February 23, 2007


...will be rare as Steven Riddle incivilities since I'll be traveling next week.

I've posted my old Ireland & Rome triplogs here if interested...

Spanning the Globe will be delayed until March 6th!

February 22, 2007

Tales from the Bingo Crypt
""He would have been a good man if there'd been somebody pointing a dauber at him every minute of his life." - paraphrase of Flannery O'Connor character
Well they say there's a million stories in the naked city but there's at least as many at the local bingo hall.

Take the one concerning the customer wearing the Penn State shirt. Co-worker Pat, whose husband is a Penn State fan, would seem to be master of the obvious: "So you're a Penn State fan!". The woman screws up her face and says "No!". Pat points out that she's wearing a Penn State shirt and the lady says "So what?".

This is an example of the sort of thing that never happens in real life. Bingo is a magical place where the usual laws of the universe are suspended. Just ten more years of this and I'll be able to write The Great American Bingo Novel, something that is obviously long overdue and should find a large market.

Now, since this is a family blog if you are under the age of 18 please leave this post at this point.

Still here? Okay. Co-worker Kim told us a tale about her three year old son. He was at the local YMCA and was shocked to see Eli's pishalick (Italian slang for 'penis' - our parish is so ethnic). He yelled out: "Eli, Eli, what's wrong with your pishalick!" Turns out Eli, despite the Jewish-sounding name, had not been circumcised. Kim hustled him out of there while her son was still a pointin'...

I'm sort of hyp-mo-tized by the fact that Kim & Pat (mother & daughter) worked out strenuously before bingo. It feels a vague assault on my manhood. I mean the fatigue engendered by walking around for three+ continuous hours during bingo is impressive to me. I give myself credit for walking at least four miles and treat bingo like an athletic event (i.e. no pre-game activities other than the predictable exceptions any male would make).

During the bingo post-mortem Carmen made the amazing claim that the puerile Michael Scott, the boss of The Office, is not the over-the-top cartoon figure we all made him out to be. No, Carmen considers The Office more documentary than entertainment because she had a boss just like him. Says he tried to insert himself into the picture of herself and her groom during the cutting of the cake, ala Michael at Phyllis's wedding. She said his breath always smelled repulsively of garlic and to get back she and a co-worker, with the enthusiastic acquiesce of the cleaning crew, put a rotten egg in the panel of the tile above his office. "What's that smell?" he wondered. To quote Oscar Wilde, life imitates art far more than art imitates life...

The legend with two first names.
Lenten Vespers at a Byzantine Catholic Church

There is nothing on this earth quite like Lenten vespers. The peace and serenity! I felt like I was drunk, drunk on liturgy, drunk on God. There's really nothing quite like it in the Western church. The chanting of the psalms, with one side of the darkened church saying two lines followed by the other side of the church saying the next two lines...the moving "Let my prayer rise up to you like incense" prayer...the prostrations...the deeply pentential themes and refrains.

We were surprised yesterday because Fr. T said that we were going to be guinea pigs. I was worried we'd have to do some group liturgical dance! Some hug-in or something. I was ready to "offer it up" (Lent makes burdens & embarrassments lighter). I was relieved when it was only that our subdeacon was giving his first homily.
'Illegal' - the Word We Dare Not Speak!

The local diocesan newspaper had an article on immigration today. I long to be on the side of the angels, that is the side of the downtrodden and marginalized, but it's hard when the angels are speaking half-truths and indulging in political correctness. It seems on this issue, like so many others, we lack an honest debate. Reminds me of how so many people insist Clinton was impeached for having oral sex in the White House.

First the columnist scrupulously avoided use of the term "illegal". He simply refers to everyone from another country as immigrants. But he's behind the times, or at least the NY Times, which had dropped the "illegal" part from "illegal immigrant" but now refers to them "migrants". Methinks the Grey Lady doth euphemize too much. (That said, I do agree that "illegal alien" is unnecessarily harsh.)

The honest part of the debate is to recognize there is a cost to illegal immigration. We can debate how big the cost and whether we can afford it, both in terms of expense and national security, but to deny the cost seems needlessly disingenous. (We all expect some degree of disingenuousness; it's just that there's a point at which it's too much. It's sort of like what David Geffen said of the Clintons: "Everybody in politics lies, but the Clintons do it with such ease, it’s troubling.")

The writer says that illegals are not drawing Social Security but that's sort of a moot point since most people understand Social Insecurity is going away anyway. The cost is primarily education and health care. The health care comes in the form of emergency room visits, the health care program of the poor and the young. (One hospital near my hometown closed down recently in part due to this.) Milton Friedman said that a country cannot have open borders and a welfare state. We basically had open borders during the 19th century but we didn't have the expensive public school system and health care systems we have now. I'm not for denying health care to illegals or education to their children, so that means I'd prefer we not have open borders.

I thought about writing a letter to the editor but laid down until the desire went away. You have to pick your battles and illegal immigration seems small fry to me though I do recoil at the political correctness.
Why the Hate?

Interesting O'Reilly segment with Tammy Bruce trying to figure out the Left's hatred of Bush. It's not Iraq, since the disgust started well before the war. O'Reilly says it's about religion and I think that's likely. Tammy Bruce says it's hatred of father figures, and God is certainly a father figure. The turning point was probably in the debate with Al Gore where Bush said his favorite philosopher was Jesus.
Very Funny

The Other Paper talks about media reaction to the recent snowstorm:
Bad weather is to the TV news business what Christmas is to the elves who live at the North Pole. Television stations drop everything and call everyone in to work to give their viewers nonstop coverage of what’s happening outside...

Such coverage is something that cable TV can’t offer. Bill O’Reilly, Larry King and Tony Soprano might know about a lot of things, but they can’t tell you the driving conditions on I-270 between Groveport and Grove City.

And so the local stations give center stage to their weather personalities and send their correspondents out to various highway locations to stand shivering in the snow.

The problem is that once they’re out there in the elements, these reporters don’t quite know what to do with themselves.

They conduct perfunctory interviews with drivers, who say the roads are bad, and with ODOT and city transportation officials, who urge drivers to be careful. And they repeatedly tell viewers to avoid going outside unless they absolutely have to.

Of course, these reporters absolutely have to. If they weren’t out there talking at cameras, how—without peering out your own window—would you know what the snow looks like?

And so, to prove the value of this on-site reporting, each correspondent at some point resorts to something along the lines of Ramos’s cup demonstration, as if to prove to the skeptical home viewer that they’re really outside and it’s really snowing.
My Campaign Ad...

...has just been released. "Barack O'Rama" (Terrence Berres's coinage) is running for prez.

February 21, 2007

"Let's Go Lenten!" - title of a recent Michael Dubruiel post

(Image at left from Irish Elk.)

Well tis another Ash Wednesday, the day we are reminded of something even the pagans will admit: that to dust we shall return. And I got to Mass late, which irritated me because the parish downtown plays a sort of Three Card Monty game with the masses. Most weekdays it's 11:45am mass. Holy days of obligation it gets moved to noon. Apparently today isn't a HDOO even though it was jam-packed. I'm pretty sure I arrived late last year for the exactly same reason. I wasn't irritated then because I'm a disciple of the "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" school. But I recalled St. Therese's words: "If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, you will be to Jesus a pleasant place of shelter". Too oft I double-bogey it by being displeasing to God & then being unduly displeased by my act of displeasing. Alack and alas! But Lent is a time for the triumph of hope over experience and at the end you can wear one of these.

So how's the purple sidewall tire (stage right)? Too POD - 'Pious & Overly Devotional'? I post, you decide...

You should check out some of Steven Riddle's posts today, in which he explains why he loves Lent. (Think Fred Flintstone's "everybody into the pool!" philosophy - "Everybody into the pool!" Boink! "Barney, who emptied the swimming pool?") Also, over at First Things, Edward T. Oakes, S.J. comments on John Henry Newman's gift:
The trick for any preacher when treating of sin, not least because he is a sinner himself, is to steer between this dilemma: First, he must not do anything to mitigate the Bible’s uncompromising demand for Christian holiness; but second, he must avoid the tub-thumping rhetoric of those preachers who think that mere denunciation will motivate their flocks to the abjuration of sin and the pursuit of holiness. In other words, the preacher must fuse together a high demand for a consistently pursued holiness with a shrewd—and compassionate—sense of human psychology, with its attendant weaknesses.

