November 30, 2007

Why Even Criminals Need to Know How to Spell

The next time your wee one says, "Dad, why should I learn how to spell? I want to be a career criminal!" you can pull out this example. (click to enlarge):
Phish scams won't work too often if you can't spell "refused".
I'm Shocked! Shocked There's Gambling in this Establishment...

My bro-in-law sent a link to the debate about the CNN debate. Wasn't it folly to expect a fair shake from CNN in the first place? It's like if I walk down a dark alley in downtown Detroit at 2am and then complain after I get mugged.

The reality is that CNN & the other mainline television-denominations are no longer objective and I'm not sure how healthy it is to pretend otherwise. Like it or not, FOX set off the law of unintended consequences: if you offer a more fair and balanced newscast you will cause already left-leaning MSM outlets to lean left that much more since they've lost the incentive for restraint due to the loss of conservative and moderate viewers.

There's a simple solution to this. I don't know why the Republican candidates don't boycott CNN and MSNBC. FOX News gets much better ratings and yet the Dems don't have their debates on FOX. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, especially because primary candidates have to appeal primarily (that's why we call it a 'primary', ha) to their base. This will often turn off independents and swing voters. So why not just "narrow-cast" directly to your base, which for CNN is the Democratic party and for FOX is the Republican party? Just have the debates on your particular venue, until the general election when each candidate will be forced to have a debate on the opposition media. Now that's fair and balanced...

November 29, 2007

Do Unbaptized Babies Who Die Go to Bingo?

No, God isn't cruel. But Bingo, like Limbo, is an eternal place between the Beatific vision and Hell if far closer to the latter. And today our contestants were noticeably irritable and not exactly imbued with the holiday or heavenly spirit. One lady, upon hearing our caller express sorrow, blurted in his direction: "you are sorry, at least you got that right."

Later, when two co-workers gathered to help the caller out of some technical difficulty someone else said, "it takes three Polacks to fix that?" I told her that ironically one of them was of Polish descent.

My free pedometer - courtesy my employer (who wants us to start exercising and thinks it might be a prod) - said I'd walked 5,541 steps tonight which is roughly 5,501 more than I would have had I been home enjoying the nirvana of an old Office episode and 30 Rock. Not to mention the 3 1/2 hours of standing, which is "the new black" when it comes to weight control. (By the way, when will something actually become black enough to replace black as the exemplar of things hip? Or has 'gay' already achieved that status?)

I walked by a mother wearing a shirt with flowery advertising: "Mothers: angelic creatures who...." which continued in that fulsome praise vein. However true, it seems a tad unseemly to walk around in a shirt praising yourself. And speaking of mothers, we found out tonight that the eighteen-year-old who has what looks like Mick Jagger-size lips tattooed to her neck does, in fact, have Mick Jagger-size lips tattooed to her neck. She reports that they are her boyfriend's (who must've had a collagen injection or two). When a co-worker asked, "what happens if you break up with him and have to go through life with his lips on your neck?" she retorted that he would never leave her "since he is the father of my child". 'Nuff said, as they say.

We had a few young new faces tonight, where young is defined as not yet AARP-eligible. They were resistant to instant winner tickets which is probably a good thing. One grizzled old veteran bought twenty and showed me where the winner would be, about mid-deck. I hoovered nearby ready for an "I told you so" but he got the $150 ticket so who knows, maybe he knows what he's talking about. Maybe I should buy a few of these. When in Limbo do as the Limboians do, right?

Update: Oh, I forgot one other anecdote. I was picking up more instant winner tickets and the deputy from the sheriff's office, who makes sure no one tries to steal our money, was handcuffing co-worker Kim for a joke. After my obligatory, "you can tell she's done that before. And likes it!" he started walking towards me and I uttered those immortal words, "Don't taze me bro!". Man, but I've been waiting to deliver that line in an appropriate situation for months now!
An O'Reilly Glossary

Bill O'Reilly's idiosyncratic language:
pinhead: a foolish person, but redemption is always possible: "you can be a pinhead one day and a patriot the next," sayeth Bill on a recent show.

the Deity: Bill will bend over backwards not to use the familiar word "God" when "the Deity" will do. Your guess as to why the constant preference for four syllables instead of one. Possible suggestions include:
  • Bill thinks it is more respectful.
  • Bill is part-Jewish & doesn't want to use the word G-d.
  • Bill not on a first-name basis with "the Deity" due to his wild disco dancing past.
  • Bill sounds smarter saying it.
  • He likes to hear himself talk and "the Deity" is more syllables.
  • chaos: In Bill-speak, this isn't merely disorder but malignant disorder. For example, if parents are doing drugs and neglecting & abusing children this is often referred to as "chaos" or a "chaotic situation".

    koolaid driner: Anyone who follows an ideology slavishly, ala those who drank the poison'd drink at Jonestown.

    hiding under his/her desk: Anyone who won't come on the Factor

    smear site: A website that engages in falsely smearing reputations, such as Daily Kos.

    no spin: a point-of-view unaffected by ideology.
    O'Reilly is relentlessly anti-ideological. You could say that he is, above all practical. He never takes a drop of liquor, let alone drugs, because, Aquinas-like, he doesn't like to step an inch from reality. The downside of a very practical nature is that it seems nonsensical to him that a bad guy not be tortured in order to protect the lives of innocent citizens. But his list of favorite charities seems spot on. The homeless, children, wounded military, and even the missionary Columban fathers. I expected only corporal works of mercy, and only those with a practical bent that aim towards not just feeding the person but helping the person feed himself. But O'Reilly even covered the spiritual with the Columban Fathers, who serve in such places as unstable Pakistan.
    The Maytrees Review

    This was cannibalized from the response to an email about The Maytrees...

    Concerning Dillard's work, I loved Pilgrim at Tinker's Creek so much that there has been a bias of affection towards her even though, to be truthful, I find much of her work not to my taste (though I did love the great memoir An American Childhood, perhaps even more than Pilgrim's).

    With her latest work, I wanted to like it so I'm sure that was part of it. It got better towards the last 1/3rd from a plot point-of-view, or maybe I just started caring about the characters more by then. I am surprised the book was a best seller as long as it was.

    The book is primarily about a subject inexplicable: love. What it is. Friendship or passion or both. I also liked that the book is cryptic at times. I can't seem to get into more straight-ahead, workman-like prose like that of a Richard Russo or a Jon Hassler. (And yet someone as rich as William Vollmann ends up being too dark. Updike too highly sexed. There's no pleasing me.)

    Many of the images in The Maytrees are very sharp, very poetic. It seems a good book for our hurried, rushed times because it feels so condensed, almost like a long poem writ into sentences. And once in awhile she'd have that stray philosophical reflection that I adore in novels. (Reminds me of Iris Murdoch - dense prose with philosophical musings about love.)From the point of view of pure STORY, however, it's mediocre.

    I'm also very curious about Dillard, the last American eccentric, and wanted to see how she's doing on her spiritual journey to the extent one can discover that in someone's novel - as one philosopher remarked, the only way to avoid metaphysics is to say nothing. We bloggers are all "open books" as Amy's old blog was called.

    November 27, 2007

    Various & Sundry

    Drug-testing woodspiders!


    Helpful Mass cheat sheet via Tribal Pundit for those of us who don't know Latin.


    Interesting parallels between St. Faustina and St. Therese of Lisieux. Both died young, at 33 and 24 respectively, both of tuberculosis. Both cloistered nuns who saved many beyond the convent walls. The message of Faustina was mercy and Therese was love; the Greek version of Hosea translates hesed, that is "steadfast love", as "mercy".


    A structured approach to prayer and Scripture.


    I'm a bit disconcerted by the specter of having to give my cat two pills a day for life due to a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Back in the day, which is to say the '70s & '80s, one got a cat or dog, had it spayed or neutered, and then that was that. They didn't seem to get sick until their last days and then, sadly, you'd have to put them to sleep. Now there's this sort of expensive, extensive pet medical system going on concerning which I have mixed emotions. I feel guilty spending that much on pets when people are starving, although tis true I seem to have less guilt when that spending is on, say, a vacation. I'm too compartmentalized. But where was hyperthyroidism 30 years ago? Non-existent! The NY Times says that cats are the canary in the coalmines concerning the flame-retardant chemicals plastered on our carpets and sofas.


    Literary savant Michael Dirda can't spell my blog title! But neither can I without looking. HT: Terrence Berres.


