January 31, 2005

Orthodox Jews...

...are unfairly depicted reports Wendy Shalit:
Authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism -- or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with -- have often portrayed deeply observant Jews in an unflattering or ridiculous light. Admittedly, some of this has produced first-rate literature or, at the least, great entertainment, but it has left many people thinking traditional Jews actually live like Tevye in the musical ''Fiddler on the Roof'' or, at the opposite extreme, like the violent, vicious rabbi in Henry Roth's novel ''Call It Sleep.'' Not long ago, I did too.

At 21, I was on the outside looking in, on my first trip to Israel with a friend who was, like me, a Reform Jew. One day, we wandered into a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem, and suddenly there were black hats and side curls everywhere. My friend pointed out a group of men wearing odd fur hats. ''Those,'' he explained, ''are the really mean ones.'' I never questioned our snap judgment of these people until, a few years later, I returned to study at an all-girls seminary and was surprised to discover that my teachers, whom I adored, were men and women from this same community.
Canada, Land of the Semi-Free...?

I was reading a left-ish blog for purposes of overcoming the sour attitude that accompanies reading left-ish blogs. No pain, no gain; call it the 21st century equivalent of a hair shirt. And there I read the typical hysterics concerning the First Amendment Clause in the Constitution: i.e., we're losing all our freedoms, censorship ba-aad (say like Bush 41).

But I was sour-free until came the clincher: "See you in Canada!". But Canada is no haven for free speech, just progressive speech. St. Paul would be charged with hate speech there. Fox News is finally being allowed to broadcast in Canada, I guess because they figured that since they let Al Jazeera in, they'd have to let in "our" Al Jezeera.

The irritation is that free speech advocates are often elitists. Nothing wrong with that, but the irritation comes in pretending otherwise.
Haven't I seen this blog title somewhere before?
Good Fiction is Hard to Find

In a knight-like quest to find good fiction, Dulcinea & I rode off into the sunset or the local Borders bookstore, whichever came first. I visit Borders about as often as Michael Moore compliments conservatives because books cost money and I've done the math. I can buy books on Amazon.com much cheaper.

But how long as it been since I felt a book in my hands with such beauty, such heft, such bold margins and laxative properties? Too long it seems! I tend these days to buy paperbacks, typically used paperbacks. Many a book I find online for $1, $2 or $5. Yet I miss the physicality of a well-designed hardback novel. I ended up getting "Vodka" by Boris Starling, which promises a bit of recent Russian history while being delightfully light. Too much heavy reading makes for a constipated O'Rama.

Ham o' Bone, writing under the (double) pseudonym of Richard "Pebble" Beach, scribes a piquant post.
More Barzun, on the Casual Use of Great Works of Art
Great works too often seen or performed, too readily available in bits and pieces, become articles of consumption instead of objects of contemplation. They lose force and depth by being too familiar through too frequent or too hurried use. When I hear of someone's proudly "spending the day at the museum," I wonder at the effect: the intake is surely akin to that of an alcoholic. Music likewise is anesthetic when big doses - symphony after symphony, opera on top of opera - are administered without respite. We should remember the Greeks' practice of exposing themselves to one tragic trilogy and one comedy on but a single day each year. High art is meant for rare festivals, where anticipation is followed by exhilaration and the aftermath is meditation and recollection in tranquility. The glut has made us into gluttons, who gorge and do not digest.

-Jacques Barzun, The Culture We Deserve
UPDATE: KTC suggests this is also a problem with video games.
Metabloggic Rates

NY Times has an article about parental blogging that was interesting, made more so by the mention of Michael Chabon, whose "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" was a favorite of mine years ago:
"Fundamentally children resent being placed at the heart of their parents' expression, and yet I still do it," said Ayelet Waldman, whose blog, Bad Mother (bad-mother.blogspot.com), describes life at home with her four young children and her husband, Michael Chabon, the novelist. Ms. Waldman, a novelist herself, has blogged about her baby Abie's recessive chin and gimpy hip and the thrill of the children's going back to school after winter break.

"A blog like this is narcissism in its most obscene flowering," she said. "But it's necessary. As a parent your days are consumed by other people's needs. This is payback for driving back and forth to gymnastics all week long."
Saw a car with the license plate "Kelz KIA". I was saddened and said a quick prayer for their loss. But then a closer look revealed the type of car was a Kia!

January 30, 2005

Good Post

...here at Blogimus Maximus (via M'Lynn of Scattershot Direct).

There seems a relationship between Protestantism and capitalism in the Darwinian "let the good churches survive". There is self-selection at work, the spiritually glamourous seeking the spiritually glamourous. "I'm not being fed" can be a shortcut to "I'm not inspired by the yuck-yucks at this church". But, to be fair, they would say they are going where the Spirit is working since the Spirit blows where it will. And if I were Protestant I'd certainly move around - if there's no visible, universal church around which to unite then why not shop? I'd go where they sing those beautiful gospel songs like "Why Me, Lord?" or this one: "Now let us have a little talk with Jesus / Let us tell Him all about our troubles/ He will hear our famished cry /He will answer by and by / Now when you feel a little prayer turning / And you know the little talk with Jesus makes it right."

My stepson works at BMW (aka Bavarian Motor Works) and says that the culture there is "very Catholic, very loyal". They won't fire anybody. They give outlandish benefits. (Sound familiar? The Pope won't "fire" dissident theologians and the Church gives outlandish benefits in the form of Sacraments.) I wonder how they can compete. Companies as families seem anachronistic.

Loyalty seems like a kissing cousin of forgiveness. I watched a Western over the weekend called "The Hi-Lo Country" and in it two best friends fall in love with the same girl. One gets her and they plan to marry; the other eventually succumbs to his passions and rapes her. The loyalty of the wronged one to his best friend, who had saved his life, was such that he forgave even that outrageous crime.

January 28, 2005

Lookin' for Fiction... in all the wrong places

It’s sad to have finished Walker Percy's excellent “The Moviegoer”. Boy was it good. The final third was rich as pie. It’s so hard to find good fiction, given my limitations. Jon Hassler & Richard Russo, although I’ve only read a couple pages of each, look too “dialogue-y”. I like poetry in novels, more Dickens & less Twain. Updike has poetry but often has little to say. Percy’s language was pleasingly ornate while having important things to say. He was the master societal diagnostician and to diagnose the problem gives a sense of confidence it can be resolved. With Updike there’s more a sense of hopelessness. T.C. Boyle is likewise poetic, so perhaps I’ll get his latest although I’m not thrilled about diving into the muck of Kinsey’s life. David Lodge’s “Author, Author” looks promising. I’ve been reading snippets of Tolstoy’s “War & Peace” and though most translations are inimical to poetry Tolstoy says interesting things about human psychology. Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” also looks interesting.
I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime

In a big country dreams stay with you
Like a lover's voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive
--Big Country, "In a Big Country"
    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. - Anne Frank, quoted by Mark of "Irish Elk"

Charming tales are redolent of the Celtic delight in story-telling - the bigger, the better - the more imaginative, the more intriguing, the more unbelievable...all that makes for a better and more memorable tale. And if every detail isn't exactly the truth...well, in folk times and places, purveyors and listeners of folk tales understood that there's a time to tell the truth ("BORING!")* and a time to spin a tale worth the tellin'! --Marion on Tom of Disputations

Marriage is primarily for our SANCTIFICATION, not for our GRATIFICATION. - Kathy the CARMELITE

I'm writing a piece on why I think Bill Murray's Groundhog Day was one of the best films of the last few decades and will undoubtedly hold up for generations to come. - Jonah Goldberg of "The Corner"

The more substantial question is how ecclesial unity is preserved in the Eastern churches, beyond the loose consensual unity that has only recently begun to be subjected to the corrosive acids of modernity and postmodernity. How theological disputes over faith and morals may be resolved remains a major question. Some Eastern churches accept and ecclesiastically sanction divorce and re-marriage (up to three times). Some Eastern churches ecclesiastically sanction the use of contraceptives (even though ancient tradition condemns contraception and pills today are proven abortifacients). How such practices can be squared with Sacred Tradition or be ecclesiastically resolved among acephalous Orthodox hierarchies that do not recognize one another's jurisdiction remains a major question as well. - Philip Blosser of "Catholic Tradition"

While I agree with the hilarious IowaHawk that one shouldn't invest too much weight in announcing a respite from blogging ("Telling us "blogging will be light" is sort of like calling up the neighbors to announce you won't be nude sunbathing in the back yard for a while . . ."), blogging may nevertheless "be light" in the coming week(s). - Christopher of Ratzinger Fan Club blog

Our faith objectively is true, but truth is known by the intellect, not the emotions. The emotions may motivate us to investigate the truth of something, but they cannot establish its truth. That is a task for the mind. If our faith were proved by "fif," [funny internal feelings] then those saints who underwent a dark night of the soul--I have in mind such luminaries as John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila--could not be said to have accepted the faith as true. For substantial periods they had the opposite of a "burning in the bosom," but they never chucked the faith because, despite the lack of emotional highs, they knew it to be true because their minds told them so. All Catholics need to remember that the virtue of faith has to do with the mind, not with the emotions. - Karl Keating