February 20, 2007


...from Truth and Tolerance by then Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict:
...Karl Marx once used to express his dream of freedom. The state of affairs in the future Communist society will make it possible "to do one thing today, another tomorrow, to go shooting in the morning and fishing in the afternoon and in the evening look after the cattle, to indulge in criticism after dinner, just as the fancy takes me". It is just in this way that the average attitude, without thinking about it, understands by "freedom" the right, and the practical possibility, of doing everything we wish and not having to do anything we do not wish to do...At this point the question arises, of course: How free in fact is our will? And how rational is it? --And, is an irrational will truly a free will? Is irrational freedom truly freedom? Is it really a good thing? Does not the definition of freedom, as being able to decide to do anything and being able to do what we decide, have to be expanded to include the connection with reason, with mankind as a whole, in order to avoid becoming tyranny and unreason?

The radical demand for freedom...that today is largely determinative of general consciousness, wishes to exist neither from nor for another, but just to be completely free. That is to say, it regards the real basic shape of human existence itself as an attack on freedom that is prior to every individual life and activity; it would like to be freed from its own human nature and existence itself to become a "new man": in the new society, these dependencies that restrict the self and this obligation to give of oneself should not be allowed to exist. Basically, what clearly stands behind the modern era's radical demand for freedom is the promise: You will be like God...The implicit goal of all modern freedom movements is, in the end, to be like a god, dependent on nothing and nobody, with one's own freedom not restricted by anyone else's.
I just finished this excellent book tonight. It's about a week overdue at the library which means, ironically, I was infringing on someone else's freedom to read this book!

Every Catholic must have the courage to believe that his faith (in communion with that of the Church) surpasses every 'new magisterium' of the experts, of the intellectuals . . . The rule of faith, yesterday as today, is not based on the discoveries (be they true or hypothetical) of biblical sources and layers but on the Bible just as it is, as it has been read in the Church since the time of the Fathers until now. It is precisely the fidelity to this reading of the Bible that has given us the saints, who were often uneducated and, at any rate, frequently knew nothing about exegetical contexts. Yet they were the ones who understood it best. - Cardinal Ratzinger

During law school, I too had an Ayn Rand phase, and as much I've "moved on," there are some qualities about her thinking that are praiseworthy. Not only did she introduce me to Aristotle (and thus ultimately St. Thomas) -- something eight years of Catholic high school and university study did not do -- she was a scathing critic of Immanuel Kant and his philosophical descendants....So two cheers for Ayn Rand; she brought me closer to an understanding of Truth and sanity than a stack of bishops' conference pastoral letters ever could. - Rich of "Ten Reasons"

Beyonce on cover of Sports Illustrated! I’ve seen that headline at least three times in the past 18 hours. Now, I have little doubt that Beyonce is good-looking, but who in the general public really knows? With make-up, positioning, airbrushing, and photoshopping, they could put Hillary on the cover of SI and make her look hot. You’d think guys who are into girlie pictures would object to the whole scam, realizing that they might as well be leering at Jasmine from the cartoon Aladdin, but it’s hard to think when you put yourself in repeated states of sexual agitation. - Eric Scheske of "The Daily Eudemon"

I've been considering turning this blog into what it's supposed to be, a real weblog, you know, a journal detailing the details of my life - all my actual activities and all my deeply felt feelings, all the trivia of my trials and tribulations. Notice that I didn't include "thoughts," because thoughts are hard work, and I do draw a distinction between feeling and thinking, which I'd like to explain, but I don't feel like thinking about it. - Bill of "Apologia"

In four colleges and universities, I have never had a good course on any philosopher (including many philosophers I disagree with) from a critic, and never a worthless one from a disciple. - Peter Kreeft

Our fascinated gaze was her real addiction -- and the humiliating media tractor pull between our disgust and our attraction for her was, in all likelihood, both her lover and her murderer. Fame, the only chemotherapy available for the desperate toxicity of narcissism, proves once again that it is deadly enough in its own right to be avoided. - Cintra Wilson of "Salon" on the death of Anne Nicole Smith

The biography was most interesting, to me, in connecting the dots between the gambling culture of Pascal's wealthy friends, his mathematical theories, and, of course, the wager. The Jansenist context - something I feel I need to know more about because I have long casually accused the French-Canadian Catholic side of my family as imbedded in my genes as having Jansenist tendencies, and I really should learn more and see if that 's true - is well-established and clarified as is the scientific world of the period and Pascal's place in it. - Amy Welborn

I denounce the outrageous expense, ideological indoctrination and spiritual hollowness of American higher education... -Camille Paglia of Salon

Hillary, despite claims by the liberal press, is not the first credible [female] candidate: That laurel belongs to Republican Elizabeth Dole, whose funding dried up but who was indeed a legitimate contender in the lead-up toward the 2000 primaries. - Camille Paglia again

I think I am not being indiscreet when I say that today I received a beautiful letter from Cardinal Martini. I had sent him felicitations on his 80th birthday – we are of the same age. In replying to me he wrote, 'I thank the Lord above all for the gift of perseverance.' Today, he writes, 'even the good is done ad tempus, ad experimentum. Goodness, by its very essence, can only be done in a definitive way, and to do that we need the grace of perseverance, and I pray every day,' he concluded, 'that the Lord may give me this grace.' Coming back to St. Augustine, initially he was happy with the grace of conversion. Then he discovered that there was another grace he needed, the grace of perseverance, which we ask from the Lord every day. And I get back to what Cardinal Martini wrote, “The Lord has given me the grace of perseverance up to now, and I hope he may continue giving it to me even in this last stage of my journey on this earth..” I think we should have trust in this gift of perseverance, and that we should pray the Lord with humility, with tenacity and with patience, pray to the Lord that He help us and support us with the gift of true definitiveness, tht he may accompany us day after day to the end, even if the way should go through dark valleys. The gift of perseverance gives us joy, it gives us the certainty that we are loved by God, and that this love sustains us, aids us and does not leave us alone in our weaknesses. - Pope Benedict

February 19, 2007

Something out of a Luse Novel

Dispatch has a sad story of young children with a rare skin disease. It's amazing the kids deal as well with it mentally as they apparently do: "Most of the time, the children don’t acknowledge the pain that EB experts and older people with the disease insist is constant."

All life is precious indeed!

From National Review's Rob Long:
Ambient Radio Frequency Eavesdrop: Washington, D.C., Area

Begin extract:

Unidentified Male Voice: “Senator Clinton, can you hear me? Don’t say anything, or Russert will notice the IFB in your ear. Just clear your throat. Can you do that?”

[Sound of female voice clearing throat.]

UMV: “Excellent, excellent. Now, Senator, try not to shift around a lot during the interview, if you can. You’re wired up pretty tightly. Okay, Senator, sound check done. Mark, can you read me in Iowa?”

Unidentified Second Male Voice: “We’ve got you. The focus group is seated and ready.”

UMV: “Terrific. Okay, Senator, we’re ready to roll.”

[Sound of Meet the Press main title theme.]

Unidentified Third Male Voice: “Welcome to Meet the Press. I’m Tim Russert, and my guest this morning is Sen. Hillary Clinton — ”

USMV: “Paul, the group thinks her smile is scary.”

UMV: “Senator, can you make the smile less scary?”

Russert: “ — in Iraq. And I’m wondering, Senator, how you respond to that?”

Senator Clinton: “Well, Tim, first of all, I think it’s important for those of us in Washington to listen to the people of America, the moms and — ”

USMV: “She’s losing the dads. Dad dials are down!”

UMV: “Senator, moms and dads! Moms AND dads!”

Senator Clinton: “. . . and, Tim, we so often forget the dads, the fathers in America who work hard . . .”

USMV: “Getting dad dials back. Her face is getting squinchy. Young marrieds 25 to 40 are reacting to the squinchy face.”

UMV: “Senator, can you unsquinch your face a bit? We’re getting dials down from the YMs.”

Russert: “. . . of the Bush plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq, which, before the midterm elections, before you declared yourself a candidate for the presidency, you were in favor of, and I’m wondering . . .”

USMV: “Wow! Iowa’s getting a lot of anger from her. Dials way down.”

UMV: “Senator, you’re coming across angry. Can you lighten your reaction?”

Russert: “. . . that’s what you said in September of 2006. Why are you smiling, Senator?”

February 18, 2007

Various & Sundry

We had a retired priest of the diocese substitute yesterday and he talked about how we need to go against our natural instincts and favor the supernatural. So far so good. But what surprised me was how he said Christ had to learn the same lesson. He said Jesus made a smart-aleck teenager response when asked where he was for three days when he was in His Father's house. (The priest joked that that's why there's no record of His life between 12 and 30 - he was grounded!). He also said mentioned that "what is it to me?" when told they "have no wine" was a purely natural reaction which no Jewish mother would put up with and which he would later overcome. I was flabbergasted. I realize both are hard stories to understand, but I've never heard an exegesis like that. It's close to saying Christ wasn't sinless, isn't it? Well, sermons are like a box of chocolates. Never know what to expect...

