June 29, 2007

Waugh's Rebellion

The New Yorker has a review of the new book about the Waugh family including Evelyn. The normal New Yorker caveat applies in that it was written by anti-Catholic Joan Acocella (only Peter Boyle there is fair to the Church), but it was interesting to see how the perceived seed of First World War, excessive sentiment, was reacted against by the succeeding generation:
...it should be added that Evelyn’s rebellion against Arthur is merely one instance of the most notorious generation gap of the twentieth century, the antagonism between the young people of the nineteen-twenties—known in England as the Bright Young Things—and their parents, whose values, the children felt, had led to the pointless slaughter that was the First World War. In an essay that Evelyn wrote while still in high school, he announced this generation’s coming: “They will be above all things clear sighted. The youngest generation are going to be very hard and analytical and unsympathetic. The young men of the nineties”—Arthur’s generation—“subsisted upon emotion. They poured out their souls like water and their tears with pride; middle-aged observers will find it hard to see the soul in the youngest generation. But they will have—and this is their justification—a very full sense of humor.” His prophecy was correct.
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Waugh was loyal to the generation of the twenties—in English fiction, he was its leader—but he soon began worrying about its morals. Alec recalled that after receiving She-Evelyn’s fatal letter Evelyn said to him, “The trouble about the world today is that there’s not enough religion in it. There’s nothing to stop young people doing whatever they feel like doing at the moment.”
Post from Dispatches from TJICistan on Shaidle's non-Annulment

This exchange interests me primarily because it reminds me of the Protestant Reformation and how the principle of indulgences was good but the corruption of the same during the Middle Ages helped spread Luther's rebellion.
Would Ringo Like Bingo Lingo?

Things they don't tell bingo workers: Circling the hall, you'll end up walking seventy-five miles over the course of an evening. (I forget to bring my wife's pedometer so I can't confirm that.)

The other thing they don't tell you is that Joe, the grand poobah of bingodom, expects freshly laundered & sorted currency when you turn in the money. Mine comes in in something of a jumble. It's the Irish in me.

Prickly. The customers were a bit prickly tonight. I think because of recent hot, humid weather. In after-bingo someone said that fisticuffs broke out five times in the new Giant Eagle grocery store, once because one guy had "touched another guy's cart".

After-bingo, by the way, often generates surprising comments, like Kim saying, "why didn't he convert her?" when it was mentioned that St. Thomas Aquinas had once drove a prostitute out of his bedroom. Good question. And how ironic to learn that Kim is allergic to literally everything except bingo! Grass, cats, pollen, air - you name it. Yet she has no doctor's excuse to escape the clutches of the bingo hall. Life is unfair.

The "give an inch, take a mile" club is always looking for new members and today we had a person who won a door prize who tried to substitute it for instant winner tickets or cash. This defeats the whole purpose of a door prize, which is basically to get rid of something nobody really wants. Doug took the microphone and put it this way: "When I get home, a lot of times I don't really want what my wife cooked for dinner. But I eat it anyway. It's the same thing with door prizes...". I was surprised because who was sitting in the bingo office? Doug's wife! That original sin exists and we are fallen can be shown by my immediate impulse to run over and get Doug's wife's reaction (and rub it in) regarding this announcement.

The boredom during bingo is existential so try to come up with ways to make it more exciting for myself by coming up with different names for the games we sell. Kim once famously misspoke and called a game "Ball Busters", which was probably the genesis for one lady referring to us as "the fun sellers".

I got a laugh tonight merely by saying, "Instants...one for a dollar, five for five dollars" - as if that's a deal when everyone knows that's the going rate. One woman found this so funny she continued laughing even when I was nearly a half a bingo parlor away, proving that she needs to get out more. Earlier I was selling "Flashboards" which I dubbed "Flashboreds" although no one could tell. I tweaked it to "Flashboard-ens" to rhyme with "Flash Gordons" but to little effect.

Watching the zest with which some players yell "Bingo!", their arm upraised while holding the precious sheet in triumph, I'm reminded by how shy I was as a child (this is where you say, "How shy were you!"). I was so shy that I didn't want to play bingo 'cuz if I won I didn't want to have to yell out "Bingo!" and be the center of attention. For similar reasons I didn't want to ever go on Bob Barker's The Price is Right. "Come on down!" he'd yell and I'd probably slip out the back, Jack...

June 28, 2007

It's Not Just the Dems

I recently pilloried Hillary for gaming the system and playing political footsies with O'Bama in order to keep her presidential aspirations alive and well.

Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander -- apparently even those sitting at 1% in the polls feel the need to play games in order to keep presidential aspirations alive (albeit aspirations surviving on a respirator). Turns out Sam Brownback changed his vote on the immigration bill after he saw the outcome. Bad thing about being so high alphabetically.

On the flip side, McCain, like Bush, would rather be wrong than switch -- showing that the presidential candidate class of '08 is a dismal one indeed.

Our Ohio senators both switched sides when the writing was on the wall. Voinovich is a particularly interesting character because he has to balance his deep arrogance against accountability to the voters, which is why he bristled when he said that he refused to be blackmailed and threatened by those who say "vote this way or you'll be out of a job". One would think that that sort of "blackmail" comes with the territory? I mean it is an elected office after all. I recall him voting for the Bush tax cuts only after incredible consternation, the consternation of knowing that if he did not he could lose his job.

I know the senate is the imperial branch of Congress and we live in a republic and that all senators are naturally arrogant with some hiding it better than others but still... Can it be good to be so openly contemptuous? Voinovich, whose aide once shrugged off a caller with a cold, "who else are you going to vote for?", takes elitism to the nth degree. I'm not one in favor of direct democracy California-style but neither do I see treating constituents contemptuously as a hopeful sign.

In a nutshell it's the problem with politics since day one - either you have an arrogant king who misrules or you have an unruly mob who misrules. Choose your poison.

Gilbert magazine reviews Dulles' A History of Apologetics. Interesting.

Gilbert is one of those magazines that I've been on the cusp of subscribing to for years, without being able to pull the trigger. The other is St. Austin Review, which I believe Joseph Pearce edits.

Update: The Flannery O'Connor blog has been updated.

Update II: Found poem, written by Dan Hawkins:
The Eucharist

We pour addiction like a libation.
The ground, thirstier than we, sucks it dry.
While we have out drunk sand on occasion,
Our thirst is greater than we, which is why
Addiction is the gift we offer.
Our used rag righteousness ain’t enough,
so we give you our emptiness instead,
figuring you hold the bottle. You said,
“I’ll neither leave, nor forsake nor rebuff
The penitent thief or drunkard or whore”
So we lift our glasses in a toast
To the twice struck rock from which water flows.
Drink to the health of one whose blood is wine
That chokes as it quenches, burns going down

"Private dollars lead recovery efforts" goes the headline.

From the article:
Charities, foundations, and private individuals have promised at least $50 million toward renovating and building schools, libraries, and senior centers in New Orleans since the hurricane, much of it in middle-class communities such as Uptown and St. Roch.

In contrast, the US has spent or allotted some $4.6 billion on activities ranging from helicopter rescues, levee repairs, housing assistance, and Superdome restoration.
$50 million is about 1% of 4.6 billion... That's "leading"?
Beach Pictures...

...of a previous era have a kind of grainy, elegiac feel.

June 27, 2007

Links & Controversies

I wanted to use this space to write a parody regarding she-whose-name-will-not-grace-this-blog (hint: a debutante jailed). But that seemed a waste of time. Instead I'd rather talk about something really important - the decline in the integrity of country song lyrics as occasioned by my disappointment in an Ohio State Buckeye non-mention.

Oh sure I realize country songs have been as commoditized as soap and laundry detergent. But you can imagine my dismay when I heard Montgomery Gentry's song, "Lucky Man" with the lyric about a "Buckeye loss". Well, it turns out that that's the lyric for the Central Ohio audience. The rest of the country hears: "Last Sunday when the Bengals lost". Now the latter is more believable but still this sort of tailoring to geographic region is like films where you choose the ending. The ending is the writer's job; I don't want to be catered to like that.

Yes, that was much more important than writing about she-whose-name-will-not-grace-this-blog.

* * *

Elsewhere a Cornerite talks about beer and theology. Here too.

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Save the Indian Mound!

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One of the joys of commenting on other blogs is going where the writer wanted to go but felt constrained. Karen Hall understandably didn't want to use the line "baby we were born to pun!" however irresistable (and it proved so for me) in this Sprinsteen-ian post but professed it had occurred to her.
Fictional Wednesday

The moon that Mardi Gras was gauzed by clouds, as if trying to costume itself in the spirit of the occasion. Was it trying to hide in order to observe, or fit in so that it may join the revelers? No one knew for sure but that it had the wide-eyed innocence of a young Olivia Hussey.