To echo Mr. P: How [can] anybody…really, truly be a modern liberal [?] You just can't go around doing real, constructive good without a concept of what Good is. - Mark of Irish Elk

I started this blog back in 2000 and have been posting almost every day since. More than 10,000 posts later... yes, I can believe I'm still at it. Very addictive stuff, as many of you know all too well...As blogging passes through its "CB radio" era and into its "Disco Duck" phase, I don't have any deep thoughts to share with you about the phenomenon. I am almost, but not quite, resigned to the fact that someday this blog will cost me a job. Google Cache is what it is, and I can't/won't undo stuff I wrote in anger and haste for tacky, careerist reasons. Regardless of the consequences, I plan to continue doing my subatomic part to (ahem) prevent Western Civilization's demise at the hands of Islamikazes and self-hating Marxist dupes. - Kathy of Relapsed Catholic

[The] Mass is not something that the people do. It's not something that the celebrant does, either. The Mass is something that Christ does. The Mass takes place in this world and has effects upon it, but it is not of this world. That is why there is always something peculiar and out-of-the-ordinary about liturgical worship. - Fr. Jim Tucker

You will notice that none of these books [I am currently reading] is directly religious. Nowadays most of my reading is on subjects unrelated to my vocation. There was a time when I read nothing but apologetics, but too much of one topic throws one off kilter. I didn't want to end up being described by Churchill's definition of a fanatic: "one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." - Karl Keating

Another book I am making some progress with is "Predestination" by Rev. Garrigou-Lagrange. This is a book by a Dominican on Catholic thinking on predestination. I thought that it might throw some light on the problem of free will. Like Popper's book, it is difficult but worthwhile...Some books are difficult and the result of all one's efforts is paltry. They resemble one of those puzzles from magazines that my wife often asks me to help her with: a lot of cerebration goes on; words are painstakingly filled in; and the result of one's efforts is a final word like "artichoke". That's your reward.- Julian of The Julian Calendar

I don't know very much about Catholicism. - beginning of a Tom of Disputations' post. This would seem 'grabbing our attention by way of a fib'
Everbody Loves a Lover

Walter Kerr wrote about how there are no newly-minted holidays these days. (This was in '62, before Martin Luther King day.) And he claims existing holidays like Christmas are more burden than joy to most.

How successful is a culture that isn't minting new days to celebrate? Where have all the feast days gone? (Well, today is a good one.) Kerr says the inability to play is part of it. Pope John XXIII once said that Americans are bad at praying because "they don't know how to relax".

We would be more playful and joyous if we knew how much God loves us. Love and joy beget love and joy. I can never forget reading Scott Hahn's book "Rome Sweet Home", specifically the chapter on John 6. The Eucharist is a powerful expression of God's love. Peter Kreeft puts it well in his latest book:
For a saint is simply a great lover of God, and nothing elicits love more than love. 'Everybody loves a lover.' Nothing makes us saints faster than being hit over the head with God's love.
Misaddressed Emails

Has anyone else been getting email messages by mistake? I've had a rash of emails apparently intended for someone else but sent to me. Probably typos, but there are so many! I'm beginning to wonder if it the mistakes are intentional.

I received one titled "Reply to your comment" but inside was a graphic advertising software. I said I don't recall making any comments about software.

Someone sent an email calling me "Frederic" and selling V.1..a'g.ra. I wrote back saying they must have the wrong email address since I don't even know a Frederic.

Kinsella asks "Remember me?" and I replied "I'm sorry, I don't".

Lately it's been package shipment information. Got four of them today. I kindly say that I did not order anything.

One wrote to say that her "husband is out of otwn", and I suggested maybe they have some otwn at the store?

It takes an hour or two each day to let these peolple know thta they mistyped their intendid address.

January 27, 2005


"Don't you see? What I want is to believe in someone completely and then do what he wants me to do. If God were to tell me: Kate, here is what I want you to do; you get off this train right now and go over there to that corner by the Southern Life and Accident Insurance Company and stand there for the rest of your life and speak kindly to people - you think I would not do it? You think I would not be the happiest girl in Jackson, Mississippi? I would."
- Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer"
The most liberating discovery is that since God has filled us with His own life, our love can be like a tube open at both ends, with God's love coming in one end and out the other, in by faith and out by works. The alternative is to be a tube open only at one end, the neighbor's end. Then we try to squeeze our own spiritual toothpaste out of the tube. But we only have a finite amount of toothpaste to give. So we worry about squandering it, just as the older brother in the the parable of the prodigal son did. But God's supply is infinite. That's why the saints love so recklessly. It's not their love they love with, but God's.
- Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You

January 26, 2005

Sanibel Isle Trip Log

...whereupon we visit our snowbird parents in their condo down in the land of Florida...

day 1

My reading here is Tom Hayden’s “Irish on the Inside”, Walter Kerr’s “Decline of Pleasure”, Percy’s “The Moviegoer” (which I finished), a book of essays and nature writing by a local writer and Russell Kirk’s ghost stories titled “Ancestral Shadows”. The reads were all, dare I say, pleasurable? From Kerr:

“We do not pay much attention to ancient saints, even when they were thinkers. 'No man can exist without pleasure,' remarked St. Thomas Aquinas, who ought – if our understanding of the dour medieval mind is correct – to have been urging us to put away our playthings in favor of prayer. 'Life would not be tolerable without poetry,' announced St. Teresa of Avila, making it perfectly clear, in a parenthetical remark, that she meant it would not be tolerable even in a convent for contemplatives. St. Augustine thought that whenever a conflict arose between the enjoyable and the useful, the useful had to give way as being, in the ultimate sense, inferior. Many of the soberer thinkers of the past, including those who had by vow denied themselves most earthly pleasures, did not scruple to elevate what they called recreation to a dizzying position in the hierarchy of the worth-while.”

Hayden quoted somebody who said that the Irish are “more interested in being interesting than in being successful”, which reminds me of William F. Buckley’s aphorism that the worst sin is to be boring. Hayden’s book is fascinating to me. The ‘60s liberal activist is my opposite yet we both have a love of things Irish: just different things. For him being Irish means being counter-cultural (no matter the culture) and it means putting the fighting in “fighting Irish” (he speaks of the IRA & Molly Maguires with unseemly affection). And reading Maureen Dezell’s “Irish America” wasn’t much better. She sees Ireland as the land of feminists, whence cometh strong women (presumably like herself), such as Mother Jones and Margaret Sanger. Sanger. Doesn’t that beat all? Sanger, one of the more misanthropic people on the planet, a person who wanted the disabled and so-called racial inferiors killed. But Dezell holds her up as a role model because she’s of the same sex and exercised power. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Power. It’s like someone who has a mustache pointing to Hitler as his role model because he was a strong man with a mustache. It’s profoundly dispiriting to see that our love for our heritage is often a love for ourselves. To see some of our traits expressed in our background can be a good thing because it can teach us that no man is an island and that history is not something dried up and only in books but lives within us. But the downside is raising where we came from to idol status, i.e. my culture right or wrong.

~ insert proper segue here ~

I’m puckering from the unflavorable aftertaste of Franzikaner Hefe-Weisse. All that glitters is not hefe-weisse. I got snookered by the label: a hearty-looking monk smiles as he takes a draught from a huge silver tankard. As a marketing trick, it's far more effective than nekkid wimmen. But the beer is too sweet or more probably I just don’t like wheat beers. But I brought Beck’s Dark too which looks especially good in the sun-drenched sand, like the set of a Corona commercial. I feel sentimental towards the decorative litter of shells around the bottle; the arrangement is pleasing to the point of providential. I would not destroy the randomness by moving one from here to there.

It’s the aspect of repetitive happy hours that is so attractive about vacations like this. Any individual happy hour here carries a light load since there’s always tomorrow…and tomorrow (God willing). The weather enforces a sort of temperance since by the third beer the beach temps are getting downright cool. I go for a jog and switch from running to skipping. I pass a man wearing a Jimmy Buffet t-shirt that says “Growing Older But Not Up”. My wife looks for shells and I always get a kick out of that. It confirms her essential girlishness. After all these years she still likes pretty rocks, be they expensive tanzanite or sea-borne conchs. We already have enough shells at home to start an armory but nevertheless we have a 6:05 date with Bowman beach. Something about low tide. I collect words while she collects shells.

Meanwhile the sun diamonds shine, gobbled up by pelicans on the rise. An elderly couple happens by. He has amazing stick-like legs and is stooped to almost a 90-degree angle. She carries a cane that makes a staccato sound as it hits the sand. She sits down in her chair while he remains standing; their smiling eyes make music together. He doesn’t have to lean over since he has aged that way. They have the love and simplicity that I tend to associate with the mentally disabled and I think it sad that I should associate it so. What I actually witnessed was a foretaste of Heaven.

