November 30, 2006

Bingo: The Fun Never Ends. Literally.

So co-worker Kim asks our leader when our term as bingo volunteers runs out. Turns out it's like the roach motel - we checked in but we can't check out. Our sweet-natured Fuhrer put it more impressively: "it's like the pope - a lifetime appointment". Habemus bingo worker! The news sent a chill through our collective spines and I couldn't help but remember what a family member said after volunteering for Meals on Wheels for awhile. She said isn't charity work supposed to make you feel good, at least as a byproduct? My mood did exponentially improve as the night wore on, partially because it'd begun at such a low level but also because I was under the influence of nicotine and it was getting closer to the finish line.

This was to be our last smoke-filled night. Ohio passed a law that takes effect next week and although I don't know the legalese it basically states that thinking about smoking is now a crime against humanity. One non-smoking volunteer says he'll have to take up smoking now -- how else will he get his monthly buzz? During our three hour stint we breathed in the equivalent of 32,000 cigarettes. Roughly. Peeps were paying forward tonight. I knew I'd had too much nicotine when I'm staring at a receptacle labeled "Daubers" (the things you use to daub your bingo ticket) and suddenly recalled Pam Dauber (actually Dawber) of Mork and Mindy fame. A hallucengenic flashback?

One bingo "client" stated her extreme displeasure with the smoking ban by promising to take her business three and a half hours away to West Virginia, where smoking and dating a sibling are still legal. Hmm...a bingo bus to West Va. Could be a money-maker. Hope no one steals this idea off my blog.

Other news we discovered was that Pat, in labor extremis, self-delivered Kim. Apparently Pat's husband passed out while looking for help. Or looked for help after passing out. Either way, it actually happened in a hospital! The nurses must've been out smoking. In my naivety, I didn't know you could "self-deliver" any more than you could play a game of pitch & catch with yourself but there you have it. Where's Alicia when you need her? Kim came out of it black and blue but ever after a model child. No pain, no gain I guess...

Update: A bingo escapee!
More from the Ohio Memory Site

The Our Father in Wyandot language

Christmas card from a former pupil to a religious sister
From the Islam as the Religion of Peace Dep't

From here:
A novel that glories in the imagined assassination of Pope Benedict is a bestseller in the bookstores of Istanbul.
And Turkey is supposedly the one semi-sane Islamic nation, the one most friendly to Christianity. Meanwhile, Brigitte Gabriel mentions how a Muslims Against Terrorism rally in D.C. was opposed by two of America's biggest Muslim groups and ended up drawing only about fifty people, "most of whom were Christians and Jews". Oy vey. My sense is that if they can't protest within the safety of America, then it ain't gonna happen anywhere else.

From Ms. Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian who considered Jews an enemy until she experienced the kindness of Israeli soldiers and hospitals who saved her life from Islamic jihadists (click to enlarge):

Human nature being what it is we either lapse into paralyzing self-criticism or a complete lack thereof. Islamic culture obviously falls into the latter, while we in the U.S. tend towards the former, or at least the MSM. Even children's books steadily beat the drum that Christianity is to either be ignored or feared and that America has more flaws than virtues. The natural result of that constant barrage is that Christianity will be further marginalized and that Americans will devalue America.
From the Past As Foreign Country Dep't

I was perusing the Ohio Memory site, and even though this is encroaching on Mark Sullivan's territory I thought I'd post a few of the more arresting tidbits. One is a 1915 song book, a Prohibition hymnal!

It would seem the thousand years of Prohibition ended about as quickly as the thousand-year German Reich:
My wife plays piano so I may have her play a couple of these.

November 29, 2006

The Price of Conformance


Believing in God sometimes has the reputation of bourgeois conformity, at least among some of my co-workers, but a scriptural passage I happened across the other day proclaims exactly the opposite:
Pursuing futility, they themselves became futile through copying the nations round them, although Yahweh had ordered them not to act as they did. - 2 Kings 17:15
"Pursuing futility" is especially piquant if haunting. It's easy to ape those around us and not seek first the Kingdom and thus end up pursuing futilities. On the same theme, Amy Welborn comments on an interview with the ordination of new auxiliary Daniel E. Flores: "Very nice. Don't allow us or our efforts to be defined by others, but only by Christ and what He calls us to."
From The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI by Adam Nichols OP:
"In this view of the Church as elected for the sake of the non-elected, as the means to save the older brother who was not chosen, Ratzinger is explicitly under the influence of Karl Barth. In the Church Dogmatics, Barth had transformed Calvin's doctrine of double predestination, praedestinatio gemina, in just this fashion. Thus Barth, and here Ratzinger after him, could maintain the full, gracious reality of the Church's distinctive election, while at the same time opening wide the doors of salvation to all. For though universalism, the salvation of everyman, is not part of Christian faith, it is assuredly part of Christian hope.

How, then, according to Ratzinger, does the Christian brotherhood exercise its responsibility for the whole? It does so in three ways: through mission, through charity, and through suffering."
Blinded by the Dark

Perhaps the words of the old bluegrass song apply to Kos, an atheist: "He's more to be pitied than scolded / He needs to be loved, not despised," but I can't imagine anyone on The Corner, nor any right-leaning blogger, nor Rush Limbaugh saying anything like the Left's most popular blogger, "The Daily Kos" guy, said today:
Bush, being a petulant prick again:

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon.
Despite the title of this post, it's good Webb didn't slug Bush. Democrats will get back at him by making 2007 and 2008 the most miserable two years of his life.
Civility-wise, the Left is to the Right what Al Qaeda is to America in terms of treatment of prisoners: With America there was Abu Ghraib but with Al Qaeda there are beheadings. I certainly make no claim of moral equivalency between the Left and Al Qaeda, but hate seems to be the primary fuel of both (though we can be thankful that the Left's loathing has been limited to speech). Surely part of the media buzz over Senator Obama is that he's conspicuous for being a sunny-visaged Christian liberal, which is about as rare as an albino in a nudist camp.
Mark Steyn on Oriana Fallaci

From the lastest Atlantic:
As for those on the left who acknowledged the [Islamic Fundamentalist] threat, she parted company with them, too. This year, a dozen intellectuals, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie, published a manifesto against Islamism and in defense of “secular values for all.” All are doughty warriors and important allies in Europe’s present struggle. But La Fallaci, a lifelong atheist, had come to the conclusion that secular humanism was an insufficient rallying cry, that it had in some sense led to the gaping nullity of contemporary European identity, which Islam had simply steamrollered. By the end, she was, if not a Christian, then (as she formulated it) a “Christian atheist.” In 2005 she was granted a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI on the understanding that she would never divulge what was discussed...

At the height of her fame thirty years ago, Oriana Fallaci seemed to embody the triumph of the post-Christian West. The apotheosis of the independent, emancipated woman, she lived long enough to understand that hyperrationalism was, in point of fact, wholly irrational, and she was big enough to change her mind on that without changing her glorious voice.
Stallone on Rocky

Stallone reminded those of us on the call that the opening shot of the original film is of a painting of Jesus looking down on Rocky in the boxing ring in a rundown gym. And no, I didn't have to go back to verify that, I already knew. But, I've long wondered why he chose to open with that. I never guessed Stallone himself would explain it to me, but this week he did — oh, and to everybody else on the call.

He first explained that he felt compelled to write the first film, and he believes that drive came from above. He said the character of Rocky was meant to reflect the characteristic nature of Jesus.

"It's like he was being chosen, Jesus was over him, and he was going to be the fella that would live through the example of Christ," Stallone said. "He's very, very forgiving. There's no bitterness in him. He always turns the other cheek. And it's like his whole life was about service."
"Kramer" Should Apologize to America for Apologizing to Jesse

...and now I should apologize for wasting Blogger storage space with words on the topic. But it's sad to see Kramer apologizing to Jesse "Hymietown" Jackson who, like Eric Dyson and the other profiteers of racism, foster an America less like the one Martin Luther King dreamt of. Dyson's appearance on O'Reilly was especially blatant; he saw Kramer's diatribe the way a home repair guy might see a hurricane. Or to switch metaphors being in the racism exorcism business means there's a demon in every bed, and he wasted no time saying that Kramer's words were not representative of Kramer alone but of a vast racist attitude in America. Fortunately, most know that Dyson's race-paranoia is not representative of all African-Americans.
A Hymn to Mencken

November 28, 2006

The Sad Plight of Haiti

From a Weekly Standard article:
The greatest burden of crime, violence, and lawlessness falls on the poor. "We can't even hand things out to people in the slums--it would endanger them," explained a foreign social worker with nearly two decades' experience in Haiti's worst neighborhoods. "You know what would happen if we gave little radios? The bad guys would know about it right away--and they'd come into those homes to take the radios, and more."

