February 28, 2009

Christopher Nolan, R.I.P.

Raymond Arroyo has the story of this inspirational Irish writer:
Nolan was born with cerebral palsy, could not speak, nor control his extremities. Confined to a wheelchair, he was the type of person our society looks at with pity or largely ignores. Thankfully, his family never saw him that way. They loved him unconditionally, interacted with him and taught him as one would any child. He would go on to school, though no one fully appreciated his mental acuity.

A drug was discovered that allowed Nolan to move one muscle in his neck. (Bono of U2, who attended school with Nolan wrote the song “Miracle Drug” about the boy). At the age of 11 he was equipped with a “unicorn stick” which was fastened to his head. With it Nolan would peck at a typewriter. His mother had to apply pressure to his chin to stabilize the boy’s head, allowing him to work his art. It was a torturous process, taking him more than 15 minutes to produce one word on the page. And what words they were.
A few years back I wrote (sorry for the self-quote):
...the excess of time allowed Christopher Nolan's "The Banyan Tree", a novel as cryptic as Spanish blogger Hernan Gonzalez through the lens of Babelfish, to be enjoyed. Nolan uses nouns as verbs ("Manchestering?") and hues the print with delicious imagery. It began to taxiderm my eyelids, so dreamlike his prose.

February 27, 2009

Folk Song Friday

Singin' in the Kitchen
(Shel Silverstein)

Here we go singing in the kitchen
All together singing in the kitchen
Everybody singing in the kitchen
Banging on the pots and pans

Mama and Daddy singing in the kitchen
Baby's laughing singing in the kitchen
All the kids singing in the kitchen
Banging on the pots and pans

Supper's done and the table's clear
Baby wants a bottle and I want a beer
Lord I sure am glad I'm here
Where there's lots of love to share

Now clap hands and everybody sing
Dishes clang and the banjo rings
There's gravy on these guitar strings
But I don't really care...

Now the fireplace embers glowing red
Everybody's tired and it's time for bed
Baby's nodding his little head
So let's sing quietly now

Who do we love singing in the kitchen
Can't get enough singing in the kitchen
Whole lot of love singing in the kitchen
Banging on the pots and pans

Memories of the Reagan Administration

The hymn “Sweet Home Chicago” from the Blues Brothers flick takes me away like Calgon to Old Miami and the reassuringly roast beef subs at SDS brought back to the dorm room & served with the relish of years of college ahead amid the dense foliage of a school full of drink and prose and parties on fire escape landings.

I recall a singular glandular moment, the summer still regnant in early fall and the beer tap sitting on a landing full of the pungencies and the dire, siren calls of haste. Like Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, the theme of college was haste and hurry was built into the DNA of the young and helpless. Every Saturday night was at once endless and preciously brief; we knew the hourglass was against us.

There was something especially powerful in “gatoring”, a dance maneuver inspired by “Animal House” that urged us to get a little bit softer now by the simple expediency of moving our bodies downward towards the ground, it affording an almost-intimacy. How rich that merely a shift in the body’s position could elicit such mutual excitement! But we were young and heady and already drunk on the lyrics of “Yes”:
I can feel no sense of measure
No illusions as we take
Refuge in young man`s pleasure
Breaking down the dreams we make
What is it that Yes, a band that barely broke my consciousness except for the single concert in 1985, should be so posthumously potent? What is it about that song that suddenly so defines an era? I could never have imagined at the time that Yes's Leave it would be the portal of time travel. It was then OPS - "other peoples's song". But their song became my song too inadvertently through the magic of nostalgia.

And the Oscar Goes to...

Best bikini reference in a Lenten post goes to David Mills' (two) piece on First Things:
We are not in shape, and we are also delusional. Spiritually, we’re like the pot-bellied middle-aged guy in the speedo swimsuit at the beach, who is just shocked that the twenty-year-old girls in bikinis are not hanging all over him and cooing. He would have a better idea why were he to hit the gym.
Admittedly, the field for best bikini reference in a Lent post is rather small but...

Tales of a Modern Koufax

She moved with the grace of a gazelle, accentuated by coiffed-to-kill hair and a shiny black leather jacket. Articulate as a Carpenter's song, her voice modulated with the consummate pro's lack of awkwardness. Where questioners stumbled she covered with honey.

