, with that accent and rat-tat-tat style of speaking, and Nixon with his jowly Basset hound face and labored speech. Carter, Reagan however are effortless to watch. Nothing jarring there. But might they be to my niece in a few years? Television in the 60’s was perfect for a child because it was the “Age of Aquarius” when the set designs (like on Sullivan) were extremely colorful with weird abstract designs and lots of beads and shiny things. It wasn’t much of a change to watch a cartoon and then see Janis Joplin in front of a stage with yellow peace signs and bright orange shapes.


Quote: "The chief element of divine worship must be interior. For we must always live in Christ and give ourselves to Him completely, so that in Him and through Him the heavenly Father may be duly glorified. Thus we are urged, when there is question of fasting, for example, "to give interior effect to our outward observance."[28] Otherwise religion clearly amounts to mere formalism, without meaning and without content. You recall, Venerable Brethren, how the divine Master expels from the sacred temple, as unworthily to worship there, people who pretend to honor God with nothing but neat and well-turned phrases, like actors in a theater, and think themselves perfectly capable of working out their eternal salvation without plucking their inveterate vices from their hearts.[29] It is, therefore, the keen desire of the Church that all of the faithful kneel at the feet of the Redeemer to tell Him how much they venerate and love Him. She wants them present in crowds - like the children whose joyous cries accompanied His entry into Jerusalem - to sing their hymns and chant their song of praise and thanksgiving to Him who is King of Kings and Source of every blessing." – Pius XII

posted by TSO @ 21:15

August 5, 2004

Art of Philip de László, via Mark of Irish Elk.

Also a portrait of Pope Leo XIII here.

posted by TSO @ 14:12

From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Dep't

This is not an Onion piece. Turns out the DNC has a Senior Religion Advisor. Turns out she was forced to quit today because she had previously gone to the U.S. Supreme Court "on the side of atheist Michael Newdow to censor the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge." Link here. Where'd my anti-cynicism pills go?

posted by TSO @ 14:05

Covering All the Bases

Check out this Dayton, Oh. paper's retrospective on William F. Buckley & National Review in which the author opines that either conservatives, liberals or moderates are correct:

"...One way to phrase my problem: Here we had William F. Buckley Jr. and John Kenneth Galbraith (the prominent liberal economist and writer and frequent debater of Buckley). Both were brilliant, breathtakingly erudite, colossally well-read, and unmistakably decent in their motivations. Yet they disagreed on all the great issues of the day. One promoted one collection of policies to make the nation and the world peaceful, free and prosperous. The other promoted a dramatically different collection, with the same goals. Either that, or Buckley and Galbraith were both half right. That is to say that in their life's work — the accumulation and dissemination of political and economic insight — they were both mediocre." - Martin Gottlieb

posted by TSO @ 13:33

Breaking Vows: When Faithful Catholics Divorce now online. Thanks Alicia for the heads-up.

posted by TSO @ 09:50

In Your Eyes

All my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

In your eyes
The light the heat
In your eyes
I am complete
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches

-Peter Gabriel

posted by TSO @ 09:46

Addicted to Allergies

My wife didn't believe me when I said our dog's allergy might be caused by something he craves so I sent her a link that explains how we often desire the very substances that cause our misery. Sin is like that, of course, but I also wonder if our tendency to flock to the like-minded isn't more of the same - such as cynics reading cynical websites.

Amy Welborn, who I adore, recently mentioned said she was "the most cynical person alive." I quoted a commenter on her blog yesterday who said he initially wondered if Flannery O'Connor wasn't the "ultimate cynic". And isn't The Onion hilarious?

Certainly if you ascribe base motives to anyone - especially to politicians - you're going to be right most of the time. One of the things I like about Jeff Miller's site is his "cheerful cynicism" (of course it doesn't hurt that I like his politics). That I like Steven Riddle's & Mary Herboth's sites are exceptions that prove the rule. (I also love their honesty.)

I can't help but savor the utter lack of cynicism in Pope John Paul's writing and how it is a balm that heals the cynic's allergy. I'm re-reading "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" and the Pope's bias towards seeing the good in man is certainly countercultural. I probably should be reading optimistic, liberal "we are a Resurrection people" websites, while liberals who forget that man is fallen should probably be reading the more cynical ones. Balance, where art thou?

posted by TSO @ 08:58

Carl Olsen...

...lists his favorite Ignatius Press titles.

posted by TSO @ 16:57

August 4, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

He who travels on the path of self-striving must regard his heart only as a shish kabob. - "The Conference of the Birds by Attar", via Terrence Berres of "The Provincial Emails"

She is the American Catholic novelist...Tough to swallow at first- makes the reader wonder if she was just the ultimate cynic. Then the discovery that she had bigger fish to fry. - commenter on Amy's blog concerning Flannery O'Connor

Even though the protagonist and his wife both live in hope that the Church will change, they DO NOT step outside her teaching and just use contraception anyway. That was refreshing to read. If they considered themselves Catholic, they considered themselves bound by all the teachings, even the ones they didn't like very much. And at the very end, after such a long and convoluted day, Adam Appleby goes to bed thinking: "It was absurd, but he actually hoped her period hadn't started." Not a dissenting author alive today would write like that. - Mama T of "Summa Mamas" on a David Lodge novel "The British Museum is Falling Down"

Turns out what Kerry meant was not freedom of conscience, but freedom from conscience. - Terrence Berres of "The Provincial Emails"

I would argue that we owe it to our country to avoid the shame and embarrassment of including in our Constitution such a primary, no-brainer assertion about marriage. -Jeff of El Camino Real, expressing initial reservations on the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment

Sing, goddess, the rage of Meredith,
and its devastation, which brought pains thousandfold
upon the messageboards and their swift-fingered denizens,
who delight in pouring out wine-dark calumny to sour the day
for passers-by: Catholics from various places,
St. Blog's and Phatmass and the Trad Catholic forums...
- Meredith of "Basia Me, Catholica Sum"

Still, I think Jcecil3's enthusiasm for this sort of guff hints at something worth noting. What he is responding to emotionally, if I read him correctly, is Kerry's profession of anti-dogmatism, of claiming the allowance, "I could be wrong." (And what matters is the profession of anti-dogmatism, since Kerry's speech was otherwise (and properly) full of dogmas.) - Tom of Disputations

I think I'll read some more of that later, but for now I want to ask, how the hell did the conventions get to be so boring and pointless?... There are no fights on the floor, no challenges to the platforms... Just a long infomercial for some of this country's finest hair stylists. - Thomas of "Endlessly Rocking"

It use to anger me the amount of skin displayed on magazines as you approach the checkout lane or what I call "temptation aisle." Taking possession of my eyes looking neither right or left like I was being sung to by the sirens. I read a tip on a Carmelite list serve where they suggested instead of getting angry that to spend the time praying for the publishers and those involved. -Jeff Miller of "Curt Jester"

Honestly, having a baby is a scary thing. Your freedom, independence, plans, life, stomach, breasts, relationships...just about everything...changes and the changes do not go away. Some of those changes are very difficult to handle but I believe, with my whole heart, that women can face this fear and win. Mothers have the most powerful, most rewarding and often most difficult job in the world. I wish these hard-headed strong women who dream up these t-shirt campaigns would have more babies (after they drop the abortion-is-ok idea) because the world needs motivated, active, educated, thinking women to become mothers. - Mary of Ever-New

This is the danger of citing scripture for your own purposes. It isn’t so much that you might be wrong in what you are saying (although that is certainly true) but there is always the possibility that what you are saying was meant for you alone or you in the execution of the task God has given you. Scripture has definitive universal meaning, which the Church preserves and helps to convey to all peoples and all generations. But scripture also has personal application and intent, revealed to an individual by the Holy Spirit. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in a sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view. Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go so far as to support mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even nonjudgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity-not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately pro-choice. - Robert P. George, tongue in cheek, via Bill of Summa Minutiae

When Elena turns the other cheek, it's so she can whip around the other side with full force! - Pete LaVictoire, husband of Elena of "My Domestic Church"

I voted for Jimmy Carter both times he ran for office. Until the end of his administration, I was a Democrat. I supported the Democratic platform until then, because, like many Catholics still mistakenly believe, I genuinely believed then that the Democrats supported the traditional hardworking family man -- the proverbial "little guy" -- against the presumed real enemy, big business. It was only during the latter part of the Carter administration that I saw the writing on the wall. The emerging outlines of a cultural divide were already then slowly becoming apparent, a divide that increasingly paralleled the division between the two major parties... Not only was the Democratic party no longer for the "traditional hardworking family man" at all; it was undermining the foundations of traditional families. - Dr. Blosser of "Musings of a Pertinacious Papist"

posted by TSO @ 15:21

Excerpts from Nat'l Review Book Reviews
by Michael Poterma:

The tides of intellectual fashion can be cruelly unjust, and they have rarely been more so than in the case of Étienne Gilson. One of the most popular and influential Catholic philosophers of the 1950s, Gilson in the post-Vatican II era suffered a near-total eclipse of reputation. But tides can turn, and the publication of the new book Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Étienne Gilson by Francesca Aran Murphy, is an encouraging sign that a new generation may see Gilson once again receive his due.

Murphy, a religious-studies scholar at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, recounts in this book the fascinating "intellectual life" of a devout Thomist who confronted modern trends with creativity and intellectual honesty. Gilson's metaphysics was founded on the intuition of being, understood not as a concept but as a reality — one revealed by sensible objects in their irreducible particularity. This philosopher's respect for the particular, for the integrity of the created order, manifested itself also in his political thought. At a time when French conservatism was tempted by the ideas of royalism and clericalist supremacy in politics, Gilson defended "the Two Orders" of state and church: "Those who, for political reasons, dream today of a dictator of the Right . . . must be told that Jesus Christ did not turn to Caesar to impose the faith on his apostles; he converted his apostles, and much later, Caesar himself was converted. It takes a Christian people to get a Constantine; the church does not win hearts through institutions but institutions through hearts."

Murphy notes Gilson's influence on Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. Though her own prose style can be clunky, her book succeeds in making clear how remarkable a figure Gilson was in his own right.

In The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth , Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has written one of the most thrilling works of Christian reflection to come along in years....The idea of concreteness within what God has created finds its culmination in what has been called the ultimate "scandal of particularity": that God not only created specific things, but chose a specific nation for Himself, and actually became a particular Jewish rabbi Who was crucified and raised from the dead at a specific moment in history. In doing so, writes Hart, God defeated mankind's sense of tragedy: "For Christian faith the only true tragic wisdom is that there is no final wisdom in the tragic . . .The cross dispelled the seductions of the tragic by revealing an infinite gulf between the God of creation and the power of death (a gulf, that is, that is not spanned by sacrifice), by emptying the tragic of its heroic pathos and false beauty, and — most importantly — by opening out into a resurrection that reveals love as the source and end of creation." Because "Christian love erupts from the empty tomb, [it] must always be in rebellion against all tragic 'profundities.'"

But the resurrection story offers no easy reassurance; it opens up, rather, "another, still deeper kind of pain: It requires of faith something even more terrible than submission . . . and acceptance of fate . . . It places all hope and all consolation upon the insane expectation that what is lost will be given back, not as a heroic wisdom (death has been robbed of its tragic beauty) but as the gift it always was."

posted by TSO @ 09:52

The Perfect Storm of Bush Hatred

NRODT's Nordlinger writes of a past hate-ee and his experience of current Bush hatred:

After a(n) [Abraham] Lincoln speech, the editor of the Chicago Times wrote, "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States."

The speech to which the editor was referring was the Gettysburg Address.

Put yourself in my shoes, dear reader. You're at an Upper East Side dinner party. The conversation turns political (uh-oh) and to 9/11. Someone mentions that the Pennsylvania plane was possibly destined for the White House. Your hostess says, "It's a shame President Bush wasn't killed that day."

Do you a) leave, b) make a joke, c) rebuke, d) try to employ sweet argument — what?

Please realize that there was nothing hypothetical about this situation. (I did a mixture of the above — ineptly.)
One can't help but be impressed (or depressed) by the height, depth and breadth of Bush hatred. That hatred has an effect contrary to that which is intended: it induces a greater sense of loyalty and sympathy towards Bush in his supporters.

posted by TSO @ 09:41

Epitaph of Abercius

..A disciple of a holy shepherd,
who pastures flocks of sheep on mountains and on plains,
who possesses huge eyes, which he casts down everywhere…
Faith led me everywhere
and everywhere served a fish from a spring as nourishment,
a fish enormous and pure, which a holy virgin grasped.
And Faith bestowed it among friends so that they could always eat it...
circa 216 AD

posted by TSO @ 09:40

Thoughts & Quotes

Christians living 2,000 years after Christ's birth have an advantage those living 300 years after his birth don't: the greater the earthly span of time people worship him, the more it redounds to his glory. It is our little act of praise to still trust and believe even after so much time has elapsed.

"A helpful distinction in the matter of providence is between our external circumstances in life and our ultimate eternity. It is not by any merit on our part that we are born into a particular time, place and circumstances. Who knows how Providence makes such a determination, both by nature and grace. Some are born athletes, others are cripples; some are geniuses and some are retarded; some are born into Catholic homes in the U.S. and others into Islamic tents under the Taliban. But regardless of these external matters, much or which is beyond our control, in the order of eternal salvation we can be assured that any soul lost to hell is by failure of that individual to cooperate with some offer of grace. We do not know in what unseen and unknown ways God may work at the eternal level of grace in those who are not formally a part of the Catholic Church and have less advantage in the external order." - EWTN forum

Is mystery the greatest sweetness? Shakespeare made up words and spliced them into plays and made them greater for it. Are not songs made better when some lyrics are fluid and semi-cryptic and in which you can imagine some greater thing? Aren’t the hidden sex organs of the human female, tucked inside in unknowability, greater than the obvious male's?

On EWTN’s “Letters from St. Therese”: if we are properly thankful for grace more will come, but only if we appreciate the small (read: tiny) graces we do receive.

To perceive oneself as a failure is, bluntly, not the Catholic way. Why would you want an unjust judge (like yourself)? Doesn’t the bible forbid us to judge? Then why would you do so? And isn’t the just Judge merciful?

The blood and water that flowed from Christ’s side are the water of Baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. Why should the blood and water of Jesus be limited by time and geography? Their reality makes us family, instead of contract employees.

Into the corner of my library I fold, my sweet library, I go for relief, relief at the end of the week and into the transportive quality of deep-brain music, music which stokes old memories like weddings of uncles and aunts and rain on my upper lip and sucking it in loudly like a kid and of chill winds through a paper-boy’s soul, oh how did I deliver on that ice?

From a vision of St. Faustina:
”He bows his head to greet you, wears the crown [of thorns] to adorn you, stretches out his arms to embrace you, lets his feet be nailed that he may stand with you. And you, miserable wretch, you who were made the steward of such generosity and humility, ought to embrace the cross. But you flee from it and embrace evil impure creatures. You ought to stand firm and unwavering in your following of my Truth's teaching, nailing your heart and mind to him. But you flit about like a leaf in the wind; every little thing sets you flying.....”

posted by TSO @ 09:29

Normalizing Frugality

MamaT of Summa Mamas links to an article on "Less is More" which included the provocative phrase "Our consumer society impoverishes our imagination by normalizing luxury."

I went through a phase in the 90s, after reading Thoreau as well as a Sports Illustrated article about PGA golfer Mac O'Grady (an eccentric who lived for a year in a cardboard box) when I was smitten by a hunger for simplicity. I wrote this bit of fiction then (part of my new 'leave no bad fiction behind' policy):

I spent ‘81 working for the government as an undercover street person. I grew a surreptitious beard that soon became less than surreptitious and eventually became visible even to the non-cognoscenti. My first stake-out involved a young man in his late 20s who lived in a cardboard box the size of a jetsetter’s golf bag. I was to find the why behind this sad story.
“To what do you attribute your finding yourself in this position – waking up in a cardboard box the size of a jetsetter’s golfbag by the Route 315 underpass?” I asked.
“Dumb luck I guess. I used to see people go to work in hairshirts – er, I mean suits. They would disappear in dank cave-like offices during the best hours of every day. I couldn’t believe it! They’d come out tired, irritable and in need of a beer.”
“Yeah but how do you improve society?”
“Honestly I’m not sure. But have you ever felt the clean, brisk air on your skin after a hard winter? Or watched the unceasingness of a brook and imagined it to be the living waters of God, always accessible and always flowing? Have you ever used a walking stick as a baseball bat and struck at dead wood in the forest? Ever squawked at ducks and watched them land like big-webbed water-skiers?”
“Uh, no, not lately.”
“Me neither. We need to get to the country!”

posted by TSO @ 13:31

August 3, 2004

Gerard Has A Fine Flannery O'Connor Tribute


posted by TSO @ 10:31

Finds on the Way to Being Nosy

I recently read a fisk of a post that fisked fisking (follow that?) and I tried to quickly get thru Gerard's master list of blogs for the ignoble reason of wanting to know who the fisker of the second part was.

And while I didn't discover the answer, I did discover some interesting tidbits. Like more Ono news, including a review of his book. And a handslap directed at right-ish Catholic E. Michael Jones by the Catholic League. And another blogger's review of "The Miracle Detective".

posted by TSO @ 09:32

Fun With Etymologies

Let me "interject" – 15th century Latin –
it takes a "villa", 1611 also Latin,
to raise a "child", OE of course, but kin to Goth ‘kilthei’ or ‘womb’.
And I've met kin
who could be mistaken for Barbarians
but that shan’t give you "sciatica", 14th century,
unless you’re a "schussboomer", from 1953 a skier who schusses.
There were no "crowds" before 1537 evidently,
or ‘cruises’ from the Danish kruisen, “to make a cross”, 1651.
To be "miffed" is so 17th century,
and there was no "midtown" before 1926
after there was an "uptown", of course, in 1838,
and a "downtown" in 1851.
"Minotaur" Middle English from the Greek
medievals discovering the ancients.
Respect, as in ‘with respect to’ came in the 14th,
by 1560 it was also ‘worthy of esteem’,
forty years later it became a respectable adjective,
but not till 1814 did it become respectable,
the noun.

posted by TSO @ 09:28

Fictional Tuesday - strip-mining old journal entries

Sittin' on a front porch in rural Georgia, outside Macon and drinking sloe gin while Alan Jackson plays on the radio. The sky's decidin' between pink and orange and I've got a Lincoln on orange. A cool breeze on my forehead; we don't have TV or travel agents or dentists or books, 'ceptin' the bible. Don't need vacations 'cuz don't overwork, don't need books 'cuz don't overthink, don't catch nothin' 'cept the local news since don't feel responsible for D.C. Don't need dentists 'cuz teeth were meant to be lost. Spend most days in the dirt and sun, farmin' five hundert acres. Responsibilities? Never signed up for 'em! City slicker wants to know my day? Get up 6 and milk the cows. Get a rhythm goin' it ain't bad. Chill morning, hot coffee, sit out with my wife. She's got hair that reminds you she's all woman. Full and thick and rich. Her face gives tidings of comfort and joy. Breakfast at Fred's Kitchen; country biscuits and good greasy sausage links. Talk 'bout the price of hogs and latest pesticide. Spend afternoon plowing earth till the earth runs out. Run the scroll out to the horizon making loam, till land till I can't till no mo'. The earth and sky you would twine with your threading. It was King James land, all thee's and thou's and unchanging blessedness. At dusk, the dust and smell of the outdoors cling to your flannel. You come home to music and fiddle till your arms give out...

posted by TSO @ 09:23

A Feast Day Someday?

Today is the 40th anniversary of Flannery O'Connor's death. As you probably already know, I blogged some of her quotes here.

posted by TSO @ 03:26

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

As the risk of sounding brazen, if there's one area that many saints seem to not practice what they preach it's the embrace of God's mercy, which they extend to others more easily than to themselves. (Of course, that might be what makes them saints.) I quoted St. Pio's letter earlier and now quote from St. Alphonsus Liguori's biography: "From his earliest years he had an anxious fear about committing sin which passed at times into scruple. He who ruled and directed others so wisely, had, where his own soul was concerned, to depend on obedience like a little child...trembling at times even for his eternal salvation."

(Btw, St. Alphonsus wouldn't be a popular blogger: "Very few remarks upon his own times occur in the Saint's letters. The eighteenth century was one series of great wars; that of the Spanish, Polish, and Austrian Succession; the Seven Years' War, and the War of American Independence, ending with the still more gigantic struggles in Europe..But to all this secular history about the only reference in the Saint's correspondence which has come down to us is a sentence in a letter of April, 1744, which speaks of the passage of the Spanish troops who had come to defend Naples against the Austrians. He was more concerned with the spiritual conflict which was going on at the same time.")

Maybe these saints knew they were called to a greater rigorism than those they were preaching to, but that seems unlikely since we're all called to be saints. So while we often fall prey to being rigorous with others and easy on ourselves, the saints interestingly appeared to have the opposite problem.

Whether to follow the words or example of these saints reminds me of a post a few weeks ago by Jimmy Akins in which he painstakingly makes the point that when the bishops made non-Lenten Friday abstinence, they really did make it voluntary. But the bishops at the same time urged and exhorted us to continue the practice. Which almost begs the question doesn't it? It's like my wife saying, "Tom, you don't have to take out the garbage on Wed nights anymore. But I urge and exhort you out of your love for me to take out the garbage." I mean, it's like, voluntary now but not really.

posted by TSO @ 22:13

August 2, 2004

Proof #12,921 that there is a God

Right here.

posted by TSO @ 10:40

Good Questions

Mark Windsor ambitiously imagines a Catholic Political Party. Health care is one issue I particularly struggle with.

Alicia asks the great questions: "Is health care a right? And if so, at what level? Is there scarcity or abundance? How is it best distributed? Do the normal rules of the marketplace apply? Should every medical procedure be paid for by a third party using pooled funds? If so, who should collect these funds, and from whom, and how? If not, what should be covered and what not - and who decides? and on what basis?"

Health care costs rising far above the rate of inflation was predicted by former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who said that education and health care are highly inefficient, i.e. they require mostly human labor. Computers and robots have made industry more efficient but are of little help to the doctor or professor, whose physical presence is necessary. Add to that lawsuits and extremely expensive technologies and drugs and you have a recipe for disaster if we try to publically fund health care. To some extent, we already have universal health care. John Stossel of ABCNews wrote that "our system does sometimes fail poor people, but the truth is that when someone is denied care, it makes headlines because it's so unusual." Obviously the opting out of health care insurance - because it's rising faster than inflation - becomes a viscious cycle in making it more unaffordable.

posted by TSO @ 09:54

Religion & Journalism

From Columbia Journalism Review article:

The best that most journalists could do [concerning The Passion of the Christ] was station themselves outside a theater to jot down a few tearful reaction quotes. Very few tried to grapple with the tradition of atonement theology at the core of the film’s depiction of Jesus’s torture, some writing it off with one word: “medieval.” “What reporters didn’t grasp was how important Jesus’s death, suffering, and crucifixion is in the emotional and spiritual life of many Christians,” says Steve Waldman, co-founder of Beliefnet, an Internet site that covers religion.
* generally takes scandal or spectacle to get even the large denominations on the front page. And even then, the deeper belief systems of these religions are left unexamined. The theology and faith of the believers is kept at arm’s length, and the writing is clinical. The journalist glances at religious community as if staring through the glass of an ant farm, remarking on what the strange creatures are doing, but missing the motivations behind the action. To take a recent example: in mid-March, the Methodist church placed one of its ministers on trial for declaring that she was in a lesbian relationship. Coverage focused mostly on the dynamics of the conflict itself, the anger of some Methodists, the challenge it posed to the church, and the defiance of Karen Dammann, the minister on trial. Nowhere was there any exploration of the deeper theological debate over homosexuality taking place in the Methodist church (and, lately, tearing apart most mainline Protestant denominations), a debate that, at its core, is about how closely to interpret scripture.

posted by TSO @ 09:45

St. Pio's Letters

I never realized before that St. Pio not only suffered the pain of the stigmata but also suffered the pain of wondering if he were really doing God's will:

With all of my actions a perpetual doubt crosses my soul. A feeling always tells me that I do everything with a doubtful conscience. I try to remember what obedience has directed me on this matter, but what do you want! The Lord confused me; I remember nothing definite! What a torment even this constitutes fo me! Not knowing if one works for God's glory or offense is more painful than death...Blasphemous thoughts continuously run through my mind; and still more promptings, infidelity, and irreligiousness.
-Nov. 8, 1916 to his spiritual director, from the book "Secrets of a Soul"

posted by TSO @ 09:14

Randomized Thoughts

A priest at our parish made an excellent point which I already "knew" but rarely sinks in: what does it say about God that He who created the universe was completely fulfilled anyway. Contemplate that. He created us not to complete himself, not to in any way amuse himself, not to make him fuller, which is exactly what I feel when I create something. The tendency to anthropomorphize is rentless and though we are trained to “put ourselves in another’s shoes” we can’t put ourselves in God’s shoes because his thoughts are foreign to ours.

Trousered Ape offers his Apologia Pro Blog Sua. I've been awed by how much smarter and better read many St. Bloggers are than me. The tendency to believe those who smarter and more well-read is tempting, but recall that it was intellectuals who gave us & defended Marxism. Ted Koppel was asked a question, “after so many years of reporting and thinking and increasing your knowledge, what can you share with us that you have discovered about the human condition?” or words to that effect. Ted laughed and said the saying that journalists know more than they tell is false. It’s actually the opposite – they tell more than they know. His modesty was becoming. He went on to say that his intelligence his years of being on the front-line of history has given him nothing special in the way of clarity or wisdom.

I recall a philosophy professor giving this advice to a young student struggling to find truth, which went something along the lines of: don't be a wildcat during your search. In other words, he knew personal virtue was an aid to discerning truth. And that is why a great intellect combined with great holiness is so attractive and charismatic, and why I've always been fascinated by St. Thomas Aquinas and suspect he batted in the upper one percentile in the truth standings. Similar with our Pope, who was against both the Gulf and Iraq wars, which is why defenders of either war have a burden of proof to overcome.

The paradox is that we are driven to thirst for beauty and yet we must see beauty in our fellow wounded human beings who often are not beautiful in any way we can see.

I cherish some of the Old Testament accounts that are weird or sound wrong to me because if it doesn’t “sound like God” then that means God is condescending to work with the Israelites - where they are. And so will he with us.

posted by TSO @ 09:11

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Today is his feast day, (or would be if it weren't Sunday, as Donna Lewis reminded me). Godincidently came across an online biography two days ago unaware of his impending memorial. It is good to live in a time when there is such a large constellation of saints to help us: "St. Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a 'practical' model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all."
"In the confessional, Alphonsus treated people as penitents to be saved, not as criminals to be punished. He saw that frightening or threatening the sinner needlessly would do little good. He could always bring the sinner to show a sorrow for the sins committed. Alphonsus believed that the deeper a person had fallen into sin, the more kindness he would have to show as a confessor to win back the person to Jesus Christ...

Alphonsus did for moral theology, in the middle of the eighteenth century, what Saint Thomas Aquinas had done for dogmatic theology several centuries earlier...[His work] Moral Theology established Alphonsus as a theologian beyond equal, yet this scholarly approach was not his usual style of writing. Most of his works sought to reach the people he could not reach through the spoken word. He wanted to help people in their everyday life. He made a conscious effort to move them into the saving arms of Christ."

posted by TSO @ 07:05

August 1, 2004


The Wane of Summer

Sitting on his sun-dimpled back porch, Quinn noticed that every few yards floss-strands bridged random objects.

"Lots of spiders this summer. What accounts?" he asked his wife Laurie.

"Don't know. It's been wet. More grub for them?"

"They do eat worse bugs. But I don't likes the looks of them. Plus they're always in the way with the web shit," he complained.

"Well, by definition they're thriving only because they're eating. Do they like mosquito larvae? That would make you happy."

"I guess...but at some point you have to wonder when the lesser of two evils becomes evil."

"I know you don't mean Bush & Kerry."

"Right. I was thinking more of spiders and non-spiders. Not everything is a metaphor. Would you like some wine?"


Quinn's friend Eric Schall had the endearing habit of constantly worrying about what he would do in hypothetical moral situations, often so hypothetical as to make a Peroutka presidency seem likely by comparison.

"What would happen," Eric once said, "if I was in a hotel room, alone on business, and it's 2 am and I'm wakened out of a dream and a naked girl is at the door and she says she wants to have sex with me?"

"I'd say that you hadn't wakened from that dream."

"No, seriously, would I remain faithful to my wife?"

Eric and Quinn shared a concern for wanting assurance they would pass the ultimate test as if that would ensure fidelity in smaller matters. Their epitaphs could read: "Ready for red martyrdom but not to let go of the remote." It rarely occurred to them that perhaps obedience in the smaller matters ensured obedience to the larger.

posted by TSO @ 14:20

September 30, 2004

Rubber Neckin'

Watching Elena and JCecil go at it is entertaining even though the outcome is never in doubt: they will not change each other's minds. There is futility and then there is "infinite futility", a metaphysical futility, and that is what is on display here.

I'm fascinated by how these two seek each other out. Far from avoiding each other they are like magnets, a regular Carville & Matalin. I was surprised to learn that progressives read her blog but shouldn't have given Walker Percy's line that "liberals and conservatives need each other...what would they do without the other?"

I was watching George McGovern on C-Span the other night. And, surprisingly, he said, "I don`t put conservatism in as one of the evils. I don`t want conservatism to disappear. I respect it." He said the genius of the American experiment is this dynamic tension between conservatism and liberalism. Like pressure producing diamonds.

It's hard to see this genius where the social issues are concerned. The extremism shown by the Democrat party on abortion appears to be hurting the party. But that very fact - as is typically the case - only tends to make people more stubborn in the defense of their cause. Slavery in the 1820s was seen by Southerners as morally neutral. By 1860 it was seen as a positive good. We're already starting to see that replayed today with the "I Had An Abortion" t-shirts and in the NY Times columnist who wrote with glee about not having to shop at Costco (by killing two of her triplets).

posted by TSO @ 09:41

But Isn't That Like One Potato Chip?

News from the beer hall:

Trevithick said the study shows that drinking one bottle of beer a day reduces your chances of contracting cataracts or atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries caused by the buildup of plaque) by 50 per cent.

You and I might think that if drinking one beer a day can help you live longer, then drinking five will help you live forever. (This is also why you and I are not scientists.)

In fact, the study showed that drinking two bottles of beer a day is not as healthy as drinking one bottle a day, because it reduces the risk of various aging diseases by only 10 per cent.

And the bad news is that drinking three bottles of beer a day actually causes the blood to become pro-oxidant and increases the risk of such diseases 30 to 40 per cent.

posted by TSO @ 08:07

Long Distance Dedication

The importance of prayer can scarcely be overemphasized, but it's easy to think no one's on the other end of the line. Jeff Miller recently recommended "Prayer Primer:Igniting a Fire Within" by Thomas DuBay, who eschews prayer techniques; here are some excerpts from "The Great Means of Salvation" from St. Alphonsus Liguori:

And although sometimes, when we are in a state of aridity, or disturbed by some fault we have committed, we perhaps do not feel while praying that sensible confidence which we would wish to experience, yet, for all this, let us force ourselves to pray, and to pray without ceasing; for God will not neglect to hear us. Nay, rather he will hear us more readily; because we shall then pray with more distrust of ourselves; and confiding only in the goodness and faithfulness of God, who has promised to hear the man who prays to him. Oh, how God is pleased in the time of our tribulations, of our fears, and of our temptations, to see us hope against hope!

But on what, a man will say, am I to found this certain confidence of obtaining what I ask? On what? On the promise made by Jesus Christ: 'Ask, and you shall receive.' "Who will fear to be deceived, when the truth promises?" says St. Augustine...Certainly God would not have exhorted us to ask him for favors, if he had not determined to grant them; but this is the very thing to which he exhorts us so strongly, and which is repeated so often in the Scriptures--pray, ask, seek, and you shall obtain what you desire: 'Whatever you will, seek and it shall be done to you."

..That prayer is the only ordinary means of receiving divine gifts is more distinctly proved by St. Thomas, where he says, that whatever graces God has from all eternity determined to give us, he will only give them if we pray for them.

"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able." - St. Augustine

St. Chrysostom says that the only time when God is angry with us is when we neglect to ask him for his gifts: 'He is only angry when we do not pray.'

God wills us to be saved; but for our greater good, he wills us to be saved as conquerors. While, therefore, we remain here, we have to live in continual warfare; and if we should be saved, we have to fight and conquer.

posted by TSO @ 07:17

Yes, but...

This sounds all very well and true but the blogger comes at it from a nakedly capitalist point o' view.

A woman friend from the group I go on vacation trips with recently produced a beautiful scrapbook of the past decade or so of vacational experiences. It is quite an artistic production and is far removed from the scrapbooks of my youth when they consisted of photos and birthday cards mounted with those black corner thingies that fell off after a year or two.

Triplogs in this blog are in some sense the text equivalent of scrapbooks and European vacation slides but a blog gives the opportunity to read or not to read. It's hard to stay awake through Aunt Betty's slides but you can accept her book or blog without a qualm. And perhaps even enjoy it.

Part of the beauty of books is the atoms-on-paper experience, the very materiality of it. Blogs are ephemeral and deservedly so. But we waste paper on photographs of the Eiffel Tower despite having access to more beautiful pictures taken by professionals, so why shouldn't we waste paper and leave behind a text equivalent? Don't answer that. *grin*

But scrapbooks and photos differ from writing, painting and music. My tendency to label leads me to distaste (including self-distaste) for amateurs in the arts. This was brought home when I learned that Regis Philbin has a CD out Regis Sings the Standards. (Wouldn't Regis Sings the Blues be funny?) He might be a fine singer, but I'd already boxed him in as, well, Regis. I saw a TV commercial advertising it and I kept thinking it a spoof. Shame on me.

posted by TSO @ 16:06

September 29, 2004

On the Feast of the Angels

I have a special devotion to my Guardian Angel. Probably like all children, during my childhood I would often pray: "Angel of God, my guardian, be always with me...always stand ready to help me, guard my soul and my body..." My Guardian Angel knows what I am doing. My faith in him, in his protective presence, continues to grow deeper and deeper. Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael - these are the archangels I frequently invoke during prayer.
- Pope John Paul II, Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way

posted by TSO @ 13:48

Voters Say

It's interesting to see what plays with voters and what doesn't. If many folks choose the lesser of two evils, then it's interesting to consider which evils are lesser, like in a game of rock-scissors-paper. Below are reputations - I'm not saying I agree with them, merely they suggest some conventional wisdom (winners in bold):

2004 Election
Man of conviction who lacks prudence VERSUS Flip-flopper with no core convictions

2000 Election
Liar, or at least fibber/exaggerator VERSUS Dumb Guy

1996 Election
Slick womanizer VERSUS Older Guy With No Plan for Future

1992 Election
Slick womanizer VERSUS Patrician Who Reneged on "No New Taxes" and offered no plan for the future

Perhaps the common thing is that voters frown on candidates who give off the odor of simply wanting to be President to tool around in Air Force One and to improve the ol' resume. Bush-43, Reagan & Clinton were all capable of giving off an altruistic scent. Bob Dole and Bush Sr. found that the noblesse oblige thing didn't cut it. The right and left want action. Taxes cut or "free" health care. No caretaker presidents, please. Caretakers appear, rightly or wrongly, to be in it for themselves because they lack a burning desire to improve things.

The reason Kerry is behind is not because he's an egregious flip-flopper but because the flip-flopping is a symptom of a larger problem: that he simply gives off this odor of "this is not about you, the voter, it's about me since I want to take advantage of a weakened president and live at 1600 Penn Ave...". At his convention the whole Vietnam thing didn't play well because it was all about him and not the voter. I think it was Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist, who said that people want to know what "you'll do for them". The role of government has morphed over the years to become a substitute mother to whom we look to for aid and comfort.

posted by TSO @ 10:35

Let's play...

Why is My Book Bag So Heavy?

I have book envy. I'm envious of Steven Riddle's latest reads: Tolstoy, Stinnisen, and Nicolson's God's Secretaries. Hopefully his meaty list will inspire improvement in my lackluster one, which most prominently includes Pete Rose's Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars. The ol' lefthander Joe Nuxhall has a book coming out so I'm backlogged with baseball books. But they be like cotton candy - oh so tasty.

Every five years I make it to the local mall (this time to rent a tux) and I came across a bookstore with the Pope's new Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way prominently displayed. I felt it incumbent to reward the bookseller for his good taste and so I purchased a copy and am enjoying it so far. Of course, the Pope could probably write about snail darters and I'd be transfixed.

Other books who have made the cut but haven't been read much lately are:

Jefferson Davis biography I've been reading in ten page increments for three years. We're finally at Fort Sumter.

The Great Means of Salvation by St. Alphonsus Ligouri

Bruno's Dream by Iris Murdoch

Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love by Thomas Keating

Stalin : The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore

posted by TSO @ 09:30


Today's saint is Lawrence Ruiz and I was struck by the juxtaposition of his story with the the first reading from today's Mass, from the Book of Job.

Understandably, Job is wearing down quickly now. All the natural props of wife and children and wealth have been taken away. He has nothing in the bank, literally and figuratively. He says, "Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?"

I read that passage shortly after finishing Theroux's "Dark Star Safari" in which the author paints an Africa that is hideous in its poverty, crime and filth. Some living there probably ask Job's question. Africans often pray for terrible natural disasters because that brings the attention of the West and more aid.

But then we have the cheerier story of St. Lawrence, who was tortured and killed. And I'm not being facetious. "St. Lawrence was a devoted husband and father of three children in the Philipines during the seventeenth century. After he was unjustly accused of murder, he fled with Christian missionaries to Japan where he was tortured for the faith and died professing: 'I shall die for God, and for him I would give many thousands of lives if I had them.'"

It's as if St. Lawrence has the new Wine of grace and Job had only the old wineskin of the Law (though the new wine was outside time; there are OT figures possessing it such as the young men thrown into the furnace). The early Christian martyrs, if the stories are not apocryphal or hagiographical (admittedly a big if) embrace their deaths seemingly without pain and certainly without complaint.

I suppose we should pray that we know the exhilaration of St. Lawrence in our infinitessimally smaller crosses.

posted by TSO @ 18:10

September 28, 2004

Why So Many on the British Left...

..."are prepared to make some sort of common cause with hardline Islam":

“We must always remember the Western radical intellectual’s wish to identify with the world’s rising and most frightening power. Coleridge spoke of Napoleon’s British admirers possessing a ‘prostration of the soul’. But British Napoleonists differed from British Stalinists, and were similar to today’s Muslamists in one respect. They did not want the foreign power to rule Britain. Byron said that Napoleon was his hero ‘on the Continent; I don’t want him here’. Those feminist columnists and academics — proclaiming Islam’s great past — do not want to have to go veiled in their native Camden Town or Islington. Their game is to use Islam to demoralise Western bourgeois life.” - Frank Johnson in the London Spectator

posted by TSO @ 13:48

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

"There are three influences which appear to Us to have the chief place in effecting this downgrade movement of society. These are-first, the distaste for a simple and labourious life; secondly, repugnance to suffering of any kind; thirdly, the forgetfulness of the future life." - Pope Leo XIII... Remedies: Dislike of Poverty - The Joyful Mysteries, Repugnance to Suffering-The Sorrowful Mysteries, Forgetfulness of the Future -The Glorious Mysteries - Mary of Ever New quoting Pope Leo's diagnosis & remedies

Our kids like to call my wife's womb Babytown, and each current occupant is given the title Mayor of Babytown. It's good, I think, that each new child is welcomed not as a competitor or burden, but as the exalted and honored leader of their native place. - Bill of Summa Minutiae

Tonight my husband and I debated whether one needs to wear pants while praying. My position: no. His position, "You don't have to wear pants, but it helps."- Zorak of E-Pression

God has made us for delight. One of the signs of this is summer. Another is children. Still another is fall...We'll be over on the Olympic peninsula and the weather is supposed to be beautiful: a crisp cool Indian summer tinged with Autumn just as as ripening apples burn from green to red. Upshot #1: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! - Mark Shea

The Pope regrets the war in Iraq. President Bush regrets it as well. However, where is there a statement from the Pope which condemns the United States for conducting an unjust war, or a statement even discussing the doctrine's application to the war? I'll stipulate that many Cardinals have condemned the United States. It's a difficult situation for a just war blogger because of the anti-war groupthink among Catholic bloggers that have concluded that because other anti-war Catholic bloggers discuss the war as if everyone knew the war was declared unjust. - Patrick of Extreme Catholic

I absolutely despise most magazines aimed at Christian Women. Especially the couple that I have seen aimed at Catholic Women....Every single woman writing in those magazines apparently has perfect children who say their prayers on cue. They live in immaculate houses. They spend time with their husbands praying and discussing their feelings. They bake bread from scratch, or grind their own wheat, or know the best kinds of non-white-sugar-sweetners that you can buy at the health food store. And they never, ever, EVER watch any of that nasty old television. In fact, they've taken their televisions out of their living rooms and have turned them into planters. Inadequate. Makes me feel completely inadequate. And not in a way that makes me want to "improve myself." The kind that makes me kick the magazine into the trash and watch Fear Factor on TV. I told a friend once that if I ever wrote an article for a Catholic magazine, it would have to start with these words: I live in a house covered in white dog hair. Catchy opening, huh? But at least maybe some other woman, struggling to make it through a day would nod and think, "Yeah. Me too." - MamaT of Summa Mamas

You know, in the past few days I've read a lot about how blogs are revolutionizing the media, or something like that. Apparently, we bloggers are forcing a seismic shift in the way 'big media' goes about it's business. I have to admit that I was, at first, skeptical of this claim. However, after writing this post, I see that I am indeed on the crest of a cultural tsunami. It feels great, if a little vertiginous, to participate in such a revolution. - Thomas of ER, written tongue-in-cheek within a post offering a recipe for eggs benedict

Kangaroo courts are killer courts, and their ultimate victim is civilization itself. Defend life! Defend Terri! In doing so, you are defending the noblest ideals of our once great nation. - Earl Appleby of Life Matters

Jeff Culbreath has been discussing Catholic Communities on his blog for a couple of weeks, where Catholic Families buy property and live together in a community. It sounds good in theory but I'm not sure I would want to live there. My sister and her family lived next door to me for a year or so and it was awful!! Not at all what I expected and instead of bringing us closer together, it drove a wedge between us. I like the alcoholic handyman that lives there now. We barely speak and we have nothing in common. It's perfect. About 15 years ago or so, there was a community in my town of very devout Catholics who sort of tried out this experiment. They moved into the same part of town, they went to the same church, they had meetings etc. But then it started to get kind of cultish. Leaders of the group, I am told, started to pressure people to live their lives in a certain way above and beyond the call of Catholicism. Like women were encouraged to wear skirts and dresses only. No slacks. The men were told to leave the diaper changing etc to the wives because they were the spiritual leaders not the childcare givers, arranged marriages within the group. Weird stuff like that. - Elena of My Domestic Church, who receives this week's 'honesty in blogging' award (MamaT a close runner-up)

The enlightened class obviously does not understand Catholic teachings about many things, nor does it wish to, and it gives itself license to trash those teachings. Ellen Goodman thinks the Vatican needs a hearing aid because the pope does not listen to her, not that she needs to listen. If consecrated virginity, or the required use of wheaten bread, were beliefs of a Native American tribe, the enlightened class would be very severe in cautioning us to respect precisely what we do not understand and to learn from it.... - James Hitchcock, via Donna Marie Lewis

Mr. Hudson's exemplary conduct in the face of a revelation that should have remained a private matter, has inspired me...We are all sinners. He owes me no apology. The persons deserving an apology long-ago received one--he owed me nothing except a visit to the confessional, which I will believe he did as a matter of course. -Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

I had a discussion with a friend about what books it is acceptable to read on the loo: we agreed that the Bible is out, but hagiography is okay on the whole. - berenike commenting on zorak's blog

I have a very difficult day facing me Tuesday, and again I ask for your prayers of support and friendship. You don't have to go out of your way, just do me the kindness of saying "...and for Chris" at the end as you offer your intentions to Our Lord prior to your regular prayers. I'm not sure what God has in mind with all this, but I am placing all my trust in His hands. - Chris of Maine Catholic's last post, written over five months ago

posted by TSO @ 09:28

New Yorker review of Graham Greene bio

I learned more about Graham Greene from this:

As he once explained to a journalist, “I have often tried in my work to show the mercy of God. You cannot show it by portraying only virtuous people; what good is mercy to the virtuous? It is in the drunken priests that you can see mercy working. And I call that optimism. But they call it Greeneland, as though it bore no relation to the real world. And yet, one is simply trying to describe the real world as accurately as one sees it.”...He once quoted a line of Browning as a suitable epigraph for all his novels: “Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things. / The honest thief, the tender murderer, / The superstitious atheist.”

...his failings as a Christian were his virtues as a novelist, because the novelist’s dedication is to humanity, not divinity. If man truly is made in God’s image, then the distance between the two poles may not be as great as Greene thought.
This reminded me of a letter Chesterton wrote to his friend the atheist H.G. Wells. Wells said if there is a God he hoped Chesterton could get him in to Heaven. Chesterton said that if Wells got there it would be on the literary/humanitarian contributions he'd made to mankind. I always thought that was surpassingly generous of Chesterton. (Link via Amy Welborn.)

posted by TSO @ 07:16

It's extremely unlikely that we have too great a detachment from this world, but here is Pope Leo XIII's refutation of that:

Our future hope is not of a kind which so monopolizes the minds of men as to withdraw their attention from the interests of this life. Christ commands us, it is true, to seek the Kingdom of God, and in the first place, but not in such a manner as to neglect all things else. For, the use of the goods of the present life, and the righteous enjoyment which they furnish, may serve both to strengthen virtue and to reward it. The splendour and beauty of our earthly habitation, by which human society is ennobled, may mirror the splendour and beauty of our dwelling which is above. Therein we see nothing that is not worthy of the reason of man and of the wisdom of God. For the same God who is the Author of Nature is the Author of Grace, and He willed not that one should collide or conflict with the other, but that they should act in friendly alliance, so that under the leadership of both we may the more easily arrive at that immortal happiness for which we mortal men were created.
Source here (Link via Mary @ Evernew.)

posted by TSO @ 07:13

William F. Buckley on Hurricane Charley & Faith

So how explain devotion to a God who permitted Charley? Over 70 years ago, two thoughtful British intellectuals exchanged views on basic Christian questions. One of them, Ronald Knox, was a Catholic priest, a convert, who would soon embark on a retranslation of the entire Bible. The second, Arnold Lunn, was an adventurer, a mountaineer, a philosopher who was seeking his way to Christianity through the rubble of Christian history. The published exchange — Knox the learned evangelist, Lunn the obdurate skeptic — threatened at one point to abort. "I think the point of our difference may be expressed thus," said Knox. "You will not go with me to worship a God who is limited by nothing outside Himself, because you do not think that He exists. And I will not go with you to worship a God who is limited by anything outside Himself, because I do not care a rap whether He exists or not."

Knox was saying: If you are preparing to worship a God who doesn't have the authority to tame a hurricane, your God is not grand enough for me to venerate. A few years after their famous exchange, Lunn inscribed himself as a Christian.

What the Christian cannot do is adduce a reason for everything that happens. A rabbi told me many years ago that after he discovered the Holocaust, he gave up his religion. A God who permits the Holocaust to happen is not a God that rabbi wished to worship.

There was no answer to the rabbi, unless one is bent on composing a ledger that ends up with God doing more good things than bad. Fr. George Tyrrell wrote early in the 20th century that human beings could not be expected to love God, but rather to aspire to love him. To love the God who devised Charley would require the discovery of an intersection between what Charley has done, and the blessings it would some day be conceded to have brought on.

That is too big a job for most Christians to take on. The best a Christian can do is to take refuge in what we have called the Butler Escape. Bishop Joseph Butler, 18th-century theologian, conceded that "the world would be different if I had created it." Yes, in the world you and I would have created, we'd have done without all those things, hurricanes and holocausts and hate and envy and spite and . . . gratitude?

posted by TSO @ 13:37

September 27, 2004

Brookhiser on Alexander Hamilton:

Russell Kirk's grudging account of Hamilton in The Conservative Mind set the tone for conservative minds. Kirk saw Hamilton as a sorcerer's apprentice, who, by encouraging the growth of manufacturing and cities, uncorked the genies of mass politics and change. Kirk also, inconsistently, thought Hamilton was a 17th-century mercantilist. Libertarians suspect Hamilton as the big-government man among the founders. Free traders dislike him as a patron of protection — a mild patron: He supported subsidies for new industries only, which is anathema to pure free trade, but a long way from Bismarck. What militates most against Hamilton is the cult of Jefferson, the anti-statist southern agrarian, for it was Jefferson who said that Hamilton's career had been "a tissue of machinations against the liberty of the country."