What do we--the fortunate souls holding U.S. passports, with warm beds and hot meals awaiting us--come home learning from a brief fact-finding sojourn to Haiti? In a sentence: Security comes first. First in the hierarchy of human needs. First in the prerequisites for economic progress. Nothing so elevated as "law and order"--apart from its unfondly remembered interlude under U.S. Marine Corps occupation in the early 20th century, it is not clear that Haiti has ever had that, and maybe not even then. Just physical safety and security.

Without security, efforts to better the national plight will be doomed to frustration, or worse. Foreign economic assistance will be mainly wasted, or worse.
Some blame our government for not being able to protect us (i.e. 9/11 & the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina), but it's obviously not even comparable to Haiti. Meanwhile Joel Miller might've given the Bush Administration some advice pre-Iraq:
Haitians have very little experience with decent government, real self-rule, or anything approximating political liberty. The U.S. can't make people know or experience these things -- as most of our foreign interventions have proven to be gospel truth. If Haiti is ever to recover, its people will have to develop these things on their own. Some semblance of a rule of law -- if even overly strict at first -- economic liberty and property rights would be nice. But I'm sure Haitians might be satisfied with almost anything close to stability for a change.
Re: "Some semblance of a rule of law -- if even overly strict at first" reminds me how some say we should've had more troops in Iraq. But since we couldn't be overly strict at first -- we were aiming for the hearts and minds of Iraqis and trying to avoid further pissing off our enraged oil-for-food scamming "allies" and reluctant to kill people for looting -- troop levels were always going to be inadequate. I'm no expert, though I play one on this blog, but securing that huge Iraqi border while gently pacifying the country (i.e. a cop on every corner with a nightstick) suggests the need for at least thirty million U.S. troops. From Meet the Press: "Tony Blair said the problem was that our deBathification effort was too aggressive, that we toppled the basic foundations of this society and we created a vacuum and we haven’t known how to, how to, how to fill it."
Sixty Minutes

...discusses the latest ethical dilemma, the pill that makes you forget:
But then the President’s Council on Bioethics condemned the study in a report that said our memories make us who we are and that "re-writing" memories pharmacologically … risks "undermining our true identity."

"This is a quote. 'It risks making shameful acts seem less shameful or terrible acts less terrible than they really are,'" Stahl reads to Logue.

"Let me tell you something that you told us before. I'm quoting you. 'It's like they went in and altered my mind,'" Stahl tells Louise.

O'Donnell-Jasmin admits it's very creepy. "This study has taken away a part of me that's been in me for so long, and that I find very weird," she says.

"It's not normal to have gone through a rape and feel nothing. Or to have gone through something traumatic … and feel as though it happened to somebody else," Stahl tells Pitman.

"Let's suppose you have a person who comes in after a physical assault and they've had some bones broken, and they're in intense pain. Should we deprive them of morphine because we might be taking away the full emotional experience? Who would ever argue that?" Pitman replies.

"No," Stahl says.

"Why should psychiatry be different? I think that somehow behind this argument lurks the notion that mental disorders are not the same as physical disorders. That treating them or not is more of an optional thing," Pitman says.
I Like This Quiz...

...not only because I did well on it, but because it has a bit of humor:
Cubism is..."the culture surrounding the popular mechanical puzzle the Rubik's Cube".
Via Fr. Fox, who was found via Steven Riddle.

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?


[Eamon] Duffy mounts a critique of the present model of sanctity—the saint as exemplar, a person who embodies some aspect of the Christian ideal. In the past, especially the distant past, the saints were venerated as prodigies, miracle-workers, intercessors, protectors. The more they were unlike the rest of us, the better. They brought the majesty and otherness of God down to earth and allowed ordinary men and women to see and touch the divine. Hence the importance of relics. The body of the saint was the locus of supernatural power. According to Duffy, the new model of sainthood fosters Pelagianism, “a wearisome emphasis on good deeds and moral effort, the saint as prig and puritan.” In his view the older model is far better, offering us the saint as spiritual tightrope walker, ascetic star, eccentric. This analysis seems plausible in theory, but it ought to be noted that the most popular person to be beatified in recent years is the stigmatic Padre Pio, who was very much an eccentric, an ascetic, and a prodigy. - "First Things" review of Duffy's "Faith of Our Fathers" via Gashwin of "Maior autem his est caritas"

While the old elite at least recognized their place at society's peak was somewhat accidental, the meritocracy has no such humility. Meritocratic culture encourages a sense of ruthless entitlement since it "indoctrinates its students in a religion of success, and seduces them, oh so subtly, with the promise that what they have is theirs by right of talent." And elsewhere: "The modern elite's rule is regarded not as arbitrary but as just and right and true, at least if one follows the logic of meritocracy to its unspoken conclusion." --K. Jones of Philokalia Republic quoting Ross Douthat

Fiction in the right hands can cut deeper than a sword , right to the bone of truth that is too easily obscured in these days of skewed facts and targeted audiences that we find in much of nonfiction. In fact, that searing truth is one of the reasons I am afraid of Flannery O'Connor. Oh, not of her letters, which I definitely plan to read someday. But her fiction is terrifying to many. In fact, when writing to a pal who is all about literature and not at all interested in Christianity, her response was the O'Connor was "too rough, too gruesome" which we see echoed in the excerpt below. And, yet, O'Connor is all too Christian. - Julie of "Happy Catholic"

About half an hour later the phone rang. Sky TV News: would I come and debate about this employee of British Airways who has been banned from wearing a cross?...Changed from comfortable stay-at-home clothes into something more suitable. No time to tackle hair properly. Train to Waterloo. I am not usually so nervous any more about TV interviews, but this one was to be with Polly Toynbee, the militantly anti-Catholic, anti-Christian columnist on the Guardian...The debate didn't go too badly. Made the obvious points : wearing a cross is standard part of our tradition, why the fuss, get a life. Britain has been Christian for more than 1,000 years - heck, almost 2,000 years as the Faith first came here during the Roman Empire, the same Empire into which Christ himself was born.... surely the cross has a place, as of right, in our common life? The Toynbee got a bit rattled and went on and on....she wanted to see no Christian symbols anywhere in public life, no prayers in Parliament, no formal place for the Church, religion should be completely private.....Asked for a final word, I said I didn't happen to be wearing a cross myself, but I did have this small medallion depicting not Christ, but his mother - I held it up briefly - and would give it to Miss Toynbee as a gesture of goodwill. She wasn't happy. As we put on our coats afterwards I said "That was a genine offer - here's the medal" and she said no, thanks, it was v. kind of me but..... - Catholic author Joan Bogle of "Auntie joann writes"

If Christ is to be King, then He must be pierced for those who belong to His kingdom. His passion and His kingship are inseparable. Without the former, He would be merely an unloving despot; without the latter, He would be merely an exemplar of virtue. With both, He is True God from True God. -- Tom of Disputations

Bishop Bo-Peep holds offspring cheap,
Compared with a good education.
Those with PhDs, or other degrees,
Are too smart to engage in gestation...

Bishop Bo-Peep may someday reap
The harvest of seed never sown,
When she starts an oration to her congregation
And finds that she’s preaching to no one.

Bishop Bo-Peep will start to weep
And utter laments and complaints,
As the Catholics, unheeding, continue their breeding,
And so do the Latter Day Saints.

Bishop Bo-Peep has thoughts so deep,
We hope she will somehow find time
To tell us how men can be born again,
When being born once is a crime.

