March 16, 2007


Mailbag Friday      --now with 2/3rds less gossip by volume!

Tis late in the week and post ideas suffer accordingly, so I'll crib emails, my own or others, and/or other posts, like Jody Bottum's* take on what sort of prose he likes to read, and how rare it is on the 'net. Lileks, who gets a Bottum thumbs up, takes Midwestern mundane and spins it into blogging gold and I suspect that what Shakespeare did for subsequent English playwrights Lileks did for bloggers - set the bar so high that many move to another blogre (blog+genre), such as political musings.

In an email, Steven Riddle discussed Culbreath's sudden re-emergence on the scene. JC has a new, clean, freshly painted blog called "Stony Creek". I like the name and look. Steven said Jeff probably couldn't help himself: he probably tried not blogging but it just "exploded out of him". Reminds me of a Cincy radio talk show host who spoke about the dangers of "FSB" (fatal sperm backup) for teenagers and celibate males. (I think he was kidding.) Steven, by the way, just got back from a retreat held by a liberal** retreat master, which seems a bit contrary to the spirit of Lent. A more pentential act would've been for me to go on his retreat, and he go to a Traditionalist retreat held by someone like Fr. Z (of "for many" fame). No, I take that back. Lent is about self-denial as a means to an end, not purposeless torture.

A correspondentress who wishes to remain anonymous asked a while ago in passing why I've never put my picture on my blog. Originally it was because I thought doing so was self-indulgent and narcissistic until I realized the whole blog was self-indulgent and narcissistic. Now I realize there's nothing wrong with it but I like the 'air of mystery' and being average-looking means that many folks have mental images that are improvements on nature. She replied: "It would definitely change the whole environment of your blog if you started posting glamour shots." Glamour shots, that's high-laire. But I'm no metrosexual. She adds, "I think the most you should ever do is some sort of faceless angle from a distance that reveals little specific of hair or physique or style of dress, or a travelogue photo with your hand or your shoe in it or something."

Speaking of looks, Bill Luse sent me an email with a link to a pic of his lovely daughters, Bern & Liz, in their natural habitat (his home), insouciantly slouching on the couch and wearing those little dark half-moon sort of glasses that are popular with the young these days. I think they should write a book: "The Inner Life of Exceptionally Talented Sisters" even though my hunch is that great athletes are just like us under the skin, except that they're more athletic. Having watched Bern play golf one pristine August morn, it was a pleasure to see that little white satellite consistently track straight ahead for two-hundred and fifty yards. It's a skill, and one that I can duplicate every, oh, say hundred drives. Bill also sent this bon mot on faith & science:
If one says 'theism DOES have scientific support', at the same time as the other side says that it does not, then this is an admission that Darwinism as well is not strictly science but depends for some of its credibility on philosophical assumptions, assumptions that he must consider mistaken....[There] ought to be agitating that these mistakes be made known to the students in science classes in public schools where they are being indoctrinated in pure materialism.
I wrote my bro-in-law yesterday of the difficulties of surpressing surprise in the workplace: "I could be more patient with a computer-illiterate co-worker if I wasn't constantly being surprised by her computer illiteracy. If someone would've told me what to expect I think I'd have been less exasperated. I was having her copy a pgm and she's in 'My Computer' and she copies the pgm. Then waits. 'What are you waiting for?' I ask. 'Waiting for it to copy! [pause] Oh, that's right, I have to paste it.' (I think I got a glimpse of Tom of Disputations's daily life, at least when he reads blogs.) My bro-in-law replied: "Support is one of the hardest jobs. I've noticed that folks that are really good at support are the ones that need it as much as the people they're helping." Which maybe isn't a bad analogy for saints and bishops, who need God just as much as the ones they instruct.

Regarding my hell post, the anonymous correspondent writes movingly:
Remember the late Joe Strummer, singer, writer, rhythm guitarist and heart and soul of The Clash? I read an interview with him once in which he said he hoped he was on the side of the good, and how he didn't understand rock and rollers "jokingly" or otherwise seeming to use approvingly or glamorizingly imagery of or allusions to the evil or demonic...(I remember he gave an example of being on the side of good that when he was hungry he used to steal so he could eat, but that he wasn't hungry anymore, so he didn't steal.)...I hoped that this was an illustration of someone who'd never really been taught convincingly responding to the conscience written on his heart, and without necessarily being sure that there are evil spirits, not wanting to align himself with such things with even the risk of implying that evil is cool.

I read this interesting thing a while back that I think then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, along the lines of how in the modern West people don't fear evil spirits like more "primitive" people did, or do, but it's because of Christianity that we don't have to fear, and without Christianity we're just not acknowledging how we really get to a place that the devil can't hurt us. The people in pagan societies recognized the existence of evil and didn't have the same protection against it, but so many of us here don't recognize the evil and reject the means to protect ourselves from it. something like that...
Interesting thing about comparing hell to cancer, as I did in my previous post, is that such an analogy implicitly assumes both are completely beyond our control. There are risk factors for cancer and risk factors for hell, but ultimately the teaching of John Paul II is that hell - unlike cancer - is chosen. But I don't even want to get near the grace/free will thing today, concerning which I've already admitted defeat anyway. It's a drinkin' Friday and thorny theological questions disturb the equinamity needed to quaff healthy quantities of Guinness.

Speaking of cancer, I received an email from a 419 scammer who writes plaintive fiction: "Dear Sir/Madam, My name is Raheem Kudus Salem, a merchant in Dubai in U.A.E i have been diagnose with Esophageal cancer which was discovered very late, due to my laxity and incaring for my health." He'd titled the email "My Last Wish" so I replied with "My last wish is that you stop scamming." I've received no reply. But perhaps he's lying and stealing in order to survive, like Joe Strummer once did.
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* - (Speaking of Bottum, on a Catlick radio show yesterday I heard the host refer to a "Jody" but wasn't sure it was Bottum until I heard him refer to some obscure Roman or Greek historian; it was as good as if he'd said his full name.)

** - To my shame, I haven't read the liberal's favorite catechism, "A Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church". Tom of Disputations complained about the lack of attention paid to it in a recent post, but a year ago he'd written: "First reaction...Take away introductory matter, footnotes, and indices, and you're left with, like, twenty pages of text. Which is not too surprising, as there's only so many possible variations on, 'Love one another.'" Which means, I suppose, that I've already read the Cliffs Notes version.

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