Some of this criticism is true; anyone in search of a perfect father among the founders (or in life) will be disappointed. But why does Hamilton deserve a second look? One large, though seldom acknowledged, factor in the great game of historical favorites is personality. One must know Jefferson and James Madison well to dislike them, but dislike them one inevitably does (wisdom comes when we recover our admiration)...Three aspects of Hamilton's career claim the attention of conservatives.

First is what put him in George Washington's cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury — his understanding of debt and finance. America emerged from its revolution encumbered by a load of debt, unable even to make the interest payments.

A second subject Hamilton understood was the world. He knew it was a dangerous place, and that the United States would have to back diplomacy with military might. Hamilton's experience of the Revolution underlay this insight. Many of the great founders — Adams, Jefferson, Madison, the aged Franklin — served as political leaders or diplomats. Hamilton fought.

A third Hamilton trait that claims our attention is his legal thinking; Hamilton's day job, when he was not fighting or running the Treasury, was lawyering. John Marshall, the great Chief Justice, is the father of judicial review. But Marshall said that, next to Hamilton, he felt like a candle by the sun at noon. Hamilton is the grandfather of judicial review.

posted by TSO @ 13:12

Attack of the Killer Yard Signs

Ever since Tim Russert said "Ohio, Ohio, Ohio" on his little show Ohioans have taken their role in the '04 election with great seriousness.

This has most obviously shown itself by a superabundance of yard signs and bumper stickers. Kerry & Edwards have the most, presumably because much of the Left thinks the world can be saved through politics instead of through Christ. But all the Kerry signs and bumperstickers have created a bit of a backlash and I see more Bush signs now than a month ago.

It's a bit of theater of absurd, isn't it? Yard signs don't convey convincing argumentation, so it's an act of faith that someone is actually swayed by one. Let's listen in on one swing voter's thoughts: "Well, now since there are 3.2 Kerry signs for every 2 Bush signs I'm going to have to go with Kerry".

I understand that humans are pack animals and that everyone wants to be on the winning sign side, so I guess that 'splains it.

posted by TSO @ 13:09

The Wedding

Went to the Big Wedding this weekend, my stepson’s grand affair. Weddings are inspiring, the triumph of hope over experience, and the vows said by the bride & groom remind all married couples that they said similar things even if they don’t remember them due to numbness and nervousness.

An hour before the wedding I was talking to a friend of my wife’s parents. I recalled meeting “Ted” a few years ago; he was an opinionated retiree who spent his days pleasantly in Orlando watching the History channel. He knows more about Hitler than anyone and recommended a book on the WWII & the Holocaust he is currently reading. My father-in-law said he was anti-Bush, so I thought I’d ask why. Now we know that could only lead to trouble but politics looms o’er the landscape like a Ty Rex. And I had magnaminously decided that good reasons for voting against Bush were the war and jobs, so I didn’t think he’d say anything that could provoke irritation. Wrong.

Turns out a year or two ago he saw an IQ test among presidents and Bush finished last. Clinton was numero uno and Carter number 2. Hence, he became a Democrat. Now I could've just said Hitler had a high IQ too but good lines elude me in the moment. Instead I said that that was false, just an internet ruse. He didn’t believe me of course. I said, “I sure hope you’re not voting if that’s the source of your information” or words to that effect. As the narrator in Elinor Rigby said, no one was saved.

It's too easy for me to look down on him, just as it would be easy for St. Francis to look down on me given the spiritual chasm between us. We don't know what we don't know, so I too could be tusting something not true or missing something key. All voting is necessarily flawed because all information is never available. The amazing thing about voting is that it ever produces good results. But it does. Lincoln. Roosevelt. Reagan.

But I digress. Then came the fine ceremony and the kids got hitched. He sports a new ring and she a new ring and name. It’s odd to think how powerful a symbol the simple ring is: his left hand changed reflecting the change in status, two becoming one.

The groomsmen were a tough-looking bunch who could’ve doubled as a lineup for America’s Most Wanted but the bridesmaids were impossibly beautiful, fresh-faced, with bodies contrite before the physics of physical attraction. It was nice that afterwards my wife could talk openly of the beauty of bridesmaids. I'll never forget years ago the first time she casually mentioned what great breasts some woman had. Put me on the spot!

My tendency is to shy from the topic since I always think I'm not supposed to notice anyone but her. But we freely discussed who looked good, who was showing too much cleavage, who had the best hairstyle etc. Sometimes I can be such a sensitive male ya know?

posted by TSO @ 07:56

Good Sermon

Our pastor had interesting things to say about the gospel reading today from Luke 16:19-31. The story is that of the rich man who feasted sumptuously and gave nothing to the poor man Lazarus. He noted that the rich man still didn't "get it" after they'd both died; the rich man still thought that the poor man was there to serve him (i.e. by asking that Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool his tongue). The rich man showed a bit of compassion by remembering his brothers, but his suggestion that someone be sent from the dead to warn them showed that he still didn't get it.

Our pastor asked, "what is the rich man's problem?" and my thought was humility. But the answer was that the rich man was never able to live outside the present moment. He was never able to grasp that the present moment has future consequences. Ouch.

The homily continued: "Our culture is so deeply saturated with the idea of getting everything out of the present moment that we all have one foot in it. Our presence at Mass at least gives a glimmer of hope that we're not completely compromised and that the other foot seeks the higher."

posted by TSO @ 13:39

September 26, 2004


From "A Splendor of Letters" by Nicholas Basbanes:

A walk through the stacks of any large library gives off an aroma that for many bibliophiles is akin to sipping nectar with the gods on Mount Olympus. "It is an intoxicating fragrace, I quite agree," Kenneth E. Carpetner said one morning while escorting me through Widener Library..."But what you smell is decaying paper."

posted by TSO @ 09:20

September 25, 2004


I'm reading a book written in 1952 and one can only marvel at the specificity of instruction pre-Vatican II Catholics must've received regarding what is sinful. Sin is a decision of the will and can't be inadvertent, but the level of consent seems to vary much.

Here's an excerpt from Francis Ripley's "This is the Faith", written in '52, concerning sexual impuritites:

There is mortal sin when what a person does is something which of its very nature is apt to excite sexual pleasure, and at the same time the person has no serious reason for so acting [i.e. outside the lawful use in marriage]...For example, to look closely and for a time at one's own or another's nakedness, to let one's thoughts dwell on impure matters, to handle (not as a passing act) oneself or another indecently, to look fixedly at obscene pictures or to read obscene literature would be mortal sins.

There is venial sin when what we do is something which of its nature is not likely to produce sexual pleasure, even if at the same time we act out of no good motive, but merely, e.g. out of levity, imprudence, curiosity, bravado, vanity or the like. For example, deliberate but only passing glances at a naked body, a passing glance at immodest pictures, reading unsavory paragraphs in a newspaper out of curiosity, touching oneself deliberately but only lightly or in a passing way, deliberately entertaining for a moment an immodest (not an impure) thought - these would be venial sins.

There is no sin at all when what we do is quite innocent or decent in itself, or even if it is something which of its very nature is very likely to arouse sexual pleasure, provided that we have an adequate and just reason for doing it and there is no real danger of our consenting to the pleasure aroused...The following stages in temptation should be distinguished; we can compare them to someone at the door:
1) Temptation to sexual pleasure - the knock at the door
2) Feeling the pleasure - the mind goes out to see who is there;
3) Taking the pleasure - "I want you; come in."

posted by TSO @ 09:16

September 24, 2004

Oktoberfest ins Deutschland!


Thanks to Old Oligarch for the heads up.

posted by TSO @ 16:09

September 23, 2004

Olde Time

I look up at a full canvas of sky, an uninterrupted, unfragmented sky that fills my whole field of vision. I can go days, weeks, without seeing a panoramic view. My focus is fragmented; the small screen of a computer or TV, a book, a person, a meal, or the car in front of me. We are so removed from nature. For millennia our ancestors could name the most obscure stars while I have trouble identifying the Big Dipper. A hundred years ago my relatives could close their eyes and identify the type of tree – maple, oak, elm, etc.. - just by the sound the wind made in blowing through it! It is a loss, though we know it not.

We've also lost our ancestor's mental rewards from exercise. I recall when I was younger getting home from preternaturally exhausting workouts, slumping into an exquisitely comfortable bed which Solomon in all his wealth couldn’t have constructed more comfortably because this repose was won by dint of pure muscle-dying, by forcing the majority of one’s major muscles to failure and wounding cells so that they would rebuild and multiply and create stronger ones.

posted by TSO @ 13:33

Love of God

Excerpt of sermon notes of John Henry Newman, via Donna Lewis:

Nature tells us we should love God. Nay, a natural inclination and leaning to the love of God. Still, it never will lead us to love. It fails for want of strength, and the feeling comes to nothing and dwindles, as a tree of the south planted in the north. Grace essential...

[Men] begin with self-indulgence and self-gratification. Here is something which is not love, yet acts as love does.

Perhaps ambition, martial spirit. This possesses them—this not love.

Love of home: [a man is] a good father, a good son, [devotes himself to such duty with] concentration of mind —this not love.

Love of consistency, character; self his centre—this not love.

Ease and comfort in old age—this not love.

How are we to gain love? By reading of our Lord in the Gospels.

posted by TSO @ 12:38


...BeliefNet's best spiritual blogs tells us more about the author of the story than which blogs are the best spiritual ones. You might say "how could it be otherwise?" and I wouldn't have a ready reply.

In the first place the article didn't mention any truly spiritual blogs, so far as I could tell. Tom Kreitzberg and Steven Riddle are just two of many with a real spiritual bent. (Posts about church discipline, for example, are more political than spiritual. Have you been spiritually enriched by the discussion on whether John Kerry should receive Communion?)

Second, it's odd that Mark Shea didn't get listed at all and Amy received mention only as an aside. Of the blogs listed, Amy's is the only one I would recommend. It might be part of my bias to see bias, but I sense it here. Kathy Shaidle is a bomb-thrower. I like her, but she's the Ann Coulter of religious blogdom. They weren't doing conservatives any favor by highlighting her.

The beauty of blogs is the democracy of it: the lack of biased supervision in the form of the Dan Rather's of the world. When bigger media outlets don't ignore blogs, they use their large audience to list those amenable to their viewpoint, or so radical as to turn off everyone outside the choir. I know we all try to exercise influence. But I like that blogs operate in a completely free market. Don't let non-blogging elites try to influence the market by telling you which blogs are best. As Dan would say, "that dog won't hunt".

posted by TSO @ 11:06


I've been meaning for some time to link to this poem on tolerance via Donna Marie Lewis.

Also, marvelous post from Bob. I can much relate, especially concerning post-convention irrational exuberance. I'll also be going on a retreat, two weeks hence.

posted by TSO @ 09:32

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

"How important it is to avoid being upset by the trials and troubles of this life, for these things always tend to contract the heart rather than opening it up to trust God.

The Spirit of God is a spirit of peace. Even in the most serious faults he makes us feel a sorrow that is tranquil, humble, confident and this is precisely because of his mercy.

The spirt of the devil, instead, excites, exasperates, and makes us feel, in that very sorrow, anger against ourselves, whereas we should on the contrary be charitable with ourselves first and foremost.

Therefore if any thought agitates you, this agitation never comes from God, who gives you peace, being the Spirit of Peace, but from the devil." - St. Pio
It's difficult to think of a recent Catholic saint who didn't have a strong attachment to Our Lady and Padre Pio was no exception. His last word on earth was "Maria". He urged us to say the rosary, calling it a great bulwark against evil. St. Pio, pray for us.

posted by TSO @ 07:47

VS Naipaul...

...says this concerning multiculturalism: 'A man can't say, "I want the country, I want the laws and protection, but I want to live in my own way." It's become a kind of racket, this multiculturalism.'

Isn't that similar to cafeteria Catholicism? 'I want to be Catholic, I want its protection, but I want to live my own way?'

posted by TSO @ 16:20

September 22, 2004

Poem Written While Drinking a Guinness

Tis a single Pint
the way to do it
a poem in a pint
a pint in a poem
a hedge-school of liquorish stout.

A Guinness 40% full
(tis sober to notice?)
A swig big
25% left
my own hourglass.

Guinness smells of irony
of dried blood
cool & detached
smooth as Bond.

Now a tenth left,
like the tithing of skin that meets in coupling.


My pint-glass
wears no collar
he's transparent
I bury him
in the swim
of the dishwasher
where all good dishes go.

* - period is there because in the olde days they put periods behind titles.

posted by TSO @ 15:17

Letters, We Get Letters, We Get Lots & Lots Of ...

As Smock said recently, sometimes you need a break from over-seriousity (I'm paraphrasing though she'd have said it sans capital letters).

First, a preliminary aside before featuring reader email. Proof that even in suburbia having your eyes open can occasionally bear fruit: I'm at the carry-out window at Frisch's Big Boy Restaurant and there's a fellow in his late 20s, early 30s wearing a t-shirt with the words "Front of T-Shirt" emblazoned on, uh, the front. Helpful on those hard-to-wake-up mornings. He was taking a photograph of his mother hugging the large plasticine Big Boy while his father grinned nearby. The phrase "they don't get out much, do they?" came to mind.

On to more serious matters. Every once in awhile I do a reader email column but since this requires actual, real live reader emails you can understand the infrequency. Worse, I have an annoying email policy, to wit: "all emails can and will be used against you in a court of law but not on my blog without permission". I'm too lazy to email the former blogger formerly known as Davey's Mommy in order to ask her if it's okay to use hers, but everyone else I will assume permission since I knows they won't mind.

From Bill Luse, concerning the final Spanning the Globe entry:

"...via blog I forgot to note." That's hysterical.

My reply: Yeah the old STG ended with a whimper instead of a bang, proof that this is a human operation ...I figured the owner would come forward if they read my blog, but come to think of it they probably just think it lame I didn't remember them.

His reply: :~) maybe he/she is a Christian and will forgive you.

From Lee Ann Morawski of Literarium fame:

You'll be happy to know I've weathered the storm, no worse for wear. I never even lost power. I did enjoy the Hurricane. Turns out drinking beer and watching the rain is one of my favorite things.

Another from Bill Luse:

"...stretch like cats in semi-somulent moments...?" New one on me. Somnolent, perhaps?

My reply: Nice catch. I must've been sleeping. sent me a warm email confirming purchase of a book.

Remember ol' Gregg the Obscure? He provided the encouragement I need to start keeping up with my elders (see post below titled "Falling Behind Our Elders").

Me to Bill Luse:

It's taking all my strength of will not to insert an adolescent comment on Elena's blog referring to her line: "As a woman I wonder why so many men think with that small organ between their legs instead of the much more intricate and well developed one between their ears!" I want to say, "hey, hey, it's NOT small!"

His reply: You're not the only one who was tempted. I may yet yield.

[Editor's note: He did yield.]

A reader named George Muonek, who I was previously unfamiliar with, sent me the following startling email:

As you read this, I don't want you feeling sorry for me, because, I believe we will all die someday. My name is GEORGE MUONEK, a Merchant living in Abijan, Ivory Coast. I have been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer, which was discovered very late, due to my laxity in caring for my health. It has defiled all forms of medicine,and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts. I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I never really cared for anyone not even myself but my business. Though I am very rich, I was never generous, I fought against the abolition of apartheid and l was a member of the Herstigte Nasionale Party-HNP always hostile to people especially Blacks and l only focused on my business and the dominance of the white supremacy as that was the only thing I cared for. But now I regret all this, as I now know that there is more to life than just wanting to have or make all the money in the world.... So far, I have distributed money to some charity organizations e.g. the National Union of Ivory Coast Students (NUIVS) in Ivory Coast, Romania and Afghanistan. Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, I cannot do this my self anymore...The last of my money, which l had kept aside during the dark days of Apartheid no one knows of, is a cash deposit of Sixty Four Million United States Dollars(US$64,000,000.00)...I will want you to help me collect this....
Note: Today's reader email column was inspired by this.

posted by TSO @ 14:25

Quotes found here while looking for something else:

But if providence ultimately determines the degree and variety of spiritual vitality, our cooperation with graces offered is also a large determining factor. The supernatural life is capable of increase and depth, depending on the frequency and fervor with which the sacraments are received, on devotion to prayer and, in fact, on the whole gamut of good works performed, which merit growth in sanctifying grace and advancement in the soul's nearness to God.

It was not a passing remark when the Council of Trent described justification as a "renovation of the interior man through the voluntary reception of grace," since our free wills have much to do with setting limits to divine generosity. St. Francis de Sales observed that in the measure to which we divest ourselves of self-love, so that our heart does not refuse consent to the divine mercy, God "ever pours forth and ceaselessly spreads his sacred inspirations, which ever increase and make us increase more and more in heavenly love." He then asks how it happens that we are not so advanced in the love of God as some of the saints: "It is because God has not given us the grace. But why has he not given us the grace? Because we did not correspond with his inspirations as we should have. And why did we not correspond? Because being free we have herein abused our liberty."

It is here that Francis de Sales' contribution to Catholic life and piety has been so great. He foresaw, with the gradual urbanization that tends to alienate individuals and fragment their families, the need for each believer's personal decision to put some definable form into his service of God while living in the amorphous civilization of modern society....After recalling such figures as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Sarah,Rebecca, and Judith in the Old Testament, and the numerous lay persons mentioned by St. Paul, Francis de Sales concludes, "It has even happened that some have prospered among the multitude, which seems so unfavorable to holiness, better than in solitude." The secret is to do God's will, since "wherever we are, we can and should aspire to a life of perfection."

posted by TSO @ 13:59

Free Deal Hudson!

The level of vitriol some aim at Deal Hudson in Amy's comment boxes surprises me. Righteous anger directed towards bishops who passed around pedophile priests made sense but this seems pure overkill. Hudson is unelected to public office and holds no position of authority in the Church. Most Catholics haven't even heard of Crisis.

I think it shows that once you start shunning it's very hard to stop since the desire for purity in others is insatiable. I must be missing something important, but if not I expect some to call for all public Catholic bloggers who have had pre-marital sex retire their blogs.

O father Abram, what these Christians are,
Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect
the thoughts of others!

- Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

posted by TSO @ 13:40


Haitians endure not only unbelievable penury but now this. It's strange when I think I was just thirty-five miles away from Gonaives earlier this year. But we are geographically fortunate. As Pearl Jam sang:

He won the lottery when he was born
took his mothers white breast to his tongue...
big hand slapped a white male 'merican...
From Psalm 30:
"Two things I ask of you, O LORD ;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD?'.

posted by TSO @ 11:22

Optimism is Hip..

...pessimism not, sayeth a new book. I'm pessimistic on how long this will last.

posted by TSO @ 15:49

September 21, 2004

The Decline of Newspapers

Interesting link concerning fish wrap:

It used to be that newspapers were the principal disseminators of news. In all major cities, there were at least two newspapers — one or more in the morning and at least one in the afternoon. This created competition for ideas as well as readers.

In any town with two or more papers, one paper would tend to be liberal and another one conservative for purely competitive reasons. In practice, this usually meant that the major paper (usually the morning paper) was liberal and the secondary paper (usually the afternoon paper) was conservative.

Changing work schedules, rush hour traffic, and the advent of evening television news broadcasts killed the afternoon paper. I don’t know of a single one left in the country. Unfortunately, this tended to kill off the conservative paper in most markets.

Sadly, the achievement of one-paper status has tended to neuter the political edges of every paper that has achieved it. These papers, once proudly liberal or conservative, are now mostly mushy centrists. All their editorials seem to be of the “on the one hand, but on the other hand” variety with no firm conclusions. One wonders why they even bother publishing editorials at all.

posted by TSO @ 14:06

From Michael Hanby in Communio via Thomas of ER:

It is difficult to imagine that a culture which does not know how to feast or how to pray, which makes no distinction between hours of the day or the days of the week, and has forgotten how to mark the passage of time with seasons of celebration and solemnity, will be capable of great art, music or craftsmanship or that it will be able to sustain marriage, rear children, or fulfill the natural obligation between generations in caring for the sick and the dying...

By the "intergenerational obligation" I do not mean charity in its modern form of abstract benevolence, or even the welfare state, laudable as this might be, each of which has contributed to the creation of industries that allow both the old and the young to exist largely out of societal view, under the care of strangers. Rather I mean a form of obligation, socially embodied, that instantiates the obligations of friendship.

posted by TSO @ 13:43

Matthew's Day

The call of St. Matthew is a nice antidote to our tendency towards rationalism, which has already eroded belief in the Real Presence. (Though when one sees a crucifix, and how God bound himself to a body and to a cross, it isn't hard to imagine him binding himself to bread.)

In today's account Jesus says only "Follow me". The reflex reaction is to think something was omitted in the gospel story, that more words were said. One can imagine Jesus persuading Matthew to follow him using beautiful arguments, just as the twelve-year old Christ wooed the scholars in the temple.

But what better way to illustrate that God can not only tame the winds and raise the dead but change our thoughts and actions? It is a miracle account. It's an exercise of God's supernatural gifts of faith, hope and love rather than the natural gifts of intelligence and wit and charisma. Of course the trick is to not disdain and fail to use the natural gifts we've received. Such as sneakiness. Is that a gift? For example, if your corporation is into Diversity (capitalized since it is carries quasi-religious status in many companies) then it might be celebrating Hispanic Heritage month with display booths & arts & crafts. Use your sneakiness gift to slip a stack of Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer cards on a display booth and thus add a bit more diversity. For to celebrate Hispanic heritage with beads and music and information booths while ignoring the soul of their culture makes a farce of the whole educational experience.

posted by TSO @ 13:10

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I'm still catching up on the blogs, and am not making much progress (thanks, Dan! And...oh, yeah...courage!) Amy Welborn

Stop Reading my Blog - title of post from Jeff of ECR - shades of Abbie Hoffman's 'steal this book'

There are times when I become resigned to the ugliness of rap thudding down the street, to bleak concrete buildings, to crudeness of imagination and stinginess in ceremony. I become embarassed at expecting anything better. And then this beautiful polyphony, so generous, so full of richness and dignity. It cheered me to think that this music wasn't outmoded by the passage of time, that it wasn't denied even to deracinated moderns like myself. It seemed to say to us, "You are not doomed to be children of your age. You are not estranged from your ancestors. You are one with your fellow Christians throughout time. Your lives have the same eternal significance, the same weight. The world is more wonderful and dangerous than you know, and God is greater than all of it." Oh, we say we believe all that, but the music makes you feel it in your bones. - Meredith of Basia Me

What I think it most troubling, with only 2.1 or 2.3 children per family, just about half the kids have no experience of having both a brother and a sister. Half the boys can't really understand the words of the lover in the Song of Songs, "My sister, my bride," and the other half have no access to what it means to care for "the least of my brothers" literally, and thus less analogically. The sister thing alone is perilous. How much less will a young man value chastity when he has no sister! - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

[W]hat is the impact on us of this whole "find a story that means something to you" business? Does it motivate us to do anything? Of course not. Our tradition shows that the bulk of ministry to the suffering in our history has been done by people who knew Jesus as a real person, not as a character in a narrative, listened to him, and followed him as disciples because they believed what he said was true...what you do for do for me. This is why it matters. If I read a novel, it might inspire me on some level. If I identify with a fictional character, that might enrich my consciousness and my choices slightly. But it's only when I meet a person...a real person..and heed his voice, am strengthened by reality, not just in my imagination, that life turns from a game into something important. DVC embodies the opposite recreate life constantly in our own image, to weave stories today that can be abandoned tomorrow if they fail to resonate. That's why it matters. That's why it's worth talking about. - Amy Welborn

We accept and embrace our crosses and offer up our sufferings as a gift, as a sacrificial offering. Elsewise we are bound to them resisting and unwilling,and we are crushed and broken by them. Not having a cross is not one of the options. - Karen of Anchor Hold

I paid a visit to Dawn Eden's blog, scrolled down, and discovered that Tuesday was Frau Margaret Sanger's birthday. What does one do to commemorate a woman who, literally, wanted nothing? - Thomas of ER

If there is an epitaph for your generation, it will be: They died with their options open. - Dean Harold Koh, Yale Law School (via Mark of Cowpi)

I don't think God loves suffering though. I think God could never bear to cause one of His children to suffer and that is why He took suffering upon Himself for love of us. - Isabel on Parish Hall

Magazines have to work at getting readers, and not just small religious magazines. I read somewhere that Penthouse magazine was going under and Playboy’s readership declining, and I would have thought that the lust-ridden moron readership would have kept them in clover. (My sincere apologies to those of you who read the magazine for the articles.) We publish as a ministry, but ministries need money to survive. (If we just liked publishing magazines, we’d publish something like The Christian Man, with articles like “Burning With Passion: Why St. Paul would want you to take viagra” and “Golf Tips from Galatians” and “Lazarus’ lessons for retirement planning,” and make money on it.) - David Mills, Touchstone blog

Lyin' in Dan's den. - Dan Ratherian pun from Terrence Berres

Reform of the Church almost always comes about from teenagers. - Athanasius of Summa Contra Mundum

Bread for myself is a material question; but bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one. -Jacques Maritain, via Summa Mamas

I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? - C.S. Lewis, Till we Have Faces, via blog I forgot to note

posted by TSO @ 09:09

Divine Grace

By Fr. Tadros Malaty, St. George's Coptic Church

It is not strange that Dr. James Dobson in his broad-spread cassette messages and books concerning adolescence, starts by dealing with the following problem: Why do American young people feel inferior? He gives three elements that many of the teenagers think they lack: physical attractiveness, intelligence and money. He clarifies that in many cases they do lack these elements, or some of them, but it is just that feeling which destroys a teenager's life.

In fact it is not the problem of American young people alone, or young people of other countries, but rather it is the problem of mankind as a whole through all ages. They feel inferior, for they are involved in matters outside their inner life. God, Who alone is able to fill our hearts eternally, declares His desire in dwelling within us, so that we may attain Him as ours, destroying the spoiling feeling of inferiority. This is the grace of God as God's Self-Giving to man.

posted by TSO @ 13:48

September 20, 2004

Voyeuristic Moments

One of my guilty pleasures is watching C-Span when they mike an author at a book party. Seems tacky to agree to the fantastic invasion of privacy, but then most of the party-goers are used to television cameras and the author wants to sell books. So last night I spent time inside Maureen Dowd's house, hyp-mo-tized by the hit parade of the power types. There was Russert, winning the Profuse Sweating Award, with Christopher Buckley a close second. Apparently they don't have A/C in D.C.

Maureen is someone I can't help liking despite representing everything I find evil or distasteful. It's ironic that someone so shy & seemingly vulnerable is so murderous and unfeeling with the pen.

It was also an instructional video on how to mingle. "You came!" she would exclaim. Her brothers, God bless 'em, reminded me of the Amish among the city kids. Culture clash.

Speaking of culture clash, I was surprised Cal Thomas was there. He looked wallflowerish, but then how much does he have in common with those lefty D.C. types?

I'm glad I wasn't the only blogger watching it.

posted by TSO @ 13:45

Bill Luse's Grand Adventure

I had a feeling this was going to be good. I read the first paragraph and thought: "Like, I can so totally relate!". I don't normally think in Val-speak so here's hoping that's temporary.

I printed it off, the better to savor it, and the phrase "now how the hell 'em I gonna overdub something like that?" came to mind after finishing it, which was what George Jones said after a duet by Alan Jackson. In other words, how can I span-the-globe it? It's best in its entirety.

His response to the old gentleman was the big pay-off, something I could never have said. I'd have probably said, "well, you can't know what you don't know, and if Hussien had used WMDs Bush would've caught the shrapnel since it wasn't like he could plead ignorance. Not like Bush didn't have enough advance warning, what with twelve years of flouted U.N. resolutions."

But that would've made for a weaker story. Bill has a flair for the dramatic.

I can relate to his reluctance to be more sociable. Bill was talking about neighbors and not friends but his post reminded me of a column by Fr. John McCloskey on friendship and how the average American male's only friend is his wife. And I recall thinking, "Cool! if Bone moves I won't be the only one!" followed by "what's wrong with that? Has he met the average American male?". (Just a joke.) Fortunately Bone is quite literally a godsend, though he constantly threatens to move out to the Arizona desert and live in a trailer. Three hundred days of sun a year out there I hear.

Bone's idea is that we all move in together in a sort of Christian commune. Expenses could be slashed requiring only one income-earner for the two households. We agreed my wife would be the one, though I haven't mentioned this to her just yet...

posted by TSO @ 10:03

Less Sex by Volume

Ham of Bone and I were discussing how R-rated movies from the '70s and '80s were much worse, nudity-wise, than most of today's R-rateds. And when I picked up an old Phillip Roth novel for a buck at a book sale I found out later it was literary pornography - unlike his more recent The Human Stain. This is also true of John Updike, whose earlier novels had a lot more gratuitous sex in them than his later ones. It's as if the elite authors and film-makers have "grown up" with respect to sex.

posted by TSO @ 09:25

Pun with Dan Rather

At last, someone has made a pun with Mr. Rather's first name. Terrence Berres offers "Lyin' in Dan's den."


posted by TSO @ 07:32


Bono seems by far the most decent and credible of the left-leaning celebs. He made some excellent points in this recent exchange with Bill O'Reilly::

O'REILLY: Let's talk about AIDS, because this is a very controversial topic within the United States itself. Now, we've got the epidemic under control here, primarily by education and frightening people into safe sex and all of that. In Africa, the education is almost nil. And that there's a tradition of men, as you know, not having sex protected, because of some kind of macho thing involved in it. Now, Americans are going to say, I don't want my tax dollars going over to a civilization or a society that no matter what you tell them, they're going to continue to do disruptive practices. How do you answer that?

BONO: Look, if you see a car crash, somebody's lying there in the middle of the road bleeding and it turns out they're a drunk driver, you're still going to call an ambulance. We can't make these judgments about entire civilizations. We try to re-educate people, we try to deal with the problem...

O'REILLY: Now what do you want America to do?

BONO: Get the message because these are great advertisements for America products. For your technology, your ingenuity. Imagine China, when Europe was going through the Bubonic Plague and lost -- 1/3 of Europe died in the Middle Ages to the Black Death. Imagine, say, China had a treatment for the Black Death and hadn't because it was difficult or expensive. What would we think of China now?

O'REILLY: You want American drug companies then to send to Africa all the drugs they can possibly...

BONO: I'm not asking drug companies to behave like philanthropists. I'm saying we, our governments, United States and Europe, have to deal with this problem. If we don't, we will reap a very ill wind. This is -- it's not just being bleeding hearts here. The strategic implications. There's 10 million AIDS orphans in Africa right now. There will be 20 by the end of the decade. 12 right now. This is chaos.

posted by TSO @ 13:36

September 19, 2004

Good Godspy article on suburbia, via El Camino Real.

posted by TSO @ 08:01

From Our Diocesan Newspaper...

...came this interesting tidbit:

The subject of a sermon by a priest in my parish had to do with the practice of Catholicism. His advice to the congregation was, "Do not try to be more of a Catholic than is required of you. Catholicism is the hardest religion to live by, but the easiest to die by." That sermon was more than 50 years ago and I have never forgotten it.
- Mary Santanich
When I think of the good thief and the rich young man in the gospel accounts, it does seem that Catholicism, mirroring the gospels, is the hardest to live and the easiest to die by doesn't it?

posted by TSO @ 20:22

September 18, 2004

A Picture of Ireland

Precious little feels as poignant as the shot I took of the little thatch-hut in some forsaken place in rural west Ireland. I gaze now in complete amazement that I was ever there. It contains the magic of a jig or reel, the reassuring recycling of a variation on a tune, the lustrous green door bespotted with dirt so artistically arranged! There is the perfect white of the house, the touching unevenness of the bottom of the door frame possible in a climate where the temperature never deigns descend below 30 Fahrenheit. There is the Gilligan's Island shag of a roof, sensuous and wavy. The window forms a redeeming cross with a charming a-kilter ledge, at once too long and unlevel.

Beside the dirt yard there are plenteous bushes, one rising nearly one and a half times the height of the house. It is art, this picture, and that it really exists an ocean away is a phenom to me even now. I wonder how this 1996 image appears in its current evocation, unfrozen and alive to change. A farm house in a distant locale, I joy in the fact that the owner is blissfully unaware that at this moment in time an American gazes intently at his home and finds great sustenance!

similar, but all different

posted by TSO @ 01:02

The 5-Miler

The annual test of bravery and courage occurred today: the five-mile-race. I’m vaguely discombobulated that Ham of Bone has begged out; his fifteen minutes of running fade eroded in the half-light of a heifer-beer. Pain certainly loves company. But we all die alone and we all run alone. Five consecutive torturous miles, the pluperfect physics test: how fast can one lug 200+ lbs for five miles given that many of those pounds offer little towards the goal of forward progress? The steely facts lay in the gutter of High Street: can calves and quads racheted to & fro with velocity and pace cover consecutive sub-9 minute miles? It attains a black-and-whiteness not found since high school algebra. Would we all not be better if we received a grade from God at the end of every day? I receive my lame grade of 45:36, an average of 9:07 per mile. If not as easy as it looks on paper, for there are hills and lung limits and stride lengths to consider, but I cringe at comparable past thirty-two minute five-milers traveled when I wore a younger man's clothes. And so I re-discover all the errors man is heir and hair to. The first quarter mile was easy, if accompanied by dark if inchoate thoughts. I run til I prove my laziness a rumor, or rumor until laziness proves true. I run in fear of finding a fraud. I run as I would a visit to the doc, a self-check, a rain-gauge, a gut-meter. Do I expect life to grow ever easier? By mile four I run like a scalded dog. Uncork one, I tell myself, as if a mantra. Uncork one! Uncork a seven-minuter for olde time’s sake! I run to force the issue. Can I still endure pain? Am I as disciplined as the 25-year old? 35?

At home every muscle sub-waist sings in his bloody agony and I listen in sweet satisfaction, repose-reclined in resplendent comfort. The cells feel the oxygen-push. I’m normally an easy manager, preferring the slow stirring of a home-cooked meal, but every oncet in a while I force the issue and all the hemo’s are a’globin’ and there’s protests and general strikes and marches on the streets...

posted by TSO @ 01:00

Falling Behind Our Elders


While the firm doesn't have specific data for Cincinnati, Gary Hemphill, Beverage Marketing's senior vice president, said per capita beer consumption in Ohio last year was 23 gallons.

In 1894, Cincinnati's beer consumption was 50 gallons a person, according to Cincinnati Breweries, a compendium on the city's early brewing history written by Robert J. Wimberg.
UPDATE: Ye olde Gregg the Obscure came out of his obscurity! One of the delights of blogging is the element of surprise. He sent me this:
Your post about beer consumption caused me to muse a bit. The old time number is just under a pint a day per person, however in the 19th century, there was a large disparity between how much the average man drank and how much the average woman drank and there were a whole lot more young children about who wouldn't account for much beer either. I'd guess it would be enough to get the average adult male's consumption up to over 3 pints per day on average in a good Deutscher burg.

posted by TSO @ 15:25

September 17, 2004

Gotta Love Terry Teachout. A high-brow non-snob:

Dumb and Proud of It
By Terry Teachout

”No man,” Dr. Johnson assures us, “is a hypocrite in his pleasures.” I try never to disagree with the good doctor, so I’ll freely admit that along with hot dogs, fireworks, small-town parades, and old-fashioned country music, I dote on the kind of lowbrow comedy that can best be described as dumb, as in “Oh, why don’t we just rent a dumb movie tonight?” I rarely write about such movies in this space because I tend not to have anything trenchant to say about them. Films like Animal House, Airplane!, or There’s Something About Mary don’t exactly lend themselves to Orwellian pop-culture analysis, much less the spiritually informed aesthetic commentary crisis pays me to dispense. As the U.S. Supreme Court once said of pornography, they have no redeeming social value, save for the incalculably high value of distracting careworn viewers from the infinitely more consequential stupidities of daily life. When you live in a place like New York, sometimes a dumb movie is the best possible thing to see on Friday night.

All this is prelude to the confession that I loved Adam McKay’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which may possibly be the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen, up to and including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

posted by TSO @ 15:13

I'm Always on the Lookout...

...for those who fit outside typical labels. So when I came across a vegetarian-conservative-hippie-Catholic, well, paydirt. See here and here.

I was too chicken - pun intended - to click on her meat link.

posted by TSO @ 13:53

Minutiae Friday

New book called Who Let the Blogs Out?

John Miller, on the nicest guy in D.C. - yes, Kenneth Starr

posted by TSO @ 13:14


I've noticed it's fatiguing posting and commenting on things about which I know little. You've heard of "buyer's remorse"? I tend to get "poster's remorse". I should follow the example of Mark of Minute Particulars, who offers the following on his blog:

"So, rather than appear foolish afterward,
I renounce seeming clever now."
-- The Name of the Rose

But let's change the subject to something more interesting. To what I heard a woman on the elevator say today.

"...then I dreamt I was with Clinton and his wife at a birthday party with ice cream and cake. No wonder I'm so tired, I--"

And that's when her floor came up.

posted by TSO @ 13:02

Sin & Politics

In an earlier link on Bush Administration efforts concerning abortion, I didn't mean to imply that I don't favor the simple power play of appointing pro-life Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe. I certainly do. Abortion kills innocent victims and justice requires it be immediately banned.

But in the meantime - i.e. while we're waiting for judges to retire and while we're waiting for the issue to be fought fifty times over again at the state level - I have a bias towards subtle rather than sledgehammer approaches. Perhaps it's part of my midwestern constitution, but the strategy may woo (as the cliche goes) hearts and minds.

What is difficult is that all sin is both symptom of, and a furthering agent in, our moral decay. A national sin like abortion is not simply a cancer, but a cancer that creates further cancers. If one saw it merely as cancer then one could say "don't mask the symptom but fail to treat the cause"..i.e. we need a spiritual solution, not a political one. A political solution is necessary to protect the culture at large from even worse evils since abortion not only kills the baby but coarsens the woman and society, making it a breeding ground for further decline.

But on the other hand, if it were possible to make all visible sin as close to impossible as possible by legislating against everything - the ludicrous extreme would be the prison terms for speeding on a highway and less extreme the code the Puritans put in place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony - then you are seeming to seek to eliminate free will, something God intended to give us. By making every sin literally a federal crime, how does one freely choose not to commit sin? But that gets into the whole religious freedom and 'errors have no rights' debate, which is obviously way beyond my competence. Which this whole post already is.

So where were we? Yes, abortion. Were the victories for anti-life forces, beginning with the Griswold decision in '65 which legalized contraceptives and ending with Roe in '73 stealthy and subtle? Perhaps not. They seemed quick and unsubtle. But perhaps the tearing down of anything takes much less time than the building up.

The battle has been fought and won before, since America has had periods of banning abortion and periods of allowing abortion. It's an issue without end, like all sin.

posted by TSO @ 07:05

Sept 16, 2004

Raw fall. Timeless. Lawns separated by black wrought iron. The sun moony-eyed. Rays stretch like cats in semi-somnolent moments. The sound of classical music mixes with the scent of grass clippings and the faint odor of gasoline, a secret pleasure. Undergrads loll about before the start of the school year, their industry shown by fine pointless towers of aluminum beer cans, their restfulness by the ease of movement. A sentimental old building stands in the near, an aged manse dressed in Georgian brick.

Apartments dot the peripheries. A nostalgic 1960s look to them, advertising signs that have grown ironic with age, surrounded by orangy brick buildings made young by the students, by the bicycles, by the "Delta Gamma" sorority stickers in the car windows - those sister-antagonists to the mighty Tri-Delts: "Delta Delta Delta" rings loud with the power of association and with the bold bi-syllabic repetition.

posted by TSO @ 16:23

September 16, 2004

True, It Isn't Fair to Dan

From Drudge:

"The audience appears to [be] polarized," a top CBS source said from LOS ANGELES on Thursday. "Rightly or wrongly, we're being perceived as 'anti-Bush,' which I do not think is fair to Dan...

Calling Rather "anti-Bush" in comparison to Brokaw or Jennings is like calling only one of the Three Stooges stupid.

posted by TSO @ 13:28

Columnist Changes His Mind...

...concerning "The Passion of the Christ". Link here:

Let us use the metaphor of the swimmer. I was thrashing about in a frightening sea, making the water splash into the air around me. Much motion, little progress. Not swimming but drowning. It was only when I relaxed and allowed the waves to take control that I felt safe again.

Yes, I relaxed. "Do this in memory of me. Do this in memory of me." I swam, and the ocean lifted me up and made me feel warm and strong and full. Here was truth, in front of me for so long but seemingly out of reach.

I am not saying that a movie alone was responsible for this, but I am saying that it was part of a greater and perhaps inevitable process. To watch it now is like watching an entirely different film, one that seems a companion rather than a foe.

posted by TSO @ 11:56

Rev. George W. Rutler Writes in Crisis Magazine...

...On the influence Professor Gertrude Elizabeth Anscombe had on Pope John Paul II and C.S. Lewis:

She may have been the greatest of 20th-century analytic philosophers, a claim staked in her treatise Intention in 1957. One cannot imagine Karol Wojtyla writing The Acting Person without it.

A bishop and a professor told me that in separate audiences, the first thing John Paul II said when they mentioned Oxford was: “Do you know Professor Anscombe?”

From 1970 until her retirement in 1986 she held the chair at Cambridge University first held by Wittgenstein. When she confounded C. S. Lewis in a response at the Oxford Socratic Society on February 2, 1948, he never attempted theology again, except to alter the third chapter of his Miracles. She was surprised and edified that he was so abashed, and their bond was unbroken.

A. J. Ayer once told her: “If you didn’t talk so slowly, people wouldn’t think you were so profound.” Elizabeth talked slowly in part because she was constantly drawing on cigars, blowing smoke rings like the caterpillar in Wonderland before making a pronouncement. Entering a Cambridge common room, she was bemused to hear some earnest women arguing that nothing in the Bible prevented the ordination of women. She calmly leaned her rather comfortable flesh against the mantelpiece, recited the names of the Twelve Apostles, and blew a smoke ring at them.

She was too Catholic to be patient with third-rate feminism, outward appearance notwithstanding. Elizabeth always wore trousers. Entering the apostolic palace to see the pope, she approached the gate in trousers and pulled a string, lowering her skirt like a parachute...

As a maelstrom of dissent groaned at the publication of Humanae Vitae, she and her husband toasted it with champagne. I rather thought her brilliant essays on abortion were academic exercises until she was dragged into court for demonstrating outside an abortion mill. A picture of her standing before the judge, with Professor John Finnis as her barrister, should be painted as an icon for the coming generation. While she was not a Wittgensteinian, she vigorously lived out truth as an action.

posted by TSO @ 10:27

Foreknowledge & the Eucharistic Prayer

"On the night he was betrayed, He took bread and gave you thanks and praise."

This is fascinating for what it DOESN'T say:

It doesn't say, "On the night he didn't know he was going to be betrayed..." for he did.

It doesn't say, "On the night he was betrayed, He took bread and gave you lukewarm thanks and praise and hurried to the petitions."

Jesus, like Mary (who was told that a sword would pierce her heart) lived with greater foreknowledge of his suffering than most of us. And yet both lived in the present and gave God thanks and praise regardless of the prevailing conditions.

So when I hear, "thank God that he spared us from the hurricane" when other people were not spared (i.e. a zero-sum game) I certainly understand the sentiment but it leaves me cold. I suppose it shouldn't, because as Cardinal Newman said in his sermon notes, "...Not [being] too proud to admit to ourselves, 'At least He is good to ME.'" Better to be thankful in good times only than not to be thankful at all; best to be thankful in all times.

posted by TSO @ 08:53

Stream O' Conscious Thoughts

Well I said farewell to summer but summer hasn't said farewell to us. No premature evacuation here and I'm pleasantly surprised. We've had a remarkable string of beautiful days.

Last weekend was the Covington Oktoberfest, which was a pale replacement for Zinzinnati even though you might think that if you'd seen one lederhosen-clad oom-pah banded gathering you've seen them all. But tis not so even though it did satisfy my gluttonous appetite for polkas. A fine time was had by all, I think.

On the same weekend as Covington, our small suburb had an art fest, which arguably offered neither art nor fest. I did a five-minute walk-thru before driving to Covington and there was nothing much interesting. Lots of trivial booths and from the booming speakers of the main stage came Shania Twain music. I don't know it all just felt oppressively suburban. I wanted to like it because otherwise it seems a sign that I'm jaded and spoiled, which I am. And my heart went out to them for trying so hard. The infant festival is in its third year.

The town where I went to high school knows what it's like to try harder. The rust-belt city of Hamilton has seen better days and is now trying to resurrect itself by renaming itself Hamilton!. Yes, they officially added an exclamation point a few years back though I'm not sure if Rand-McNally got the memo.

Hamilton! recently discovered that the way to recovery would require more than punctuation, so they are now trying to attract tourists via art. They want to become known as "the city of statues" and have somehow come up with the money to fund thirty or forty life-size life-like statues of people doing everyday things. There's a guy cutting the lawn just outside the court house so life-like that you want to steer clear of his path. There's a man shining shoes outside the barber shop. I guess the art is Norman Rockwellian, but I don't much like it. One guy wrote the local paper and said, "well, at least it'll look like there's somebody downtown now!" Another wrote, "the statues look creepy, like something from a Stephen King novel."

That might just draw tourists.

posted by TSO @ 15:47

September 15, 2004

A Sign...

...that the Republican Party isn't always the "stupid party" since they're smart enough to know you can't do it all at once:

Banning abortion one small step at a time.

posted by TSO @ 13:55

Father Joe Excerpt:

I'd been doing no reforming, but I was not without blame. Like my contemporaries, I'd for years bought in an attitude that went well beyond Henry Ford's reprehensible "history is bunk." In our version, history was far worse than bunk: it was suspect, the enemy, invariably evil, a repository of constant failure and deadly delusions and appalling role models. History was when all the mistakes were made, all the atrocities committed, that time before we knew better. History was before we born again to the One True Faith: only change, with its benison of the new and the now, can lead to salvation.

There was an object lesson here that went beyond the chaotic state of the Church. To reject any vast group of one's cultural ancestors in the cause of some current theory is not just arrogance; it's posthumous mass murder. It's the same kind of thinking that makes genocide possible. The masses (albeit the dead masses) and the pathetic little lives they lived are irrelevant compared to this greater purpose we have at hand. Write them out of the record. They never existed. - Tony Hendra

posted by TSO @ 10:59

Where the Puns Have No Name

It's rather daunting to try to come up with anything that hasn't already been said concerning Dan "I Am Not a Crook" Rather. Even more difficult is to pun his first name since any idiot can pun his last name. Rather humorous, no?

You either love or hate puns, just as most folks seem to love or hate Bush. So what is my responsibility to the public? When I see a Kerry sticker (as I did in the church parking lot last Sunday) it makes me cringe. Am I inflicting similar pain on others with my Bush sticker? When I pun without a licence and you cringe, am I inflicting on others what I would not have them inflict on me? Or, rather, am I...(I just wanted to say 'rather').

You can see I have nothing to say today. But blogs abhor a vacuum so I'll say the whole 'cane would've blown over if Dan had the humility to admit he might've made a mistake. It's always the inability to say you were wrong that makes people pile on a story until the perp says "uncle". It's the cover-up, not the crime. The whole Clinton mess could've been avoided by an admission instead of a perjury. And Martha Stewart wouldn't be doing jail time except for ill-timed hubris.

For Dan this might've been easy except for the fact that humility is the single most elusive quality in the universe. In fact, if humility were a stock I'd short it. IMHO.

posted by TSO @ 10:38

Fr. Joe

Remarkable book, as previously blogged. After finishing it I googled for other reviews and found (nota bene Bone - there's nothing new under the sun) that another reviewer used the exact phrase I did: he can flat out write. Ne'er gets old till Heimer says it.

As the other reviewer said you wish for more Fr. Joe. But Hendra is fascinating in all his paradoxes. He defies labels. He thinks little of Vatican II, considering it an example of chronological hubris, and he finds the Novus Ordo contemptible. But at the same time he loathed Mel Gibon's movie calling it anti-Semitic and a bath of bloodlust. I wonder how often those views intersect? I checked out his recent columns and saw that his politics haven't changed; perhaps he'll be an "Apostle to the Left". All groups need their missionaries.

Meanwhile here's a WaPo review with a humorous poke: "[Hendra] thought of himself as tormented and put-upon, and it would seem he was perfectly sincere about that. He brought his son for one last visit to a desperately ill Father Joe. Here the book ends. It is a book for men who think of themselves as trapped, misunderstood geniuses, so it should sell well."

Finally, from the Godspy review:

The question: "What would Jesus do?" will always be a bit unreal (partially because the real question is, "What, as a follower of Christ, should I do?)—unless you know people you can trust to be Christ for you, as Father Joe was for Tony Hendra. Better to ask yourself, "What would my friend the purchasing agent, or teacher of English as a Second Language, or priest do?" Best of all, you can call them up and ask them what the hell they'd do if they were in your shoes.