- Bob of "Trousered Ape", on Episcopalian Bishop Schori's remarks scorning Catholic and Mormon fruitfulness

Eventually the children learn that “Appearances are Deceptive.” They learn, that is, that there is a split between the inner life and outward appearance, between the magic of Mary Poppins and her thoroughly adult facade. This is not a reflection of hypocrisy. Both realms are necessary. Authority, order, precision — mocked in the film and on Broadway — are intertwined with her magic...Discipline is required for the magical realms to be revealed; it is what makes freedom possible. Without the one, there is meaningless fantasy; without the other, there is heartless rigidity. It is their combination that gives the fullest vision of both childhood and adulthood. -- Edward Rothstein on "Mary Poppins" by P.L. Travers

I've been reading the second volume of Thomas Merton's journals, entitled, Entering Silence, and I found this entry dated February 28, 1951 which I think remains forever timely: "Studying the baby-talk citizenship text-book that is given out to help us aliens prepare for our naturalization. Suddenly realized that this business of citizenship raises an important moral question. Impossible to take it as a mere formality. Either it means something or it doesn't. There's more to this than a problem in semantics. It is a question of justice and of charity. Why do half the people in America seem to think it is a moral weakness to admit that they owe America something – and perhaps everything? And that the country is worth loving. And that it is full of very good people – and that we owe it to one another to try to keep the place from getting like Russia or anywhere else in Europe that I can think of. "- the blogger at Vivificat on the French-born Merton

Because they don't have as much of a class system, most Americans are able to be themselves, talk straight, say what they mean and mean what they say. They may not be subtle. They may not have a wry, sarcastic sense of humor, but the average American has learned to work hard and play hard. He cracks a joke, strikes a deal, shakes a hand and what you see is what you get. Coming from a society where everyone is adept at saying one thing and meaning exactly the opposite, its a breath of fresh air. - Englishman Dwight Longnecker of "Standing on my head"

But we are not yet Orlanders in the true sense of the word. I understood this last summer when my ditchrider, who has farmed here for thirty-some years, told me with a straight face that he was "new to Orland". I meet fifth-generation Orlanders all the time. It's going to be a while before this place feels like home....Our children, at least, will have a place to call home they did not choose, a place that was given to them rather than bought, a place to be from. - Jeff of "Hallowed Ground"

November 27, 2006

From the 'You Can't Make It Up' Dep't

Shoppers know no obstacles to midnight shopping

A sign of the Apocalypse? This story, about outlet malls opening up at midnight on Thanksgiving, was hyp-mo-tizing:
Traffic was so bad near Jeffersonville that some shoppers sat in their cars and idled for hours, sometimes in lines up to 8 miles long.

Less-patient shoppers parked by the highway, dodged traffic to cross the road and then ran through the fog and darkness in wet grass and mud to scale the fence that separates the outlet mall from the highway.

The eyes have it
I'm amazed once again at the diligence and fire-in-the-belly of the American shopper. I can only look on with drop-jaw'd amazement at the spectacle. The work ethic of these people must be off the charts if they'd do something like drive an hour and shop in the middle of the night. I wouldn't do that for sex or free beer. If it was merely good deals bringing out the shoppers then it seems like they may be living a bit too close to the bone, although Ham o' Bone is frugal enough to drive 30 minutes to save $3. (He gets 55mpg so it's a net plus.) My policy concerning gifts is that if they ain't online, then they don't exist.

I've long been fascinated by the approaches in ministry to those who are prone to discouragement or despair, and recently my interest has increased due to people I'm close to having that difficulty; neither am I without a similar temptation. I sense that mostly what those people want is simply someone to listen sympathetically and to quietly absorb the negativity. Which makes sense: does not God do this for each of us? They instruct us pastorally by upfront saying something like "don't tell me to 'buck up' or that I should be grateful or to 'get over it'". And certainly even though we are the cause of most of our problems, we tend to bristle at being told that.

I feel particularly powerless in one situation with regard to a friend who is out of work. He won't take charity and he doesn't want to take on a loan and is in danger of losing his house. Here is someone with legimate troubles; he's not bellyachin' about the weather. He's got a history of depression in the family. He is vulnerable and all I seem to be able to do is listen to him and pray for him. (Your prayers appreciated btw.)
Worship in Deutschland

Ron Moffat has a post on his recent trip to Germany.

November 26, 2006

The Path to Rome, Ohio   (the long weekend in review)

It was Black Friday morning when I found myself traveling under sunny skies through a complex maze of orange barrels that signified major road construction, road construction so thorough that the highway I'd once remembered as 161 had bi-located into “Old 161” and the new regular “161”. I sailed past my exit but eventually got turned around so that I might enter a forest I’d often frequented a decade ago. On the way there I tried to think of new lyrics to Neil Diamond's "Play Me" as re-titled "Beer Me", but nothing could quite replace that deep if voice singing:
And so it was
That I came to travel
Upon the road
That was thorned and narrow
Another place
Another grace
Would save me
The park was much beiger than I’d recalled, beige from the bare brown trunks and decayed leaves on and along the paths. Seems I’d never hiked here much in winter, or for what passes for winter in these days of the Early Global Warming Era. The smooth-barked denizens lent themselves to carvings so it felt like I was traveling through a collection of names, like some sort of primitive Vietnam War Memorial. I wondered if the old-souls felt stripped of their dignity by being bearers of the teenage handicrafts, or whether they took pride in their role in conferring a promised immortality, at least immortality by human standards.

I jogged down the paths high on the succor of three consecutive days off work and I could taste the pizza with my name on it that would soon be baking in the oven of our local pizzeria. If the anticipation is usually better than the realization I was going to enjoy the anticipation. I’d woken that morning with the notion of reading twenty books on the back patio but I find exercise generally a prerequisite to decent concentration. Unfortunately too much exercise is a conduit to sleep, which makes reading in a recliner a dicey proposition. I must be relaxed enough to want to read but not too relaxed as to fall asleep. This results in much sleep and a decent amount of exercise but an average of only a novel read per year. Cue Diamond:
Song she sang to me
Song she brang to me
Words that rang in me
Rhyme that sprang from me
Warmed the night
And what was right
Became me
The sky bent-blue over the Norway pines and wistering vines and purplish thorn plants that wished to thwart any off-path explorations. This cloudlessness and warmth is such a rare feature of late Ohio November that it upped the ante of bad behavior --- I limbo'd my bike under the barrier that attempted to prohibit usage of a perfectly serviceable part of a public park. This feat of daring is comparable to when I take Alka Seltzer before the tablets are fully dissolved, but no pet peeve of mine more proves that power corrupts than that when park rangers set about making only a fifth of the park regularly available to the people who pay for it. My working theory is they like private hikes without running into the hoi poloi, a pleasure I was now able to ironically enjoy.
Up tufts of firs
like English butlers
the piney arms held bouquets
of green chandliers.
After the jog/ride I brought the pizza home and showed it to my wife, as if I’d landed a large fish. There at the ridiculously early dinner hour of 4pm I had my pizza and she had the spaghetti I'd also brought and I was oddly cheered by this rare event of being able to eat dinner while it was still light. A downy woodpecker visited the feeder and we briefly considered whether it might be a hairy woodpecker.

We broke camp for the latest Bond movie around 6:45 for the 6:45 showing, hoping to miss as much of the twenty minutes of coming attraction ads as was humanly possible. Eric Scheske had mercifully lowered expectations; to this day I don’t think I’ve ever liked a movie I’ve had high expectations going in. He said it was overly long so I was patienter [intentional sic, think of this as a pitcher's intentional walk] than normal. It was certainly the best 007 movie I’d seen in ages though I’m hardly an expert. The girlfriend of a bad guy, Caterina Murino, was startingly beautiful. I hadn’t been that taken aback since Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind.

Consecutive weekend hikes left our dog Obi dog tired. He flopped about on the love seat like he wasn’t aware he had limbs; they dangled like his floppy ears over the couch’s side.
One Lived

  The Columbus Dispatch printed a moving story this morning about the lone survivor of a shipwreck in the Great Lakes -- Edmund Fitzgerald but with one saved from death. Excerpt:
Almost immediately, Hale sensed that he was floating, circling above the raft. He then felt as if he were hurtling through space.

"I remember spinning and traveling so fast that I was laughing out loud."

Hale soon found himself standing on the forward deck of the Morrell. The ship was whole. His crewmates were there, too.

"We were together again," Hale said. "We were childlike, laughing, at peace with the world."
Hale said the men walked into the ship’s engine room, where George Dalton, the ship’s third engineer, was climbing down a ladder.

"He walked up to me and said, ‘Dennis, it’s not your time yet.’"

At that point, Hale said, he was sucked back through space, to the raft where he and his lifeless crewmates drifted in the cold.

"There had been ice all over him," Dr. Oakes said, reflecting on Hale’s arrival at the emergency room.

His body temperature was so low that it didn’t register on a thermometer.

"It was the coldest I ever felt anybody that was alive," Oakes said, noting that he and his hospital colleagues used every hotwater bottle they could find to help restore Hale’s temperature.

November 25, 2006

Requiem's Latest

I've always liked the emphasis given on praying for the dead by Jim Curley and his Requiem Press. It's (unfortunately) a bit idiosyncratic but I always think that's the sign of a true calling. Not only does he include a prayer book for the suffering souls with every book purchased, but printed on the back left corner of the back cover is: "Eternal rest grant to them O Lord. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen". Especially appropriate during this month of November.

Standing with Peter by William E. May is the latest from Requiem, a slim book about one CUA professor's experiences on the front lines of the war between dissident and orthodox theologians around the time Humane Vitae came out.

One longs for the old school education May got, when you could get an education worthy of the name. Professors like William Donovan S.J. taught courses on Plato and Plotinus, and the students were required to read them in the original Greek. You get an understanding that there is a flora and fauna of the opinions even among pro-Humane Vitae side. You'd think, for example, that May and Ralph McInerny would see eye-to-eye but May writes, "Ralph is still my friend, although we disagree vigorously on some issues, especially the proper way of understanding natural law."