By 4pm the wind picks up and the beach cools. My wife wants to go back inside but I tell her that a sweatshirt and sweatpants are all that are necessary. Is that cheating? Is there a clause that laying out on a beach covered in clothing defeats the purpose? Taken to extremes we could just read out in our backyard in Janurary Ohio clad in Eskimo clothing.


Driftwood decors the
shore drifting to and fro
but immaculately placed.

Misplace driftwood
and somebody’s liable to ask:
Why do you have that stick on your desk?

I'm finding that little moments launch more interior Man of La Mancha musical interludes than more ambitious enterprises. Writing a novel is the default ambition but the glorious victories are ones that God crowns with his beautiful synchronicity, the thoughtful gesture (painfully rare, as I am selfish) coming at precisely the time that person needed it. Such confirmations are thrilling even as I must look ahead to a time when going over and beyond will be less obviously rewarded. Mother Marie Douleurs wrote that “the Lord is most grieved when he sees us retracting into ourselves – we who were made for such great things!”.

I ponder mysteries like why my aunt, thin and careful with diet and a two-sets-a-day tennis player, would die of cancer at 52, while her brothers were quite heavy and never took care of themselves and lived decades longer. Unwelcome thoughts come - like that it’s somehow embarrassing to live a short life - it’s as if you weren’t tough enough, not in body but in mind. And not to be tough in mind seems uncomfortably aligned with too little faith. Or so are the thoughts I mean to reject. My father tells me of a doctor who served ALS victims for years – until the doctor eventually got the dread non-communicable disease. It gives a shiver to think that the mind might be that powerful, that mere fixation on a disease could bring it on.

day 2

I hike an hour in “Ding” Darling Nature Preserve. It feels almost contemplative. I have a sudden yearning to read William Trevor’s short stories or Christopher Nolan’s “The Banyan Tree” even though they are ineffably different. Nolan drops coin'd-words into gleam-heaps; he slows you down for the same reason sweet, heavy maple syrup does. Trevor, on the other hand, is utterly unflashy and dulls you to a Zen-like state. I see a large torpid sun-gator. His back is Firestone-studded with rhizomes. It’s impossible not to look upon the fine gleaming animal with anything but appreciation.

The pool is closed today but the ocean is not. The pool doesn’t have hours, it has temperatures; it only opens when the outdoor temperature is at least sixty degrees. I’m hoping to take my socks off. Going to the beach in sweatshirts and sweatpants is bad enough, but having to wear socks is deflating. Our seagull comes again, like Poe’s Raven. He thinks we have food and waits implacably. Two different days and he stands in his same spot, some seven feet away. His patience tugs.

day 3

Norman Mailer wrote in Parade Magazine that children’s attention spans are being destroyed by television commercials. Says that concentration interrupted is irritating even for adults, so imagine how children take it. They take it by developing a simple defense mechanism: they avoid concentrating at all. Coincidentally I read a similar thing a day later from Walter Kerr (written in 1962):
“Our deepest beliefs, in the twentieth century, command us to dismiss the arts, popular or otherwise: they have not had value, they do not have value, they will not have value…We are willing to make use of them when we are absolutely unable to do anything else, though on one condition: the condition is that they do not engage us. If they were to engage us, to ensnare our powers of concentration, to entice us into a complexity of thought or of narrative that might absorb us to the exclusion of the world around us, we should, of course, run the risk of not noticing our train, not hearing the telephone, or burning the casserole. More seriously still, we should be at fault morally: we’d have surrendered ourselves to an unprofitable activity.”
Drinking a beer, feet in the sand, I burrow my toes to a hard, cool surface that feels almost like a floor. It reminds me of a themed fraternity party I went to a couple decades ago. It was Ohio in January but we wanted the South Pacific, and imported x tons of sand, filling the huge social room floor to a depth of about a half a foot. College: the nexus of time and energy which results in unprofitable activities like that. I don’t think I suspended belief enough to forget the social room floor was beneath that sand. The party, ambered now in memory, has such a passive feel to it. I felt as much a visitor to it then as now... I feel relaxed about the last day, though in this Stop-Time I’d like to have figured something out, or at least make a resolution or two. Though that sounds suspiciously utilitarian.

January 21, 2005

GKC Thought
"It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob . . . It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to avoid them all has been one whirling adventure."
- GK Chesterton
Nuttin' to Write Home (or to the Blog) About

Via Alicia, I took this test. Got 13 right: "Eleven to thirteen answers correct. About average or a little better; nothing to be ashamed about, but nothing to write home about either."
Point I meant to make...

Camassia posted last week about the fact in Heaven there'll be a lot of people there whom we don't know and/or didn't want to know. I think what is attractive about the doctrine of Purgatory (as well as the Orthodox view of the gradual divinization of man) is that in Heaven everyone will be so likeable. Purged of selfishness and our obsession with appearances, people we may not have wanted to know on earth we'll be able to appreciate in Heaven.

January 20, 2005

Reading For Improvement

I guess this is a good argument for reading about abominable characters like Alfred Kinsey:
I couldn't stop reading The Inner Circle, for it possesses, to adopt an old phrase, "the fascination of the abomination". . . and yet part of me wishes I'd never read it. It calls to mind Evelyn Waugh's remark about Randolph Churchill that after reading about his amours, one could never again commit adultery, "or at least not with quite the same abandon."
From Washington Post's Michael Dirda, reviewing T. C. Boyle's "The Inner Circle"
Pleasant Recovery

In the madness of OSU's fall book sale, during which hordes of bookophiles goldrush the thousands of nearly free used books, I sometimes bring home a surprise or two. So while attempting to corral wayward books yesterday I noticed a biography of Cardinal Richelieu bought there that was authored by none other than Hilaire Belloc. I may have to move that up in the hierarchy.

Speaking of books, here's a site that compiles reviews...
O'Rourke on ABC's This Week

P.J. O'Rourke was introducing some interesting demographic maps using the latest census data. Link here:
O'Rourke: "Now, I was looking, naturally, like any good former sociology student from the '60s would, at the relationships between crime and poverty. What was amazing on these maps is that they aren't there. But there are lots of poorer areas — areas in Arizona, areas in the extreme northern states, areas in backwoods, and areas in Virginia and Arkansas and Missouri, who are very poor and also very low crime rates.

"Another thing I looked at, or looked for in these maps, was virtue. It turns out that the best, the sweetest, the most decent part of America is North and South Dakota, and northern Nebraska. Now, this is not an area of America that anybody pays any attention to. In fact, it's an area of America in which nobody wants to live. It kind of tells me that maybe virtue is not really what makes America the great country that it is."

January 19, 2005

Evolution & St. Padre Pio

That headline certainly caught my eye.
Come Out Ye Black & Tans

A 'black & tan' (a co-worker memorably called this "Guinness with Training Wheels") is Guinness mixed with another beer, often a lager. More info here (via Bill of Summa Minutiae):
The first known reference to the expression Black & Tan was in reference to a breed of beagles used as hunting dogs in Ireland. The term was also used to refer to a a regiment of British soldiers recruited to serve in Ireland after the First World War. They had a reputation for being quite brutal and have been accused of many atrocities against the Irish in the years 1919-21.

A good pint can distinguished by a number of methods. A smooth, slightly off- white head is one, another is the residue left on the inside of the glass. These, surpise surprise, are known as rings. As long as they are there you know your're okay. A science of rings is developing - the instance that comes to mind is determining a persons nationality by the number of rings (a ring is dependent on a swig of Guinness each swig leaving it's own ring). An Irishman will have in the region of 5-6 rings (we pace ourselves), an Englishman will have 8-10 rings, an American will have 17-20 (they sip) and an Australian won't have any at all as they tend to knock it back in one go! As you near the end of your pint, it is the custom to order another one. It is a well known fact that a bird does not fly on one wing.

In England, post-operative patients used to be given Guinness, as were blood donors. Sadly, this is no longer the case in England. In Ireland, Guinness is still made available to blood donors and stomach and intestinal post-operative patients. Guinness is known to be high in iron content.
Giver over Gift

Part of the reason I'm fascinated by Scott Hahn's angelic hypothesis is the frank recognition that Paradise wasn't so paradiscal. Meaning that if there's a snake in the garden, something is amiss. And that the temptation for Adam was not so slight as we imagine. We might say, "What was he thinking! I'd have let that tree alone." Yet we deceive ourselves if we think we are incapable of committing any specific sin.

Hahn calls Adam's test (as well as ours) a trial by ordeal. He prefers that term to test though uses them interchangeably. My own thinking is that test implies too much of exercise of our own muscle. Trial by ordeal, such as the one Job experienced, suggests a constant "clinging till (or because) Help arrives" mentality.

The hard thing is to understand why trial is necessary but Hahn fearlessly weighs into this, though I'll have to listen to the tape again to better understand. He repeatedly says that God did not set arbitrary hoops for us to jump through but that there's the natural (earth), the supernatural (prelapsarian man) and the preternatural (Heaven) and our end is the last. The gist of it, I think, is that the natural consequence of entering into God's final end for us - angels or man - is to look past the natural goods we have been given. For men that is usually the material, hence the forbidden fruit. For angels it is the willing suspension of their supreme rationality by the irrationality of serving man towards the end of upsetting the order of creation. (Hahn suggests that the angels at the time of decision lacked the full knowledge of God's love and therefore there was at element of blind faith required.)