One of the revelers was a young man with a mathematical background. The certainty in the life of the Casari family was the need for certainty. Uncertainties were tolerated to the extent they could be assigned probabilities. Joan, Ron Casari’s mother, had delegated weekly household chores based on a complex algorithm that took into account the child’s strengths, weaknesses, biorhythm chart and phase of the moon. She said that with her system chores were 83% more likely to get done.

Ron did well in school though teachers said he approached his classes in a rote, mechanical fashion. In English Lit class he asked his teacher, a Mr. Siddle, why the books laden with symbols carefully hidden even though the insights revealed tended towards common sense. He studied to the test and the test asked: what does the whale in Moby Dick symbolize? It was like a math problem with multiple correct answers.

One of the milder surprises of Ron Casari’s life was discovering that foreign languages were never fully accessible. He’d considered language little different from mathematics: A=B, where “B” was the foreign word for “A”. But a book that bore the imprint of the soul of a foreign culture would throw him off-balance, off-kilter. He was uncomfortable with mystery, or at least uncomfortable with not knowing what he didn’t know. Mysteries, by definition, didn’t have the answers in the back of the book. That languages were essentially unsolvable was an anathema in a culture in which choice was worshipped. He couldn’t get over the fact that his native tongue had been chosen for him and he couldn’t choose another.

He naturally wasn't sure how close his approximation of the foreigner's tongue was, and the native born wouldn't tell him for reasons mysterious. What was humorous was that even when he mickmicked the accents of foreigners speaking English he couldn't tell if that made him more intelligible or less. On overseas trips he felt like he was playacting and yet the exaggerated syllables might sound "natural" to the Venetian, no matter how unnatural it sounded to his ears.

After graduating from Ole Miss he moved to Louisiana. Every Mardi Gras thereafter he donned a costume inspired by a character from a Franco Zeffirelli film and marched in the Krewe of St. Anne. Afterwards he’d get lost in the byways of the Quarter, drunk on mimosas and bourbon.

He knew the exhilarating feeling of dissolving into a crowd of foreigners and of the sheer joy of invisibility, but language offered no such invisibility: on any street in Venice or Berlin or Moscow everyone who spoke the language knew - from his accent - it was not his native tongue. He wished he could fit in so he could join them. Or maybe just so he could observe. Or perhaps to have the choice.

June 26, 2007


Let us make mercy our patroness now, and she will free us in the world to come. - St. Caesarius of Arles

The actual problem with Galileo was not merely that the the heliocentric theory contradicted "what the Bible said." The problem was that Galileo insisted that the theory was a *fact*, and he did so without any conclusive proof. This "proof," the tides, had been debunked by many other scientists of his day. The principle of Scriptural interpretation was/is that a biblical way of speaking cannot be ruled merely "according to appearances" unless the contradictory alternative is scientifically proved, not merely a theory. The heliocentric theory was not actually proved until the observation of the Solar Parallax in 1761. After that, the monitum on Galileo was removed without fuss and the heliocentric theory could be taught as a fact, not just a theory--biblical language not withstanding. - commenter Fr. Augustine Thompson on "Ten Reasons

The Catechism...tells us that "The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings" (#1783). It was precisely to guard and guide Catholic children that the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore met in 1884 to declare that every parish was obligated to establish a parochial school. Mr. Kellmeyer argues that, for many reasons, this decision--however well intended--was bound to fail. The chief reason for failure, he contends, is that such schools violate the concept of subsidiarity... - amazon.com review of Steven L Kellmeyer's "Designed to Fail"

The cultural prerequisites of democratic capitalism are given life by real human beings. So when you bring new people into your society, you’re potentially working a root transformation in what that society is–and in how (and whether) democratic capitalism works there. Immigration uniquely reveals the underlying dependence of markets themselves on cultural foundations. - Stan Kurtz of NRO's "Corner"

Should a man look at a beautiful woman? Yes. Not to appreciate the beauty and goodness that God has endowed her would be a sign of ingratitude on our part. For a man, one of the most beautiful things to see is a beautiful woman, and I think it works the same way for women with regard to men. The problem is not in the first look. - from ewtn Q&A

What has so bedeviled, so to speak, this debate on limbo and the unbaptized is how little consideration has been given to St. Paul’s insistence that in baptism we are baptized into the Body of Christ. To hear some people’s reaction to the Vatican’s Statement on Limbo, one would think that baptism is a kind of celestial life-insurance policy, of relevance for the recipient alone but of no consequence to the body of the cosmos whatever (and certainly worthless tender when debased by the non-baptized getting into heaven, too!). But that is scarcely Paul’s view: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as if in the pangs of childbirth right up to the present day. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we await eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22–23). If the ITC Report on Limbo leads to a reappropriation of Paul’s theology of baptism, I will not be at all disappointed. - Fr. Oakes S.J. in First Things

We who live beneath a sky still stained with the smoke of crematoria, have paid a high price to learn that evil is really evil. -Francois Mauriac via "Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering"

He would only join the agrarian movement if he could drive a huge air-conditioned, satellite-navigated tractor. -self-description of Julian O'Dea, on Catholic Restoration blog

I am an abstract and very modern thinker by nature, training, and personal history. Paul Cella's thought has a rootedness to it, a foundation in concrete history and real people, a connection to blood and soil, that I simply cannot self-generate as the modern person I am. Paul doesn't just make me think, he plants my thoughts in the soil of history. - Zippy of Zippy Catholic

I ought to get out of this habit of posting when I don't have anything to say, but it hasn't stopped anyone else. Isn't that the definition of blog? A place to say what doesn't need saying? Maybe that needed saying...Old Culbreath tagged me for a meme he made up, one of those my-memes I guess. Thirty things that don't bother him. Everything bothers me even when it shouldn't, so I can't do it. Besides, he tags me then disappears on one of those fasts in which he refuses to eat blogs for a while. - William of Apologia

June 25, 2007

Seeds of Germany's Path

I've been interested for awhile why Germany became the primary instigator of the great wars of the twentieth century. Belloc (in "Europe and the Faith") seems to locates the blame with Prussia and the fact that Prussia was insufficiently evangelized given its geographical location (too north and too east).

What else could've caused the nationalism that ran amuck in Germany? It seems sentimentalism and religion of the heart rather than the head had a role; Germany's Pietism movement was a counter to those espousing a universal humanity. (In a way this isn't too surprising. Islam is a religion with more fervency than rationality and has proven itself very adept at hatred of outsiders.)

Michael Burleigh in Earthly Powers writes of this (although he says it isn't of itself explanatory; there were many other factors):
Seventeenth-century German Pietism influenced the Romantic cults of the self and of God being present in nature. Pietism meant a faith based on love of Christ rather than intellectual subscription to a creed...Pietism involved not just the individual's direct experience of God, but acknowledgement of God's presence in wider fellowships and communities. These included the family, church and nation, the units within which it was really possible for human beings to know each other. A sermon delivered in 1815 sentimentalized this intense feeling of belonging:
When a man speaks of the fatherland, he includes in this idea everything he loves on earth: the bosom of his parents, his circle of brothers and sisters, the family altar, his childhood playgrounds, the dreams of his youth, the places of his education, his field of work, and those thousand bonds that link him with his fellow citizens, the same language, the same customs, the same nationality, the same common life, common names, common possessions, common renown, common welfare, common sorrows...
Pietism contributed to a spiritual climate in which such collectives as the nation became vehicles of intensified worship...
Sympathy for the Communists

It's hard to be surprised by near treasonous behavior anymore, but I was startled by the following, which I'd read in O'Sullivan's book and meant to write about. Fortunately this Crisis article saves me the trouble:
Near the end of his story, O’Sullivan gives us an amazing little interlude. In February of 1986, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) visited the Soviet Union to meet with Gorbachev for the first time. The thrust of his mission to Moscow was to work with Gorbachev to derail Reagan and the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). As O’Sullivan puts it, “Kennedy and the Soviets saw eye-to-eye on several important matters.” Together, they would outmaneuver Reagan, especially if Gorbachev would take Kennedy’s advice and put “more pressure, and firmer pressure, on Reagan.”