If sometimes Aquinas can come through as sort of heartless and legalistic, Dr. May argues that many read St. Thomas through the lens of Jesuit scholar Francis Suarez "whose understanding of natural law is indeed legalistic and rationalistic."

I often wished May would go into more detail about just how, for example, he disagreed with McInerny or others, and I'd hoped for something more dramatic with respect to his change on Humane vitae, but the book held my attention such that I finished it in two sittings.
Buckeyes & Bond

Saw the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale, and was pleasantly surprised. As The Other Paper put it, here is finally a (semi) grown-up Bond regarding women. Or as much of a grown-up as we can hope for. And of course the armchair travel is exquisite: from deepest Africa to posh Montenegro.

Elsewhere, concerning the OSU Buckeyes, The Other Paper says what we're thinking. While the sports coverage is decent in the Dispatch, the other columns produce either irritation (for lack of balance) or tedium (i.e. 'Master of the Obvious').

November 24, 2006

Pleasure & Its Discontents

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." --Benjamin Franklin
(Solid apologetic, proto-evangelium, both or neither?)
I recall it like it was yesterday. I was a young child when a favorite uncle, normally preoccupied, showed an especial interest in me one night. Nothing untoward (it's a shame you even have to say that), but merely a warmth and interest heretofore absent. I was pleased but then crushed when Aunt Louise told me to pay no nevermind: Fred’s effusiveness was due to his being drunk. I’d thought Fred had discovered in me some grand untapped potential when he was only artificially stimulated. (Though it is interesting that the “true” Fred was taken to be the preoccupied one; when drunks are mean (ala Mel Gibson) they are said to be revealing their “true” selves, but when they are nice they are revealing a fake self. Let’s hope Michael Richards was drinking before his recent escapade if only because the I-was-drinking excuse is a terrible thing to waste and without the obligatory “I’m checking into rehab” all apologies sound hollow.)

After that incident with Uncle Fred & Aunt Louise I wanted no part of “artificial friendliness” or artificial anything. I was among the last of my classmates to discover alcohol and was brought around only reluctantly – of course– by the insistence of friends. (Do all virtues and vices originate from the examples of peers?) My disgust for drugs of any kind led to a note written as a seventh-grader to the singer John Denver asking, like the ingenue to Shoeless Joe, to say it ain’t so about rumors that “Rocky Mountain High” referred to something other than the beauty of the mountains.

What I ultimately took from Aunt Louise’s comment was one should not receive credit for a kindness artificially derived. Authenticity uber alles. But how much of kindness is derived from “fake” sources as simple as a good meal? One family member is called “Napoleon” when he’s grumpy from going too long between meals - an explicit recognition that he’s not being himself when he’s hungry. Other pleasures that might change behavior depend on the individual but might include a good book or sex or a shopping trip or a long run. “Runner’s high” seemed a way around the distrust of artificial feelings at the time. Endorphins are natural and I reasoned that modern sedentariness is what is actually unnatural since we’ve evolved with a need for much physical activity.

But ultimately it seemed a Jesuitical difference, being high on alcohol versus endorphins. Indeed the line between artificially-induced warmth and naturally-induced warmth began to seem artificial and it led to a hermeneutic of suspicion regarding pleasure in general. Puritanically, only warmth untainted by pleasure beforehand seemed authentic. I thought that one ought be high on God, not on anything "earthly", nevermind that the earth came from God. And wasn’t that why the saints wore hairshirts and fasted so much? Was it not to remove the artificial props of earthly pleasures so that their love could be authentic? Yet Aquinas said that man cannot live without pleasure. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that pleasure is not the purpose of life. Not contradictory, but Fulton Sheen’s statement could be misinterpreted as meaning that pleasure is irrelevant. What if we could find pleasure in service? But even service is a slippery concept. We might piously think that a single act of charity is worth more than any poem ever written but one could visit a lonely person and lessen their sadness once, while a poet like Dante has given pleasure to millions, both lonely and not, many times.

November 22, 2006


 I just received Robert Novak's e-letter on recent news from the Beltway and once again I'm reminded of how little I know about politics. He says:
Never before has a new speaker entered office on such a sour note as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Her vigorous and totally rejected campaign for Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) supports widespread cloakroom sentiment that she is not qualified for her high office and is there because of her gender and the support of the huge California delegation.
And yet I didn't see it as a mistake at all. She wanted Murtha as her man Friday and couldn't get him. So what. She lost a vote. I guess this is one of those "perception is reality" deals that is also the rationale given by some for why we can't leave Iraq. (There are good reasons to stay; I just don't find that one particularly compelling.) I suppose if Pelosi is seen to lose the fight she is immediately seen as "weak". But I think it's a sign of strength to fight for, in her view, the best leadership team. (Maybe I should read Machiavelli some day. Huge hole in my education.)

More Novakian:
A wide assortment of Republican notables, including some fellow administration appointees and many of Rumsfeld's quiet critics, were nonetheless upset about his treatment. Even Vice President Dick Cheney is said to be profoundly disturbed by Rumsfeld's treatment. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the soon-to-be-former Armed Services Committee chairman, calls it "a mistake for him to resign." But many others, even those less supportive of Rumsfeld, said they were "appalled" -- the most common descriptive word -- by the President's performance.
Again I'm left dumbfounded. One of the truisms of the Bush White House is that, for better or worse, the personal always trumped the performance. Having a Republican-led Congress meant he never had to veto anything. (I think he's vetoed one bill in six years.) Receiving inadequate intelligence regarding both 9/11 and Iraq meant no one got fired at the intelligence agencies. Fighting a war where there was as much post-war planning as the amount of planning that went into this post means... ? Well certainly Bush is generally very loyal, and I'm not saying his leadership style is wrong. In some ways it is similar to Pope John Paul II's, who likewise was gentle with subordinates and very reluctant to resort to disciplinary measures. My only point is that surely one can't be shocked by the firing, can one?

On another front, I'm sort of hyp-mo-tized by NRO's discussion over Romney's chances in the '08 election given his religion. There are varying opinions about how much being a member of one of America's least intellectually defensible religions should matter. Atheists would say the same about Christians, but Christianity has a historical record. The archeological record supports the Bible but not the Book of Mormon and American Indians are not the lost tribe of Israel. The Corner is commenting here, here and here.
Help Save Sophia Institute Press
Shakespeare & Campion


In his biography of William Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt compares martyr St. Edmund Campion with the Bard:
[Campion] was a fanatic or, more accurately, a saint. And saints, Shakespeare understood all his life, were dangerous people.

Or perhaps, rather, it would be better to say that Shakespeare did not entirely understand saints, and that what he did understand, he did not entirely like. In the huge panoply of characters in his plays, there are strikingly few who would remotely qualify.

There are many forms of heroism in Shakespeare, but ideological heroism - the fierce, self-immolating embrace of an idea or an institution - is not one of them.

The only sainthood in which Shakespeare seems passionately to have believed throughout his life derives precisely from the subject matter and emotions that Campion wished his students at all costs to avoid: erotic sainthood.
Winter Progress

I label winter as November through March since the average daily high plunges between October and November and rises strongly between March and April. That means five months and studies show that progress bars help make it easier.

So here's a quick 'n dirty Excel spreadsheet formula that shows how far along we are:

We're already 14% done with winter!
Also via TDE, from a former jihadist:
Lopez: Why don’t we hear from more Muslim moderates?

Darwish: There is a fear factor that all Arabs share of never speak against our own culture, tribe or religion and it does not matter how wrong or right they are. But it is more than just fear. Most Muslims believe that jihad is their duty and is part and parcel of being a good Muslim. That creates a conflict with us since many of us truly believe that many of these terrorists are great jihadists. Osama bin Laden was a hero among many Muslims. Many Muslim leaders tell the West in English they are against violent jihad; but in private, in Arabic, they praise the jihadists and the martyrs.

Lopez: Is there anything we can do to encourage more moderate Muslims to speak out?

Darwish: After 9/11 very few Americans of Arab and Muslim origin spoke out and from my experience it took us a long time to get noticed by Western media. Western media still regards Muslim organizations such as CAIR as representative of moderate Muslims in America. This is not the case. Radical Muslim groups in the U.S. try to silence us and intimidate American campuses who invite us to speak. I often tell Muslim students that Arab Americans who are speaking out against terrorism are not the problem, it’s the terrorists who are giving Islam a bad name. And what the West must do is ask the politically incorrect questions and we Americans of Arab and Muslim origin owe them honest answers.

Lopez: Is Iraq doomed?