Sure it's speculative stuff. But very interesting, though know that I am dumbing it down.
Rice Returns for Second Day of Hazing

WASHINGTON - Condoleezza Rice returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a second day of hazing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while a vote by the panel is planned later in the day on her nomination to become secretary of state.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) asked Rice to "drop and give me 50" after receiving an answer that disappointed her. Additional hazing rituals included sleep deprivation, listening to Sen. Kennedy lecture, getting Lugar coffee and swearing that each senator's priorities were ones she shared.

Rice was also forced to memorize the names and hometowns of all the committee members before swapping spit in a secret handshake.
Gregory Wolfe review of Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King:
Michelangelo’s inner dialectic, the tension between humanism and moralism, has traditionally been portrayed in Freudian terms, as a war between passion and repression. But a more comprehensive view would see this tension as a quintessentially Christian paradox—an example of “both/and,” rather than “either/or.” Human dignity and fallenness come together in glorious human figures whose bodies twist and writhe with desire. For the wisest humanists of the Renaissance era, the ultimate vision of human destiny might be called “tragic Christianity.” Here Michelangelo must be paired with Erasmus and Shakespeare.

With this paradox in view, it is possible to understand the complex polyphony of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The dignity of man, so evident in Adam’s just-created body and the superb series of classical nudes linking the central paintings (known as the ignudi), is played against the often bedraggled and burdened human figures depicted in the family groups of the ancestors of Christ. Looking on are the prophets and sibyls, the mysterious seers of man’s tragedy. And in the scenes from Genesis, the creation, fall, and redemption become one in buried allusions to Cross and Eucharist. Here, at the place where the polyphony resolves itself in plangent harmony, one can glimpse the heart of Michelangelo’s legendary terribilitá—the terrible beauty that is his hallmark.
King's book is one of too many that I have bought but shamefully have not read.
I Remember My First Thesaurus Too

The internet is to civil discourse what strip poker was to my teenage chastity: not exactly the shortest path from here to there. Still, I was surprised by the sheer childishness of this list, a sort of Fifty Ways to Say I Hate You, and it was surely a downer on a day that for Elena only got worse.

My gut reaction is that Christians will always be at a tactical disadvantage in internet discourse for the same reason America must be at a tactical disadvantage with respect to terrorists: we need respect their humanity even as they do not respect ours. Though I thought of that before recalling Mark Shea's commenters.

But the list directed at Elena was unintentionally humorous. "Bitter" and "sour" are close enough to suggest the author has just discovered the wonders of the online thesaurus. And since the list bears no resemblance to Elena's persona it's sort of like calling a bald guy Curly. But the true humor is in the final riposte "Unattractive (personality wise)" which, based on what went before, would be like criticizing Idi Amin for his swearing. This coup de grace was not only redundant given the preceding adjectives but offers the unintended compliment of ruling out any physical unattractiveness: the comprehensiveness of the list assures us of that!

See, there's always a horse amid the manure.
We Get Letters...

The President and I are pretty tight. He keeps in touch every week or so. He left an answering machine message back in October (I wasn't home to take the call - drats!).

Mostly he writes though. He sends photos, requests for money, calendars, requests for money, Christmas cards, requests for money.

So when I opened an 8 1/2' by 11' envelope yesterday I figured fundraising. Instead it was an invitation, and it was purtied up better than most wedding invites. It had that thin little tissue paper thingie they put before very important invitations. And it had that caliography thing going on, requesting the honor of my presence at the inauguration of George and somebody named "Dick Bruce Cheney". Bruce?

Anyways I asked my wife if we were busy this weekend. Which we are, unfortunately. But I looked at the invitation again and there's a clause in smaller print which reads "this is not an admission to any inaugural events". What in tarnation? Just what have I been invited to then? I looked carefully and there was no address. How can I be invited somewhere without there being a where? Further review found that I'd been invited to the "City of Washington". I guess I'll walk around Dupont Circle with my invitation at the ready.

What is really funny about this piece of mail is that anyone takes it seriously enough such that the RNC or whoever would spend money on it. Is there anyone so desperate as to feel important or loved because of this? On the one hand I'm envious of anyone who can fall for a ruse like this. (Though on the down side, they might think Nigerian scammers open their hearts to them.) But though I'm a Red Stater I wasn't born yesterday. I know about the autopen. And they obviously spent a lot of money on it, which is disturbing. They are spenders, aren't they?

January 18, 2005

Chesterton Quote
The mind of modern man is a curious mixture of decayed Calvinism and diluted Buddhism; and he expresses his philosophy without knowing that he holds it...So his literature does not seem to him partisan, even when it is. But our literature does seem to him propagandist, even when it isn't.
Angels & Humans

Listened to a Scott Hahn tape in the car yesterday. He discussed why Satan fell despite the gifts of great intellect and perfect rationality. And the answer Hahn and some of the early Fathers offer is that angels were given the assignment of serving man, a vastly inferior being. This wasn't rational. There was a hierarchy and order of beings and God seemed to be flipping things by wanting angels to give man the aid necessary to fulfil our destiny - which was eventual equality with the angels. The lack of rationality in God's request, the not knowing why God was doing this, required faith on the angel's part. Serving someone above (i.e. God) is easier than serving someone inferior, and that pride led to Satan's fall. In a far more dramatic way God flipped things again by coming to earth in the Incarnation and dying for us. Pretty creative theological explanation and more satisfying than just the vanilla non serviam.
It's Zero Degrees

From the inimitable Kathy the Carmelite:

From Thomas Springer: "Why do we fear and even demonize normal winter weather?"

Funny. Reminds me of our eighth grade slogan: "I don't like pain, it hurts!"

January 17, 2005

Conversion Stories

Jeff Miller's is online. He quotes Augustine: "I would not believe the Gospels if it were not for the Church." Meanwhile Steven Riddle states Why I Am Catholic (not, by the way, sounding a bit like Garry Wills). Finally, ditto Julie D. of HC who writes: "Even more overwhelming was the realization that God had used my conversion not just for my good but to reach someone close to me ... and I had been totally unaware of it." That "double-effect" is such a God thing isn't it?

UPDATE: another story here
    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Perhaps Mr. Riddle can answer this: how is it that the Carmelites have avoided the twin temptations of polyester & labyrinths? - Bill of Summa Minutiae

Readers were asked to write a one-sentence description of the simplest way one could tell apart two books titled Witness, one by Whittaker Chambers and the other by Amber Frey. Tim's winning answer:"One witness is about a small group of people spying on an entire society, the other witness is about an entire society spying on a small group of people." - Dawn Eden of Dawn Patrol

My good friend Tim tells me often that he believes that it is my vocation to struggle. And I believe him. I'd like to be a person of great faith. I wish I could move mountains and cure the worlds ill with one fell swoop, but I've heard the position is already Filled. While struggle is a maddening vocation, as I'm sure they all are, I'm happy for it. It keeps me grounded and as humble as someone such as I can be. It leaves me questioning and seeking, and though I sometimes give up for a bit and take a break on the side of the road, I can never stay complacent long. And that leaves me so wonderfully blessed. - Crystal of Some Day Saint

Whose story is it, really? - Roz of "In Dwelling", title of post describing a challenging year (2004)

Christ bore the wounds of His passion in His resurrected body. Though He will no more suffer the pain, will it ever be forgotten? Pain is an existential fact of every man's life, a part of his story, his history; none can pass it by, and insofar as it tends toward salvation, its contribution will live forever. I, like all, have had such moments (I am not in the market for any more at the moment), and a couple of them have made me thankful to be alive. The pain is gone, but the gratitude lives, and it cannot live without the memory. - Bill of Apologia

In our modern day and age, we do not lack whores, prisoners or bankrupt debtors. Our Lord loved all of these classes of people because they depict so well the reality of sin that obtains for all of us. All three classes of people are deemed worthless elements of society. All are branded by bad decisions in their past. Even if they did not fully realize what they were doing at first, the scandal of their misdeed clings to them. Even if they now earnestly desire to undo what wrongs they have done, it is impossible. What a canvas for grace! What a clear anti-pelagian image for theology. -- Old Oligarch

Gelernter examines the Hebrew Scriptures through Puritan eyes. This approach ignores the fact that Puritan theology would have been impossible without Catholic intellectual capital. Any inherently oppositional phenomenon like Puritanism depends for survival on what it opposes. Without something to protest, there is no Protestantism. To put this metaphorically, by identifying Puritanism as the V-8 under the hood of the American experiment, Gelernter slights both pioneering Catholic work on the internal combustion engine, and Presbyterian motor oil, which was Protestant but not necessarily Puritan. Gelernter’s only concession to Catholic influence is a passing reference to “anglo-Catholicism” by way of illustrating the similarity between Americanism and American Zionism. In fact, the first edict of religious toleration in Western history dates back to Constantine rather than to William Penn, John Winthrop, or Thomas Jefferson. Similarly, the right of the people to “alter or abolish” any form of government that fails to secure their God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is an echo of what Augustine of Hippo wrote in his City of God. - P. O'Hannigan of The Paragraph Farmer