    One Banned in O-HI-O: my site is banned! (By the Spirit of Vatican 2 Faith Community and all Syblyngs.) It's an honor just to be included on this list of noninclusion.


    Enter the Haggis Lyrics

    Video here.
    Like ships in a squall we rise and we fall
    We're plotting our course through waves
    Some masts are tall with sails so strong
    Others are tossed in the gale

    We try to stay dry with salt in our eyes
    No moment to rest or complain
    The moon isn't far or clear sky and stars
    Red sky at morn on your tail

    REF: I'm not going to stand on the end of the pier
    I'm not going to let you go down with the ship
    Raise up your anchor it's time to set sail
    And I'm not going to let you go down

    Like ships we were made to dance o'er our graves
    One false move and we could be thrown
    Buried alive before our due time
    To rest at sixty below

    So jibe while you can if there's danger ahead
    Stay on your course if you will
    I'll throw you a line as waves start to rise
    Bail as your ship starts to fill
    Edward T. Oakes Post

    Meaty post on grace and free will and the mother of God (and daughter of her Son):
    Mary is wholly enclosed within the biblical narrative of God’s dispensation to his people, an insight deftly caught by Dante when he places on the lips of St. Bernard of Clairvaux this address to Mary: “Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son” (Paradiso)...

    The juxtaposition of these two titles points to an important feature of all authentic Mariology: the circularity of cause and effect in the dispensation of salvation. By that I mean, Mary could not be kept free from sin except by the merits of Christ won on the cross; but of course Christ could not have entered history to save us by dying on the cross except by the free consent of Mary, whose free assent to the angel was a truly graced assent vouchsafed by the future death of her Son.

    Yet [St. Thomas] did not think through fully the implications of what kind of consent Mary could give if it had been, however slightly, affected/infected by original sin. But if, as part of its logic, the cross itself is made possible only through Mary’s consent at the Annunciation (which Luke clearly holds), then the implications of the denial of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception should become clear. For such a denial would then make our very salvation dependent on Mary’s free will operating independent of grace. Her Yes to God would have had to have been made, even if ever so slightly, under her own power, which would have the intolerable implication of making the entire drama of salvation hinge on a human work—the very apogee of Pelagianism.

    Just as Mary’s free consent to the angel Gabriel begins the great fulcrum-shift in the drama of salvation, so too she expresses what a saved and redeemed humanity can be once it has been purged of sin and washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb: Here in Mary consent is truly free because truly graced, totally graced. Here we see what it means to be saved sola gratia, a doctrine so radiantly beautiful that it also captured the imagination of that great Protestant Romantic William Wordsworth and which he expressed in his lovely poem to Mary, “The Virgin”:
    Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrossed
    With the least shade of thought to sin allied;
    Woman! above all women glorified,
    Our tainted nature’s solitary boast.

    You might say we exchanged Thy's for thighs. - from Bill of "Summa Minutiae" on our current casualness of dress and address

    Everytime we hit a setback here, I told Mrs. Curley that 100 years ago they didn't have .... and she would reply that this was why people didn't live as long 100 years ago. - Jim Curley of "Bethune Catholic"

    By his own account, Jim Rosenau was given a proper upbringing... "I was raised with a near-religious relationship to books. Never write in a book. Don’t lose someone else’s place. How to protect its vitally-important spine. Rules pertaining to the avoidance of moisture. And, like all observant families, we were taken once a week to the library for worship." But then, several years ago, he began to engage in unspeakable practices. He built bookcases -- out of books!...Catholic Bibliophagist has mixed feelings about Mr. Rosenau's enterprise. I find his work to be clever and visually amusing. And yet . . . I also view it with a horrified fascination. Intellectually, I realize that he only works with books that nobody wants, books that "look better than they read." But I can't help feeling a little queasy at their vivisection and their transformation into bibliofrankenstein constructions. - Catholic Bibliophagist

    I tell you what, you take an Asian woman and give her some Christianity and you're in the company of a wonder of the modern world. - Bill Luse

    In applying what he preaches, he advocated living as opposed to overindulgent self-reflection. His thoughts were, "The overly examined life would inevitably discover problems therefore,'The best was to live is just to live.'" - commenter on biography of Norman Vincent Peale

    So larger business have a vested interest in more uniform company cultures in general, and in being able to treat employees as fungible cogs in the machine, because a much greater part of their value is tied to liquidity. This is true despite the fact that uniform PC corporatist culture makes employees on an individual basis miserable and less productive as individuals: the fact that employees can be treated as meaningless abstract interchangeable units of productivity makes up for the fact that each dehumanized fungible productivity unit is, because dehumanized, less productive. The fungibility entailed by treating the things important to persons as persons as meaningless makes up for the loss of individual productivity in particular roles. The saleability of your productivity robots on the open market is just as important as their intrinsic productivity in the tasks you've assigned them if it is your intention all along to opportunistically trade them for some other fungible productivity machines...At a major Fortune 50 company the mandatory diversity program for new hires is called (or at least relatively recently was called) -- wait for it -- "Becoming One Voice". You can't make this stuff up. - Zippy Catholic

    I was once in a district-wide meeting on multiculturalism for the school disctrict in which I taught. The administrator in charge spoke at the beginning, and with a straight face he told all us teachers that when it comes to the issue of multiculturalism--"You are with us, or you are against us." I nearly fell out of my chair. - commenter on "Zippy Catholic" post

    A huge step toward the cog in the machine happened when we went from "Personnel" to "Human Resources." We are like coal, or steel, raw materials to be used and discarded at the whim of those doing the using. - Steven Riddle, on the same subject

    I will never read St. John Climacus in exactly the same way again--which is a good thing--pawing through desert dust for a kernel of insight is hardly rewarding, but realizing that what is said has relevance for people who do not live in the same circumstances--that we're not pawing through desert dust, but walking through the living water of the love of God. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli" after reading a book titled "Soul Provider"

    I am often drawn to abnormal people. For example, if you have read Veritatis Splendor in its entirety, I consider you abnormal. If you have read it and understood it, you probably occupy, in terms of numbers, that human demographic represented by an Aborigine in the Outback. If you have read it, understood it, and given it your consent (that is, to the proposition that you may not ever, under any circumstance, no matter how urgent, do evil that good may come), you are probably so rare among men as to be nearly of another species. - William of "Apologia"

    I think there are legitimate reasons you could vote in favor of someone who wouldn’t be where the church is on abortion, but it would have to be a reason that you could confidently explain to Jesus and the victims of abortion when you meet them at the Judgment...and we will meet them. That’s the only criterion. It can’t be that we favor a particular party, or that we’re hostile to the war, or so on. - Archbishop Chaput
    Schaeffer Book Review

    Read the memoir by Francis Schaeffer’s son called Crazy for God. The trick with memoirs is to realize just how skewed they are given the lack of perspective and objectivity. With that huge caveat, it can be said that the evangelical community doesn’t come off too good in the book although I’m not sure God does either. I'd recently learned that my wife's non-denominational is hurting for donations (something like 70% of the members give less than $10 a week), which helps take the veneer off the seeming vitality of non-denominational Christianity. A self-selected group, i.e. one consisting of members who have left main-line denominations and which lacks infant baptism, I always thought they had a very low percentage of lukewarm Christians. Certainly brings out my compassion streak. They are as flawed and wounded as we are and there’s no magic fix.

    Frank Schaeffer Sr. came off the best in the book, battling the demons of depression and complaining all the time and yet …perduring. He had that familiar desire of wanting privacy – thirsting for it such that he would constantly play his classical music at extremely loud volumes to block out the noise from the "seekers" who stayed at his house. For a person so private to open up his house and life…well….no wonder he constantly complained and was given to temper.

    Stridently anti-Catholic, the elder Schaeffer thought Billy Graham was a base compromiser for once saying something nice about Catholicism. And yet Schaeffer adored Catholic culture; he was happiest in Italy and loved Catholic art. (Art being, according to his son, his true passion.) But then there was the other Passion of Francis Schaeffer – for the last six months of his life he underwent chemo and other treatments for cancer and never once complained. Was it as if he could see the light at the end of the tunnel? It is the humble man who can ask God’s forgiveness year after year, decade after decade, for the same sins and yet the elder Schaeffer did, a model of perserverance.