Andrew Sullivan, in the May 30 New York Times Book Review describes Father Joe as seeming "so far removed from the cramped, fearful admonitions of today's Vatican." Sullivan misreads both Father Joe and the Vatican. To be true to the Catholic faith or its teachings doesn't mean to betray or deny your humanity.

But he's changed (and was able to change) because he has known "a saint," who told him: "Tony dear, you will only be able to love when you understand how much you are loved. You are loved, dear, with a limitless ... fathomless ... all-embracing love."

Sort of like John and Andrew.

posted by TSO @ 15:28

September 14, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

My 14 y/o cousin Sophia started a blog/livejournal a few weeks before the accident that ultimately took her life. the title? Life's short - live it. I'm in tears again seeing your message for the day. -Alicia commenting on another blog

I received a kind note today lamenting the fact that I had give up my blog. It's very nice to be missed but, in case anyone else wondered, I haven't given it up. When I first started this little project I made myself a promise that this would not become another one of those things that I let take over. The word "obsess" springs to mind. Mostly, I haven't. Unless, of course, you count assessing every event of the day as to how it would work into a blog post. Still, mostly, I haven't let it take over. Which is why you haven't seen anything new here for the past week: I have let other things take precedence. - John at the Inn at the End of the World

I've never bought into the "women are kinder and gentler" theory. The meanest people I ever worked for were uniformly women. When I read articles that have that old cant "if women just ran the world there'd be universal peace and harmony" it makes me gag. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

How often, when someone sins, do you feel sorrow that they have sinned, that they have injured and possibly broken their relationship with God? Not very, if you're like me. I understand the evil effects of sin on the sinner, but I really don't feel very strongly about it unless the sinner is someone I know and love (me, for example). While you can't make yourself feel something you don't feel, I think the lack of sorrow for the sins of others is a sign of the lack of love for others. - Tom of Disputations

I own plenty of books I want to read, and plenty I want to have read, a few I want to reread some day, and a few I want to reread periodically. The Bible is the only one I want to be reading. - Tom of Disputations

Rest assured that we have no little baby blankets around with little GOP Elephants embroidered on them! Pete doesn't have a Bush/Cheney tattoo and I'm not about to go out and purchase a Laura Bush suit either. In fact you might be surprised to know that up until the 1992 election, we both thought of ourselves as primarily Democrat. I even considered voting for Clinton in his first term and if his running mate had been pro-life I might have! It was with much pain and a little bewilderment that I found the Democratic party LEAVING ME!!...I know a little bit about this topic [poverty] as [Pete] and I are both small business owners AND we have lived below the poverty line for 10 years. While I agree that government has some role to play that is not it's sole purpose. Indeed how can anyone look at the messed up Medicare and Social Security systems and say that government is the best possible way to run social programs!! Heavy tax burdens... make it harder for people like us to crawl out of the poverty cycle. - Elena of 'My Domestic Church'

God wishes that all will be saved, there is every possibility that some, perhaps many will be lost, but the driving dynamic of the system is the vector toward salvation. The "unknown" factor in the equation, the variable as it were that introduces the chaotic dynamic, is free will. God may know the outcome, but those of us on Earth see a violent lurching first toward and then away from Home and Heart. These erratic motions make no sense unless we understand them as the motions of free-will on a body already in motion sending it into currents and eddies that are not predictable to the human mind; however, God knows everything. Everything we say can'[t be known--the famous Heisenberg uncertainty (you cannot know both the velocity and the position of an electron or sub atomic particle)--even the outcome of the day's weather is known and has been known by God from the beginning. Nothing is uncertain with Him and our hope lies in the fact that He is the dynamic system behind it all. It is His will that is the driving motivation behind all of our motions. Now, we can go with the flow or spin off in any of seven million directions (Strait is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to salvation, but that unto destruction is broad and wide and smooth). Nevertheless, at each stage, at each point along the way, the overriding dynamic comes back into play. And at any point we can choose to abandon our own willfulness and allow the dynamic of Love to carry us Home to Him who drives all things toward salvation. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

This to me is one of the greatest mysteries to have that knowledge of creator and yourself as creator and then to peform the only sin possible for an angel, that of intellectual pride, is surprising. But it is good to remember that knowlege and intellect alone don't get us to heaven. That faith and grace are much more important. - Jeff Miller on Steven Riddle's blog

Notice the progression in the three parables Jesus tells in Luke 15. First, there are one hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost. Next, there are ten coins,and one of them gets lost. Then comes two sons, and one of them gets lost. We go from a 99% rate of righteousness, to 90%, to 50%. And by the end of the parable of the prodigal son, that 50% rate drops to zero. "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" is a psalm of joy and praise -- not to mention deep personal relief -- whether the psalmist realizes it or not. - Tom of Disputations

The passage I find intriguing in this regard is the story of the Gerasene demoniac. When Jesus is ready to cast out the demons, they plead with HIm and beg not to be cast into the abyss, but into the bodies of a nearby herd of swine. Jesus acquiesces nd allows this to happen. How so? Why should Jesus pay attention to the pleadings of demons? - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

[From] Father Jim Tucker: 'While it's useful to compare and contrast the traditional Roman Mass with Paul VI's version and with the various Eastern Liturgies, it is obnoxious to make disparaging comments about any of them. The excellence of one or another of these Liturgies doesn't require anyone to criticize the rest." As with the preference for Macintosh or PCs, there is a strong subjective strain to our preference of one form of celebration over another. We do well to bear this in mind as we recognize that they are all approved of God through his Bride. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

I share your disinclination to read the Scriptures. I blame mine on two things - cultivation of a habit of concordance-driven prooftexting while a Protestant, making scripture seem like a big dreary puzzle to solve; and lack of will to cultivate a new habit nowadays. - Bill White on Steven Riddle's blog

When it comes to foreign policy, my default position is to trust their judgment and to let them do their jobs. This position, of course, is not absolute. Our statesmen and experts might well prove themselves unworthy of our trust. But it would be impossible for our government to sustain a cohesive, consistent, and effective foreign policy if Americans were not instinctively deferential to their leaders on this point. There are many who have the opposite instinct, a default position of mistrust and hyper-criticism -- an attitude left over from the '60s counter-culture that has now become respectable, even among so-called conservatives. In my opinion this attitude is destructive of order and a threat to the peace. It is true that our leaders, like we ourselves, come from a culture that is degenerate and disordered. Therefore I expect them to get social and domestic issues wrong most of the time. But the principles of national security are not that complicated. The interest of our government in national security, for the most part, coincides with yours and mine. Let's not undermine the efforts of our President -- who, for all his faults, is a competent leader with sound instincts -- because we don't want to admit our own limitations. - Jeff Culbreath

I recall something of Castellani, long ago. He said that, by greater than outside the Summa Theologica (for example), it was a book; whereas the gospels are another thing: After all I realize of which "I need" to read the gospel, that speaks to me; I do not have that necessity with the Summa or any book. - Argentinian blogger Hernan Gonzalez, through Babelfish

posted by TSO @ 10:14

A Worthy Cause

posted by TSO @ 07:27

"It's Not Paper & Ink" ...but the Eucharist is bread?

The local anti-sacrament, anti-Catholic Baptist minister said something interestin' on the radio yesterday.

He said, "Some might think me fanatical, but the bible itself is not paper and ink to me but the very breath of God. I carry my bible everywhere, but have never put another book on top of it. I won't even lay a piece of paper on top of it."

It's interesting that Christians without the Real Presence will find a substitute just as non-believers find something other than God to worship. Composed of body and soul, we were designed for sacraments.

posted by TSO @ 07:11

The conversation...

...(with a loved one) will sound familiar because we all have to deal with it and because it's the hardest question. But here's how it went:

"I'm mad at the Lord that he's let my mother suffer for eight years just because it's in her genetics."

"That's why we look at the Cross. And even if Jesus didn't suffer or ever got sick - for God to come and live on earth - is an amazing thing. The distance from living as God to living as a man is far greater than the distance from a human living a comfortable life from a suffering one."

"Oh I know. God sent his son to suffer which just shows how much He loves suffering. In fact, the holier you are the more you have to suffer!"

"But you'll have a greater place in heaven-"

"I don't care what place in Heaven I have, I would gladly have a small place and not suffer. I don't want to be holy because it means you have to suffer."

"Well, God doesn't love suffering, he loves us to be good and it's the only way we can be good. Sacrifice is the only thing that inspires us. Why does everyone read about the saints and martyrs when mostly they were just suffering? Suffering is inspiring in some way. Because sacrifice is love and nothing else. Words are meaningless. If I tell my wife I love her but don't lift a finger for her, I don't love her. And yet if I do things for her I suffer even if it's a micro-suffering. All sacrifice is suffering. The ultimate example was Christ. Why was there so much prayer after the 9/11 tragedy?"

"Well, I don't know. I just don't understand why there is sickness in the world. All because of the Fall? It doesn't seem fair that Adam sinned and now my mom is suffering for eight years, someone who has had great faith and is very holy."

"It is very hard to understand. But it's only in the past century or two that we've become so highly individualized. In Ireland when asked your name you'd say what clan you belonged to or who your father was. It's very hard for we moderns to understand that we are in some mysterious way connected and that when Adam fell he was part of us. God wanted to give us freedom so that we wouldn't be robots, but freedom meant the possibility of sin and sin and suffering are connected..."

It was unsatisfying to her, so I'd appreciate your prayers. And if you know of any links/books you recommend, maybe something that really helped you along these lines that I can give her?

posted by TSO @ 22:30

September 13, 2004

More About Kerry You Already Knew

Kerry Wrong For Catholics site - one stop shopping for Kerry's immaculate anti-Catholic voting record. He's a flip-flopper but he's got the spine to vote for crushing baby's spines. Chilling anecdote from the National Catholic Register via Summa Mamas: "While Sen. Kerry has skipped a majority of Senate votes this year, he made a point of coming back to vote against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act — also known as Laci and Connor’s Law." Also, What Ratzinger Wanted from the Bishops

The bishops’ judgments about Kerry were and are in harmony. It is no secret that he is a pronounced “secularist” on questions such as abortion, euthanasia, cloning, homosexuality, education, and the family. Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio, professors of political science at City University of New York, published in the May 2004 edition of “First Things” a ranking of senators according to their degree of “secularism,” on a scale from 0 to 10. The Republican average is .95. The Democrat average is 8.9. Senator Kerry scored a round 10.

posted by TSO @ 16:07

Word Inflation

One of the surprising things about this election is the level of vitriol directed at Bush and his policies. I'm as sympathetic as the next guy to the usurpation of civil liberties but the Patriot Act appears to be pretty toothless so far. No one can come up with examples of civil liberties being stripped. Of course that doesn't mean liberties won't, but they already are for the unborn and I don't see the Left in arms over that.

Even columnists I'd previously taken seriously, like Georgie Ann Geyer, have succumbed to hysteria. In a recent column, I mentally substituted "Adolph Hilter" for "George Bush" and "1939" for "2004" and it fit! The lack of nuance and the suggestion of moral equivalency means that the left has reached the zenith of what I call "word inflation". A friend was calling Bush a fascist back in '01, such that I had to provide the dictionary definition. Liberals have fired their last rhetorical bullet and have nothing but real ones left. Perhaps what is needed are new words to describe how evil Bush is so that some won't take the next step - violence. How about "George Bush is a hellium veliot!"

The other problem is that now I won't take Geyer seriously in the future. Which means I won't waste time reading her columns. Which means I'll be even more likely to read only conservative publications. Which means I'll be less likely to see the whole picture. Which means I will further contribute to the growing chasm in this country. But I do have my blood pressure to think of...

posted by TSO @ 09:56

Terrorism Quotes

Since few of us can approach the idea of American use of force with objectivity, I decided to see what was said about terrorism before America entered the fray. So I started by Googling "Paul VI" + terrorism and the following is what I found, some unrelated to Pope Paul VI, but all I found interesting:

...We cannot fail to raise Our voice in defense of the dignity of man and of Christian civilization, We cannot fail to condemn acts of guerrilla warfare and of terrorism, the practice of holding hostages and of taking reprisals against unarmed civilians. These are crimes which not only reverse the development of the sense of what is fair and humane, but also embitter even more the hearts of those in conflict. These outrages can block the paths still open to mutual good-will, or at least can render negotiations more difficult, which, if conducted with openness and fairness could lead to a reasonable settlement. - Pope Paul VI 30 April 1965 encyclical

The discussion can continue by reviewing the hundred forms in which offences against life seem to be becoming normal behavior: where individual crime is organized to become collective, to ensure the silence and complicity of whole groups of citizens; to make private vendetta a vile collective duty, terrorism a phenomenon of legitimate political or social affirmation, police torture an effective means of public power no longer directed towards restoring order but towards imposing ignoble repression. It is impossible for peace to flourish where the safety of life is compromised in this way. - 1977 World Peace Day, Pope Paul VI (emphasis mine)

Whether the world realized it or not, Paul VI was deeply hurt by this rejection and many believe, after 1968, withdrew more and more from the public limelight.Some historians put the cause on the growing trend of international terrorism stemming from the mid-east, but the real cause was the growing tension within Holy Mother Church that was tearing her apart. - Daily Catholic, on Paul VI never writing another encyclical after Humane Vitae

Yet in contemporary reflections on just war theory the ongoing development of ever more precise weaponry must be added to the equation. Recent experience has shown that such advances have made possible more limited warfare and discriminate strikes on strategic military targets with fewer civilian casualties and less destruction of property. Such military development can in no way lessen our unflagging commitment to peace, but should nonetheless be included in objectively evaluating specific military action. - John Allen, Word from Rome

Violence against terrorism is an imperfect solution to a problem that demands justice. One can condemn terrorism — as the pope does — and still insist upon a commitment to eliminate the injustices that lead some groups to lash out with violence. "Peace remains possible. And if peace is possible, it is also a duty," says the message for World Day of Peace. — SMK (Seattle archdiocese newspaper)

But even when force is deemed necessary by the competent civil authority, we should continue to pray for peace, as our Holy Father (and I believe also our president) are praying for peace daily. Unquestionably, persistent prayer must be at the foundation of a truly Catholic response to these events. But the peace we pray for must be a peace rooted in justice: justice for the Iraqi people, and justice for the millions of innocent men and women throughout the world who have a right to live their lives free from the fear of terrorism, be it biological terrorism or some other type. This is why—regardless of what one thinks of the present military conflict—the war on terrorism itself is most definitely a "just war," because it involves the legitimate defense of the innocent. - homily of Fr. Raymond Suriani, St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I.

posted by TSO @ 09:45

"In a Minute Honey, I'm Trying to Solve Islamic Terrorism"

Every once in awhile I feel the need to puzzle out nearly insolvable problems, mostly because afterwards drinking a beer feels so good. Sort of like when you stop beating your head against the wall.

First, What Doesn't Work:

1) Killing Terrorists, tit-for-tat. The Brits tried this for 20 years with the IRA and Israel has been trying it for seeming-ever in the Middle East. Why do you think they're building that wall? It's a de facto admission that retaliatory bombing doesn't work.

2) Doing nothing. We tried it from '94 to '01, watching them blow up planes, trains and embassies while politely looking the other way as if someone farted. This does not work either.

Other Solutions

1) Go after the states. To Bush's credit, he realizes options 1 & 2 do not work. So he came up with something different. Don't go after terrorists alone, who are impervious to pain, but go after states, whose heads do feel pain. States can make life easier or harder for terrorists, can dry up funding, can stop the next generation from becoming terrorists and otherwise help disable the death-makers. The concern is that there are too many potential terrorist-friendly states and our allies, pardon my French, suck. (With the exception of Tony Blair and a few others, of course.) If they won't give permission to go into Iraq for goodness' sake, with all Saddam's history of violations of the agreement ending the Gulf War, then that pretty much says it all.

2) Outflank the Madrassas. This is one of the few solutions I've seen offered by the Left, although admittedly I don't read much liberal press because there's too much hate in the anti-hate crowd for my taste. But this solution is simple and creates no casualties: fund alternative schools. Many of the children that go to Madrassa schools (which brainwash children into becoming future terrorists) simply have no other option due to poverty. We could offer, with the help of the Saudi's and others, alternative schools for the poor. Unfortunately this seemed to be PDOA (politically dead on arrival) because Americans can't imagine funding foreign schools when they want to throw more money into their own schools. This is because we've decided that the answer to the lack of discipline in the schools is smaller class size, which creates an artificial need for additional funding.

3) Domino Democracies - this is the whole idea where Iraq becomes a democracy and we get to watch the other Islamic fundamentalist states follow. I fear too many in the Bush Administration drank this spiked Koolaid. This was NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman's grand hope, which is why he supported the war, and it's the only recorded instance where I've felt smarter than Tom Friedman. But it's still too early to call.

So there you have it. My two-cent view of things. Any other solutions please email me. The real solution is prayer and lots of it. I'm not great at intercessory prayer for global issues (I'm only slightly better at praying for people I know) but I got a feeling we'd all better get better at it.

posted by TSO @ 17:02

September 10, 2004

Lightning Round o' Links

This looks interesting, concerning the American Catholic voter.
The phrase contempus mundi comes to mind.
Tired of three yards and a cloud of dust, spiritually-speaking? I found this refreshing (via Domestic Excellence).
That ol' amazing double standard: "I researched the Presidential Documents (the official collection of every public presidential statement); an examination of the mentions of Jesus Christ by George W. Bush and Bill Clinton showed that through 2003, Bush cited Jesus, or Jesus Christ, or Christ in 14 separate statements, compared to 41 by Clinton. On average, Clinton mentioned Christ in 5.1 statements per year, which exceeded Bush's 4.7."
Regarding partisanship:

Neither is partisanship dishonorable. Far from it. An honest partisan gives ground when the other side has a point, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it is in his interest to do so. Aristotle held that the most significant aspect of rhetoric is the perceived authority of the speaker, an axiom immutable as ever in our information age. Continuing to argue one’s conviction, but giving ground when a position is no longer defensible, preserves — even enhances — one’s credibility, an incalculable asset for future battles.

posted by TSO @ 07:43

Nothing Doing

The UK Spectator published a review of the book "How to be Idle" by Tom Hodgkinson:

Tom Hodgkinson is a 21st-century Luddite. He wishes we could smash the principles of capitalist consumerism that enslave most of the population so they can service their debts. In this beguiling book, he persuasively advocates idleness as the way to gain access to the creativity of the subconscious mind, or at least to enjoy a few beers.

Hodgkinson is a dedicated connoisseur of idleness. He is the founder and editor of Idler magazine, which enables him to support himself and his family in Devon. Endorsed by quotations from an interestingly variegated team of believers in the benefits of inactivity, including Dr Johnson, William Blake, Bertrand Russell, G.K. Chesterton, Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx’s son-in-law and Jeffrey Bernard, Hodgkinson now summarises his tranquil philosophy. He conducts the reader through a whole day and night, at a chapter an hour, showing that every one of the 24 is ideally suited to doing little more than nothing...

Hodgkinson quotes Walter Benjamin, ‘one of the great literary Euro-slackers’, testifying that Beethoven when wandering daily around the ramparts of Vienna, apparently loafing, was actually composing symphonies in his head. The imagination functions mysteriously, even in sleep. ‘Kubla Khan came to Coleridge in a dream,’ Hodgkinson points out.
I shan't lie. I am attracted by the author's ideas. But what if the best your imagination can do is come up with spam poetry? By using Beethoven and Coleridge of examples of "idling" is he not de facto presenting it in utilitarian terms? I can't very well tell my wife I want to idle so I can produce the Fifth Symphony can I? What is she going to get out of my (further) idling?

He continues:
Hodgkinson blames the Puritan ethic and the Industrial Revolution for the regimentation of modern factories, offices and shops, and recommends a further revolution to restore English individuality...

Alarm clocks, he says, should be thrown away. Fishing is ‘the idler’s sport par excellence’. Long lunches should be followed by long siestas to double the day’s potential, providing energy and enthusiasm for long nights of drink and talk. Smoking is spiritually soothing, though perhaps physically destructive.

posted by TSO @ 07:41

Teddy Ballgame

Reading Montville's excellent biography of Ted Williams and the ending is painfully sad; I don't know why I read these things except I got to know how it turns out. One of Ted's friends said he was one of the most spiritual men he ever knew, every day battling God. I had to know if Ted found Jesus (according to a Christian care-giver he did at the end). The last eight years of his life leave a gruesome aftertaste, like a gothic tale. The plot twists when his son John-Henry, presented in the book as giving off the maladorous stench of extreme selfishness, ends up dying of cancer less than two years after his dad.

posted by TSO @ 07:07

Revealing Comments

One of my favorite scenes in the movie "Three Amigos" was when the Amigos, who played actors, discussed what to do with all the money they were making in their film with El Guapo. Steve Martin's character dreamed aloud of a beautiful car with luxurious leather upholstery. Chevy Chase's character longed to travel the world. Then, Martin Short's character, the idealistic one, imagines all the good he can do by giving the money away to orphanages. Martin & Chase backpedal furiously, saying they would too and that obviously they were just thinking what they'd buy after they gave to charity, wink, wink.

How often do our immediate reactions betray us! There is a something revelatory in them. I thought of that recently when commenting on Tom of Disputation's blog. I made some comment about how it's a good thing Christ's words aren't taken as merely political because then most of us would be heretics. And that was a me-centered focus. Instead of seeing it from God's perspective - that the Word of God is sacred and shouldn't be abused for His own sake - I was thinking about it from the perspective of "if we want to put God's Words in a box, what are the repercussions to me?".

posted by TSO @ 09:36

September 9, 2004

Speyr on the Relationship of Christ to Scripture

From Richard John Neuhaus:

Like many students of Hans Urs von Balthasar, I have never been able to quite understand his devotion to the thought of Adrienne von Speyr, a friend and mystic to whom he declared himself so greatly indebted... An exception is the forty-page appendix to Balthasar’s book Our Task in which he explains their collaboration and the secular institute that they founded together. The appendix is Balthasar’s record of her vision of a visit to heaven in which she came to understand the relationship between Christ and Scripture. "He does not want to have his life at his own disposal. It was in the will of the Father that he lived his life; it was the Father’s will that in his life he revealed; and it was according to the Father’s will that he let himself be resurrected. So he does not want to be in charge of his life now, like someone who has had some experience and constantly talks about it. No, it is part of his perfect self-giving that he continues to be given in heaven, in the sense that he entrusts the story of his self-giving to the Spirit. It is entrusted to the Spirit, who henceforth does not work on his own but with the cooperation of Christians. The Spirit has been received by them, with them he blows, and through them he wants to waft through the whole world. The Scriptures contain no retractions on the part of the Son. The Son does not say, ‘It was different from this, more could be said about it,’ or ‘No human being will ever know what I went through in the temptations,’ or ‘I could have told the whole story better myself,’ and so on. No, it is an essential part of the Spirit’s role in the redemption of the world that this portrayal and exposition and inspiration are his work." That is a heavy-duty reflection. It strikes me as having the additional merit of being true. Of course it means that Jesus does not need Norman Mailer to help him tell the story as it really happened. More important, it suggests that there is something fundamentally misguided in biblical scholarship that tries to "get behind" the scriptural account and its reception by the Spirit-guided community of faith. I cannot say that Adrienne von Speyr received this insight while on a visit to heaven. God and Adrienne von Speyer—and now, I would like to think, Balthasar—know whether that is the case. But it is an insight very much worth pondering, as is the entire appendix to Our Task.

posted by TSO @ 07:47

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts...special hurricane edition

Would a Hurricane Edwards sue itself for the damage it caused? - Jeff of "Curt Jester"

In any case, let's pray for them there people in Florida, who have obviously been sinning or something. - Thomas of "Endlessly Rocking"

When Elizabeth flew in right after Charley, we were sitting around the second night without power in the candlelight, sweating, and wondered why hurricanes are given such harmless names: Charley, Frances, Donna, etc., like they were relatives or something. Why don't they give them more appropriate names, signifying their nastiness? "Yeah," said Ebe, "like Hurricane Sh*t." "Elizabeth!" said her mother... - William Luse of "Apologia"

Perhaps the highlight of the night was this: John Glenn introduced Kerry. During his introduction, at a moment when the entire crowd was silent and during a pause in his intro, Regis Martin (a fellow prof here) yelled at the top of his voice to the great consternation of the Democrats: "Go back to the Moooon!" You've really got to know Regis - he sure is something. - Fr. Wilson on Amy's blog, concerning Kerry's unlikely visit to Steubenville, Ohio

Some of us seek God as the Beautiful - (Augustine); some as the Good (Francis), some as the True (Thomas Aquinas) and some of us as the One - because we ourselves are inwardly divided (some of the saints who suffered from depression and mental illness seek God as the One). - commenter on Amy Welborn's blog

As an ancestral Democrat, may I say how thoroughly I enjoyed Zell Miller's stemwinder? Heard it on the car radio, and his Southern cadences, like the call of a baseball game, fit the medium. He was just spitting fire – I can see how political speechifying, back when it was a sport and an art, drew crowds. - Mark of "Irish Elk"

Zaragossa's soccer team had won the national championship the night before, and now, the whole team, and town, were going to process into the basilica to present the trophy to the Virgin. For me, it was such a stunning blend of the sacred with the secular. I was actually a little scandalized by the way Our Blessed Mother was draped in a soccer banner in the basilica. But that is my sick American "separation of faith and state" problem. I don't think she has a problem with it at all. In fact, I think the Divine was surely smiling down at all the people bringing their children to be photographed next to the Madonna of Pilar, up there wearing Zaragossa's team colors. (I bought a nice sized Our Lady of Pilar statue and brought it home. Tonight I am going to have a ritual ceremony of draping her in a Boston Red Sox T-shirt...oh, some of you think I am kidding...) - Barbara of "Church of the Masses", on her trip to Spain

If you think the [Ono] Ekeh family was stranded without means of support when he left the USCCB, you probably think the Left is as bad as the Right is at retrieving its wounded. It’s not. - Cacciaguida

We know Jesus as He was in His public life almost entirely from the Gospels, and the Gospels don't do a very good job of portraying Jesus as He was. They tell us a lot of things that Jesus did and said, but very little about how He did and said them. Often enough it's not entirely clear why He did and said things. The Gospels do not provide a psychological portrait of Jesus, so any attempt to transport Him to the here and now, to answer what Jesus would do, necessarily involves a certain amount of invention, of filling in details as they make sense to us. The result is that what is said to be "Christ-like" in the sense of "like Jesus was," to be "Jesus-like" if you will, tends to be speaker-like. If I value a sense of humor, then my portrait of Jesus contains a strong sense of humor, and it's absolutely Christ-like to tell that joke; it might even be Christ-like to call the people who don't think that joke should be told whited sepulchers. How I value informality will inform how Christ-like I think a particular priest is while he offers Mass. Overall, then, I don't think similarity to Jesus in His public life is a great measure of moral rectitude. What He did isn't necessarily what we should do, and what we think He would do isn't necessarily true can be tough to accurately judge how Christ-like many actions are, at least when they aren't clearly animated by something other than love. - Tom of Disputations

I suppose the silver lining is that some folks on the furthest reaches of the spectrum's left side still believe in such things as the anti-Christ. - John of "Inn at the End of the World", on those who call Bush the anti-Christ.

There was an interesting essay written some time ago that pointed out that the United States has adopted the 1908 socialist platform, and we have. We are essentially a semi-socialist country. - Bill Maher on The O'Reilly Factor

It seems to me that Paul indicates to test everything and retain what is good sequentially. Were we to try to test everything BEFORE retaining what is good we'd never finish testing. - Steven Riddle

I am always struck by what must certainly be an absolute novelty of the twentieth century: we have a large and ever-growing class of single women, many of whom become completely established on their own in society and live into their 30s before they decide to find a mate and settle down...To summarize: whether a woman votes Democrat or Republican turns out to be massively correlated to whether she's married...Thus, the 20th century's creation of a large class of single women is both symptom and propagating cause of social dissolution. - Old Oligarch

I have been distributing prolife material everywhere for years. I leave pamphlets in coke machines, at gas pumps, malls, airports, bus terminals, you name it. If they won't let us distribute the voter's guide on church property, I'll distribute it everywhere else. Here in Alabama, people are interested in what Catholics believe. They'll read it! God is wonderful! - Isabel at the Parish Hall

Because of Hurricane Francis we went to the Vigil Mass yesterday. Even though it didn't look like Frances would cause much problems in Jacksonville, the weather has turned out pretty windy and nasty. The Vigil Mass was packed so it looks like we weren't the only ones with this idea. The lines to confession were also rather long so it appears they used the same Hurricane checklist that I do. - Jeff of "Splendor of Truth"

posted by TSO @ 21:20

September 8, 2004

Econ III

Peony of Two Sleepy Mommies has shared some great thoughts in emails. She brings up a stumper: two-income families tend to weaken the market for modest homes. Builders only build big houses now. My friend Ham of Bone can no longer buy a stripped down, $6,000 new Geo Metro simply because they no longer make them. There wasn't enough Hambones out there.

So the freedom of one-income families to purchase reasonably-priced items is being decreased, and so we are to some extent held bound by the decisions of our neighbors, just as, more tragically, unborn babies are killed because a majority of people once believed that abortion was acceptable.

Follow up on Bill Gates: I'll never forget one of the questions on EWTN forum. Someone asked, "was it better for Bill Gates, when he became a millionaire, to have given away his money? Or was it better that he become plough the profits back in the business, become a billionaire, create well-paying jobs and later give tens or hundreds of millions to charity?"

Finally, part of the equation is whether you consider wealth to be a zero sum game, a pie that cannot grow. Back in college, my Econ prof said that is not true, but envy can skew our judgement.

Update: Peony also wrote: "I think the two-income trap got rolling in part because of the desire for instant gratification -- not just the desire to buy more stuff, but the desire for recognition and diversion. Some people find working to be much more fun and rewarding than caring for their own children."

"When I was working minimum wage, there were plenty of people there who were there for their livelihood. The companies depended on them; the students were just there to caulk the gaps and fill in for summer vacations."

posted by TSO @ 18:47

More Economics

Be careful what you ask for right? I wanted to know of a saintly economist and was sent this. Can't vouch for his sanctity, he does have the benefit of being a Catholic and an economist.

I like his talk on unions because they are a counterweight to business, both of can be bullying. Perhaps it goes in cycles: one era business having the upper hand over workers and another workers having the upper hand. Certainly in the '60s the auto unions piped the tune and the owners danced. My father worked for a union with rules so strict that he couldn't change a light bulb if it wasn't his job. He thinks that when the baby boomers retire there will be a job shortage, a "buyer's market" for labor.

The thing I don't get is all the talk about the gap between the rich and the poor. What matters is not how rich the rich are, but how many poor and how poor they are. If the top 1% has 99% of all the wealth it doesn't matter to me, since any money made over a certain basic level is not necessary. I'm as rich as Bill Gates in the sense of needs being met, though he has the great advantage of not being dependent on a job at all. But is there some connection that says more rich people = more poverty?

You often hear that two incomes are necessary these days. But are they? One thing that has altered my way of looking at things was in considering square footage of houses. The average one-income family in 1950 might've had 4 kids and a 1000-square foot home. Now the average family might have 1800-2000 square feet of home and have 1 or 2 kids.

Are the two incomes necessary to keep up with the Jones's? I'm seeing it played out starkly with my friend. His wife has never worked, but they have a beautiful 1,500 square foot house. She's a good Christian woman to put up with him (jaj), but is constantly begging him to buy a McMansion because - quote - all her friends have nicer homes and she's embarrassed when entertaining them.

posted by TSO @ 14:36

9/11 Coverup

Former ABC correspondent Peter Lance, who testified before the 9/11 Commission, makes a convincing case that the 9/11 report shouldn't be taken as gospel. In Cover-Up he shows that the roots of the tragedy go back to 1994, not 1996 as the report said, and that the TWA 800 bombing was ordered by terrorist Ramzi Yousef. (Anyway, who really believed that it just blew up because of a short?)

It's suprising to me - given how vulnerable we are as an open society - how little loss of life they effected between 1994 to 2000 compared to what they could have.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the Clinton Administration lied about it: "The fuel-tank theory of the crash was also disavowed by James Kallstrom, who headed the FBI investigation. He said on CNN on September 11 that the attack that day was 'the first act of terrorism in the U.S. since TWA 800.' He has yet to explain when he discovered that TWA 800 was brought down by terrorists."

posted by TSO @ 07:30

Mo' Murdoch

Yesterday I scanned my library for an Iris Murdoch novel, vaguely remembering I picked one up for a buck at the last OSU book sale. Sure enough, there was "Bruno's Dream" and I read the first couple dozen pages and was impressed by the beauty of the writing as well as the strong religious content. She could flat out write:

Danby was kind, though no doubt it was all a matter of temperament and good health and being always hungry and ready for a drink. Danby was the sort of man who, if civilization were visibly collapsing in front of him, would cheer up if someone offered him a gin and French.
I ought to have been a recluse, Bruno thought, lived in the country like an eighteenth-century clergyman with my books of theology and my spiders. The proper happiness of his life, the thing which he had so completely mislaid, came to him always associated with his mother, and with memories of summer nights when he was sixteen, seeing in the light of his electric torch the delicate egg-laying ritual of the handsome Dolomedes spider.
As one grows older, thought Bruno, one becomes less moral, there is less time, one bothers less, one gets careless.
Even the idea of purgatory was infinitely consoling: to survive and suffer in the eternal embrace of a totally just love.
How selective guilt is, thought Bruno. It is the sins that link significantly with our life which we remember and regret. People whom we just knocked down in passing are soon lost to memory. Yet their wounds may be as great. We regret only the frailty which the form of our life has made us own to.
The pictures of Janie were brighter yet more remote. Janie playing tennis in a white dress of heavy linen whose hem became green from brushing the grass through a long summer afternoon. Janie chattering Italian at a diplomatic party while her bright bold eye quizzes the men.
Even when he was married to her he had suffered, as a soul might suffer in the presence of its God simply from an apprehension of the difference in substance.
All the effort which he had put into making himself seemed vanity now that there were no more purposes. He had worked so hard, learning German, learning Italian. It seemed to him now that it had all been vanity, a desire at some moment which never came, to impress somebody, to succeed, to be admired.
The printing works were situated on the other side of the Thames in Battersea, upon the water's edge, almost directly opposite the municipal wharf beside the power station, and every day Danby crossed Battersea Bridge into another territory, equally dirty and seedy, but different, smelling of cattle cakes and brewing and watery floatsam. Gwen's dowry was still a source of joy to Danby. He loved the works, the clattering noise, the papery dust, the tribal independence of the printers, he loved the basic stuff of the trade, the clean-cut virginal paper, the virile elemental lead.

posted by TSO @ 13:25

September 7, 2004

The Long Season

These hurricanes seem like nothing else in nature because you are given so much advance notice. Which is good because you can stock up on beer & duct tape, but bad because the sickening feeling that must attend the grueling wait. Not having been in their shoes, I think this is something emotionally non-transferable.

With tornados we might get an hour warning. In California, they may get little or no warning before an earthquake. Vesuvius provided ancient Pompeii nil notice. But in the southeast you get this tremendous week-long acidic feeling of impending doom. I guess there is a bliss in ignorance. As I wrote in my journal: “It is raining!” we called / like impish stewards / Bare we knew the trouble ahead / the horizon fixed at twenty blessed miles.

posted by TSO @ 11:35

Where Are the Saintly Economists?

I've been hearing politically liberal Christians railing against conservatives who "call themselves Christian". In our diocesan newspaper a columnist upset at Republican economic policies warned that not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord" will be heard - which I think is the atomic bomb of Christian rhetoric. When Jesus said that some who call out to Him will not be saved, well, I just don't think we should be in the business of flinging that passage around.

Fr. Groeschel has said that we need more devout Christian psychologists. How about more devout Christian economists? Because the hash slung by non-economists is so bereft of thoughtfulness. For example, I recently read a church official say that it's an outrage the minimum wage isn't being hiked when the salaries of Congressman have gotten multiple raises. The problem is the salaries of Congressmen has virtually no negative impact on the economy or jobs. As a percentage of the budget it can't be seen without an electron microscope. Not one job is lost when a Congressman gets a raise.

I simply wish the bishop had given some detail. Like how much of a raise to the wage? $15 an hour? I wish he'd said something like, "economists have shown that raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour would not significantly reduce the number of jobs." Which I happen to think is true. But then I'm no economist.

For me, raising the minimum wage conjures up teenagers making more money in order to buy more CDs and DVDs so as to further corrupt their impressionable minds. But I'm willing to pay more for my burgers for the sake of those who aren't teenagers (which is easy for me to say since I can afford it). And at least, why not index the minimum wage to the CPI index and have it automatically rise? I think it's plain that the current minimum wage is not too onerous because we have the lowest unemployment rate in the industrialized world. (But keep in mind that the higher the wage the more illegal aliens will arrive to do the work 'under the table' for cheaper.)

The case against a dramatic hike in the wage is made here: "People in minimum wage jobs do not stay at the minimum wage permanently. Their pay increases as they accumulate experience and develop skills. It increases an average of 30 percent in just their first year of employment, according to the Cato Institute study. Other studies show that low-income people become average-income people in a few years and high-income people later in life. All of this depends on their having a job in the first place, however. But the living wage kills jobs."

posted by TSO @ 09:31

Slainte Mhath Summer

Parting is such sweet sorrow, made sweeter and more sorrowful by weather improbably beautiful. But unlike Saul Bellow - who wrote that “on especially enjoyable days I suffer an early afternoon drop – fine weather makes it all the worse. The gloss the sun puts on the surroundings – the triumph of life, so to speak, the flourishing of everything makes me despair. I’ll never be able to keep up with all the massed hours of life triumphant” - I feel no despair. I'll save that for mid-January.

Saying goodbye has been on-going. More of a "goodbye tour". I did it at the end of my vacation two weeks ago with a long giddy-run in the rain followed by multiple Guinness toasts on the front porch. I did it at the end of the Irish festival in early August. And I did it at the end of the long July 4th holiday weekend when the days started shortening. That's the Irish for you, always obsessed with death.

Instead of saying goodbyes I should be attacking the endless parade of small tasks to be done: change the oil in the truck, chop & remove the dead cherry tree, buy shirt & tie & dress shoes for an upcoming family wedding. I should use the extra day for those things, but I don't. I spend it frivolously, reading an Iris Murdoch novel by a rural stream.

My wife is still camping, or was until a few hours ago. I feel vaguely ashamed that I left the compound early, like I've been exposed as a follower of the Law and not the Spirit of Camping by not returning after church Sunday. But it's a four hour round trip so it was pretty much a no-brainer.

I can't complain although expanses of time, like salary bonuses, tend to get frittered away. I briefly ponder Terry Teachout's job, and what a job it is! A commenter on pop culture. Furthering the Kingdom by reviewing books and music and films. Well, somebody's gotta do it, right?

posted by TSO @ 13:45

September 6, 2004

Iris Commentary

Rented & watched the flim Iris, concerning the late Iris Murdoch yesterday... From First Things:

...Perhaps this one example is sufficient to indicate that Murdoch takes the moral life more seriously than almost any other well-known contemporary novelist, and, moreover, that the virtues and shortcomings of her work are tightly interwoven. Her insistence that a good life is possible, and that many people actively pursue it, including those who don't know that they are doing so, marks a fresh and exciting alternative to the more common themes of today's "serious" fiction: detailed accounts of adultery in the suburbs, or of the mental worlds of serial killers, or of the contents of a kitchen cabinet in a trailer home in rural Missouri. But in order to make the pursuit of goodness seem both attractive and possible, Murdoch tends to avoid raising hard questions about those who quite evidently aren't interested in goodness, or those who fight with little success against their evil impulses. As a Christian I would say that the great lack in Murdoch's moral philosophy is an adequate concept of the will. Augustine's Confessions turns up from time to time in Metaphysics, but any hope that she might at some point consider the philosophy of will elaborated there is disappointed. Her only reference to it merely notes that Augustine "pictures will as a blend of intellect and feeling."...
Interesting line from Joyce Carol Oates on Murdoch:
There are even amusing Murdoch characters who realize that they are doomed to happiness and to the mediocrity that seems to imply, since the circumstances of their lives prevent them from continuing the quest for the nature of truth (Henry Marshalson, Bruno's son Miles). But suffering itself, in the context of pitiless self-examination, can masquerade as purification, and we are back where we've begun—no more enlightened than before. There is a marvelous moment at the end of Murdoch's essay "On 'God' and 'Good'" (in The Sovereignty of Good, 1970) when the author, after many pages of abstract, rather tortuous theorizing, changes tone suddenly: "At this point someone might say, all this is very well, the only difficulty is that none of it is true."
On criticism that her novels were impatient with formality, and a catch-22:
...fictional characters, at least in conventionally imagined novels like Murdoch's, are not supposed to know that they are part of an illusion or that it is, in an ultimate sense, not very significant. These spokesmen strike the reader as unreal because they are no more than ideas, the embodiment of ideas, and constitute, in a sense, the novelist's failure to communicate her theme on a deeper, less self-consciously verbal level; or perhaps it is an impatience with the formality of the novel itself.

In The Nice and the Good a character who wants, like Charles Arrowby, to be good, states: "In order to become good it may be necessary to imagine oneself good, and yet such imagining may also be the very thing which renders improvement impossible, either because of surreptitious complacency or because of . . . blasphemous infection . . . when goodness is thought about in the wrong way."

posted by TSO @ 11:36

I Love the Smell of Woodland in the Morning

It wouldn’t be summer without the annual 36-hour camping trip and this year was no exception. I like to camp in small quantities - until a shower or bowel movement becomes necessary (whichever comes first). The phrase goes, “fish and guests begin to stink after three days” and Friday night-to-Sunday camping is plenty for me.

There’s something cathartic about sitting catatonically around a campfire struggling for a fit subject to talk about with the in-laws. One that doesn’t involve politics, religion, sex or gossip. Try it sometime, it’s not as easy as it looks. We covered the hurricane, Clinton’s heart-attack and the Russian tragedy in less than five minutes and then mostly made cooing noises at our animals. (Speaking of animals, it was fun to see our hundred-pound dog attempt to swim in Lake Hope. He thrashes about the water like sumo wrestler trying to dance.)

This trip had the artificial euphoria of a couple mid-afternoon hours spent reading “1916: A Story of the Irish Rebellion”. The book cruelly heightened expectations. It distorted the essential reality of camping: sitting around staring at the fire, cooking, eating, sitting around staring at the fire, cooking, eating… I camp with a large group, so reading time is more privilege than right but feign-dozing by the fire allowed me to say my pater-nosters with the side benefit of an improved attitude.

And that’s always needed in a crowd. I’m known as a conservative in family quarters and my in-laws tend toward the liberal side of things. So I was wanting to avoid the subject of politics since I know they’re smartin’ from the successful Republican Convention. But they bring it up. I’m asked a stumper, out of the blue, without foreplay, apropos of nothing: “Is there one thing you like about John Kerry?” My long pause was not deliberate. I came by the struggle honestly. Finally it was obvious, and I answered “he volunteered for Vietnam when so many of his fellow elites did not.” I don’t care what Kerry’s reasons might’ve been for volunteering, that is impressive on its own.

Then a follow-up: “If you’re voting for Bush, is it because you believe in him?”. I immediately answered “yes” if only to forestall any conversion attempts. He said, “Good. I don’t like these people who vote for the lesser of two evils.” Fortunately I didn't say I didn't like utopians.

By Sunday I noticed a kind of hallucinogenic effect beginning to set in, probably because it was shortly before returning home. I took the dog on a walk early this morning and every leaf looks spectacularly beautiful. The 1975 song “hey, hey, hey it’s know-o-oo...” springs unbidden to mind. The sun is an orange ball and like God you can’t gaze at it directly though you want to.

The drive home through Ohio’s Appalachia was scenic. The hills and hollers are unspeakably beautiful on a morning in late summer. Drove by the small town of Union Furnace (a company town?) and later the “Coonsville Holiness Church” with the sign “If you live wrong, you can’t die right”. There was the “House of Prayer” church that had services at 6 on Sat, Sun, and Tues. Not sure if they meant mornings or evenings but it made the hour easy to recall.

I walked a stretch of the town, made so beautiful by the mountains despite houses wretchedly poor. I wish I'd taken a picture or two because it's difficult to describe, a beauty in the poverty. It's like walking into a Walker Evans photograph and it's a reminder that they have it tough.

There’s a time capsule aspect to this since outsiders never move here (not exactly a booming economy). Folks tend to feel more free to be themselves, like a blog that doesn’t get many hits. There’s a heartbreakingly beautiful grey-weathered “Walton’s Mountain” house with a wrap-around front porch. I’ve more desire to see any of these houses, draped with atmosphere and haunt, than where Edison lived in the 1920s. If you’ve seen one early 19th century inventor’s house then you’ve seen them all. You lean on the velvet rope and see a room with nary a thing out of place, embalmed for our viewing, lacking a glimpse into the owner’s personality. No, give me one of these Appalachian houses and let me see their interior, fecund with life.

Since this is Appalachia there is many an Ulster Prot name; fellow Celts but not fellow Catholics. I’d love to look for clues to their Celtic background – unconscious ones of course. The leprechaun and self-Irishy consciousness to which I am prone is not interesting. But to see the smallest clue that assimilation hasn’t totally taken place would be a small thrill. To see the persistence of an earlier culture – a persistence of memory – in our materialistic flat land is worth seeing, a kind of David over Goliath triumph.

And how appropriate to hear the haunting lyrics of Patty Loveless’s “Mountain Soul” cd on the drive through the small towns of southeastern Ohio. What a great voice she has, especially married to these lyrics:

In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That's the place where I trace my bloodline
And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
"You'll never leave Harlan alive"

Oh my grandfather's dad crossed the Cumberland Mountains
Where he took a pretty girl to be his bride
Said "Won't you walk with me out the mouth of this holler
Or we'll never leave Harlan alive"

Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin'
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you'll fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin'
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

No one ever knew there was coal in them mountains
Till a man from the northeast arrived
Waving hundred dollar bills
Said "I'll pay you for your minerals"
But he never left Harlan alive...

posted by TSO @ 14:45

September 5, 2004

Feel the Schadenfreude

They could just wear a longer skirt.

posted by TSO @ 15:28

September 3, 2004

Zell's Favorites

Zell Miller lists his all-time top ten baseball players on his website as Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Bob Gibson, Johnny Mize, Lou Boudreau, Whitey Ford, Phil Niekro, and Pat Jarvis.

Mine, off the top, are: Roberto Clemente, Johnny Lee Bench, Nolan Ryan, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, Tony Perez. I also like Honus Wagner, Joe Nuxhall, & Sparky Anderson.

We'll now resume regularly scheduled programming.

posted by TSO @ 13:36

The Derb-man...from the Corner:

Kathryn: Reading Jay Nordlinger's "Impromptus"* this morning, I was struck by the resemblance between Zell Miller's explanation for why he won't become a Republican (down at the end of Jay's piece) and my own stock answers when people ask me why I don't go over to Rome.

"But there is one thing that conservatives all have in common, or ought to have in common, and that is a basic Aristotelian belief in the will, and that the individual is the principal agent of his destiny, for good or ill." From an excellent editorial by Boris Johnson in today's Daily Telegraph.

* - NRO: Why don't you just switch parties?
MILLER: I will always remain a Democrat. I'll meet my Maker as a Democrat.
NRO: If you were a younger man, would you consider switching?
MILLER: If I were a younger man, I'd think about a lot of things.

posted by TSO @ 13:30

Porn for Bibliophiles

Right here. I feel his pain; so many books, so ...

posted by TSO @ 09:13

Pray for those in the Storm Path

Steven Riddle asks for our prayers:

I need the consolation of knowing that some small group is holding us all up in prayer. I need to internalize that God's will is done in this as in all things. I'm just not certain I want to see the outcome of this aspect of His will. Pray particularly for Samuel and his protection. shalom, Steven

posted by TSO @ 21:18

September 2, 2004

What do Fr. Groeschel & Scott Hahn Have in Common?

Okay a lot, most obviously their Catholic faith. But one particular thing is that they both trace our current decline not to the 1960s or 1920s or Gay '90s or the Reformation but to...drumroll... 1300.

To summarize Hahn's points, which mirror Fr. Groeschel's:

Things went downhill very quickly for the Church in 1274 when both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure died. The Great Plague began, along with a resurgence of Islam and the introduction of the philosophy of William of Occam. Occam's way of emphasizing God's power was to introduce the idea of arbitrariness. God could make mortal sin the entry into Heaven, for example. This was also in tune with the Muslim influence since Islam's view of God was one of sheer power, of Allah, not Abba.