Aside from a possible treason charge, Kennedy also had little or no grasp of the weak hand that the Soviet leadership was forced to play at this point in the game. Instead, the senator blithely and blindly assumed that the USSR was a superpower equal to the United States in economic and military strength. Apparently, Kennedy also assumed that it was his charge to give Gorbachev advice as to how to deal with their mutual rival, President Reagan.
Interview with Ancient Man

Although life for Cro Magnum man was short and brutal, they didn't worry about putting on SPF before going outside or checking themselves for tics after hiking. Here is an exclusive interview with a Cro Magnum man visiting 21st century America:
Cro: Let's go outside. Don't like four walls unless it's freezin'.
Me: I'll grab my sunglasses...
Cro: What you need those for?
Me: I wear contacts which make your eyes more susceptible to glare and...
Cro: What are contacts?
Me: I don't see too well and they correct my vision.
Cro: I used to know folks with bad vision. They got eaten by coyotes. Didn't see 'em comin'.
Me: That happens. Well, not anymore I guess. I gotta put some SPF on too.
Cro: What's SPF?
Me: It's to protect from sun damage. They say in the '70s people used aerosol anti-perspirants and it eroded the ozone layer, which is an invisible layer of sky that prevents bad rays of the sun from entering.
Cro: Whatever man. You 21st century types worry too much. What's "anti-perspirant"?
Me: Well it goes along with deodorant. It keeps you from smelling and sweating.
Cro: What's wrong with smelling and sweating?
Me: Sweating leaves dark rings under your arms so when you raise them you look like dictator Hugo Chavez. No one in America wants to look like him. And smelling is embarrassing in business settings.
Cro: I see. What's that you are spraying?
Me: It's Cutter, keeps the mosquitoes away. Want some?
Cro: Sure -- that's one thing I could've used back in my day!

EWTN guy Marcus Grodi recently told the story about the automobile accident that inspired him to go to seminary and give his life completely to God. He was falling asleep while driving a car, very, very tired, but he had to make it to work on time. He asked God to help keep him awake, but he fell asleep anyway and hit a semi-truck going 70mph. Remarkably, he lived through it. And it was as though he had a new life, as if he should have, by all rights, died and so he felt free to give this new life to God. And the interesting line from Grodi was this – he said that he could’ve just said, “Man I was lucky! How lucky am I? I gotta go to Vegas and see if my luck holds.” No, he saw it as from God. And *that* was God working in him – that he was able to see what other people could easily attribute to dumb luck but he saw it through the eyes of faith.

* * *

Interesting commentary on 2 Cor 12:1-10 from A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, on Paul's "other" vision:
We get the impression that he had never mentioned this before, that it was different from other visions and that he had approached as nearly as a living man can to the direct contemplation of God. He was not especially reserved about all visions. He had already told the Corinthians about the one on the road to Damascus. Four others are mentioned in Acts. But here all the signs, especially the strangely ambiguous language, show that he was claiming something far beyond the other visions, an overwhleming experience... In verse 2 'a man': there can be no doubt that he means himself. The date (13 yrs past) would be A.D. 41 or 44, not long after the escape from Damascus.
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St. Pio's prayers were answered early and often and it's hard to think of anyone more deserving given his willingness to suffer and given his true desire to please God. Perhaps in his closeness to God he understood what to pray for. Sometimes it seems a sort of catch-22 to the typical sinner: the answers of prayers feed a desire to please God, but the desire to please God is what triggers the answers to prayers.

* * *

Met a bearded guy my age yesterday who showed me his driver's license when I asked for the spelling of his extremely unusual name. I could see that he carried in his wallet a picture of the Eucharist host. Touching; we might have a picture of our wife or mother or father and he put His best friend, Jesus. Soon to be ordained a deacon in the Ukrainian Catholic church, he spoke with an uncommon wisdom and his evident peacefulness was not always so; years ago he wanted to commit suicide but realized it would crush his mother. He spoke prophetically I thought (since my pastor Fr. Lane has hinted at the same) when he said that he thinks “God is preparing those who take Him seriously for a time of great upheaval”. He said we are in a testing phase where God is strengthening us before the trial to come. I think we live in an age that is far more fragile than we think, and the whole financial house of cards upon which the West depends is as likely as not to fall.
Fiction for a Monday
John Manifold had an instinctive distrust of wealth not because he didn’t like the idea of having lots of money but because he knew how it would play with people who didn’t have money. He’d hadn’t any for years and that had caused him to divide the world into haves and have-nots, and all his sympathy was for the have-nots. To be rich seemed a implicit betrayal of his poor friends.

He wondered, naturally, if he was merely jealous. The poor were often jealous and just because someone wasn’t wealthy didn’t mean they couldn’t be happy for those who were. Manifold accepted this on an intellectual level but the loser and underdog held his affection and he couldn’t help but judge things by the way the underdog would view things. It felt somehow wrong if he should acquire money and they not.

He feared that with wealth he would no longer be able to relate to his poor brethren and thus no longer, in some sense, be able relate to himself. He’d always been poor. But he almost tried to avoid getting rich since his greatest fear is that after becoming so he would become one of those insisting how easy it was and thus annoying those who were still poor. How many times he’d heard that when he was poor! The haves always told the have-nots how easy it was to acquire money.

The rich sometimes flaunted their wealth almost accidentally - not out of hubris but only because they saw their wealth as coming from outside themselves, as something they hadn't earned. But the poor scarcely understood that concept and the rich said that it was because they didn't understand that they remained poor.

So how could one become rich and still appreciate the situation of the poor?

June 23, 2007

Mary as Model

Jacob wrestled with God and I think we get glimpses of the right way to "wrestle with God" when we examine Mary's life. She dealt with mystery and uncertainty well. There was the cryptic, if ominous, warning from Simeon ("a sword shall pierce your heart") that she lived with her whole life. Jesus allowed the anxiety of missing Him for three days when he was at the temple in Jerusalem. There was a "tough love" aspect to it all. When Jesus was told that Mary and others were waiting outside Jesus redefined family as those who do the will of God. She also watched her Son die on the cross, and there is no biblical record of her experiencing Christ in his glorified Body.

But her questioning of Jesus - and therefore of God - was always of a spirit of obedience that seemed neither of an indifferent, robotic nature nor at the other extreme.

It seems Mary became, in a sense, like the eldest in the story of the Prodigal Son, in role though not behavior or attitude. Like the elder son, she never left the Father, having never sinned. She might've lacked some of the immediate gratifications and consolations that other saints received, but she didn't ask for her inheritance in this life and now enjoys eternity as Queen of Heaven.

June 22, 2007

June 22 - Feast of St. Thomas More

One of my favorite lines in A Man for All Seasons was one I didn't really notice the first or second time I viewed the film. But the third time it got me: when St. Thomas More said he would miss his somewhat vulgar manservant. The manservant at first shrugged him off in a "you've got to be kidding manner", much as one of us might say to a saint who said that to us, and yet St. Thomas meant it. We can share in the incredulity of that manservant when we see that Christ and his saints care about us. Love is a miracle more shocking than the raising the dead.

(Image via Jim Curley)
Somehow it seems that in the past I missed the Requiem Press book about Cardinal John Fisher and Sir Thomas More and other English martyrs. It's a steal these days:
Starting tonight and through the 4th of July, Requiem Press is offering "Witnesses to the Holy Mass and other sermons" (see short reviews below) at an unprecedented discount of $4.00 plus $1.50 S&H (which by the way, doesn't cover the S&H). This book is about Cardinal John Fisher and Sir Thomas More and other martyrs for the Mass, for Papal supremacy, and the Faith of our fathers.

Ending of one of St. Thomas More's books:
"And in the meane tyme, I besech our lord to breth of his holy spirite into the readers brest, which inwardly may tech hym in hart, without whome {259} litle availeth all that all the mowthes of the world were able to tech in mens eares / And thus good Cosyn fare well, till god bryng vs together agayne, eyther here or in hevyn / Amen."(CW 12, 320/23--28)
Kellogg, We Hardly Knew Ye

...or as Tony the Papist might say, "N-n-n-not s-so Gr-gr-great!"

Jeff Miller writes:
"There are also many strange but true facts scattered throughout the book that you would think they were just part of the authors well developed humor. One being a quote from anti-Catholic and just strange John Harvey Kellogg (yes founder of the cereal) who ironically turns out to be a flake."
As a fan of his cereal, I'm dismayed!

June 21, 2007

Decoding Drudge    ...commenting on Drudge links so you don't have to

  • The tale of two headlines:
    MSNBC headline: Journalists dole out cash to politicians (quietly)
    Drudge headline: Reporters Give Dems Money Over Republicans 9 to 1!
    ....referring to this story. Statistics are cruel things. No wonder the MSNBC guy waited till the third paragraph to deliver the news that donations were whoppingly skewed towards liberal politicians. And no surprise that a scribe at the liberal National Catholic Reporter donated to liberal candidates:
    National Catholic Reporter, Margot Patterson, senior writer and arts/opinion editor, $2,100 to Claire McCaskill, Senate candidate, Democrat, in October 2006; a total of $800 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2004 and 2006; $1,000 to Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver in 2004; and $250 to Howard Dean, Democratic presidential candidate, in February 2004.
    Howard Dean?!?!

    * * *

    Another Drudge-ian headline:
    PELOSI: Iraq a 'grotesque mistake'...
    At some point even thesaurus.com will run out of synonyms for 'terrible' to aid Democrats calling Iraq a mistake. Pelosi's staffers also get credit for making news with something that obvious. Tomorrow's headline: "Gingrich Calls Grass Green".
  • Judge Not a Film By Its Trailer

    I am allergic to infomercials. Therefore I was skeptical of Champions of Faith, thinking that it was likely a cheesey infomercial for Christ.