* * *

Quite unlike that sermon is Guardini's The Lord, which was hard to put down. Unusual anecdotes involving the life of Christ are ascribed to the mystery and inscrutability of God. For example, why would Jesus relay to John the Baptist "blessed are those who are not scandalized by me?". That would imply John was struggling over whether Jesus was really the Messiah. But Guardini's take is that John, sitting in prison and aware death was looming, perhaps couldn't understand why he would not see the the Kingdom of God take fruit. Moses did not live to see the Promised Land because of sin, but what did John do? Perhaps those words were exactly the reassurance John wanted to hear.

* * *

Been reading Why I Turned Right, and Joseph Bottum has a poignant essay on his change of mind and heart. It's due to the abortion issue. I recall a homilist pointing out that the crucifix should tell us all we need to know about what we are capable of. We should recoil from where sin leads, because it leads to the killing of God. And abortion has for me the same sort of effect concerning the left wing today. While the analogy doesn't hold up because some progressive ideas are/have been good, and so obviously can in no way be equated with "sin", the fact that being pro-choice is held up as a positive good is bracing and causes a sort of auto-recoil.

* * *

Excellent piece by Peter Boyer in the latest New Yorker on Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria University. (Unfortunately not online.) Not having been particularly interested in that university's internal politics, I now feel up-to-speed. It's not just about moving to Naples from Michigan (a good trade if you ask me), it's about the uber-control Monaghan expects to exert. In fairness to Monaghan, it seems like he tried to acquire land in Michigan without much success.

I can see both sides on this one. The control is evidentally needed - witness Notre Dame. Why spending a billion dollars building a university if it's going to go secular in a few years? And yet I understand the academics point of view.

Monaghan says, "A lot of academicians will scoff at that thought, because they feel that academia is something unique unto itself," he said. "They feel that business is something that's much less noble."

True. I recall a teacher who told me, quite matter-of-factly, that teachers are simply better people than business folks. By definition apparently. That sort of arrogance is never a good sign.
Al Gore To Raise Awareness of Global Warming

By now you've probably heard that Al Gore is hosting a series of rock concerts intended to raise awareness of global warming.

"Raise awareness" is sort of a leftish buzzword. You don't often hear "I'm going to raise awareness of the babies killed in the womb today." How come George Bush didn't raise awareness of Saddam Hussein back in the '01 and '02 with a series of "Saddam's a Bad Mammer Jammer"-themed concerts?

My take is that if someone hasn't heard about global warming they must be listening to way too much rock music. Hmm...I feel a parody coming on. Maybe Bush'll do this. (Another parody idea involves a consciousness-raising group hosting rock concerts to raise awareness of awareness itself.)

February 17, 2007

Oldie but Goodie Basketball Cards

I used to have these '70s era cards!




February 16, 2007

Nostalgic Loam

Digitalizing the '80s journals causes nostalgia to adhere in the same way plowing a field leaves dark loam on your boots. Resistance is futile. So echoes of the French revolt obtain: Liberty, Fraternity, Debaucherie! Joining a fraternity at the time seemed to solve many goals at once: the girl shortage (i.e. parties with sororities, despite 7,000 girls on campus), the food problem (dining hall food was blasé)... but mostly it was due to my roommate wanting to join one.

Coming across now-foreign collegiate names makes me want to find out what they're doing now. It's addicting to internet-sleuth from the tiny details of the journal (often only a first name). Works best with unusual names of course, which is why I don’t even try someone like Bill Reed. The trick is to use every combination of their name (i.e. Kathy, Kathryn, Katy, Bill, William, etc..) with known pieces of info such as their address, which is available on the college alumni site.

The soil is good out in rural western Ohio and I was surprised to remember how many people better than me came from there or live there now. One rare less-than-honorable person moved to Maryland and a google search revealed that she'd donated $250 to John Kerry's 2004 campaign. The devil still I exclaimed! The leopardess hasn’t changed her stripes. But a county property search on her address led to her husband's name and he's a lobbyist in D.C.. His father is a well-known icon on the environmentalist circuit. Suddenly her donation to Kerry made more sense; they are obviously environmental Scientologists. Come by it honestly anyway. I imagine the whole scene: ingenue moves from the sticks to the Beltway and meets congressman's son in a hip bar. He’s got the connections and she's got the beauty. Regales her with tales of her father’s fame & political passion/religion and she becomes a believer, both in him and the Movement.

Yes I feel vaguely guilty for being so nosy.

A guy who lived in the room next to me at school died recently. Way too young. In the echoes of distant memory further dimmed at the time by alcoholic beverages I recall the great catholicity of the fraternity system. It was one of its great selling points! You could crash at any brother’s house at any university in the country at any time, now or in the future. It was like the Catholic Mass in that respect. As if to demonstrate this we did a road trip Sophomore year - couple hours up the road to Ohio State. And we found that yes we were allowed to sleep on the floor of the frat house at Ohio State. Needless to say, I’ve never taken up the offer again. Old guys would come to the house now and again and introduce themselves. Did we think it charming? Or wondered if they had a life? I can’t recall. I think it was mostly live and let live. Actually I think it gave us the sense that this was for real. We had brothers for life.

The time-honored method of inducing brotherhood in disparate individuals was to haze the hell out of the plebes so they’d bond among themselves if not their elder brothers although ideally both would occur. (The elder brothers might show mercy in the form of ten pushups instead of twenty, thus incurring gratitude.) The whole thing was Scapegoating 101 out of Rene Girard’s book – let ‘em find a common enemy and they’ll be friends forever in the same way soldiers or Jew-haters do. The problem was that we knew what was going on. Were we too post-modern? To create artificial stress via hazing seemed not cool. Two hours of sleep a night for a week. Does awareness of the process undermine the innocence required? Too much knowledge spoileth the pledge and I was on the crest of the GenX “authenticity uber alles” generation. The secret handshake seemed a let-down, especially when I later learned another frat had the same handshake. But in the end there was ritual without substance and as a Catholic I was used to ritual with substance. What made me a brother to my brothers was an artificial construct. I was brother to them in a more radical way than I imagined, brother by virtue of a common Creator (though I’m often flummoxed - ‘you died for him Lord?’). The inititiation ceremony seemed almost farcical but then we were post-Animal House. I can't even recall now for sure whether we knew that warm liquid was likely to be water and not pee.

I think only non-Catholics starved for ritual found the denouement moving. I would be surprised if they go to all the trouble today, in 2006, driving us out to some forlorn destination, blindfolding us, and what-not. If ritual is devalued in the church how much more so it must be in fraternity ritual?
Man Bites Dog Story

Schismatic traditionalist site posts letter defending NFP here. And the hat tip goes to... Elena.
Mass Readings

The first reading today is Genesis 11:1 - 9 (emphasis mine):
Throughout the earth men spoke the same language, with the same vocabulary. Now as they moved eastwards they found a plain in the land of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them in the fire’. (For stone they used bricks, and for mortar they used bitumen). ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us build ourselves a town and a tower with its top reaching heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves, so that we may not be scattered about the whole earth.’
Now the Lord came down to see the town and the tower that the sons of man had built. ‘So they are all a single people with a single language!’ said the Lord. ‘This is but the start of their undertakings! There will be nothing too hard for them to do. Come, let us go down and confuse their language on the spot so that they can no longer understand one another.’ The Lord scattered them thence over the whole face of the earth, and they stopped building the town. It was named Babel therefore, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth. It was from there that the Lord scattered them over the whole face of the earth.
I was thinking gosh, there's a perfect illustration of how in trying to save our life we lose it. You can imagine my surprise when the gospel reading in Mark was that very passage. And it seems an accidental pairing of reading with gospel since we're making our way through Genesis in the first readings and thru Mark in the gospels. Being something of a pessimist, I am inclined to dwell on the loss part of the equation rather than the gain. The Word Among Us has the necessary corrective:
Jesus’ words about saving and losing our lives would inspire only fear in us if all we looked at was pain and loss. Praise God, then, that he wants to open our eyes to see a fuller picture of his plan of salvation. Jesus didn’t die just so we would lose our old lives. He died so we could receive his risen life! We can look upon the cross with awe, wonder, and anticipation of the good things God promises. Because Jesus died on the cross, our hearts can be cleansed and our minds made anew...

Jesus isn’t asking us to deny ourselves every pleasure—that’s not the point. He wants us to deny the sinful drives within us that seek to control our lives. He wants us to turn our hearts to God so that the Holy Spirit can empower us to live according to the new life we received at baptism. Independence, unforgiveness, legalism, worldly approval, perfectionism, self-glorification: They only lead to unhappiness. These are the things that Jesus came to put to death in us.