But the side effect of this emphasis is the terror that arbitrariness brings, and the scrupulousness that Martin Luther succumbed to. He conceived God less as Abba and more as Lawgiver. And the effect of someone giving laws without fatherhood is predictable. One chafes and feels the lack of freedom. We know a father, unlike a civil authority, gives laws for our own good and that is what paradoxically increases freedom, just as a fish is more free in water and a train more free on tracks.

Cardinal Newman in Grammar of Assent well-illustrated God as father in the simplicity of prayer:

...take an ordinary child, but still one who is safe from influences destructive of his religious instincts. Supposing he has offended his parents, he will all alone and without effort, as if it were the most natural of acts, place himself in the presence of God, and beg of Him to set him right with them. Let us consider how much is contained in this simple act. First, it involves the impression on his mind of an unseen Being with whom he is in immediate relation, and that relation so familiar that he can address Him whenever he himself chooses; next, of One whose goodwill towards him he is assured of, and can take for granted—nay, who loves him better, and is nearer to him, than his parents; further, of One who can hear him, wherever he happens to be, and who can read his thoughts, for his prayer need not be vocal; lastly, of One who can effect a critical change in the state of feeling of others towards him. That is, we shall not be wrong in holding that this child has in his mind the image of an Invisible Being, who exercises a particular providence among us, who is present every where, who is heart-reading, heart-changing, ever-accessible, open to impetration. What a strong and intimate vision of God must he have already attained, if, as I have supposed, an ordinary trouble of mind has the spontaneous effect of leading him for consolation and aid to an Invisible Personal Power!

posted by TSO @ 16:30

From the latest National Review:

I'm struck by the "unintended consequences" of a drive for purity. Something about the perfect being the enemy of the good. Charlotte Allen reviews Alister McGrath's book about atheism:

The roots of atheism, McGrath suggests, lay paradoxically in that primal phenomenon of Western modernity, the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers' efforts to purify the institutional church in order to make it more concordant with their vision of Jesus' authentic teachings generated a loss of trust in institutional religion in general. Furthermore, McGrath argues that the Reformers, by focusing upon the Bible as the sole source of God's revelation, effectively desacralized both the natural world and the secular human world, which in the integralist medieval Catholic view had been equally saturated with God's sacred presence. With the Reformation, "God became an absence in the world," writes McGrath.

Secular rulers' efforts to mediate the inevitable conflicts that developed between Catholicism and Protestantism and between different strains of Protestantism by mandating religious tolerance and limiting the influence of religion in public life led many to deem religion irrelevant and religious differences risible, like the squabbles between the Big-Enders and the Little-Enders in Gulliver's Travels.

posted by TSO @ 13:35

Convention Commentary

PETER ROBINSON CRITIQUES ARNOLD: "And who could deny the power of his story? A poor boy in Austria, who saw the evil empire with his own eyes, then came to America and found freedom and abundance and now holds high office. Yet he struck me as uni-dimensional, a problem he’ll need to address if he intends to remain a national figure. Arnold’s world is a lot like Ayn Rand’s: Either make a success of yourself or you’re somehow defective. Arnold spoke not a word about the sick, the old, or the unfortunate. Arnold’s hero (and mine) Milton Friedman might want to take Arnold aside. “We’re in favor of free markets,” Milton would explain, “not just because they create opportunities for the strong, but because the abundance they foster enables us to engage in larger and more magnanimous acts of charity.”
SPEAKING OF THE WAR [Ramesh Ponnuru]
I think McCain did more than any of the other speakers--including Cheney--to actually make the case for it.

THE FIRST GULF WAR [Jonah Goldberg]
I think all of the Republicans who've dinged Kerry's vote against the first Gulf War have missed an opportunity by not actually repeating some of the arguments that Kerry made in defense of that no-vote and then comparing those arguments to his more recent rationales. He believed in 1990-91, for example, that we would abandon the principle of "deterrence" if we tried to remove Saddam from Kuwait -- which he'd invaded undeterred. His rationale for being "against" the more recent Gulf War is that Bush didn't build a big enough coalition even though the first war couldn't have had a bigger coalition and Kerry still opposed it. He criticized W for not getting final approval from the United Nations -- but Poppa got exactly that and Kerry still opposed it. Etc.
LILEKS, sounding like Zell: "Look, over in Roosia y’all got a hunnert Islamic terrorists holdin’ schoolkids hostage with bomb belts, and they’d do it here in a heartbeat, and they might probably will. So can we talk about spendin’ federal money on carvin’ up embryos later?"

posted by TSO @ 11:33

Fr. Joe Quotes

Hendra's "Father Joe" is riveting. Excerpts:

Hendra: "Satire is one weapon the powerless have against the powerful. Or the poor against the rich. Or the young against the old."
Fr.J.: "Satire always divides people up into two groups?"
H: "I suppose that's often its dynamic, yes."
FJ: "Is that a good thing?"
H: "It's the way the world works, Father Joe. People think in teams. We're good, you're evil; we're smart, you're dumb...."
FJ: "Hmm...You see, dear - I think there are two types of people in the world. Those who divide the world up into two kinds of people...and those who don't."

FJ: "Needing attention is a powerful force in the world, isn't it?"
H: "Absolutely. Most people would think of it as a very natural need. Almost a right."
FJ: "By 'natural' you mean 'morally neutral'?
H: "Touche."
FJ: "Without God, people find it very hard to know who they are or why they exist. But if others pay attention to them, praise them, write about them, discuss them, they think they've found the answers to both questions."

posted by TSO @ 09:56

Barbara of "Church of the Masses" is back and is struggling with the role of beauty:

Everywhere I go here in the States, I whine and complain that we need beauty in our churches. I see it as a necessary component to weathering life in a holy way "in this valley of tears." So, here's the problem. Europe is chock-full of beauty in their churches, but they have mostly lost their faith.

So, what does that say about my theories about the urgent relationship between aestethical/liturgical beauty and faith? Maybe it is good that we Americans are surrounded by ugliness in our churches? Somebody help...
To which a commenter responded that "Europe's most beautiful churches were built with the money and encouragement of peasants, nobles, and free men who had great faith...a faith that was a great part of their lives....Maybe its people of faith who make beautiful is not beautiful churches that make people of faith."

posted by TSO @ 09:50

Missed One Speech, Caught Another

I missed the Zell Miller speech, due to a major failing of my taping system, but from the clips I've seen he looked like Jonathan Edwards preaching "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God". Mark of Irish Elk has been my first stop for convention coverage. "Give 'em Zell" - funny.

I got to see and hear President Bush in person yesterday, just me and Laura and Hambone and 20,000 of our closest friends. Since Ohio is deadlocked at 46% to 46% by the latest & most accurate poll I've seen, he's visiting here early & often. Laura was with him and golfer Jack Nicklaus intro'd him.

posted by TSO @ 09:41

Why can't Irish movie characters look Irish?

posted by TSO @ 09:38


Received an email from Bill Luse on my great-uncle post: "It's so easy to break someone's heart. What she was doing, whether intended or not, was telling him that his life was meaningless. Hope he was able to die at peace."

So true. He baptized her, spoke at her commencement and was a highly regarded monsignor. We forget how greatly respected priests were in the 40s and 50s. They drove late-model upscale cars, cooking and cleaning was done for them (of course, come to think of it, husbands back then had all the cooking and cleaning done for them.) And they had influence. By the 60s and 70s they not only lost influence but were regarded in some quarters as freaks because of the celibacy requirement. Many priests had to go through mini-Crucifixions, experiencing early in their vocations an "entry to Jerusalem" phase when they were hailed, and then little calvaries of waning influence and respect. Newly ordained priests now often receive little human respect, especially post-Scandal, but in God's opposite world they will receive a great reward.

posted by TSO @ 09:36

In Praise of Humor

I'm seeing how indispensible a sense of humor is to the spiritual life. The "comic" sense of Flannery O'Connor is more attractive to me than the tragic sensibilities of other writers if only because it appeals to the virtue of Hope. I cherish the old Italian saying, "the situation is hopeless, but not serious" (ironically, a phrase of hope) and embrace the absurdity of my own absurdities. I laugh at my pride. I recognize that much of the time I may think I'm doing God's will but am completely mistaken, which is a pratfall worthy of the Stooges.

Tertullian said, "I believe it because it is absurd" and if it seems there is an absurdity that God should care about those who are so insignificant compared to Him then it is an absurdity that is true. Though we are to Him less than what an ant is to us, he loves us!

posted by TSO @ 09:36


Fine Guinness tribute poured by Dr. Blosser here.

Calling All Summa Mamas: Can you explain what a major rectum means in Texasian? It can't be good can it?

Interesting comments from Cardinal George on e5 here, which references another article here.

Twenty big ones for Steven. Congrats!

posted by TSO @ 10:27

September 1, 2004

Liked this from Sacred Space


I ask for the grace to believe
in what I could be and do
if I only allowed God, my loving Creator,
to continue to create me, guide me and shape me.

We start prayer by coming into the presence of God: meaning what? Nothing known to the senses, says St Paul (Hebrews 12,18). The imagination boggles: not a blazing fire, or trumpeting thunder, or a great voice speaking… What you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, with the whole church in which everyone is a first-born child and a citizen of heaven.

A first-born child, he says. We belong here, not as strangers creeping into an awesome temple, but as children taking our places at the family table. Those who have come close to death remember an overwhelming sense of happiness within reach; they know they are coming home. We are not there on sufferance, but because it is our place.

posted by TSO @ 10:25

Save the Pipers! *grin*

posted by TSO @ 08:37

Weak, Dominant Fathers

Heard Ben Stein on Hardball say a fascinating thing. When asked by Chris Matthews why all the Bush hatred, Stein said for the same reason they hated Nixon. The desire to rebel against a "weak, dominant father" is powerful and ingrained. He didn't say why he thought Bush was weak, but he's not exactly Patton, is he? And he certainly is dominating at least as far as exercising power (unlike a Ford or Carter). Interesting.

Paul Begala, with whom I normally agree with on exactly nothing, said McCain's was the best speech of the convention, at least as written. He said he could've delivered it better.

Arnold can really give a speech. Stein mentioned that Arnold can say the most banal cliche and make it sound interesting. The painful part was when he didn't mention "sanctity of life" or "freedom to live" as one of the things that make one a Republican. Of course that wouldn't be true because there are a lot of pro-choice Republicans. But I do take comfort in the fact that just about everyone with power in the party are pro-lifers. The President, the Senate Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House and the House Whip...

But it is stunning how quickly a party can throw its principles overboard. The Democrats were fiercely anti-gun until Al Gore lost Tennessee in '00. Hillary Clinton was called on that by Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" Sunday and she could only lamely stammer "I understand political realities". Fortunately the political reality in the Republican party is you can't win the nomination without being pro-life. Hopefully.

I didn't get the Bush girls' joke about "Sex in the City". The message of their talk seemed to be "we're cool, we're not outside the culture". Which is disappointing given the culture.

So nice to have a week where the media has to play nicey-nice. They know only conservatives are watching the convention (and hence their coverage) so they cut us a break and let us savor the moment. Very sporting I'd say. Andrea Mitchell didn't much play though, scarcely hiding her irritation, but Chris Matthews was pleasant. He added Laura Ingraham to the panel and praised McCain's & Guilliani's speeches. Imus is now beginning to waver in his Kerry support, since he only supports the winner.

Good NRO column about the imperfect Republican party: "What are my choices in the realm of the possible, where there is no Lost City of Atlantis or French Army just over the horizon ready to come to the aid of any nation led by a Democrat?"

posted by TSO @ 08:18

Saw a line from Ann Annplebaum's column about Saddam Hussein & the aftermath of the war:

Increasingly, everything that is wrong in Iraq, from the malfunctioning infrastructure to the ethnic tensions, is blamed on the U.S. occupation. A wider debate about how Iraq got to where it is -- how Hussein mismanaged the country, murdered whole villages and stole the nation's money -- might help persuade Iraqis to invest in the present.

One gets the sense that Iraqis needed - but had not wanted or asked for - help. They appear not to be ready to take responsibility for their own part in the situation, and until you take responsibility...(you know the rest).

Still, this was juxtaposed by an email from KTC, who was hesitant to make a phone call to someone who she thought might need - though not want - her help: "...But my favorite priest of all time had the most accurate view, I think. When he escorted a group of 4th grade girls and their moms to a nursing home one Christmas, he didn't hesitate to ask the nurse to wake Catholic patients up. "If YOU were cooped up in here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and a bunch of school kids came in wanting to sing YOU Christmas carols, would you want them to skip you? Heck, you can sleep anytime, but we don't show up anytime!"

Personally, I hope God doesn't wait for distress calls.

posted by TSO @ 13:46

October 31, 2004

Our Pastor's Sermon

Msgr. Lane used the gospel reading of Zacchaeus to speak in a practical way. He said most of us can relate to Zacchaeus, being similarly small of spiritual stature. He said we should once in awhile try to see over the clutter, seek Christ, to look for what is higher amid the compulsiveness this hyper-political season breeds. "We risk becoming as small as our world is."

His homily is no-nonsense. He doesn't pretend we aren't spiritually small. Our pastor's expectations seem to be low, which makes improvement seem possible because we don't have a high hurdle to leap. (He once said words to the effect that it is the young people who will be the force of renewal in the church and I thought, "hey, hey, is he giving up on us middle-agers?" But at the same time I reluctantly recognized a truth in it.)

Beautiful reading from the book of Wisdom (Wisdom 11:22 - 12:2) today (a bennie of being Catholic since it's not in the KJV):

But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook the sins of men that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them, and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!
UPDATE: See Tom's comments on this reading.

posted by TSO @ 13:23

Firesale of Weekend Ramblings

Work is tenuous at best. The office climate is mass paranoia, and I wonder how long the second word in “unchallenging job” will still be applicable to me. The bigwigs huddle, never a good sign, and there are wars and rumors of war. To me the matter is settled: do my fool job until God says otherwise. The only vague sense of unease I have is a curious absence of a vague sense of unease, which gives new reason for unease. But I have a sense of rest about it because 1) God knows my limits, and they are very limiting and 2) good soldiers wait for orders before plunging ahead and 3) all you have to do is ask!

Edge of Weekend

Oh sweet the weekend!
bred this Friday night
begun with Guinness and chimes
and jigs and rhymes
till the hour breaks Saturday’s cusp
and dew forms the bluegrass.

By Saturday’s winsomeness
there are volumes limitless
bound in life tuxes,
perfumed in white margins
and burnt-bled of writers wrists.

Oh then to read in the scent-heavy study
‘midst the glow of the lava
near where yard leaves gather
in their hue-full clumps
while a DVD plays
the unwatched episode of “Ballykissangel”.

Only in chill and damp
are books opened and stories told,
For on hot summer days your DNA dances
and the only thought between
heaven and earth is:
“Boswell needs to get a life!”

Had a dream where I went to Communion after asking the priest beforehand if I could have 50 Eucharists. He'd said yes, and so after everyone received I knelt at the Communion rail. I'd expected to receive them all at once in a stack which I could presumably consume quickly or take back to my seat...i.e. remain inconspicuous. Instead he gave me Eucharist after Eucharist treating each as separate and with identical reverence ("The Body of Christ".."Amen".."The Body of Christ".."Amen" ). I'm greatly agitated by the spectacle. Everyone is watching from the pews asking "who is this guy?" And I'm thinking how presumptuous and unrighteous I was to ask for 50 Eucharists and how the priest had handled it perfectly. Instead of telling me "no" he did what I'd asked, only in a way I hadn't expected. And so I couldn't be mad at him, only at myself.

posted by TSO @ 08:18

Awfully Mature, This John Allen

This Word From Rome guy sounds like a real adult:

o Can we desist from patterns of speech and thought that are destructive of dialogue? For example, can we stop pretending there's an animal out there called "the bishops" that has only one way of thinking and acting? In the United States, the Catholic bishops run from Tom Gumbleton to Fabian Bruskewitz and every point of the compass in between. There's little sense in sweeping jeremiads about "the bishops."

Are we prepared, for example, to step outside our prejudices to sympathetically consider the other? I noted that I heard during the weekend negative references to the Catholic TV network EWTN, and descriptions of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's top doctrinal official, as if he were Genghis Kahn. In Schreiter's session, he happened to mention that a new bishop in Austria comes from Opus Dei, and the gasps were audible, as if he had said the bishop was a member of the Nazi party or the Klu Klux Klan. Of course, this was a conversation among friends, and some of these comments were just blowing off steam. Still, what does this suggest about our capacity for dialogue? (The same question could be put to some conservative Catholics who scorn, for example, Voice of the Faithful, the staff of the U.S. bishops' conference, and any number of bishops they regard as "soft" on dissent).

o Are we sufficiently critical of the manifold ways in which secularity shapes our own imaginations, instincts and prejudices? To hear some people talk, I said, one might think "secularity" is a cultural force outside the church which we must seek out and engage. In reality, I argued, secularity was in this room -- it's the air in which we live and move and have our being. As one proof of the point, I said, I heard more references over the weekend to movies and TV shows than I did to Charles Borromeo or Luigi Sturzo.

o Isn't part of the reason that the "secular world" so often turns a deaf ear to us precisely because in so many ways we look, talk and act exactly like it? For example, haven't we reproduced inside the church, in exacting detail, the same polarization, the same ideological hatreds, and the same interest group strategies drawn from the secular world? Don't we see that pattern, to take one current instance, in Catholic debate over the Bush/Kerry election?
And much more...

posted by TSO @ 22:14

October 30, 2004

by Vincent O'Sullivan

Consider this:
A man who feels for the people.
A friend to the ill-favoured.
Never a word against the bar-
barians assuming Roman dress.

Reconcile this:
A believer in man's potential.
A voice raised against the games
where human flesh is sport.
A man whose eyes fill at music.

You might at least concede:
No man went hungry from my door.
No woman was molested.
No child was imposed on.
Humanitas inevitable as breath.

I who might have, have
never raped, pillaged, extorted;
abused office or position;
concealed; interfered with art;
stood between any man and the sunset.

And yet as you say,
I have killed a god. I have made
of impartiality, a farce.
I have dabbled in chaos. I,
Pilate. Who vote as you do.

--via Sancta Sanctis

posted by TSO @ 00:29

Listenin' to Cajun music and I can still see the gator-smile of the bass player of Michael Cormier & the Can’t Hardly Playboys in my mind's eye. I hain’t seen a bigger grin this side of Paradise. When the Cardinals scored a run against the Astros the band tried to take credit for the audience cheers, thanking them profusely. Later runs were similarly received, the moral bein' you take what you can get, even if it's leftovers.

I have a renewed hunger to read. I'm in reading deficit and I go to bed hungry every night. I’m longing to lounge through Boswell’s “Life of Johnson”. And why not Borges’ little non-fiction pieces? Updike’s “Early Stories”? I ordered it. Ala carte. I opened the fresh biography of “Hamilton Joe” Nuxhall and the book was pungent in that jet-photography sort of way, just like National Geographics. When I was a kid, after looking for pictures of African native gals who’d forgotten their bras, I’d enjoy the amazing ink smell that Geographics are known for. Perhaps the binding was airplane glue; it was certainly addictive.

Reading about Nuxhall playing basketball on neighbor courts brought to mind my own misspent youth. While T.C. Boyle was reading Schopenhauer I was trying to be the first 5’10’’ Jerry West. The Los Angeles Laker star spent his West Virginian youth wearing out the nylon of the local basketball nets and I did likewise. I played till it was cold and dark and my fingers were numb. My sense of presumption was impressive; I wore out my neighbor’s net! They never minded, God bless them. I’m not sure I even asked nor appreciated it. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

posted by TSO @ 22:50

October 29, 2004

Tis a Mystery

Irish writer Robert McLiam Wilson, who wrote the enjoyable "Eureka Street" (enjoyable when I was 32 at least) hasn't written anything in eight years. He's about my age, 40, still young by writer standards, so it just seems odd to me. A google search provides little insight into his situation.

posted by TSO @ 18:18

It may come down to...

Four Votes in O-HI-O

From the Corner:
THE SEESAW [Jonah Goldberg]
Yesterday, I was highly confident Bush would win. Today I am only somewhat confident. My fear today is that Bush will lose Ohio. He can still win -- as Rich points out today -- if he loses Ohio. But let's face it, with Ohio out of W's W column, it's much harder.

Looking at the electoral map, it's still tighter than Hambone's budget. I think Bush will win FL and Iowa and maybe PA, but I'd be shocked if he wins WI, NJ or HI. Minnesota and Michigan are supposedly "barely Bush" states, but if they go for Bush then my name is Elmer Fudd.

Ohio is a complete unknown. Ham o' Bone seems to think that Bush is going to profit from a big evangelical vote but I find it hard to believe there were that many evangelicals who didn't vote for Bush in 2000 (remember that was also the "most important election of our lifetime" - reminds me of how during a baseball game one of us will say "play of the game!" a minimum of eight times). It seems to me Bush has to get many more votes than he did in '00 just to stay even, since Nader didn't make the ballot this time and new registrations in Democratic areas are "out the wazoo" - a technical term meaning lots. Meanwhile Peter Schramm on Backgrounders went from seeing Ohio as "Not a Swing State" on 10/27/04 to a full panic mode "Ahnold save us!" on 10/29/04. Which is kind of humorous if you think about it.

On a personal note, while I, like Charlotte Allen, am not experiencing the angst that some Catholic voters are concerning who to vote for, I do have angst in wondering if I've done enough for Bush in the form of volunteering to knock on doors, etc...So we all have guilt or uncertainty in one form or another. It is patently absurd to compare belief in a candidate to belief in God but they are alike in the sense that the greater the certainty given to you, the more that is expected of you. Bush's foil (Kerry) makes the certainty greater for me.

posted by TSO @ 13:20

Jimmy Akin on whether Devout Non-Catholics Can Be As Devout As Devout Catholics as well as how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if...

If one takes a subjective definition of "devout," by which it would mean "sincere" or "fervent in practice," then it would seem that non-Catholic Christians can be just as sincere and fervent in their practice of religion as Catholics. Catholics do not have an intrinsic subjective advantage in terms of sincerity or fervor. They do, however, have an extrinsic advantage--as you point out--in that they have means of grace available to them that can foster greater fervor. These include not only the sacraments but also sacramentals, Catholic art, etc.

Yet these extrinsic advantages can be overcome by other extrinsic factors. The pitiful preaching and catechesis that has existed in many Catholic churches for the last forty years is an extrinsic factor that mitigates against fervor, and the fervor of many Catholics has been depressed by this compared to the fervor of those in many Evangelical and Fundamentalist churches.

Historically the word "devout" may be taken in another, more objectivist sense--i.e., religious practice that makes an objective connection with God. This might be taken as something Paul has in mind when he says that "it is good to be zealous in a good thing always" (Gal. 4:18). If the term "devout" is taken in this sense (i.e., devotion that objectively makes a connection with God rather than simply being subjectively fervent without this connection necessarily being made) then the Catholic has more of an advantage.

posted by TSO @ 11:25

Eve Tushnet on the election:

Bush would have to do something fairly spectacular to get me to vote for Kerry. I'm not going to pretend that I was ever a "swing voter" in that sense. And, as I said, I can't vote in this election anyway. But I know a lot of Catholics, and a lot of conservatives, are considering voting third-party or sitting this one out. And I hope they won't. I don't think Bush's foreign-policy failures are worth a Kerry presidency. I know this is unlikely to persuade; so I will just go back to what I have been doing, which is praying, writing fiction, volunteering, and trying to bring some kind of order and hope to my life and the lives of the people I can touch.

posted by TSO @ 10:32

Makeover - check your local listings!

Transcript from last week's show:

Dah-ling, you've let yourself go! Those are the seven deadly sins, not virtues, for heaven sakes. Thank God he starts where we are and not where we should be.

Fortunately we have a team of specialists here to assist: soulatologists, prayer stylists, alms artists, soul beauticians, confessors, spiritual personal trainers, and most importantly the Soul Surgeon, who never leaves a scar. He's always available and no appointments are needed, so don't hesitate to talk with him.

First we'll introduce you to Mary, who without question has the most beautiful soul ever created. I promise she won't blanch at your split ends. We had a gal come in the other day with really crappy nails and Mary didn't blink an eye. Remarkable because Mary's nails look like Heaven! She'll have you say the Rosary which will soften the skin of your soul. You'll feel like buttah!

During your stay there will be a Confessional purgative, where you will experience the healing balm of forgiveness and unmerited mercy. Depending on your needs, we'll set up sessions with our staff of saints who have undergone similar extreme makeovers. Augustine and Magdalen are favorites for those with problems with wrinkles, eye bags, acne and scars. But first a herbal bath in the Psalms. And don't worry. As an old curmudgeon once told me, "Pray, hope and don't worry!"

posted by TSO @ 09:29

Twas the Night of the Election

Twas the night of the election and all through the land
Not a creature was stirring, not even Rove's hand
All the chads were hung by the voters with care
In the hope that a result would soon be there.

Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but lawyers and gadflys in a shiny new Lear.
A maniacal flyer with a voice like a roar,
I knew in a moment it must be Michael Moore.

And more rapid than eagles his minions all came
As he shouted “On Carville” and each operative's name.
And so up to Ohio the minions soon flew
With a sleigh full of lawsuits and false charges, too.
Down the chimney he came with a leap and a bound;
He wore a strange ballcap, and his belly was round.

He spoke a few words then went straight to his work,
He filled the stockings with lies and turned with a jerk.
Then giving the finger and pinching his nose,
He gave us a nod up the chimney he rose.
And I heard him exclaim as he flew out of sight,
“Merry elections to all and to all a long night!”

posted by TSO @ 07:58

Via Email...

It looks like Kerry needs Ohio far more than Bush does, which is some measure of comfort here in the Buckeye state:

The 2004 General election in Ohio has the very real potential of being the most chaotic in the state’s history, a condition likely to be echoed in the other five ‘battleground states.’ It appears that Ohio could very well be the most contested election among the 50 states this year, with current Presidential polls a virtual draw, all within the margin of error. Within just the past week Ohio has been moved from a “leaning Bush” to a “toss-up” state.

Four years ago the Gore campaign withdrew much of its campaign resources about three weeks before the election, essentially conceding the state to Bush. In retrospect, political observers view this decision as probably costing Gore the election, since Bush won by only slightly more than 3%.

Of the 5 states listed in the “too close to call,” Ohio controls more than one-half (20) of the 37 total electoral votes in the balance in toss-up states. The environment is clearly ripe for a flood of “political” operatives entering Ohio from all over the country, who will do all they can to get out the vote on Election Day for their preferred candidate. Consequently the Presidential election results in Ohio are virtually impossible to predict. Second week of October national polling results show that Kerry must win Ohio to become President.

posted by TSO @ 14:07

October 28, 2004

The title alone made me smile. Also, she rebuts an anti-blogger here.

posted by TSO @ 10:39

"Why Not Us?"

Touching "Win it for..." thread (via Mark S.) posted before the Red Sox win. Hard not to get choked up. Fifty-four pages (at last count), a summa of prayers, a proverbial ocean of heartsick and longing for which the Germans have the perfect word: sehnsucht. From the first couple pages:

Win it for dad who will stop hating them if they win

Win it for mom who passed away 10-23-03.

She never really cared much about the Sox, outside of the fact that she knew I was always in a better mood when they won, until last post season. She watched all the games against Oakland, even game one that ended at 2:30 am.

She called me for play by play during game 6 vs NY because her home town lost power in the late innings.

One of the last things she said to me on 10-22-03, when I was visiting her at the hospital a few days after game 7 was it's too bad they couldn't have won.
Win it for the guy Roger Angell wrote about when summing up the 1975 World Series--the guy he imagined driving his car somewhere on a lonely road in New England while listening to Game 6, who, when Pudge hits the HR, stops his car, gets out, and jumps up and down for sheer joy: Everyman.

"We're the leaders of tomorrow."
"Yeah, but it's today."
- Firesign Theatre

[Reminds me of the gospel story where the sister of Lazurus looks to a future resurrection of the dead and Jesus says, "I am the Resurrection": "it is today!"]

Win it for Grandma and Grandpa Starrett. They taught my mother and I how to truly love baseball.

Win it for Grandma Anderson who told me just before she passed that she was pretty sure they would win one sometime soon.

Win it for Grandpa Anderson with the Hope that this may briefly pierce the shroud of Alheimzer's that surrounds this noble man.

Win it for Mom and Me we have agreed to only speak briefly after each game mostly to see if we are both still alive.

Win it for my daughter who is watching the games at UCSD. She reminds me of a loney freshmen at RPI in 1978. May she met some life long friends like I did so long ago.

Win it for us all

posted by TSO @ 10:08


I posted more prose on my prose for Nigerian Scammers blog. Rated PG-13.

posted by TSO @ 10:06

Ephesians 5 Rules

Is there anything more beautiful than Ephesians 5? I'm not talking about wives being submissive to their husbands but just beyond that, to the real wine:

...Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So (also) husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

"For this reason a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."

This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.
The spectacular awe of this passage is Christ leaving his Father to be joined to his church and become one flesh with us, "cleansing us in the bath of water with the word" so that he might present us without blemish to the Father. That's an exquisite, inexpressibly wonderful image and a balm to the tough love expressed in yesterday's Gospel reading, Luke 13:22-30. Eligibility for salvation in the OT was blood - kin-blood of being of the tribe of Jacob. In the NT, it wasn't changed from the material to strictly spiritual but fulfilled utterly, by reception of the Blood of Christ, making us of the tribe of Jacob.

posted by TSO @ 09:01

From a Review of "Early Stories"

Unlike writers like Emerson and Thoreau, who needed spectacular natural surroundings to bolster their artistic and theological visions, [John] Updike needs only ordinary things to do so. He sees truth, and indeed, evidence of God Himself, in the commonplace things around him. The narrator in one of his stories says, “A piece of turf torn from a meadow becomes a Gloria when drawn by Durer. Details. Details are the giant’s fingers.” The ordinary, to Updike, is extraordinary. The mundane is magical.

posted by TSO @ 15:09

October 27, 2004


An Ohio legislator retired last year and I'm not sure but I think he was nicknamed "Dr. No" (or was it "the Caveman"?) because he voted down every new spending idea not on the merits but on the principle that guvmint was big enough, thank you very much.

I thought it crude - he could at least read the proposal or bill. But we all must fill a role that is unique but not sufficient in itself, and so Mr. Caveman fulfilled the role of guardian of the public treasury knowing he was not sufficient and that proponents would do their thing. Meanwhile he remained admirably detached from what others thought of him. Despite his nays, from 1960 to 2000 Ohio went from one of the least taxed states to the top quartile, and an analysis by the Tax Foundation of each state’s “business tax friendliness” ranked Ohio 47th in the nation.

What is interesting is that the prescient Dr. No didn't get sucked in. He considered new taxes to be like kids who cajole their daddy to consider something "just this once" while knowing that just this once means just as often as their special pleading will work. Just this once is great in theory, but opens the door. With the abortion debate, was it all over when the Pill was legalized? Probably not, but once that hurdle was cleared it was much easier. Now we attempt to incrementally reverse the Culture of Death, beginning with the Conor bill and the partial-birth abortion ban. Slippery slopes work both ways.

posted by TSO @ 14:23

John Updike ...

...nails it concerning the Iraq War:

"My view is that the sanctions weren't going anywhere except starving a lot of Iraqi babies, and that Saddam could play games with the U.N. forever, so something in me sympathized with George Bush's desire to remove him. He's paying for it, we're all paying for it--the soldiers who are getting killed are paying for it. It's very easy to say that this was a dreadful mistake, but I'm not sure that it was."
...And on Bible translations.
Why should not Alter’s version, its program so richly contemplated and persuasively outlined, become the definitive one, replacing not only the King James but the plethora of its revised, uninspired, and “accessible” versions on the shelf?

Several reasons why not, in the course of my reading through this massive tome (sold sturdily boxed, as if to support its weight), emerged. The sheer amount of accompanying commentary and philological footnotes is one of them. The fifty-four churchmen and scholars empowered at a conference at Hampton Court in January of 1604 to provide an authoritative English Bible had a clear charge: to supply English readers with a self-explanatory text. When they encountered a crux, they took their best guess and worked on; many of the guesses can be improved upon now, but no suggestion of an unclear and imperfect original was allowed to trouble the Word of God.

posted by TSO @ 15:25

October 26, 2004

New Orleans

I was impressed by a couple things about New Orleaners, though I know one can hardly make judgments on such a micro trip. One was how friendly they were. And the other was the great facility they have in separating money from wallet while not technically pick-pocketing you. One woman gave us fine New Orleans ballcaps, seemingly gratis. Then she asked for a donation. I gave her one and she frowned and said the cap was $10. I handed back the cap. Later a panhandler with an image of a baby pinned to her shirt began polishing my tennis shoes. Now there’s a first. How can you not give a few bucks to someone who’s polishing your Sauconys while her ill baby looks up at you?

Some vacations have more of a cumulative effect about them, a piling up of brush strokes that form a larger impression rather than a heightened single memory. This first trip to the Big Easy was like that. Time was taut since we were taking one of our ‘speed travel’ trips, trying to see as much in 72 hours as possible.

First thing we did was walk down the infamous Bourbon St. in the French Quarter. It was tacky and trashy and I could already read my wife’s thoughts: “I came all the way from Ohio for this? Walking in ninety degree heat to see smut show signs?” The day was steamy hot, hotter here in late October than any Ohio August day this past summer. One fellow later told us it reached 99 degrees but he might have been just a “sayer” (my wife’s term for truth-embellisher). We came to a shop called “Jazz Funeral”, whose mission in life appeared to be to mock the traditional “remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return”. Everywhere there were skulls and skeletons, some placed in obscene positions. I recall a church in Rome where the monks had arranged their bones in artistic representations of Christian symbols like the crucifix and the sacred heart and “Jazz Funeral” seemed the flip side of that in arranging reminders of our mortality as “party, for tomorrow you may die” instead of a “pray, for tomorrow you may die”.

After a meal at Tu Jacque, a handsome old New Orleans bar full of atmosphere where the barkeep looked the part – like a method actor preparing for a role. Our group of four looked like cardboard cutouts of tourists; if there was a “Preppy Handbook” for tourists, we’d have a page.

After a few hours walking in the heat a tour bus looked very attractive. It saved our feet and we got an overview of the whole city, including a visit to Cemetery Number 3, the safest of the cemeteries, which I’d marked as a disadvantage. (A tour of a creepy cemetery combined with a lack of personal safety has a certain panache.) Our droll guide was in his late 20s and looked like he’d been doing this for awhile based on the occasional stifled yawn. He had the eccentric tic of humming a few notes when he was done pointing out something historic, as if to fill the vacuum.

He also gave the tour a Catholic-centric cast. “New Orleans was 110% Catholic and is now 80% Catholic,” he said as he pointed out some seemingly trivial sights such as local Catholic high schools and smaller Catholic churches, while ignoring non-Catholic institutions along the way. He pointed out Notre Dame seminary and said, “we’ve held our breath but so far it hasn’t been in the news” and in the silence he said, “do you get it?” and yes we nodded. No scandal news. Our stop at Cemetery number 3 was pleasingly Catholic. A large statue of Mother Teresa over a gravestone led Mark to jokingly say, “I didn’t know she was buried here!”. But this was merely a memorial, with a quote engraved in the stone: “If you pray, you will have faith. And if you have faith, you will love. And if you have love, you will serve. And if you serve, you will have peace.” All the sky tilted with the white-stoned angels and virgins in this above-ground cemetery, looking like beautiful immobile birds resting on pedestals. The tall monuments lent it the atmosphere of a town, a peaceful “City of the Dead”.

Drove by the author Anne Rice’s “Mardi Gras home” on the parade route. Beads dance in the trees long after Mardi Gras since the branches catch strands thrown from the 20-foot tall parade floats and there they remain, silently like a reveler’s Spanish moss, the only lasting trace of parties past. Our guide said that having access to a toilet is the key ingredient in a Mardi Gras home but Rice’s digs were far more than that. This beautiful white-pillared mansion was representative of the fine homes in the Garden District of the city. A surprising number of the homes were marred by large political signs. Imagine Tara in Gone With the Wind with a 5’by7’ Bush/Cheney or Kerry/Edwards sign affixed below a second floor window. Louisiana isn’t even a swing state, since the polls are decidedly in Bush’s favor, but maybe in New Orleans there are so many swing state travelers (like us) that they feel the need to assert their opinions.

The architecture is spectacular but I feel blasé. Wonder is more elusive as we age but it is only critical in the realm of religion, although I suspect there is a carryover from life in general. Can awe at the beauty of the pageantry of a Mardi Gras parade set the plate for a more religious awe? Father Joe Warrilow, the saint in Hendra’s “Father Joe” had an awe for the natural world that was almost inseparable from his awe of God. When we are young we may have a great respect for human authority, be it priest or president. This has eroded on a macro scale within the culture (JFK was a saint until the biographies came out in the late ‘60s) and I wonder if this erosion of respect for human authority has carried over to the Divine. We are not disembodied spirits, so an incarnational religion like Christianity can’t afford to lack models in the flesh.

We ate at Mike Anderson’s that night, a seafood restaurant, and I had the obligatory alligator appetizer. I’d forgotten how it tasted. Not that great. Rather chewy. (I’ll avoid the ‘tastes like chicken’ gibe, which is now older than Methuselah, which, come to think of it, is a pretty old cliche itself.) The “Big Easy” is in many ways our opposite: loose, spontaneous, heedlessly lustful. One gets the sense they don’t live in their head so much. At the restaurant I spotted a table that looked like four locals. Late 50s-something guy with a Southern ballcap with some strand (not hair) trailing from the back. 20-ish year old girl wearing lingerie and who looked like a hooker in the old timey brothel sense, rather than the Brittany Spears sense. Another woman in her 40s and a man in his 30s. Good mix of ages and there was warmth and listening and eye contact and toasts. A special occasion? Perhaps. Perhaps not? Travel is most interesting when we listen to what another culture is telling us.

Went to a hoppin’ Cajun music playing joint on Bourbon Street that night, which was okay except that audience participation was the rule, not the exception, and we were stiffer than a grove of knotty pines. The lead singer of the cleverly-named “Mitchell Cormier and the Can’t Hardly Playboys” eventually got around to personally inviting me to wear an aluminum washboard played with spoons but I declined and he said he would refuse to beg. Observers tend to like to observe rather than be observed. Or so I rationalized. Mark and Sandy were smart enough not to make eye contact and so weren’t asked.

Day 2

We boarded a streetcar not named “Desire” and headed down St. Charles Ave to the Garden District for a self-guided walking tour, a very enjoyable experience in the fine sun amid the majestic homes. The Garden District Book Shop, or Anne Rice bookstore as I came to refer to it, contained a heady bouquet of prose. I was sorely tempted to buy early and often. Rice’s “Pandora” looked interesting, as did David Lodge’s new “Author, Author” based on the life of Henry James. James lived a very full life, full of travel and friends and gustatory pleasures. Been everywhere, met everyone but never had sex. Died a virgin. Can we imagine a popular author now who hasn’t had sex? Oh yeah, I forgot - Andrew Greeley.(?)

We took a walking tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (safe if in groups) and along the way our guide took us to an 1880s brothel with pictures of some of the prostitutes on the wall. “They were well-fed” was my wife’s funny comment, as we looked at the very stout-legged women.

Voodoo is big down in New Orleans, and I, at least, got the impression our guide was a practitioner and a subtle proselytizer. At the tomb of the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, she left three rum cigars and put her hand against the tomb while “making a wish three times”. Maybe forty-five seconds passed while she closed her eyes. “It was a big wish,” she said afterwards. She invited us to do likewise but I don’t know that any did.

The Catholic Church has refused cremation until a few decades ago and her explanation of this was not out of respect for the doctrine that we will receive resurrected bodies but because “they thought if the body was torched your souls goes to Hell”. This seemed to me to be a sort of Da Vinci Code spin to make the Church look silly but I could be wrong. A quick Google search: “The practice of burying the body dates to early years of Christianity. The Catholic Church forbid cremation because our bodies were seen as temple for the Holy Spirit and the belief in the resurrection of the body. Catholics believe that at the end of time, everyone that goes to Heaven will get their bodies back in perfect condition. Therefore, cremation was seen as a pagan activity and denied the doctrine of the Resurrection.”

But one can easily understand how appealing this Marie Laveau must be to modern women like our guide, who was a short gal with a pug nose, fair hair, blue eyes and was built like a fire plug who looked like she could probably benchpress my weight. Vodoo Marie commanded respect. Six foot tall when men averaged 4’10’’, she was of a mixed, multicultural background in a time when the usual prejudices prevailed. She was a devout Catholic who became interested in this “earthy” religion of voodoo (our guide gave parallels to Native American and new age religions). A romantic story was Ms. Laveau’s. A white naval captain renounced part of his freedom when he married her, since at that time intermarriage had legal implications.

We had lunch at a micro-brewery, in the shadow of the large gold vats where the bier was made, just behind the bar where “To Go” cups are offered. The Black Forest brew was sumptuous and rich, the best of the five we received as samples. One could get lost in that Schwarzvald. I had one to go, and we walked some more, briefly losing Mark who was on the nearly fruitless mission of finding a non-raunchy New Orleans T-shirt for his brother.

I walked into an antique shop that specialized in old religious art objects and I was struck by how they seemed to have some indefinably different quality over those of more recent vintage. They seem more somber, more realistic somehow. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’d recently been to a religious gift shop at the Retreat center, and everything was light, airy, and Hallmark-y. I was never arrested in my tracks at that store as I was in this shop.

We eventually made our way back to Bourbon Street to see if we could find one of those policeman on horseback like you see on Cops at Mardi Gras. (We don’t get out much; had to get a picture of a cop on those tall horses.) We walked up and down the long street, our legs aching and dodging the drunks and weathering the wretched masses of vomit before deciding it was a lost cause. We turned left on Toulouise to go to our final evening destination: an Irish pub. My wife loves horses and was sorely disappointed, but the show must go on. I took one last look at the street jammed with people and in the distance saw the faint blue helmet of one of New Orleans’ finest, and we hustled after him like Vladimirs who had found Godot. Pictures were taken, peace restored, and we headed to the Irish pub off the beaten path.

The singer was named O’Flaherty and he came from the Aran Islands forty years ago and he reminded me again of how lucky I am to be an American, how I’m just one-hundred and sixty years removed from desperate poverty, the poverty of the Irish before and during the Great Hunger. He seemed a throw-back, a moist-eyed sensitive soul who thanked his doorman as if he were his best friend. Perhaps he is. He said his wife made up a website and you can tell he wasn’t the computer type. The internet is a somewhat cold and impersonal medium. He was a popular folksinger from the ‘60s and 70s and played at large venues then when folk was held in high esteem. He said he wasn’t a “pub guy”, wouldn’t play them anymore, because he was “too controversial” despite saying nothing that was controversial as far as I could tell. This pub was his pub and so it didn’t count; he could enforce the rules which appeared to be no smoking and no loud talking. I think he might’ve gotten used to the attentiveness of the crowd in the 70s and now has had to experience the painful withdrawal symptoms when something is taken away. He reminded me of John Denver in that sense.

Day 3

Took the drive out to Cajun country, towards Lafayette, ground zero of the French Acadians. I always notice and appreciate church signs and I wasn’t disappointed on this trip: “Praise God for 1100 in attendance at Drama” and “Over 10 Trillion Served” (the latter referring to Communion services at an Episcopalian church).

We were headed for Zam’s Swamp Tour, a brochure for which was providentially found in a taxi cab on the way to the car rental. We arrived just after noon and I was elected to ask what time the 1:30 tour began. (The brochure had said so, but idiot tourist questions are my stock-in-trade, and I did not disappoint. The coup d’ grace is when your fellow tourists say that you asked idiot tourist questions.)

Instead of waiting till 1:30 we visited the more yuppified swamp tour across the street (is ‘yuppified swamp tour’ an oxymoron?). They advertised a web site, which no self-respecting Cajun swamp tour would. There was nothing Deliverance-y about this set up, no siree. It was a clean, well-lit place with a modern home, red truck in the driveway, cut grass, graveled driveway with nary a gravel out of place and run by a mother and a son.

By contrast, Zam’s was populated with old live oaks and three good ol’ boys who looked like French Acadian fur trappers swapping stories with thick-lipped accents. They had little animals in small cages; a black dog lay silent in his 2’ by 2’ cell. Rabbits hung suspended in cages from the tree branches. It lent an atmosphere of menace, or at least authenticity, to the extent bunnies in cages can add authenticity to anything.

The weather was sweetly hot. Summer was out on furlough and we’d timed our own furlough perfectly. On a beautiful sun-drenched day we lived in the body here in slow-moving water amid the gators and herons and egrets and eagles. It was soporific, the hum of the engine and sun on the face. We received a private tour and our guide provided lots of information about regulations on alligator hunting and the business side of living in South Louisiana.

We ate at a Cajun-style restaurant at which “rack of elk” was offered. Wouldn’t an elk’s horns be a bit hard to chew? Rimshot. One nice thing about writing is you can airbrush personal embarrassments by ascribing them to other people. For example, Mark never could figure out why many like shrimp cocktail. It was unpleasant, biting a hard tasteless shell. Steph mentions how you’re supposed to remove the legs and shell first! Ahhh…it tasted better to Mark, but still not quite worth the effort, even assuaged by a couple Shiner Bocks.

Afterwards we made our way to a Zydeco joint. Benches lined the dance floor and it reminded me of an old roller rink. The music blasted, Randol’s Salle de Danse was the legend over the dance floor. The motion of the squeeze box was hypnotizing; this one was a beautiful tinsel green the color of Christmas wrapping. How nice to be outside the stifling world of politics! Vacations like this that involve exploring another geography gives me a thirst for a good history book. History is non-utilitarian since I’m not a policy-maker and thus not doomed to repeat macro historical events. The danger in writing about trips is that it can becomes experience for writing’s sake instead of experience for experience’s sake. It’s hard to shut off the prose-making part of the brain, which is buried in the reptilian part which also controls breathing and reflexes. (rimshot.) The problem with talking vs listening and writing vs reading is that in the first instance you put others to sleep while in the last you fall asleep. At least I do, when reading good prose like Percy’s. My theory is that if you’re not well-rested, you’re not listening.

So what’s it like in a city where they memorize a strange area code and in a geographically distant place so foreign they call their counties "parishes"? A Lafayette dance hall might have had certain associations in my mind previous but now I was in one and now know what I’d previously only conjured. My lasting impression of the hall is how the sheer amount of good will and happiness there could've powered a small city. This seems a place where the children dance joyfully, the men love their wives and the bands are all above average, to borrow from Keillor.

Sunday morning we went to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. A fine sermon about God’s love, and about the tension between reverence towards God versus too much familiarity. The Church, he said, in her wisdom has us stand to receive Christ in Communion because God insists we receive him in mutuality. We are utterly unworthy to receive the Eucharist, but God’s love is of a piece that he wants us to meet him as friends.

posted by TSO @ 13:00

October 25, 2004

Welcome To Ohio, to be known on 11/3 as "Litigation Central"

You're nobody till Jesse notices you.

posted by TSO @ 11:54

October 20, 2004

Is this their year?

In a way it would be sad if they won it all. The Red Sox would become like any other team. Boston combines excellence and tragedy in a way Chicago never has - the Cubs are damned, the Red Sox are being purged into Pulchritude. Sox fans are the adults of the baseball world: they know tragedy but never lose heart. They are the Christians, the long-sufferers who know that at any given moment their patience will be rewarded. They live the Beatitudes, year after year, having faith that past results do not guarantee future performance.

Far from the harbor where the whaling ships sail you can smell the brine scent of mystery churning in the Atlantic, in the waves that rise and fall breathing out Fenway's fortunes. A series win would erode some of the mythology of the Nantucket team; their great whale slain, the fans would lose their hunger, their ardor, their maniacal devotion, their sweet humility and piety. In the City of Man winning corrupts and absolute winning corrupts absolutely.

Easy for the non-suffering to say. And could there be a better time, now, matched against the haughty, gouty, payroll-engorged Yankees? Meanwhile, the angst continues:

But now, Dear lord, I collapse, my ulcers raging.
I am your servant, Lord, but I am just about used up.
I ask your grace that I might be strong, O Lord, and able to survive tonight, Whatever thy will brings to the Idiots.
I ask that you steel my will, and allow me to withstand the ramblings Of McCarver.
Dear Lord, of all your trials, he may be the most cruel!