    But it turns out it is beautifully photographed and has a documentary feel. It's also very inspiring. And even though the trailer (which I'd viewed beforehand on the 'puter) didn't do much for me and the first five or ten minutes of the film seemed slow (probably more of an indication of my impatience than a reflection on the film's pacing) I can definitely recommend this video.

    About eight or ten years ago I was asked to go on a one-day men's gathering in Cincinnati, a sort of a Promise Keepers for Catholics. Maybe ten thousand listened to sports stars talking about their faith, including one football coach who referred to the then-new Catechism as our "playbook" and the Scriptures as our "rulebook" or vice-versa. Anyway, the event was a big success and that suggests that the link between sports and religion seems a way to reach men. So this DVD seems right in our "hitting zone".

    But I watched with my wife and she, though not a sports fan, got caught up in it and praised it afterwards.
    Remember When the Air Was Clean and "Pastoral" Was a Good Thing?

    Lord knows we need a less litigious culture, but suing U.S. Catholic for defaming U.S. Catholics seems appealing. At the very least the name is wrong; it's like calling a socialist magazine U.S. Capitalist.

    In a recent article they condone/recommend living together before marriage. One might call it "betrothal with benefits". Found the article via Alicia and Curt Jester, and Alicia & Jeff & the commenters have covered most of the interesting ground. (One woman writes, "it came to me that the truth of a man's love is IN his commitment through marriage and in his care for her and their family 'as his own body', and not in his physical responses." Another, who'd lived together before marriage, attested: "I can tell you there was an immediate and large difference in our feelings and our commitment to each other after our wedding.")

    But to take a step back to look at general philosophies: if there are two fringe poles around which many gather, one pole being "sin is just the breaking of arbitrary cultural norms" (heresy) and the other "my sins are more than God will put up with" (scrupulosity), then how does either lead to love of Christ? In both cases doesn't that lead to a sense of ingratitude for His death on the Cross?

    Ah but I don't have a research study to back that up.

    One of the first points the authors make is relying on the empirical:
    Many Catholics believe living together before marriage is “living in sin” and associate premarital cohabitation with an increased divorce rate, but recent research reports a more detailed picture of the relationship between cohabitation and marital instability.
    This smacks of putting science before God. What do research studies to do with determing God's will for us? Studies seem to prove one thing today, the opposite tomorrow, but even if it were true does it matter? Does a good end tell us the means getting there was therefore good?

    It's not like orthodox Catholics don't do it too. We say that couples using NFP have an incredibly low divorce rate, something like 4%. But a doctrine is either true or false independent of results. Perhaps this citing of statistics is a sort of gospel enculturation thing, meant to reach us where we are, which is to say that we like research studies and statistics.

    Now, doing the right thing will lead to good, no question. It's God's will that marriages last and it is acting in accordance with God's will that causes anything to last.

    A bad thing about living in the midst of a therapeutic culture that worships peace, health and happiness and relies on research studies more than God as a pathway to those things is that you can begin to suspect peace, health and happiness by default, as if God doesn't want those things for us. Which is silly too.

    June 20, 2007

    Good Thread

    Arresting post and thread concerning massive immgration of Hispanics and racism and/or anti-Catholicism. A few snippets:

    Point: Give me a break. [Ann Coulter's article] is not anti-Catholic. I am a very conservative Catholic and do not want this country destroyed culturally and finanacially by allowing an estimated 20 million illegals to now become citizens. Wake up this is about globalization and forming a one world government...I care about people, but we can't help them by letting them all come to the U.S. At some point they have to help themselves and take control of their own country. Open your eyes people this is being planned out by globalist. They are doing this in every westernized country. - commenter
    Counterpoint: As for the "global strategies" towards world government, I am aware of those arguments - indeed, some of the foundations for this historical approach are laid out in my book "Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America." We already have a world government that is essentially similar to the union of states created by the Articles of Confederation in our own American history. I'm not a fan of world government, but it's a creation of man, so it isn't going to last very long. In that sense, I'm not too concerned about it. - Steve Kellmeyer

    Point: Could the democratic ideal have emerged out of - let's face it - what is essentially an autocratic and hierarchical system? The idea of the priesthood of the individual believer in protestant thought fits in with a democratic worldview much more than a Catholic obedience to the church hierarchy. I would never go so far as to claim that Catholics cannot live and participate in a democratic system, but I'm not so sure that Catholocism could have produced our system of government. - commenter

    Counterpoints: What no one takes into account when considering Catholic Faith and how it relates to democracy is the principle of subsidiarity.

    The Catholic Church in America has always been heretical, thus its failure to acknowledge subsidiarity, and its emphasis instead on clericalism.

    Catholic subsidiarity is perfectly in accord with democratic principles. Catholics in the US don't know this because they've never gotten a straight catechesis in the Faith. - Steve Kellmeyer
    "The idea of the priesthood of the individual believer in protestant thought fits in with a democratic worldview much more than a Catholic obedience to the church hierarchy." Which is precisely why any nation built upon that principle is doomed to the same fate as Protestantism itself - endless division and disintegration. - another commenter
    "Could the democratic ideal have emerged out of - let's face it - what is essentially an autocratic and hierarchical system?"

    You wouldn't be referring to Protestant England, would you? England in the 1500s and 1600s was about autocratic and hierarchical as you can get, and yet the U.S. "democratic ideal" traces back precisely to that culture. So it seems to me that if an unhealthy Protestant culture could produce what many think of as the democratic ideal, then an unhealthy Catholic culture should be able to do the same.

    If you'd like to see some good examples of Catholic advocacy of "the democratic ideal," you probably could do worse than to read ...some of St. Robert Bellarmine's writings on political theory. - Jordan Potter

    Historical "What if?": WW I would undoubtedly have been much shorter with a decent negotiated truce and therefore no WW II. We were pushed into that conflict by Britain for no particularly good reason. - Steve Kellmeyer
    Score One for the Little Guy

    Joe Kennedy is still married; Sheila Raunch Kennedy won her appeal in the Roma Rota.

    June 19, 2007

    As the (Political) World Turns

    Ham o' Bone recently experienced the shockwave of his highly respected evangelical pastor, a big swingin' in these parts, making an about face on things political and now embracing the "religious center" (which otherwise appears indistinguishable from the religious left).

    For one thing, this influential pastor has re-prioritized the relative importance of the life issues. He's gone all Sojourner on us it seems, a seamless garmentier, marked by a speech made in D.C. (where else?) declaring his declaration of independence from fellow evangelicals. The jist of it seems to be his sudden jealousy at the disjunction of evangelicals being "pro" war while the secular types being on the side of peace, when the opposite should occur. And of course my question is: where were you when it mattered? Like five years ago? Do I smell political opportunism? Mark Shea recently jumped on the Carter-ian bandwagon by suggesting that Bush was possibly the worst U.S. president in history. What interests me particularly is not Shea or Bone's pastor's comments so much as the timing. Is it a consequence of bona fide conviction or a consequence of the conviction that they want to be in the political center, where the action is, and we all know that the center is movin' on left (say like the Jefferson's 'Movin' on Up!'). Or is it the conviction that politics and religion should never kiss and right now there's too much smooching between conservative party and religion and too little between the liberal party and religion and one can feel better about oneself by dancin' with the other gal?

    I don't know, I just find it interesting to see middle ager's undergo political makeovers. Would they re-make themselves but for the dismal state of affairs on the ground in Iraq? Would a more successfully prosecuted war have left them much more sanguine about things in general and in particular? What part does the relentless assault of a Bush-hating press have in swaying even people who were ostensibly on the right? I'm fascinated by the part propaganda and bias plays in this. (Obligatory disclaimer applies: I know I am not immune from propaganda bias and am probably reflecting it here since it's part of the human condition. The difference, I hope, is that I recognize FoxNews is skewed right whereas I've never met a liberal who concedes that NPR is skewed left.)

    More to the point: What has the religious right have to do with war? I never saw the two as connected. The religious right didn't vote to prosecute the war in Iraq. The religious right never examined the classified intelligence reports (as did Hillary, who voted to prosecute the war). The religious right didn't instruct Saddam Hussein to violate the ceasefire treaty a dozen times or kick the weapons inspectors out. Evangelicals did vote for Bush in 2004, and perhaps that is seen by Bone's pastor as somehow supporting the war when in fact it's more that they were not too keen on losing the war, since it could turn Iraq into a terrorist breeding ground as fertile as the Fertile Crescent and/or could result in a civil war leaving millions dead. I'm not sure how it follows that continuing the war is seen as equivalent to supporting it initially.