    November 26, 2007

    Pizza Poem

    Who doesn't love this lovely ode to cheese?
    I've dined—but still I'm ill at ease—
    For why? my stomach lacks the cheese.
    I try its cravings to appease,
    But all won't do—I sigh for cheese.
    A glass of port, sir?' If you please—
    But what is port without the cheese!
    The wine of life is on the lees,'
    Unless a dinner ends with cheese!
    I take a pinch, and loudly sneeze.
    Sly madam Echo answers 'Cheese!'
    I love a song—am fond of glees—
    A song I'll write in praise of cheese....
    But I suppose it must get the blame for inspiring this epic in praise of pizza:
    I've dined - but didn't get my fill of meat-sa,
    For why? my stomach lacks more pizza!
    Don't know why I'm not as slim as Condoleet-za,
    But I tell my cravings "I will beats ya."
    "Srebrenica" verbalized is "sre-bre-neet-sa"
    it's included just because it rhymes with pizza.
    This is one food that never cheats ya,
    though this poem, it seems, is not quite Keats, uh...
    Whereupon I Play a C-Span Voyeur

    The latest HOUSE was much better than average. One of his colleagues tells Dr. House:
    “You spend your whole life looking for answers because you think the next answer will change something and make you a little less miserable and you know that when you run out of questions you just won't run out of answers, you run out of hope.”
    Meanwhile, the blogger at Compostela quotes a book on Flannery O’Conner:
    “Meeks sees Flannery O’Connors works as being influenced by the cruel truth, in Dr. Johnson’s words, that ‘nothing so concentrates the mind as the verdict of death.’ The characters in O’Connor’s fiction are sick with sin and waiting, in Meeks’s words, for a “gesture of grace”.
    Dr. House is sick with sin and seeks a gesture of grace via his questions?


    The juxtaposition isn’t likely accidental: read a 2nd century sermon in Liturgy of the Hours that counselled the wise not to display wisdom in their words but actions. Later I’m a voyeur at Clarence Thomas’s book party (held at the house of Armstrong Williams and televised by C-Span) and at one point he mentions that his grandfather, who raised him, said: “Do as I do, not as I say”. Can you even imagine? But he lived it! Every day. Thomas made the startling statement that there was not one single moment he or his brother can remember that his grandfather did not serve as a model for them. Not one slip-up.

    Thank God for C-Span goes the line. And where else can a commoner get to meet the furtive eyes of Justice Scalia? He joked to Thomas that he was there for a cameo, and you could see a glimpse into the personalities of these “anti-celebrities”, these very private individuals who make up the Supreme Court and who would brave a camera only out of loyalty to their colleague. Thomas said a couple of times, "I'm sorry to have bothered you," meaning he was sorry to have to put them through this. Taking one for the team, they expose their social skills to a nationwide audience. Where else could I see the body language of Ruth Bader Ginsberg as she shakes Dick Cheney’s hand? Such cramped quarters made for other strange bedfellows; Thomas once joked when posing for a picture with a Democrat that this picture would get him (the Democrat) in trouble. My sister-in-law drives a school bus that passes by our house and she said she looks at my book room window and recently saw me addressing & caressing various volumes. C-Span, meanwhile, delivers a scene of infinitely greater voyeuristic interest – and you don’t even have to drive a bus! Thank God for C-Span indeed!

    Thomas said his grandfather is being described as ‘hard’ by reviewers and he “was hard, but not harsh. Those were hard times and you become hard in reaction, like the hand that becomes calloused by hard work.” Our age is soft and become soft as a result. Even the poor in America live better than 99% of all humans who have ever lived. This is primarily the result of the American founders, who recognized the benefits of freedom (economic and otherwise), and the soldiers who protected that freedom since then. Spiritual and material economies are somewhat similar in that we are indebted to generations before us while, at the same time, in some way having to do the work that maintains and builds. In one sense, we are all born pagans and have to start from scratch, beginning with Baptism. But in another sense, we do rest on the soldiers of giants and don't have to reinvent the wheel and have at our avail the capital they won.
    "Man Laws"

    Thanksgiving night we drove back to Columbus under the cover of fatigue, alternating between the entertainments of a WLW radio talk show host offering his “Man Laws” (full of preter-obvious things such as don’t choose the urinal right next to a guy if there’s one available another urinal over) and Tom T. Hall’s Greatest Hits. I play “Old Dogs, Children & Watermelon Wine” for my wife since we have an old dog. I wonder what she thinks of the lyric about women but don't ask.

    By Friday night everything is of a faerie-like in the bracing coolness of approaching December, alit with the glow of free time. The garage is pregnant with home improvement projects-in-progress while the television lies dormant, though still regnent with the football greatness of those Arkansas warriors with their blood-red razorback images on white flags. A mythically tall running back named McFadden ran like a ghost through LSU defenses. It took three overtimes and a 4th-and-10 to kill the number one team in the nation.

    A hike to the nearby lake proves it forlorn of visitors and sun; the trees hold onto to balding rusted crowns. (They're a month away from come-overs.) The golf course lies empty though its greens be as green as ever. Our dog is as thrilled as if be a day in June and alert to a million scents I am not privy to.

    Brother-in-law Bud came over to give me two cases of Bud Lights left over from his wedding reception. I drink Bud Light only in a last resort, but it’s nice to have the option. I plan on more last resorts in the future if only for economic purposes. (I can buy more Luse paintings that way.) I layer the beers in the bottom drawers of the refrigerator. Still not enough room. A half-case will have to live in the cold garage, the bottles lined up behind the bar like a collection of future promises.

    There’s no time more meditative as the Friday after Thanksgiving. It sits post-family gatherings like a grand Minotaur, wild and free. It sits secure given the free time promises of Saturday and Sunday. Thanksgiving is said to be the quintessential “guy holiday”. The one for us. No presents to buy, no stress or cooking. We are merely called upon to carve and eat. All other holidays have been comercialized and/or given over for the children. But not this one.

    November 25, 2007

    McCain Looking Better & Better


  • His weakness on embryonic stem cells is now less an issue because of the recent breakthrough.

  • He's the candidate, along with Giuliani, mostly like to beat Hillary.

  • He was right on the surge while the other candidates shied away from taking a position. I think even proposed it beforehand.

  • Much experience in matters of foreign policy and military. Under a McCain Administration we'd not have had the heartbreaking stupidity of losing our soldiers in Fallujah only to give up the ground the next day. Or to have gone into Iraq with so few troops.

  • Consistently anti-torture.

  • Consistently pro-life with respect to abortion.

  • At least pays lip service to dislike of government waste.

  • Was handed the social conservative mantle by Brownback with the latter's endorsement.
  • November 24, 2007

    I'll Give You Commonweal for Your U.S. Catholic

    While I'm no expert in quasi-heterodox publications, I think Commonweal might be better than U.S. Catholic. Anyway, who among us in blogdom wouldn't cringe at seeing this impressively one-sided display in our diocesan newspaper? (click to enlarge)
    I take it personally since I was one of those who was confused by the heterodoxies of the '70s and '80s, so I wrote the editor, as all good cranks do - I feel more like Herzog of Saul Bellow fame everyday:
    Some of Francie Orthmeyer's "resources to bring active Catholics up to speed on their religion" were of questionable orthodoxy and will likely confuse uninformed Catholics. (U.S. Catholic, for example, recently published an article titled "A Betrothal Proposal" that questioned the sinfulness of sex outside of marriage, specifically premarital cohabitation.)

    Helpful materials not listed by Orthmeyer include:

    U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults
    Study Guide for the U.S. Catholic Catechism
    National Catholic Register
    Fr. Benedict Groeschel
    Coming Home Conference
    First Things
    Christopher West
    Scott Hahn's books
    I probably wouldn't have written if she'd just tossed the more orthodox crowd a bone or two. Note to self: a semblance of impartiality can often prevent the obligatory backlash.

    November 23, 2007

    McCain, Huckabee and Jimmy Carter

    I'm sort of surprised by John McCain's sluggish poll numbers. On paper he seems a natural for the Republican nomination since it's "his turn" and Republicans tend to have that yen for fairness and value loyalty. McCain, like Bob Dole, is a war veteran who graciously waited his turn. McCain, despite what some believe to be dirty tricks in South Carolina, supported Bush and played the good soldier. Perhaps the lesson of Bob Dole is not to support anybody out of loyalty or because they have a heroic past. McCain is also likely suffering because of his weakness on illegal immigration, which is about as red-hot an issue as there is.