St. Spaceman, Proto-Idiot, ora pro nobis

posted by TSO @ 09:40

- ? -

Palestinians say that the U.S. election is stalling the "peace process", but given that suicide bombings and retaliations are way down, am I off base to think that maybe the delay of the peace process a good thing?

posted by TSO @ 09:03

Please Consider Donating ... the Manny Ramirez batting helmet fund. The destitute hitter apparently can't afford a new one.

posted by TSO @ 22:51

October 19, 2004

Different Tate

Inspired by a Steven Riddle post I was looking for Alan Tate's poems but came across this James Tate poem excerpted here:

Some people go their whole lives
without ever writing a single poem.
Extraordinary people who don't hesitate
to cut somebody's heart or skull open.
They go to baseball games with the greatest of ease.
and play a few rounds of golf as if it were nothing.
These same people stroll into a church
as if that were a natural part of life.
Investing money is second nature to them.
They contribute to political campaigns
that have absolutely no poetry in them
and promise none for the future.
They sit around the dinner table at night
and pretend as though nothing is missing.
Their children get caught shoplifting at the mall
and no one admits that it is poetry they are missing.
The family dog howls all night,
lonely and starving for more poetry in his life....


Radiant childhood sweetheart,
secret code of everlasting joy and sorrow,
fanciful pen strokes beneath the eyelids:
all day, all night meditation, knot of hope,
kernel of desire, pure ordinariness of life
seeking, through poetry, a benediction
or a bed to lie down on, to connect, reveal,
explore, to imbue meaning on the day's extravagant labor.
And yet it's cruel to expect too much.
It's a rare species of bird
that refuses to be categorized.
Its song is barely audible.
It is like a dragonfly in a dream--
here, then there, then here again,
low-flying amber-wing darting upward
then out of sight.
And the dream has a pain in its heart
the wonders of which are manifold,
or so the story is told.

posted by TSO @ 15:45

Good Morning, Columbus

We have an occasional problem with clutter, which can take the form of food items. A box of donuts not immediately refrigerated is an example. Or a loaf of bread that fails to make the long journey from the kitchen counter to kitchen cabinent. Fortunately we have a pet who disposes of all biodegradable materials (and some not so biodegradable - he once ate razor blades, our stock story illustrating his omnivorousness).

We refer to him as the clutter tax collector and we had a major assessment today. He devoured a turkey breast of bones, meat and wings and cartilage. Where once there was a half-eaten bird there is now just the stark, empty, glistening surface of a plastic dome lid, the fruit of his impressive anti-entrophic efforts. I'd had a late night snack and left it in a "safe location", i.e. on top of my tall roll-top desk. But where there's a will there's a doggie. He'd scale mountains for less than fowl. So we have a 4:30 appointment with the vet because apparently splinters from bones can fatally pierce canine intestines. Sigh. I remember a simpler age when "give a dog a bone" wasn't a death wish.

So I ponder Obi's troubles and start the car and note the odd flashing light on the dashboard. I think it's safe to say unusual blinking on the dash is never good. The symbol appeared to be of an air bag and I immediately deduced it as an air bag light. The owner's manual said: "get it serviced immediately", (best said with a slight German accent). I found this odd, since how serious can the air bag be? I mean we're not talking the engine. But the curtness of the manual was bothersome. You'd think they'd simply say "this means your air bag deployment system is effed up". But it didn't. I began to wonder, in my pre-morning coffeeless state, if this light meant merely that my air bag would fail to deploy or if in ten miles the fuel tank would explode due to a regrettable computer glitch. I was given much time to reflect on this due to a tremendous, awe-inspiring traffic jam on interstate 70. But - whether temporary I cannot say - after Mass the light blinkered no more!

posted by TSO @ 14:50

Provocative comments on why Jews vote against their own interests.

posted by TSO @ 14:11

Cleansing the Palate

Ugh. Way too much soap boxing in that last post. My tendency toward preachiness is insatiable. Let's change the subject with this humorous Derbyshirian comment regarding Bill O'Reilly:

In war, you take what allies you can get. You're not going to get Edmund Burke hosting on prime-time TV. Heck, you're not going to get William F. Buckley, Jr. This is *TV*. It's junk. If there's a junk-conservative, a sometime-kinda-conservative, a not-quite-our-kind-of-conservative running a popular prime-time TV show, go down on your knees and give thanks. It's more than we can expect. It's more than we had for 50 years.

posted by TSO @ 13:26

Et Tu ODC?

Sad. Ellen Goodman given a platform at a Catholic college. I saw a car yesterday with the window sticker "Ohio Dominican" and two bumper stickers: "9/11 Was a Faith-based Initiative" and "Kerry for a Stronger America". Oy vey.

Harvard and Yale began life as unashamedly sectarian institutions. The ceremonial shedding of "parochial" beliefs over time almost seems like part of the lifecycle of private schools founded on Christian principles. Intellectual pride is perhaps most difficult sin to avoid so it's no surprise that universities would chafe under the restrictions of church or biblical injunction. Some theologians have contempt for bishops because of their comparative lack of knowledge. But faith is the key and Jesus was clear in resisting rule by theologians when he selected a fishermen as the chief authoritarian.

Inviting Ellen Goodman is poring salt in the wounds of the children who have died in abortions. It saddens me because though funding alternative schools like Ave Maria and Christendom may be necessary, this risks furthering the split in the Catholic Church. We all should fervently resist - because God does - remnanthood.

Perhaps school presidents, like pastors, have to achieve a balancing act. Pope John Paul II expressed misgivings in his latest book, "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way":

Another responsibility that certainly forms part of a pastor's role is admonition. I think that in this regard I did too little. There is always a problem in achieving a balance between authority and service. Maybe I should have been more assertive. I think this is partly a matter of my temperament. Yet it could also be related to the will of Christ, who asked his Apostles not to dominate but to serve.

Obviously a bishop has authority, but much depends on the way he exercises it. If a bishop stresses his authority too much, then the people think all he can do is issue commands. On the other hand, if he adopts an attitude of service, the faithful spontaneously listen to him and willingly submit to his authority. So a certain balance is needed. If a bishop says: "I'm in charge here" or "I'm only here to serve," then something is missing: He must serve by ruling and rule by serving. We have an eloquent model of this dual approach in Christ Himself: He served unceasingly, but in the spirit of serving God He was also able to expel the money changers from the temple when this was needed.

posted by TSO @ 10:56

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Being attacked by a shark (a crazy fear that never hits me in the ocean, only in swimming pools, even though I know the impossibility - something that goes back to my competitive swimming days), Kenny G, Canada - the three biggest fears of Erik of "Erik's Rants & Recipes"

Speaking of scruples, if it's established that we have to vote, do we also have to be dismayed that many potential Kerry voters won't be motivated enough to get to the polls? - Mama Owl aka Davey's mommy

Overall, I had a good time. I think they had a good time too but I won't know for sure until I read the evaluations. Ugh... nothing like getting ripped a new one for your volunteer work.- Elena of My Domestic Church

But I would not trust someone to tell me about sin through art, just because they happen to be a prodigious sinner. I think you need sin + grief to make something true and redemptive. You need to have a profound sense of falling short of your nature at the least, and ideally the certainty of having turned away from God ("Against You, You alone have I sinned. What is evil in Your sight, I have done." My sense is, Graham Greene lived in a continual state of grief. As did Dostoevsky. As did Emily Dickinson. As did Lord Byron. - Barbara of Church of the Masses

I think coming from a free-will-emphatic upbringing is good for maintaining faith (or at least belief) in the face of evil and suffering, but not so good for trusting that you yourself won't bring about (more) evil and suffering. - Mama Owl/Davey's mommy

One good thing about being a beginner is that you always know how to make progress. Whenever I get off track, I'm sure to find that I've wandered out of the cell of self-knowledge, leaving humility behind...It may be possible to fail as a disciple of Christ without failing at self-knowledge and humility, but I never have. - Tom of Disputations

A French emigrant Catholic writes at Godspy of war and abortion as two faces of evil. I applaud her conciliatory tone, but find I don't quite agree with the dichotomy she describes. My sense: Firemen and policemen responding to an emergency are acting selflessly, as are soldiers who defend their country, or fight for the freedom of others. Raising a child is an exercise in selflessness. Carrying and bearing a child is, too. Snuffing out the life of unborn child who is inconvenient is not. In other words, warfare can be pursued for a good cause. Can the same be said for abortion? Where the political parties in this country reflect the same side of the coin, in my view, is in the exaltation of personal gratification and gain over and against personal responsibility or the notion of sacrifice for the greater good. A fixation on "freedom of choice," on one hand, and on tax-cuts and the pocketbook, on the other, smacks of selfishness; so, too, for that matter, does sloth in the face of the world's dangers and challenges. - Mark of Irish Elk

Vile Bodies Evelyn Waugh--I'm sure it's no new discovery to note that one should be extremely cautious in the quantity of Waugh one consumes at any one time. Cynicism and bitterness tend to be contagious. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

In any case, the Culbreaths are moving to Orland. I want my kids to know the difference between goose eggs and chicken eggs. I want them to know how to prune trees and plant corn and shovel manure. We can do this in Orland, without cutting ties to our spiritual home and dearest friends in the big city. And I'll do my best to persuade anybody who will listen that Orland would be a fine destination for Catholic resettlement on a grand scale. - Jeff of ECR

One of the reasons I enjoyed the weekend: I thought little about politics. - Lileks

But blogging about politics is fun. It's also like salt: it seasons the ephemera, gardening, and web-surfing if not overused, but ruins the taste if huge amounts are used. - commenter on Bill of Summa Minutiae's blog

Why you need a horse if you've got wings I don't know, but it's a cool image. - Camassia, upon visiting an Orthodox church and seeing a large painting of the Archangel Michael on horseback

"Was it oveh when the Germans bombed Pearl Habah?" it rightly has been observed at Sons of Sam Horn. A poster at the Royal Rooters gives the prescription: Petey needs to play Oedipus tonight. - Mark of Irish Elk on the Red Sox being down in the ALCS

posted by TSO @ 10:19

Conversion Story

Heard the remarkable conversion story of Roy Schoeman on EWTN's Bookmark, author of Salvation is from the Jews . After a Jewish upbringing he fell away from all faith, graduated from M.I.T. and eventually taught at Harvard. One day he felt this incredible sea of love for him. He referred to it as "falling into Heaven". He asked that God not tell him His name - Buddha it or a pagan Roman god or whatever - because he wanted to be anything other than a Christian and feared it would be Christ. That request was honored until he was ready to ask.

Later he had an experience of the Blessed Virgin Mary and he knew in a moment how exalted she was and he longed to say a prayer but knew none. He asked what was her favorite prayer that was said to her and she said she liked all of them. He pressed her: surely you like one better than others? And she said a prayer in Portugese. He memorized the phonetics of the first sentence or two and later researched it. It was "Immaculate Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee". Portugal is the site of Fatima and there the first prayer mothers teach their children is that one, hence one could understand the special appeal.

posted by TSO @ 17:35

October 18, 2004

Frugal Prayers

Ham of Bone is an American original. Who else would proffer a post about Borges's musings over a Coleridgian vision joined to his own $2.99 (per roll) answer to prayer? From Kublai Khan to the Meijer's photo lab without missing a beat!

posted by TSO @ 20:53

October 17, 2004

My Library
Robert Service

Like prim Professor of a College
I primed my shelves with books of knowledge;
And now I stand before them dumb,
Just like a child that sucks its thumb,
And stares forlorn and turns away,
With dolls or painted bricks to play.

They glour at me, my tomes of learning.
"You dolt!" they jibe; "you undiscerning
Moronic oaf, you make a fuss,
With highbrow swank selecting us;
Saying: "I'll read you all some day'—
And now you yawn and turn away.

"Unwanted wait we with our store
Of facts and philosophic lore;
The scholarship of all the ages
Snug packed within our uncut pages;
The mystery of all mankind
In part revealed—but you are blind.

"You have no time to read, you tell us;
Oh, do not think that we are jealous
Of all the trash that wins your favour,
The flimsy fiction that you savour:
We only beg that sometimes you
Will spare us just an hour or two.

"For all the minds that went to make us
Are dust if folk like you forsake us,
And they can only live again
By virtue of your kindling brain;
In magice print they packed their best:
Come—try their wisdom to digest. . . ."

Said I: "Alas! I am not able;
I lay my cards upon the table,
And with deep shame and blame avow
I am too old to read you now;
So I will lock you in glass cases
And shun your sad, reproachful faces."

* * * * * * * * *

My library is noble planned,
Yet in it desolate I stand;
And though my thousand books I prize,
Feeling a witling in their eyes,
I turn from them in weariness
To wallow in the Daily Press.

For, oh, I never, never will
The noble field of knowledge till:
I pattern words with artful tricks,
As children play with painted bricks,
And realize with futile woe,
Nothing I know—nor want to know.

My library has windowed nooks;
And so I turn from arid books
To vastitude of sea and sky,
And like a child content am I
With peak and plain and brook and tree,
Crying: "Behold! the books for me:
Nature, be thou my Library!"

posted by TSO @ 14:44

Fine NY Times tribute to WFB:

"Miles Gone By" is an elegant book, one of Buckley's best, and the man the reader meets in these pages is the Platonic ideal of a dinner companion, a raconteur whose pomposity is calculated and whose self-deprecation charms...

Witty, deft in argument, willing to assert that the secular left had no monopoly on truth, he helped change the way the country thought of the right, beginning with his first book, "God and Man at Yale." Published in 1951, it is one of those books people talk about but today hardly ever read. Its essential argument was that the loftier realms of higher education were increasingly hostile to religion and to conservative viewpoints. "I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world," read a controversial passage in "God and Man." "I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level." (Interestingly, this precise formulation was not Buckley's but his mentor's, a Yale professor named Willmoore Kendall, who edited the manuscript. In part out of loyalty and in part because he was "tickled by the audacity of the sally," Buckley writes, he never disavowed it.)

posted by TSO @ 14:12

From Our Church Bulletin:

A researcher asked twelve volunteers to assist her in studying how the general public would respond to a person with a physical deformity. Each one of the volunteers was placed in a separate room without mirrors. Next, a make-up artist was sent in to each room to paint a lifelike facial scar on the left cheek of each volunteer. When this was done, the researcher then came into each room and privately told each volunteer that she had to make some last minute adjustments to their scar. While pretending to make adjustments to the scar, the researcher actually wiped off the make-up. The volunteers, however, still believed that they had a scar on their left cheek. They were then sent out to various locations to observe how the public responded to their scar. Upon returning at the end of the day, each person reported that they were treated rudely and that people stared at the "scar".

The study provided a good lesson in self-image. If we dislike ourselves, we may convince ourselves that others dislike us as well and we will treat them accordingly. How many arguments and personality conflicts could be avoided if only we remembered that we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

posted by TSO @ 13:18

Spontaneous Prose

Caught a bit of Douglas Brinkley on C-Span explaining the discipline that went into Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Said he'd studied Shakespeare, Proust, Dickens, Twain and was extremely well-read. The prose might've looked spontaneous but it wasn't. He didn't create it by "booze and osmosis".

posted by TSO @ 07:38

Comedy Time

Since the national strike in Nigeria began, I've received far fewer scammer emails.

In a multi-cat household, can you tell which cat produced which hairballs just by the sole of your foot?

..borrowed from "I'm an Ordinary Man" from Lerner & Lowe's "My Fair Lady", who borrowed from George Bernard Shaw:


I'm an ordinary man;
Who desires nothing more
Than just the ordinary chance
To live exactly as he likes
And do precisely what he wants.
An average man am I,
Of no eccentric whim;
Who likes to live his life
Free of strife,
Doing whatever he thinks is best for him.
Just an ordinary man.

But let the Divine in your life
And your serenity is through!
He'll redecorate your soul,
From the cellar to the mole;
Then go on to the enthralling
Fun of overhauling

I'm a quiet living man
Who prefers to spend the evenings
In the silence of his room;
Who likes an atmosphere as restful
As an undiscovered tomb.
A pensive man am I
Of philosophic joys;
Who likes to meditate,
Free from humanity's mad, inhuman noise.
Just a quiet living man.

But let the Godhead in your life
And your sabbatical is through!
In a line that never ends
Come an army of his friends;
Come to jabber and to chatter
And to tell Him what the matter is with you.


I've grown accustomed to His face...
He really makes the day begin...

posted by TSO @ 07:25

Goldbergian Column

Interesting Goldberg column......

John Kerry' is clear on abortion. It's pretty darn murky on, say, affirmative action.

I say you shouldn't pick and choose, but I understand that sometimes you have to — but in completely the opposite way John Kerry picks and chooses. Kerry invokes God's guidance on the little stuff, the easy stuff, the boilerplate. He turns his back to God on the big issue, abortion (and, with a wink, gay marriage).

It seems to me this is exactly backwards. God doesn't have a position on the minimum wage or Superfund, so politicians shouldn't feel the need to consult Him about that stuff. It's only on the grave fundamental questions in politics that God should speak to one's conscience. Thomas More didn't put his life on the line about how Henry VIII handled crop rotation.

posted by TSO @ 15:57

October 16, 2004

Week in Review

I still can’t get the scene of Michael J. Fox, ‘80s sitcom hero who held the Republican fort against hippie parents, out of my mind: He was sitting stage left of Therese Heinz Kerry at the debate. The dissonance rankled. Must be a bad dream.

Meanwhile the Red Sox dropped two games quicker than Madonna switches religions. I'm starting to worry about that famous "seventh-game Red Sox guarantee" since going 3-1 from here on out against the Yanks is a tall order. I sat down in my recliner, beer at the ready, and Game 1 was over before my Schlitz lost its head. Schilling looked like a Cincinnati Red’s fifth starter. This was disconcerting because this is the real World Series. A Yankees-Cardinals series might be mildly interesting but nothing compared to seeing if the Ruthian curse gets a contract extension. The cumulative suffering of Boston fans makes the games interesting in a Bonnie Tyler “see how much their ol’ heart can take” sort of way.

What else? Oh yeah the debate. Well I’m prejudiced. I’d always been ABK man – “anybody but Kerry” - even back in the early primaries. Embarrassment has ensued, since it’s easier on the gullet to hear Howard Dean espousing anti-life positions than a fellow Catholic. I watched the debate in the juvenile need to be privy to the “definining moment” should a defining moment come, i.e. should Bush say something like “there you go again”. Or should he make the faux paus that ends the deadlock. But no faux paus’s or defining moments came so I was left holding the bag. A movie without an end.

It bothers me that this election fleshed out political leanings quicker than a blue-tick hound. I mean who can remain agnostic against this backdrop? Necessarily we see Peter Nixon become the apostle to the Left and Elena the apostle to the Right. Is that the way it should be? No. Peter Nixon should be an apostle to us all, as should Elena. The fracture is much more painful amid our bishops. Bill O’Reilly joked the other day: “so it’s a sin to vote for Kerry in Denver but not in Pennsylvania?” and that's not so though it does have a bit of truth-scent to it.

Update/Disclaimer: This was written while basking in the afterglow of Guinness Stout. I was in an kumbaya mood, a "why can't we all get along" idyll. This was written purely for entertainment porpoises.

posted by TSO @ 01:19

Fictional Friday

The diagnosis was the obscure condition known as “Clutter Mania III”, a form of madness precipitated by a house with too much litter. There were spent clothes, books, papers, pencil holders, objects d' Art such as an “I Got Smashed In Texas” mug, CDs, DVDs, cheap Haitian saucers, signed baseballs and souvenir statuaries. Magazines were an especial nemesis: they sprouted like kudzu over the room landscape without the decency of being pornographic.

It all started with the innocent purchase of a $29.95 plastic fountain with rocks that was supposed to micmic a waterfall. It arrived in the mail and he plugged it in but could hear the motor, soft but annoying. It sounded like water falling over an engine and made him anything but peaceful. It sat around for 2.5 years, out of respect for the twenty-nine and 95/100 he’d written the check out for. Finally the day came when he threw it away and he did so with gleeful panache! "Be ye gone Satan, and all ye works", he said, exorcising his need to be annoyed by its presence for the 880th day. But it set in motion all the symptoms of advanced CM III because he didn’t stop there. To the trash went his alarm clock, a Redskins sweatshirt, the desk, a printer, the kitchen sink...

posted by TSO @ 23:34

October 15, 2004

Pete & Repeat

Finished Pete Rose's book and I'm struck by the parallels between him and Bill Clinton. Both lied with conviction and were given opportunities to confess and "cop a plea" along the way. Both forgave everyone except their prosecutor: Rose saves his bitterest words for John Dowd while Clinton bore the most contempt for Ken Starr. At the news conference banning Pete, Bart Giamatti said "no man, no matter how exalted, is above the game" and Ken Starr said "no President is above the law".

Clinton received an arguably reasonable punishment: impeachment without having to leave office. Rose was banned for life. It helped Clinton that he had far more apologists.

posted by TSO @ 18:40


How can the way be narrow and yet He draw all things to Himself? I recently saw a physical manifestation of the answer:


I guess it isn't surprising that when Jesus gave Mary as mother to John and John as son to Mary it would reverberate to every Christian's benefit for eternity. What you see with Jesus isn't what you get - you get much more! In the flesh, it's seen as merely a custodial arrangement. In the spirit, it redounds beyond itself.


I love the first Luminous Mystery. Jesus, after accepting John's baptism of mere water, received the sensible presence of the Holy Spirit. The humility in accepting a "second-rate" baptism resulted in the unanticipated reward of the descent of the Holy Spirit and words of consolation from the Father. A powerful lesson.

posted by TSO @ 13:49

Prohibit Not Ye Average Joe

I didn't even know there's still a Prohibition Party.

Reminds me of a story my friend Ham o' Bone told me. His dad was a minister way up in Maine. Years ago he ran for office basically as a prohibitionist and Bone dutifully knocked on doors and handed out flyers - while half-drunk! Bone never had any qualms about quaffing the fermented grape.

Speaking of politics, check out this site. Do you want to vote for an average joe instead of Bush or Kerry? Well here you go - literally.

posted by TSO @ 13:34

Ohio means "Good Morning" in Japanese...

...but on 11/2 "Ohio" means saying good night to one of the two presidential candidates. We have a bandwagon tendency here that is irritating - we've voted for the presidential winner every election for the last forty years. I fear that if Bush is not ahead in the polls on election day a few voters might be tempted to pull the lever for Kerry out of that bandwagon "be with a winner" mentality. In a close election it only takes a few.

There are an amazing 700,000 new voters registered in Ohio and there are reports of college students changing their voter registration from their state of origin since we're a battleground state. And believe me, there are a LOT of colleges and universities in this state. Most new registrants tend to vote Democratic. Republicans are more anal-retentive and conscientious about voting, even when it means little. Which it doesn't this time around.

So...In '00, Bush got 2,351,209 Ohio votes to Gore's 2,186,190. If half of those new registrants vote (i.e. 350,000) and if 70% of them vote Kerry, then that's 245,000 Kerry votes and that, my friends, would give the state and nation and two soon-to-be-vacant Supreme Court chairs to Sen. John F. Kerry. I hope I did everything I could to avoid that, although I fear I haven't.


Bush's dire situation in Ohio reminds me of the Red Sox's. (Cue segue alert!) Came across this hilarious Soxian prayer which even a Reds fan can appreciate:

O Loving Father of all that is good on the diamond, hear our prayer!
The Holy Idiots of Landsdown Street are in grave danger,
Falling before the mercenary hordes of the Evil One.
Give them strength in this, their hour of need.

St. Cronin, Perpetual Manager, and St Yaz, Most Immaculate Captain, pray for us.

The lineup, O lord, being so full of Your Idiotic Servants -
Manny and Ortiz, Millah and Trot, Tek and Mueller,
Bellhorn and He Who Has Replaced the Whiney One-
Grant that they may hit many RBI singles and doubles and dingers, which are so pleasing to You.

St. Ted, Holy Kid of the Homer, and St. Pudge, The Ever-Clutch, pray for us.

posted by TSO @ 13:09

Pelagian Peale?

I read Norman Vincent Peale's "Power of Positive Thinking" many years ago and think mostly positive thoughts about it. After all, repeating affirming bible verses daily is a good thing. But I wonder, in retrospect, if he was preaching the doctrine of Pelagius? The whole enterprise seemed to be using psychology to achieve closeness to God, a purely "natural" religion rather than a supernatural one. If every day you say a hundred times "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" are you saying it because you believe your saying it will accomplish anything or because it is Christ who is doing the strengthening?

I'm reading the Book of Judges now and Yahweh went to prodigious lengths to show that it was he giving the Israelites victory over Midian. Yahweh told Gideon to send 21,700 of his 22,000 man army home. Gideon would fight in tiny numbers to glorify God and leave no doubt of the power source: The LORD said to Gideon, "You have too many soldiers with you for me to deliver Midian into their power, lest Israel vaunt itself against me and say, 'My own power brought me the victory.'
I recall our retreat master saying that Original Sin was not something Jews believe or believed. Original sin is a Christian doctrine, something that became obvious only in hindsight of the redemption of Christ because redemption implies that you need redeemed from something. I came across this about Dr. Laura while googling for Peale & Pelagius:

Orthodox Judaism, and consequently Dr. Laura, take a much more benign view of man and his sinfulness. Dr. Louis Goldberg details this:

“Orthodox Jews and Conservative Jews deny that man’s nature is basically evil and always inclined to do evil. ... In summary, none of the Jewish theological camps teach that man is born with a sinful nature which will ultimately condemn him.”...

While we may help our self-image by doing right, our right-doing will never effect righteousness before God. In making man autonomous, Dr. Laura is the perfect (or imperfect) blend of Pharisee and Pelagian...

posted by TSO @ 09:46

Good Point from the Internet Monk

God's relationship with this fallen world allows terrible things to happen. Go back to Genesis 3 and remember what happened at the beginning. That is what we are living out. It is a miracle of God's grace that He didn't press the "delete" button and immediately "reformat" the entire creation from the first, tragic rebellion against Him. Instead, God is redeeming creation through Jesus, and as the cross reveals, it is not by removing Himself and His purposes from human sin and pain, or by preventing those realities.

I often ask my students to imagine four families. One chooses to not have children. The second has children, but takes the infants to a surgeon and has brain surgery performed. This surgery prevents the children from ever rising to the point of being able to make wrong or evil choices. The third family raises their children in isolation from any danger or temptation. The children stay at home, and never participate in sports or have friends. The last family has children, and allows them to grow up with skinned knees, choices, risks, mistakes and consequences. At one point, one of their children is badly injured in a bike accident.

Which is these four families has the healthiest kind of love? Which of these four families most mirrors the relationship between God and human beings?

posted by TSO @ 16:05

October 14, 2004

Bad News

...for cell phone users. I wonder if holding the phone a bit farther away would help.

posted by TSO @ 16:03

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

It was disturbing to see Jimmy Carter sitting next to and lending respectability to filmmaker Michael Moore during the Democratic National Convention. But worse was the news that at Emory University recently Carter said his favorite movies were Casablanca and Fahrenheit 9/11.

That he would endorse such an obviously dishonest movie is troubling. I've always respected his "walk the walk" Christianity, especially in regards to helping the poor through his efforts with Habitat for Humanity. I was privileged to hear him give the sermon at his church during a '99 visit to Georgia.

Perhaps he subscribes to the end justifying the means. He wants Kerry to win and doesn't apparently care if a dishonest film can be used towards that "good" end. Certainly I'm for Bush as much as he's for Kerry and can't say what I would do in his situation. Still, isn't it remarkable how as our culture rushes towards callowness we can appear to look more and more mature if only by comparison - even if we just stand still?

posted by TSO @ 14:54

News Maxed Out

I feel discombobulated by the sudden news of my bishop's retirement, by the Red Sox loss, and by the usual post-debate political hangover although the latter was somewhat assuaged by the lovely prose of Percy's The Moviegoer. Between piquant descriptions of New Orleans he expresses a tragicomic truth about the human condition:

As I watched, there awoke in me an immense curiosity. I was onto something. I vowed that if I ever got out of this fix, I would pursue the search. Naturally, as soon as I recovered and got home, I forgot all about it.

posted by TSO @ 13:32

Rating the Moderators

Lehrer-to-Gibson-to-Schieffer. An triple play of conservative unfriendlies. Would a Lehrer-to-Russert-to-Hume have been asking too much? Yes, the parties themselves negotiate the moderators, which means to steer clear of the Democrats on that panel if you need to haggle.

I have mixed emotions concerning the differences between Lehrer and Schieffer. Lehrer was robotic but egoless. He knew the debate wasn't about him and didn't entertain or interject himself. He was the professional.

Schieffer was the opposite. He interjected himself wherever he could. Towards the end he mentioned what they had in common - not the candidates but himself and the candidates. (Strong wives and daughters.) His avuncularity and informality were disarming though.

Worse was the cloying bias in his questions. Cliff May on Schieffer's framing of the question on raising the minimum wage: "This is the problem with such moderators. They don’t know how to be neutral. They assume that a government-mandated higher minimum wage ameliorates poverty. They don’t believe – or don’t understand -- that it may mean that low-skilled workers will be priced out of the work force and into poverty." By the time I got done listening to Schieffer's stemwinder I was outraged and ready to call my Congressman and ask for a higher minimum wage. Seriously. But whether you buy May's economic views or not, it shows that Schieffer doesn't. Which we ought not to know, right?

Sigh. I imagine an alternate universe where a moderator asks Sen. Kerry: "Sir, you said you believe that life begins at conception. How do you reconcile this with your pro-choice stand?" Sure, we already know the answer. But we already knew the answer to 90% of the questions tonight and at least this one didn't start from a left-wing bias.


JFK IS MY BISHOP [Kate O'Beirne]Forget the Bishops, Kerry's higher authority is JFK. His ridiculous answer as to what science and reason tell us about beginning of human life akin to Catholics' belief in the Assumption or the Immaculate Conception. He goes on to say that faith informs his positions on poverty and the environment - why should he force those views on non-believers? I guess I have to consult JFK's teachings.

posted by TSO @ 23:16

October 13, 2004

Comic Relief

The Man who Knew Too Little is hilarious, the opening scene priceless. Bill Murray's character hands his passport to a British customs official and says, "Good day, chap!". The clerk tries to hide a look of pain. Murray's character says, "I just flew in from America. I'm an American." Hours later they are still chatting. The friendly garrulous American is completely oblivious to hints and the British "chap" unwilling to be too direct due to British reserve. Murray confides he doesn't want to look like a tourist, hilarious on the face of it. Reminds me of the time I met an Australian girl at an Irish B&B, who, upon learning I was an American said that was obvious given my clothes, accent, etc... She wasn't impressed although I recognize it could be less my nationality and more a lack of personal magnetism.

But I digress. I think the movie strikes a chord on some level because Murray is engaged in a very dangerous situation but is completely oblivious to it and his performance is improved by his ignorance. There seems a sort of protection in his ignorance.

We are, of course, likewise engaged in a dangerous situation. We are on a path towards Heaven while having to pass by the Dragon, as I think St. Cyril of Jerusalem put it. Even if we manage to convince ourselves we aren't in danger, we need only look at the culture to gain a sense of urgency.

This morning I was reading John Henry Newman's blog. Or at least that's how I view his collection of personal letters. He probably felt more free to give his opinions in the "privacy" of a letter just as we are more likely to be truthful in the "privacy" of an ephemeral blog. Newman wrote about how he misses old friends who've died, but who are now outside judgment: "I am still on trial and have judgment to come. The idea of judgment is the first principle of religion, as being involved in the sentiment of conscience - and, as life goes on, it becomes very overpowering. Nor do the good tidings of Christianity reverse it, unless we go into the extreme of Calvinism or Methodism with the doctrine of personal assurance. Otherwise, the more one has received, the more one has to answer for. We can but throw ourselves on the mercy of God, of which one's whole life is a long experience." So it seems Catholics know too much, or at least have received much, and must bear the additional responsibility cheerfully. Fr. Corbett remarked on how contingent and extraneous we are, and he was very sure what God wouldn't say to him at his death. He wouldn't say, "Fine job! I couldn't have done it without you!". No, He bloody well could do without us. Instead, there might be criticisms, but Fr. Corbett's attitude was one of sweet resignation. God is our Father and we hope to be inheritors, and that is a sweet part of reality.

posted by TSO @ 09:49

Oh No!

The Alta-Vista Translator service seems to me an underutilized resource. Here's "He ain't heavy, he's my brother" in German!

Er Ain't Schwer, He's Meine Bruder

Lyrik Die Straße ist,
mit vielen eine Wicklung Umdrehung lang,
die uns führt zu, wem wo, das wo aber I'm weiß,
das stark ist, stark genug, um ihn zu tragen
er schweres ain't - he's mein Bruder

weiß So auf gehen uns, seine Wohlfahrt sind mein Interesse,
das keine Belastung zu entblössen ist er,
we'll erhalten dort für mich wissen, daß er mich nicht
er schweres ain't - he's mein Bruder

And how about:

"MacArthur Park is melting in the dark
All the sweet, green icing flowing down
Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again
Oh, no!"

in Italian:

il parco del MacArthur sta fondendo nell'oscurità tutto il dolce, la glassa verde che fluisce giù qualcuno a sinistra la torta fuori nella pioggia I don't pensa che possa prendergli 'Cause che ha preso in modo da desidera per cuocerla ed I'll non hanno mai ancora quella ricetta OH, no!

posted by TSO @ 09:05

Bracing article on the perils of downplaying unpalatable doctrines:

Anyone who has followed the path taken by Protestant theology in the past two centuries, and by Catholic theology in the past four decades, already knows the point of this story: All the costume changes in the world won’t matter if the messenger has squandered his treasure by altering his message to suit the convenience of the audience. For Ratzinger, creeds matter only if what they proclaim is true, and if Christians deep down don’t really think so, then all the translation strategies in the world will mean nothing.

I maintain that the Christian dispensation is much more difficult to believe than it is to understand, for its message can be boiled down to a five-word sentence of remarkable simplicity but one that represents a radical challenge to the intellect: We die before we live. Or again, another five-word kerygma: We meet Christ in death. In each case, five simple, easy-to-understand words, but ones that nearly everything about the way the modern world is structured make difficult to believe. In an age of popularized books on neurology from the pen of Oliver Sacks and when most people are intuitively aware of the dependence of consciousness on brain chemistry (just from living in a “Prozac Nation” or from witnessing a relative suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, if from nothing else), these two five-word sentences will immediately strike the hearer as easy to understand but difficult to believe.

posted by TSO @ 16:18

October 12, 2004

They dropped like Flakes
Emily Dickinson

They dropped like Flakes—
They dropped like Stars—
Like Petals from a Rose—
When suddenly across the June
A wind with fingers—goes—

They perished in the Seamless Grass—
No eye could find the place—
But God can summon every face
Of his Repealless—List.

posted by TSO @ 16:01

Moving Patrick Reardon


Why should they receive a preference that the Florida Supreme Court recently denied to Terri Schiavo? Putting it plainly, wherein is the life of Terri Schiavo found wanting except that she somehow failed to be a movie star?

posted by TSO @ 15:32

Succumbing to Memes

Name THREE of your...

1. Pet Peeves: Catholics for Kerry, succumbing to memes, having pet peeves
2. Favorite Sounds: autumnal locusts, violins, bagpipes
3. Biggest Fears: hell, mental illness, cancer
4. Biggest Challenges: 1 Corinthians 13
5. Favorite Department Stores: "Favorite department stores" is an oxymoron in my creed
6. Most Used Words: the, and, or
7. Favorite Pizza Toppings: pepperoni, extra sauce
8. Favorite Cartoon Characters: Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, Underdog
9. Movies Recently Watched: The Man Who Knew Too Little, The Song of Bernadette
10. Favorite Fruits & Vegetables: blackberries, peaches, asparagus

posted by TSO @ 14:53

9 out of 10 Writers Agree...

Novelists are voting for Kerry, perhaps revealing their bias towards fiction and flexible characters. Thomas Mallon was a voice of reason and Richard Dooling played the role of adult:

More than any other election in recent memory, this one reminds me of Henry Adams' observation that politics is the systematic organization of hatreds.

The left-wing political road rage directed at George W. Bush for being dumb and lying about the war reminds me of nothing so much as the right-wing obsessive invective directed at Bill Clinton for being smart and lying about sex. Rush Limbaugh versus Michael Moore, and let the man nursing the most unrequited rage win. The DRAMA and spectacle of the election will be fascinating to watch, but novelists, even more than actors, should be political agnostics.
But not bloggers.

posted by TSO @ 14:15

Imagined John Kerry Speech Under Different Circumstances

I'm not going to go as far as some on my side of the aisle who say that impeachment hearings ought be brought against my opponent for his negligence and lack of leadership. But I think it is fair to point out that Saddam Hussein was not an unknown quantity. Saddam violated the Gulf War ceasefire, thumbed his nose at twelve U.N. resolutions, funded terrorists and stockpiled WMDs according to just about every intelligence agency in the world. George Bush did not make a prudential judgment in ignoring a grave threat, a threat he should've addressed militarily since all peaceful means, including economic sanctions, had been exhausted. The fundamental job description of the President is the protection of America and George W. Bush failed miserably. I pledge that I will defend America.

- (Given at a luncheon on Aug. 12, 2003, one month after linkage found between Saddam Hussein and an anthrax attack which killed two thousand in Chicago.)

posted by TSO @ 13:51

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

HO-HOS FOR HUMANITY! - smockmomma on the news that fat might be a stem cell source.

501(c)(3) be damned - why can't a single bishop stand up, in the wake of events like last Friday's debate and publicly say to this creep, "Senator Kerry, stop publicly mischaracterizing the Catholic faith. Stop using your Catholic identity to somehow justify positions that are in direct contradiction to the Catholic faith. By doing so, you are "teaching" people about what it means to be Catholic. Do you know what, buddy? That's not your job. That's ours. Just stop it." I've been saying this, off and on for months. To me, this silence, this implicit permission given to Kerry to use his deficient understanding of the Catholic faith for political purposes is inexcusable. - Amy Welborn

In case you missed my subtle big announcement here, I'm pregnant. Gulp. I'll bet you haven't met too many gals who can celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary and announce their 7th pregnancy within 10 weeks or so of each other! But hey it happened to me! Statistically speaking this is a miracle. From what I could find out on line, your chances of conceiving after age 40 drop down to around 4%. - Elena of My Domestic Church

When I have before me a huge piece of exotically delicious dessert, there is no doubt but that I want that dessert. Everything inside of me screams out automatically, "Eat it now, before someone else does!" I can't control that desire, for it is a passion. I want the dessert. But, at the same time, my mind says not to eat it, because I'm watching my weight and am interested in being healthy. And so, even if offered, I can truthfully say, "I don't want a piece, thank you." That is the active power of the will, and that is something I can control. What I feel like is out of my hands, and I can't be responsible for that; what I choose is where morality starts, and this is the true testing ground of good and bad. Apply that to human relations, and it is the testing ground of real love. - Fr. Jim of Dapped Things

Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a person deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost...Despair is the ultimate development of a pride so great and so stiff-necked that it selects the absolute misery of damnation rather than accept happiness from the hands of God and thereby acknowledge that He is above us and that we are not capable of fulfilling our destiny ourselves. But a person who is truly humble cannot despair, because in a humble person there is no longer any such thing as self-pity. - Thomas Merton, via MamaT of Summa Mamas

Interesting excerpts from St. Jerome's letter to Ctesiphon..."1. What the Greeks call pasio and what we call passions,---for example, vexation and gladness, hope and fear, two of which relate to the present and two to the future,---[the Pelagians] assert can be expelled completely from our minds; and they say that every root and fiber of vice can be removed from a man by meditation on virtue and the constant practice of virtue.... 6. It is not enough for me that God has given me grace once, but He must give it always. I ask, that I may receive; and when I have received, I ask again. I am covetous of receiving God's bounty. He is never slow in giving, nor am I ever weary of receiving. The more I drink, the more thirsty I become...7. Listen, I ask you, only listen to [Pelagius'] profanation. "If," he says, "if I want to bend my finger, move my hand, sit, stand, walk, run, spit, use two little fingers to blow my nose, empty my bowels, or urinate, is it always necessary for me to have God's help?" Listen, you blasphemous ingrate, and hear the preaching of the Apostle: "If you are eating, if you are drinking, or if you are doing anything else, do all in the name of God." - Bill of Summa Minutiae

You've seen enough of it here, I need hardly say more except to note how very much I enjoyed every aspect of this book. (But what is blogging but the art of saying more when nothing more need be said?) - Steven of Flos Carmeli

The Church of England is distributing a new order of service in which Anglicans will pray for the dinner. No, not pray to receive, but to intercede on behalf of the dinner itself, or more accurately, the animals it once was. They’re being asked to pray for the soul of the animal.-Domenico of Bettnet

I may be allowed to not exercise my right to self-defence, but that doesn't mean I am allowed to neglect my duty to defend someone else. And public authorities -- such as Presidents of nations -- are supposed to exercise their authority not for themselves, but for others. For the U.S.A. to not have intervened would have been like telling the citizens of Iraq to just keep turning the other cheek. It would have been no better than for a rich man to tell a poor man to "go in peace, be warm and filled". Sorry, but faith without works is dead. - Fr. Tom of Waiting in Joyful Hope

I'm Bill White, and I approved this blog. --Bill White of Summa Minutiae

posted by TSO @ 10:07

Excerpt from Philip Roth's The Counterlife

"This artistic dedication of yours is slightly provincial, you know. It's far more metropolitan to have a slightly anarchic view of life. Yours only seems anarchic and isn't at all. About standards you're something of a hick. Thinking things matter."

posted by TSO @ 09:46

Notes from Lecture by Fr. Corbett, O.P.

God is “Other” or “different”, the original meanings of “holy”. The refrain “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might…” would be better translated as “Different, different, different Lord, God…” What is this difference? Not his power, but his forgiveness of sins. A king on earth has power and seeks to be served but the King forgives and serves.

The great tragedy of the Fall was that we lost knowledge of the real God. Eve thought God was putting something over on her, that God wasn’t trustworthy, and man’s mind is frozen in time in that cast just as the angel's decision to serve or forsake God became changeless. While made in the image and likeness of God, the Fall turned that around and made us imagine God in our image and likeness. The reason that God, in the OT, did not permit images of Himself is because He knew we would make Him in our image – that is, ugly. Take a look sometime at the Babylonian idols at the Natural History museum. They were ugly. Beasts. We made God look destructive and sadistically powerful. We always tend to think God is trying to put something over on us because that is what we do.

Jesus taught us the real image of God. In the Garden of Eden the first Adam didn’t trust God; in the Garden of Gethsemane the Second Adam trusted God under much more adverse circumstances. He taught us how to trust. For humans, our last decision for or against God is the one we’ll have through all eternity. With Jesus, his last choice to obey God and to forgive was his final one and the one he has through all eternity, so we can therefore count on his eternal intercession as our High Priest...You can only father others if you yourself have been properly fathered. The Father taught the Son how to father and the Son raised up a new generation of fathers.


Babies begin life not knowing they are different from their mother. They don't conceive of their body as separate from their mother's for awhile. The father, by contrast, is the “Other”. The stranger. Boys have to distance themselves from mothers as a model while daughters have an easier time since their model is their mother. A son must find the father to know his true identity. The reason Schwarznegger’s “girly men” resonated so profoundly is because of this fear, at a biological level, of having a man's identity be made again indistinguishable from his mother's.

Father is the stranger with power. That is how we relate to God without the Holy Spirit. You are then still under the Law. He might be obeyed and the rules kept but the Father is still a stranger. Those who only seek to keep the rules do so because they trust themselves, not God. They want to know what the rules to guarantee their own security. Karl Barth was right when he said “we are saved not by ‘therefore’ but by ‘nevertheless’”.


In the “Our Father” Jesus was actually praying for his own death when he said “May your name be sanctified” (i.e. “hallowed be thy name”). That phrase was only used twice in the Old Testament and both times His name was sanctified by the radical forgiveness of sins, which the Cross would manifest...

posted by TSO @ 23:38

October 10, 2004

RUN - George Strait song

If there's a plane or a bus leavin' Dallas I hope you're on it
If there's a train movin' fast down the tracks I hope you caught it
'Cause I swear out there ain't where you oughta be
So catch a ride catch a cab don't ya know I miss ya bad
But don't you walk to me

Baby run cut a path across the blue skies
Straight in a straight line you can't get here fast enough
Find a truck and fire it up lean on the gas and off the clutch
Leave Dallas in the dust I need you in a rush
So baby run

If you ain't got a suitcase get a box or an old brown paper sack
Pack it light or pack it heavy take a truck take a Chevy
Baby just come back
There's a short cut to the highway out of town why don't you take it
Don't let that speed limit slow you down go on and break it

Baby run cut a path across the blue skies
Straight in a straight line you can't get here fast enough
Find a truck and fire it up lean on the gas and off the clutch
Leave Dallas in the dust I need you in a rush
So baby run

posted by TSO @ 22:03


Got back from a retreat over the weekend. Lecture notes from the friar forthcoming. Met another wannabe writer who's working on a book about Lincoln's funeral train. He's read every how-to-write book ever written. (I've read none of them because, dammit, I use nonchalance and sloth as protective colorings.) He's also actually done research, interviewing folks in Plain City and beyond. He was riveted by Bone's tales of screenplays and agents though I don't think I did Bone's plot justice when forced to relay it. But maybe it was enough that he appreciated the seriousity Bone manifested. There's something inspiring in someone determined to write the next Killer Angels just as there is in the soul longing to become a saint.

posted by TSO @ 21:17


On why there is so much polarization between the parties...

War and capitalism are, to put it mildly, unpalatable. War, even in the case of self-defense, is brutal and cruel. Capitalism is by definition a transactional mutual using: "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours". So conservatives defending the need to go to war or defending the producers of wealth in a society will always have some 'splainin' to do, as Ricky Ricardo said. Pacifists and socialists smugly enjoy the wind at their back because peace and income redistribution are wonderful things, inasmuch as they are feasible.

Over the years the conservative has grown accustomed to being the "bad" guy and the liberal to being the "good" guy, or, more charitably, conservatives the father figure and liberals the mother. But then something very odd happened - the mother party refused to defend her babies, the weakest among us! And so the conservative party, by default or providence, became the party defending life.

This has produced profound dislocation because of our desire to think well of ourselves. With conservatives there is a constant temptation towards self-righteousness in the wake of experiencing the clear moral high ground and for liberals there is a constant temptation to became bitter in losing it and to manifest that by stubbornly changing the subject.

posted by TSO @ 14:13

October 8, 2004

Single Man

A single-issue voter...

posted by TSO @ 13:49

Election & Football Distractions

The blogger at Collected Miscellany is experiencing book burnout. A commenter named Ed said:

I'd suggest, Kevin, that you read something fun instead of the intellectual or nonfiction books you're pining for. The mind really does need stories and poetry to live on and when it's denied from time to time, the result is, much like one of the unfortunate results perpetuated by bad English teachers, an aversion to something as magical as reading.

posted by TSO @ 11:12

Dramatic Coverage Of Ham of Bone's First 5 Mile Race...(written last year)

Shortly before mile 5, one of the gentleman that I had egregiously bumped at the beginning of the race began to overtake me. He was running with a female companion and sported a near Clydesdale-like build. (The Clydesdale division of the race identified any runners who weighed over 200 pounds.) As they passed me, he hissed, "There's the assh*?! that took off so fast at the start." To add injury to insult, my body began to rebel against the quickened pace that I had temporarily adopted to keep up with the young beauties. I was instantly beset by disorienting nausea and stiffening joints. To stumble to the edge of the road and vomit was the only conceivable option. To put my head between my legs and kiss the race goodbye was the only vision that I could see at the present time. I had reached my lowest point in the race. This was a personal Valley Forge, a defining moment in my first race, could my mind declare independence from the pain of my body and win the battle so that I could finish the race.

Reaching for any piece of pyschological ground that I could find, I made an observation and one change to my running style...and THAT, as they say, made all the difference. The observation was that I was back on Cleveland Ave heading south, and way up ahead I could see runners turning left onto Naughten St - the torture would be over soon. I was almost done. Less than a mile to go! Wow! To control the nausea, I began running with my head down, staring at the road beneath my feet. The gray surface moved swiftly, and my eyes soon lost the capacity to focus on anything. Gone was the leering Nazi that I had bumped at the start of the race, gone was the buildings and cars of downtown Columbus. I was in purgatory, a hospital for the mentally ill, I was hanging with Salinger's Holden, getting treatment for unknown ailments, being made stronger, faster, better. Like Steve Austin, I emerged over the next half mile rebuilt and renewed, purged of sins both imaginary and real. My pace quickened as I climbed the hill of Nationwide Blvd just before High Street. I nearly screamed primally "Yes!!!!!" ala Marv Albert as I passed first one runner then another. My ears caught the exquisite sound of my wife and two boys yelling "Go Daddy!" and I looked over to posed while Vicki snapped a picture. Then came the finish line. All alone I ran across and under and through it. A Titan who had lost the battle but won the war, and the weight of the world fell away from me for awhile.
- Ham of Bone

posted by TSO @ 10:40

More Old Writing...

To this kid, we didn't grow up in a country, state, or city. Those were abstractions made by adults drawing arbitrary map lines. I grew up in a neighborhood. So contrary to the maps, I surveyed the land with my sponge-kid eyes, and soaked in the geography. There was the 'old neighborhood', which I held in the same esteem and teary-eyedness that any European immigrant would've when remembering the old country. (I had been ripped from my home of seven years and forced into bigger, newer housing two miles away by my 'rents).