Yes, there is loss through the cross. But what do we lose? Slavery to sin. And what do we gain? A cleansed conscience, freedom from patterns of sin, intimacy with God, and a rediscovery of who we are in God’s sight! Jesus longs to see us stop thinking we must gain victory on our own over the things that drive us. He longs to see us lay our self-sufficiency down at his cross so that we can receive the power of his Spirit to live a new life. Let’s look to him for our healing and deliverance.

Wrong answers...click to enlarge.

* * *

* * *

* * *

On Illusions

The pragmatism of philosopher William James leads to the question: "Is the illusion of love just as good as love?". His philosophy was perfectly in sync with what would become our therapeutic culture in which even God is used as a means to an end.

Pope Benedict, in Truth and Tolerance, talks about the view of religion that is comfortable with half-truths or no truths:
Anscombe has summarized the views of her teacher, Wittgenstein, on this question in two theses: "1. There is no such thing as being true for a religion. This is perhaps suggested when someone says: 'This religious statement is not the same as a statement of natural science.' 2. Religious faith may be compared rather to a person's being in love than to his being persuaded that something is true or false." In accordance with this logic, Wittgenstein noted, in one of his many notebooks, that it would be no difference to the Christian religion whether or not Christ had actually done some of the things recounted concerning him or whether indeed he had existed at all. This corresponds to the thesis of Bultmann that believing in a God who is the Creator of heaven and earth does not mean that we believe that God really created heaven and earth but only that we understand ourselves as being his creatures and thereby live a more meaningful live. Similar concepts have in the meantime become widespread in Catholic theology...The faithful sense this and are asking themselves whether they have been being made fools of. Living in beautiful fictions may be something that people who hold theories about religion can do; for the person who is asking himself how he can live and die, and for what, they are not enough.
Country Song Friday

Guy Clark's Rita Ballou:

She could dance that slow Uvalde
Shuffle to some cowboy hustle
How she made them trophy buckles shine, shine, shine
Wild-eyed and Mexican silvered,
Trickin' dumb ol' cousin Willard
into thinkin that he's got her this time

Hill country honky-tonkin' Rita Ballou
Every beer joint in town has played a fool for you
Backslidin' barrel ridin' Rita Ballou
Ain't a cowboy in Texas would not ride a bull for you

She's a rawhide rope and velvet mixture
Walkin' talkin' Texas texture
High-timin' barroom fixture kind of a girl
She's the queen of the cowboys
Look at old Willard grinnin' now boys
You'd of thought there's less fools in this world (But there ain't!)
From an Email...
Still Money Runs Shallow

Do not be suprise over this mail
it is after my search that i endvour
to write you this massege.

I am Mrs.Flora Vicky from Sierra Leone
I married to Mr.Nikola Vicky
Who worked with our Sierra Leone Embassy
Before he died.

When my late husband was alive
He deposited the sum of $6.3 Million
Here in Cote D lvoire.
Presently this money is still
In the Vault of the bank...

February 15, 2007

Journal du Jour

Bruce Springsteen, Madonna
Way before Nirvana
There was U2 and Blondie
And music still on MTV
Her two kids in high school
They tell her that she’s uncool
Cuz she's still preoccupied
With 19, 19, 1985

-- Bowling for Soup - "1985"
Journal entry from 1984:
Today was our second class in Personal Finance and our teacher, a blonde man looking not a day older than most of us, told us about himself. He was an accounting graduate and went on to get his CPA and became an accountant for a year. He hated it. You could see he meant it; the pain of that year was written in his face. He said that the year seemed like 20. His advice to us was to do what we wanted – money is unimportant compared with job satisfaction. Here is an intelligent, well-adjusted man who hated his work. His last day came when he was driving to work in a traffic jam and noticed that the man on his right looked depressed. So was the man on his left. Then he realized how much he was, and he quit.
They always say that you should pick a job that you love rather than for the money. (My joke is: 'so I can get paid for beer-drinking?') But I mostly agree with that sentiment now, though perhaps that is security talking; jobs seem not so dear as I once thought them. But it's easy for me to say that now, while in a job, and one that is a good fit.

But if I can spiritually analogize, we say that we should not do things to avoid punishment but out of love. This will seem, I expect, obvious in Heaven. We'll think how ridiculous the threat of punishment seems in the light of Love much as the suitor is less worried about being punished by his beau than by not pleasing her.

* * *
Morning Leave

Let loose!
A dog without a collar--
living under the law no more
a black sledder against banks of white
and I wait to laugh--
to see him dorky in the snow
awaiting lurches
due to landmine'd footing.

But he finds his freedom in the field
the snow there hardened
to bear his hundred pounds
& he alights above it all, a foot taller,
gleams he now in the mid-distance
free'd for & not from virtue,
larger than life.
William F. Buckley Opines on Henry James & Gives Blogging Advice

From the latest National Review:
[The American] is 488 pages long, and it may be the single most boring book ever published. It is at least the single most venerated bad book ever published.

Now Henry James (1843– 1916) is captivating when describing people and situations. I once wrote about his travel books that “you can close your eyes and open either volume at any page and find yourself reading prose so resplendent it will sweep you off your feet. Yet after a while, after a long while, you will recognize that you do, really, have to come down to earth because there are so many other things to do. And besides, if you stay with him for too long, in that engrossing, scented, colored, brilliant, absorbing world, you feel strung out, feel something like hanging moss.”
It is the responsibility of men and women who seek an audience for their writing beyond the family to instruct or entertain, or to die trying. The ratio is not definitively established, between skills disposed of and weight of literary production...The grand meaning of this lesson being that eminent people can write eminently awful books and get away with it, and that medical science falls short of shielding us from bad books.
Interesting Stanley Kurtz Rebuttal...

...to D'Souza's book:
The real clash between Islamic society and modernity is rooted in the Middle Eastern social system. It’s all right to go to college to learn about technology, but what about the mixing of the sexes at school? The problem is especially acute when higher education delays the age of marriage, thus putting family-made marriage arrangements at risk. That’s why modern Islamism first took off in mid-1970s Egypt, as a growing cohort of male and female college students spontaneously began to don traditional dress in mixed company (see “Veil of Fears”). Family ties — and alliances modeled on, or growing out of, family ties — also block political and economic development in the Islamic world. Inveterate corruption in Middle Eastern bureaucracies, for example, ensures that only those with family and/or political connections to the regime can get, say, a telephone installed, or a license to open a business.

Contrary to D’Souza, Samuel Huntington’s “clash” thesis does not rest on a simple opposition between technology and Islam. Instead, Huntington is interested in the conflict between what he calls “traditional village and clan ties” and “urbanization, social mobilization, higher levels of literacy and education, intensified communications and media consumption, and expanded interaction with Western and other cultures” (Clash of Civilizations, p. 116). Notice that Huntington includes D’Souza’s legitimate concerns with the globalization of Western media, yet also sets those issues in the context of a broader focus on Middle Eastern social structures...So D’Souza is wrong. This war has everything to do with the clash between modernity and Islamic social life. That conflict is profoundly shaped by Islam itself, yet it’s also structured by a wider series of Middle Eastern social practices that are not religious per se — practices to which we have given far too little attention.
Beating that Old War Horse

Back in early 2003, concerning the outcome of the war, I blogged that "scholar Bernard Lewis is optimistic. I think Belloc might've been less so. Paraphrasing Daniel Patrick Moynihan: the great conservative truth is that culture swamps politics. The great liberal truth is that politics changes culture."

It seems that the great conservative truth seems to be winning in Iraq. The rule seems to be: never bet against anything that Moynihan and Russel Kirk agree on (although tis true Moynihan wasn't taking sides in that particular quote; that I attributed him taking a side in that quote is evidence of my bias. And yes, Kirk died well before the Iraq war but was against the Gulf War - a distinction without a difference).

I had thought Bush had the right to go into Iraq, which is a different from asking if it was prudent. The weak link in that 'right' seemed to be that the ceasefire ending the Gulf War was done with U.N. approval while the decision to enforce it was just the U.S. with England. In 2003, Hillary Clinton addressed this point:
With respect to whose responsibility it is to disarm Saddam Hussein, I just do not believe given the attitudes of many peoples in the world community today that there would be a willingness to take on very difficult problems were it not for the United States leadership. And I'm talking specifically about what had to be done in Bosnia and Kosovo, where my husband could not get a Security Council resolution to save the Kosovar Albanians from ethnic-cleasing. And we did it alone as the United States. And we had to do it alone. It would've been far preferable if the Russians and others had agreed to do it through the United Nations. They would not. I'm happy that, in the face of such horrible suffering, we did act.
Perhaps that is too much "the ends justify the means" thinking though.

February 14, 2007

New Podcast!