She was a figure of interest especially in her Sandy Koufax-like quitting while at the top of her game. Only 48, she was coveted by boards across the country and lived in the high recesses of the tightest circles in businessdom. She worked 12-14 hours a day, six days a week, and had climbed the corporate ladder two steps at a time. She was one year into the "crucible job", the one in which she could cyncically see as a setup for failure or the challenge through which she could break through to reach her dream: CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

There was no history of ill health whatsoever. Not an ounce of extra fat. Low blood pressure. Low cholesterol readings. No history of anything. On paper she was Health personified.

Until she found herself on the floor, unable to communicate to her husband, her brain not working right. His worried face was not reassured by her "I'm alright", words that sounded in her ear but not the air. She repeated them with no apparent effect. A few hours earlier she could communicate complex business concepts but now she couldn't tell her husband that she was okay. Because she wasn't. She'd had a TIA stroke and her right side was temporarily paralyzed.

It was a game-changer for her, and she learned shortly thereafter that the odds of a permanent stroke were high given the TIA. She studied health instead of potential acquisitions. She learned that a work/life balance was crucial so she gave up her dream of CEO. She quit the company, realizing that there was no way she could give up her long term habits of drive and ambition in the same surroundings.

And so at age 48 the question again came back to her again after all those years, the question she'd asked herself when she was five: "What do I want to do when I grow up?"

She asked the same question of her granddaughter and the child, after being repeatedly pressed said, "Gamma, I want to be me." The grandmother thought to herself "Oh, the wisdom of children!"

February 26, 2009

How Sad is This?

Submitted without comment. Other than the post title. Click to enlarge:

From My Pastor

Letter to the parishioners:

Lent really is a unique time of year. There seems to be something renewing in it. It's a time to unload many things in our lives that have become burdesome. The whole role of confession and preparation for redemption gives us a chance to start over again if we use the opportunity. It's a time to think of sacrifice, of the needs of others, of the goodness of God. We are challenged a bit to unload the superfluous in our daily routine and turn a little more to things that are very important - the things of the soul and of the heart.

[Lent] is an invitation to walk with Christ for a few weeks and end up closer to Him on the feast of the Resurrection. Even if we stumble along rather than really walk, even that will get us further than we were when it all began.
How very pastoral, in the good sense of the word, is that? Lots of "mustard seed" imagery: "a bit", "a little more", "stumble". It encourages you to try because it makes it manageable.

A couple images deeply reasonate from other sources. One is that Lent is a tithe of our year to God. How reasonable to give God a tenth of our year! Second is that this is a "season of grace". I heard that for the first time a couple years back and it struck a chord.

The first week is bracing and exciting. Later Lent less so, for me at least. If we dread Purgatory and to a lesser extent Lent, perhaps the former is like the first week of Lent - dread beforehand until you actually get into it, when it feels medicinal and health-restoring. I'm sure there are souls who welcome Purgatory but I suspect they are the ones who go directly to Heaven! :-)

February 24, 2009

Fairness Doctrine as Credibility Test

I've been convinced for a while now that the Fairness Doctrine, a potential legislative act with designs to curtail conservative radio and television, will never come to pass. Very powerful, rich entities like the Rupert Murdoch group and Clear Channel Communications and others would make mincemeat of it. For the Democrats in Congress to try to pass something like that would be like the Republicans under Bush trying to pass tort reform. The law lobby, like the communications industry, is far too powerful to be messed with.

But since outrage is the mother's milk of right and left-wing talk show hosts, I am glad to occasionally see an issue that helps sort out those who are outraged for the sake of ratings and those who are outraged with good reason. It's not perfect, since it could be that those who are outraged for the sake of ratings are simply misreading the situation, but it still hurts their credibility in the long run.

And so a "thumbs up" to Al Kresta and Bill O'Reilly and a "thumbs down" to Bill Cunningham and Glen Beck. Kresta and O'Reilly don't take the Fariness Doctrine seriously & know that crying wolf too many times only damages credibility, while Beck and Cunningham continue to sound the alarm.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Small details stand out: the water, the horse, the hat, the shotgun, the coffee. Ah, yes, the coffee . . . "'Helps to have hot coffee when a man gets to home,' the stranger tells her. Such a little thing, yet a mark for or against her, she thinks." Later that night, after she makes her first decent pot of coffee, her husband tells her that some men who have been coveting his land have finally hired a professional killer. "All a man knows is that he'll be where he's least expected." It's the perfect description for either death or Christ . . . or maybe love. - Sancta Sanctis