Travel was our earliest job description. It was what we did when we got up on a summer morning. We'd get on our bikes and explore, or 'splore' as my brother called it before his overbite was corrected. We hiked the mountains, treading on private property but we were kids and felt immune. Laws were made by adults for adults. We traveled the streams of our town and the river Miami; we knew the creek system like a doctor knows the circulatory system. We'd try to find new subdivisions and find suburban roads we'd ever seen before.

Some of the streets had French-sounding, latte-sipping names ("LaMonte") while others sounded like huge spreads out in the old West ("Pondersosa"). The main street was modestly called "Pleasant", not exceptional. In our little neighborhood I was upset that the main drag had the same name as the city. It seemed a crisis of the imaginatory system, like they'd run out of street names: "Well Fred, I'm tired, its 5:00, just re-use the city name". It was confusing to a 6yr old, who reasoned that Mom was correct when she said she wouldn't name my new brother "Tom" because people wouldn't know which Tom, the same I figured could be said of the street & city.

posted by TSO @ 10:14

Barzun Review by Roger Kimball

...via a piquant new blog named Taliesan:

If From Dawn to Decadence is partly a celebration of the West, it is also an elegy for its passing....Although the picture Mr. Barzun paints is one of cultural desolation, he nevertheless manages to end on a note of cautious optimism. Even if present trends continue and society becomes more routinized and culturally sterile, human ingenuity can surely be counted upon to precipitate a rebellion against the spread of bureaucratized futility. Sooner or later, some few intrepid souls will turn with new curiosity to the neglected past and use it “to create a new present,” discovering along the way “what a joy it is to be alive.” The forces of decadence that Mr. Barzun describes are formidably potent. But decadence is no more inevitable than progress. Myopia is perennial, despair a temptation to be resisted. One never knows what reparations await the touch of fresh energies. Eugène Delacroix put it well: “Those very ones who believe that everything has been said and done, will greet you as new and yet will close the door behind you. And then they will say again that everything has been done and said.”

posted by TSO @ 09:35

Novelistic Tendencies

Since it's national write-a-novel month, I thought I'd explore some of the common rationalizations for not writing one.

First is talent. One senses the world needs another bad novel like it needs another -- (provide your own metaphor - had I the talent I'd supply it for you).

Second, perhaps we're not drinking enough. I talk a good game, and sure there's always a Guinness or five on Friday night, but I don't drink near what I used to. And a scientific periodical mentions a connection between drinking and writing talent:

Dear Concerned Cad:
All my favorite authors and poets (Hemingway, Faulkner, Pound, Byron) were alcoholics. We’re they great because or in spite of their drinking habits? Do you have to be a drunk to a good writer?
—Just Starting Out

Dear Starting Out:
Yes, as a matter of fact, you do. I’m not saying pounding booze is going to automatically make you a better writer, but it certainly can’t hurt.

I’m also certain your creative writing instructor in high school spent a whole class fretting aloud how much greater those masters of prose and poetry would have been if they’d just laid off that awful booze. Well, let me tell you something—they would have all sucked and you’d never have heard of them. If that logic were true, there would be scads of great teetotaler writers instead of a meager few.

I scan my extensive library and can’t find a single master who wasn’t a certified drunk. F. Scott? Boozehead. Mark Twain? Drunkard. Dylan Thomas? Whiskey addict. Mailer? Sot. Kerouac? Big boozer. Wilde, Swinburne, D.H. Lawrence? Hooch hound! Now, one could argue that too much drink brought low some of the greats from their dizzying heights of genius, but it was the creativity and life-enhancing properties of alcohol that put them in that high tower in the first place. And if you’re going to fall, you might as well dive from such a height that you can enjoy the view on the way down.

Don’t you agree?
A fellow I work with has the good fortune of being able to come into work drunk each day, or at least he could and no one would be the wiser. He suffers from a disability affecting his speech, eyes and walking ability such that he appears to be on a perpetual bender. It doesn't stop him from getting around though and he's quite active, especially when it comes to OSU tailgate parties.

posted by TSO @ 16:36

October 7, 2004

Cincinnati Red's Broadcasting Legend Joe Nuxhall...

...retires after almost sixty years with the Reds organization. He was the youngest player ever to appear in a major league game, pitching at the tender age of 15.

Joe on the left, HOF'r Marty Brennaman on the right

posted by TSO @ 13:15

Blogger Quizzes Too?

New book challenges accuracy of online personality tests.

Personality tests are administered to millions of people every year for purposes ranging from career counseling and educational guidance to determining parental fitness in custody battles. But Paul, a former senior editor at Psychology Today, contends that the accuracy of these tests and their diagnostic value have never been convincingly demonstrated; their results are, she says, "often invalid, unreliable, and unfair."

posted by TSO @ 13:00

Turner Classic Movies is having a Graham Greene fest

posted by TSO @ 11:56


A trinity of resurrection stories last night - the song at the end of the film Titanic is properly autumnal, a bit melancholic and sentimental. So I watched the last five minutes on tape again and it dawned on me - duh! - that the last scene was resurrectional, the elderly lady's body and the ship's body reborn in a new youth. The first time I saw it it seemed a device to mimic a play where the cast comes back out for applause.

Then finished the powerful "Song of Bernadette", with Bernadette's death-bed scene illuminated by the sudden awareness of what was to come. And finally there was the Glorious Mysteries with the vision of Mary's reward.

posted by TSO @ 11:22

Positively Edenic

I take our dog a walk
on a splendid splinter of a day
The sun glew like glue
on the back nine of the neighbor’s trees.

Sat in the front porch swing
cigar'd and book'd and ale'd
assuaging a dearth of fiction
avoiding polsteria*.

* -(i.e. politics + hysteria)

posted by TSO @ 11:20

UK Spectator Column:

Fainthearted Canadian Tories may have signed on to ‘a woman’s right to choose’, but the refusal of American conservatives to accept, as the rest of the West has, that the abortion issue is settled looks sounder every day. Whether or not individual women should have the right to choose, the state has no interest in encouraging them to do so. What Western societies need is more babies.

posted by TSO @ 15:50

October 6, 2004

Five Years Ago...

Having nothing new to say I'll steal a fine idea from E. L. Core, who links to blog entries one year earlier. I didn't see much in my posts a year ago so I'll cannibalize from my journal, written in 1999 about books, college days, and possible eye surgery (I didn't). As always, remember what you paid:

Oh glorious dank, overcast Sunday! I can run to the bookroom unreservedly, without the least guilt-distracting, second-guessing thought. “To the bookroom!” I yell to my unfaithful cat Sam like Batman saying to Robin “To the bat cave!”. I love the dark, somnolent weather that lends a a cozy air to my library. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that no one reads in Los Angeles since inclement weather is the bibliophile’s friend.

I have a framed picture of the 19th century British statesman William Gladstone, fellow book-collecting victim:

"At a London bookshop the proprietor asked Gladstone, ‘which books shall I send?’ To which the statesman swept his arm grandly about the premises and said, ‘Send me those!’ after which he marched out the door. When someone approached the counter a few moments later the proprietor said, ‘that book and every other has been sold to Mr. Gladstone!’ According to one bookseller, buying entire bookstores was something of a regular practice for Gladstone.’

Bibliophiles were more common in olde times. Napoleon had shelves installed in his carriage so that he could read many volumes when traveling. Julius Ceaser once took great pains to protect his books’ safety by swimming with a ‘book in one hand, sword in the other’. (It was not known if he was reading at the time). Philip Hamerton said, “Now the only Croesus that I envy is he who is reding a better book than this.”.

“Alas! Where is human nature so weak as in the book-store! What are mere animal throes to and ragings compared with the fantasies of taste, of those yearnings of imagination, of those insatiable appetites of intellect, which bewilder a student in a great bookseller’s temptation hall?” – H. Beecher, 1859
I remember the Beacon Hill-ish glow of old-fashioned streetlamps against ancient oaks and beech. Freshman year, Eric and I looked through the college catalog looking at the byzantine list of clubs and hoped in vain for a ‘baseball card collecting club’. By the time we were seniors, changed by sorority parties, frat-hazing, intellectual growth and hazy bookishness, baseball cards became rectangular fragments of cardboard that we tried vainly to inflict meaning upon.
Is it ironic that some expect Heaven to the be the unleashing of all our appetites, even though we work for a lifetime on earth trying to leash them?
Into the brave new world of a laser eye surgery center, a cheery staff of 20/20-visioned workers greet me. The newness of the office suggested the newness of the surgery; the secretary threw away her glasses only 2 weeks ago. You could still see the indents of glasses against the nose. They were all carried away with the enthusiasm of the newly converted, they exclaimed how great it was to be without glasses and asked why I wanted to be rid of them. Bleary-eye'd patients emerge from laser surgery or from tests, a 20-something black girl and a mid-40’s heavyset man with a wife (wearing glasses) waiting for him.

posted by TSO @ 09:20

Gentlemen*, Start Your Word Processors

It's national write-a-novel month! And this post is my attempt to inspire you - (especially Ham o' Bone) - to do just that (hat tip to Elena).

<--- (uh-oh, hokey symbol alert!)

I think mine will be a coming-of-age novel about a middle-class white child whose greatest heroism comes the day he shucked the amniotic fluid for oxygen. Think taking the first breath is no big deal? Maybe, but not given the panache of our protagonist: "Waaaa-waaa-wa-waaaaa" he said, which, roughly translated means: "I don't need no umbilical cord!" accompanied by endzone crib dance and call to grandma on the cell. We'll then follow the infant through a bout with colic...

The mind reels at the novelistic possibilities - just you and those sweet open lanes of Microsoft Word, that great white way! What pleasure to think outside the lines and wander to and fro and let the editing come later! Thoreau re-wrote Walden a dozen times. Recall the sage advice of the hilarious Jeff Miller who said "You can't hug a child with Venus de Milo's arms" --and you can't edit a novel without writing it first! So hie thee to a Word doc and hitch a ride to the stars - or at least Cleveland.

Remember: if you can't write the Great American Novel, then write the Great Southern Novel. If you can't write the Great Southern Novel, then write the Great Midwestern Novel. If you can't write the Great Midwestern Novel, then write the Great Tri-State Novel. If you can't write the Great Tri-State Novel, then write the Great Upper Sandusky Novel. If you can't write the Great Upper Sandusky Novel, then write the Great Southeast Upper Sandusky Novel!!

* - and ladies!

Update: A reader let me down gently with the news that the Great Upper Sandusky novel has already been written. No one said this was going to be easy.

On the subject of readers, it sounds cliche but I think I can make the case for having the best readers in blogdom. This blog lacks comments, which means readers come here sans ulterior motive. They also endure whiplash from lurching gear changes from silly to serious; deep to self-indulgent. I appreciate it.

"Branding" is all the rage among corporations now and part of branding is consistency. McDonald's wants a hamburger in Des Moine to taste the same as the one made in Bejing. But blogs like this tend to be the "un-brand". I don't see anything wrong with that because blogs - unlike corporations and elite newspapers - don't have to take themselves so seriously. There is freedom in not having to make money here.

posted by TSO @ 16:16

October 5, 2004

Movies Deux

I usually don't watch movies more than once* but I'm finding there's more to be gained from the diminishing returns of an old film than the "stale freshness" of a new one. And I usually catch something previously missed.

I'm in the middle of a second viewing of Song of Bernadette and the Dean of Lourdes asks Bernadette an interesting question: "Why didn't Our Lady say 'I am the fruit of the Immaculate Conception'? You can't be a verb. You can't say 'I am birth', for example." I immediately thought of Jesus saying, "I am the Resurrection" and how the Father raised Jesus up - in some sense becoming the Father's action. Mary became the Immaculate Conception by virtue of another action of the Father. Verbs are verbs, but when the Divine is acting through someone in such totality the verb becomes the noun because "God is Love" and "God is Truth".


In The Passion of the Christ there's the scene where Jesus is building a table. There is symbolism: he is building something new, a new kind of table, like a new kind of Covenant. Jesus says to his mother that it is for a "very rich man", i.e. God the Father.

* - the exception being The Three Amigos, which I've watched at least three or four times.

posted by TSO @ 13:33

Presence without End

by Laurie Lamon

I heard the dogs before
I opened the door late, after work—
first Maude who was dancing
in praise of my arrival for all she knew
it was: presence without end,
the end of waiting, the end
of boredom—
and then Li Po,
who, in the middle of his life,
learning to make his feelings known
as one who has carried breath
and heart close to the earth seven
times seven years, in praise
of silence and loneliness, climbed
howling, howling from his bed.

posted by TSO @ 11:33

Lovely Writing in the Spectator here:

Only people with elderly bladders will understand the horror of it: four hours with a conductor reluctant to stop. I had armed myself with Coca-Cola, against car sickness (it is used in hospitals for nausea), but he whipped it away when I wasn’t looking. Four hours. Then Milan, and two hours to Mantua and I woke in that city which surely must be one of the most beautiful in the world, a fairytale inside its towers and moat. I forgot the long night and the bullying conductor and that I had travelled through some of the most beautiful landscape in Europe in the dark. Wandering through streets which the princes of the Renaissance had known, where there is not one ugly building, suddenly we heard a drum and pipe and dancers, and there around a corner appeared plump Bacchus wreathed in ivy, smiling in his chariot, but I think a bit embarrassed, surrounded by stilt dancers in their carnival masks and escorted by an elephant whose back emitted assorted nymphs and satyrs. Lovely Italy, so generous with scenes like these.

When we Brits visit Rome, surely we think of Caesars good and bad, and gladiators, and writers and poets and Lesbia’s sparrow, particularly after the recent television series, but the people living in Rome, do they share it with the legions and the emperors? I asked my minder, but she said no, they were thinking about the rent and what to eat. It was only when she had returned from a year in Japan and saw her city with new eyes that she realised she lived in a pretty remarkable place.

posted by TSO @ 10:53

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes (sing like David Bowie)

October falls; the weather snap-changes and the light erodes earlier in the evening and I move the chair to strain-cup the last bit o’ friendly sun. The spectre of Halloween is on the horizon, as is a new urgency in the Church in the form of the feast days of Pio and angels and Francis and Jerome & Teresa. Things are happening.

The forest sits ever open, always ready for business. The trees in their abundance and fecundity are less tuned to seasonal change and still wear their greenest finest. They don’t know they’ll be sticks and trunks. The scent of a thousand forest smells pervades until it becomes physically part of you.

posted by TSO @ 09:59

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Just wondering, because I am a conservative and I also pray. Does that make me a kneel-con? - Jeff Miller

I'm with Bush on substance, but criminy, was he inarticulate the other night....Is Tony Blair available for Round Two? - Mark of Irish Elk

Bush is the opium of the town. (Or to say it with more clarity and less impact: to repudiate Bush - to insult, to make fun of, is a form of escapism in the Argentine masses). Or they replace Bush with Capitalism, if they want. In some cases, the Church... And you see by where I notice that, giving a nut return, the original phrase ("the religion is the opium of the town") can get to be truer and present of which believed. And the opium is clear... - the escapism, the alienation can come as much by the love as by hatred (is enough with the affection is intense and imaginary: as they said in other times, "disordered affection"). - Argentinian blogger Hernan Gonzalez, through the semi-clarity of Babelfish

The problem with factionalism [within the Church today] is not principally that my faction is right and your faction is wrong (although that is generally true), but that our factions are divided against each other. It's not the position of one or another group, but the relationship among all the groups. A lot of people will think this is a distinction without a difference. But the difference is this, that if the problem is your position, I can place all the responsibility for resolving the problem upon you. If the problem is our relationship, though, then I have a clear stake in, and responsibility for, resolving it. As Bls. Giovanni Buralli, OFM, and Humbert of Romans, OP, recognized, no one can effectively preach mutual charity who does not live it. - Tom of Disputations. Mea maximum culpa.

I think about the time when I was suffering because my mother had died. And I was in true grief and torment over all that could have been--in fact still am not completely resigned to this ten-year long reality. And yet, al the time I was at peace because God was present. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

I am especially fascinated by [John Donne's] question, "Is she selfe truth, and errs?" In other words, could the Bride of Christ make mistakes when it comes to the truth? I'm sure Donne was wise enough to know that when individual Catholics sin, they only justify the Church's existence. What he must have meant was the Magisterium erring when it came to doctrine...It is a very anguished poem, sounding very much like a prayer that has gone unanswered for some time. I can imagine many Christians tossing the same questions up to God. Which church is the right church already? The deeper one's relationship with God becomes, the more one desires to worship God as He wishes to be worshipped, and not as one finds convenient or appropriate to worship Him. Donne was really sincere about doing just that; so it must have been agonising for him to be in the dark like that. Another thing I find that Donne just took for granted that the idea of a one, true Church is part and parcel of Christianity. He didn't see a church as just a community of people sharing their experiences and expressing their love for God together. That would be a clique or club, not a church. He wasn't looking to join a group of like-minded individuals; he was seeking to be a part of no less than the Bride of Christ. I wonder how many contemporary Christians see their relationship with God in that way. -Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

A point I'm making with increasing frequency and emphasis when I speak on DVC is what we might call the anti-Semitism implicit in Brown's portrait of Jesus. To read Brown, and get your info about Jesus from him (which a shocking number of people are doing these days), one would not know that Jesus was Jewish, but for that whole bloodline garbage. One would not know anything about the Jewish roots of Christian ritual, from baptism to the Eucharist - it is all, according to Brown and his ilk about stealing from mystery cults. This, of course, is very gnostic of Brown, which fits. Evil god creating the prison of matter, the pointlessness of suffering (which is why such things are ignored in gnostic writings, on which Brown partially depends). - Amy Welborn

I watched the interview on Larry King last night with Terri's parents, and the flashbacks to his interview with Michael (Angel-of-Death) Schiavo. All in all, it was heartbreaking to watch their anguish, and be forced to admit that we now live in a world, and a country, which is no longer governed by even the most rudimentary of normal human affections, but by a rule of law that finds them irrelevant, even, in a way, repugnant. That parents would not be allowed to care for their daughter when no one else wants to, that in fact her death is a thing vastly to be preferred to her living, is a state of affairs that I think at one time would have horrified most Americans. But it doesn't anymore. - Bill Luse of Apologia

We live in a celebrity culture, a culture that has informed the thinking of many of us who will never even close to being celebrities at all. Success is defined, not just by the traditional temptations of wealth, power and material plenty, but also by being known. We're doubtful than anything we attempt is worth doing unless it brings us some sort of reknown that we can enjoy here and know, praise that we can modestly wave off, newspaper clipping that we can scrapbook away, reviews that we can preserve. It's all rot, as Therese lets us know. I am frequently set back on my heels by the bare fact that when Therese died, hardly anyone knew that she had existed at all. A young woman, wracked with pain and (important to note) doubts, dies in a French convent. End of story. Not quite. - Amy of Open Book

One of the most helpful insights I've ever gotten into the nature of divine truth comes from one the 20th century's most interesting theologians, Henri de Lubac. It has to do with the sense in which all of the great theological questions could be phrased as "or" questions -- and how these questions inevitably falsify the issue. For example: Is Jesus human, or is he divine? Is Jesus both God and man, or is he one person? Is God all-powerful, or is he all-good, or is evil unreal? And so on. And of course everyone knows that historically Christian orthodoxy has always said "Yes" to BOTH sides of all these questions, while all of the great heresies involve pitting the two sides against one another and affirming one while rejecting the other. The essence of catholic orthodoxy is in this "both / and," this repudiation of the heretical "either / or" alternative. Catholic orthodoxy always involves fidelity to the whole, the ability to maintain both this truth over here and that truth over there, and not to allow any element of the truth to be pitted against any other element. Catholic orthodoxy insists that the truth is always larger, more comprehensive, more complete, more catholic than any heretical alternative; heresy always essentially involves denial of one aspect of truth -- not adding some novelty to the sum total of Christian truth. There is a tendency, therefore, for Christian truth to have a paradoxical appearance to finite, mortal creatures. And this is not the case because God has a fondness for sending us doctrine in neat ordered pairs of alternatives, but because divine truth is too large for us to apprehend in its totality, or understand how it all fits together, and so the most we can do is to affirm both this aspect of it and that aspect, and to distinguish the sense in which (say) God is One (i.e., in substance) from the sense in which he is Three (i.e., in number of persons), so that we see that there is no formal logical contradiction -- though no one pretends thereby to have made the mystery comprehensible. - Jimmy Akin

I was a co-founder of the Pax Center in Erie, PA in 1972, which more or less morphed into Pax Christi USA in 1975... A few years later I was the founder of Prolifers for Survival, a short-lived (1979-85)group which was trying to do the "Consistent Life Ethic" thing: we waged relentless courtship between the peace and prolife movements, got arrested at abortion sites and arms bazaars, that sort of thing. Saw the whole thing get cannibalized by Cuomoistas (the Personally-Opposed-Butts), which makes me feel great grief and anger. As perverse things go, one of the perversest is to see the "Seamless Garment" turned into a patchwork quilt and the babies get shredded and dumped like so much landfill. - Julianne Wiley on Mark Shea's blog

Molly Ivins exchanges onstage banter with Planned Parenthood's Sanger Singers before joining them in a rousing chorus of "Does Your Mifepristone Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight." - caption by Dawn Eden of "The Dawn Patrol"

Being Grateful...for the many good people in my life. My husband (sometimes) and children. - Pansy of Two Sleepy Mommies. Just sometimes?

posted by TSO @ 09:39

A French emigrant discusses war and abortion among U.S. Catholics.

Tom is sort of my equivalent of sackcloth & ashes, a form of penance, because he constantly makes me feel convicted (as my Protestant brothers and sisters are wont to say). It would be nice to have St. Catherine vet my posts because not everything allowable is desirable, and I've never figured out what this blog is. Is it a place where I can commiserate with fellow Catholic conservatives? Or is it a place where I should woo rather than alienate the 2.5 moderate and progressive visitors I get each week?

I'm going to try to turn over a new leaf and cut down the political blogging this week. (Baby steps, as in What About Bob?.) Call it "erroring on the side of silence" which is a real trial for those of Irish heritage.

posted by TSO @ 14:49

October 4, 2004

From a Paul Theroux Novel:

Soon after I arrived in Hawaii, I had reflected on how the sunlight here was so dazzling, it gave us the conceit that we were virtuous and pure and better than other people. Everywhere else on earth was worse - people got sick and cold on the mainland and had to wear socks, Africa was poor, China was overcrowded, Europe was senile, and the rest of the world was dark. We took personal credit for our sunshine and expected gratitude from strangers for sharing it with them. This Hawaiian heresy was dangerous, for it made us complacent about the damage we did to these crumbly little islands. We were so smug about our sunshine, we were blind to everything else, as if we had been staring at the sun too long.

posted by TSO @ 14:24

O Happy Day, when I can sing of God’s praise even while accepting my own porousness as a broken vessel. O happy to ask for humility and receive it at the Divine Liturgy! Judging others is a sign of the heresy of wanting to work my way to Heaven since judgment is too often “at least I am not like him”; judgments made through a beam.

The Holy Blood and the holy songs of the Byzantine Liturgy seep into my blood and I rest in the combination and in the knowledge of the power of God. Earthly experience has taught self-reliance while religious experience has taught helplessness. I live in the tension between the two. Over and over the medicine applied; the ointment of songs and Blood on hard tissue. Softness reigns, my soul involuntarily unclenches.

And so the burden lifts when I know that my weak example as a Catholic among agnostics is less important than what God will do in their lives and mine. Five loaves. Two fish. The miraculous is to be expected.

posted by TSO @ 11:13

WaPo Article

The Washington Post has noticed St. Blogland, complete with the obligatory caveat for unsuspecting readers (link via Jeff Miller of Curt Jester)--

Because the overwhelming majority of people who have the time and equipment necessary to blog are white middle-aged, well-educated and affluent, there is a conservative tinge to the blogosphere, said Lynn Schofied, a new-media scholar at the University of Colorado whose research focuses on the internet.

My stepson leaned to the left until he started taking Econ classes (he graduated with a degree in that field). Now he might be too ardently conservative on fiscal matters, if'n you ask me, but I think it shows journalists need a broader education. Fortunately blogs have allowed half-educated people like myself to help them out, a free service some wags might call "the blind leading the blind".

Perhaps conservatism is less about age, race and wealth and more about what you think produces the most wealth for the most people, i.e. your views of economics.

posted by TSO @ 09:43

Technology & Faith

60 Minutes had a fascinating segment tonight about the generation of kids aged 13-20, slated to be the next mass influential generation after the baby boomers. An expert said those just entering the workforce expect a lot of feedback, constant credit for what they do and a quick series of promotions - i.e. "they are in for a major adjustment."

"I talked to the CEO of a major corporation recently and I said, 'What characterizes your youngest employees nowadays?'" says Levine. "And he said, 'There's one major thing.' He said, 'They can't think long-range. Everything has to be immediate, like a video game. And they have a lot of trouble sort of doing things in a stepwise fashion, delaying gratification. Really reflecting as they go along.' I think that's new."

The expert blamed this on our technologies like the internet, video games, and even the instant gratification of cell phones (one teen said "it's so annoying when they don't pick up right away.")

All of this reinforced the wisdom of the pastor of my church who said the problem in our culture is an unwillingness to suffer for future reward. Everything is about maximizing pleasure now. Religious faith would seem, by definition, the opposite of instant gratification. Do the new technologies undermine religion? Do the Amish have a point? The story of Abraham is primarily one long story of delayed gratification. God made promises and fulfilled them only after an achingly long time. Abraham was to be the father of countless generations though twenty-five years went by during which Sarah went through menopause.

Of course the irony is that twenty-five years is instant gratification in the light of eternity. But how does one remind oneself of that when one is accustomed to a life without waiting? Oh yeah, prayer and fasting. Ouch.

posted by TSO @ 17:13

October 3, 2004

Losing Perspective

Our local diocesan newspaper ran a column last week which suggested some sort of moral equivalency between our use of the atomic bomb and the crimes of Hitler and Stalin. There are degrees of evil. The obvious example is if I kill my brother, that is worse than slapping him. I see a distinction between Truman trying to avoid continuation of the war by use of the bomb and the wholescale killing of tens of millions by Stalin during the '30s. All I wanted from the author was a bone thrown in that direction.

She says she is no longer patriotic after learning that we were just as bad as they were. My point is that we weren't as bad, and if patriotism is tied to perfection then there is no one who can or should be patriotic.

She put "the horrors of Communist Russia" in quotes - why? Is there anything remotely untrue about that phrase? Has she read Anne Applebaum's "Gulag: A History"? I sent a letter to the editor.

Graham Greene was one who enjoyed the cache of anti-Americanism:

Graham Greene had known Philby since wartime days when he too had worked in intelligence, and he wrote the introduction to My Silent War, justifying and praising the man and the book, in what now reads like a period curiosity of an extreme kind. Whether out of mischief or conceit, or some literary impulse (with the very remote possibility that he was once more reporting to MI6), Greene had long been cultivating the pose of an independent spirit by preferring everything pro-Soviet to anything pro-American, turning himself into one of the more reliable fellow-travellers of his generation...For Philby in his insecurity, here was absolution from a famous writer, in the hope that disloyalty really was a virtue. The motives of his behavior seem lost in some part of himself which he could not reach, never mind analyze. A few more years were to pass, and the convictions and activities of all these people became academic, adding up to nothing, a facet of the century’s cruel practical joke. Malcolm Muggeridge after all has the last laugh.

posted by TSO @ 20:17

October 2, 2004

Least Likely Bumper Stickers

"My other car is on blocks"

"My child makes average marks at Taylor High School, but he's taking Honor Level courses so the competition is tougher"

"My second cousin, twice-removed once played minor league ball for the Scranton Braves"

"My sister is a Green Beret"

"My Golden Retriever is neither golden nor retrieves"

"Bush or Kerry? They're both so good!"

posted by TSO @ 19:04

Artful Dodger

Bob Dylan said art requires both observation and imagination and if one is missing, it’s impossible. Which neatly explains why I can’t write but for vacations. There is no observing going on elsewhere. Suburban tundra ought be flanked by police officers saying, “there’s nothing to see here laddie, move along!”. There is a high in creating art, but art’s a fickle lover. Imagination begs out, pleading the laundry, and observation dies on the vine singing “Give My Regards to Broadway” in a fake accent.

Truly it is hard to see anything, but surely that's self-inflicted. I could read more and see films instead of blogging or watching Chris Matthews or George Will. Blogging and television are marquee exhibits in the Museum of Colossal Wastes of Time. I have but one vote to give my country yet I spend untoward number of hours informing myself. At some point I ought not care about how much discretionary spending went up. I’ll be glad when The Election is over.

But oh to sing like Lileks, and about politics no less! He sings like the song thrush, aka Turdus philomelos ('you could look it up' as Yogi would say), despite dealing in subjects as unpromising as my high school prom dates. He'll write like there’s no tomorrow and he’ll impregnate it with obscure references to things like “bang-sticks” which I prefer not to know about so I can properly appreciate. I ache for a Dying Swan reference of my own but you can’t fake it. Nijinsky schmijinsky. Lileks is the Annie Dillard of politics, too alive by half, with prose as thick as motor oil. You can’t write that densely without having a head for everything you’ve read and saw, and if you misspent your youth playing dodge ball and collecting rocks (without knowing their names – you just wanted one of every color) then you’re out o’ luck. You can’t write that sort of murderous prose without having burnt sienna in your crayolas.

And what of politics after all? Well, how can one not appreciate the self-criticism of the West? It's necessary though it has the scent of Yeats about it: the terrorists full of passionate intensity with the West lacking conviction.

posted by TSO @ 23:05

October 1, 2004

The Secret of the Little Flower by Henri Ghéon

At twenty-two Teresa had attained the perfection of a great saint and, however surprising it may be, nobody but her sisters had an inkling of it...She had obtained what she had aimed at: the nuns ignored her. Nor, although he was her sole confidant, did God know her either-or, rather, he pretended not to. That was what made Teresa throw herself at him with such audacity. The more he hid himself the more she wanted him; the more he ignored her the more she made an offering of herself.

On the other hand, her forsakenness must not be exaggerated, for there are certain admissions made privately to Mother Agnes, apparently while Teresa was still a novice. "Several times in the garden in summer," she says, "after the beginning of the 'great silence' in the evening, I have been in so complete a state of recollection, my heart so at one with God, and making acts of love so warmly and yet without any effort, that it seems to me these graces were what our mother St. Teresa calls 'flights of the spirit.' . . . I felt as it were a veil hung between me and earthly reality, and our Lady's cloak covered me completely. I had ceased to belong to this world, and I did all I had to do . . . as if my body were only lent to me for the purpose." Teresa would live in deep peace for several days under the influence of such exceptional graces; then she would "wake up."...

"[God] is misunderstood and repudiated everywhere." Human hearts turn to other created beings "seeking their happiness in an affection so weak that it cannot endure a moment." "O God, shall your rejected love remain within your own heart?" Would he not joyfully consume souls in its fire and cease to have infinite tenderness confined within his own breast? If he is glad at the satisfying of his justice which regards only this world, "how much more of his love of mercy which reaches to the heavens!" "Jesus," she exclaimed, "may I be that happy victim!"

posted by TSO @ 13:51

In the Dark

Many saints seem to arrive at an advanced stage of holiness that culminates in the dark night of soul. In an email discussion with Steven Riddle prompted by the question "where are the gifts of the Holy Spirit - such as peacefulness - during Dark Night of Soul"? Steven said that it is a paradox but that there was a serenity behind St. Therese's suffering, even as she doubted the existence of God. Perhaps it was an imitation of Christ's suffering, which seemed not particularly peaceful ("My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?).

It's not that most of us are in any immediate danger of the Dark Night, but as it comes from Him it must be good. Jesus is the Divine Physician, not the Divine Pacifier, and what is not healed now will have to be sooner or later. But I'm thinking it's probably not a good idea to anticipate or look ahead.

An answer to these thoughts came from Fr. Ambrose today: "What does it mean to be children of God? It is to expect to have all your needs taken care of. It is to expect everything. It is to know that everything is grace."

posted by TSO @ 11:12

Ain't It The Truth

Worship and service make up [the angel's] blessedness; and such is our blessedness in proportion as we approach them. But all exercises of mind which lead us to reflect upon and ascertain our state; to know what worship is, and why we worship; what service is, and why we serve; what our feelings imply, and what our words mean, tend to divert our minds from the one thing needful, unless we are practiced and expert in using them. All proofs of religion, evidences, proofs of particular doctrines, Scripture proofs, and the like - these certainly furnish scope for the exercise of great and admirable powers of mind, and it would be fanatical to disparage or disown them; but it requires a mind rooted and grounded in love not to be dissipated by them. As for truly religious minds, they, when so engaged, instead of merely disputing, are sure to turn inquiry into meditation, exhortation into worship, and argument into teaching. - Ven. John Henry Newman

posted by TSO @ 09:21

So the great debate is past

Give Kerry his due. He exploited the natural advantage a non-doer has over a doer. A doer will always be on the defensive because his doings will rightfully be criticised, especially in hindsight. A non-doer, a sitter in the Senate, has the advantage, like bloggers, of sniping from the sidelines. That is the nature of incumbent & challenger though voting is doing also. Bush should've held Kerry more to account given that the Senator mixed up not just his words on the $87 billion but his voting.

Update: Lileks cracks me up:

"You want to really anger a UN official? Tow his car. Short of that you can get away with anything."

posted by TSO @ 07:19

The Ass Menagerie

My wife, on her "sister sold 'er" cruise, has me dog-sitting. The new one has separation anxiety so acute he starts to squeak when my right hip isn't attached to some part (I don't wanna know) of him. Worse, the green-eyed monster hath incited our dog Obi to Plessy v Ferguson my other side, effectively Gulliverin' me come bedtime. And off the coast of Obi there's a satellite Puss and by the shore of Chance another. Four furry animals and one unfurred one on a bed creates a body heat that has me singing with Bruce "aaahhhm on fire" followed closely by Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Animals":

Sneak out the back Jack
makin' new plans Stan
no need to be coy Roy
just listen to me...

hop on the bus, Gus
don't need to discuss much
just drop off the key, Lee
and get yourself free.
-all lyrics used without permission

posted by TSO @ 21:58

November 30, 2004

Order in the Court

30+ years after Alvin Toffler wrote "Future Shock" (in which the author argues that we have become shell-shocked by the fast rate of societal change) it seems a political party's success is less a reflection of its ideology (or non-ideology) than it's ability to act, as Jonah Goldberg writes, as a "port in the storm":

According to the conventional wisdom, Bill Clinton was the candidate of "change" in 1992. I don't think so. I think he was the candidate of order. He may have been the Man from Hope, but he played on peoples' fear and exploited an image of Bush as a passive, "aloof" president unconcerned with the roiling changes in society. People forget that the Harris Wofford senatorial race revealed and galvanized popular anxieties about healthcare. The central issue was that in an age of ever-increasing job-turnover, health care (and retirement) became a huge concern because your job was your access-point to a vast array of social services...

Indeed, one of the reasons Gingrich was such a useful foil for Clinton is the inherent contradiction within the conservative movement. Conservatives are the chief defenders of a capitalist, free-market system, and the capitalist, free-market system is perhaps the most profoundly unconservative social force in human history. Markets topple established customs, they raze settled communities and erase whole ways of life. Conservatives defend this system not out of greed, but out of principle. Freedom without economic freedom is a farce. And economic security provided by government planners has, historically, been the security of guaranteed impoverishment. But that doesn't negate the fact that as much as I like libertarian economic policies, they can be a real handicap at the polls.

posted by TSO @ 13:05

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

We'll be just outside of Orland, a town of about 6,000. Not too far from civilization at all. But you can't hear the freeway from there, and at night it actually gets real dark. Beautiful mountain ranges to the east and the west are in full view. If we stay there (and we may not if a smaller place nearby becomes available) I hope to plant a small fruit orchard, a vegetable garden, and some grapes or kiwi. We'd also like to keep some acreage in pasture for cows, goats, geese, and whatever else.. - Jeff Culbreath of ECR, inducing jealousy

He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative. - G.K. Chesterton on new "3 Streams" blog

are you high? i have a feeling that you were still reeling from the movie, so you are excused for your hyper-enthusiasm. that said, it's a great flick. - smockmomma of Summa Mama's to Victor on the movie "The Incredibles"

Deucedly few posts containing "qua." - Tom of Disputations on his new liturgical year's blog resolutions. Amen.

[Safire] endorsed Bill Clinton in 1992...on the grounds that George H. W. Bush was a liar. This was a bit like courting Helen Thomas because Cameron Diaz has bad skin some mornings. - Jonah Goldberg of NRO...(this blogger voted 3rd party)

On one of our two trips to the hospital the past couple of days for blood tests, I was, as you often are at hospitals, surrounded by the elderly. It always gives me great food for thought, to be sitting there with a newborn, in the midst of people at the other end of life. I marvel that someday, this little guy will be there, as well, God willing, with 80 years of life behind him, that started with us, right here. I pray that it is a good and blessed life, and in gratitude for my part in bringing it to be. And I also think, with not a little trepidation, of my own journey in that direction. I suppose everyone settles and everyone finds joy in whatever stage of life they're in, but it just seems so unimaginable to me to be in a stage of life where producing new life is no longer possible...oh it continues, with grandchildren and so on, and perhaps there will be a time when it fills me with relief to know that the role of procreation is on others' shoulders now. But while there is much gained as we grow old and are able to produce and share our wisdom in other ways, there is such a sense of sadness in losing this particular power, this particular, miraculous way of co-creating with God and nourishing life. - Amy Welborn

yes some day
we just might meet
a king with names carved into his hand

until that hour for us wine’s pressed
a good vintage of blood
for parched lips
-excerpt of poem by Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

Strange sometimes to think about dying... someone said somewhere how once a year we pass the anniversary of our death without knowing it.... - Alexa of "Frank-in-a-sense & Mirth"

All must imitate the holiness of God (Lv. 19:2). It is by loving others, explains Jesus, that the Christian does that, is distinguished from the gentiles, and becomes a child of God. But whence comes the strength to do this? The apostolic tradition reverses the situation and understands that it is because we are children of God that we can imitate God, for the God whose love becomes the principle of our activity. - New Jerusalem Bible note (1 Peter 1:22)

...I don't buy interpretations of Jesus as a total anti-institutionalist, who meant to replace formal connections with personal and emotive ones (or with no connections). Only in our modern society are family relations merely personal and emotive. Jesus' statement that his followers were his true brothers and sisters wouldn't have been taken as sentimental, but radical. - Camassia

The only thing I am upset about is I am still rather zoftig. I only can fit into my yoga pants these days and I do not look like I do yoga. - Pansy of "Two Sleepy Mommies", who recently gave birth.

You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine
You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine
There's a little light in all of us by God's design
But you can't be a beacon if your light don't shine - Donna Fargo song

posted by TSO @ 09:29

Fr. John Catoir Advent Meditation:

The best spiritual goal you can give yourself this Advent is to claim the joy that is your Christian inheritance. Jesus lived and died to bring us joy, but we must free ourselves from the sadness, bitterness and discouragement we may have slipped into over the years.

Cultivate a joyful spirit, in just the same way you would train yourself to develop good character. If you want to project a joyful presence, you must will it. You can't be joyful by the sheer power of your will alone, but with the help of God you can turn a dispirited life into a joyful one.

Far too many people are couch potatoes glued to their television sets. The daily news reports can be toxic. Too much exposure to the woes of the world can be damaging to your mental health, as well as your spirit of joy. You may find it helpful this Advent to limit your TV viewing and to seek other ways of controlling your intake of negativity.
"Dear Lord, open my heart to joy. Help me to focus more on your love and less on my unworthiness."

posted by TSO @ 09:10


Saw the Incredibles o'er the weekend due to the surreal claims made for it and it was a good movie though my enjoyment of a movie tends to be inversely proportional to my expectation level going in -- and between Victor's & Peony's recommendations it was dangerously high. The Passion of the Christ, by way of contrast, was exactly the opposite due to the lousy trailers. The constant slow motion of Judas throwing a sack of coins at the Jewish leaders was sleep-inducing, so TPOTC greatly exceeded expectations. (I never seem to have this problem with books for some reason.)

I'm surprised at how good others think this movie. It was certainly jammed with positive messages; this "super family" has a range of gifts, all of which were needed to escape the evil one, a metaphor for the Body of Christ. There were some nice lines like when the mother told her daughter "we don't have the luxury to doubt". And the malevolent disgruntled former fan of Mr. Incredible says "if all of us are super, then none of us are super!".

Still, as Ham of Bone can attest I'm not a movie connoisseur so I'd be most interested Bone's reaction since he's the movie lover. Unfortunately his frugality prevents him from seeing movie until they can be rented from the library...

Meanwhile, from the site:

"I was blown away by this movie. I am an avid fan of Nietzsche and a sometime interested person in Ayn Rand. Whoever wrote this movie may be (it used to say "is," which was stupid) paying tribute to them.

Did anyone else see a criticism of the Christian slave morality, or any of Nietzsche's ideas of the superman or Ayn Rand's reverence for great men who triumph over those who try to hold them back? The similarities are too many to number; I don't think the issue is whether these themes are present, because they are indisputably there. The only question is to what extent."
"Re: philosophical implications
by - Duderonomy 6 days ago (Tue Nov 23 2004 00:08:54 )

UPDATED Tue Nov 23 2004 00:21:55

Hahaha, i hope you're not serious. Check every other movie about super heroes or almost anything at all for the so called similarities you're talking about. Reverence for great men who triumph over those who try to hold them back? Are you serious? Have you ever seen any other movies? ever? Because that's just about the most general omnipresent quality that you are going to find in movies. You're right these things are there, but they don't have anything to do with nietzsche or rand. They're just common plot devices that are used because they create drama and allow the audience to become emotionally invested in the story. There is absolutely no reason to believe they were taken from a philosophical text, I would know, I'm a philosophy major."

posted by TSO @ 14:05

November 29, 2004


Throughout the history of the Church, there would seem to be two distinct classes of saints. There are saints who personify active love and tenderness and there are saints who personify energetic action and the spirit of eager propagandism. We contrast St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic, St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Vincent of Paul and St. Ignatius, in the same way as we contrast Boussuet and Fenelon or even Raphael and Michaelangelo, Mozart and Beethoven. --Henri Joly

posted by TSO @ 09:14

Ven. John Henry Newman on Shakespeare:

Whatever passages may be gleaned from his dramas disrespectful to ecclesiastical authority, still these are but passages; on the other hand, there is in Shakespeare neither contempt of religion nor scepticism, and he upholds the broad laws of moral and divine truth with the consistency and severity of an Æschylus, Sophocles, or Pindar. There is no mistaking in his works on which side lies the right; Satan is not made a hero, nor Cain a victim, but pride is pride, and vice is vice, and, whatever indulgence he may allow himself in light thoughts or unseemly words, yet his admiration is reserved for sanctity and truth.
and literature:
Man's work will savour of man; in his elements and powers excellent and admirable, but prone to disorder and excess, to error and to sin. Such too will be his literature; it will have the beauty and the fierceness, the sweetness and the rankness, of the natural man, and, with all its richness and greatness, will necessarily offend the senses of those who, in the Apostle's {317} words, are really "exercised to discern between good and evil."...

I have never fancied that we [Christians] should have reasonable ground for surprise or complaint, though man's intellect puris naturalibus did prefer, of the two, liberty to truth, or though his heart cherished a leaning towards licence of thought and speech in comparison with restraint.

posted by TSO @ 09:02

Group Polarization

Came across a quote today in a George Will column that explains something I've noticed existed but didn't know had a name for it: "group polarization". I think it helps explain both the liberal Call to Action and the ultra-conservative "rad Trads" in (or around) the Catholic Church. From the Will column:

There also is what Cass Sunstein, professor of political science and jurisprudence at the University of Chicago, calls "the law of group polarization." Bauerlein explains: "When like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common beliefs."

posted by TSO @ 14:18

November 28, 2004

Regarding Fervor

I fear you are looking upon lack of sensible and interior consolation as a want of fervor, so that finding yourself dry, you lose courage and fall into faults for which you do not immediately make reparation, and this leads to tepidity. Then you imagine that in order to begin again holily, as one does when full of fervor and devotion, it is necessary for you to feel the fervor you have lost. But the contrary is the case: in order to bring back fervor you must begin by humbling yourself and by practicing mortification just as though you were urged on by sensible consolation. it is not fervor which makes people humble, charitable, regular, and mortified, but the practice of these virtues which makes them fervent.
-- St. Claude de la Colombiere

posted by TSO @ 14:09

Canine Interest

I’m looking after my sister-in-law’s dog, a beagle mix named Chance who's reportedly an “old soul”. Unnervingly patient in all his actions, he especially shows it in the subtle way he expresses his wish to relieve himself. He merely looks at you unblinking, the rim of his eyes bloodshot with worry, until you finally get the message.

Returning, he’ll wait for some unseen signal before making the jump into the recliner. He waits monk-like for the obtuse one to make room, then waits some more until there’s some distance between my legs whereupon he immediately makes himself comfortable.

Later, in a different chair, I turn my head to find our dog beside me. He's wearing a huge stalactite of saliva on the edge of his mouth and from the length and girth it looked like it was some time in the making. He's begging for a spot of beer; apparently the swig I’d given him just after I’d opened it wasn’t enough. While I admire the spittle it breaks off and falls on my bare arm, wetting the length of it. To paraphrase Tammy Wynette, sometimes it’s hard to be a pet owner. I gave him more Warsteiner and dried my arm.

posted by TSO @ 23:13

November 27, 2004

Surely Unintentional

The first time I heard this song, I coulda swore he was swearin'.

posted by TSO @ 14:24

Unintended Consequences?

From here:

Cardinal Ratzinger recognized in the advent of 'the pill', the seed for the warping of human sexuality and thus the eventual societal acceptance of homosexuality. "It is true that the pill has given rise to an anthropological revolution of great dimensions. It has . . . changed the vision of sexuality, the human being and the body itself. Sexuality has been separated from fecundity and in this way it has profoundly changed the concept of the human life. The sexual act has lost its purpose and finality which before was clear and specific, so that all forms of sexuality have become equivalent. Above all, from this revolution comes the equalization between homosexuality and heterosexuality."

posted by TSO @ 14:06

Arendt on Aquinas

The problem for those who long to systemize things is that it's probably already been done. Hannah Arendt, in The Life of the Mind, writes of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Summa:

No later system I know of can rival this codification of presumably established truths, the sum of coherent knowledge. Every philosophical system aims at offering the restless mind a kind of mental habitat, a secure home, but none ever succeeded so well, and none, I think, was so free of contradictions. Anyone willing to make the considerable mental effort to enter that home was rewarded by the assurance that in many mansions he would never find himself perplexed or estranged.

No rhetoric, no kind of persuasion is ever use; the reader is compelled as only truth can compel. The trust in compelling truth, so general in medieval philosophy, is boundless in Thomas.

posted by TSO @ 13:57

Various & Sundry

The latest This Rock magazine is pornography for the Catlick booklover. I'm trying to hold back from buying the whole catalog of Sophia Press and RC Books. Their tenuous financial position and my hunger for their books would seem a match in heaven --but for my own tenuous financial position.

I'm pretty flexible when given advance notice...(rim shot)

WYSIWYG is a popular expression meaning "what you see is what you get". Perhaps a more interesting acronymn is "WYAIWGS" - "what you are is what God sees". That is all that matters. I think I know the lyrics to every hymn we sang during grade school, and one of them that means more now is the lyric "Knowing that I love and serve you,is enough reward". Back then it was plain I loved and served God so that seemed a rather suspect reward. Now I see love for God more as a continuum rather than black & white, from the coldest Christian to Blessed Mother Teresa. Truly Purgatory, let alone Heaven, is a great reward, for it means that we've loved and served Him.

Recently finished Kathy Shaidle's "Twelve Steps" book and she makes the case that our defects are not for us to remove. They are God's to remove. Thank God that Oskar Schindler wasn't a saint for he was in the position to effect great good, defects and all. Kathy mentions how her elderly grandmother always insisted she have maid service even though she cleaned everything up before the maid came.

My wife is out south on a boat in the Caribbean somewhere. She’s on a five-day all-gal cruise and if it feels hurtful that flesh-of-my-flesh is experiencing the warmth and food pleasure of a cruise. There is something to be said about a [Caribbean ] cruise in grey November, when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank and the trees have lost their clothes and stand exposed to the cold wind, confessing under the torture of their leave-stripping.