    On the other hand, a few religious right leaders did give support to Bush as he was ramping up for the war. Michael Novak comes to mind. But Novak wasn't elected to anything. And surely Christians are in general too ready to use the infamous waterboarding technique, which in terms of torture quacks like a duck to me. But giving the President the benefit of the doubt in 2002 now appears to somehow be conflated with being pro-war. It makes no sense.

    But Bone's pastor, like many liberals neo or paleo, is fuzzy on the pertinent details. We don't even get the obligatory torture complaint. We get platitudes and attitudes, which are nice but in the end leave you a bit hungry for more. What I would've loved to see is a tracing of his change from a personal and explicatory basis - a bit more Francis Beckwith than Saul of Damascus to use an imperfect analogy, or rather a bit more Cardinal Newman than Paul Newman. A couple acid tests are: how did you feel about the original Gulf War, which was Phase I of this war? And two: did you support the economic sanctions that killed millions of Iraqis during the Clinton Administration? Pope JPII said "nay" on both and I respect him for it.

    That's not to say consistency is the end all and be all. Heaven forfend! But at least give us something meaty to explain the turnabout. That's just fair play. Turnabout is fair play and so is explaining turnabouts.

    Maybe he's feeling more pacifistic and considers it his new calling. Callings tend to be beyond the reach of argument or rational thought. Or maybe he is simply being stragetically pastoral. In other words, we know Christianity is infinitely more important than any political program, although there are areas where they collide - abortion is one, although you obviously need not be religious in order to see it as murder - in which there isn't room for prudential judgment. But on prudential issues like war or immigration a pastor might say: "Would I change my politics on those issues in order to reach more seculars so that they don't feel so viscerally offended by my religion?"

    Perfume is far less important than politics, but it's almost like if you are a salesmen and there's a cologne you wear that some love and some hate, but mostly everyone who loves the cologne already owns what you're selling. So you put on some different cologne to woo the people who haven't bought. So on illegal immigration or the war or whatever you tell them: I am with you now. Because for them - the seculars - politics is the end all and be all. And you want to reach them with politics in order to eventually reach them with Someone far greater. (Though it feels a bit too Machivellian for me, but it's easier to do if you do have grave misgivings about immigration and the war and who doesn't have grave misgivings about the war given hindsight?) Shea & the pastor could simply be instinctively reacting against the unholy connection between politics and religion. Catholics, of all people, ought know how too close a connection between the two ends up nicht zu gut as the Germans say. But they could tell us so, ya know. Besides, perhaps the pastor is just trying to get on the same sides as the babes. As it says here:"Look for the babes, and that's where the social action is, that's where the success will be."
    Tempted by the Meme of Another

    Before I went on vacation I was memed by Elena. The meme appears to be where you list 8 facts/habits about yourself. I think I'll make it a True or False test.

    1) I'm related by birth to Cuchulain.
    2) I was drafted by the Kansas City Royals third overall but elected to pursue a career in computer programming.
    3) I have 40,000 baseball cards.
    4) I've run over 13,000 miles.
    5) Is this eight things yet?
    6) I once met a female professional golfer.
    7) I've wrestled an alligator
    8) I swam the English Channel. Twice. In Succession. While wearing ankle chains.

    (Answers: 1) I'm part Irish anyway 2) False 3) True 4) True 5) False 6) True, a pretty one too 7) False 8) False)

    I hereby meme whoever would like to take on this meme. Ham, you should blog more.
    Four New Saints, Four New Friends

    Excerpt of biography of new saint George Preca (1880-1962) found in the Catholic Times:
    Around 1910, Father George had a very powerful mystical experience which he always referred to as "the extraordinary vision of the child Jesus." One morning, he was passing in the vicinity of the Marsa Cross when he suddenly saw a 12-year old boy pushing a low cart with a bagful of manure. The boy turned to George and ordered him imperiously: "Lend me a hand!" The moment Father George put his hand on the cart, he felt an extraordinary spiritual sweetness and he never could remember where they went or what happened to the young boy. He later understood that the boy was Jesus and that the Lord was asking him and his followers to help him with nurturing the Lord's field and vineyard with sound doctrine and formation.
    More from the same issue of Catholic Times:
    In the Creed, we proclaim our faith in the Communion of Saints. In doing so, we acknowledge the gift of an ongoing, two-way relationship with those who have gone before us. Sister Mary Ann Fatula, a professor of theology at Ohio Dominican University, says the introduction to us of four new saints is in reality the introduction of four new friends. "The Liturgy of the Church says, 'You give us their friendship.' We really do have four new friends. And what do friends do for one another? Thomas Aquinas talked about friendship as this mutual self-giving for each other, and those saints are there to help us in a very real way, to pray with us, to inspire us through their example, to be with us when we need them."

    So do we already have all the saints we need? "We can never have too many friends," Sister Fatula said. "When they are canonized, we find out more about them. Each of us is different. As we learn about these new saints, we may find something in their lives, their writing, their thoughts that resonates with us in a way that is special. In that moment, a friendship is born, and with that friendship comes mighty power."
    Those Were the Days

    I remember those wild west days in the the early age of the Internet when used book pricing was still unpredictable. There were bargains to be had then, with crazily underpriced books of every variety. No more; now the gold rush is over and everyone's panning for little tiny flecks. I can't complain since I got my fair share of bargains.

    It seems as though the whole used book market must've experienced price increases since then, since the supply of books has more or less remained fixed while the demand has increased due to ease of purchase and the overcoming of geographic limitations.

    A quick google confirms higher prices:


    Amazon.com's used book prices, at least if the book in question is still in print, are priced .50 or $1 under the unused equivalent after adjusting for the ridiculous $3.99 shipping charge (comparison assumes use of amazon.com's free shipping for orders of $25 or more). The fifty cents to a dollar price differential is extremely lame. Who wants to buy a used book of questionable condition from an unknown seller when you can get the new one for seventy-five cents more from Amazon?

    The fact that used books are selling at that price point must mean that people are buying used books in order to save a few pennies. I, for one, refuse to be suckered. I stand athwart the book world yelling "Stop the Insanity!" Boycott used books and wait until you can place an order for $25 or more.

    Market forces are interesting. Perhaps it's impatience - "I must have this book immediately, therefore I can't wait a couple weeks or months until I have $25 in order to qualify for free shipping" - which prompts the decision to buy the book and incur the whopping $3.99 shipping charge when the actual cost is probably $1.25.

    Ebay, similarly, has fewer good deals than in the days of yore. My brother-in-law recently purchased a printer at the local store for $350 and sold it a week later for $550 on Ebay. Barnum, call your office. And maestro, strike up the band!

    (To All in the Family tune - i.e. "Boy the way Glenn Miller played..."):
    Boy, we got the bargains then
    though you'd need a bigger den.
    Prices never did offend,
    Those were the days.

    Didn't cost an arm to ship.
    Could keep your leg and upper lip.
    No need to cause a savings dip.
    Those were the days.

    I remember good deals then,
    Girls were girls and men were men.
    Mister we could use a site like alldirect.com again.
    Readers seemed to be content.
    Buy new books and pay the rent.
    No need to go and buy a tent.
    Those were the days

    In the ordinary use of the word, a gift is something (usually a material thing) that, once given to us, becomes entirely ours. We can use it, shelve it, waste it, throw it away, but whatever we do with it, it is our property and our choice. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit aren't exactly like that. They do become ours to use or not, but in a sense they also remain the Holy Spirit's. It's sort of like someone giving you a present of a pager whose number only they know, or a two-way wrist radio that only communicates with the one they have...Can these conclusions help us to love God and neighbor better? Yes, by making us more conscious of the closeness of God, both in being (the Trinity dwells with those who are sanctified) and in doing (the Gifts tell us that God intends to act through us as a matter of course). In this way, we love God the more for better understanding His great love for us; no distant uncle mailing us a $20 bill He. We also love neighbor the more for being quicker to think of and to depend on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit rather than our own imperfect virtues. - Tom of Disputations

    As I was planning my trip, I contacted the head of a Catholic nonprofit in hope of making an appointment with him. He said that he would see me, but he added that he would try to talk me out of leaving the New York City newspaper world. "We need to have someone in the belly of the beast," he said. I have heard that line, or variations on it, many times since my Post days. The truth is that the longest anyone on record has survived in the belly of a beast is three days. And Jonah wasn't there to be a positive influence on the whale. The entire purpose of his presence there was to catch a ride to where he was supposed to be. I am now where I am supposed to be. - Dawn Eden of "The Dawn Patrol" on her new job

    I loved that fact that they made the comparison between people going to Whole Foods to buy pristine and purer organic foods and at the same time pumping their bodies full of hormones through birth control. - Jeff Miller of "Curt Jester" on the book "The Bad Catholic's Guide To Wine, Whiskey, And Song"