I was not offended by Hart's "style"... though when one is accused of heresy one ought to be able to take it personally. It's just that after upwards of two years in this entirely unprofitable weblogging business, I've developed a pretty thick skin, and heretic is the least of the many things I've been called. Many of them are unprintable. You have no idea the names Christians can think of to call you should you, say, write a review of the movie Signs in an effort to disabuse them of its religious pretensions. Noting the 280 emails in his inbox one day, Mr. Hart seems to have encountered this problem and become a bit frazzled by it, such that, in a letter to me, he swears "never again to assay to address such matters in popular publications." This I think would be a shame. If God has given one a gift, I think he is duty-bound to use it. That's what he was trying to do in the WSJ piece - get the Christian voice into the secular sphere; he then found himself under attack, not by frenzied screams from the ACLU and People United for the Separation of Religion from the Rest of the Universe, but from an unlikely quarter: fellow Christians of whose contentiousness, once they get the bit in their mouths, he had no notion. I hope now he has learned the virtues of the delete button and the ineffable pleasure of using it. - Bill of Apologia

I do think that the consumer mentality sneaks into mating in ways that people may not notice. I've observed, for instance, that while some people take marital vows about sickness and health and so on very seriously, this leads them to choose a mate rather the way I'd choose a car: since I can't afford to buy a new one very often, I need one that'll need as few repairs as possible. Which brings me to a remark at Evangelical Outpost about National Public Radio, of all things: "Listening to NPR is like dating a charming and beautiful woman that has a semi-serious personality disorder; you're enchanted by her yet know you can’t commit to someone so troubled. " Yep, emotionally troubled women are fine to fool around with, but heaven forbid you should actually marry one. Why, that could be hard work! - Camassia

Europe has been the site of immense suffering over the past hundred years. This suffering may have led to the attitude: "Ask not what you can do for God, but ask what God can do for you." What has the Catholic Church done for me lately? How is it helping me? What can the Church offer to a culture so utterly committed to the opposite of sacrifice? What can a man who gave his life upon a cross have to say to those who spend the greater part of their domestic GDPs on preventing any human burden whatsoever? When the focus of one's life is one's own ease, enjoyment and comfort, there really isn't much Christianity has to offer. - commenter on Amy's blog concerning the decline of faith in Europe

But, to my mind, the very fact that God gave Adam and Eve free will despite the consequences, and then chose to redeem mankind without destroying it, suggests how important it is to Him that we have it, which in turn suggests the enormity of coercing the will of another human being.- Tom of Disputations

From Thomas Springer: "Why do we fear and even demonize normal winter weather? We live in heated houses with semi-heated garages. We drive heated sports utility vehicles with heated steering wheels, heated seats and even heated side mirrors. We can purchase -- at K-Mart prices -- warm and waterproof coats, boots, gloves and garments of all description. After 50,000 years, the human race has come in from the cold in a big way...We no longer realize [winter's] physical, psychological and spiritual values. We no longer appreciate its age-old function as a time of rest and reflection, woven between the cycle of seasons. There's no winter solstice in cyberspace, so it's easy to forget that all living things need time for regeneration."

Meanwhile, Garrison Keillor blames the weather for cold-heartedness: "We Lutherans in Minnesota are not a very forgiving people. And I think it's because we were taught to suck it up, to be strong, to endure winter. We'd camp in 35 below-zero weather, our scoutmaster watching us from his car, while we tried to put up tents in ground too hard to penetrate..." Scoutmaster watching from the car. Keillor kills me.
Poetry Puzzle

I like her poetry though I don't know a bouts-rimés sonnet from an Easter bonnet. The rulz:

"In the spirit of Dumas's invitation, we are accepting submissions of bouts-rimés sonnets written with the following end-rhymes (in the following order): June, stress, moon, obsess, snake, moot, cake, beaut, Garbo, play, hobo, day, rhinestone, cologne". I'll submit this to my blog:

Holy finds the bride of June
whose poetry and rhymes we stress
whose light is borrowed like the moon
with a mother's love she does obsess.

Saloons abound and queues do snake
with points not mute but moot,
where icing goes before the cake
and Butte before the Beaut.

That beaut be not the starlet Garbo
though far from bistro's play,
she risks no role but plays the hobo
her glamour lasts a day.

Costume not in gaudy rhinestone
--for God alone is man's Cologne.
Deja deluge

John Switzer writes:
It seems like each of my days begins in the same recurring setting, rather similar to what Bill Murray experienced in the film Groundhog Day.

Day after day, I walk outside my house and rain is falling.

When the sun is shining, I'm startled.

The past two years, 2003 and '04, were the sixth wettest and fourth wettest, respectively, in Columbus.

That in itself is significant, but if you combine the precipitation for the two years -- 48.95 inches in 2003 and 49.28 inches in 2004 -- you get more than 98 inches.

Each year had rainfall and snow totaling more than 10 inches above normal.

A meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Wilmington told me that we have to go all the way back to 1882 and '83 -- horse-and-buggy days -- to find consecutive years with more precipitation. Those two years combined had 100.18 inches.
The Widow's Mite

The dateline reminds me of the haunting song about coal mining familes titled You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive:
By Roger Alford, AP

HARLAN, Ky. -- Devastating flooding is hardly a world-away concept for folks in the steep hillsides and hollows of Appalachia, and many, even those with precious little themselves, are finding ways to help the tsunami victims.

With contributions of $1, $5 and coins from children's piggy banks, the mountain residents are remembering and repaying the kindness they have received in their own flooding disasters.

"You're going to find that Appalachian people will send money to help others even if they have to do without food themselves,'' said Bill Barker, head of the Appalachian Regional Ministry in Scott Depot, W.Va....

At a Harlan County school where 80 percent of children are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, students have raised $600 and counting...

Hopkins called the amount remarkable.

"Some of these are children who get free lunches, their parents on welfare, and they're giving every penny they can find,'' she said.
Now That's Travelin'

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Couple conquer Central, South American roads in RV

I try to limit my drives to 200 miles, tops. By then my diet Dr Pepper and beef jerky have run out, along with my patience.

Jim and Donna Bruce Fugate prefer longer drives. The retired couple from London, Ohio, recently returned from four months and 17,000 miles on the road.

Well, most of their miles were on roads. Some were on what might generously be called dirt tracks.

The Fugates drove their pickup camper from Texas down the entire length of Central and South America and back up again, with just a little help from a freighter at Panama’s Darien Gap and a barge at the Amazon River.

The Fugates are experienced campers.

‘‘We had done kayak camping, backpacking, tent camping," said Mr. Fugate, 68, a retired educator. ‘‘With the small (RV) unit, you treat it like a tent. You camp around it. But we do have a queen-size bed like at home. Of course, the bathroom is a little small."

And they had no electrical or water hookups at 95 percent of their campsites. That proved no problem.

‘‘I’ve camped all my life," Mr. Fugate said. ‘‘I thoroughly enjoy the outdoors."

And Mrs. Fugate, also 68, hasn’t let an injury slow her down. She has had difficulty walking since she broke a hip, but her husband designed a special lift attachment to help her into the camper.

Mr. Fugate also is an experienced driver, which helped him conquer the roads of Amazonian Brazil, the roughest he encountered on the trip.

‘‘As a young man I had driven a dump truck over coal-mining roads and flatbed trucks on logging roads. That helped prepare me, but this was worse."...Although the Fugates speak little Spanish and less Portuguese, almost everyone they met on their journey was friendly and welcoming, they said.

The couple visited most of the countries of Central and South America. They crossed the Atacama Desert of Chile, climbed the Andes Mountains in Peru and Argentina, stopped for a stage show in Buenos Aires and followed the Amazon to the Brazilian metropolis of Manaus.

Other high points included spotting condors, ostrichlike rheas and guanacos (reddishbrown llamas) in the wild, the couple said.

They encountered their wildest weather in Patagonia, the grassland region of southern Chile and Argentina.

"I’d been in the Great Plains of the U.S. and thought I’d seen winds," Mr. Fugate said. "But down there they blow day and night. Sometimes I had to extend both arms, dig my toes into the soil and use all my weight just to close the door" of the truck.

January 16, 2005

Learning to know anxiety is an adventure which every man has to affront if he would not go to perdition either by not having known anxiety or by sinking under it. He therefore who has learned rightly to be in anxiety has learned the most important thing.- Soren Kierkegaard
Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken themselves to error. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, so they are gone to milk the bull. - Boswell's Life of Johnson
[Johnson] mentioned to me now, for the first time, that he had been distressed by melancholy, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and meditation, to the dissipating variety of life. Against melancholy he recommneded constant occupation of mind, a great deal of exercise, moderation in eating and drinking, and especially to shun drinking at night...He observed that laboring men who work hard, and live sparingly, are seldom or never troubled with low spirits. -Boswell's Life of Johnson

Ohio Dominican is having Fr. James Schall visit and give a (free) lecture on St. Thomas Aquinas titled "The Relevance of Aquinas". Unfortunately I'll be out of town.