Made the mistake of going to the bookstore over the weekend and within minutes books clung to my ankles, shins and thighs like hungry children. I was lucky to get out of there with my wallet only one book lighter. Almost instanteously I had the following volumes in hand: Graham Greene's volume 3, Cornwell's "The Pontiff in Winter" (I'm curious what the enemy thinks), Wodehouse's bio, Manguel's "A Reading Diary", Arendt's "Life of the Mind", Umberto Eco's "on Literature", Himmelfarb's "The Road to Modernity: the story of the French, British and American Enlightenments", de Botton's "Status Anxiety", "Will in the World"...

Fast Break

A steal!
begetting momentary privacy
a sudden leave-taking
like the last day of school
when the squawk of shoes on a gloss hallway
triggers the electricity of potential.

Oh the joy of forgetfulness!
just jonesin’
in the joy of reacting
to the hounds after the big orange sun
in your hands and under your care and
you live by instinct pure:
running like hell
under the protection of a dribble.

posted by TSO @ 13:54


The New York Times, echoing the '50s plaintive cry "Who Lost China?", now asks Who Lost Ohio?, (presumably seeing them in equivalent terms).

A quiet disbelief descended on the room. You could hear the creak of a folding chair, a ringing cellphone, the intermittent sob. "This is the end of the United States of America," I heard one man declare as he left the room.

The Other Paper also weighs in

posted by TSO @ 14:59

November 24, 2004

Interesting John Derbyshire Essay in NRODT

I am not quite ready yet to give up belief in the conscious self. Although the neuroscientists are chasing the self through ever narrower and darker passageways of the brain, they have not caught it yet, and there are good reasons to believe they never will. Roger Penrose's book about fundamental physics offers one of those reasons. Physicists have been pursuing matter for much longer, and with much more fruitful consequences, than neuroscientists have been pursuing mind, yet still the nature of physical reality eludes us. What is the physical world composed of? If you make it through the 1,000-odd pages of Penrose's book, through the explanations of tensor calculus, Clifford algebras, spinors, twistors, Riemann surfaces, and Feynman propagators, you may have an inkling, but that is all you will have. If you can't hack all that heavy-duty math, you won't even have an inkling, ever...

Math professor Michael Harris tells a true story about a conversation held in his presence during a conference in M¸nster, Germany, last year. Over a restaurant dinner, three professional mathematicians resurrected an issue from the great "crisis of foundations" that racked mathematics in the early 20th century — during roughly the period from Russell's paradox (1901) to Gˆdel's theorem (1931). This crisis arose because mathematicians had begun inquiring into the logical and philosophical underpinnings of their subject, trying to find the fundamental axioms underlying all of math, seeking unshakably firm foundations for the process of mathematical proof.

Well, the three diners all expressed different opinions on the issue in question, which is a very crucial one. ("The ontological status of the continuum" — but you don't need to know this to understand my point.) Harris sought to pursue the discussion down into deeper matters . . . but found that his colleagues did not have the necessary knowledge, and didn't actually care. These foundational issues, though interesting in their own right, and fine for a few casual conversational exchanges over the dinner table, do not really matter in the day-to-day work of most mathematicians.

We Americans are heading into a "crisis of foundations" of our own right now. Our judicial elites, with politicians and pundits close behind, are already at work deconstructing our most fundamental institutions — marriage, the family, religion, equality under the law. The human sciences are showing human nature in a strange new light. Yet perhaps all this will matter as little in the daily lives of Americans a few decades from now as Russell's paradox and Gˆdel's theorem matter to working mathematicians today. Perhaps we shall come to our senses and stop trying to analyze and deconstruct our humanity down to the bitter end. Perhaps we shall realize that in order to get on properly with life, as with mathematics, a great many things just need to be taken for granted. What will our new metaphysic be? Perhaps the one that sustained Bertrand Russell's grandmother: "What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind."

posted by TSO @ 13:26

Writing a Marathon

The Washington Post has noticed NaNoWriMo aka "National Novel Writing Month".

We all have different definitions of completely useless activities differently and blogging dances tantalizingly close to that line as it is. I look at the write-a-novel-in-a-monthr's as I do marathon runners: with awe mixed with "and what's the point, exactly"?

And that is all to the bad. Utility uber alles is one of the worst aspects of modern life. It's that impulse that gives euthanasia some of its impetus. Play, or purposelessness, is one of our God-given attributes.

John Updike spoke of this in relation to art:

There should always be something gratuitous about art, just as there seems to be, according to the new-wave cosmologists, something gratuitous about the universe. Art, out of its own freedom, should excite and flatter our sense of our own. Professionalism in art has this difficulty: To be professional is to be dependable, to be dependable is to be predictable, and predictability is esthetically boring - an anti-virtue in a field where we hope to be astonished and startled and at some deep level refreshed.

posted by TSO @ 16:52

November 23, 2004

Our Avuncular National Uncle Has Stepped Down

a pensive Rather

I've always liked Dan Rather more than Jennings or Brokaw, despite his obvious biases. Dan made life more interesting, didn't he? From stomping off the set when a tennis match ran long to his colorful horny toad lingo, the guy just couldn't stop being interesting.

My only regret is not watching him during the last election returns. I gravitated towards MSNBC & Fox. My loss. The minute I did turn on CBS on Nov. 2 he was interviewing one of the Kerry daughters, avuncular as always, but I lost the will to keep watching. His elevated exit-poll driven mood was too much in contrast with my own.

Dan was always supremely capable of surprise, and the appeal that has for me is surely a character flaw. I know I should like the steady, consistent, bass-throated Brokaw who gave voice to the Greatest Generation. But I can't help liking underdogs and Rather was that in spades at least among the "Big Three" anchors. And Rather's liberalism always struck me as of the honest sort, as if he didn't know any better. That might be giving him too much credit and in the end I might be blinded by cornballisms like "This situation in Ohio would give an aspirin a headache." But this blog has always attempted to be Ratherian in the sense of being somewhat unpredictable. If I have failed I can only say...


posted by TSO @ 15:22

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I had a parent of one of the male Confirmation students tell me that his son wanted to take the rapper Method Man as his Confirmation name. His father told him that this would not be an acceptable name, but trying to meet his son on his level suggested St. Methodius. - Fr. Bryce Sibley of A Saintly Salmagundy

By the way, you've turned me into a beer snob....unless it's good beer, I don't drink it. Tall, cheap drafts of bud light really don't do it for me....a nice ice cold heiny does. - Bill Luse's daughter in email to Bill

I remember listening to Kim Hahn's story once. Her father asked her to pray the prayer, "Lord, I will do anything you want to do, say anything you want me to say, go anywhere you want me to go." And Kim couldn't pray that prayer. For her it was too scary at that time. So instead she prayed for the strength to be able to pray the prayer!! Until one day she eventually could say it. That's kinda where I'm at with the Scott Peterson thing right now. But I think on looking at Mr. Serenelli's life, he might be a good intercessor for me, and for Scot Peterson! Maria Goretti, the forgiving victim would be a good intercessor as well, since she just naturally and openly poured out her forgiveness for the wrong that was done to her. Two good examples I think. - Elena of My Domestic Church

Someone who embraces pacifism because of the Sermon on the Mount/Plain should take care to keep her clothes on. - Neil on Tom of Disputations' blog

and Tracey said Besides, men are just like contact lenses
cause men can be hard
and men can be soft
but mostly they can just get lost
- excerpt of poem from Kathy Shaidle of "relapsed Catholic"

My mother had some minor female-type surgery right after ["Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?"] first came out--years and years ago. After they gave her the drugs to "relax" her, they came to wheel her down to the operating room. She was so "relaxed" that she sang that song AT THE TOP OF HER LUNGS all the way down to the operating room--not stopping until they clapped the oxygen mask over her face! - MamaT of Summa Mamas via email

I learned a lot from Gerard Bugge over the years. Not just from what he wrote, but what he chose to write about, and how he wrote about it. This morning, I found what was probably one of the first things I'd read of Gerard's, a post to from 1995. In it, he wrote: "I am taken with what Chesterton calls "The Romance of Orthodoxy" ... the truth is that I rediscovered the beauty, power, consistency of orthodox Catholicism and have some of the fervor, perhaps, of a "convert". I also believe that orthodox catholicism and catholic orthodoxy is the wave of the future; alon[e] capable of captivating the whole person: mind, heart, soul, imagination, body and emotions." This call to experience the Faith as a romance, and the thankfulness which came through almost everything he wrote over the past few years, are what I will remember most of Gerard. - Tom of Disputations

I can handle bad music better than I can handle bad theology. One is a matter of taste, the other of doctrine and dogma. Kumbaya may be boring and not terribly appropriate, but it is theologically correct to ask God to "come by here" when we are in need. It is not, however, correct to assert that we become bread and wine or that we can raise ourselves up without the help of God. I wonder which came first - bad catechesis or bad church music. - Alicia of Fructis Ventris

What concerns me is that I may occasionally slip into easy-believism, that Christ saves me, over and over, seventy times seven, and my sin is inevitable, so why try to conform my life in holiness? He redeems me, but I must what? present my heart for His redeeming fire? present my sins to be forgiven and go gather up new ones to present? present my good works to show good will and cooperation? present my intellect and don't think anything, be passive and inactive, so I don't sin? It's a little baffling, even though I know the correct answers and where to find them anew. - therese Z. commenting on Roz's Exultet site

There is always a window of opportunity to turn away from sin, no matter how small it may seem. It is always there. It's called "Free Will". Otherwise the sin of despair would be legitimate if God didn’t allow His Grace in our lives…most especially during those times of temptation. - Alexa of "Frank-in-a-sense & Mirth"

And for those concerned about my physical condition lately (thanks, Susan, for your warm and encouging email, which I won't have time to reply to today), I will be seeing my main doctor this Thursday, God willing. - from last post of Gerard of "Blog for Lovers", shortly before his death Wednesday morning

The 3 Bs of Success 2004: Boston (Red Sox), Bush, Buckeyes (Ohio State beats Michigan.) - Ham of Bone of Social Engineer

When someone tells you to ask yourself, "What would Jesus do?," remember that at least one valid answer is, "Freak out and knock over tables." - Commenter Doug to David of "Man With the Black Hat"

We're doing fine, albeit with a little caution about jaundice, which necessitated sitting in the picture window all afternoon in only a diaper (Jacob, not me). - Amy Welborn

posted by TSO @ 11:12

Well... those rants always look pretty silly in the clear light of day, don't they? Let's cleanse the palate with a little Updike (from Early Stories). Here he describes a common childhood feeling:

...I feared I would be physically sick and lay on my back gingerly and tried to soothe myself with the caress of headlights as they evolved from bright slits on the wall into parabolically accelerating fans on the ceiling and then vanished: this phenomenon, with its intimations of a life beyond me, had comforted wakeful nights in my earliest childhood.
He also writes movingly of church and ushering: witness the windows donated by departed patrons and the altar flowers arranged by withdrawn hands and the whole considered spectacle lustrous beneath its patina of long use...surely in all democracy there is nothing like it. Indeed, it is the most available democratic experience. We vote less than once a year. Only in church and at the polls are we actually given our supposed value, the soul-unit of one, with its noumenal arithmetic of equality: one equals one equals one....

It was pleasant, even exciting, when the moment for action came, to walk by his side up the aisle, the thumb of our feet the only sound in church, and to take the wooden, felt-floored plates from a shy blur of white robes and to administer the submission of alms. Coins and envelopes sought to cover the felt. I condescended, stooping gallantly into each pew. The congregation seemed the Others, reaching, with quarters glittering in their fingers, toward mysteries in which I was snugly involved. Even to usher at a church mixes us with angels, and is a dangerous thing.

posted by TSO @ 09:34

Today's Rantasaurus Rex - (Today's rant is sponsored by CVS and intended solely for entertainment purposes. Please use as directed and patronize our sponsor.)

The drive to and from work takes me through the lovely Third Ring of Hell known colloquially as suburbia.

Here you'll find the constant construction of new and exciting places to shop, such as a Big Lots or, pinch me, an auto parts store. Yet every time a new building begins its rise I hold out the forlorn hope that it's a bookstore. And ever time I get snuckered again, like Charlie Brown did when Lucy got him kickin' wind instead of pigskin.

On Dante's drive today it became apparent that the new building right next door to the Discount Tire Center is a Firestone Tire Center. Now don't get me wrong - as Shrek2's donkey might say 'everbody loves tires' - but it's the painful duplication that gets me. The consolation of competition causing lower prices is thin gruel indeed. You can't snuggle lower prices. And it's currently 16.5 minutes to the nearest bookstore and 22.375 minutes to the nearest great bookstore. On Tuesday's and Thursday's I'm the one on the corner holding the "Will work for books" sign. All I ask is a tiny 30-square one in lieu of another Quik Mart.

And don't get me started on pharamacies. We are the silicon valley of drug stores. There are three of them within walking distance. A blind man could find one purely by trial and error. And they're not so much pharamacies as huge multi-acre "farmacies", gigantic drug silos with grain elevators for distribution purposes.

I guess the story is pick your neighborhood carefully. A suburb is truly a reflection of the collective interests of the residents. Evidentally we pop a lot of pills and never rotate our tires.

posted by TSO @ 18:35

November 22, 2004

More St. Joan of Arc

Continuing on the story of the Maid of Orleans, I googled to find what happened to her betrayer, the odius Bishop Cauchon. It is superstitious to think the manner of one's death is a reflection of how one has lived, but this was too strange to pass up: "Pierre Cauchon died suddenly, while he was being shaved, at his fine hotel Saint-Cande, on December 18, 1442, at the height of his honors." Must not have been a Bic. He was posthumously excommunicated.

Also found this link (scroll down to "THE FUNERAL-PILE OF ROUEN") on St. Joan:

The story of Joan of Arc is the most extraordinary story of Christian times: the most dazzling and the most secret...However rash this may be, it is necessary indeed to try to form, as best one can, an idea of the true mission of Joan, a mission which rises in tiers upon several different planes, and which one conjectures to be as vast as it is mysterious.

In the first place, it seems to me that, first and above all, Joan (it was in the fifteenth century that she lived, and underwent her martyrdom) was sent as a marvellous adieu of the Lord God to medieval Christendom on the point of ending.

In spite of the vestiges of barbarism which it still carried, this Christendom was the highest summit of Christian civilization in human history. Let one think of the admirable faith of the whole Christian common people of that time, and even of the great of this world (although they may have lost everything through the ambition and the moral weakness of the majority of them). Let one think of the immense work of reason, -- in the highest spheres of thought, and under the light of faith, -- accomplished by this time; of the intellectual and moral heritage which we owe to it, of its mystics, of its saints, of the builders of its cathedrals, of the idea of honor, of human dignity, of the service of the poor, which, however betrayed it may have been able to be in practice, it nevertheless bequeathed to us. Let one imagine to oneself St. Louis and St. Thomas Aquinas eating at the same table . . .

God loved this medieval Christendom, and rejoiced at all the goodness and holiness there was in it. In the moment when it was about to perish, He made to it in the person of Joan an altogether extraordinary gift, -- not as recompense (to whom would it have been directed?) but as sign, sign of love and of gratitude. It was as if Heaven had made a gift to the earth of an incomparable icon of blue and of gold, in a screen studded with flowers of Paradise moistened by the Precious Blood and by the tears of the Blessed Virgin.

But this blessed icon was that of an executed girl criminal, -- executed by priests of Christ: and the gift of Heaven brought also to earth a sign of the divine severity toward the blunders and the violences which so stained with blood medieval Christendom, -- especially toward that Inquisition of which the atrocious caricature exhibited by the trial of Rouen was signed with the wrath of God. Causae ad invicem sunt causae. The end of medieval Christendom entailed the end of the medieval Inquisition; and the medieval Inquisition was one of the irreparable historical mistakes by which medieval Christendom was to perish.

The adieu of the King of Heaven to medieval Christendom, -- the primordial aspect of the mission of Joan and of her passage upon earth, -- was at one and the same time an adieu of sublime gratitude and an adieu of inevitable chastisement.

posted by TSO @ 13:08


Like a faithless husband, I occasionally cheat on my blog by commenting elsewhere. To make things right, I'll cut & paste comments made on Amy's blog concerning the angst secularists feel about religion in the public square. My take is that an absence of religion is a kind of religion - certainly to look at the world and believe it all is chance requires as much faith as theism.

So what informs the secularist's vote? There is no way to avoid metaphysics. Stanley Jaki loved to quote E.A. Burtt's assertion that 'the only way to avoid metaphysics is to say nothing'."

Or to not vote.

The problem with the natural law argument is people won't accept it if it's not what they consider "natural". Thus Mario Cuomo says Church teaching on abortion isn't natural law while Cardinal Ratzinger says otherwise.

The way I see it is that it's a free country. A vote is a vote. What informs my vote - be it religious or otherwise - is none of my neighbor's business.

posted by TSO @ 11:59

Keeping Hope Alive

One of the first websites I ever read in the Catholic sphere was by an ex-Marine named Kevin Whiteman, who called himself "Catholic Caveman". He's an SSPX'r and we recently exchanged emails in which I said that the next generation does "get it" and that there is hope on the horizon...

Now Tim Drake has a new blog and book that back up that optimism.

I especially liked this post:

"Brother Pio belongs to the Bronx's Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He is unique among the priests and brothers for his skateboarding ministry in which he skateboards along the Bronx's streets, passing out Miraculous Medals and evangelizing the youth."

posted by TSO @ 09:39

J of A

Inspired by recent Luse-ian posts, I dug out my unread copy of Mark Twain's "Joan of Arc" and spent a langourous evening with it.

The book starts turgidly so I did something I rarely do - I skipped ahead. I cut to the chase. I went for the scene of her asking for troops. One of her interrogators says if God wants to help France, why would he need troops? She answered, "He helps who help themselves. The sons of France will fight the battles, but He will give the victory!"

She had a good sense of humor. After cajoling a hardened soldier named La Hire to pray, she laughed uproariously after this his prayer: "Fair Sir God, I pray you to do by La Hire as he would do by you if you were La Hire and he were God."

Later an officer comments

"Joan probably knows what is in him better than we do. When a person in Joan of Arc's position tells a man he is brave, he believes it; and believing it is enough...

"Now you've hit it!" cried Noel. "She got the creating mouth as well as the seeing eye!"

posted by TSO @ 09:34

Clinton, Bush & Keillor

I try to listen to part of A Prairie Home Companion weekly though in recent months Garrison Keillor's fear and loathing of conservatism has increased exponentially. Last week he said that he thought there ought to be an amendment to ban evangelicals from voting. Though I'm not an evangelical, I'm close enough for guvmint work. As our old saying went, "humor at my expense is not humor".

Still, I wonder at the genesis of the Bush hatred is. Something deeper is going on here. Certainly the war is reason enough, but they hated him before the war. And they hated Reagan. It might be that elites simply can't stand to be without influence and Reagan and Bush were/are notably impervious to elite opinion.

Perhaps the reason the right hated Clinton and the left hates Bush is because the left most appreciates flexibility and intelligence. The right most appreciates courage (whether personally brave or not) and sticking to principle. So it's natural the right would find Clinton unpalatable, given his lack thereof. And it's natural the left would feel the same about Bush, not known for flexibility.

Keillor, through one of his characters this week, suggested chagrin at not having more impact on the election. This was confirmed by a recent post on his website:

I gave a bunch of political speeches this fall and nothing much came of it, but it's enough to have given those people the chance to sing the Star Spangled Banner, I feel. Just as, though one works hard on the Lake Wobegon monologues, when someone writes in to tell me that those tapes are useful for putting small children to sleep, one feels a little deflated and yet — it's always good to be useful.
It must be especially hard for famous authors like Keillor and billionaires like Soros, who are used to exercising influence, not to be able to do so.

posted by TSO @ 09:26

Books I'm Trying To Stiff-Arm

Here are recent finds I'm trying hard to avoid buying since I don't have the money or shelf space:

Travels with Barley: A Journey Through Beer Culture in America - Ken Wells;
Wodehouse: A Life - Robert McCrum
A High Wind in Jamaica (New York Review Books Classics) - Richard Hughes
Saint Joan of Arc - John Beevers
I Am Charlotte Simmons - Tom Wolfe
Introduction to Christianity - Joseph Ratzinger
In Good Company - James, S.J. Martin

posted by TSO @ 14:48

November 20, 2004

Perfect Country & Western Song

A fine candidate for greatest country song ever is George Strait’s “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?”, which begins with arguably the most plaintive lyrics ever heard:

“Cold Fort Worth beer just ain't no good for jealous;
I try it night after night.”

Like a laconic cowboy, the song says a lot in a little. You get the whole story in the first two lines: cheating partner he cain't forget, trying to fill the void with something that don't fit. The human condition in a nutshell. The use of “jealous” instead of “jealousy” is inspired - it's as if he didn’t have the energy to complete what we already knew. The song is tight. No wasted words.

"Darling, while you're busy burning bridges,
Burn one for me, if you get time.
'Cos good memories don't fade so easy:
Does Fort Worth ever cross your mind?”

The only case where the singer doesn’t mince syllables is the refrain and that’s for a purpose. Stung by rejection, he wants a little distance. “Fort Worth” stands in for himself. Instead of "Do I ever cross your mind?" he asks if Fort Worth does.

The tune & voice? Classic.

posted by TSO @ 23:31

November 19, 2004

Drinking Game Suggestion & Blogging about Metablogging

I didn't read Gerard's blog as much as I ought to have. His optimism and cheery disposition are a necessary antidote for these times, perhaps for all times.

One of the things that fascinates is the diversity among St. Blog's and the different approaches taken. There are intensely personal blogs and less so. My temptation is to think of those bloggers who never met a personal pronoun as minor saints. Certainly Donna Marie Lewis is the Cal Ripken of bloggers when it comes to that. A possible drinking game is to pick a month in her archives and take a drink every time she posted about Ven. Newman or St. Philip Neri. And I admire her for it because it's difficult to imagine saying things that Cardinal Newman didn't say better. Video meliora... Still, I'm not sure it's necessary to give up the personal even though narcissism is to blogs what hot air is to popcorn. The way I look at it writing is a form of therapy and cheaper than a $100 an hour analyst.

And in "The Christian Imagination: G.K. Chesterton on the Arts", Chesterton defends the amateur and those who would practice art without a license or talent. And what of autobiographies of unknowns? Every life is said to contain at least one novel. Perhaps even one blog. Regardless, narcissism will be recognized by the market and go unpublished & unread & or no blog hits. Penalty enough.

posted by TSO @ 14:26


...on the humor of the saints:

The book on the humor of the saints has yet to be written. Goethe has given us a short excerpt of it in his Philipp Neri, der humoristische Heilige (the humorous saint), particularly in the latter's far from reverential exchange of notes with Clement VIII. But what merriment do we find as early as Irenaeus, when he pricks the shimmering bubbles of the gnostic world systems! And in Clement of Alexandria, too, when he juggles with these systems like a circus artist.

What a boyish spirit of adventure in Bonaventure's "Chart for the soul's journey to God"! What flashes of humor (for which one seeks in vain in the solemn Reformers) in Ignatius Loyola and Teresa of Avila! And, nearer to us in time, what charming mischief in little Therese, to say nothing of Claudel's homely laughter (through tears of passion).

posted by TSO @ 13:52


+ heart +

Gerard on the Church:

And so, the more the dissenters dissent, the more I hope to believe -- remembering the words of St Paul that "love believes all things"! The more the critics criticize, the more will I hope to love her! She is my mother, my hearth, my home! She has given me Christ and with Him all good things. And I love her with all my heart and soul!

Carlo Coretto, too, expresses incomparably the paradox of the Church: her scandal and her abiding motherhood:

"How much I must criticize you, my Church, and yet how much I love you! You have made me suffer more than anyone, and yet I owe more to you than anyone. I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me much scandal, and yet you alone have made me understand holiness. Never in the world have I seen anything more compromised, more false, yet never have I touched anything more pure, more generous, or more beautiful. Countless times I have felt like leaving you, my Church; and yet every night I have prayed that I might die in your warm, loving arms."

posted by TSO @ 13:32

Old Journal Entries Ne'er Die

The blogger at Laudator Temporis Acti offers Thoreau's thoughts on keeping a journal.

Looking over my old journal entries, I was tempted to post some of them but then I laid down until the feeling passed.

I suppose part of the (quite limited) appeal of an online journal is the immediacy of it. One thing I've never seen on blogs is the posting of old diary entries - this seemed fertile ground for "jumping the shark" purposes. Sure, there have been re-postings of meaningful blog entries regarding the issues of the day. But never just a re-posting of a diary entry. So without further ado, this from five years ago today:

Had pizza for dinner tonite. It was alright. Watched Seinfeld. LOL! I like how Jerry has all that cereal. Cereal is kewl.

Okay, I jest. I made it up.

posted by TSO @ 09:21

Excerpt of Richard Wilbur's “Caserta Garden"

A childhood by this fountain wondering
Would leave impress of circle-mysteries:
One would have faith that the unjustest thing
Had geometric grace past what one sees.
via a review.

posted by TSO @ 13:53

November 18, 2004


says Noonan.

posted by TSO @ 13:22

Excerpt from Prayer Primer, by Thomas Dubay:

We will suppose at this moment that we are in a state of grace, that we have not chosen an idol incompatible with God. Yet the list of possible impediments to further growth is painfully plain: lack of showing warmth towards an unattractive person, willed showing of impatience, gossiping about others' faults, overeating, laziness, grouchiness, undisciplined use of television, radio, the Internet.

posted by TSO @ 09:10

Don't Get Around Much Anymore

Went to a party last night that had an internationale flair, a regular yew-nighted nations. It was much fun to meet people of so many different cultures, including but not limited to: South Africa, Venezuela, India, Netherlands. Was especially interesting talking to the guy from Johannesburg.

There were also fellow Americanos, including the owner of the house we were in. She lives with her gay significant other and on the tour this blogger refrained from making a comment when someone asked "is this the master bedroom?" The house was as beautiful as it was big; from a distance it looked like an apartment villa. We didn't pull up to a driveway so much as to a parking lot.

It's always humbling to meet new people. Strangers treat each other with such respect and solicitude. Hard edges are not in view. With familiarity comes not so much contempt but taking the other for granted.

The Netherlands couple complemented each other well. He looked as Austrian as Arnold Schwarzenegger - calm Nordic blue eyes abutting a high forehead and strong jaw - and was completely impassive during a charades-like game called catchphrase. His wife's face, on the other hand, was a motion picture of emotion. Amazingly expressive eyes rolled like waves on the high seas. She had something of fellow European Teresa Heinz Kerry about her, although who knows about Kerry's eyes? They were always behind sunglasses during the campaign, protected from snoops.

posted by TSO @ 07:33

Remembering the Edmund Fitzgerald

What the words mean, via Elena.

posted by TSO @ 13:42

November 17, 2004

Unless Ye Become as Sox Fans...?

Elizabeth Wirth Exhorts the faithful:

I turned it on again only at the beginning of game five, after we had somehow managed to hold on for an extra-innings victory in game four. Scanning the crowd, I saw a Red Sox fan holding an enormous sign that said, simply, "Believe."

Believe? Now? No one had ever come back from a zero-to-3 deficit in a seven-game series. Yet here was someone who chose to declare publicly that he was unequivocally with the Red Sox, believing, until the end. I was humbled by this person's sheer perseverance in the face of repeated defeat.

My only question is: why is it that baseball fans are the ones showing the world what it means to hope, love and persevere? Why are they giving more meaning to the words "miracle" and "believe" than we are, as the Church?

I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I would have rejoiced more had I risked more in the believing.

The fact is that we as the Church often don't even give our faith the attention—or hope—we do to spectator sports. How many of us have been on our knees praying "Believe!" during the humiliating season of the Boston church scandals, or as embryonic cloning marches forward, or even just attending church week after week amidst the general apathy in our pews? Or do we rather, like myself, flip off the Church in disgust, shake our heads, and say we'll be on board again once things start turning around?

posted by TSO @ 11:31

NY Times Review of T.C. Boyle's Latest Novel:

Moral norms change, but the link between sexuality and moral discourse seems as fundamental as the sexual impulse itself.

That may be the moral, so to speak, of ''The Inner Circle,'' Boyle's fictional rendering of the relations -- personal, professional and sexual -- between Kinsey and one of his (invented) acolytes. Kinsey -- ''Prok'' to his intimates, including his wife -- is in some ways a perfect subject for this sly and intrepid novelist. While I would hesitate to burden an imagination as marvelously peripatetic as Boyle's with anything so confining as an overarching theme, he has more than once cast a skeptical eye on a peculiarly American reformist impulse -- a desire to cast aside artificial social arrangements and constraints and to perfect human nature itself. Like John Harvey Kellogg in ''The Road to Wellville,'' like the free-loving communards of ''Drop City'' and like many of the environmentalists and adventurers who amble through the pages of Boyle's other novels and stories, Prok is devoted to the idea of a healthier, less hung up and somehow more natural way of life. As elsewhere in Boyle's work, the conflict in ''The Inner Circle'' is organized around the clash between this utopian impulse and the countervailing desire for stability, harmony and compromise.
Always an encouraging sign when the NY Times suggests a linkage between sexual behavior and morality.

posted by TSO @ 11:10

Good & Evil vs Rich & Poor

It turns out that reports of Americans voting their values was greatly exaggerated. The gay marriage amendments had little impact; Bush improved most dramatically over his 2000 percentage in states that didn't have the amendments. Not only that but in 2000 16% of Americans felt abortion was always wrong and in '04 it's still at 16%. But why spoil the media's storyline?

Still, what fascinates me is not that values didn't impact much, but that the media thought it incredulous that any voters might've chosen their values over their pocketbook. There's a bestseller out called "What Wrong With Kansas?" in which the author basically asks "why haven't we been able to buy those suckers off yet?".

Dennis Prager on Bill O'Reilly said that the left's values, many obviously quite valid, involve only the material. Progress must be measured through the lens of economics, in an almost Marxist fashion. They do not see the world divided between good and evil but between rich and poor. Very provocative that Prager fellow.

posted by TSO @ 08:33

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

When my husband died, family and friends gathered around me from far and wide. They brought food. They brought prayers. They brought comfort. But not one brought a certificate identifying himself as a bona fide “Bereavement Minister.” Was I duped by imposters???? I know a lady who, indefatigably, visits the sick, the dying, the lonely. Without the credentials of a genuine “Visitation Minister.” How dare she! - Kelly Clark of The Lady in the Pew

Gabriel Marcel famously said that life was not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. Thus metanoia, "the re-creation of every bless-ed day" demands a certain kind of ease in the face of ambiguity. Without this mental/spiritual space, there is no room to grow. Paul's epistles describe it as seeing through a glass darkly. It is also experienced as a "cloud of unknowing." - commenter on Belmont Club blog

The thanksgiving we owe God is something apart from any discrete gift, and should even be maintained in the face of whatever tribulation and trial God allows in our lives. I suspect such thanksgiving must be directed at God alone, with ourselves completely forgotten, for it to be sustainable. "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!" - Tom of Disputations

But over the last week, feeling that darkness, I have made an effort to turn toward God, even though I didn't feel like it. And the warming up has started--had started even before PapaC got to come home for the weekend!... When I face the smallest of trials my tendency is the exact opposite of the truly healthy! I turn away from the source of light and warmth. What a silly, silly girl. - MamaT of Summa Mamas. I know of what thou speaks MamaT.

For good or ill, I've become increasingly convinced that it is impossible in the modern age to keep the state from falling into the hands of those who want to use it toward moral ends (Sorry my anarcho-libertarian friends). People who are driven by moral passions and missions are simply more likely to do the hard work necessary to wrest control of the levers of government. This needn't be scary or bad and it can be great. But it is a fact. Which mean a society -- not just its government -- must be very, very concerned about the sorts of citizens it creates. In Holland, as Wretchard notes, radical Muslims could win the battle if for no other reason they care more about winning than the, until recently, self-indulgent, spoiled and lazy Dutch who've taken the tolerance and decency of their system for granted. - Jonah Goldberg of the Corner

FDN notes that the overlap among voters for Kerry and gay marriage amendments isn’t, in a way, all that interesting after all. I see her point, but still think that in the current climate of opinion it’s a curious statistic. Within several seconds of the polls closing, a narrative explanation of the election’s outcome hardened into conventional wisdom. I hear it all the time: there was a record turnout because conservative Christians, driven to hysterics by their homophobia and their hatred of abortion turned out in droves to support the president. That this is counterfactual seems to make no difference. - Thomas of ER

I know that the bias and incompetence of the news media won't come as . . . well, news to anyone, but my experience this year has given me new insight into the depth of the media's bias and incompetence. As a result of the Catholic Answers voters guide, I've had to give tons of media interviews (some of them linked here). I thus get put in the fascinating position of (a) knowing what I actually said to the reporter and (b) seeing what the reporter attributes to me in print. Lemme tell ya: It ain't even close! - Jimmy Akin

I have a theory that Democrats are secretly thrilled to have lost this election to George Bush...Nothing makes a Leftist happier than to belong to a victim class. - Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters

When I was in college, it astounded me that the professors of economics tended to reduce all of life to economics, the professors of political science reduced all of life to politics, the professors of natural science reduced all of life to biology, and so on. In other words, men have a tendency to exaggerate the importance of their own strengths. Economist F.A. Hayek understood this. He believed that intellectuals were almost always socialists because intellectuals over-estimated the ability of human intelligence to plan and order human society. This also goes a long way toward explaining the Kerry vote. Intellectuals tend to over-value intelligence and to under-estimate the importance of virtue. Furthermore, because of their gifts (which often includes wealth), intellectuals are somewhat insulated from the human consequences of immorality, whereas those of average intelligence and wealth are more likely to suffer because of it. Hence, the importance of "moral values" to those voters who were most likely to be devastated by the decadent culture of the Blue People. - Jeff Culbreath of ECR

We moderns have developed this ridiculous notion that a thing's genuineness makes it praiseworthy, regardless of what the thing actually is. But genuine meanness is not virtuous simply because it is genuine. The question to ask is whether the thing in and of itself is good or bad. Whether or not the sentiment behind it is genuine is secondary, and of a very different nature than the determination of the thing's value or morality. Am I saying genuineness is worthless? No. We should indeed strive to have genuine feelings and motives behind what we do and say. But it is the order that you have wrong: The good act comes first, and genuineness follows. The first question to ask is not "Do I really want to do this good thing?" but rather "Should I do this good thing?" If there is not honest desire behind it, do it anyway, and through doing it and keeping focused on the ultimate good that gives it value you will transform yourself into someone who does have a genuine desire to do it. - Bernhardt of "anti-socialist tendencies" blog

I, perhaps somewhat leaning to your ideology, am not so religious... but I am married to one of the most delightful, beautiful and dedicated Catholics on this earth. I delight in her absolute faith, her praying, her laughter, her zest for life, her acceptance of those of lesser faith (like me), her tolerance. All which seems so absent from the liberal atheist. - emailer to Jonah Goldberg, posted on The Corner

St Blog's anchoress, Karen Marie Knapp, one of those people whose prayers keep the universe from falling apart, could use prayers herself -- she is in the hospital with cellulitis and pneumonia and had surgery on Tuesday. - Peony of Two Sleepy Mommies

posted by TSO @ 13:37

November 16, 2004

If you haven't already seen them...

...see Bill Luse's posts about St. Joan of Arc here and here. It's good to be reminded how God loves to surprise.

posted by TSO @ 12:57

The Slope

The predictable horror of euthanasia:

After all, disabled people, the elderly, and those with devastating existential grief caused by, say, the sudden death of family members, may suffer more profoundly — and for a longer period of time — than the terminally ill. If "self-deliverance" is, in principle, okay for those who experience less suffering for a shorter duration, then how would we justify denying termination to those who would seem to have a greater claim to receiving help to die?

In fact, this is precisely what has happened in the Netherlands. After more than 30 years of permitted euthanasia, the category of the Dutch killable has expanded steadily; it now includes the depressed, the chronically ill, and the disabled, including infants who are born with birth defects. And now, the Dutch parliament seems set on lowering the age of consent to be killed to twelve years old.

posted by TSO @ 10:30

Top Ten Signs You Are Too Into Politics

10) Mentally add ".org" when you hear someone say "move on"

9) Begin meetings at work with, "This is Tom, and I've approved this message".

8) Wake up in cold sweat after dream of "President Michael Moore"

7) More concerned with polarization in the country than polarization between family members

6) Know what RINO & CINO mean

5) You know Chris Matthew's wife's name (Kathy)

4) You wonder if she's deaf.

3) You have carpal-tunnel from constantly refreshing the Corner's page

2) Favorite sport is detecting signs of media bias in Katie Couric

...(drumroll)... 1) You rally the troops with a "Dean scream" at local school board meeting

posted by TSO @ 10:25

Funny Onion piece

posted by TSO @ 09:29


I updated the Flannery O'Connor and Prose for Nigerian scammers blogs.

posted by TSO @ 09:26


From Newsweek's latest issue, on the pollster of the Bush/Cheney '04 re-election team:

Matthew Dowd, the campaign's pollster and McKinnon's partner in the "Strategery Department" (named after a late-night comedy show's parody of President Bush mangling the word "strategy"), was also a little out of place in such a button-down, fixed smile environment. The Yeats-quoting Dowd was a chronic pessimist. (Taped to his office wall was Dowd's favorite Yeats quote: "Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.")

posted by TSO @ 18:31

November 15, 2004

More C-Span Moments

David Brooks says that studies show the more education someone receives the more likely they will vote a straight party ticket. He frames this as "the more education, the less independent your vote". Hmmm....I'll have to ponder that. So Brooks says that as the country continues to become more highly educated (leaving aside the definition of that) then we should expect more rather than less polarization.

Listening to David Hackett Fischer, author of "Albion's Seed", expound on how some cultures worship youth (ours) or age (Japan's). In Japan, he said, there are products on the market that deepen your wrinkles!

posted by TSO @ 16:09

All Sex, All the Time

I have the proverbial mixed emotions about the new novels of three of my favorite modern novelists, T.C. Boyle, Tom Wolfe and John Updike.

Boyle's latest concerns Alfred Kinsey, of whom I have little interest or sympathy. Boyle wrote the excellent Drop City in '03.

Updike has written another sex-drenched novel in which the 70-ish year old protagonist looks back fondly over the adulteries of his middle-age.

Tom Wolfe, who wrote A Man in Full and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, tackles sex on campus colleges. On NPR he said that he wrote the passages dealing with sex as unerotically as possible, which induced much mirth in Hambone and me. Writing about sex in an unerotic way is an oxymoron, at least where we're concerned. Which, of course, may say unflattering things about us but so be it.

posted by TSO @ 13:57

C-Spanic Observations

Heard Donna Brazile, Gore's 2000 campaign manager say, "I'm Christian, I'm pro-choice and I'm Catholic. We Democrats can feel good about the political positions we have."

And it's hard for me to get worked up over her statement partially because of the recent election results. Yesterday's danger becomes tomorrow kitsch. Nostalgia coats the '60s because the danger has, to some extent, passed. Nuclear bomb shelters are passe now. Jokes about acid-freaks are funny because few are currently bending their minds on LSD.

Of course the political kneels before the cultural and the cultural before the religious, so the election was small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Only spiritual conversions will suffice, and the ground for that is as ripe in red states as blue. David Brooks made the point that as far as behavior goes there is little difference between people in red states as blue states. "The divorce rate is just as high in Blue America as in Red America" he said.

But Brazille's comments also don't faze because she already has cover in the form of ur-liberal Catholic, Mario Cuomo. Cuomo joins brilliance with seeming to want to do the right thing which is always an impressive combo. Not to say Brazille is slavishly following Cuomo, but it would seem as long as he is convinced of his correctness it's going to be that much harder to 'suade Brazile, to the extent she is 'suadable at all. Same situation on the right, of course, for those of us who appreciate the George Weigels and Michael Novaks of the world.

Of course the solution is to listen to what the Church says and try to think with the mind of the Church. I think Weigel does that with far more attention than does Cuomo but then you already knew that.

posted by TSO @ 09:10

Interesting link:

- "when all the lights of the Tabernacle are extinguished the Kaaba will beckon in the desert":

But of course the process of secularization -- or 'value emptying' as Pell might put it -- has not been entirely uniform. In actuality, while whole chunks of the West have thrown out their traditional value systems, other chunks have been busy proseletyzing theirs. As Episcopalian churches have emptied the fundamentalist Islamic mosques have filled. That uneven development, if left unchecked, may eventually mean that the magnificent mechanism of secular democracy, which serves no value of itself, will be arbitrarily assigned a goal by the majority most willing to hijack it. Pell's observation that "the small but growing conversion of native Westerners within Western societies to Islam carries the suggestion that Islam may provide in the 21st century the attraction that communism provided in the 20th ..." will mark him in liberal Australian circles as a bigot. It should mark him as a wit, for he has managed to slander those they would least offend by comparing them to those they most admire.

posted by TSO @ 09:09


Today's Gospel reading at the local Byzantine Catholic church was the story of the Good Samaritan. The pastor gave a remarkably literal sermon about helping out people who are physically near death due to an accident. He didn't draw any spiritual parallels, perhaps because we assumed we could do that by ourselves. What should we do, he asked, if we saw an accident victim by the side of the road? First, most of us have cell phones, so call 9-1-1. Never move the victim. Many with spinal cord injuries are tragically paralyzed by those trying to "help". If you start CPR and you don't finish, you will be held liable for that person's death...Hmm...

Gratitudinal Adjustment

I'm still doggedly reading Randall Sullivan's book "The Miracle Detective". His travails are emotionally draining so I read it in small quantities. It's similar to my current re-watching of The Lord of the Rings; the constant sense of menace and peril take their toll. Anyway, in it he experienced miracles but expected fireworks every time. He was told he needed to find God now in service to others. He was told how ungrateful he was for what he'd been given. Did he not know how many came to Medjugorje and received so much less?

posted by TSO @ 11:24

November 14, 2004

New Orleans Cemetery Images

posted by TSO @ 23:02

November 12, 2004

State of the Union

Well I can’t kid you, the curtain’s come down. Daylight Savings Time's untimely demise has occurred and now begins the hard time. Winter's a bad moon and she's on the rise.

There are only two seasons: winter and summer. Winter is Nov-Apr & summer is May-October. The blended seasons of spring and fall are actually winter and summer respectively, sprinkled with Scottish highland days to be relished. Cleaving disproportionately to summer’s fair bosom are the work holidays, the vacations, the Irishfests and Octoberfests.

So, no more baking into the hot cushions of the back porch furniture drinking lazily into the beer sun. The end of summer is the end of Welfare-As-We-Know-It, an end of the entitlement mentality that imagines sitting outdoors smoking a cigar till 8 or 9 at night is a right. On the last 60 degree day in late October I flee home at lunch and hit the bike trail and ride into the azure sky and walk amid busted corn stalks tall as single-story buildings where I lose myself, go pee and no one’s the wiser.

Keenly, I'll miss the smell of the porch rain that gush-buckets from failing gutters. Keenly I’ll miss the smell of fresh tar from the neighbor’s driveway seals. Keenly I’ll miss the freshly mown hay of Denver's song, the cut-grass leavenings, the odiferous mulch, the feel of the basketball in my hands, the fragile tomato leaves who curse you for your early planting only to bless you in August with bright fruits too numerous to carry back to the house.

Still, summer costs. To remain stationary on a sunny summer afternoon is to die a little; it’s to look back on it with regret. To spend it in the binding of a book is to miss the warbling of birds and the babbling of brooks. Winter has the long dark nights so eager for imprint of film and book. In summer you lose IQ points. In the winter you explore labyrinthal worlds in film and novel because the world-present is encrusted with permafrost and the trees offer no escape and cornfield labyrinths are reduced to stubble.

And what of the darkness? Then what? There is the candle-lit season of Advent, the consolations of Christmas. And then the January thaw and February’s Lent, which makes the exile bearable, simply by recognition of our exile status. Words make the unbearable bearable: to say the unsayable is to tame it. To name it is to claim it, or at least to begin victory over it.

posted by TSO @ 22:04

St. Alphonsus Liguori on Prayer

But, some one will say, since God can give and wishes to give me the grace of perseverance, why does he not give it me all at once, when I ask him?... St. Augustine says that we may long for it more vehemently. Great gifts, he says, should be greatly desired; for good things soon obtained are not held in the same estimation as those which have been long looked for: "God wills not to give quickly, that you may learn to have great desire for great things ; things long desired are pleasanter to obtain, but things soon given are cheapened."

Want makes the poor keep resorting to the houses of the rich; so God, to draw us to himself, as St. Chrysostom says, and to see us often at his feet, in order that he may thus be able to do us greater good, delays giving us the complete grace of salvation till the hour of our death. He does so in order that we, by preserving in prayer, may unite ourselves closer to him with the sweet bonds of love: "Prayer," says the same St. Chrysostom, "which is accustomed to converse with God, is not slight bond of love to him."

In the Gospel Jesus Christ exhorts us to pray; but how? "Ask, and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." Would it not have been enough to have said, "ask?" why add "seek" and "knock"? No, it was not superfluous to add them; for thereby our Saviour wished us to understand that we ought to do as the poor who go begging. If they do not receive the alms they ask (I speak of licensed beggars), they do not cease asking: they return to ask again: and if the master of the house does not show himself any more, they set to work to knock at the door, till they become very importunate and troublesome. That is what God wishes us to do: to pray, and to pray again, and never leave off praying, that he would assist us and succor us; that he would enlighten us and strengthen us and never allow us to forfeit his grace.

posted by TSO @ 14:41

Venial to Mortal

Malcolm Gladwell explains in The Tipping Point (subtitled "How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference") the unusual way former Mayor Guiliani tackled crime a decade ago in New York City: by sweating the small stuff.

Instead of concentrating mostly on perpetrators of bigger crimes, he started prosecuting - of all things - graffiti artists. Remarkably, the strategy paid off. The climate was changed and Gladwell makes a solid case for the effectiveness of Guiliani's approach.

I was thinking of that book after blogging about how the seemingly small miscue of overlooking Baghdad looters and how that paved the way to bigger horrors. Who would've thunk how widely the message sent by our overlooking the looters would resound? Maybe Guiliani or Gladwell.

posted by TSO @ 13:11

NY Times Says Election Was Fair

The Times says bloggers are spreading conspiracy theories, despite:

"We know this was an emotional election, and the losing side is very upset," said Daniel Hoffheimer, the lead lawyer for the Kerry campaign in Ohio. But, he said, "I have not seen anything to indicate intentional fraud or tampering."

I'm sometimes tempted to think the internet is a net loss for democracy rather than a net gain. It tends to harden positions and reinforce tribal instincts. Of course, it's hard to blame it for everything. Michael Moore and Walter Cronkite manage to effectively spread disinformation without the internet's help.

And the Times print editorialists are often so hysterical they can't be parodied, which is an effective strategy as far as it goes - like a madman protects himself from accusations of madness by being plainly mad.

posted by TSO @ 10:19

Rocco Buttiglione in the WSJ:

One of America's founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, was convinced that politics needed values it could not produce itself and had to rely on other agencies (mainly the churches) to nurture the virtues civil life needs. The state could therefore not privilege any church in particular but had to maintain a positive attitude to religion in general.

Jean Jacques Rousseau thought, on the contrary, that the state needed a kind of civil religion of its own and the existing churches had to bow to this civil religion by incorporating its commandments in their theology. Many scholars see in this idea of Rousseau's the seminal principle of totalitarianism. The tradition of Rousseau and of the Jacobins has survived in Europe in less virulent forms than in the not too distant past, but it's still part of the European political and ideological landscape.

posted by TSO @ 10:09

What Went Wrong?

Was it over before it'd hardly begun? When the New Yorker and National Review agree on something....well... Funny thing is how so many said prior to the war that Arabs respect only strength, so we can't say we weren't warned.

From the New Yorker:

When the Americans moved into [Baghdad] but didn’t intervene to stop the looting that followed, a few things happened. The population, which had been tentatively awaiting and expecting to coöperate with the Americans—and it included many Baath Party members—were aghast at the way Baghdad in particular was looted as the Americans stood by; I think this queered people’s perceptions of the Americans and their intentions in the country very early on. This was palpable in Baghdad, as the first tentative applause at the Americans’ arrival turned to exclamations of resentment and disgust. People fell back on conspiracy theories: that the Americans had arrived for nefarious reasons, and that it was all part of a plan to destroy Iraq, which is, of course, what Saddam had told them for years.
From National Review's Rich Lowrey:
By now, anyone who can't recite the standard critique of what has gone wrong in the Iraq war just hasn't been paying attention.

It goes something like this: There was no post-war planning. What little planning took place was spearheaded by the State Department, and then maliciously ignored by the ideologues at the Pentagon, who didn't want to hear a discouraging word about managing a liberated Iraq. Consumed by Rumsfeld's fixation on light forces, the Pentagon skimped on troop levels and ignored the advice of its commanders. Anyone who said anything inconvenient about the war was systematically punished. In this narrative, "Pentagon civilian" becomes a dirty phrase.

Almost every particular of this indictment is wrong.