He prayed the Office almost every day of the last 25 years or so. Prayed the rosary every day for longer. Went to Mass almost every day. He prayed, and knew intimately all those words I have been praying - or trying to pray - so intensely over the past week. Thirsting for God. Rescuing from the snares of the enemy...The hope strikes me, again with great force. His prayers have been answered. How can I, even as I acknowledge the crushing, puzzling, confusing loss and my shattered heart - for even Jesus wept - how can I say that I love him and that I believe all this stuff we both said we believed is actually true - and not allow some gratitude, albeit limited and struggling gratitude - to creep into my soul, for that thing, which is not a small thing, but a great thing? That his prayers - all those prayers, all of the seeking and yearning and hoping have found their blessed end? How? Imagine my surprise.- Amy Welborn

Reading... means accepting, at some level, the author’s authority to tell you the story. You enter the author’s world on his terms, and in so doing get away from yourself. Yes, you are powerless to change the narrative or the characters, but you become more open to the experiences of others and, importantly, open to the notion that you are not always in control. In the process, you might even become more attuned to the complexities of family life, the vicissitudes of social institutions, and the lasting truths of human nature. The screen, by contrast, tends in the opposite direction. Instead of a reader, you become a user; instead of submitting to an author, you become the master. The screen promotes invulnerability. Whatever setbacks occur (as in a video game) are temporary, fixable, and ultimately overcome. We expect to master the game and move on to the next challenge. This is a lesson in trial and error, and often an entertaining one at that, but it is not a lesson in richer human understanding. - Christine Rosen of "The New Atlantis"

There can be no religious society, whether the religion be true or false, without some sacrament or visible symbol to serve as a bond of union. - St. Augustine via Tom of Disputations

having the L.A. Times say the Pope's actions "border on arrogance" is like having a Victoria Secret model chastise the Holy Father for wearing immodest vestments. The editors of the L.A. Times and Victoria Secret models, in fact, have very similar ways of peddling their wares: lots of pouting and posing, combined with large doses of self-absorption. - Ignatius Insight Scoop via Dennis at Ephemeris

If the [stimulus package] is the way to prosperity, why aren’t all countries wealthy? Even the poorest countries have access to a printing press. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

[They say] there's nothing to be done about the decline in Mass attendance because it would require changing the larger society. If the context is Mass attendance, we are to assume that can't be done. Change the context to the Church's social justice teaching and it is apparently thought that people will, somehow, assume the opposite. - Terrence Berres

The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star. - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, "The Physiology of Taste" via Steven Riddle
Ah, again quiet
my ears ring with the hollow
memory of sound

Do you know what to
say sixty seconds before?
Try listening.

What would God say if
He were watching this sunset?
--I've outdone myself.
-- Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

A visual metaphor (with audio effects!) is worth a thousand verbal comebacks. Check out the seedy abortion clinic scene [in Juno] and you'll see what I mean. - Sancta Sanctis

Writing is never so eloquent, meaningful, and beautiful as when it is written in connection with the death of a loved one. - Jim of Bethune Catholic

When I wake at six or seven -- I drink a glass of water -- write a résumé in a little 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 Swiss calendar-diary, given to me by a friend, of the previous day, any special name or fact I mustn't forget -- hang on my trapeze for a moment or two -- whether infirm or not, read a few lines calculated to counteract infirmity, from the Bible usually, as stabilizing "the innocency of our lives and the constancy of our faith". - Marianne Moore via Dylan of "Dark October"

Lobster is an excuse to eat butter. - the wife of Stephen King

"Despair porn" is the rightwing equvalent of the Obamahead wackos. - paraphrase of Rob Long of NRO

No "Girls of the SSPX" photospread ahead, judging by Bishop Williamson's Letter of September 1, 2001. - Terrence of "The Provincial Emails" on a letter by Williams suggesting girls not go to college

What prompts impatience? The fear of loss: loss of time, loss of opportunity... More than one person has observed that America has become a very impatient place. Material poverty has been practically eliminated, but time poverty is rampant...Aquinas may have offered this opinion: “Inordinate fear is included in every sin; the miser fears the loss of money, the intemperate man the loss of pleasure.” As sin increases, so does fear. As fear increases, so does impatience....You have to ask: To what extent does fear drive our politics and economics? Was the New Deal a policy of patience, of letting the system work out its kinks? How about the Great Society? Nixon’s price-fixing? The audacious American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009?...We don’t want change we can believe in. We want change now. And that’s the sign of the coward. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

Sentimental Thoughts

When I was young, I thought the sentimental and the good were one and the same. I had reached that conclusion through purely anecdotal means, likely influenced by sentiment, rather than through any use of reason: the hateful in high school seemed to lack all sentimental feelings. Cool kids necessarily had to make ruthless cuts with old ties - with those who were no longer perceived as cool and who might weigh their own popularity down.