    Jonah Goldberg says don't be scared of Ron Paul. Instead, be afraid of Huckabee. I agree with how Huckabee represents that strain of enthusiasm reminiscent of Rod Dreher:
    What’s troubling about The Man From Hope 2.0 is what he represents. Huckabee represents compassionate conservatism on steroids. A devout social conservative on issues such as abortion, school prayer, homosexuality and evolution, Huckabee’s a populist on economics, a fad-follower on the environment and an all-around do-gooder who believes that the biblical obligation to do “good works” extends to using government — and your tax dollars — to bring us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

    For example, Huckabee would support a nationwide ban on public smoking. Why? Because he’s on a health kick, thinks smoking is bad and believes the government should do the right thing.
    And here's a priceless bon mot from the "This Week" column in the latest National Review:
    “Lamentably, I killed your cat while trying just to sting it. It was crouched, as usual, under one of our bird feeders & I fired from some distance with bird shot. It may ease your grief somewhat to know that the cat was buried properly with a prayer & that I’ll be glad to get you another of your choice.” Only one person in the U.S., perhaps in the world, could have written those words. That person is Jimmy Carter, the words contained in a letter, recently come to light, that he wrote to his sister-in-law Sybil in 1990. Note the procedural punctiliousness in that word “properly”; the sanctimony in “lamentably”; most revealing of all, the veiled accusation and self-justification in “as usual.” Carter is not a wholly bad man; in some ways he is an admirable man. It is only that everything he does and says is marred and stained somehow by his irrepressible flaws of character. Though he was an awful president, Jimmy Carter remains a strange and fascinating study. There is a Ph.D. thesis to be written just on his dealings with small quadrupeds.
    Joe, Jesus, & Princess Diana...

    ...or, "If Humility Came in a Bottle, Everyone Would Have it"

    "O humility, lovely flower, I see how few souls possess you. Is it because you are so beautiful and at the same time so difficult to attain? O yes, it is both the one and the other. Even God takes great pleasure in her." - excerpt from St. Faustina's diary
    "It's like Princess Diana around here."

    Indeed it was, the speaker referring to the homage paid in the hometown of Joe Nuxhall upon his death. Signs in every shop. A memorial serviced extended beyond the 4pm-8pm plan until almost midnight. The next day the hearse bearing his coffin made its way up and down many of the streets of the city with people gathered along the route.

    What was it about Diana & Nuxhall? What could they possibly have in common?

    Princess Diana was seen as "the people's princess". She was a member of royalty who had the common touch because, well, she was common. Rightly or wrongly she was perceived to have greater humility, which is what people - and even God - thirst for. Or maybe instead it is the divine streak within us that thirsts for it? People want to see humility so much they may even see it where it doesn't exist.

    With Joe Nuxhall, never a name had so fit as "Joe", a regular Joe who could be found at Little League diamonds when he wasn't at big league ones. Even allowing for the natural tendency of exaggeration after a recent death, the universal testament of those who knew him was that Joe never took himself too seriously. "He's humble. He always thinks of others first," said former Red and devoted Catholic Sean Casey.

    I think the reason the Gospels are dominated by the Passion narrative is the same reason Nuxhall & Diana were so popular (Diana on an international scale and Nuxhall at a very provincial level). The sight of God dying for us is the highest expression of humility there is.

    November 21, 2007


    Watched NBC's Journeyman show last night. I was kind of surprised we're still getting fresh shows despite the writer's strike.

    In this episode our protagonist has been forced by his brother, a police officer, to go to a psychiatrist because time-traveling isn't seen as a valid excuse for frequent familial absences. Which is understandable, but what is interesting to me is how this mirrors the world of faith.

    For the psychiatrist and brother, time-traveling simply won't cut it. He is ruled insane apriori. Isn't this a glimpse into how secular progressives think of people of faith, since they rule out miracles apriori? If you rule out the possibility of miracles, including the miracle of our own personality and thoughts surviving the dissolution of the physical instrument of those thoughts - i.e. our brain - then it's clear why atheists think religious people are mad. And if atheists consider us mad then they will feel free to exert control over us and our freedom - such as the Journeyman's brother did.
    Possible Causes of Mystic Happiness

    When I was a kid reading about mystics, the impression I got was that the happiness experienced by the mystic was the thrill of, say, being able to levitate. Which was to read my eleven-year old mindset into that of the saints. I thought: "Isn't that cool! I'd give anything to levitate!" And since I'm not a saint now I'm probably falling into the same error with this post are some possible reasons for mystic's ecstasy:

  • The 11-yr old's, "Hey, it's flying!" explanation.
    Rejoinder: Yeah but flying would get old after, say, 100 levitations. Plus that would be focusing on a gift rather than the Giver of the gift, which isn't something saints do. People holy enough to levitate don't think much of the gift of levitation as compared to the giver of that gift.

  • Miraculous increase of happy chemicals in brain
    Rejoinder: Possible, but too banally modern?

  • Palpable sign that your Beloved, God, is near.
    Rejoinder: But if you're a saint, you don't need the physical proximity in sensate terms, you know He is near always. St. Paul rejoiced equally in visions as in tortures. See Deep Furrows post.

  • Palpable sign of God's approval and pleasure.
    Rejoinder: This makes sense. If you are constantly thirsting for God, and desiring to please Him (as saints are and have) then a sign of God's approval would be a cause of great happiness. This implies though that the saints don't have a constant sensation of being pleasing to God, else the palpable sign would not be so thrilling (since humans tend to value only what is rare or the exception - see first bullet point above).

    Anyway, that's enough thinking for one morning.
  • November 20, 2007

    "The practice of recommending to God the souls in Purgatory, that He may mitigate the great pains which they suffer, and that He may soon bring them to His glory, is most pleasing to the Lord and most profitable to us. For these blessed souls are His eternal spouses..." - St. Alphonsus
    Think the Stem Cell Debate Over?

    Me neither, because it was less about stem cells than about discrediting religious conservatives. Joseph Bottum read my mind.
    Bible and Liturgy

    Recent thoughts on liturgy and the bible lead me to Dom Celestin Charlier's "The Christian Approach to the Bible". Written in 1957, it seems predictive (let's hope) of the way things are enfolding:
    Catholic and Protestant alike have the same destination in mind, although they take different routes. Steeped in his Bible, the Protestant discovers that his efforts to find the Spirit of God are baulked by the barriers of technical analysis and private interpretation. He seems to make the Bible his prayer and is unwittingly led to the prayer of the Church. His movement was originally biblical but now has become liturgical. The Catholic on the other hand starts off with the liturgy. He finds his prayer right at the heart of the Church, in the Missal. The liturgy gives him an appetite for the whole Bible of which the Missal gives him only samples. Furthermore he realizes that if he is to live the liturgy he must do more than merely follow his Missal. The strange atmosphere which it exhales is altogether different from what he has been used to. If he is to enjoy it in all its richness he must sooner or later go to the Bible.

    Spurred on by their reading of the Bible, sincere Protestants are beginning to realize the value of the unity and liturgy of the true Church. The ecclesiastical awakening in Sweden, the Cluny community, writers like Cullman and de Dietrich, all these are furthering the findings of K. Barth and Kierkegaard. They are realizing that the Bible cannot live or give life unless it is seen in its proper context, the Church. At one end of the scale Protestants are finding through the Bible a tradition; at the other end Catholics are being led back to the Bible through the liturgy.
    No Spanning the Globe today...

    ...due to the Hollywood writer's strike (or due to personal laziness...I report, you decide.) Be back next Thursday as usual! :-)

    November 19, 2007

    A Cool New Book...

    ...titled Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall by Eve LaPlante describes the common roots of Puritanism and Catholicism:

    For a devout Puritan to adopt a traditionally Catholic tool of self-mortification seems surprising given the Puritans' suspicion of Rome and the history of mistrust between American Protestants and Catholics. Yet scholars have found remarkable links between seventeenth century Puritan (Reformation) and Catholic (Counter-Reformation) devotional practices...the scholar Charles Hambrick-Stowe concluded that..."To a large extent the Puritan devotional writing that blossomed in the early seventeenth century was modeled on earlier Roman Catholic devotional literature."