In fact, if one is playing a 20/20 second-guessing game over Iraq, the pure Defense Department pre-war vision that wasn't implemented would have avoided one of the pitfalls of what transpired: an occupation that alienated Iraqis and gave the U.S. sole control and responsibility over events in Iraq. The Pentagon favored the creation of an Iraqi government even before the invasion. And it pushed from the very beginning for a serious effort to train indigenous Iraqi forces, which would have given us a head start on what is now the consensus solution to Iraq's woes: that very training, so that Iraqis can carry on the fight for their country themselves...

Bush critics would never put it this way, but a failing of the invasion plan turned out to be its excess of humanitarianism. "We wanted this to be as humane as a combat operation — as war — can be," General Myers told the Senate Armed Services Committee in June. "[The idea was] to let regular Iraqi divisions [go], while destroying equipment and some of their people. If they melted away, then let them melt away, because they were conscripts, after all. So if there is a blame here, it was making some assumptions on how the Iraqi people would react to that, and I would submit we were probably too gracious in our victory in hindsight."

This is a recurring theme. Over and over again in Iraq, the administration would demonstrate a lack of the necessary toughness to succeed: in how it conducted the initial war, how it handled the post-war looting, and how it approached the problem of restive cities such as Fallujah. Even in the post-war planning, it was the soft side of the enterprise, the potential humanitarian crisis, that was given priority. In Iraq, the conciliatory gesture, the half-measure, took priority over the work of smashing the enemy and establishing order. In this sense, the number of troops mattered less than what they were told to do, or not do...Immediately after the war, widespread looting occurred..."Not preventing the looting was a huge mistake," says former CPA official Michael Rubin.

posted by TSO @ 13:18

November 11, 2004

Let's Let The Dems Shoot Us

Easy link to send senators your thoughts on the prospect of Specter as head of the Judiciary committee.

From K-Lo in the Corner:

Hugh Hewitt today argues that we’re trying to silence Arlen Specter like the Dems ostracized Bob Casey. Yes, Hugh, there are plenty of RINOs, and I’m no fan of them, but didn’t you notice them all over our convention (vs. the Dems—tell spoke at the GOP’s, recall)? They' ain't being silenced. That said, with this Specter business, we are talking about judges. We are talking about the Judiciary Committee of the Senate. We are talking about Specter’s temperament (and not just one interview that he is stuck on trying to rewrite away) and the fact that conservatives won this election and shouldn’t shoot themselves in the foot when we’re about to face a possibly pretty--soon Supreme Court opening.

posted by TSO @ 11:52

Blog asks which books have changed your life

Cherry-picking from the varied responses:

C.S. Lewis's Til We Have Faces changed the way I think about other people's faiths.

Charles Bukowski taught me that no matter what other people think of you, you shouldn't pity yourself. He also taught me that even someone who doesn't understand love (or want it) feels it.

Philip Roth has reaffirmed my belief that it is pointless to say that men and women are the same. They're not the same. This isn't to say they're not equal, just that they're different.

Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides made me consider how utterly different my life is from that of my highland ancestors, and the poverty and misery they escaped, and is a wonderful tonic...

I have also drawn a lot of spiritual sustenance from the poets of my own country (James K Baxter, Alan Curnow, R A K Mason, Rex Fairburn, Hone Tuwhare, to name a few) and still find Yeats and McDiarmid and Seamus Heaney deeply moving. It's an interesting question why I have no use for Englishmen.

The Diary of Anne Frank: I read this at a young age, and the experience still haunts me- I know i am not alone in this.

posted by TSO @ 10:20


Roz of Exultet writes:

Hey, I love Tivo. Never again will anyone in my house say "Shhhh. What did Tim Russert just say?" Instead, here's the scenario: (Tim Russert opines in the background.)

Spouse #1: "Dear, you know what I've been thinking . . . "
Spouse #2: "Just a second, sweetheart. . . .
Yes, darling, what have you been thinking?"

Not very compelling, perhaps, to people with a high degree of sanctity, but pretty practical for this worldly sinner.

This has the ring of truth. Combined with my similar experience I wonder: Is this a trivial example of how technology can put you "to the test" less? Is that always good?

Jonah Goldberg writes:

The point is that technology changes the times we live in but it doesn't change human nature (at least not yet)... Think of it this way: Hard work leads to character. There isn't a person in the world who's written on the topic who doesn't say something like that. Now imagine if you could take a pill that would automatically make you very smart and in perfect physical shape overnight. Intelligence and physical strength used to be well-recognized by-products of character building. With the pill, there's no building — just the final product. That pill would be more dangerous to a virtuous society than any "if it feels good do it" doctrine coming out of Brown University.

posted by TSO @ 09:32

Hope Ain't Just a Place in Arkansas

The build-up to the election & the post-election backlash have been "interesting".

I recall a certain columnist from Indiania with whom I was in an email exchange a couple years back. She was an agnostic-Catholic or a Catholic-agnostic, depending how you look at it. Her faith hung by the proverbial thread.

It ain't hanging anymore. It's gone and her vituperativeness is real. The Church is now the enemy, aided by the scandals and by doctrines she doesn't like. The one-two punch of Catholics giving a bad example combined with unpleasant Church teaching is something only God can overcome.

I had a similar corresponce experience with a leftist who grew more leftist with every email I sent. (I get the message Lord.) While anecdotal, it certainly gave me more humility over my power to persuade. Or lack thereof. And of course the converse is true. How willing open am I to persuasion on disputable matters of importance to them? How much responsibility do we Christians have for the polarization?

On a recent retreat I asked the priest about blogs and about what responsibility I have and he said "why shouldn't you have a website? Everyone has a website. State your opinion!" When I explained I sometimes use it to vent he cautioned against that. But I wonder at the fine line between venting and not venting.

I digress. A recent article by Tom Hoopes in Crisis suggests that Christians don't do PR well. We really hosed (pun unintended) the gay marriage flap. He said that we should be talking about how bad homosexual behavior is for homosexuals, how their life expectancy is much shorter, more suicides, AIDS, and so forth.

On the other hand, Archbishop Chaput's column was equally eye-opening. How do you persuade in a society that is increasingly tone-deaf to a higher authority (i.e. to God) and even reason?

Prayer crucially. But better PR too. When good marketing intersects with the truth it is a beautiful thing. The group Feminists for Life really understand that. Abortion is bad for the woman, not just the child, and that often gets lost in the debate. "When a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is a sign that, by education or circumstances, she has been greatly wronged." said Susan B. Anthony.

posted by TSO @ 09:17

Quick Hits

Jeff Culbreath makes an excellent point about how we view the world through our strengths. I also liked the point about how wealth can to some extent protect one from the ill effects of unvirtuous behavior (in this world only). Very shrewd.

Living in New Zealand and being a day ahead of us, wouldn't it be nice if she she mailed us our posts and saved us the trouble?

Thinking aloud about Steven Riddle's metablogic post... I think he deserves a higher place in heaven for honesty alone. His comments strike a chord with me and with my circumstances. If nothing else, is it not inspiring how we joust with the same issues for so long a time? Rather than becoming discouraged, isn't there something uplifting about refusing to believe that our past performances guarantee future results if that belief is based on the strength of God's grace?

Heard a family member refer to the Tivo pause button as the "marriage saver". Funny. Every guy will understand that. Tivo has done for television what the crack pipe did for cocaine. Not to compare television to cocaine of course; that wouldn't be fair to cocaine.

Bone's watchword of late is "OPM" - "other people's money", pronounced "opium". He wants to make a movie and he thinks OPM is the way to get there.

OPB - other people's (spiritual) beauty - is similarly attractive. I recall reading a quote a long time ago that went "love is beautiful in dreams, harsh in reality". I got a whiff of that during the reading from 2nd Maccabees at Mass Sunday. It was about a soul so full of faith that he was willing to lose his hands:

After him the third suffered their cruel sport. He put out his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words: "It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again."
His faith is beautiful. I pray that I can admire from afar and not be put to the test.

posted by TSO @ 18:25

November 9, 2004

Updike Praise

I'm reading some of Updike's early stories and it's just as good as it gets. The difference between Updike and others is that it's as if he's an inventor or discoverer who has perceived a gap in the writing world and means to fill it, while with others it's more like trying to fill something already full.

Does he read his own writing with the same exhilaration we do? It's as if he is making this delicious homebrew he can get nowhere else while most of us struggle just to make something that tastes like beer. Walker Percy reminds me of Updike - superlative prose but with the added benefit of an underlying diagnostic message.

With nonfiction books you might get this from the author: "I wrote about Gen'l Pickett's grandfather because no one else has - I was curious and I thought others might be too." That works, but you wouldn't think it transferable to fiction since there is "nothing new under the sun" and all stories have supposedly already been told. Yet with great fiction I think there is something similar going on.

Anyway, an Updike sampler:

I saw him only for a moment, and that was years ago. Boston had been beaten by the White Sox. It was a night game, and when it was over, as the crowd, including myself and my friends, pushed with that suppressed Occidental panic up the aisles toward the exit ramps, he, like the heavy pebble of gold that is not washed from the pan, was revealed, sitting alone, immobile and smiling, among the green seats. He was an old Chinese man, solidly fat, like a Chevrolet dealer, and he wore faded black trousers and a white shirt whose sleeves were rolled up. He sat with one arm up on the back of the seat beside him and smiled out toward the field, where the ground crew was unfurling the tarp across the foreshortened clay diamond and the outfield under the arc lights looked as brilliant and flat as a pool-table felt. And it flashed upon me, as I glimpsed this man sitting alone and unperturbed among the drained seats, that here was the happy man, the man of unceasing and effortless blessing.
How rich is that? "suppressed Occidental panic"? "drained seats"? "like a Chevrolet dealer"? "like the heavy pebble of gold"? Whoosh! What a joy to read!

posted by TSO @ 17:28

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts...a very special post-election edition

Don't pray for victory. Just pray. God's will will be done regardless. Pray to accept whatever happens. - Kathy Shaidle of Relapsed Catholic, night before the election

There's been a lot of sturm und drang this week over the impact of the gay marriage issue on this election, and the outcomes of the 11 ballot initiatives, with various commentators pondering the forthcoming war on gays, and so on...I think there's another factor in this that has, to my mind, gone unremarked on. What no one seems to remember is that the explosive attention paid to this issue came about because the Massachusetts Supreme Court and various individual executive office-holders around the land decided to redefine marriage. The referenda were just as much pre-emptive strikes against this type of un-democratic action on a very controversial issue that merits the consideration of more than some judges and mayors as they were concerns with the matter itself. The two points are related, naturally, but I think more people than we realize are weary of power leaching away from the people to the courts and elected officials acting on their own. - Amy Welborn

This election could be one of the best things that ever happened to the Democratic Party, if the party accepts the need to remake itself. I still think a great many - perhaps most - Americans would be inclined to vote Democratic if the party presented centrist candidates who looked out for the little guy while respecting the little guy's faith and values; who championed the small and local and colorful in the face of the corporate juggernaut; who challenged citizens to sacrifice as well as to do great things, and who advanced a positive vision of America as a force for good in the world. - Mark of Irish Elk

Sunday's New York Daily News has an article, "Election Dejection," which provides unhappy Democrats much heartfelt advice from "Manhattan therapist Gerri DiBenedetto." Including this gem: "On a serious note, DiBenedetto warns that boozing it up to ease the pain is not the best answer. 'That's just self-destructive, and then you're letting the Republicans win,' she says." Follow up thought: Is that better, or worse, than letting the terrorists win? - commenter on Mark of Irish Elk's blog

I have a suggestion for pro-life politicians that they present a new bill called The Minimum Age Act. The minimum age for life will be set at zero (conception) with everybody who reaches that age receive the protection of the Constitution. - Jeff Miller of Curt Jester, suggesting a fine complement to minimum wage legislation

Phew. No Peter, Paul & Mary at the Inaugural. - Mark of Irish Elk, post-election

It has been said that the Christian life is such that if one is not moving forward, then one is slipping backward. There is no such thing as finding a comfortable spiritual place and just sort of hanging out there until your number is up. And so, if you won't hear the voice that is calling you to the next level -- if you just don't want to give anymore or to love anymore or to repent anymore -- then you will eventually end up losing all that you have gained. - Jeff of El Camino Real.

I'm making an effort to look towards the future, and try to see where we go from here. The only conclusion I've come to so far is that progressives are failing to communicate their message. Once we've learned how to do this more effectively, we are going to have to engage those with whom we disagree in conversation. Personally, I'm not there yet. I can't talk to Republicans or Roman Catholics right now. I won't be going to ministerial association meetings, which are dominated by evangelicals, for awhile. Not only does their glee in electing a "good, God-fearing man" make me sick, most likely I'd give them a piece of my mind, and that is not the kind of conversation that's going to help right now. - Episcopalian Fr. Jake of "Fr Jake Stops the World"

Personally, I think any "what if Vatican 2 never happened" scenario that doesn't end in catastrophe for the Church is bound to be false. I think that, had it not been for the Council, the cultural winds which hit the Church over the past 40 years would have made the Church *everywhere* into the crumpled Potemkin Village that, say, Quebec Catholicism turned out to be. The considerable vigor that the Church still retains is, despite the anti-V2 fulminations of Faithful Conservative Catholics[TM], largely due to the Council, I think. - Mark Shea

Arrogance was a huge temptation for me when I started styling myself as an apologist for the Faith. That I presumed to clarify things for others revealed that I thought I was smarter than others and that I had some sort of "duty" to educate those who were not on my "level" yet--which was a dangerous beginning. It's something Nietzche's Uberman would think. What St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, thought was very different: "O God, what will become of sinners!" Winning arguments and making more sense than an opponent mattered less to him than saving souls. Yes, God saves souls through His Church, but He doesn't seem fond of using apologetics to do it...After many years of studying on my own and arguing with others, I've come to see apologetics as a purely defensive weapon...It's good to be reminded from time to time that I'm not here to explain things to others, but to love them. Of course, that's much harder to do. - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

posted by TSO @ 13:55

Virginia Cyr, Loving Until We Are Able

Fr. Keith said her last words to him on the day of her death February 3, 1967 were: "I will love you until you are really able to love!"

This is lengthy but worth it:

“Do I smile in my sleep? I should; each heartbeat, breath, every second of life is a proclamation of God’s goodness.”

And yet, such are the words of one who had been afflicted with cerebral palsy, abandoned by her mother, placed in a series of institutions and sexually molested. Although motherless, homeless and penniless, Cyr was without bitterness.

By the time Cyr had reached her early 20s, her condition had deteriorated so much that she could no longer continue hoboing. She was placed in a nursing home in Kokomo, Ind. And, along with the loss of control over her body, she also lost the ability to speak.

While staying at the nursing home, she was molested by a priest who served as a chaplain there.

She mentioned the incidences only to a few friends.

But, when she received a letter several months later from that priest, asking for forgiveness, she wrote in her journal; “He asks me to write him; I shall. Forgive him? I’ve never found this necessary. There is but pity and horror and an impelling desire to be ever a more sacrifice for priestly priests.” She was hospitalized shortly thereafter.

Cyr died in 1967. She died in the home of friends. She was 24 years old.

At the time of her death, Cyr had been corresponding regularly with more than 300 people.

“Virginia was in possession of something of which people simply could not get enough. Once people met Virginia, they couldn’t forget her, and one way to stay close to so much goodness and love was through correspondence,” said Colgan.

posted by TSO @ 11:27

Goldberg's Latest

What Maher, Raines, and Smiley fail to grasp is that all morality is based upon transcendence — or it is merely based on utilitarianism of one kind or another, and therefore it is not morality so much as, at best, an enlightened expediency or will-to-power. It is no more rational to vote based on a desire to do "good" than it is to vote based on a desire to do God's will. Indeed, for millions of people this is a distinction without a difference — as it was for so many of the abolitionists progressives and civil-rights leaders today's liberals love to invoke but never actually learn about.

Love, in fact, is just as silly and superstitious a concept as God (and for those who believe God is Love, this too is a distinction without a difference). Chesterton's observation that the purely rational man will not marry is just as correct today, because science has done far more damage to the ideal of love than it has done to the notion of an awesome God beyond our ken. Genes, hormones, instincts, evolution: These are the cause for the effect of love in the purely rational man's textbook. But Maher would get few applause lines from his audience of sophisticated yokels if he mocked love as a silly superstition. This is, in part, because the crowd he plays to likes the idea of love while it dislikes the idea of God; and in part because these people feel love, so they think it exists. But such is the extent of their solipsism and narcissism that they not only reject the existence of God but go so far as to mock those who do not, simply because they don't feel Him themselves. And, alas, in elite America, feelings are the only recognized foundation of metaphysics.

posted by TSO @ 13:54

November 8, 2004

An Understandable Divide

Probably obvious to y'all but our pastor's homily Sunday suggested that the polarization of the culture is to be expected. We're caught in the same argument the Pharisees and Sadducees had two thousand years ago (the more things change...).

The gospel reading was about how the Sadducees tried to make Jesus look foolish. The Pharisees believed in an afterlife but the Sadducees didn't, so the latter asked a convoluted question about who would be married in heaven a woman married seven brothers.

The different world views have transported across time. If you don't believe in an afterlife then quality of life is all that matters. If this is all there is, then squeezing delight out of every minute is the goal. If this world is not a time of preparation for the next, and if choices made in this world don't reverberate beyond the grave, then why wouldn't euthanasia make sense?

But the problem is not just a lack of faith. The combination of lack of faith and a lack of reasoning is especially deadly on other life issues. Archbishop Chaput writes:

Here’s the first problem: our inability to reason. Most of the arguments in favor of embryonic stem-cell research come down to two main points: (a) Embryos are really, really small; therefore, they can’t be human; and (b) the end justifies the means.

...America in our lifetime is a culture built on marketing—and marketing works in exactly the opposite way. Marketing appeals to desire and emotion, and it depends on the suppression of critical thought, which gets in the way of buying the product or the message. That’s why marketing is tied so tightly to image—images operate quickly and very effectively at the sub-rational level. That explains why car manufacturers usually stand a good-looking blonde in front of their latest sports car instead of a stack of performance statistics.

And that’s also why we’ve seen so many alien-looking close-ups of embryos in magazine and newspaper spreads. The implicit message of the image is: This can’t be human; it doesn’t even look like us.

posted by TSO @ 11:54

Calling Mike DeWine

Call early & often!

As an added incentive, though I doubt you need one, his aide (didn't catch her name) has a beautiful voice. (614) 469-5186 (in that particular order).

posted by TSO @ 11:50

Fictional Monday

"It's gone to the bindery," said he nonchalantly, for it is a daily occurrence in the printing industry.

Still the thought of pressed pages meeting their destiny thrilled the hearer. How could it not? Weddings and babies and new life, evens and odds mated in an inviolable marriage which no reader would sunder.

But is it worth the stain of virgin pages? A printer has his costs, scrawny words need pull their weight. The physical's impermanence still lingers past mere thoughts. In his head they were free and caused no scandal to those voices counseling proper stewardship.

He could picture the bindery in his head. It was an old metallic building which the green eye-shade types constantly wanted to modernize. The air hung ripe with the perfume of pulp and cologne of ink. Great machines toiled, shepherding loose sheets lined with characters snug in their sentences. New-born books were caught by literary midwives to the sounds of Rimsky-Korsakov...

posted by TSO @ 10:34

Fr. Lane's Talk

He spoke at the Grodi's Coming Home Conference today. Brilliant as always, this quick review from memory is un-nuanced and crude. When the tape becomes available I'll try to remember to link to it.

His view of history is beautifully Eucharist-centric. He says that non-Catholics won't believe the Catholic distinctives until there is an understanding of the Eucharist, appropriate since Christ is the Way. [Come to think of it, Scott Hahn accepted the truth about the Eucharist long before what the Church said about Mary or the Pope.]

He said the constant challenge is for an epoch's smartest and holiest people to find a way to translate the Hebrew/Scriptural mindset in the present culture's terms. Examples are how the early Fathers spoke of the Eucharist was in terms that followers of Plato could understand. Augustine did the same with another philosopher and later scholastics did the same with respect to Aristotle (i.e. transubstantiation, which sadly became a source of division).

Symbol, to the early Church, didn't mean sign. There wasn't this modern distance between symbol and that which it symbolized. God wouldn't have been offended at the Golden Calf if it had been representational...For the ancient Hebrews, the blood that ran through your descendents was eternal life...We've intellectualized everything, including the liturgy. John Wesley correctly understood that was something was wrong. Msgr. Lane said we should not disdain emotions. We are heart and body and mind and soul. We have made this great split between the supernatural and the natural, which the Early Fathers would not have accepted since everything comes from God.... The Eastern Church speak of the gradual divinization of man to great effect... Receiving the Eucharist is a Trinitarian reunion in the soul.

posted by TSO @ 15:29

November 7, 2004

Free Will, the Pope & Political Parties

If the fault of the political right is too much regard for human free will (as in "everyone can be successful if they work hard enough"), then the fault of the left is too little regard for free will, shown with clarity this week by the hand-wringing about how voters were hood-winked by Rove and company. Democrat Rahm Emanuel recognized this in the NY Times:

"People aren't going to hear what we say until they know that we don't approach them as Margaret Mead would an anthropological experiment."

Too funny.

Of course, being thought of as an anthropological experiment is far better than what most of the elite media thinks of the "red-staters". The level of venom in Kerry supporters suggests that the right man won, at least to the extent you can judge a candidate by the supporters he keeps.

The anthropological angle can poison the well of evangelism too. Obviously only love avails. People have to feel that Christians love them individually and are responding to them not as "bloc votes to be won" but as unique and unrepeatable beings made in the image and likeness of God. Related to this, in his latest book the Pope writes,

It is difficult to formulate a systematic theory on how to relate to people, yet I was greatly helped in this by the study of personalism during the years I devoted to philosophy. Every human being is an individual person and therefore I cannot program a priori a certain type of relationship that could be applied to everyone, but I must, so to speak, learn it anew in every case. Jerzy Liebert's poetry expresses this effectively:

I study you my friend,
Slowly I study you, slowly.
This difficult task, its gain,
Brings joy to my heart and pain.

I was always concerned to safeguard the personal quality of each relationship. Every person is a chapter to himself.

posted by TSO @ 14:49

Democrat blogger to fellow Democrats:

Our error is that we Democrats are far less understanding than we think we are. Our version of understanding the other side is to look at them from a psychological point of view while being completely unwilling to take their arguments seriously. "Well, he can't help himself, he's a right-wing religious zealot, so of course he's going to think like that." "Republicans who never served in war are hypocrites to send young men to die. " "Republicans are homophobes, probably because they can't deal with their secret desires." Anything but actually listening and responding to the arguments being made.
Amy Welborn sets the record straight (pun mostly unintended) on the gay marriage situation while David Brooks explains that gay marriage had little to do with Bush's win.

posted by TSO @ 01:11

November 6, 2004

Radney Foster's "Went For a Ride"

He was black as the sky on a moonless night
He was good with horses he never reined ‘em too tight
He rode with the best hell he rode with me
and they got it all wrong in that book of history

It wasn't cowboys and ponies it was horses and men
It wasn't school boys and Ladies it was cowtowns and sin
and there was blood on the leather and tears in her eyes
we swore at the devil and went for a ride

We told some tales he told ‘em best
real life can always use a good stretch
but that don't change the things we did
cause the truest thing was the life that we lived

More than one kind of pain more than one kind of theft
and it's bitter as the night sweet Jesus wept
She stole my heart, age stole the fire
they stole my praire when they strung all that wire

posted by TSO @ 22:49

November 5, 2004

various & sundry

Amy ponders the election hysteria on the left...Local paper has more on the Ohio victory...Kudos to Bill of Summa Minutiae for predicting a Bush win while I was still a nabob of negativity...I'd write more poems if they were like this.

posted by TSO @ 22:44


Get Out Your Reading Glass.
"That’s right, pal, reading whiskey! Nothing like a water glass full of hooch to spice up Dickens’ duller passages. I mean, just because you want to spend a quiet evening at home reading a good book doesn’t mean you can’t party down a little."

link via Mark of Irish Elk...

posted by TSO @ 22:09

Time Travel

Ohio might be the land of Dennis Kucinich and the Bengals (as Bill Luse so hilariously pointed out) but there is also the compensating OSU book sale. The twice yearly extravanganza offers thousands of books, hardbacks at $2 and softbacks at $1, and this is the one time I buy just because it's on sale - though I know the chance I'll read them is as slight as the kisses Keats described: "And there I shut her wild sad eyes / With kisses four."

Fall is built for nostalgia and it was bittersweet to see the fine old buildings and autumnal hues and the college kids, draped around the outdoor furniture in various states of disarray, wearing post-election hangovers. Ahhh... memories. From Fr. Jim Tucker's blog: "Only memories, fading memories / Blending into dull tableaux / I want them back". Though I didn't go to OSU there is something that defies particularity on a college campus. Outside the library an acrid smoke hangs from cigarettes furiously smoked. Girls go by attended by the flash of piercings and boys curl their ball caps until one edge of brim kisses the other.

I browsed the long rows of quiet volumes (oxymoron?) and picked up a book of early Updike short stories, Thurman's biography of Isak Dinesen, "Desire of the Everlasting Hills : The World Before and After Jesus" by Thomas Cahill, The Complete Works of Rabelais, The Allegory of Love - CS Lewis, Dewey Defeats Truman - Thomas Malloy, August 1914 - Solzhenitsyn. Are any of these worth moving up to the current read list?

I was tempted to buy Tuchman's "Distant Mirror" but I've heard the book is impregnated with anti-Catholic bias. They also had a hardback copy of Flannery O'Connor's letters, which I already have in paperback and I was tempted. Do you pick up a religious book you like in a setting like that when there's the miniscule chance that some collegian might happen upon it and have their life changed? I also saw Richard McBrien's "Catholicism", which I was tempted to buy for equal and opposite reasons.

posted by TSO @ 13:39

Voting Your Fears - I'm for it!

Some of the progressives are making the case that Bush was relected because of appealing to our fears. Whether he did or didn't doesn't really matter to me because I think voting out of fear is a perfectly natural and life-preserving response. Caution around the edge of a cliff is very sane - dare I say a good? Fear and courage are not mutually exclusive. In fact, courage without fear isn't courage at all but imprudent recklessness.

The irony is that most progressives voted out of fear - fear that George Bush would work towards saving babies by nominating pro-life justices. Fear that his foreign policy might mint new terrorists. And I don't see anything wrong with that - in the sense of their motivation for voting.

I voted my hopes and my fears. I hope and pray that George Bush will make the right decisions. I hope that there will come an end to abortion, so that we'll have two viable parties from which we can cherry pick the best ideas. It's very unhealthy for the Republicans to be a majority party for very long. Monopolies always breed corruption. It is essential to the health of the conservative party that the liberal party be able to not only present new ideas - (and the Democrats understand that - they are creating the sort of think tanks aimed at providing reasonable solutions to problems like health care) - but not exempt themselves from the playing field by ignoring the killing of children.

posted by TSO @ 13:21

Stop Specter Now!

posted by TSO @ 11:51

November 4, 2004

What to Read

My stepson's wonderful new bride is a serious evangelical Christian. Her side of their bedroom is filled with Christian books, Dallas Willard being a particular favorite. Aaron thinks her reading is too restricted and narrow. He gave her Garrison Keillor's "Summer of 1957" book for broadening purposes. (I got about a third of the way through that book before discarding it. It's not his finest by any stretch.)

Anyway, it's interesting because this is one of those "border questions" that fascinate me. How much is too much theological reading? I don't know that theological reading necessarily makes you a better person. Kerouac read lots while sadly drinking himself dead.

From a purely utilitarian standpoint one could say that if theological reading increases charity then do more of it, if it increases self-absorption, do less of it. Alternatively, one could simply ask God what He thinks.

posted by TSO @ 10:17

The New Confederacy

I was listening to Air America this morning (made endurable by the threat of a Kerry presidency having passed and by schadenfreude), and Newsweek columnist Joe Klein said some very interesting things (paraphrasing here):
Klein: "I've been talking to a lot of Democrats and I believe the only way to take social issues off the table is to localize them. It's ridiculous that the whole Democratic agenda has to be held hostage to abortion and gay marriage. Why not have these battles at the state level? Utah outlaws abortion? Fine. Texas doesn't recognize gay marriages? Fine-"

Interviewer: "The South secedes from the Union? Fine!"

Klein: "Well that's an extreme example of what I'm talking about but the fact remains that the Democratic party has been getting crushed."
I found Klein's naivety surprising and refreshing because isn't the main Democratic agenda the social issues themselves? Ron Reagan Jr., when asked how we'll know if Bush will unite the country after the election, said "we'll see if he funds stem cell research". Oh. Okay.

After Klein left, callers were predictably enraged. Caller 1 said that Florida and Ohio should be contested. Caller 2 said that the only problem with getting Democrats elected is to ban computer voting machines since they leave no paper trail. I can tell you that my sympathy for progressives waned dramatically with these calls. While I can relate to the progressive quality of doing the same self-destructive things while expecting different results, I do have limits. (By the way, Walter Conkrite's recent comment that he thought Karl Rove might've arranged Osama bin Laden's October surprise video was as astonishing, wasn't it? It makes me fear for my country because if the once "most trusted man in America" has lost the facility for reason...well, it's scary).

Anyway, here are the general categories I've seen about Dems explaining why the Dems lost:

The problem is voter fraud and black disenfranchisement

The problem is that the party is perceived to ridicule evangelical Christians & their beliefs

The problem is advertising..i.e. we need a Democratic Karl Rove or a Democratic Rush Limbaugh

The problem is the issues themselves (Joe Klein)

posted by TSO @ 09:03

Via the Corner, funniest explanation for the bad early exit polls showing Kerry with a lead:

Voters voted for Kerry, before they voted against him.

posted by TSO @ 20:49

November 3, 2004

It Depends What You Mean by "Fasting"

RABAT (Reuters) - Moroccans spend 28 percent more on food during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, a government study showed Tuesday.

posted by TSO @ 20:46

Fresh Air Sans Terri Gross

No one on the losing side has acquited himself better than Jcecil3:

I was encouraged by two things. First, the turn out was a real tribute to democracy. Second, I never denied that on abortion and embryonic stem cell research taken by themselves, I prefered Bush over Kerry.

Just because the issues I considered more important did not dominate with the American people does not mean that I can't rejoice in whatever positive contributions Bush can make to the common good. More to come on this below.
His attitude is as refreshing as it is rare, and imo his post accurately captured what the Democrats did wrong.

posted by TSO @ 19:15

Around the World in Eighty Posts

What the world is saying...

UK Spectator:

On Tuesday an unhappy choice confronts the American people. To suffer a gloating Mark Steyn. Or to endure the sight of a jubilant Michael Moore thumping the air in the belief that he has just personally saved the world from military and ecological disaster. Grim though these alternatives are, with heavy heart we are minded to favour the first, and urge Americans to vote for Bush.
Russian Pravda:
It is noteworthy to mention that today's American presidential elections bear no significance for majority of Russians; they think of Kerry as a mere Ketchup drop, due to his wife's riches.

Bush's friend Vladimir Putin possess ultimate control over his subjects that whenever the election day approaches those are mainly Russian people themselves that shake in their shoes, out of fear of enraging their "king" by casting less than 60% of votes for him. Had Mr. Bush followed the example of the Russian leader and a former KGB officer, all billionaires and president's enemies like George Soros for example, would have long been imprisoned...It appears rather strange that American armed forces have difficulties finding any proofs of WMD in Iraq, used to state head of the Kremlin along with Shroeder and Chirac. Had "his people" searched for the weapons of mass destructions there, they would have discovered it in no time, grins ex-KGB officer.
German "Der Spiegel", caption on photo of Bush:
Germans are asking if Bush will be bad cowboy or a good one.
French columnist/blogger:
The HQ of Kerry is in a large hotel opposite Copley Place, in Boston. There are hundreds of people, journalists and also of the "huiles". They are financial campaign, or people of the party, which were invited to receptions given in the private living rooms. Great style, glosses out of crystal. The briefings are held in a ballroom.. Ted Kennedy comes to appear. He speaks already about the future, about the challenges which await Kerry. It will be necessary, he says, to find the means of giving prospects to the thousands of young people who've mobilized themselves for the campaign. Quelqu'un s'est astonished. Doesn't it go a little quickly in work? He says this despite Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky, and Vermont with Kerry. Ted Kennedy (liberal of Massachussets and to trust of l'être, as it l'expliquait l'autre day) smiled. He said he did not believe that the results were going to disappoint it. This night belongs to Kerry. - "Tonight is John Kerry's night"
German Der Spiegel:
Bush's re-election will certainly allow a number of politicians in Berlin to breathe a little easier. An overwhelming 80 percent of Germans supported challenger John Kerry in public opinion polls, but a number of government politicians feared the Democrat would have put them in a pickle. He would have brought gravitas with him, but he also would have brought new questions that would have sparked heated public debate here -- especially on the issue of Iraq.

Though Kerry knows that no German troops could be stationed in Iraq with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder still in office, most still expected he would have at least made the request.
Jerusalem Post:
"Abortion kills 1.5 million people per year. That's the biggest issue for me - definitely," said Crystal Billman, 22, a stay-at-home mom with dyed pink hair from Columbus. "My friends and me, we all share the same core value system. It just fits that we would follow Bush. We believe in strong, Christian values."

Until this election, Billman had never been much involved in politics, but she was among millions of voters the Republican Party mobilized and reached during a campaign that used an emphasis on values—especially Christian ones—to give Bush the edge. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Bush led the popular vote by a margin of more than 3.5 million.

posted by TSO @ 15:15

So True...

When darkness falls earlier, can winter be far behind?

Daylight-saving time ends too abruptly, if you ask me. As an accomplished practitioner of denial, I find it easy to delude myself about the coming of winter all through October.

The weather is nice; the evenings are bright; baseball lingers. Winter seems distant. Perhaps we’ll even escape it this year, I think.

Then comes the last Sunday in October, when we bring winter crashing down by turning back the clocks an hour. Suddenly, it’s growing dark at 5 p.m. This is not an insignificant matter.

In central Ohio, light defines winter as much as weather. We don’t really have winter weather here — just a dozen variations of partly cloudy with a chance of rain...

I suspect that the urge to shop also stems from a craving for light. I know that Target isn’t a sun-soaked beach in the Caribbean, but it’s not a bad place to soak up fluorescent illumination while checking out the merchandise.

posted by TSO @ 13:13

The High Cost of (Secular) Living

Well, the Democratic party continues to pay a high price for nominating candidates who refuse to take the life issues seriously. Andrea Mitchell of NBC news was the first to notice. In the wee hours this morning she said, uncomprehending, "these people are voting their moral values over their economic self-interest!". Her husband might say that sometimes the voters are irrational. (Nevermind the assumption that the economic self-interest of red state voters is to vote Democratic. The difficult trick is to balance Tyler's quote with Archbishop Chaput's, who says that the government has a role in "economic justice both at home and abroad; support[ing] the sick, the elderly, and children seeking a decent education. It’s not enough to say, 'Well, these are matters for private charity.' Private charities in this country are already overwhelmed by the demand." I realize I do have to work harder to trust the bishops regarding economic issues.)

I give credit to Ham of Bone who said that evangelicals were going to turn out, pointing to his own Vineyard church as an example of the organizational efforts of the Bush folks. I was skeptical; it was hard to imagine that that many evangelicals didn't vote for Bush in '00 were going to come out this time.

This election also highlights the high price of anger. Democratic primary voters were so angry at Bush for the 2000 election and the war in Iraq that they let this cloud their thinking. Instead of coolly nominating someone who might appeal to the Midwest, they flirted with northeast liberal Howard Dean before settling for northeast liberal John Kerry. It's not that all northeast liberals are bad, it's more that the politics of it looked asinine, but then self-restraint is so difficult.

Anyway, I'm proud of our country. Proud that morality still matters even in a culture that is post-Christian.

posted by TSO @ 08:51


Well after four hours of punditry, we know nothing we didn't know a week ago: i.e. it comes down to Florida and Ohio. And so the lengthy, painstaking counting begins, the long slow march towards outcome. There is a joy in this "land in between", this cloud of unknowing in which we can take some comfort - for where there is uncertainty there is hope.

The exit polls have cast a miasma of misfortune upon the evening for which they will be forgiven only in the event of a GOP victory. George Bush reminds me of last season's OSU Buckeyes. There is no victory which cannot be snatched from the jaws of defeat, and there is no defeat which cannot be snatched from the jaws of victory. The Buckeyes won all of them, but they insisted they be close. They danced on the razor's edge. Bush is doing a Texas two-step on the same edge.

Ultimately this election would be far less painful if the Democratic party had chosen better. Or if John Kerry was a better man. But we are a post-Christian nation and a steady decline in leadership is to be expected, for leaders come from the people.

Meanwhile Victor Hanson offers some beauty on the Corner:

AENEID AND US [Victor Davis Hanson]
As a classicist I should offer this of tonight's ordeal from the first book of Virgil Aeneid (203):

Optimism about tonight's uncertainty.

Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit,

The day will come when even this ordeal shall be sweet to remember (Virgil, 1.203)

posted by TSO @ 22:50

November 2, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

What hasn't worked: Lobster, Long walks, Warm bath, Doing laundry, Red Sox winning, You-Know-What. - Kat of "Lively Writer", on attempts to trigger labor. Two days later labor was induced and her daughter was born.

'These wounds I had on Crispin's day' - Mark of "Irish Elk", above a photo of Curt Schilling's bloody sock

Is hell frozen? Are pigs flying? Is it the Last Judgment? Have the Red Sox really won the World Series?...If you’re not from New England, if you didn’t grow up here, I don’t think you can understand what it means. A few years ago, one fan summed up what it was like being a Sox fan: “They came for my grandfather, they came for my father, and now they’re coming for me.” No more. No more “wait until next year.” - Domenico Bettinelli of

When we were kids playing on Hobart St. and saw somebody geeky coming down the block, the cruel cry would go up: "No new joiners!" I hope Red Sox fans don't feel the same way. I've always had a soft spot for your team, honest. There's a fraternal allegiance between Detroit and Boston - teams with real tradition, won nuthin' lately, etc. I really want to cheer for your guys, honest. Can I join? - Roz of "In Dwelling"

We are commanded to pray always, and it's a sort of false humility to refuse to ask God for knowledge just because we have a book on the subject, just as it's false humility not to ask God for our daily bread just because we have a full refrigerator. To return to St. Catherine...what truth does she ask God about? Nothing about the Divine Nature, nothing about angels, nothing about the ten thousand difficulties posed by the doctrine of predestination. Rather, the central mystery any seven-year-old could explain as well as most forty-seven-year-olds: "Tell me, then, the truth about Your cross and I will listen." - Tom of Disputations

I've watched with a little bit of bemusement as various bloggers have struggled with their "endorsements" of presidential candidates, publicly agonizing and then making their final announcements with a rather self-important air. Yes, your vote counts, but no need to weight it with all kinds of public significance that it doesn't have. - Amy Welborn.

The fact is that our minds are very weak and it is quite unlikely for any one person to understand all things or even a good fraction of the things of the faith. However, since we are given in baptism a Faith which is more certain even than the most certain things of reason, we can be *confident* that there *is* an answer to every question. It is in fact that confidence which will allow us eventually to find a satisfactory answer. Those who rely more on their own reasoning power will often stop looking for an answer because they are so certain they have found irrefutable proof against the faith. Someone who remains confident in faith will continue searching and searching until he finds an answer. Whenever I have a temptation against faith I pray the prayer of the children of Fatima: "O God, I believe, I adore, I trust, and I love you." - Reb on St. Blog Parish Hall

And while at one point - about four or five years ago, I was really intrigued by the rather startling over-representation of Catholics in Punditry and even contemplated writing an article on the phenomenon, now I just want to haul them all into a room and at least try to educate them - every one of them, from Sullivan to Carlson to Dionne to Matthews to Dowd and yes, we will of course throw O'Reilly (once he gets off the phone) and Hannity in there as well. They are all, in their own way, responsible for spreading such misleading claptrap about Catholic teaching and belief, they could use it. - Amy Welborn

[When] I am studying I use the RSV, which has been characterized as the most accurate translation available (by sources far more reliable in these matters than I am.) But it is also why when I am finished studying and I am praying, I am far more inclined to use the KJV. While there may be inaccuracies and misunderstandings and incoherencies in some parts of the KJV, the wholly "otherness" of the translation forces me beyond my conventional understandings of language into a greater grasp of the other messages meant for me. The grandeur of the translation is such that I am put in the presence of God through reading. - Steven Riddle of "Flos Carmeli"

I brings to mind the occasion when I was asked to do a joint burial with a Greek Orthodox priest. Thinking the order of service would not be that different, I put together what I thought was a logical program. When the elderly priest arrived, and I attempted to explain how we would do this, he finally stopped me with a raised hand, and simply said, "My son, the two will not mix." Regardless of what I said in protest, he kept repeating that line; the traditions will not mix. In the end, I did my thing from the Book of Common Prayer, sat down, and then he did his thing, all chanted in Greek, with much incense. Even though I didn't understand a word, the solemness, grace and beauty seemed appropriate. He was right; the two cannot mix. - commenter on Camassia's site

I know there are more important things happening today - such as the possibility that by tonight we could have a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage (I know he says he's against them but...I DON'T BELIEVE HIM), pro-cloning for the purpose of destroying a human embryo to harvest its stem cells like it was a little piggie raised to the slaughter (eventually we'll have embryo farms for which women will be paid good money to sell their eggs), pro-tax hiking to pay the debt with our money people like him incurred by spending our money in the first place, pro-liberal judges with a pro-abort litmus test attached, pro-establishment clause anti-religion-in-the-public-square, pro-anti military action anywhere, anyplace, anytime without certain European sophisticates first bestowing their blessing, and without first groveling before the various corruptocracies in the U.N. to meet the global test president - but, you should also note that Touchstone's Mere Comments blog now has comments. - William Luse of Apologia, on Election Day

How accessible a saint is probably depends a lot on why you're accessing them. (Except for St. Anthony, whom I only ever access out of desperation, despite which he seems to always help.) - Tom of Disputations

posted by TSO @ 13:59

Are the Bases Ungrateful?

Amy wonders how authentic the GOP's pro-life position is: "These are human beings we're talking about, human beings whose lives are devoted to politics and power. Bush may have his views, but I'm skeptical as to how deeply he really believes them beyond the platitudes and whether he has the will to really put into practice what he says he believes."

True but I wonder at what point skepticism turns into something else. The party has swooned over its base in recent years. I heard the author of this book on C-Span, and he thinks there is no culture war in America, it's just that there is a split in the elites and that has filtered down to the parties. The parties have been hijacked by their prospective bases, he says. Due to redistricting, Congressional districts have become extremely "red" or "blue" for example. This makes compromise less likely.

He said that the GOP is far more pro-life than the country as a whole, and he pointed to polls that ask when an abortion should be legal. The majority of Americans think it should be in cases of life of the mother, rape or incest, or if a woman is too poor to afford the child. He said that the current system has been hijacked by activists, since they are the ones who contribute money, time and votes. Whatever the merits of his argument, I do sense that the Democrat party is more in love with pro-abortion policies than the GOP is in love with pro-life policies.

posted by TSO @ 09:19

Self Abuse

If the medieval practice of self-flagellation has gone out of style then there's always listening to Chris Matthews for replacement purposes. Heard him say this on IMUS:

"The bishops won't even let us vote for the lesser of two evils this time, but I have two aunts who are nuns and I know they're going to vote Democrat regardless of what anybody says. The sisters are at war with the bishops because the bishops are all Republicans and sisters care about poor people."

Ouch, that smarted. May I have another?

I also watched 60 Minutes on Sunday purely for entertainment value (I wanted to see what sort of hatchet job they'd do on Bush. I wasn't disappointed.) They then profiled Arnold Schwarzeneggar, perhaps for a fig leaf of what they might term "balance". Arnold said in regard to embryonic stem cell research: “I’m a Roman Catholic...I go to mass every Sunday. But that doesn’t mean I’m against progress. I mean, why not?”

If Arnold is a Catholic now, it would be interesting to ask him what changed his mind. In his 1977 biography, he wrote of his teenage rejection of the church, and subsequent chapters revealed no conversion from atheism:

My friends started asking why [went to church]. I had never given it much thought one way or the other. It was a rule at home: we went to church. Helmut Knaur, sort of an intellectual among the bodybuilders, gave me a book called Pfaffenspielgel, which was about priests, their lives, how horrible they were, and how they'd altered the history of the religion.

Reading that turned me completely around. Karl and Helmut and I discussed it in the gym. Helmut insisted that if I achieved something in life, I shouldn't thank God for it, I should thank myself. I shouldn't ask God for help, I should help myself...These were wild ideas for someone as young as I was. But they made perfect sense. I announced to my family that I would no longer go to church, that I didn't believe in it and didn't have time to waste on it. (from "Arnold: Education of a Bodybuilder")

posted by TSO @ 09:02

Let's Play...

Random Pop Songs Illustrating the Seven Deadly Sins

Pride - "You're So Vain" - Carly Simon
Anger -"Jeremy" - Pearl Jam
Lust - "Don't Stand So Close to Me" - the Police
Sloth - "Cover Me" - Bruce Springsteen
Greed - "Big Time" - Peter Gabriel
Envy - "Jessie's Girl" - Rick Springfield
Gluttony - "Cheeseburgers in Paradise" - Jimmy Buffet

posted by TSO @ 22:13

November 1, 2004

Faithful Citizenship

"As Catholics, the election and the policy choices that follow it call us to recommit ourselves to carry the values of the Gospel and church teaching into the public square...We urge all Catholics to register, vote and become more involved in public life, to protect human life and dignity, and to advance the common good."
-USCCB Administrative Committee, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, pg. 29.

posted by TSO @ 18:57

A Simpleton's Guide to Electoral Math
...Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the election

Read this, or just read this:
Scenario 1 : FL & OH go for Kerry. Result: Kerry wins.
Scenario 2 : FL & OH go for Bush. Result: Bush wins.
Scenario 3 : They split FL & OH. Result: I haven't a clue.

Since the polls in FL close at 7pm & the polls in Ohio at 7:30pm, we could know a winner as soon as those states are "called". Which admittedly might be 3am. Next Friday.

Scenario 3 is less likely than you might think. From a sharp Corner emailer:

Slate assumed the probabilities for Ohio and Florida are independent, giving the president a 25% chance of winning both. This assumption is wrong - if polls are underepresenting Bush (or Kerry) votes in one state then they are likely to do the same in both. Note that Tradesports has a "Bush wins Ohio and Florida" contract. It has been trading between 35-42 over the weekend. Not 25 as predicted by Slate. The people at Tradesports are betting the outcome of the two races are not independant.

posted by TSO @ 15:53

Pope John Paul II on books:

A bishop has to have a profound theological formation, constantly updated, and a wide-ranging interest in thought and culture...This has always been a dilemma for me: What am I to read? I have always tried to choose what was most essential. So much has been published and not everything is valuable and useful. It is important to know how to choose and to consult others about what is worth reading.

From my earliest childhood I have loved books....But for the outbreak of war and the radical change that it brought, maybe the prospects opening up for me through academic study would have absorbed me completely. When I told Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk of my decision to become a priest, he said, "What are you doing? Do you want to waste your talent?" Only Cardinal Sapieha had no doubts.

As a university student I read many different authors. First I turned to literature, especially plays. I read Shakespeare, Moliere, the Polish poets Norwid, Wyspianski, and, of course, Aleksander Fredro...The came the time for philosophical and theological literature...I took a deep interest in the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas.

So there were two stages to my intellectual journey: In the first I moved from literature to metaphysics, while the second led me from metaphysics to phenomenology.

In my reading and in my studies I always tried to achieve a harmony between faith, reason and the heart. These are not separate areas, but are profoundly interconnected, each giving life to the other. This coming together of faith, reason and the heart is strongly influenced by our sense of wonder at the miracle of the human person - at man's likeness of the Triune God, at the immensely profound bond between love and truth, at the mystery of self-giving and the life that it generates, at our reflections on the succession of human generations.

posted by TSO @ 10:02

Tom Wolfe

Interesting Tom Wolfe interview in NY Times, including details about his bout with depression.

Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Wolfe discusses resentment over rule by non-Christian elites: "I think support for Bush is about not wanting to be led by East-coast pretensions. It is about not wanting to be led by people who are forever trying to force their twisted sense of morality onto us, which is a non-morality. That is constantly done, and there is real resentment."

posted by TSO @ 09:12


Year in and year out I'm surprised by the accuracy of the Columbus Dispatch polls concerning Ohio elections. I don't know their formula, but it's been amazingly accurate.

Today's final Dispatch poll came out.

Result? Dead heat. 50-50.

On Russert's show Charlie Cook says he thinks Kerry could win Ohio and still be one electoral vote shy. Tuesday night should be interesting.

posted by TSO @ 08:24