The sentimental were backward-looking and loyal, since nostalgia and sentiment are closely joined. The unsentimental were forward-looking, eager to use people for their own ends, and more of the "what have you done for me lately?" stripe.

Those stereotypes are false as it turned out. It was only decades later that I learned that the kind and sentimental priest at our high school had sexually abused children. And Joseph Stalin was a sentimentalist (well, I suppose all Russians are) who "loved" his wife, at least if you define love as having strong feelings. He also cried over his grandchildren and such.

Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy both wrote of "tenderness leading to the gas chamber". (The full quote, originating with O'Connor, is: "In the absence of faith, we govern by tenderness, and tenderness leads to the gas chamber.") In the NR article mentioned in a previous post, Flannery O'Connor is seen as the ultimate anti-sentementalist:
"Already as a young child, O’Connor envisioned herself as a thorough but unsentimental kind of Christian. When told that she was being watched over by guardian angels, for example, she flailed at them in the air, determined to rout all pious notions of divine protection. She was unabashedly eccentric in the admirable and literal sense of the word — not in easy disdain for the masses, but in candid recognition that Christians are necessarily ex-centric, pivoting about another Center than the world’s hub or their own ego."
O'Connor's confidence in God's love for her must've been very deep in order to eschew the help of angels!

From the OED, sentimental is defined as:
1. Of persons, their dispositions and actions: Characterized by sentiment. Originally in favourable sense: Characterized by or exhibiting refined and elevated feeling. In later use: Addicted to indulgence in superficial emotion; apt to be swayed by sentiment.

1749 LADY BRADSHAIGH in Mrs. Barbauld Richardson's Corr. (1804) IV. 282 What, in your opinion, is the meaning of the word sentimental, so much in vogue among the polite... Every thing clever and agreeable is comprehended in that word...I am frequently astonished to hear such a one is a sentimental man; we were a sentimental party; I have been taking a sentimental walk. 1752 H. WALPOLE Let. to Mann 27 July, I am still sentimental enough to flatter myself, that a man who could beg sixteen guineas, will not give them. 1763 F. BROOKE Hist. Lady J. Mandeville (1820) 34 Your squires are an agreeable race of people, refined, sentimental, formed for the belle passion. 1823 SOUTHEY in Q. Rev. XXVIII. 517 Rousseau addressed himself to the sentimental classes, persons of ardent or morbid sensibility, who believe themselves to be composed of finer elements than the gross multitude. 1826 DISRAELI Viv. Grey V. xv, A soft sentimental whisper. 1827 SCOTT Highl. Widow v, Never satisfied with dropping a sentimental tear when there was room for the operation of effective charity. 1837 LANDOR Imag. Conv., Steele & Addison Wks. 1853 II. 152/2 Dear Addison! drunk, deliberate, moral, sentimental, foaming over with truth and virtue. 1862 M. E. BRADDON Lady Audley xviii, You have no sentimental nonsense, no silly infatuation..to fear from me. 1865 DICKENS Mut. Fr. I. iv, I am not setting up to be sentimental about George Sampson.
b. absol. (with the). Also (? nonce-use) as n., a sentimental person.

1784 Unfort. Sensibility. I. 39 Your dying sentimentals, who can..execute more mischief in a single hour, than [etc.]. 1849 G. CUPPLES Green Hand iv. (1856) 44 Come, come, old boy,..'twon't do for you to go to the sentimental, you know! 1908 R. BAGOT A. Cuthbert v. 48, I could hardly say more without approaching dangerously near to the sentimental.
c. Arising from sentiment or refined æsthetic emotion. Obs.

1760-72 H. BROOKE Fool of Qual. (1809) III. 158 Music..is but..a distant and faint echo of those sentimental and rapturous tunings. 1764 GOLDSM. Hist. Eng. in Lett. (1772) I. 41 They [i.e. the English in 7th cent.] were only incapable of sentimental pleasure.
2. Pertaining to sentiment. a. Arising from or determined by feeling rather than by reason.
"Arising from or determined by feeling rather than by reason" is interesting.

There is no reason in Stalin's alternating brutality with petty kindnesses. And surely those with the most reason seem the least sentimental nowadays; "Reason" magazine, for example, is libertarian, which is the political philosophy that would seem to have the least amount of sentiment attached. Liberals are accused, rightly I think, of being ignorant in not anticipating outcomes due to naivety and sentimental, utopian feelings.