    In the seventeenth century, strikingly, both Puritans and Catholics looked back to the fourth-century writings of Augustine of Hippo. "The tradition was passed to all parties in the seventeenth century through the writings of medieval Catholic mystics, which...were increasingly available in England. Saint Teresa of Avila...acknowledged her debt to Augustine in a passage that a Puritan could easily have penned: 'Scarcely had I begun to read the Confessions of Saint Augustine than I seemed to have discovered myself [and my] frivolous and dissipated life.." Just as Saint Teresa can seem Puritan, Cotton Mather can seem Catholic. He periodically fasted and denied himself sleep, like medieval mystics.
    I thought so. I liked those old Puritans too much. Certainly I can empathize with them. We Catholics come by our "Catholic guilt" honestly, given the famous Jewish guilt, so it's not too surprising Puritan guilt comes by it honestly too, getting it from Catholicism!

    Judge Sewall, by the way, seems a remarkable man. He was the only judge to come forward and repent of the verdict he gave in the infamous trials. And good Lord repent he did, as the author amply demonstrates.
    Martha, Martha... has an interesting post on God testing us, with a good comment thread as well.
    Week in Review

    Put on Tom T. Hall’s greatest hits. Been way too long. Ol' Jeff Culbreath introduced me to Tom T. Nice to re-acquaint with the slower rhythms and quench my thirst for beer. Beer is one of those things that is better to consume in a bunch rather than spread out. Even though I'm moderate about everything except moderation (doh! blogging excepted!), there is something about God and beer that invite a lack thereof. God wants it all, of course, and so moderation is necessarily incompatible with Him. And with beer, you feel like you’re misusing it if you have one or two thrice a week. I’m sure real runners think the same of my running schedule (2 miles, 4 or 5 times a week). They’d say I always stop short of runner’s high that accrues after 25-35 minutes of running and thus have missed the whole point. That I'm using running as a utilitarian means to the end of fitness when it could be so much more. Likewise beer, correctly used, is taken in six-pack increments. That's why they come packaged that way you know. I will try to be less moderate in the future with God and beer.


    Game-day. Michigan game-day. Spent the morning jacking up my IQ before the Buckeye game that would, necessarily, be a relief from IQ. Read part of “How to Read and Why” by Harold Bloom and excerpts of the letters of Herman Melville to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Learned that Flannery O’Connor’s favorite modern novels were Nathaniel West’s “The Lonelyhearts” and Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”. Who knew? I don’t recall that in O’Connor’s “Habit of Being”. Melville told Hawthorne that the mass of people have trouble with God because they think he’s all Head (like a watch) and not Heart. Bloom said the opposite concerning Americans: that great majority of Americans are convinced not only of the existence of God but of a personal, loving one with whom they have a personal relationship. Says that the most un-American sentiment imaginable is Spinoza’s assertion that humans should love God whether or not He loves them. (I suppose Bloom's point is that most Americans consider God’s love for them axiomatic and their love for God optional.)

    Ham o’ Bone provided a welcome bridge to the game. What would it bring? I predicted it would be decided by seven points. (The final was 14-3 Buckeyes.) At the party fellow in-law Jack Perry mentioned the obvious in saying that he’s never met any family who so notices the balls, sacks, and reproductive organs of animals as this one does. “You all look at that first!” he says. I seconded his point about this odd characteristic, adding that he failed to mention the animal’s “taint” as one of the oft mentioned unmentionables. And funny but no one 'cept my wife knew what “taint” was! It's a family blog, so I won't go into what taint is, but it taint this and it taint that, it's the no man's land in between.

    Joe Nuxhall died Thursday night in a Fairfield hospital. I’m surprised and yet I’m not since I knew he was hurting and that had dodged so many bullets in the past that you wondered if he could continue to beat the odds. He seemed about the most authentic a “celebrity” as any. To the extent you can be well-known and not let that effect you, he did. Which, in this time, is about a remarkable a thing as being the youngest ever to play in the major leagues as was also his claim. I think ol' Joe should be famous primarily for not letting celebrity go to his head.

    November 18, 2007

    Life in the Buckeye Epicenter

    We wanted to bring something to a OSU/Michigan game party. Rather than cook, an activity so distasteful as to be part of the curse of Original Sin, we decided to bring White Castle hamburgers. Unfortunately a lot of other peeps had the same idea. We waited some 25 minutes for our thirty “sliders”.

    While waiting in line we met the pluperfect Buckeye fan. Wide of girth and generous of personality, he was as uninhibited as an opionionated blogger. At one point, presumably to break the silence, he began singing the ol’ Buckeye standard, “We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan…”. A couple of the half-dozen stoic White Castle workers smiled. As did I.

    After telling us that he and his friends had all gotten wasted last year when they’d drunk a shot after every good Buckeye play, this year they were planning on only drinking a shot for every Buckeye score. So far nothing unusual in that. But the way to discern this soul as living at the core of Buckeye fanhood is this: He said that his wife was in the hospital and due to be released today, of all days. He told her that he couldn’t come get her because of the game and that insurance would cover another day in the hospital. This seemed patently ridiculous of course. Make your wife stay in the hospital longer than necessary because you’ve got an OSU game to watch? And yet not only did his wife understand but he said that she said, “Oh I love you honey!”

    This is one of those (increasingly familiar) “you can’t make it up” moments. It’s like if I put God above my wife and she said “Oh I love you honey” out of admiration for my zeal, even if it cost her.

    My wife tried to give him an out: “Well it is the Michigan game after all!” but he would have none of such spiritual lukewarmness, replying that it wouldn’t much matter which State game it was. If you substitute a Buckeye game for God, you see he was trying to protect the honor due his Deity. You can’t make it up...

    November 17, 2007

    Various & Sundry

    It's pretty hard to make Michael Scott a sympathetic figure, but the writers at "The Office" have managed to do so: Scott, in the end, considered his company more trustworthy than his live-in girlfriend. Sad. And as he said, with an unintended double entendre: "You expect to get screwed by a company. You don't expect to get screwed by your girlfriend."

    Amy Welborn has an excellent post up on navigating between despair and the we're-all-good-Catholics-now sentiment.

    Review of Frank Schaeffer's new tell all book, which I just borrowed from the library. Pertinacious Papist mentions it here. Mark Shea writes: "There's definitely a 'Daddy Dearest' edge to what he writes as he labors to exorcise his demons, but he sure can turn pain into comedy."

    An Oirish poem from Google Books:

    Shakespeare's Seven Ages of Man in Stained Glass

    November 16, 2007

    Good Books for Kids

    As regular readers know, I often find buying children's books a chore because the political correctness* gets tedious and it's hard to judge whether the book is a quality book or is just living off its PC bona fides. I'm also not too fond of the other extreme. Yet. (Although you can't help but smile at the title of "Help! Mom! The Ninth Circuit Nabbed the Nativity" by Katharine DeBrecht.)

    A plentitude of research within St. Blog's suggest these are worthwhile Christmas or birthday gifts:
  • The Cottage at Bantry Bay - Hilda Van Stockum;
  • Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices - Paul Fleischman;
  • The King of Ireland's Son - Padraic Colum;
  • The Daring Book for Girls - Andrea J. Buchanan;
  • Swan Town: The Secret Journal of Susanna Shakespeare - Ortiz
  • Half Magic - Edward Eager
  • The Borrowers - Mary Norton
  • The Devil's Arithmetic - Jane Yolen
  • The Rescuers - Margery Sharp
  • Johnny Crow's Garden - L. Leslie Brooke
  • Millions of Cats - Wanda Gag
  • The Donkey & the Golden Light
  • A Little History of the World - Ernst Hans Gombrich (nonfiction)
  • The Miraculous Tale of Two Maries
  • Little House in the Highlands - Mellisa Wiley
  • American Born Chinese - a graphic novel by Gene Yang
  • The Railway Children - E. Nesbit
  • Outlaws of Ravenhurst - Sr. Imelda
  • The Jesus Garden - Antoinette Bosco
  • more gift ideas here
  • These also looked good to me though had no imprimaturs:
  • Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine - S. Bartoletti
  • Library Lion - Michelle Knudsen
  • Maximilian Kolbe: Saint of Auschwitz - Elaine Murray Stone
  • Fight for Life #1 (Vet Volunteers) - Laurie Halse Anderson
  • I probably could've saved time merely by polling Elena and Bill and Smock & Mama and Ham o' Bone, though the latter has all boys. (I did ask Steven.) It looks like the Catholic bookeater has something up too.

    Much help was found here, a writer whose children's books look very good also. Her blog has the winsome banner shown at top of this post. Melissa Wiley's master list of good books is here.

    * - i.e....