Darwish: My views on Iraq are 50/50 hope for Iraq itself; but I believe that it was right for America to take out Saddam. The same people who criticized Bush senior for not taking out Saddam in 1991, are the same people who criticized President George W. Bush for taking out Saddam. Unfortunately we are playing too much politics when it comes to the war on terror. Iraq was doomed with or without the removal of Saddam who was never going to hesitate in helping terrorists. Terrorists are not accidentally in the Middle East; they are the product of the political and religious system and they are defended and given excuses and called heroes in Arab media. Now it is up to the Iraqis to take this great opportunity for freedom that America has given them. It’s an open question if the rest of the Arab and Muslim world allow that — will the tyrannies surrounding them allow them to make decisions for themselves or will the larger picture of hostilities in the Middle East take over Iraq? That is the question that will be answered in the future and I have not given up hope because the Iraqi people have had a taste voting for their leaders and they will never be the same again. I truly feel that ten years from now we might thank George W. Bush as the hero of Middle East democracy.
Gone But Not Forgotten

Kathy the Carmelite, aka KTC, celebrates a birthday on Thanksgiving.
The Daily Eudemon...

...says what we're thinking:
Most Mondays are hard, but not this one. Today kicks off one of the best weeks of the year. The office is closed Thursday and Friday. I’m not working Wednesday. I end up working for a fifth of the week, drinking for a fifth of it (don’t take that too seriously), eating for a fifth of it, studying for a fifth of it, and relaxing for a fifth of it. As a kid, Thanksgiving is your least favorite holiday. As an adult, it shoots up to second or third.
We eat a big Thanksgiving meal with my in-laws at noon and then travel two hours to Cincy for another huge meal with my family. So it's, shall we say, a busy and fattening day.

November 21, 2006

Bill O'Reilly's Win - he who squashed the airing of O.J.'s special

One can only marvel at the hatred Bill O'Reilly receives from the secular Left. It's a pretty clear sign he's doing a lot right, although perhaps part of the dislike is due to his tireless self-focus. Yet even his self-indulgences have the benefit of being entertaining, going so far beyond the expected norm that there's almost an innocence about it. He recently had on a body language expert who examined his appearances on Oprah and David Letterman - in other words, a segment on his television show rating himself on other television shows. Brilliant! Then too, there was the interview with George W. Bush during which he recommended the president read his book, taking chutzpah to new heights. Of course it's hard to have the chutzpah to take on the whole media establishment, to be a persona non grata at every cocktail party held on the island of Manhattan, and not have the chutzpah to find oneself a fascinating topic. Bill might find himself very interesting but a lot of Americans feel similarly about him. But there is an innocence: he thought his book would help the president and I believe he honestly believes it will help, in which case it really wasn't about him. Despite appearances.

Those who hate O'Reilly see everything he does as a ratings grab and their cynicism knows no bounds. In reference to heavy Fox News criticism over the planned Fox airing of the O.J. interview, one reporter said that the entertainment and news divisions were designed that way - that Fox News could slam what Fox was putting out, thus ginning up the ratings for both. The entertainment division ended up pulling the interview off the air, leaving egg on that reporter's face and a smile on O'Reilly's.

What bothers me is his occasional emphasis on the temporal at the expense of the eternal. I recall he took the Vatican and the Holy Father to task for not sufficiently helping in the war on terror, a provincial view that places the war on terror above any niggling transcendent spiritual concerns Rome might have. O'Reilly appears to judge a pope not on his effectiveness in protecting his children from Hell but on his effectiveness in protecting them from Al Qaeda. He also seems far too comfortable for my taste with using torture (or things infinitely approaching torture without quite reaching it) in order to potentially save American lives. Using evil as a means to an end presupposes that that end is the ultimate one when it is merely earthly and thus transitory.

Still, O'Reilly does much good by a good means such as advocating for abused children, publicizing judges who are derelict in their duty, exposing "doctors" who perform partial-birth abortions, contributing large sums to charity, and by using his bully pulpit to give voice to traditionalists and conservatives who are normally shut out of the MSM.
Beer & Its Contents

Rich Leonardi laments a surplus of beer (pardon that double oxymoron) in his refrigerator: "Italian people -- or, in my case, people of Italian descent -- don't like beer, especially "cheap" beer. Sure, we drink it in college, but that's what you're supposed to do in college."

Fr. Martin Fox has an attitude of gratitude (hey, that rhymed - maybe I can be the next Jesse Jackson):

While I am all for good beer, I tell people I have three favorite beers:

1. Free Beer
2. Cold Beer
3. Another Beer
Amen padre.

I'm appreciative of a nearby microbrewer. They advertise with a big sign saying FRESH beer brewed daily, which always reminds me of a certain "bobber beer test"...

Often what drives the search for theological excuses to stay away from the Catholic Church is the fear that, should the Church's claims turn out to be sound, one will be exiled back to that loveless parish one left. Now the stupidest thing Catholics can do (and some of them do it constantly) is to *mock* this reason for leaving the Church. As though the fundamental requirement of the human soul for love, work, and meaning is a sign of weakness and stupidity. I don't know how often I've run across Catholics for whom *any* mention of love in connection with the faith is sneered at as "Kumbaya Catholicism". This peculiar notion that orthodoxy and love are enemies has to be ruthlessly killed. - Mark of "Catholic & Enjoying It"

I think this is a general problem with matters liturgical: whatever happens, someone who shouldn't see it as validating their erroneous point of view will in fact see it as validating their erroneous point of view. - Zippy of ZippyCatholic

The whole debate (and similar ones) really irritates and even offends me. It seems like such an inappropriate distraction from what is really important, namely Christ on the altar. So the exultation that someone like Jimmy Akin shows over the possible change in the translation seems highly excessive...Also quite frankly, I wish laypeople would stop playing armchair pope or parish priest and just be happy with what the Church decides. I find the idea of campaigning for liturgical change very - no extremely - troubling. It seems to be the same type of mindset that lies behind rebellion against the Magisterium on a whole host of other issues. Honestly, if people spent as much time evangelizing and performing acts of charity as they do worrying over every minutiae of the liturgy, the Body of Christ would be a lot better off, and perhaps we wouldn't have the divisions we have today. - Commenter Ryan on Zippy's blog concerning "pro multis"

Bad liturgy numbs the soul. Stewing over bad liturgy kills the soul. - Tom of Disputations

I don't think I have ever seen a construction site in the United States where illegal alien workers have been loitering around, even for a second. Instead they are flurries of activity. But in Mexico it seems there are far too many workers per site, and they are about as busy as Greek or Italian construction workers. There is clearly something about American business organization, or the necessities of a free market, or perhaps the fact the more eager and desperate leave and the content stay that explains such a paradox visible even to the naked eye...Can it be, then, that illegal immigration that empties Mexico of its bread-winners and male heads of families results in more, not less, destabilizing social and cultural chaos? - Victor Hanson on NRO

I realized today, waiting to see yet another doctor for yet another test, that I have organized my life to eliminate waiting, insofar as anyone who is not wealthy can. It wasn’t conscious, but I’ve always worked in fast spurts rather than steady flows, and when I start something or arrive somewhere, I want it to zip and zing and get done. And the body—that vile slosh and sway of meat around our bones—ah, yes, that’s the thing that breaks us, in the end, to the yoke of mere enduring....And it is, of course, the doctor’s office that brings it home. Somewhere in one of his great essays on Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton describes the novelist as having a “generous impatience.” It sounds almost admirable, until he explains that Dickens was the kind of man who would put his fist through a window if it wouldn’t open fast enough and he wanted air. Much in my life I have arranged to escape temptations to furious impatience, but avoiding the occasions of vice doesn’t actually teach one the practice of the corresponding virtue, and I have found in myself these past few weeks a slow but constant irritability. For the medievals, patience was the virtue opposed to the vice of anger, while for moderns it seems rather to be the virtue by which boredom should be confronted. I hadn’t realized the connection until recently, for the idea of boredom always suggested to me the dangers of ennui and acedia. Sitting in the doctor’s office, like patience on a monument, however, I start to get it. - Jody Bottum of "First Things"

We've found that the Newbery & Caldecott awards provide reliable lists of children's books to avoid. Sometimes we'll consider a book then,"Oh, wait - it won a Newbery. Next." - Bill of Summa Minutiae, via email

I've long argued that one of the reasons Washington-based reporters are liberal, or statist, is that if the subject they cover is considered hugely important, then they in turn will be considered hugely important. A sure sign of this is how fascinated the big media is with stories about big media. If nuclear engineers took over the MSM tomorrow, stories about nuclear power plants would get a lot more front page coverage. - Jonah Goldberg of "The Corner"