But, on the other hand, there is no reason in God's love for us. The most unreasonable thing God ever did was to come down to earth and die for us. Many atheists think Christians are sentimental in imagining a happy, endless afterlife. We are left with this mysterious mix of God as a sentimental father who forgives the sinner 70 times 7, and the God who allows men's hearts to harden to the point of rendering the Holocaust.

February 23, 2009


Two from Karen Edmisten:

A Meaningful Lent: What to Give Up

A Meaningful Lent Part II: Why Give Up Anything at All?
A posse from Alan Jacobs:

Interesting posts on Kindle and the future of reading.

Dreamy prose that Mrs D might like too:

The day started with a cruise ship anchored offshore, a hulk out of place against a blue cloudless sky and blue-green water. We had been warned: The ship’s arrival signals the invasion of Loreto by loud, drunken Americans with too much money. We kept our distance and they were gone by early evening.

I’d be happy never to visit Mexico again but don’t regret having seen it once, and already feel the melancholy of vacation’s end. When young we’re eager for novelty and change; older, we prize the familiar. Each course, pursued exclusively, turns into a cul-de-sac. Living for a week in a house on the beach, I appreciate the dual nature of the sea, its constancy and mutability. Like Sophocles, Matthew Arnold and a million others, Edgar Bowers looks at the sea and sees human destiny. Here is “An Afternoon at the Beach”:
“I’ll go among the dead to see my friend.
The place I leave is beautiful: the sea
Repeats the winds’ far swell in its long sound,
And, there beside it, houses solemnly
Shine with the modest courage of the land,
While swimmers try the verge of what they see.

“I cannot go, although I should pretend
Some final self whose phantom eye could see
Him who because he is not cannot change.
And yet the thought of going makes the sea,
The land, the swimmers, and myself seem strange,
Almost as strange as they will someday be.”

Deep in the Heart of Winter

I'm playing the wintery "Falling Slowly" from Once, intent on the relaxation that Sundays afford, drinking a Corona on the outskirts of Lent. I can't recall the Michael Dubruiel post a couple Lents ago but it was titled something like, "Let's Get Ready To Lent!" said to the tune of "Let's get ready to rumble!". It's a funny image for me if only because Lent seems, in some ways at least, the opposite of the testosterone-fueled violence of a professional football game. But it does have that similarity in the surge of adrenalin, and in the hope that attends any as-yet-unplayed game.

I look out the window and the sun is shining despite bitterly cold temperatures. Outside the hammock sits like the Lost Cause, full of recriminations about what would've happened has Stonewall lived. The sky is decorated by swirling white flakes, the winterly equivalent of fireflies. On the driveway side stands the handsome fence we erected last summer which I note with mixed emotions given its symbolism.

It's odd but by the middle of a season I get accustomed to it such that it's not so bad. Winter is definitely more of an introvert's season I suppose, if not a nature-lover's. "Deep in the Heart of Texas" - such a lively, winsome tune. I can think of few exhilarating anthems in praise of winter.


In my mind's eye the week was saturated in beauty and lyricism. I read long from the masterworks, fed myself on reveries, got lost in the viney tunnels of Homer’s Illiad and Seamus Haeney’s poetry. This rich ferment inspired me to write many pages of an unfinished sea novel, a sequel to an earlier unfinished sea novel. In my imagination I wrote under the pseudonym of a sailor responsible for the rigging of ship sails. I don’t know anything about ship riggings but then who wants to write about what they know? Isn’t the point of novels – for reader and writer – to explore terra icognito?

It got so that during the writing of it I could feel the spittle of the salt sea upon my brow, or maybe it was our dog who was panting inches from my face. It’s hard to wax poetic in prosaic circumstances but I’m always willing to give it a go.

This particular week was marked special by a visit to my boss’s house. He had a couple of us over to check out his sixty-thousand dollars worth of home improvements. He’s the artsy, loft-type, which is actually sort of refreshing given that the old-fashioned Monet look seems a bit tired. It's likely a sad commentary that Monet seems too sweet and mawkishly sentimental to me, ala Thomas Kincaid. There was lots of abstract art on the walls. Odd lighting also, but not threateningly odd. Black tub, but I’m sufficiently utilitarian to have only wondered if it concealed dirt better.