January 15, 2005

EWTN Franciscan Univ Roundtable

Fascinating discussion with guest Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa OFM (preacher to the papal household) concerning the Holy Spirit, and what role our feelings play. Objectively, we know the Holy Spirit is within us, but are we aware of that subjectively? Fr. Cantalamessa said, "First of all we should admit that in the past we have so much stressed the objective dimension. We thought that everything happens at the unconscious level. We believed that the Holy Spirit dwelt in us, but I think the Lord wants something also in the other direction, that we should be aware of what God has done for us. For the Eastern Fathers there is no Christian life without a kind of experiencing."

To which Regis Martin was quick to point out the dangers of mere subjectivism, especially here in America given the Protestant influence, with which Fr. Cantalamessa concurred. Scott Hahn said that he is very grateful for his Protestant background because of its emphasis on the subjective, while now having also the grounding of objective truth. It does seem to have been to Hahn's (and American Catholicism's) advantage for him to have been Protestant before becoming Catholic.

Earlier in the show Hahn said: "The Father is the Annointer, the Son is the Annointed and the Holy Spirit is the Annointing. The Father sends the son to give us the Holy Spirit and as Paul describes Jesus as the last Adam who is life giving Spirit, far from feeling disappointment we should be jubiliant that Christ went back to the Father and pours out the Holy Spirit...If our "knowing" corresponds to how the Son proceeds from the Father, the Holy Spirit proceeds by "loving". Paul says, "knowledge puffs up, love builds up" and so he says speak the truth, in love."

January 14, 2005

Week in Review

Ahh, time for week in review, time to unload my imaginary cares and my pulmonary arteries.

Had lunch with der Ham of Bone. His “delusions of grandeur” line rang today at lunch. He thinks I think his dreams are thus but I’m uneasy about the term “delusions” since one man’s delusions are another's reality. He holds a lottery ticket and is unclear if it's winning or not. Likely not, though I would not be held responsible for preventing another man’s betting.

Ham asked how I accounted my lack of ambition. I attribute it mostly to lady laziness, with whom I've had a relationship close enough to be called conjugal. But, to be serious, all of my heroes have been Republicans. Reagan, to hear it told, was forced into running for president and Bush 43, the black sheep of the family, drank til he came to be Governor followed by “Hail to the Chief”. I take it odd enough that it couldn’t be pure accident. (My money was always on Jeb.) Gore and Kerry, by comparison, were ambitious as Shakespearian villains. They were grooming for the presidency while lesser mortals were grooming for junior prom. Their class pictures were photo ops. Clinton? Clinton was shaking hands before he could walk.

So my model has been Reagan and Bush: I am on call, as needed. That's not to say I have delusions of presidential grandeur, unless we're talking president of the PTA. But that model is attractive.
Fear of Flying

I generally think Ham far braver than I so it was with unseemly joy I greeted the news that he was a “nervous flyer”. Takeoffs and landings are numbered for him, four per trip, and it struck me as odd since I greet takeoffs and landings with great joy because it means a) we’re FINALLY getting off the ground or b) we’re FINALLY landing.

Of course, given the odds, fears of flying are irrational. It’s far more dangerous to drive a car. But since I have my own kaleidoscope of irrational fears I don’t have room to talk. But my ponderance is whether or not fear increases as we age. Novelist Anne Tyler speaks of a “mushrooming sense of responsibility” as we age, but that is different than fear. On the one hand we have less to fear because we have experienced so much: we should have less a sense of urgency in so much as things unexperienced. In middle age we experience the malaise that Walker Percy writes of in “The Moviegoer”: every day becomes the Wednesday afternoon that he says becomes beset by ordinariness. One would think that ordinariness of everyday life would lead to a certain fearlessness.

Still, the saying goes “fatigue makes cowards of us all” and there’s no doubt that as we get older we become more acquainted with fatigue.
Prose for Nigerian Scammer has been updated.
Ban of Brothers

NY Times on the newly dry college fraternities. And you thought 'dry fraternity' an oxymoron? A few paragraphs on the history of Phi Delta Theta reveal otherwise:
The Phi Delta Theta international fraternity -- now home to 170 chapters in 44 states and six Canadian provinces -- was founded by six serious and determined students at Miami University in Ohio on a December night in 1848. Conceived as a secret literary and social society for men of intellectual vigor and upstanding character, the Miami University chapter enjoyed a brief period of fraternal harmony before all hell broke loose.

By 1850, the fraternity was ''chaotic with dissension between fraternal idealists and hedonists,'' writes Hank Nuwer in his book ''Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing and Binge Drinking.'' Phi Delt's members -- including a transfer student named Benjamin Harrison, who would later become the 23rd president of the United States -- disagreed about what a fraternity should be.

Was Phi Delta Theta, as its six founding fathers envisioned, about friendship, sound learning and moral rectitude? Or was it a place for boys to be boys, no matter how juvenile and tasteless that might appear to the outside world? Or could it be some ingenious combination of the two, making space for both righteousness and debauchery?

A hard-liner, Harrison quickly got himself elected fraternity president: Phi Delt was to be a place of honor and respectability. He was more than a little displeased when two fraternity members became obscenely drunk at a reception for Pierson Sayre, the last living Revolutionary War soldier. He gave the offending men a second chance after they promised to shape up, but soon enough they were back to their old ways. Harrison threw them out, upon which several other members, who backed the banished brothers, resigned.

On the subject of drinking (nice segue or what?), I happened across this motivational poster:

Belloc Quote

Monsieur Belloc in A Path to Rome:
Did you all love me as much as I have loved you, by the black stone of Rennes I should be rich by now. Indeed, indeed, I have loved you all! You, the workers, all puffed up and dyspeptic and ready for the asylums; and you, the good-for-nothing lazy drones; you, the strong silent men, who have heads quite empty, like gourds; and you also, the frivolous, useless men that chatter and gabble to no purpose all day long. Even you, that, having begun to read this book, could get no further than page 47, and especially you who have read it manfully in spite of the flesh, I love you all, and give you here and now my final, complete, full, absolving, and comfortable benediction.
Zenit article on psychology & free will
So True

In A Travel Guide to Heaven the author says that God does not waste. In the natural world we see decay made to be food for new plants. We, however, live in a disposable society, and too often that carries over into relationships.

Camassia sees it with her typically gimlet eye:
Another thing that article got me thinking about was how, in our society, we have an unprecedented ability to simply avoid people we don't want to deal with. So when we break up with a lover or a spouse, or fall out with a family member or friend, or even just drift away from people, you can usually just "erase" the relationship, and go on as if it had never happened.

Yet perhaps that is really an illusion. One way of reading the Gospel is this: all people are God's children, he loves them as well as you, and they're not going away. So even if you avoid touching them, talking to them or even thinking about them in this life, at the end of days they'll get in your face and say things like, "I was hungry, and you gave me no food ..." And if you're lucky, you'll spend forever in the New Jerusalem with them.

January 13, 2005

The Flannery O'Connor blog has been updated.

I don't smoke but found this interesting nonetheless:
Designated smoking areas for the Dublin locations have changed. Recent ordinances have required that the primary approved smoking areas be moved to Outer Mongolia. Overflow smoking areas include northern Russian (north of the city of Yakutsk) and all locations bordering the Arctic Ocean.

New signage designating non-smoking areas will be posted outside current approved smoking areas. Look for more communications soon, including flights to and from approved smoking areas.
Touchstone's S.M. Hutchens on William F. Buckley:
This is a man I find difficult to reproach for finding himself interesting—not only since I do, too, but because if the distance between self-absorption and self-appreciation can be measured by intensity of charitable regard for others, Buckley (my thoughts advert here to contraries like Pepys or de Sade) dresses out remarkably well. If love covers a multitude of sins, let us allow that vanity is one of them, not because it excuses, but transforms.
Buckley was a huge influence on me growing up. Loved his Blackford Oakes novels, and I was dense enough not to notice any vanity in something like Overdrive. It's sort of like what Tom of Disputations once said about himself: "what's not to love?; what's not to love about Buckley?

In an email a friend (Catholic) expressed his distaste for apologetics. And I have proverbial mixed emotions. On the one hand, apologetics is a beautiful thing for Catholics. When I started reading Scott Hahn & Karl Keating, it'd been as if I'd discovered a lost, buried treasure of incomprehensible value.

On the other, I can see how it might be off-putting to those outside the fold. I think my friend Ham of Bone was more impressed by the Pope's apology a few years (concerning the Crusades) than any apologetic material I've sent his way. Apologetics is mainly for Catholics, in order to defend our faith and appreciate it and learn about it. Relatedly, I liked this from Envoy Magazine concerning the CCC:
Anyone coming to the Church, or seeking instruction in the faith, cannot help but be impressed, and perhaps even sometimes awed, by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Like one of the Church ’s majestic medieval cathedrals, every element in the harmonious design of the whole fits together in it proper place; each detail fills a specific space in the overall soaring and splendid whole. Inquirers coming to the faith from unbelief might sometimes have a hard time accepting all that the Church teaches as true, but nobody can deny that it all holds together marvelously in the Catechism. -Kenneth Whitehead
Opposite Worlds

This is surely unremarkable and obvious, but why have a blog if you can't state the obvious?