This one follows the outline of Scott Hahn's Understanding the Scriptures.
What We Need

A reader took this post, about the spotty record of recent presidents (Ronald Reagan excluded), and asked if she could submit it to the local paper with one additional line:
"I think it's time for a woman president!"
As our spirtual forebears might've said if they spoke Yiddish, "Oy vey".

I replied that those presidents were also white men, so maybe it's time for a black man. They're also all middle-aged or older, so maybe it's time for a teenager. None of them could speak Gaelic, so maybe it's time for a Gaelic speaker.

Anyway, from Feminine Genius comes a fine rebuttal.
Eros & Agape

The Pope's address on eros and agape is so moving and so worth reading. He mentions Ezechiel 16:
36Thus says the Lord GOD, "Because your lewdness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered through your harlotries with your lovers and with all your detestable idols, and because of the blood of your sons which you gave to idols,

37therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, even all those whom you loved and all those whom you hated So I will gather them against you from every direction and expose your nakedness to them that they may see all your nakedness.

38"Thus I will judge you like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy.

39"I will also give you into the hands of your lovers, and they will tear down your shrines, demolish your high places, strip you of your clothing, take away your jewels, and will leave you naked and bare.

40"They will incite a crowd against you and they will stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.
Which sounds a lot like what Christ had to endure, He who died naked (crucifixes have a loin cloth for propriety's sake).

A picture of my brother-in-law making the email rounds among the family:

My wife quipped that there must be a mirror on the other side of the mug. He's the other half, by the way of the widely-acclaimed News You Can Use parody blog.
Christianity Today's Most Redeeming Films

Hat tip: MamaT of Summa Mamas
Online Family Tree Maker

...for budding genealogists.
Why Do They Want to be President?

In an earlier post, I asked why Hillary, Romney & Edwards & others want to be president. No clear idea at this time but at the risk of over-psychologizing here are my guesses why previous presidents wanted to lead:

LBJ - Power. The ultimate aphrodesiac.
Nixon - Nerd longs to be king for love & revenge
Ford - n/a; "accidental" president (ran for full term for convention's sake)
Carter - Must have works to show God to cover that 'lust in the heart' thing
Reagan - Deeply patriotic
Bush - Noblesse oblige
Clinton - "Money for nothing & chicks for free"
Bush - Redemption & make daddy proud

* * *

President George H.W. Bush, on a trip to Columbus in 1992.
O'Rama's Recipes

It's been a year or more since the last blog recipe. It's high time for another, especially during sweeps week.

I call this one Grape Nut Ale for reasons that will become obvious:

+ = Good eatin'!

  • Pour eight ounces of Grape Nuts cereal into a large serving bowl.

  • Add twelve ounces of a fine pale ale, preferably a Mergovian from the Rhineland region though they don't travel well. In a pinch, Bass ale will do.
  • Serve cold, with a soup spoon. Garnish with bananas.

    Bon appetit!

    February 13, 2007

    The thrill of victory… The agony of defeat….The human drama of athletic competition

    The other day our Dominican priest warned us against spiritual envy in his homily by mentioning the great competition among the pledges (er, not pledges - there's a name for newbie Dominicans which escapes me now). They read Teresa of Avila and worry whether they're moving to a higher floor of the Interior Castle as quickly as the person next to them; they read John of the Cross and compare and contrast which level of dark night they've experienced. I suppose that sort of thing is inevitable and I can certainly relate to the concept if not the specific.

    I'm intrigued by the Catholic Blog Awards inasmuch as they show that same innate thirst for hierarchy and competition. Blogs are so democratic (small 'd'), so flat in terms of barrier to entry, and yet there are rating systems at Technorati and blog awards of every shape, size & color*. I suppose awards give some people a greater sense of community.

    When I first started blogging, I didn't even consider my blog a "Catholic" blog given how many of the posts weren't strictly religious. But I'm glad to be included in such a group. Being Catholic is such an amazing gift - to receive the Body & Blood of Christ! - that it's truly daunting to try to live up the gifts I've been given. ("To whom much has been given...".)

    * * *

    I infinitely prefer book reviews to news, so Amy Welborn's threat (below) is akin to threatening me with free Guinness:
    I have threatened to do this before, but this time, I'm going to stick to it. This week, barring big news, most of my blog posts will be bookblogging. I have too much else to do to spend time newshounding. I have a stack of books that I've read out of personal interest, and others that authors and publishers have sent me. I need to let you know about them, with brief or not-so brief reviews. Starting a bit later...
    * * *

    '08 this, '08 that. Sure it's way early. But what kind of political junkie worth his poll numbers doesn't weigh in way early?

    It looks like '08 might be the election that I finally get to join all those sourpuss bloggers who are of the "a pox on both their houses" variety regarding the donkey & the elephant. If I do vote it'll likely be sans enthusiasm.

    Unfair or not, I've always thought consistent "pox on both houses" types took too much pleasure in their independence and thought themselves above the plebian act of endorsing a flawed major party candidate (i.e. someone not as smart and wise as themselves). You could say that in unfairly ascribing to them those feelings of superiority I felt superior for not having feelings of superiority. This pride causes me to recollect the truest statement ever said: "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." Humility, like anything good, comes from God. As the Italians say, "the situation is hopeless but not serious".

    * - By the way, "color" is the new corporate buzzword! Thrice in a long meeting the other day the head honcho used it as a synonym for 'detail'. Someone asks a question and he responds: "We'll give you more color on that at the meeting next Tuesday". So you too can impress your friends and neighbors by using it, although don't use it too much lest you water down its impact, thus requiring a new cool word!

    "The wind breathes where it will, and thou canst hear the sound of it, but knowest nothing of the way it came or the way it goes"; the Holy Spirit is not like some egotistic genius, determined that his interference should be recognized and acknowledged wherever it is brought to bear. He is quite content that his inspirations should seem, to us, bright ideas of our own; that his shaping of our characters should be unaccompanied by any glow of feeling, such as might indicate the source whence it comes. The pattern he weaves in us is something contained in, not super-added to, the common fabric of our lives.

    But because he will work thus imperceptibly, that is no reason why we should pretend that he is not here, behave as if we were the masters of our own destiny, and needed no impulse from without. We shall be happier about the decisions we make, and gain from that a sense of confidence which will help us to justify our decisions, if we make a practice of appealing to his unseen, unfelt influence at every cross-roads of our lives, even the most insignificant.   - Msgr Ronald Knox in "Pastoral Sermons" via piper John at "The Inn at the End of the World"

    It is not a table of fellowship that sustains us. It is Panis vitae. Even if all else gets sea-soaked in storms aplenty, the Bread remains dry and safe atop the waves... and beckons. - commenter on "Marth, Martha"

    The loudest have the final say,
    The wanton win, the rash hold sway.
    The realist's rules of order say,
    The drunken driver has the right of way....

    It's only the naivest who'll
    Deny this, that the reckless rule;
    When facing an oncoming fool
    The practiced and sagacious say
    Watch out--one side--look sharp--gang way.

    However much you plan and pray,
    Alas, alack, tant pis, oy we,
    Now--heretofore--'til Judgment Day,
    The drunken driver has the right of way.

    --Ethan Coen, via Korrektiv

    Here is a simple test to tell the difference between a Catholic and a Cafeteria Catholic. One goes through the catechism and other Church documents and says amen, the other says amend. - Curt Jester

    All I know is, men can make you crazy, but not that crazy. - Bill Luse's wife, on news of the astronaut charged with attempted murder

    During the dinner someone suggested that the transition to pope must have been relatively easy for him after 24 years as head of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, Bishop Farrell said, and the pope responded, "It was easy to know the doctrine. It's much harder to help a billion people live it." - via Amy Welborn

    The history of the church teaches us that the greatest saints are those who professed the greatest devotion to Mary...Do you want our Lord to give you many graces? Visit him often. Do you want him to give you few graces? Visit him seldom. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament are powerful and indispensable means of overcoming the attacks of the devil. Make frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the devil will be powerless against you. - St. John Bosco, first quote via"Irish Catholic and Dangerous", second half of quote I don't know.