    Although I incline toward Father Schall’s favorable view of recreation, Mencken and Pascal weren’t entirely wrong. Far from it. I especially agree with Pascal: Recreational pursuits can numb us to our approaching death and the final judgment we must all prepare for. Excessive and frenzied recreational activity contains a strong dose of existential idiocy. But I don’t think recreation and piety are opposed. In fact, I’ve noticed an odd phenomenon in my life. After attending confession and saying the post-confession prayers and doing my penance, I want to drink beer. Granted, confession at my church is at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoons and few things go together as well as Saturday afternoons and beer. But there is more to it. After confession, I feel happy, joyful, grateful. I don’t want to work in the yard or toil at the office. I want to have fun. Having just prepared myself for death, I want to celebrate life. It’s a paradox, but no coincidence...Prayer is the reverential part. Recreation is the celebration. They’re both proper and necessary reactions to this existential plight we call life. - Eric Scheske of "The Daily Eudemon"

    St. Augustine thought that whenever a conflict arose between the enjoyable and the useful, the useful had to give way as being, in the ultimate sense, inferior. Many of the soberer thinkers of the past, including those who had by vow denied themselves most earthly pleasures, did not scruple to elevate what they called recreation to a dizzying position in the hierarchy of the worthwhile. - Walter Kerr

    On the day that I found all my crannies and nooks
    Were completely and hopelessly stuffed full of books,
    My solution, I flatter myself, was most canny:
    I bought nine brand-new nooks and a slightly used cranny. - Bob of Trousered Ape

    "In His lifetime, Jesus didn't cure all of the sick, feed all of the hungry or liberate all of the captives. But He did come up with a way to do it through His followers. Juan Segundo, a Latin American theologian, said that Jesus had to leave humanity in the form in which we knew Him so as to send His Spirit into humans to find ways to feed all the hungry, cure all the sick, free all those held in bondage and build ships to ride out the storms." -- Sister Carol Gaeke, O.P., "The Catholic Moment," The Catholic Telegraph, 1 June 2007... "By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage."-- Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 549...In his terrific catechism Catholic Christianity, Peter Kreeft says of paragraph 549, "[t]he sharpest distinction between traditional, orthodox Catholicism and Modernist, 'liberal,' revisionist Catholicism is probably right here." - Rich of "Ten Reasons"

    Catholic priests advocating optional celibacy sometimes seem to have the idea that if they were married, they'd be coming home to someone who'd want to hear all about their day. Some have wondered where they'd find such a person, but the answer might be on the "Weddings/Celebrations" page of last Sunday's New York Times: "The Rev. Mark Alan Lewis and the Rev. K. Dennis Winslow, Episcopal priests, were joined in civil union on Tuesday." - Terrence Berres of "The Provincial Emails"

    How about the concept that without order there is no freedom? How about his insights into the dangers of ideology and change for change's sake? His skepticism about the possible exportation of "democratic capitalism" around the world might be worth re-reading. This is to say nothing of his insights into the role of literature and culture - the "moral imagination" - in building a conservative polity. I will admit that Kirk is venerated a great deal more than he is read these days, but this ignorance should be remedied by reading him more not by venerating him less. - a NR Cornerite on Russell Kirk's offerings to the conservative movement

    She was a math whiz, and it all came very naturally to her, but she simply wasn't a very good teacher. My son had her for algebra, and it turned out that I could explain things better to him than she could because, I figured out, I was definitely not a math whiz, had had to really claw my way to that A I got in Algebra in 8th grade. For that reason, I, a person who'd had to work to understand the concepts, was better at explaining things to another person who was having to work to understand the concepts than a person who just intuited it all could...The short version of this is that familiarity not only breeds contempt, it breeds a barrier to explaining that with which you are familiar to others. Approach things as a stranger, and explain things as if you are trying to help other strangers understand...What brings you close to Christ might be perceived by an outsider as being an obstacle...We can't just expect that the way our particular intuitions have been met in and fed by our faith will immediately resonate with someone looking at it all cold. - Amy Welborn

    [C]an they say much beyond the stock, "I give God all the glory"? And doesn't that always imply (as countless columnists have suggested) that the guy they beat should give God all the blame? With these and similar thoughts, I wasn't all that enthusiastic when I first heard about Champions of Faith, a movie in which "baseball's biggest stars reveal how their faith guides and sustains their spectacular Major League careers."...Well, as Rich Donnelly says in the movie, "There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are humble, and those who are about to be." As I started the DVD, I was about to be humbled by the humble, honest, and forthright expressions of faith it contained...The point isn't that an active faith makes one ballplayer better than another. It's that it makes him better than he would be otherwise. - Tom of Disputations

    June 18, 2007

    Optimism and the Stomach

    Mark Steyn opines in the latest National Review on the desultory service of America's airlines:
    National decline is always inconceivable because the illusion of permanence is so strong: It would have seemed incredible to any five-year-old English boy watching Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee parade that he would be passing his twilight years in a strike-ridden basketcase shorn of empire and reduced to begging from the IMF.

    But it seems to me that the state of the air-travel network is symbolic of something. So is America’s decision to surrender to the illegal immigrants — to say that the undocumented insurgents have ensnared us in a quagmire in which victory is not an option. In different ways, both are revealing of structural decay. Not yet fatal, but decay nonetheless.

    On the other hand, if I turned up at O’Hare and breezed through and the flight took off on time and it wasn’t the Asian chicken salad for the fourteenth week in a row, I might be a whole lot more optimistic.

    What are the chances of that?

    The beach vacation difference, this year, is we decided to take our dog Obi, mostly because we’re mad as hatters. As one military wife (whose husband is slated to go back for another 18 months in Baghdad) told us at the beach kennel after going crazy upon seeing her dog after an absence of just one day: “at least we have children and we’re not substituting”. Indeed at least we have Aaron, who provides in this instance the slim cover that we’re not treating our dog as a child in lieu of a child.

    Obi is a hundred and ten pound lab/shepherd mix whose dimensions almost perfectly fit the space in the “extended” part of the “extended cab” portion of our pick-me-up truck. But he made do. There is something in Obi that is of the land of Nog, a fairytale place completely inaccessible to mere mortals. His brown, intelligent eyes speak of great wisdom though in actuality he delivers precious little. For most of the trip he stood in the back seat and leaned towards the bow in a statue-like pose as if intending to serve as a live ship figurehead.

    We drove expertly, like over-the-road truckers, until a stop in the New River in old Virginny (or was it Carolina?). There was a huge gorge there backdropping a thin river and little boys and middle-aged boys made their way through it, amid the rocks and shallow water, and they couldn't look up lest they fall. Nature is an unforgiving taskmaster and punishes distraction.

    On we went, to South Carolina, sending the oil and gas reserves a bit lower and enriching the Saudis imams. Alas. Is it the nature of things that conservatives feel guilty for personal behavior while resisting gov’t interference while rich liberals feel guilty for not doing enough politically to limit freedom but driving their SUVs without conscience?


    The air flies! We call it wind, a wind that goes around corners, over umbrellas, uplifting sand granules. Let the longnecks fly! Let’s drive to Longneck City Limit sign and run to the rhythms of “innocent music” – the only totally innocent music ever invented – Irish jigs and reels. I want to fly from the recidivist eye, from coarseness and know-it-all-ism and negativity. The all-seeing-eye judges unsqueamishly, constantly appraising despite the fact that only the Appraiser’s appraisal is meaningful. I need lots of exercise to exorcise the demons of too much thinking. There is a realness here, the realness of the surf, wind, flesh, sand, sun.

    * * *

    Feelings about feelings are conflicted these days and understandably so. The Enlightenment taught that feelings were minutiae, the Romantic Era taught the opposite, and so now we’re in the ‘muddly’ middle, neither Christian stoics like George Washington nor human gyroscopes like the crowds at 19th century Pentecostal missions.

    Pondering my youth I see great barbarities and great pieties. Certainly I must’ve thought there was a clause in the bible that allowed fighting with your sister if she started it, a sort of Just War theory as applied to sibling relations. Was it that love was a feeling or a decision? Love was always eros then, not in the sexual sense but in the sense that it must make you feel good, by definition. If you didn’t want to do it, then you were not granted that particular grace, case closed. The Ten Commandments taught that you couldn’t do a bad act despite wanting to, but the reverse – doing a good act despite not wanting to – seemed elusive in the ‘70s era catechism. In that other modern catechism, Romeo & Juliet, all the sympathetic characters acted only on feelings.

    Many saints (with the great exception of St. Jerome, patron saint of critics) seemed cheerful despite some must've having been serotonin-uptake challenged. But what to make of it? Nature always has her limits, same as it ever was. Serotonin is no different than the bread that was multiplied to feed the five thousand. If one difference between a saint and a sinner is that the saint’s reflex is towards charity and the sinner’s toward self, that reflex doesn’t happen by accident, any more than we offer grapes and wheat at the Consecration during Mass. We offer not grapes and wheat, we offer things that require human cooperation and effort - bread and wine. And yet the miracle is still God’s.