Is it not amazing how different our role as humans in the material plane is compared to our position in the spiritual plane? On earth we stand atop the food chain, and, despite the tsunami, have exercised remarkable control over nature.

But in the spiritual realm we are pikelings, spiritually retarded. St. Thomas has nine orders of angels and tells us the lowest order is assigned the guardian role for humans. Yet the fact that our fragility is so understood is a sign of solicitude of heaven - God came down to become man, not angel; he came to redeem us because angels, being pure intellect, have less excuse. We have the baggage of the material but also the capability of transformation, of progress, which angels lack. Having a guardian angel is simultaneously a testament to our weakness and to God's love and care.
Name Popularity

Found here via Cristina

Thomas - Means: A Twin

Decade Popularity Rank
1900's    12
1910's    11
1920's    11
1930's    9
1940's    8
1950's    8
1960's   9
1970's    21
1980's    25
1990's    27

Thomas means "twin" and perhaps that's a decent enough segue to post a dream I had (don't try this on your blog - recall my blog title). I dreamt about twins, and one said to the other:

"There ain't enuff room in this womb for the two of us. I challenge you to a duel!"

"According to the rules we're supposed to take ten paces back. I can hardly turn around in here."

He replied, "yeah...hmm.... I know, let's have a verbal duel!".

"Ok, you start."


"I know you are but what am I?"

January 12, 2005

Eucharist & Parousia

The early Christians expected immediate fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesies. They expected an imminent parousia...Modern historians are right to point out the expectation of the apostolic age. They go wrong, however, when they conclude that the early Christians must have been disappointed with the passing of time. The apostate scholar Alfred Loisy observed that Jesus came promising the Kingdom, but all He left behind was the Church. Loisy was disappointed by this turn of events, but the early Christians most certainly were not.

The early Christians knew that there would indeed be a parousia at the end of time, but there was no less a parousia right now, whenever they celebrated the Mass. When Christ comes at the end of time, He will have not a drop more glory than He has whenever He comes to His Church in the Mass. The difference is that, then, we will see. Faced with the evidence of the ancient liturgies, skeptics will sometimes resort to psychoanalyzing the ancients. They say that the idea of a “liturgical parousia” was a late development and a coping mechanism for a disappointed Church. But it wasn’t late. Gregory Dix notes that it is in the very earliest documents; indeed, some scholars estimate that the liturgy of the Didache could have been written no later than 48 A.D. After reviewing all the ancient eucharistic texts, Jaroslav Pelikan concludes: “The eucharistic liturgy was not a compensation for the postponement of the parousia, but a way of celebrating the presence of one who had promised to return.” After all, it was Jesus Himself who set such a high level of expectation in the Church; and it was Jesus Himself who pointed to its imminent fulfillment. Indeed, it was Jesus who established the Eucharist as an eschatological event — a parousia — a coming of the King and the kingdom...If we are looking for familiar apocalyptic language, we will find it aplenty in Luke’s account of the Last Supper, but we will find it always expressed in eucharistic terms.
--Scott Hahn in Envoy Magazine

to the tsunami.

This blogger's reaction would've been mine - to run towards the beach instead of away from it. An aid-worker I heard interviewed said he couldn't fathom waves that strong. The imagination does faileth. It's probably a case where strong swimmers were even more in danger because they lacked proper fear.
Knowledge Craving

From Cornwell's bio of JPII:

The Fall of Adam and Eve, as it is understood in Catholic orthodoxy, was the result of illicit cravings in three areas of human activity: in knowledge, in stewardship of the earth, and in sexuality.

I tend to forget about illicit knowledge craving. Clarity in matters theological is a gift, not a right, especially when we see St. Paul himself said we look through a glass darkly. In Boswell's Johnson, the great man was completely tongue-tied when it came to reconciling free will and God's sovereignty. It always comes down to a naked trust in God doesn't it? Jesus trusted the Father even as he pondered the bitter taste of the God-willed crucifixion, while Adam & Eve did not trust as they contemplated the sweet taste of the God-forbidden fruit.

Concerning theological enlightenment, JPII believed like St. John of the Cross that "suffering, doubt, and prayer can lead to an infusion of divine knowledge. As the late Cardinal John Krol would say admiringly of JPII, 'He studied theology on his knees.'"

Another interesting passage from Cornwell:
What gave [Tymieniecka's & Wojtyla's] philosophical exchanges a sense of exhilaration was the political and social relevance that had inspired his earlier philosophical model, Max Scheler. Wojtyla was in conflict with a totalitarian tyranny in which individual self-determination had been suppressed and denied. Together with Tymieniecka, he was exploring the scope of self-determination as well as its limits. For a society that stresses self-determination without social cooperation is equally doomed. Was America and the capitalist West a culture of malevolent individualism?...Tymieniecka was hard-pressed, she tells us, to persuade him that America was not a country of greed, selfishness and hedonism.

January 11, 2005

Marching to Pretoria     -Traditional

I'm with you and you're with me
And so we're all together.
So we're all together
So we're all together
Sing with me, I'll sing with you
And so we will sing together
As we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria
We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria today.

We have food, the food is good,
And so we will eat together.
So we will eat together
So we will eat together.
When we eat, 'twill be a treat,
So let us sing together
As we march along:

Cho: We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria
We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria today.

Various & Sundry

  • Ha ha
  • What a cool way to go
  • "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Slanted Kos" - hilarious headline from headline writer Dawn Eden concerning the leftist blog "the Daily Kos".
  • On the fate of the faith in Europe
  • Americans

    It's valuable to learn how others view us because there is always a bit o' blindness in our own self-image. I recently came across a UK blogger who makes interesting asides:
    ...ah, America! What can we say about her? Chesterton said she was a "nation with the soul of a Church". For me, she is a kind of inverse Europe - the things we keep private are public over there and vice versa.

    And little old UK kind of sits here in the middle of the Old Continent and the New - which way are we going to go? Like little Israel between the howling desert and the ancient city, can we keep our distinct identity when these two giants are tugging us two ways? Will we end up a typically British compromise of European and US culture? Perhaps there is a way to synthesise them and promote peace and life. That's my prayer; that's the challenge as I see it.
    I also enjoyed this:
    Frighteningly, the American 20-somethings they interviewed for the Robbins and Wilner book sound a lot more mature and sensible and realistic than the English ones in Barr's book.
    Frightening indeed.
      Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

    In his homily on New Year's Day, my priest quoted Father Benedict Groeschel, saying something to the effect that we should pray not necessarily for a great year, but that God will be with us. I know He will be; Jesus has told me not to be afraid, and that He is with me always. I know this, but I still worry. I don't believe I would deny Christ at gunpoint. Yet here I am, needing strength when not only is my life not in danger, but my life is extremely good. I think I'm upside-down. I believe, Lord; help my unbelief. - Brad of Splendor Veritatis

    i must also admit that i always take the easy road when the question is posed and i simply quote matthew (5:45), "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." i had to memorize this particular verse way back when so that i could go forward with my faith after a series of unfortunate events. when the chips are down, i still believe it is the most lofty way to admit that "[excrement] happens." - smockmomma of Summa Mamas, regarding the tsunami

    One wonderful thing about the universal church is that she has room for both the ascetics and the aesthetes - as long as what is worshipped is not the philosophy but the person of God. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

    My priest and I have had some talks about detachment--what it is and isn't. For, I fear, I am one of the "attachingest" people around.At its root, detachment is simply putting things in their right order and place. Not pretending that they are not lovely, nice, wonderful, helpful, funny or whatever. But enjoying them without owning them. And taking things as they come, without a lot of struggle and rage. --MamaT of Summa Mamas

    We can make statements about God that are both true and intelligible. The truer a statement, the less intelligible. The more intelligible a statement, the less true. - Tom of Disputations

    I will buy Waugh's Helena. Waugh, that wonderful, sinful curmudgeon of a Catholic writer! I recommend Helena to anyone, but especially readers who have never read Waugh, they are in for a treat. Waugh, a convert, was not a Catholic in name only. With all his sins, Catholicism suffused his life and his writing. I believe God noted that, because he granted Mr. Waugh the privilege of dying after he returned home from Mass on Easter Sunday in 1966. If not for the implausibility, I am certain that Mr. Waugh would have loved that as an ending in one of his novels! - commenter on Amy's blog

    "It's only pneumonia" - That's one of those phrases I never imagined myself saying way back when I was a Rich Young Bachelor, along with other fatherhood gems such as "Don't eat the floor" and "That's a fork, not a hairbrush". - Bill of Summa Minutiae