    Art credit here; hope I don't get sued

    UPDATE: Bill sent me a couple good book leads: Antoinette Bosco's "The Jesus Garden". For beginning readers (or almost-beginning) it's "Ducks in Muck" ("the first book read cover to cover by 2 of our kids so far" he says). Also sweet Mary Herboth recommends Outlaws of Ravenhurst by Sr. M. Imelda, S.L.. These books should help with Christmas buying.

    Update II : "My Life As...." books by Bill Myers, recommended by bingo co-worker Kim.
    "Joe, rounded third and headed to heaven.''

    Long-time Reds announcer and Cincinnati favorite Joe Nuxhall died yesterday.


    Here's a previous post on this blog regarding his retirement, and a Reds tribute page here. I recall getting his autograph when I was kid at a local Oktoberfest while standing next to the stench of a limberger cheese stand.

    He was active in charities, such as this farm for abused children:
    The facility is one of five dreams for Nuxhall, and it will be paid for through contributions made to the Joe Nuxhall Hope Project. Its mission is "to inspire hope in the hearts of children and young people who've had it taken from them."
    May he rest in peace.
    Folger Shakespeare Library Photos

    Some sharp images found here:

    November 15, 2007

    Fiction for a Thursday

    It's been five months - five months! - since I last wrote anything tolerable fiction-wise. (I always find out if what I wrote was any good a couple weeks later: if I can read it without vomiting I know it wasn't too bad.) So I must try to exercise the muscle if only for my primary audience for fiction, Nigerian scammers. I figure that if they can send me fiction, I can return the flavor. My goal is to be the best bad fiction writer I can be. Use it or lose it!

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the time I'd just gotten used to my office, it was the time I was losing my office. Mornings I would huddle over my black mother's milk and cry:
    "Employer loves me,
    this I know,
    because this office
    tells me so!"
    An office meant one thing: a door, which implied a hinge, which implied closure, which implied privacy. It inspired me sometimes to the point of uttering corporate buzzwords: "Metrics" I ticced, saying it every third word like someone suffering from a corporate Tourette syndrome.

    The privacy was visual, not audial, and I sat next to someone who made Eliza Doolittle sound like Ella Fitzgerald. Like a super action figure, her body-made-for-sin would stun men (think Wonderwoman with her magic belt) before she slayed them with words. The perfect obverse of a phone sex operator, even earplugs could not din the cries of this banshee when something went wrong.

    I was losing my office and going back to a roofless cube clochán because the guy at the top of the hierarchy eschewed hierarchy and wanted a flatter, more democratic organization on the ground if not on the org chart. He'd also read in a management book that workers were more productive if there was more light, so all offices next to windows were torn down, as well as those which lacked a view, and I lived in hope that some day beer-drinking would be found a productivity aid.

    My office functioned as a womb. Hot coffee attended me, her hot breath on my face just before I drank. I usually picked up a cinamon roll from the cafeteria, lacivious with frosting. On special days I'd buy Kellogg's Corn Pops, with its single-serving cylindrical package, and pour the milk in and eat it sans spoon. A picture of my wife and children sat to the left of the computer screen. Earphones were handy for symphonic inspiration while I "added value", as the term went, by creating print advertisements which would hopefully induce more people to buy more product.

    Often I'd have to go to meetings at Jason's office where after fifteen minutes his screen-saver of family vacation photos kicked on. In other settings interest in that would quickly flag, but here it became very distracting. Jason's glasses were so crisp and new-fashioned that I'd alternate between eyeing the glasses holding in his bald dome and his children playing with the dog.

    Once I was asked to give a presentation on the fall campaign, something I hadn't fleshed out yet, and while groping for words Stan said, "Don't stop."

    I had the punchline ready.

    "To quote Michael Scott, "That's what she said!"
    A German Prayer

    My aunt recently told me that she remembers her grandmother teaching her a little prayer in German. In English it goes: "I am small. My heart is pure. I don't want anyone in except Jesus alone." In German it rhymes: "Ich bin klein, mein Herz ist rein, soll niemand drin wohnen, als Jesus allein." (I couldn't find the origin of the prayer on the internet.) My father remembers the same grandmother having them kneel before bedtime and reciting the prayer "Now I lay me down to sleep".

    It seems a German custom. A Google search reveals Robert A. Jonas's comments:
    Grandma reaches forward to pull her homemade quilt to my chin. After she settles herself again, she begins to whisper, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Taking my cue, I join her in prayer. After we reach “forever and ever, Amen,” we breathe together in the silence. Then Grandma begins the prayer that she learned from her German parents, Ich bin klein, mein Herz ist rein, soll niemand drin wohnen, als Jesus allein. I know what it means: “I am small, my heart is pure. No one lives in my heart, but Jesus alone.” Some nights, Grandma offers a different prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

    Tis the season for Poe I suppose – it being not long after Halloween and the middle of cold November. Ham o’ Bone’s interest in Edgar Allen Poe has stoked my own. (Ham wrote a screenplay of his life.)

    While Poe was never a big influence on me, I read in bed & finished Allen Tate’s essayMy Cousin, Mr. Poe” then started his “Poe & the Angelic Imagination” while fighting with my eyelids for control. Sleep kept calling for which I've lately a grudging respect for sleep; occasional insomnia has chastened me against taking her for granted anymore.

    Tate is pretty hard on Poe, harder than Chesterton, even though (because? - in the way Augustine was so strict against sexual impurity?) he knew a strain of Poe's tendencies was latent within him. Tate was a more somber fellow than the jolly Chesterton.

    One theory mentioned by Tate is that the possibility that Poe was impotent, which would explain how Poe managed decadence without sexuality (unlike Oscar Wilde and other decadent writers of his time).

    Poe was always an outsider to the literary establishment and so you it's easy to feel for the underdog, not the least one fighting inner demons as Poe did.
    Mea Culpa

    The Word Among Us has a good meditation that I wished I'd have read a week or two ago, back when I sent a ridiculously over-the-top letter to the editor over a matter of trivia and they had the poor sense to print it. My bingo co-worker saw it and shipped me an email teasing me, as well she should - I think I compared school teachers to Communists but I'm too embarrassed to re-read the letter. Seems I'm not immune to variants of "Bush Made Me Insane Syndrome" where Bush is some other figure.

    Here's a reparative excerpt from Word Among Us:
    This is why it is vital that we uphold our leaders in prayer. Most of us are ordinary citizens, yet we have more power over our leaders than we may realize. Our words, our judgments, our willingness or unwillingness to forgive and bless do have power in the spiritual realm (see Proverbs 18:21). With them, we commend our leaders to the Lord, or to the powers of evil. Does this sound far-fetched? Think of how a harsh and judgmental husband can sour the atmosphere at home with his wife and children...

    We all contribute to creating a climate that affects our leaders. Surely, we want to sow blessings, mercy, and forgiveness rather than judgment, criticism, and condemnation. Every day, pray for school principals and church pastors, mayors and governors, presidents, the pope, and all world leaders. Foster compassion in your thoughts and words. Let it overflow to the men and women who hold power, for in the end, they will be judged strictly.

    November 14, 2007

    Status Anxiety & Online Relationships

    From a recent juxtaposition of reads, compare the similarity of what Alain de Botton in his book Status Anxiety says concerning how bohemians inevitably conform by not conforming:
    One acute insight that may be attributed to bohemia is that one's ability to maintain confidence in a way of life at odds with the mainstream culture will be greatly dependent on the operative value system of one's immediate environment, on the kinds of people one mixes with socially and on what one reads and listens to. Christine Rosen's thoughts on the new online gathering places:
    In this context it is worth considering an observation that Stanley Milgram made in 1974, regarding his experiments with obedience: “The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson,” he wrote. “Often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.”
    (Which reminds me of the cynical Bill Mahrer who contends that men are only as faithful to their wives as circumstances allow.) Rosen continues:
    These virtual networks greatly expand our opportunities to meet others, but they might also result in our valuing less the capacity for genuine connection. As the young woman writing in the Times admitted, “I consistently trade actual human contact for the more reliable high of smiles on MySpace, winks on, and pokes on Facebook.” That she finds these online relationships more reliable is telling: it shows a desire to avoid the vulnerability and uncertainty that true friendship entails.
    ... de Botton writes:
    A mature solution to status anxiety may be said to begin with the recognition that status is available from, and awarded by, a variety of different audiences - industrialists, bohemians, families, philosophers - and that our choice among them may be free and willed.