This is the most striking sentence I've read in a while: "God alone is man's true good, and since man abandoned him it is a strange fact that nothing in nature has been found to take his place: stars, sky, earth, elements, plants, cabbages, leeks, animals, insects, calves, serpents, fever, plague, war, famine, vice, adultery, incest. (Pascal, Pensees)." God to stars to leeks to incest is quick work. - Richard Brookhiser on "The Corner"

If you listened to the bishops' know that every time a bishop or someone else refers to same-sex attraction as anything close to a problem - analogizing it with a sin (I think Bishop Serratelli was questioned about analogizing it to greed and a couple of other capital sins) or, as the Paulist priest does to alcoholism, you find those same people called on the carpet, asked to explain themselves and apologize...consider what the Catechism says about homosexuality. Does it say that homosexuals, with enough work, can become heterosexuals? No - the general idea is that homosexuals, with enough "work," can become holy. Just like the rest of "us," and in exactly the same way as the rest of "us." By letting Christ live in us, so it is no longer I, but Christ. Catholic thinking, teaching and practice, it seems to me, has been fairly consistent, when you look at the broad stream of it. There is an implicit recognition that human beings, suffering from the effects of original sin, living in a world of sin, are afflicted with desires that take them from God...The desires that push us toward these acts are treated as temptation - and the same general remedies are offered, no matter what that temptation is.- Amy Welborn

Should the phone or beeper go off more than one time during the course of the semester, you will be counted absent, thereby allowing you to experience the metaphysical marvel of being here, and yet not being here, at the same time. It's sort of a companion experience to bilocation, which allows you to be in two places at once, except in this case you're not anywhere at all. - from professor Bill Luse's syllabus

Well, folks in Columbus, Ohio can take down the makeshift nooses and put away their pistols - the Big Game is over, and OSU won. That sound you hear is the collective sigh of relief on the part of all those Suicide Hotline volunteers who realize they don't have to pull a double shift. Truly, this town is crazed. All the same, it was a great game. Now, let's move on, shall we? Peace out. - Thomas of "Endlessly Rocking"

Youth is very sad. It sees the possibility
Of wrinkles coming. Even in Arcady, death stalks.
Old age, on the contrary, is happy. It says,
“Just think, I have today.” Besides, Einstein’s
Face, surrounded by its halo of white hair,
Grew more interestingly intricate with every year.
Every wrinkle wondered. Imagine
How fortunate to be the musician who, when he heard
He was going blind, exclaimed, “Great. Now
I’ll have time to play all my records.”


November 20, 2006

Remembering Woody

Came across the following snippet of Mike Harden's column, written almost twenty years ago after the death of Woody Hayes, whose on-the-field rival Bo Schembechler recently died:
Woody Hayes and Ohio State football were congenitally joined at the hip; yet, the first time I personally heard him speak in public, it had nothing to do with the game. It was the spring of 1970. My first quarter as a freshman at Ohio State was about to be cut short by the campus riots. The Oval was filled with strikers, gawkers and campus cops. Some firebrand revolutionary who wouldn’t have known Lenin from Irving Berlin was admonishing the crowd to seize the moment as they chanted, ‘’On strike! Shut it down!'’ There in the throng, sandwiched amid the tie-dye revolutionaries, stood Woody Hayes. Arms folded across his chest, he listened quietly to several speakers until one of the organizers spotted him and summoned him to the platform.

To the strikers, it was intended to be a moment of high camp. They had spotted Quasimodo in the bell tower and hauled him down to make sport of him.

As Woody stepped to the microphone to catcalls and hisses, the strikers taunted, ‘’First and ten, do it again. First and ten, do it again.'’

I can’t remember precisely what he said, but it had something to do with sportsmanship and fairness as those ideals applied to the crisis at hand. It was an appeal to reason squandered on a group to whom Woody represented the father who never liked their politics, their hair or their music.

Of the myriad of feelings I had experienced growing up with Woody, pity was a new one. How, I wondered, could he ever have imagined that a fatherly pep talk would have calmed that hellbent rabble?

…I was watching the Gator Bowl at a friend’s house in 1978 the night Woody took the swing that ended his career. He went down, a writer friend of mine observed, like Melville’s Ahab, a man pinioned to his obsession. It was sad. All of my life, he had been bigger than life. I was not merely witnessing a man losing his job. Popes are supposed to remain popes till they die.

I fully expected Woody to become an embittered recluse, whiling away his last days watching old game films in a darkened room like some latter-day Philip Nolan in E.E. Hale’s The Man Without a Country.

He did not, and, peculiarly, what transformed him from exile to elder statesman was his tenacious hold on the values and ideals I had thought so shallow on that spring day when he took on several hundred campus protesters.

Compensation. The pay-forward theory. It had seemed like some flimsy platitude penned by a greeting card company for a high school graduation card. Not for Woody. He lived it, breathed it.
On Politically Correct Children's Books

Okay, so back to children's books. Sunday's Columbus Dispatch had a huge multi-page spread on the subject, with plentiful suggestions. Award winners were mentioned, as well as suggestions from an august local panel of children's book experts. (Oddly, the names on the panel were in the print edition only. Paper is ephemeral but digital lasts forever.)

Now here's my take. It seems like there are a few basic givens in the award winners and Dispatch selectees. The message of the stories is usually a good one - that the outcast should be accepted. But the choice of the outcast is predictable and has been for thirty years (i.e. Nazism, not Communism - bookburnings by Nazis, not by Stalinites). The villians are likewise predictable (think business and institutional religion). It's not that the victims aren't "worthy" victims, it's just funny how they're never Christians. Not an evangelical or a Catholic in the group, never set in a country like China today or Russia under Communism.

Fit subjects are: the Holocaust, slavery, minorities, even vegetarians being teased by their meat-eating schoolmates. (You say, "why don't you go to a Christian publisher if you want stories about Christians?" That's true, but I always think, perhaps unfairly, that the quality will be low. I always think that if I ever see a book with a Christian scapegoat/outcast in the Columbus Dispatch then it must be an incredibly well-written book. The problem with Christian publishers is the bar is too low. The problem with liberal newspapers is the bar is too high. Rock, meet hard place.)

So below are examples immediately found while skimming the Dispatch page. The historical-fiction choices were especially politically correct:
Weedflower - The life of a Japanese-American family is dramatically changed with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Patterson - the story of the 1912 textile workers' strike in Lawrence, Mass.

The Loud Silence of Francine Green - A transfer student who raises issues of freedom of speech and the Hollywood blacklist upsets the norm at an all-girl Roman Catholic school in 1949-1950 Los Angeles.

The Legend of Bass Reeves - Story of a runaway slave who later became a cattle rancher

Copper Sun - a 15-yr Ashanti is abducted by slavers

The Pox Party - A black youth is raised in Revolutionary War-era Boston.

Porch Lies - The African-American traditions of storytelling are celebrated.

The Cat with the Yellow Star - Rubin tells the story of Ela Weissberger, a Holocaust survivor.

Bella at Midnight - Bella discoveres she's actually the daughter of a knight...The medieval tale includes a worthy heroine with a 21st-century feminism. [Wow..21st century feminism].
Perhaps I should simply be grateful that most of the stories have the excellent message of looking out for others. But the sheer predictability of the protagonists and antagonists has reached the land of parody....Hmm...maybe I should work on the story of a Japanese-American sold into slavery, later forced to work at a textile mill where she is silenced by her Roman Catholic captors because she doesn't want the Hayes Code instituted. Instead I bought a couple gift books from here (scroll down).
Amusing Anecdote (though not for Minister McNamara)

From Schauinger's biography of Stephen T. Badin, here concerning early 1800s revivals in the Midwest:
The revivalist ministers would take most literally a particular text from the Bible and attempt to show their piety and their conversion from sin. The sentence "unless ye become as little children" would move the excited to get out in the aisle and gallop up and down on a stick or to play marbles or to do anything that might convince the Lord that they had now become little children. Another group might be running around on all fours, barking up a tree and exclaiming their success of treeing the Devil. One notable revivalist preacher...leaped out into the audience and started creeping on his belly and moving along on hands and knees, trying to impersonate the Devil, stopping every once in a while in order to get across by crying, "I am the old serpent that tempted Eve!" It was too much and too good. An old man simply couldn't resist the impulse - as McNamara slid past him a heavy boot stomped down on his face and a ringing cry swelled out, "And I am the Woman that crushed him."