    In some way, this whole episode points to the evidential power of beauty. The intellect immediately grasps the truth of the matter, not discursively, but by apprehending the ugliness of those involved. Discursive reasoning may follow along, tidying things up, but its end is already known. - Tom of Disputations on the Edwards bloggers flap

    Where did Luther go wrong and Francis [of Assisi] go right? Luther's error was that his personal interpretation was rooted in his misunderstanding of the theology of sin, both original and actual, as well as a misunderstanding of indulgences and purgatory. He changed the Bible, taking books out of the Old Testament as well as the New, as well as proffering his own interpretation, in order to find spiritual peace. That's not the path to solid exegesis. Francis, on the other hand, sought not his own good, but, rather, God's will. "What does God want from me? What does God want me to do?" Francis wanted to love God by doing God's will. And he was so humble that at first he misunderstood what God wanted. He thought God wanted him to become poor in order to minister to the poor—not to teach the entire Church to become poor in spirit by his own physical poverty. Luther's personal interpretation was inspired by self-centeredness, whereas St. Francis' was inspired by love. - blogger at "Thursday Night Gumbo"

    I definitely think that intolerance of mystery - the insistence that I am as large as the universe and must be given a satisfactorily comprehensive answer right now - is a part of the modern crisis of faith...I wonder how often we are led down the garden path by thinking that the Church needs me, rather than that I need the Church. - Zippy of "Zippy Catholic"
    Found Poetry

    My wife is working from home today and sent an inadvertent haiku:
    Obi is napping
    Obi is barking
    Obi will be napping soon
    Slightly re-arranged we have:
    Obi is barking
    Obi will be napping soon
    Obi is napping
    This is the blogging equivalent of a "look-what-I-found-rebound" in basketball.

    February 12, 2007

    Parody Blog Updated

    News You Can('t) Use

    The books of the Old Testament may in many respects seem less pious, less poetic, less inspired, than important passages in the holy books of other peoples. Yet the feature peculiar to them is this struggle of faith against what is Israel's own, in this leaving behind of one's own, which starts with the wandering of Abraham. Paul's struggle to break out from the limits of the law, which he wages on the basis of his encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, takes this fundamental movement of the Old Testament to its logical goal. This signifies the complete universalizing of the faith...

    - Tolerance & Truth, Pope Benedict

    February 11, 2007

    Oxymorons Galore

    Lately I've been seeing the same thing replayed in different venues, that is the danger of self-righteousness. Tom of Disputations points out a truth:
    the book is even a disservice to Catholic pacifists, in that Fr. Dear's confidence in the justness of his own position comes off as self-righteousness, and self-righteousness won't win anyone to your side.
    So true, which is what makes Pope Benedict such a figure of wonderment to me. He manages to combine strong, dogmatic beliefs with a light touch, minus self-righteousness. It's probably pointless to speculate, but it seems unlikely Hans Kung would've invited Cardinal Ratzinger to the Vatican if he'd become pope.

    It's very hard not to just "speak to the choir". Perhaps Fr. Dear's book was more an exercise in venting his frustrations at the rest of the world not seeing what was obvious to him, rather than changing minds. I often do the same in this blog.

    A church friend of mine, a very outgoing salesman guy, laments the rather introverted nature of the Byzantine church we go to. I find it comfy, being an introvert myself, but he is constantly irritated by perceived snubs and coldness. We joked over the fact that you can either have good doctrine and a lack of warmth or plenty of warmth and bad doctrine (i.e. the latter at some of the more fellowship-oriented Protestant denominations). Of course you should be able to have both. I'll never forget when I heard some ladies were criticizing other ladies for not wearing a mantilla in church. You can't make it up. Sometimes it seems we go from social justice, "God's-not-interested-in-personal-morality" Christianity to priggish self-righteousness in one easy step. (Although there's always that golden moment when you're traveling between the two poles.)

    I've lately been interested in Martin Luther King. I always thought of him - unlike Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton - as a religious leader first and a political operator second and I'm not alone. Conservative pundit Bill Bennet described King, as "not primarily a social activist, he was primarily a minister of the Christian faith."

    Which is why it surprised me to learn that he was apparently a serial adulterer. I'm fascinated by how he justified that, if he did at all. Was he just concerned with social justice and not personal morality? Am I only concerned with personal morality and not social justice? It's hard to be both/and. Malcolm X was fond of violence as a means of social change but was faithful to his wife despite plenty of opportunities to be unfaithful. With King we have the exact opposite.

    Much more puzzling is this, according to Lew Rockwell:
    While King died before the Roe vs. Wade decision, and, to the best of my knowledge, made no comments on abortion, he was an ardent supporter of Planned Parenthood. He even won their Margaret Sanger Award in 1966 and had his wife give a speech entitled Family Planning – A Special and Urgent Concern which he wrote. In the speech, he did not compare the civil rights movement to the struggle of Christian Conservatives, but he did say "there is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger's early efforts."
    This is particularly surreal given that Margaret Sanger was a racist, though made slightly less so if you understand the connection between sexual license and Planned Parenthood and ultimately abortion.

    But reading through MLK's sermons, there is a recognition that we do that which we don't want to do (see my blog title):
    There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, "I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do." There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions. There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Goethe, "There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue." There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul, "I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do."
    We are walking oxymorons: we are influenced both by concupiscence due to Adam's sin and by God via Christ's saving action.

    Of interest to RC readers is Dr. King's opinion of the Catholic Church. He said this in 1954, prior to Vatican II:
    This narrow sectarianism is destroying the unity of the Body of Christ. You must come to see that God is neither a Baptist nor a Methodist; He is neither a Presbyterian nor a Episcopalian. God is bigger than all of our denominations. If you are to be true witnesses for Christ, you must come to see that America.

    But I must not stop with a criticism of Protestantism. I am disturbed about Roman Catholicism. This church stands before the world with its pomp and power, insisting that it possesses the only truth. It incorporates an arrogance that becomes a dangerous spiritual arrogance. It stands with its noble Pope who somehow rises to the miraculous heights of infallibility when he speaks ex cathedra. But I am disturbed about a person or an institution that claims infallibility in this world. I am disturbed about any church that refuses to cooperate with other churches under the pretense that it is the only true church. I must emphasize the fact that God is not a Roman Catholic, and that the boundless sweep of his revelation cannot be limited to the Vatican. Roman Catholicism must do a great deal to mend its ways.
    He just called Pius XII "noble". Boy the secular progressives of today wouldn't like to hear that. Don't let Cornwell know.

    February 10, 2007

    Liberal Blogger at Daily Kos

    ...wants an unnamed source to pay for suggesting the evident truth that John Edwards is more afraid of offending bloggers than he is of Catholics:
    Someone just didn't have enough respect for you:
    Bloggers heralded the decision to keep them; the Catholic League was outraged, and a top adviser to a rival campaign took a shot: "Apparently they're more afraid of the bloggers than they are the Catholics."
    Who did it?

    I want to know.

    You want to know.

    And now, they'll be desperate not to let you know.

    I'm just a silly little blogger, but I have this advice for whoever did it: Don't you ever let me find out.

    Update by kos. I've asked the author of the Slate piece, John Dickerson, if he can specify whether the campaign is Democratic or Republican. The common usage of the word "rival" in a primary means a campaign of the same party, but I think confirmation would be nice.

    I have also emailed most of the campaigns, asking them if they were the ones offering that quote to Slate. I have gotten denials from the Clinton, Dodd, Biden, Vilsack, and Obama campaigns. I'll update this list as I hear back from the others. I don't know anyone at the Gravel or Kucinich camps, so if they're reading, they should drop me a line. So all that's left are Richardson, Clark, Kucinich, and Gravel.

    Of course, a campaign might not know which of its "top advisors" are talking to the press (that's the stuff of unauthorized leaks). But it's telling that whoever offered that blind quote to Slate was clearly more afraid of the bloggers than the Catholics that his or her campaign would supposedly win over by bashing Edwards.

    Update II: And the Richardson camp has chimed in with a denial as well. And honestly, does Kucinich and Gravel even have "top advisors" that Dickerson would seek out? So it's either a Republican campaign or a rogue advisor. Either way, my point still stands -- it's hypocritical to attack the Edwards campaign for "being afraid of bloggers" when this person was obviously too afraid of bloggers to put his or her name on the quote.

    Update III: I have confirmed with Slate's John Dickerson that his source was with a Democratic campaign. Also, Clark's camp has responded with a denial.
    What's hilarious is he feels dissed even to be compared to Catholics in terms of influence. The Daily Kos sees his blogging brigade as a force stronger than sixty million U.S. Catholics. That he would think that is only partially due to ego; it's also testimony to how many Catholics are apparently immune to media and political attacks against the Faith. (Witness the success of the DaVinci Code.) It's also funny that whoever had the "audacity" of suggesting that there was an equvalence has been threatened. Because, you know, no one is as illiberal as a liberal.

    February 09, 2007

    Fine Art Friday

    St. Dorothy, found via Happy Catholic.
    A Non-Illustrated History of my 20th & 21st Century Journals.  [Orange Level for Self-Indulgent Posting]

    My urge to compulsively quantify isn’t as severe as Thomas Jefferson’s, who I wouldn’t be surprised to learn weighed & recorded his bowel movements, but it is sufficiently strong to want to write a journal entry about my journal entries. (Though admittedly having a record of every day’s jog since 1978 probably gives Jefferson a run for his money. No wonder the Stats teacher took me aside and suggested I do grad school.)