    However unpleasant anxieties over status may be, it is difficult to imagine a good life entirely free of them, for the fear of failing and disgracing oneself in the eyes of others is an inevitable consequence of harbouring ambitions, of favouring one set of outcomes over another and of having regard for individuals beyond oneself. Status anxiety is the price we pay for acknowledging that there is a public distinction between a successful and an unsuccessful life.
    Thus one can easily understand the popularity of social networks given that it provides a partial relief from status anxiety without much risk.
    UPDATE: (Well, there's always risk. HT: Rock)
    From latest Bob Novak Column...

    ...on Fred Thompson's recent comments:
    This leaves the GOP field without a real anti-abortion leader since the withdrawal of Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). Some pro-lifers trust the conversion of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), but many doubt it. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has a 100 percent pro-life record, but he has never been a leader on the issue, though he did pick up a Brownback endorsement this week. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), a doctor, has also consistently voted against abortion, but to date, he hasn't made it much of an issue. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) has assuaged the fears of some pro-life voters, but he will never win over the hard-core abortion foes who go to church parking lots on the Sunday before Election Day campaigning for Republicans in many races. The most pro-life candidate remaining may be former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), possibly the least broadly conservative candidate in the field.

    November 13, 2007


    I've been saying what Theodore Dalrymple is saying here for years. This is why we call our form of gov't a democracy (speak slowly for the liberal scare-mongers):
    It is true that the evangelicals exert a strong influence; but that is what democracy is about. There are, after all, a lot of them in the country and they cannot be disenfranchised. No doubt they have a moral vision that they wish to impose on the country, but so does everybody else. To argue that a woman has a right to an abortion because she is sovereign over her own body is no less a moral position than that to kill a conceptus is ethically equivalent to shooting a man in cold blood in the street...But evangelical Christian political influence in a democracy in which there are millions of evangelicals is perfectly normal, and implies no slide into theocracy; and it is worth remembering that the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.
    (Hat tip: Bill of Summa Minutiae)

    As either James Joyce of Philip Jose Farmer noted, "Discretion is the bitter part of valor." - Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

    Let's play a game of guess the charism. Pick the religious order by using the following clues of what they offer.
    Therapeutic Massage
    La Stone Therapy
    Craniosacral Therapy
    Maya Abdominal Self-Care Workshops
    Australian Bush Flower Essence Practitioner...
    - Curt Jester; craniosacral therapy!? :-)

    On another night, bioethicist Lee Silver from Princeton visited the show. [Stephen] Colbert told him he believed that science and spirituality could go hand in hand and that all people, embryos included, have souls. Silver begged to differ. He told Colbert that, in the shower, we scrub off thousands of skin cells every day, and that the cells on his arm are human life in the same way that embryos are. To which Colbert responded: “If I let my arm go for a while and didn’t wash it, you’re saying I’d have babies on my arm.” Thank goodness we have comedians to take such arguments to their natural conclusions. - Nathaniel Peters of "First Things"

    The evangelicals of America are very important to the fights both against Islam and against liberalism. You may like them or dislike them. You may be one of them or not. But if you have eyes to see and any sociological sense at all, you can see that they provide a huge amount of the foot-soldiering for the various culture wars, and that if they can be mobilized to recognize the Islamic threat, they can provide foot-soldiering there, as well. They have given us the Christian schools and the homeschooling movement of the past forty years (Christian schools first, then home schools), which have had an enormous part in saving a generation from brainwashing and are going to save more generations the words of that famous Jew of Tarsus, we are "all members one of another," part of the same Body. But whether you put a sociological or a spiritual significance onto it, we cannot ignore what is happening to the evangelicals. And the megachurch movement, and still more, the Emergent Church movement, are sapping that vitality. - Lydia of "What's Wrong with the World"

    The future justice of the U.S. Supreme Court describes this harrowing scene: "I lay across the bed and curled up in a fetal position, tired beyond imagining." This is the central crisis of the book and of his life. According to "My Grandfather's Son," [Clarence] Thomas realized that the only way to survive humiliation was humility. "It had long since become clear to me that this battle was at bottom spiritual, not political," he writes, "and so my attention shifted from politics to the inward reality of spiritual life." He had been extraordinarily proud of his work at the EEOC and Department of Education, but now he wondered: "Might I have been too proud? It occurred to me for the first time that I had cherished my good name in the same way that a wealthy man cherishes his money. ... perhaps I would have to renounce my pride to endure this trial." - Charles Sykes of "American Thinker"

    Is your generosity grown cold? Am I a second to you? You did not die for souls - that is why you don't care what happens to them - Your heart was never drowned in sorrow as was My Mother's. We both gave our all for souls - and you? You are afraid, that you will lose your vocation - you will become a secular - you will be wanting in perseverance. No - your vocation is to love and suffer and save souls and by taking the step you will fulfil My Heart's desire for you...Your present habit is holy because it is My symbol. Your sarie will become holy because it will be My symbol...Wilt thou refuse? When there was a question of thy soul I did not think of Myself but gave myself freely for thee on the Cross and now what about thee? - words of Jesus to Blessed Mother Teresa

    There are two extremes to frugality. On one end, life is painfully meager and sparse with short, cold showers, freezing rooms, and scratchy toilet paper, all in the name of saving money. On the opposite end, the world is so fabulously full of freebies that little consideration is taken for other people and their livelihood. People become tools in an agenda and life becomes about gathering lots of stuff as cheaply as possible. While definitely not immune to either extreme--I've lived at both ends--my question is more about living in the center. Where is the line between being frugal and being unethical?... For those of you not into coupon gaming, CVS has a glucose monitoring machine on sale for $29.99, that when purchased, will generate $20 worth of Extra Care Bucks to be used on the next shopping trip...I'm not a diabetic and I don't need this machine, let alone five of them, but there are folks out there who do. If I go to CVS and work this very legal deal...I may very well be depriving others of something that is not just nice to have, but necessary for their well-being. - blogger at "The Place Beneath"

    The Mass in something fundamentally other than a Bible study. It is a living commemoration and re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the New and eternal Covenant. Hence, the role of the Bible in the Mass must be understood to as entirely subordinate to the sacramental function of the liturgy. It is intended to provide a liturgical setting for the Sacrifice. As such, any lexical project aimed at "getting through" the Bible, as such, works at cross purposes with the liturgical intent and sacramental focus of the Mass. - Pertinacious Papist

    Suffering is the precondition of profundity; we see here a glimpse of the romantic underpinning of the modern taste for self-destruction, which is now a mass phenomenon. For when suffering will not come to you, you must go to it, at least if you want to be considered profound. And by an error of logic that is so common as to be almost universal, people suppose that if persons of a profound nature need suffering to bring out their profundity, then the fact of suffering, however caused, is itself proof of profundity. - Theodore Dalrymple

    One day the Little Red Hen found a Politician. It was a Pro-Abortion Politician, but the Little Red Hen was so accustomed to bugs and worms that she supposed that, if encouraged, it could be made into a Nominee and then into a President. So she called loudly: "Who will plant the Seed of this Politician’s electability in the minds of the Press and the Party?" But the Pig said, "Not I," and the Cat said, "Not I," and the Rat said, "Not I." "Well, then," said the Little Red Hen, "I will." And she did. Then one day the Little Red Hen chanced to notice how well the Politician was doing, so she ran about calling briskly: "Who will ask the other Candidates to cut their losses and join the Campaign?" The Pig said, "Not I," the Cat said, "Not I," and the Rat said, "Not I." "Well, then," said the Little Red Hen, "I will." al Election?"...At last the great moment arrived. The Politician – Oh, dear! The Politician lost the General Election. Then the Red Hen called: "Who will blame Somebody Else for this Debacle?" The Pig said, "I will," the Cat said, "I will," the Rat said, "I will." But the Little Red Hen said, "No, you won't. I will." And she did. - Tom of Disputations

    I once worked for a school principal who had such a fear of snakes that she taped pages in books with photos of snakes on them together, so she wouldn’t accidentally open to them. She was a science teacher, which made it all…difficult.) - Amy Welborn

    Today's a good day to start memorizing the De Profundis, Psalm 130(129). Pray it daily for the souls in purgatory, then you'll have it on hand whenever you pass a cemetery. - Tom of Disputations
    Nostalgic Images

    Got out the ol' Peoples Mass Book, published in 1970:
    Yup there's that iconic cover from the heady days of the late '60s and early '70s when "Peoples" was a good word because, after all, there was "The Peoples Republic of China" and "Peoples Republic of North Korea" and Communism was hot back then.