Well I was planning on blogging about politically correct children's books today but it all seems a bit petty after reading Zippy, which I'd done after ill-advisedly weighing in last night on the pro multis controversy (over on another blogorhythm). Zippy has the proper disposition; a diplomatic and wise take:
Personally I'm just grateful to be there in His presence, no matter what externals obtain. That isn't to say that the externals are irrelevant or unimportant: they are critical. But I find it impossible to be anything but grateful (and a little scared) in the presence of any valid consecration. I can see reasons why "for many" might be catechetically better: specifically because it includes an implicit caution against presumption. But when I am attentive to what is really happening during the consecration, "what are we learning from this" is the last thing on my mind, or certainly feels as though it should be the last thing on my mind. The first thing on my mind is (or ought to be) dumbstruck awe. And the thing which should be inspiring dumbstruck awe isn't the external accidents.

November 18, 2006

Congrats to the Buckeyes!

November 17, 2006

News of our Week

The big news around our homestead this week was the Obi emo-a-thon (short for “emotion-athon”). The “bright” dog, so labeled by a vet assistant, had swallowed eight to twelve inches of dental floss. I have a hunch he could've eaten far more without ill effect since he routinely “dumpster dives” and consumes the contents of indoor garbage cans. There’s often been floss in this particular can but it was only this time I’d caught him and I sense he's like the drunk driver who got caught the seven-hundredth time he'd driven drunk. We tried to induce vomiting with hydrogen peroxide but he’s a big dog and is able to fend off bodily assaults that would’ve had smaller dogs puking their proverbial guts out.

Two days later, after noting a rare loss of appetite and an episode of (belated) vomiting, we took him to the emergency vet. They took x-rays of our dog and our wallets and found both with excesses that needed to be purged. Obi’s was a suspicious “gas pocket”. Now, since the colon is the natural environment of gas, it seemed a stretch even at the time that he should be kept overnight for observation and fluids. Reports have it that he barked quite loudly and crisply at 3am. He seemed nonplussed at all the fuss. “Why am I here?” asked Admiral Stockdale in the ‘92 vice-presidential debate and one imagines Obi saying the same thing with more cause. The crisis was over as soon as it’d begun and a day later we were laughing about the “$600 fart”. (I was laughing because I wasn’t paying for it; Obi's officially my wife's dog.)

But fortunes changed as they often do. Our laughter was shortlived after receiving a disturbing phone call a few days later. The vet had sent the x-rays to a radiologist as they routinely do. The radiologist noticed an alarming mass which the emergency room vet had not the training to have noticed. An ultrasound was called for, and Obi was taken to his regular vet for that. This vet said the large mass was next to either the spleen or liver – only a specialist could tell for sure. Naturally we assumed it was a tumor as that seemed the likely explanation though son Aaron came up with an extremely plausible one: “it’s probably a sock.”

So Friday my wife took him to the specialist for a second ultrasound and to possibly take a biospy. But about 11:15am she called me at work sobbing jubilant tears -- the mass was just part of his spleen! It was not only beyond our expectations it was more than we dared hope for. German Shepherds have larger spleens than normal, and apparently Obi’s had “folded over,” at least during the xray & ultrasound, making it look like there was a foreign mass next to a smaller-sized spleen.

The night before when all was dark, it was touching to hear of my wife's yearning for clarity with respect to animals and Heaven. If she could know for sure then Obi’s death, either now or in the future, would be bearable. I was touched by it in part because it was evidence of her reverence for truth; she would not believe a lie only to give her comfort (though there is no evidence it is a lie and that animals don't go to Heaven.) But how could God not be pleased by her seeking truth? How many determine their doctrine or morals by what they can personally bear? Perhaps some small personal revelation is in the offing but if it is not it’s all for the good. In her is the familiar struggle between faith and reason and I was proud that she abandoned neither reason or faith. Real faith works its way through the fog of cloudiness.

My own fog is how Heaven can be truly heavenly while being exclusive rather than inclusive. If something or someone is missing, how can there be perfect happiness? One can look at it such that the Beatific Vision is like a drug, something that takes our mind off everything else. In that sense looking at God is like being so drunk with love that you scarcely notice anything else. But that is proven blatantly false by the saints, who intercede for us poor earthly saps even while enjoying the divine vision.
Fictional Friday

He was a bundle of contradictions. Morose but capable of a huge smile. Lover of the workplace, yet avoider of actual work. Serious of mien, yet hard to take seriously. He lumbered around to various cubicles as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders and indeed he would not take a day off to save his life. Every year he carried over unusued vacation days and would come in even on declared off days.

His presence was naturally startlingly. I’d be minding my own business when suddenly there was the gleaming bald head and gremlin-like teeth and high forehead, the latter which always reminded me of National Review’s Richard Brookhiser’s, though not surprisingly he'd never heard of Brookhiser since he was an avowed liberal who called himself a moderate. Liberals and moderates don’t read Brookhiser.

He had the kind of yogic self-composure that reminded me of single people or the narcissistic. He was the former, I can't speak to the latter. You say blogging is by nature narcissitic and that I’m splitting hairs. Perhaps so.

His presence was contemplative. He spoke of his yoga stretches. He was into psychology and Myers-Briggs and something called “emotional intelligence”. I could've wished for an intelligence a bit closer to the ground. I think: Where's the love for "practical intelligence"? There was, of course, much enthusiaism on his part when his boss asked him to collect our Myers-Briggs scores. I couldn’t help but wish some of that enthusiasm would transfer to our joint project, a project joint only in the way that a man and a goat jointly accomplish the production of milk. Still, the letter of the law was that he was the lead and so if he seemed needlessly authoritarian (for a socialist) then I could deal.

I’d always wondered how others dealt with him successfully. Rumors all had it that he didn’t but of course, in my pride, I always liked a challenge. I would be the one to get along well with him. Ponderous and slow, he approached each difficulty using a two-pronged approach: 1) what was the maximum pain he could inflict on me and 2) how little could something matter and still draw his attention (i.e. why clean a bathroom with a mop when you could use a toothbrush?). Yet he was like Pat Morita in “Karate Kid” -- every job ought be done perfectly, no matter how long it takes and indeed time for him was irrelevant, transcendent. Take as long as you want! Do little things with great love is what he did, though admittedly it wasn’t him doing the work. Laying up large burdens with great love might be said to be his specialty. Still, he had a fine craftsman’s appreciation for quality and he knew that the end towards which we were working was not the company’s bottom line or the utility of the product made, but how well the product was made.
Conversation that could only take place in Columbus

Relayed to me by my wife:
"Did you hear about Schembechler? Getting his boys fired up for the game like that? A--hole."

"Was he a bad guy?"

"I won't speak ill of the dead."

"Uh you just called him an a--hole."
Week in Review Items

  • Made the mistake of checking out The Drudge Report. Learned that some reprehensible person (Judith Regan) is publishing OJ Simpson's book. Pardon me while I vomit. Profiting from crime is a truly horrendous idea.

  • I was oddly discomfited by the watching PBS’s special on Okinawa. At least that’s what led me to google my great uncle, who’d served in WWII. I found nothing about his service to our country but instead found too much information (TMI) about his son, who shares the same name and who is also a devout Catholic. He’s a comer in the union world and is making a healthy $140K as a union leader. The other thing Google told me was that he contributed at least $200 to Hillary Clinton’s 2006 Senate campaign. Ouch. Goethe, phone your office?

  • The weightroom was filled with butane-lighters of girls, with hot flames of skin jutting above halters and peaking below shirts tight and small. One can almost not blame the girls for where can they shop for non-harlot clothes? I suppose they are assuming the shape of their culture as fully as I did mine back in the 80s.
  • Say What?

    This news story, about how pollution might solve the problem of global warming, reminds me of one of my favorite Homer Simpson quotes: "To alcohol - the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."

    November 16, 2006

    Oh Yes...

    Announcing the Nigerian Scammer T-shirt!

    There's one for the Christmas list.

    I'm reading an interesting book, The Historical Dimensions of Irish Catholicism by Emmet Larkin, which sheds more light on why the Irish became so fervent in the Faith between the 1830s to the 1860s, a "devotional revolution" that carried with great strength until just the past few decades when materialism and exposure to the globalized culture have triggered a re-paganization of the country. Ultimately it comes down to the familiar refrain that it is only when we're stripped of the earthly do we tend to go to God (i.e. God as "Friend of last resort" and His Body the Church as culture of last resort). It also reminds me of how our pastor Msgr. Lane reads St. Paul's mentions of the "flesh" opposing the Spirit as referring to "culture" rather than physical flesh:
    The crucial question still remains - why did the Irish people respond so readily to the reform of their Church and become virtually practicing Catholics within a generation? The Great Famine was truly a gigantic psychological shock, and it certainly would be both neat and convenient to be able to assign so impressive a cause for so remarkable an effect. A guilt-ridden and frightened people turning more formally and fervently to their God in their hour of need makes more, indeed, than a good deal of superficial sense. The problem, of course, is that the devotional need appears to have been increasingly present before the famine, and only the adverse circumstances of population growth and the lack of money and personnel on the part of the Church prevented the need from being realized. The famine, therefore, was as much the occasion for as a cause of the devotional revolution being made and consolidated in Ireland, and one must probe more deeply if one is to understand why as well as how this remarkable historical phenomenon took place.