    After six months in '73 and three months in '75, steady journal entries began in earnest in January of 1984 - perhaps a New Year’s resolution of some sort. They continued through ’84 and into ’85. Post-college they dried up completely as if relics of an immature age, like the boy who gives up collecting baseball cards when he’s old enough to find his heroes have feet of clay.

    From ’85 to May of ‘97 there was no apparent writing other than trip logs of bi-annual vacations. It’s a shame because there was a lot of other things going on those years I’d like to read about now but then I was living the “unexamined life”. Perhaps a life of action is by its nature unreflective and resists the passive activity of the recounting, and wrestling with, events. Sometimes to verbalize is to ruin. Western films often get it right with the cowboy’s laconic utterances.

    From 1997 to the present there have been journal entries. The writing in ’84 and ’85 was just horrible, unbearably banal and whiney and full of cliches. At the time it all seemed to glitter, which of course was part of the reason I wrote the entries. It's like Christianity in the sense that you can practice it no matter how bad you suck. You don't really know the quality of your writing or your own soul but that ignorance is bliss. I’ve improved writing-wise but suspect that ten years from now I’ll look back and think it lame (though that does imply improvement). Journal writing is immediately pleasing no matter skill level in the same way that an unformed palate is as pleased by a cheeseburger as the more sophisticated's is a steak dinner.

    Little of the Ireland trip log in ’96 was salvageable from the standpoint of lyrical writing, but by the summer of ’97 the Hilton Head log seemed a leap forward. Why that should be so is not obvious unless visiting the Olde Sod and the grave of Yeats improved the situation after a year of fermentation. Perhaps it was a delayed reaction to changes spiritual in nature since the “Great Awakening” appears to have begun in ’96. Looking over books read, ’95 was all secular. In ’96 “Cloister Walk” by Kathleen Norris and Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” show up.

    Many of the ’98 journal entries are still readable. There’s an entry listing discussions with Ham o’ Bone about
    “the relative value of suffering for Christians, whether the Red Sox will ever win a World Series (speaking of suffering), whether the French film Ham rented was a ‘ship movie (short for relationship, i.e. chick flick), the best place to put one’s money during the coming global depression (metals vs cash), the best way to allocate one’s lunch money, whether the anti-Christ will come in the form of an S.U.V., how to get rich by checking friend’s couch cushions, the best way to drink a Guinness (four opposing fingers to thumb), the healthiness of watching too many X-files, Mr Boo’s last vowell movement, and whether either of us could come up with an oxymoron using the word ‘oxymoron’.”
    The late ‘90s, early ’00s were peak in terms of creativity if not depth. That’s the funny thing – the window of opportunity for creativity shrinks as depth comes slowly, if at all. In 2002 blogging began in earnest and certainly prompted more exercise of the writing muscle though it's a medium that discourages poetry and fiction and vignettes while encouraging polemic and disputation. Which is to say it discourages creativity and beauty while encouraging logical thinking and/or ranting. That is not necessarily good for one's writing.

    The blogger at "Nihil Obstat" highlighted my apostrophe hang up, especially where its was concerned. I was of the opinion that when in doubt add an apostrophe. In those heady early days of blogging, when you searched other blogs as if the presence of your link mattered, Nihil Obstat's attention was a fearsome thing.

    The lyricism and creativity extant in '02 and '03 was sufficient enough to make me envious for the first time of a past self, Guinness-aided or not. From September of '03:
    He was a born Materialist, though worse – a Materialist lacking imagination. Shortly after he turned ten, and his father sat down and informed him of the facts of life, he gave a lecture of his own: “No dad, only pee comes out of the penis! That’s why they call it a pee-nis!”

    “Consider it a dual-use instrument,” his dad answered, “like a trumpet that becomes a trombone.”

    “No, that just isn’t possible…how would it know when to pee and when to, when to…do what you said?”

    “Well, you have a point there. It’s not exactly known as an organ of intelligence.”

    And so the child went his way like Thomas the Apostle, not believing until he experienced it for his own, at which point he was surprised by how wrong he was, and of his reluctance to believe his father, but that soon passed.
    We ought value things less for the intrinsic value of the thing - be it our health, hair, virility or creativity - than what we did with it. Did we use our (fill in the blank) to glorify God?

    Fortunately, in 2004 we lost one of history's all-time great markers for things hopeless. The Red Sox won the World Series. And if the writing world was made poorer for the sudden lack of analogy, we're all made more hopeful by the occurrence of the impossible.
    'They Won’t Know What Hit Them'

    Gay activist/mogul Tim Gill leads a quiet group bent on promulgating the gay rights agenda. From the Atlantic article:
    [Republican speaker pro tempore of Iowa’s House of Representatives] Danny Carroll was among the dozens of targets of a group of rich gay philanthropists who quietly joined forces last year, under the leadership of a reclusive Colorado technology mogul.

    In the 2006 elections, on a level where a few thousand dollars can decide a close race, Gill’s universe of donors injected more than $3 million, providing in some cases more than 20 percent of a candidate’s or organization’s budget. On Election Day, fifty of the seventy targeted candidates were defeated, Danny Carroll among them; and out of the thirteen states where Gill and his allies invested, four—Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington—saw control of at least one legislative chamber switch to the Democratic Party. (In Massachusetts, Travis decided to retire rather than seek reelection.) The national climate, which was strongly anti-Republican, helped bring about this transformation. But Gill’s stealth campaign was both effective and precedent-setting. For the first time, in a broad and organized way, gays had taken the initiative in a sweeping multistate strategy and had mostly prevailed.

    To date, twenty-seven of the twenty-eight state ballot initiatives banning gay marriage have been approved, including those in three of the four states last year where Gill funded efforts to oppose them (Arizona voters, with Gill’s help, defeated one last November). The losses seem to have neither dulled Gill’s resolve nor prompted him to rein in his spending. “As an engineer, I like experiments,” he explained. “The only way you find new tools is to take one out and try it, and I’m perfectly happy to be in this for the long haul.” His general success in state races has already stimulated plans for a larger target list in 2008 and a seminar, scheduled for next March, to brief interested high-net-worth donors. The challenge, he believes, will be expanding the ranks of donors while maintaining the focus of those who participated last year and now face the ultimate temptation in “glamour giving,” the 2008 presidential race. “You hope that the forces of darkness will be the ones distracted by the shiny bauble of the presidency,” Gill said. Then he excused himself to continue mapping out a state-by-state conquest that already has advanced gay interests in politics, even as the need for his surreptitious methods suggests how far they still have to go.
    Whatcha Gonna Do?

    Whatcha gonna do when you have a long, boring meeting to attend?

    You could bring some reading material of course. But what reading material?

    It has to be something engaging and not dry. Smart, but not dense. Non-fiction because fiction requires too much concentration given how parts of the meeting will be applicable to your group and that will jolt you out of the narrative. If political, then not the sort of mean-spirited political invective our nation is saturated with because you don't want to be in a bad mood during a long meeting.

    Jonah Goldberg came to mind but Peggy Noonan seemed perfect. More irenic. It's been too long since I read some Noonan. So here goes:
    Age exposes us, if we're lucky enough to be given it. Some say it makes you softer, some tougher, some a mix of both. Some say it just leaves you more so--whatever you were, you are, only more. I thought of that the other day after I saw the news reports of 41's speech...

    I thought about the two presidents I had known. Ronald Reagan was emotionally moved by American history and the Founders, by the long sweep of history. Personal issues and relations left him more dry-eyed. His successor was enormously moved by personal relations, by his love for his children and parents and friends. But to him the sweep of history was more abstract; it didn't capture his imagination in the same way. It left him dry-eyed.

    Different strokes, different folks.

    From what I have seen, growing older can leave you more exposed to the force of whatever it is you're feeling. Defenses erode like a fence worn by time. But what you feel can surprise you.

    You're thinking about what was, and suddenly apprehending for the first time how important it was. You think of your son, age 3, on the lawn when you drove up that time. Once that memory touched you in some way you don't fully understand, but now it makes your throat constrict because you realize that of all the things that ever happened to you, none was as important as how he looked on the lawn when you drove up that time.