    I remember like it was yeserday, holding that book before Mass while, curiously, never summoning sufficient curiosity to ask anybody: "Hey, why are there robots on this cover?"

    But I tease the Peoples Mass Book. You can't judge a book by its cover and there were are many fine songs in there including this one:

    "Didst" and "Thy" are, sadly, gone from today's Mass books. Reverence is out, casualness in, both in terms of what we wear to Mass and what we sing.

    Perhaps part of my lack of curiosity about the cover was that the images inside were far stranger:

    <- An abstract image, sort of Crayola-ish. A rorschach test? I see the head of a golf club in there. Probably a 3-wood. What do you see? How does it make you feel? Makes me feel like hitting the links!

    I was glad to get the book for a quarter at the OSU book sale, because how else could I have gotten the words to Lord, Who At Your First Eucharist Didst Pray so inexpensively?

    November 12, 2007

    On Voting

    Liked this Bill Luse muse:
    I bumped into a colleague out at school...who asked me if I was prepared to vote for Rudy, apparently on the assumption that he will be the Republican nominee. I said no. He accused me of being a "purist" and further announced that I would be personally responsible for electing Hillary and the havoc she was sure to wreak on the Republic. I said that, no, Rudy would be responsible, and told him how I'd come to this conclusion. Some days ago Paul Cella sent me a link to a magazine article in another Leading Conservative Voice, the American Spectator, in which the author's thesis is that Roe v. Wade is still law today because, in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, Anthony Kennedy was there to cast the deciding vote and Robert Bork was not; and that Bork was not there because of a 1986 election in which a number of Republican congressmen and senators did not get re-elected; and that they did not get re-elected because certain conservatives among us did not turn out in sufficient numbers, the relevance of it all being that if we behave similarly in this coming election - as James Dobson has threatened to do if someone like Giuliani is nominated - we will be responsible for cementing Roe into American law unto perpetuity. As the author puts it: "An amazing thought, no? Roe v. Wade: the conservative legacy."

    So I wrote a letter to the editor:
    It's interesting that Mr. Lord would require a certain brand of conservative voter to shoulder the blame for the persistence of Roe v. Wade in law. His counsel is that it is not wise to be too "pure". We must sacrifice a principle here and there for the greater good.

    And then I wondered: why must it be this way? Why can't (just for example) Rudy Giuliani sacrifice his principles. Why can't he chuck his pro-choice stance and claim conversion to the pro-life cause? Others have done it before him and gotten away with it. Why can't he let go of his pro-gay marriage position and get behind the Federal Marriage Amendment? Well, because it would be too obviously opportunistic, and voters value honesty above all in their candidates. (But, apparently, not in themselves.) Better that the voter be a hypocrite, so that his candidate need not be.

    Another implication of Mr. Lord's argument is that what we are really voting for when we enter the polling place is not a candidate, but a judge, someone who doesn't even hold elective office. If we must lie to our conscience to vote for a candidate who will then appoint a judge who will then rule over us as Mr. Lord sees fit, something's badly wrong. Constitutionally, you might say.
    Sincerely, etc.
    Steven Riddle has some good thoughts here. My voting weltanschauung (that's for Bill White) is thus far this:

    In primary:
  • Scenerio 1: There is already a candidate with big lead in polls:
    Vote "with purity", for the "Alan Keyes" candidate if you will, named in honor for that wonderfully Quixotic candidate.

  • Scenerio 2: There is a battle in the primary.
    Vote for purest available among the viable in the general election.

    In general election:
  • Scenerio 1: Difference between candidates not significant enough to matter or both candidates too deeply flawed
    Write in your Alan Keyes candidate

  • Scenerio 1: Not a close election:
    Write in your Alan Keyes candidate

  • Scenerio 2: Close election in which you can live with the flaws of lesser of two evils:
    Vote for the purest of the two.

    In practical terms:

    Republican primary:
  • Assuming there is a battle, which it looks at this point there will be, I'll vote for the purest of the viable candidates, which at this point is either McCain or Romney or possibly Huckabee.

    General election:
  • Will vote for the Republican candidate unless it's Giulliani.
  • The Ways of the Famine Irish

    Read long of Thomas Gallagher's Paddy’s Lament, the story of the Irish famine and emigration. The deprivations and squalor those who made the trip in the late 1840s experienced on British ships reads like a novel, or rather you wouldn’t believe it if it was in a novel. As the book quotes one as saying: how hard can it be to get waste products into the endless ocean and not in the finite ship quarters? Very hard if prevented from doing so, and yet somehow they put up with it. The British sealed off deck access during stormy periods leaving no privies available and thus “ship fever” ran rapid, killing 20-25% of the travelers. The mind reels. It’s always seems a failure of imagination to imagine just how bad they had it. Worse than black slave ships even.

    Those old Irish were so different in a million ways, but this latest read makes it clear in two areas especially: 1) the lack of squeamishness over bodily fluids and such given the American obsession with cleanliness, and relatedly 2) the integration of the material and physical. They simply had a different view of the material and physical that seems unrecreatable in our present culture:
    All their lives they had linked the material and spiritual world in odd and delightful ways that made one as attractive as the other in what amounted to a mutually dependent relationship…[One] belief was that the dead of one parish graveyard competed with the dead of another parish graveyard in the old Irish game of hurling. Each parish team had a living man from its parish to keep the goal, and when the teams met, always under a full moon, at one or the other of the graveyards, the two live goalkeepers had to be, and always were, present…Sam Sweep’s burial at sea prevented the steerage passengers from putting these benign superstitions to any imaginative use. In the middle of the Atlantic, the idea of two graveyards competing with each other in the game of hurling became even in their eyes a meaningless museum piece.
    I can’t even begin to get my head around how terrifying burial-at-sea was to these 1840-era Irish. It was perceived so horrible a fate that a great many of them died immediately upon reaching land – which is to say the only thing keeping them alive was the horror of being buried in water rather than land. They were so close to their God-given bodies! They didn’t live in our Gnostic age when sacraments are seen as superstitions and when we think only the spirit matters, despite the clear evidence of the Bible to the contrary. We’re now okay with cremation or our bones “floating on the ocean”, as so horrified those Irish.

    But it's true the Irish were superstitious and that's foreign in our age of science and irreligion. The Catechism says: “Superstition in some sense represents a perverse excess of religion; irreligion is the vice contrary by defect to the virtue of religion.” Another way the Irish were different is they would fight like hell to win a bet only to share it when they received it:
    The British sailors never ceased to be amazed by this harmlessly fierce competition among the famine Irish, who seemed as willing to gamble away their last farthing as they were baffled by what to do with their winnings. The sailors could not understand why the prize, once won, became so sharable. Nor could the Irish, whose attitude towards beggars was equally mysterious to the sailors, have explained. For them it was a mode of thinking never questioned or challenged, a folkway twined with their pagan past as with the oppression they’d suffered for so long. With good reason they believed that good luck carried with it dangers as well as responsibilities: when it paid you a visit, you had to share that visit with someone or risk never being visited again.

    November 09, 2007

    All Politics is Local...

    Upon hearing that Bill Clinton offered to arbitrate the Hollywood writers strike:
    Doesn't he have anything better to do?
    After learning that The Office has stopped production:
    Go Bill, go!
    Terry Teachout on Atlas Shrugged

    Even Whittaker Chambers finally judged Atlas Shrugged to be harmless enough, comparing it to a patent medicine: “Some may like the flavor. In any case, the brew is probably without lasting ill effects. But it is not a cure for anything.” That seems to me about right — but not quite. Not only did my 16-year-old self quaff Dr. Rand’s Miracle Elixir without any lasting ill effects, but he actually grew up to be a healthy, sensible adult who knows that you don’t have to sell all the lighthouses to have a proper respect for the virtues of free minds and free markets. And therein lies the paradoxical virtue of philosophical extremism: Sometimes it can help you figure out what you really think. As the libertarian blogger Megan McArdle recently observed, “Models and thought experiments are designed to illuminate principles, not mirror the real world. We already have something that looks and works exactly like the actual world: that is, the world. However, if you want to learn much about that world beyond ‘Water is wet’ and ‘Fire burns,’ you need to simplify in order to see deep truths more clearly.”