    ...The Irish, after all, had been gradually losing their language, their culture, and their way of life for nearly a hundred years before the famine...In a word, then, Irishmen who were aware of being Irish were losing their identity, and this accounts in large part for their becoming practicing Catholics.    --Emmet Larkin
    Those Who Can't, Write

    Lord knows I shouldn't be telling journalists how to do their job, but it's funny how often they are incurious to the point of missing the story. I too had read the line "she had been curator of manuscripts at two universities in America, Princeton and Huntingdon" [sic] and immediately became skeptical.
    Friends in High Places

    Celestial matchmaker
    make me a match--
    Sheen for Mom
    Thérèse for Ron
    Blessed Margaret for Margaret,
    and Mary for all.
    Referring to that last post...

    What to make of the fact that those gifted with money (welfare) are less generous than those who have earned it (the working poor)? It's counterintuitive, isn't it? We would seem to feel less claim to that which is given to us rather than earned.

    Of course it's not random as to who works and who receives welfare. The spiritual poverty that often accompanies material poverty might predict less generosity among the welfare recipients. (Although I'm also thinking of Mr. Skimpole, admittedly a fictional character dreamed up by Charles Dickens in Bleak House, who was both generous and utterly dependent on the largess of others.) It's also possible, of course, that those receiving welfare have less money to give than even the working poor.

    November 15, 2006

    On Giving

    Some interesting statistics on who gives:
    The working poor in America give more to charity than the middle class

    The American working poor are, relative to their income, some of the most generous people in America today. The nonworking poor, however—those on public assistance instead of earning low wages—give at lower levels than any other group. In other words, poverty does not discourage charity in America, but welfare does.
    More from the book Who Really Cares:
    The conventional wisdom runs like this: Liberals are charitable because they advocate government redistribution of money in the name of social justice; conservatives are uncharitable because they oppose these policies. But note the sleight of hand: Government spending, according to this logic, is a form of charity.

    Let us be clear: Government spending is not charity. It is not a voluntary sacrifice by individuals. No matter how beneficial or humane it might be, no matter how necessary it is for providing public services, it is still the obligatory redistribution of tax revenues.

    In 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more money to charity than households headed by a liberal ($1,600 to $1,227). This discrepancy is not simply an artifact of income differences; on the contrary, liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families, and conservative families gave more than liberal families within every income class, from poor to middle class to rich.

    If we look at party affiliation instead of ideology, the story remains largely the same. For example, registered Republicans were seven points more likely to give at least once in 2002 than registered Democrats (90 to 83 percent).

    The differences go beyond money and time. Take blood donations, for example. In 2002, conservative Americans were more likely to donate blood each year, and did so more often, than liberals.
    The Media...

    ...plays right into Ann Coulter's hands. It's amusing how obvious the bias of the MSM. Perhaps there will come a day when Coulter has to stretch for material but for now her columns write themselves:
    In the past week, there are 476 documents on Nexis heralding the magnificent achievement of Nancy Pelosi becoming the FIRST WOMAN speaker of the House. I thought we had moved beyond such multicultural milestones.

    The media yawned when Condoleezza Rice became the first black woman secretary of state...
    Our Columbus Dispatch led the parade this past Sunday with a piece on Pelosi that would make a public relations firm blush with embarrassment.
    Sur-prise, Sur-prise! (say like Gomer Pyle)

    What American accent do you have?
    Your Result: The Midland

    "You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

    The West
    North Central
    The Inland North
    The South
    The Northeast
    What American accent do you have?
    Take More Quizzes
    Via Irish Elk
    The More Things Change...

    ...the more they stay the same. Anti-Americanism that is. Came across this in a decade-old journal entry:
    Now the U.S. tries to save Grenada for democracy and you'd think we marched on Paris, sacked the Louvre and installed the Mona Lisa at the Smithsonian.
    Iraq & Lowry's Vietnam History

    The bishops' statement on Iraq mentions how public discussion has been sorely lacking given its dumbed down "cut & run" versus "stay the course" character. Very true. The Conference also seems to put faith in James Baker's commission - which might at least provide political cover to do the right thing whatever the heck the right thing is in Iraq. Whatever the merits of the "wise men" of that commission, it's hard to believe they come up with a rabbit out of their hat. If they do then my hat's off to them.

    There are conflicting views on our role. The New Yorker showed a picture of George Bush in a shop with a lot of broken glasses and pots. This is the "you break it, you buy it" school, which suggests America should be there until the violence has lessened to some level of livability. (Of course, the New Yorker folks would probably favor immediate withdrawl, so that cover was more about giving George Bush hell than anything else.) Complicating the matter is that we don't want to have inadvertently created another terrorist-sponsoring state. Rounding out the complication is undoubtedly part of the equation is how it would look to withdrawl. But why should how something look matter? We made a mistake; it happens. Reagan withdrew from Lebanon back around '86 - did that really have such horrible repercussions? And yet Lowry in the article quoted below says that if we "lose in Iraq our enemies will realize insurgency is the surest way to frustrate us." Well, duh, I think they've already discovered that. The cat's already out of the bag on that one Richard. Win, lose, or draw every nation in the world learned that with our experience in Vietnam and has re-learned it in Iraq.

    Interesting to me is how we are supposedly fighting in part for democracy in Iraq and yet we don't simply let them vote whether they want our military there or not. What would've been helpful from the bishops is to know where our responsibility for Iraq ends. We arguably had a right to remove Saddam, given that he didn't honor the Gulf War ceasefire agreement, but after that it gets very murky very quickly. What if you wanted a civil war but American troops wouldn't let you? Is it our moral obligation to prevent a war there? Where does "you break it, you buy it" stop and the freedom of a society to determine its own future begin?

    Rich Lowry in National Review has a unique take on Vietnam and Iraq, one that I've long shared, even though I thought his reason to stay in Iraq was questionable. He says that the U.S. did not lose in Vietnam because the military wasn’t given the freedom to pursue a conventional war:
    The true lesson of Vietnam is that the civilian leadership should exercise close supervision of the military and ensure that, when fighting an insurgency, it utilizes all those tools — such as intensive small-unit patrolling, intelligence gathering, and training of indigenous forces — that don’t come naturally to a U.S. Army that is most comfortable when simply closing with and smashing a conventional enemy.

    As Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr. recounts in his classic book on the military’s failures in the war, The Army and Vietnam, it was a civilian, President John F. Kennedy, who was prescient about the coming era of guerrilla warfare. He pushed the Army to learn counterinsurgency warfare, but it fundamentally ignored him. It undertook a lot of activity related to counterinsurgency, but most of it was superficial and intended only to create the impression of responding to Kennedy’s proddings.

    The military was particularly clueless about counterinsurgency, which typically requires careful discrimination in applying firepower, light infantry undertaking intensive patrolling, and political action to undermine the basis of the insurgents’ support in the population. With the exception of the Marines, the military wanted nothing to do with that: It was always more bombing and more troops. The military dreamed of replicating World War II with a strategy of bombing industrial sites in the North and of bleeding the Viet Cong into submission in the South.

    Prior to our massive intervention, the South Vietnamese had been running large-scale search-and-destroy missions for years that were easily avoided by the VC, but the American military assumed that, if it took over, it could succeed in implementing the same flawed strategy on the basis of its superior firepower and technical prowess. Whenever it was clear that the strategy was failing, the Army’s answer was always more of the same.

    Even in defeat, the Army wasn’t going to change its doctrine. It just decided never to fight insurgencies again. That has played a role in our difficulties in Iraq, as the Army was insufficiently prepared for the counterinsurgency it has had to wage. If we lose there — partly because we were slow to adopt with any consistency sound counterinsurgency tactics, partly because we didn’t have the troop levels to support them once we did — it will likely prompt the Army, and many conservatives, to try to write off counterinsurgency for another generation.

    This would be ill-advised for two reasons. One, insurgencies are defeatable. Max Boot notes that post–World War II guerrilla fighters have been defeated in Italy, Spain, Northern Ireland, Greece, the Philippines, Malaya, Turkey, El Salvador, Kenya, Guatemala, and Mexico, among other places. Two, if we lose in Iraq, it will put an even greater premium on insurgency warfare, as our enemies will realize it’s the surest way to frustrate us. So we will have to either scale back our geopolitical ambitions or learn how to fight insurgents after all.

    President Bush believes he is learning from Vietnam, but in misunderstanding that war — and absenting himself from decisions of the utmost consequence — he may be playing his role in a repeat of it.