    Another little mystery at the beach: on the first night there was a phosphorescent blue glow in the sand about the size of my thumbnail. On and off it would blue (who doesn’t like to use colors as verbs when possible?) at irregular intervals. Later Obi would discover the small crabs on the beach and he was on one like white on rye (the Chinese variation of “white on rice”) until he found they have pinchers and he quickly lost interest. (A guy passing us at the local dog park, Hispanic male in his 50s, stares at Obi: ‘What a beautiful dog…wow!’. He takes a second look back. Which struck me as odd. It's the way most guys react to a beautiful girl, not a dog. (By the way, it's a little known fact that the state mammal down here is a face-down woman in the sand with bikini straps at her side. The many sightings suggest there’s no immediate threat of extinction, and depressions left in the sand afterwards confirm this.)

    * * *

    I read some of David McCullough’s 1776 today. Our national chronicler, McCullough didn’t become so by accident. There’s nothing in his writings to offend. It’s all agreeably non-partisan, a national salve for partisanship and sectarianism. His literary theme is always courage undaunted. (He wrote a book titled “Undaunted Courage”, the story of Lewis & Clark, but the title was taken from I believe Thomas Jefferson who’d praised Lewis & Clark with the clause “of courage undaunted” and I liked the quirkiness of the original.)

    He produces books that beat back the tide of cynicism, the tide that suggests all eras are the same, morally-speaking. The end result of that view is that all people are the same, even saints (to which Christopher Hitchens would certainly attest). McCullough writes of the hard lives of our forebears and instills gratitude for them and gratitude that we are not in their shoes. His books go down easily, like tonic water. A recent Tocqueville’s biographer made his atheism known in the first chapter when he disdained Tocqueville’s religious search. That would never happen with McCullough.

    Civil War books are likewise never vexing. The two figures from the past hundred years who most fascinated me only for the fascination they trigger in others are Lincoln & FDR. Both seem of very limited interest to me but are studied ad nausea and treated as saints by our era. Part of it might be the “war effect”. If you are a president during wartime you are often raised to godlike status whether you deserve to be or not. Lincoln was an extremely skilled politician but that’s about as interesting as being a fine house painter. (No offense to house painters intended or pretended.) Ultimately Lincoln had great endurance, and that is a sterling quality, perhaps the only one that ultimately matters, but others at that time also had it in spades. All the advantages in terms of materiel and manpower were to the North’s advantage and yet Lincoln gets credit despite the length & tremendous bloodletting of the war.

    FDR, again a fine politician, was a good orator. If you’re a good orator and symbol-maker during wartime and you win the war, you’ll be considered a great president. But perhaps that’s the main part of the job? We are guided as much by emotions as by reason, and thus by orators. Perhaps good decision-making is overrated. He recognized that Communism was a real threat and that the government would need to step in, but arguably the Depression shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did and it was WWII that eventually ended it. Pain spread out can be better than pain concentrated, and he went with the former (Ronald Reagan was pro-FDR but anti-Great Society), even though I dare hardly speak of the matter, living as I do during an age which knows no financial hardship, at least by comparison.

    McCullough’s clean prose reminds me that reading is a fine auxiliary to vacations. Reminds me of when I first saw Niagara Falls as a kid and reading a souvenir book there about daredevils who attempted to go over in barrels. A quadzillion gallons of water falling from a rocky mountain is amazing, but even more so is that some supposedly sane human might attempt to go over those quadzillion gallons. In some ways the book made a longer-lasting impression than the sight of the falls. Then I recall the visit to Washington D.C. and reading of the ghosts. It made it more vibrant to think there were not just statesmen but ghosts of statement in those halls.

    The search for the ideal beach read is always challenging. The best are lyrical but meaty, with a dash of the history, but that combination is rare. Nothing is as memorable as Joseph Pearce’s biography of Oscar Wilde, with the inbuilt lyricism of selections from Wilde, along with the religious content and history. Down here in addition to McCullough I read Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which, although not lyrical, is completely absorbing. He can flat-out tell a story like nobody’s business.
    * * *
    Drinking Yuengling
    The aroma is almost
    like circus peanuts.

    Gallop the grey tops!
    Spirited with salt!
    a maison of foam and grey-green water
    the color of Irish eyes.

    The sand is soft and piled up
    like a woman’s hair
    still carrying the sun’s heat
    like furnace coals.

    The waves storm the Bastille of my heart,
    battering rams of God
    displaying the Beatitudes of resistance.
    * * *

    The foam disperses in ghostly patterns, like expressionist paintings, but it is scent not sight that lingers. The sight of water to the horizon no longer shocks me but the scent, that brine-smell carried by ceaselessly caressing breezes, still does: the ocean’s incense given for the blind. I want to get the smell into my nostrils such that it echo-lingers into the mainland.

    The sky is overcast, a painter’s palette of grays and light blues, or in modern terms an HTML hexadecimal array of colors. The beach is littered with bamboo shoots, called sea oats by some, carried by the surf but from where? What is the IP address of this drift wood? Cross island or India?

    So it’s Monday and I'm in this captain’s chair, sitting at the shore at 6pm when few are out & a late lunch affords a stiff-arm to food needs. The dark waves pearl in the distance like white shark fins only to immediately disappear. I love this time of quietitude when the South Carolinian Gloucester men come out with their fishing poles, reminding us that though we don’t see them in the opaque waters, fish exist. It’s mostly private now, paid for by the lack of sun. There’s nothing better than a front row seat to this theatre, the waves gathered around like the fire-ring at camp.

    Every time here you see something new. I remember Annie Dillard, her love for the natural world. Why doesn’t she write anymore? And Kathleen Norris and her religious/poetic sensibilities? It’s as if they’ve encountered the dark night of soul or literary equivalent, and weirdly I patiently wait for them to break thru as if we’re connected in some mystical fashion, their break-thru being mine. They, who praise by paying attention to His creation.

    The tide goes out but occasionally reaches back for a surprise, like the periodic resurgences of the Roman empire though we know the result in the end. Some ask why Rome fell when the question is why should Rome have survived so long. An old man walks by wearing green shorts to his knees and black socks to an inch below the knees and I wonder why he wears so unfashionable a get-up until I recall that I refuse to use hair gel despite its use in all men under 30.

    I pick up a book and it speaks of the properness of manly tears despite protestations to the contrary. But tears can “have legs”. If tears are a release similar to sex (if accompanied by completely different emotions) that only results in greater frequency. As I recall Aquinas said that sexual activity, far from decreasing, actually increases desire.


    It’s Tuesday and I’m in “beer arrears”. I haven’t reached my required daily allowance (Beer RDA) yet. My RDA for vacation is much higher than during non-vacations, for medicinal purposes only. I'm not kidding. I found out the hard way, through trial and error, that the incidence of getting sick on vacation was high due to the gigantic increase in exercise. But a few beers each night prevents cold or flu. The increase in exercise requires more alcohol while at the same time the increased exercise prevents hangovers. I can never recall a vacation hangover though often get a headache after having consumed only three or four beers the previous night. This vacation synergy is the very definition of what we call a win-win. But drinking is surprisingly ineffective for sublimination purposes.

    Today is long bike ride day. I ride until the road side fruit stand, the one that has been operating since time began. It has the quirky homemade sign of a South Carolina mom & pop operation. The building is squat and square, a tiny white shack with an elderly black lady with extremely good posture still as a statue inside. It seems a heartwarming last bastion against the sterility of conformity and modernity.


    Apropos of nothing, I recall Fr. John McCloskey’s daily prayers for George Bush. Every time he passed the White House, which was almost daily, he’d say a prayer for him. It was a kind of inspiration and I did likewise for awhile, having never really prayed for the President before. I wanted George Bush to succeed, and I was touched by the fact he was touched by having so many pray for him. So now there’s a let-down, that Iraq has turned out the way it has. So many Christians praying for him and yet we can’t judge prayer by the results. Even Mother Teresa surely prayed for world peace with mixed results.

    St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote about how it is necessary to “walk by the dragon” during this life, a sort of gauntlet of horrors. Here is a gauntlet of another sort, a skin gauntlet, as the clouds take on a sheathlike appearance. As children, we pay, or our parents pay, for the privilege of waking down a corridor of horrors, otherwise called a Halloween or fright house. There is no resolving the fear there, we merely move from one fleshy shock to the next.

    Old songs tend to come unbidden in this June time in the sun. Paul McCartney’s "Band on the Run" which I’d thought at the time was “Man on the Run". I’m ready for moody music like “Suddenly Last Summer” – the sort of “longing” music the ‘80’s trafficked in. There was “Life in a Northern Town”, “I Ran”, “Hungry Like a Wolf”, “Rio”. The long drawn-out Duran-Duran whole notes: “I’m after you..”.