    Age reorders. The order is expressed by the mysterious force of a fragment of a moment. And there you are at the podium, mugged by a memory.
    Excerpt from Truth and Tolerance:
    Anyone reflecting on these views will almost inevitably feel reminded of a very profound passage from Plato's Phaedrus. Socrates is telling Phaedrus a story he had from the ancients who knew about truth. Thoth, the 'father of letters' and the 'god of time' once came to the Egyptian king Thutmose of Thebes. He taught this ruler about various arts he had invented and especially about the art of writing that he had thought up. In praise of his invention, he said to the king: 'This knowledge, O King, will make the Egyptians more wise and better able to remember things; for it has been invented as an aide to memory as well as wisdom.' But the king was not impressed. On the contrary, he foresaw as the result of the art of writing that:

    This will bring forgetfulness into men's souls...through the neglect of remembering, in that by trusting in writing they will draw remembrance from without...and not from within, from their own selves. You have not, therefore, invented a means of remembering but of recording, and you pass on to your pupils only the appearance of wisdom, not the thing itself. For they are a people who hear much without learning anything and will therefore think themselves very knowledgeable, since in general they are ignorant, and they are people who are difficult to deal with, in that they are apparently wise but not truly so.
    - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)
    He goes on to mention modern media, including computers and the Internet, "which make available, for instance, to anyone searching, all the texts of some Church Father containing some particular word, yet without the person's having worked his way through his thinking...".
    St. John Bosco's Dante-ish Dreams

    February 08, 2007

    Conservative Vocabulary

    The good folks at the Corner today are using names as verbs and thus provided the inspiration for this:

  • K-Lo: To fall for, as K-Lo with Milt Romney

    Usage: Will social conservatives K-Lo Giuliani?

  • Goldberg: To use humor, often self-deprecating, to soften a point.

    Usage: He tried to goldberg the editor of the New York Times, but she would have none of it.

  • Derb: To proudly display prejudice

    Usage: He derb'd Hispanics during a speech at the local YMCA.

  • Brookhiser: To refer to obscure historical anecdotes of dubious interest.

    Usage: Don't brookhiser me with Gen'l Sherman's brother's family.

  • Buckley: To complexify the simple.

    Usage: He's one of the 'buckleyize the eschaton' folks.

  • Ponnuru: To advance an argument clearly and civilily.

    Usage: Are you going all ponnuru on me? You're a blogger for heaven's sake.
  • Nordliner Impromptus

    Opines here:
    A reader sent me the following, from the Sacramento Bee TV columnist Rick Kushman:
    Marc Cherry, the creator of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” and a man who put in plenty of time in the mills of show business before hitting it big, told TV critics how the network censors can get, shall we say, lost in the small things.

    He talked about an episode in which Eva Longoria was in bed after a tryst with her 17-year-old gardener. He got a request from the network.

    “The censor looked,” Cherry told critics, “and said, ‘Does she have to smoke?’

    “And I went, ‘So you’re good with the statutory rape thing?’”
    A truer tale of modern American, I don’t know.
    The Spirit in Real Time

    Reading journal entries from the 1980s, I can see my relationship with God then was much less interactive. I was allergic to superstition so I refused to see God influencing current or personal events. I wasn't apt to make connections between events, by seeing chance meetings as providential or by trusting "Godincidences" because, after all, science told me that the purely coincidental happens. I considered those things manifestations of Fundamentalism, whereupon soon I would be saying, as if slightly mad, "God told me to do this" where "do this" would be some sort of ghastly thing.

    Back then my relationship with God was more like snail mail, where the snail was traveling at the rate of one mile per decade. Unanswered prayers could be attributed to the great distance between Heaven and earth. So the thinking became this: "I love God. God loves me. Now what? How do I occupy my time until getting to the the point at which things happen - Heaven." In other words, it's sort of how John Adams was separated for years from his beloved Abigail. He wrote her, of course, (prayer in this analogy) but he also had something to occupy him fully (our nation's independence) before reaching Heaven (i.e. reunion with Abigail).

    Given this, it's not too surprising that what drew me close to the Church in the mid-90s after a period of fallowness was a much livelier faith in the Eucharist. Nothing is more interactive than Holy Communion, and it's this experience of the Risen Christ - His Pledge to be with us always - that keeps a Catholic's relationship with God from becoming distant.
    Talking 'Puter

    Text-to-Speech website with multiple language options...Sadly, no Latin.
    Random Thoughts on a Common Tragedy

    In the early days of GWB's presidency, before the wheels of the Iraq began to wobble, the President often mentioned the comfort he took at all the prayers being said on his behalf. I don't think he mentions that publically much anymore. Did his reliance on prayer preclude post-war planning? (Say five times fast.) Everyone has seen the sign in the office cubical that says "Poor Planning on Your Part Does Not Make an Emergency on Mine" or words to that effect. Did Bush let the knowledge of the prayers of so many thousands of serious Christians for him make him too optimistic with regard to how Iraq would go? Was Jimmy Carter too fond of peace because of his faith and Bush too fond of war for the same reason? I hope he still trusts in the power of prayer; Lord knows discernment can't be just for saints.

    The Iraq decision had an element of inevitability: Saddam knew Bush was well-armed but thought he had not the will to use it. Bush knew Saddam had the will but also thought he had the arms. The U.N. ceasefire had been violated over a dozen times but when someone tells an evil man "no more!" after repeated transgressions it's not suprising that the evil man doesn't think he's serious. There is a familiar predictability in the collision course between a good man wanting to give an miscreatant every opportunity to reform and a bad man seeing those opportunities as evidence of the good man's weakness. The irony with Iraq is that the world turned on the good man, not the bad man. They wanted the bad man's oil more than they wanted his disarmament, and in the end felt the good man was the greater threat. In the complex world we live in the bad man turned out to be the main check against another bad man - the leader of Iran.

    And so it goes...and pondering that I sometimes wonder at, and feel amazed at, the lust which Hillary and O'Bama and McCain and Romney have for such a job as POTUS. In the history of recent presidencies LBJ started a war he could not finish, Nixon resigned in disgrace, Carter a one-term disaster, Bush the elder engaged in a war in the chronically dysfunctional Middle East, Clinton was impeached by the House, and Bush the younger continued his father's war in the chronically dysfunctional Middle East. Would you want to be president?

    February 07, 2007

    The Corner is in Fine Form

    Delicious punditry today:
    I've always been kind of bored by the space program. But now I see why it has been necessary to fund it all these years — so that we could come to this day. To this story [link to crazy woman astronaut]. It may have cost tens of billions of dollars, but I'll warrant it was worth it. - John Podhertz
    ...From 2005 by the paper's very fine science writer, Jeremy A. Manier: "The crew's main preparation for the return of gravity is to drink copious amounts of fluid—about half a gallon each in the hour before the de-orbit burn. Weeks of zero gravity trick the body into thinking it has too much fluid, and the body responds by retaining less water. If astronauts do not drink a day's worth of salt-laden fluid just before re-entry, they can get light-headed when normal gravity returns." Evidently, considering they're strapped in with a half-gallon of water in them, they have to wear diapers. Just another glorious nugget of information that has been broken loose from its obscure moorings by the electrifying story of the would-be murderous lady astronaut with the BB gun and the wig and the trenchcoat. - John Podhertz
    I think Giuliani in 1982 was "one of us." Pro-life, married to his high school sweet heart and conservative. He ceased to be " one of us" in the interim. I think you have struck on an important idea about him. Conservatives loved two things about Nixon: 1) his enemies; 2) his anti-communism/national defense bona fides. In office his reaction to his enemies and their obsession with him destroyed him and he moved to detente. Giuliani is like that. He is a man comfortable with serial adultery, living with gay men and, fatally, a shi tzu. - a Corner emailer
    As a Christian, I care far less about Haggard's "discovery" that he is "completely heterosexual" (which I guess means gladiator movies leave him entirely unmoved?) than about his resolve to honor his marital vows; what matters morally isn't the precise configuration of his passions but his will to order them toward the good of his wife, family, community, and vocation. - another corner emailer
    Nothing says romance like conversion. Abraham leaps from polytheism to monotheism, and just look what happens to his wife–at ninety years old, no less. What about Paul? He turns Christian, and pretty soon he’s writing history’s most famous meditation on love. Nope, nothing says romance like conversion.- Stanley Kurtz
    Fun with the Scanner

    The weather outside is frightful so I stayed in last night and scanned some old photos from a trip to Ireland ten years ago. Back then you had to go to a camera shop (or Walmart) to get an enlarged image. Now with a scanner you can do it yourself. Unfortunately as you enlarge a photo the details don't always become clearer, just bigger and more fuzzy. (click to enlarge these)

      What's funny about this particular guy is he has an "Escape to Milwaukee" sticker on his wall. (Terrence Berres will be happy to see that.) Somewhere in Milwaukee I bet there's an "Escape to Ireland" sticker on a wall. The grass is always greener, although it's literally true in Ireland.

    Irish sheep. They just look cool. A scene of infinite "bucolity" (a neo-neologism).

    Hipply-attired Irish girl amid the old world architecture. Her shoes look distinctly uncomfortable, and it would seem the lack of socks would cause blisters.

    An authentic Oirish pub! Nothing says "stupid tourist" quite like taking a picture of the interior of a pub but...

    A breathtaking view