    I was struck by the vibrancy of pre-Vatican II Catholic discourse in this country. It wasn't ideological - mostly because all of those issues that occupy us today (liturgical change, role of women in the church, sexual ethics, etc) were still largely seen as non-negotiable. Which left faith as the focus of Catholic public discourse. And further, I was struck by the role of all kinds of literature in that discourse. The idea for this series seemed to reflect that ideal - what better way to make a contribution to helping contemporary Catholics talk about faith instead of "issues" than to encourage them to read fiction that also focuses on those matters of suffering, redemption, grace and sacrifice...and talking about them? - Amy Welborn, introducing Loyola Classics

    Funny...now you have to learn to deal with popularity. Sometimes too much can make you unpopular (my attempt at a Yogi-ism) - Ham of Bone, reacting to Smockmomma's "Spanning the Globe" post. STG is actually a net money-loser since unpopularity with unquoted bloggers dwarfs popularity with quoted ones

    One of my own personal ways of thinking about the Holy Spirit is to compare him to a border collie. You know, the black and white sheepdogs, the ones just fanatical about herding the sheep? That's my Holy Spirit. He didn't give up on me even when I was a lost agnostic pagan-leaning young woman. He kept chasing me toward the flock. Frightening Southern Baptist sermons, atheist parenting, and a bad run-in with cultists were just logs and streams that He had to chase me around and over. Eventually, He steered me into the comfort of the Shepherd's arms. And I will be forever grateful, because being a lost sheep is far more terrifying than most people can admit... There was a point where I thought that I was one of the people just unable to feel love for God. I thought I was lacking some essential element, some "religiously required" area of the brain or chemical reaction. I looked up bits of scripture that supported this view, nourishing my own feelings of alienation. The Holy Spirit, thankfully, nipped me on the heels and chased me out of that self-pitying rage... (And I hope I've offended no one with my "The Holy Spirit is the sheepdog of God" analogy. It's a comforting image for me, because I know how clever, steadfast, and devoted those dogs are. Once they get behind a stray sheep, they won't stop. And neither does He.) - M'Lynn of Scattershot Directly

    I keep trying to tell you guys: don't...pray...for...knowledge. Or any other virtue. Pray for virtue indirectly by praying for happiness. - Zippy on Tom of Disputations' blog

    I think I understand Zippy's point, having learned it in small ways through the years. My version of the advice, though, is, don't pray for anything out of pride...If we regard gifts of the Holy Spirit like superpowers -- look, now I can fly! I have fear of the Lord! -- then we are likely to wind up in a mighty hot crucible to test out those new superpowers. I guess I'd say it's safer to pray for virtues you've learned you need rather than those you know you need. - Tom of Disputations
    No Political Bias Found at CBS...

    ...according to the Thornburgh report.

    In the fine print, there were a few other findings. Here they are:
    - no finding that the AFLAC duck is annoying
    - no proof that Elvis is dead
    - no proof that the moon landings weren't staged in a television studio
    - no finding that Jennifer Aniston is attractive
    - no finding that the Pope is, in fact, Catholic
    - no finding that air is useful to humans
    It's inconceivable, if not provable, that CBS would've treated an anti-Kerry story (like the Swiftboat Vets) in the same manner. If there's no smoking gun at CBS, there's enough smoke to produce inhalation injuries.

    January 10, 2005

    Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

    A girl I knew many years ago once confessed something that still rings in my ears.

    "I don't like music. I'm tone-deaf."

    I thought I was hearing things, like a bad note played by TBDBITL. Everbody like music (say like Donkey).

    I don't like music.

    But there you have it. She was unresponsive to the best and worst of my albums. From Bach to Meatloaf to everything in between. It was like sticking a needle in a leg with no feeling.

    I recalled that this past weekend when I hauled out Sister Wendy's Guide to the 1000 Greatest Masterpieces. I wanted to look at something painted by somebody named Botticelli. And it was fine. Damn fine work, as Sheriff Taylor might say. Next.

    I continued looking through her 1,000 masterpieces and discovered, for perhaps the hundredth time, that me and art just don't have much in common. I liked maybe five of them. Much more interesting than the paintings was the breathless commentary of Sister Wendy. Were we looking at the same thing?

    Yes but not grasping the same thing. Terry Teachout wrote that you can appreciate some of the arts but not all of them. (Appreciate meant in the keenest sense.) He said you might like dance & art, but not also music and literature. And that fact is not a function of time as it is our personal limitations. My love for music and literature may be strong, but for the visual arts? To quote the Meat, two out of three ain't bad.
    So True (a retrospective of CNN's Crossfire )
    Nobody did it better, and generally with more class, than Buchanan and Braden first, then Buchanan and Michael Kinsley. Others who came later -- Bill Press, Robert Novak and others -- at times rose to the occasion, but those early years were the model. Few can be fiercer or more combative than Buchanan, Braden and Kinsley. But those clashes more closely resembled real debates than choreographed fights.

    The beauty of those days was that the debates were rooted in ideological intellectualism, not knee-jerk reactionism. When Buchanan and Kinsley squared off, you would even occasionally find areas of agreement between the two, even times when they would take positions opposite of what you would expect. It was Buchanan v. Kinsley, not just left v. right. They worked more from their thoughts than from partisan talking points.

    Heavens to murgatroid - the investigation of Rathergate yielded - count 'em - 224 pages. Wasn't the Warren Commission shorter?

    The money quote for me is: "After rushing the piece to air, the panel said, CBS News compounded the error by blindly defending the story. In doing so, the news organization missed opportunities to set the record straight."

    This is the cruelly ironic thing - it's not the crime, it's the cover-up isn't it? For CBS to have admitted error early and often would've made it a footnote. It's ironic because you'd think 60 Minutes would be aware of the danger of stonewalling. But that is human nature isn't it? You or I might do the same thing. Character isn't formed by knowledge of right or wrong as it is by the actual practice of the right. If it came in a bottle...

    Garrison Keillor continues to use his Prairie Home Companion show as therapy for wounds suffered on Nov. 2nd. Humor as medicine, I guess. Bill Buckley once wrote that there are much better things to think about than politics, but that having to do so is a natural consequence of giving tremendous power and money to the government.

    Part of what makes politics interesting to me is the unpredictability. A person's politics are a hodge-podge of tribalism, self-interest and altruism. What makes someone vote the way they do? What caused Keillor to hate Bush so? Admittedly, probably everything about George Bush. The president induces a sort of "perfect storm" of hatred in his foes. From his lack of articulateness, his pro-life position, his seeming disinterest in things intellectual & lack of sophistication, the war in Iraq, his serious Christianity, etc...

    I wonder where the tipping point would be with Keillor. What issues would George Bush have to flip in order to gain Garrison's imprimatur? It's pure conjecture, but I think if Bush flipped on just two issues all would be well: his pro-life position, and his disinclination towards universal health care. Most Bush haters hated him before 9/11/01, and thus before the war in Iraq, so I never bought the "Iraq spoiled the broth" argument. It would be fun to re-run the script and go back in time and see how the left reacted with just the abortion issue changed. Or to try a myraid of different scenarios and thus attempt to separate out self-interest from altruism from tribalism.

    January 09, 2005

    Catholic Schools

    There's an article in the paper today about our new bishop, Bishop Frederick Campbell. In it, he is quoted as saying how essential he feels Catholic education is to the mission of the church.

    Coincidentally, a few days ago I received a fundraising newsletter from my Catholic high school, now having enrollment difficulties. Our high school is fundraising a lot of late, but my impression is that it mostly seems to go towards state-of-the-art athletic facilities. (Gotta keep up with the publics?) Perhaps this is required in order to draw students, but it seems like the fundraising ought to go to keeping tuition affordable. I sent a letter to our alumni fundraiser asking: ...are the improvements to the physical plant seen as a way to make [name of high school] more desirable to potential students? I was under the impression (perhaps mistaken) that declining enrollment is mostly due to the fact that parents are reluctant to take on the expense. If that is true, then it seems like fund raisers should be mostly geared at scholarships and/or keeping tuition low and affordable. And since enrollments at feeder schools are also lower, doesn't this suggest that it's mostly a problem of price, and not facilities?

    Nothing like an ignorant alum trying to tell a school how they should spend their money, 'eh? Certainly the financial position of Catholic schools has to be in a world of hurt given that the donated labor of religious sisters has past (for now) and given the way education at all levels has far exceeded the inflation rate over the past couple decades.

    Anyway, here's more of the article on Bishop Campbell:
    In his 24 years as a priest, Campbell has been deeply involved in Catholic education. There was a school at all three parishes in which he served, one as an associate pastor and two as pastor.

    ‘‘I’m devoted to Catholic education," he said. ‘‘I think it is essential to the mission of the church. At the same time, you want to make sure the Catholic education is a (financially) viable education. That’s going to take some creative work."

    Campbell said he knows how difficult it is for Catholics to deal with school consolidations. He was pastor at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Hopkins, Minn., where the school was a merger of three parish schools.

    To keep schools solvent, he said, there must be financial support from the parish, parents and diocesan educational endowments.