    But the radio stations are of little help. 80s music is too old for the young, too young for the old. I don’t have any ‘80s songs on my Ipod since it is for vacations. I don’t want to “ruin” the old songs by playing them while running around the track of a health club in the basement of a corporation on a Tuesday afternoon.

    When I was a kid I wallowed in nostalgia like F. Scott Fitzgerald did alcohol. I couldn’t wait to graduate from (fill-in) so that the nostalgia could begin. If you live in the past, the present and future are more enjoyable it seemed. I was nostalgic the next day about all night baseball card trading sessions with my best friend. He was a nostalgic soul until college, at which point he promptly lost the gene for it. I started losing it in earnest around the time I got married, though sometimes I’m able to resurrect it. I became then much more forward-looking, at least by comparison with the past. During the Blogging Era I think I became more attuned to how sentiment is experienced from another’s perspective by reading other people’s sentiment and imagined I might’ve overvalued its appeal.

    The collecting impulse seems married to a nostalgic frame of mind. You collect in order to extend the past into the present and future. Experiences of nature are saved via rock collecting or via the autumn leaves we pressed in books. I write this trip log in part for that reason, to extend the ocean, to be able to virtually re-visit it. A Passionist priest once attempted to extend this collector impulse to the Eucharist – Jesus was giving us a souvenir to remember Him by, only it is Himself and not just the lock of hair given to a soldier before going to war. “Do this in remembrance of me” at the same time as “This is my Body.”. The Eucharist is like Scripture, both remembrances, souvenir of the past and yet a living, breathing thing in the present.

    * * *

    Passed a 7th Day Adventist Church. Probably won’t pass one of them again without thinking of blogger William Cork, who I rarely if ever read but now whom I remember more in his “death” than in his life. He converted to the 7th day Adventists. Hearing the news was shocking, or the shock was shocking given how little I “knew” him.

    I always check, as Mass begins, for Scott Hahn & family since the years have shown that they have the same week as we do and sure enough I see them again. Or rather all but Scott, who I suppose has another commitment this time (the first time I'd seen Kimberly & family but not him.) I love their dependability & consistency at daily Mass. I’ve never gone and they’d not been there.

    * * *

    Apologies always make more news. Like little children, we’re often tantalized not so much by what is said but by someone having to apologize. Reds announcer & Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman made news down here for having to apologize for saying the coming Reds road trip would be like the “Bataan death march”. A ridiculous hyperbole, and I suppose it’s arguably still too recent an event since some involved are still living, but I wouldn’t have caught the original line as offensive. In fact I surely would've unthinkingly used it in my blog. It’s interesting how boundaries change over the years. Could Don Rickles have made it now? Could Howard Stern have made it in Rickle’s age? I wonder if we’re becoming coarser and more sensitive at the same time.

    “Ridin’ on his daddy’s shoulders / behind a mule, beneath the sun” – Matthew, John Denver
    Private ground found! The island revealed a secret surprise today, as we found Fish Haul Creek Park and explored an off-beaten path that led to a remarkable vista. We set our chairs out there and watched the sailboats in the Sound. It was probably the longest period I did nothing for years. I did not read, nor eat nor drink. I did not sleep. I watched and drank it in, like an elixir, a potent elixir of beauty and privacy found here, nowhere, everywhere. We improvised shade for Obi, clearing brush from under a small tree, and he slept the sleep that a dog deprived of his family but now reunited sleeps.

    Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach after 10am, but this was a loophole. The clay earth was just meters from the sand of the beach and had an unobstructed view of Robinson Crusoe nature, not Baywatch nature. It’s good ground, slightly elevated with small battlements though our left flank is unprotected – which is the way we found it after all –and during the four hours we were there only a couple of guys walked through (Obi, predictably, acted like a house afire).

    Boaters swear by the peacefulness and one gets a sense of it as you watch them, and perhaps I briefly “get” the appeal of the regattas my college roommate enthused over. This previously unknown are of the island reminds me of other shadows in my geographical mental landscape, of other unmapped areas like the Catskill mountains and the Utah desert. Specks of granite spackle the ground like leftover Spanish galleons from a shipwreck long ago. This soporic pace and place reminds me of Colonial Williamsburg, another coastal town, where I once watched dumbly as artisans went about their work and it would’ve been dull as dishwater but for the quiet green grounds and grand uniforms and tall oaks which lended a sense of awe.

    The heat reminds me of battle fields too, of the Land of Davis and Jackson & Lee, of bronze monuments to generals and gravestones gothic with Spanish moss. The brick-brack river water of the Savannah river. Of sun-elation, sun-oblation, while birds call back and forth, echoing in the forest tops, reminding me of tapes I’d once bought but hardly played, of sounds of forests and oceans but it seemed so different, removed and played at home, like a bird in a cage.

    The sun awakens ‘85 reveries: “want to be a man in motion / all I need is a pair of wings”. Here at St. Elmo’s Sound the undulant waves and callipered pines give the feel of Adam’s race starting over. Snow white birds and seven humpy dwarf islands are scattered round this paradise. Sailships in the distance appear like Cortez’s and there’s green timberline beyond and a tiny island of greenest grass in the foreground, just beyond where this clay shore that is protected by pines and of but not on the beach perches. And it’s after 10am, past the time all dogs turn to pumpkins.

    It feels like a scene for Manet or Monet, it feels a French sea, a maritime Provence, full of conical brush and gutterances and breezes off the Channel and brandy and cigars at nine. The claws of civilization pale into the murky horizon, unreal, the levers of progress disappear. And far away, across the isle, we see another isle with its bright sand spit of beach and its protecting cedars and its promise of civilization within the protection of the primitive. We look up the names on the map - there is a thrill to finding the name of mysterious things - and one is "Parrish Island U.S.M.C." & the other "Hunting Island".


    Whereupon I write (in jest) fiction:

    Tragically, I’ve experienced large periods of chronic full employment. Corporate re-structurings, mergers, reorganizations, downsizings and rightsizings all left my job intact lo these many years, back from the time I left the collegiate womb at the tender age of 21. (It was an emergency C-section; I didn’t want to come out.) Indeed, we emerge from our mother’s womb squalling and blinking from the light and we emerge from the collegiate womb squalling and dilating from the dimness of the light in the corporation’s hallway.

    I spend Sundays looking in the paper for jobs advertising for beer drinkers or part time diarists who write about their dogs. I’ve never seen such an ad, which I attribute to the evils of capitalism. Under the Chesterton/Belloc Distributist model, I ‘d have a high-paying job as a beer-drinking part-time pet diarist.

    I decided to write A Natural History of Work, a three volume work to be published on acid-free paper using an obscure 16th century font face developed laboriously by Belgian monks after drinking Trappist ale, but found I didn’t have the work ethic for it. Perhaps too someone had already written it. I checked, and no one had, and so I began thusly:
    It’s been said that work is the curse of the drinking class but work has been found in every human culture from the beginning of recorded history. Before there was beer, there was work, because it takes work to make beer.

    Examples of early Egyptian hieroglyphics include inscriptions which, roughly translated say: “I go to work so I can send my kids to Cairo Elementary”. Cave drawings recently found outside Newark, New Jersey illustrate an early computer programmer doing a “hard re-boot” – that is, dropping the PC off a cliff.

    Most of the bad press work has received over the millennia has come from poets and song lyricists and playwrights, none of whom have ever worked a decent day in their life. “I don’t want to work, I just want to bang on the drum all day,” speaks a modern rock poet, but it’s not clear he’s a disinterested source. Similar too Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins”, a film in which the husband, a banker, by the end expects to get paid flying a kite. He converts the board of directors to the wonders of kite flying and all is well that ends well but how many times does this happen in real life? If the board of directors of a bank wrote this script, one suspects the outcome would’ve differed...


    Obi’s lip is made up of a cluster of bean-like protuberances. I touch one of them as he sleeps and he wakes, his eyelids open, and I watch as his eyeball slowly rolls back from the heavens, like a Magic 8-ball saying slowly coming to the fore.

    June, oh June
    so surpassingly beautiful
    and yet brief as the firecracker
    at your next-of-kin’s party.

    June, oh June
    the memories you spin
    from just a leaf
    lit by the meridian sun.

    June, oh June
    so redolent of the past
    smelling of covered bridges
    and old Carolina barns.

    June, oh June
    feasts of Sts Anthony & Thomas
    of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary
    so full of consolations.

    June 08, 2007

    Hilarious Quote

    From Rodney Rothman:
    "There's a reason why you never hear about world-class Jewish dancers. There's a reason why, in ancient days, we began picking people up in ballroom chairs and carrying them around. It's using furniture as a distraction. It's putting the focus on our real skill: upholstery."
    Blogging will be scarce...

    ...or more accurately non-existent, as I'll be traveling next week. I'll leave you with a beautiful icon:

    Image found here.