“It’s a duller world,” opined NR after the death of Updike and WFB because of their use of unfamiliar words. They added parenthetically “because less surprising”. And my boss strives to make his home more surprising by odd things like a striking retro photo of roller derby gals (“back when it was the real thing” he says). The pose caught two girls rounding the oval, looking very ’70’s-y, one with her mouth open and head back in a look almost post-coital. It was signed and personalized which didn’t surprise me since my boss is a very personal person. A throwback to an earlier age, I suspect he was frozen in his singularity by his eternal singleness.

That was Tuesday. Wednesday night was water aerobics, or H20 aerobics as I call it since it sounds more manly. I shifted and sifted the choppy chlorinated waters under the direction of our Germanic instructor, who has not an ounce of fat on her and yet doesn’t seem bothered by it. She wears very skimpy outfits which reveal greater muscularity than me, which is disturbing.

Some of the exercises I’m at a natural disadvantage compared to my fellow participants because I have less body fat but then not everything is a competition. The hour workout has a disproportionate impact on the week perhaps because it’s so different from the rest of the week.

I have a hankering for old country music, the kind you don’t hear except on scratchy vinyl. The new country is 90% crap and 10% pop. How good would it be to hear some Mel Tillis again? Or even Randy Travis? It reminds me of those winsome days spent in that atmospheric blue-collar bar (‘the Other’ personified).

I'm thinking of buying a new car, primarily for the satellite radio is like buying a house because your apartment won’t accept the cat you just got. (Not that that happened to me.) I’m set on the light gold color since all the dark colors are not compatible with Great Depression II. We need cheery light colors these days.

A line from Updike's "Widows of Eastwick" that resonated: "the monotony of sunshine" in New Mexico. It would be monotonous, wouldn't it? I felt a bit of joy, even such joy over the current grey and snowy weather such for the drama it creates.

February 22, 2009

"Personally Opposed" Fiscal Conservatives

Some fiscal conservatives in the Republican party want to jettison their social conservative bedfellows but they ought to take a close look at the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger. That very thing the social liberal holds dear undermines the fiscal conservative: that of creating a wedge between the personal and the public.

Schwarzenegger was the former darling of the fiscally-conservative, socially liberal set but who now seems to be selling the oxymoronic idea of "principleless leadership". I'm fascinated by how on "This Week" today he so brazenly said that his only job is to follow the will of the people of California. It amounts to: "I'm personally opposed to tax increases but..". But polls say Californians want a mixture of tax increases and spending cuts and so he gave them what they wanted. Isn't that exactly what pro-choicers say? "I'm personally against abortion but can't impose my will on others"?

Turns out he's Bill Clinton redux, a governor by polls, which would not be surprising except for who he is. Schwarzneggar never struck me as in the same camp with the weaker-willed Bill Clinton. Or is what they have in common simply ambition?

UPDATE: I should've said that the 'personally opposed' quote above was a paraphrase, but the exact language (from this transcript) suggests that Ahnold is a follower, not a leader and that although he's personally opposed to tax increases he has to do what the people want (emphasis mine):
SCHWARZENEGGER: I made it very clear that I'm against raising taxes, and even today I hate tax increases...

________ [later] ______

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if it requires tax increases?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Even -- if -- no, even though it maybe is against your principles or philosophy, you still have to go, because that's what the people want you to do. And the same is in California. So I will go again after health care reform. I will be going after, you know, education reform, which, of course, we've got some good one, because of the categoricals dropped by $6 billion, our categoricals, so more money goes into the classroom now. So you've got to do what the people want you to do rather than getting stuck in your ideology.
And here I thought we had a representative form of government!

Wood's Review of "Flannery: A Life"

I read modern biographies of devout Christian or Catholic figures merely hoping that it won't be too irritating. Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable biogtry among elites so I expect a certain amount of misrepresentation, wilful neglect, and flat out bias. So because Gooch kept them in check, I personally found his biography of Flannery O'Connor non-irritating and thus enjoyable: I wasn't looking to know FoC better, so much as to know the events of her life better, and I think Gooch succeeded swimmingly in that. Besides, how many biographies really allow us to understand someone? People are complex. Gooch was at least outwardly respectful of her Catholicism which was the best I figured I could hope for.

Ralph C. Wood, however, is less easily satisfied. He devastatingly critiques the biography in the latest issue of National Review, beginning with the title of the book: "The patronizing intimacy of Gooch’s title turns out, moreover, to be a distancing device." Ouch, I say, given how the title of my other blog is If Flannery Had a Blog. I'd realized the title was a bit too familiar only long after I began that blog.

Gooch does seem, oddly, to see the whole secret to understanding O'Connor bound up with peacocks rather than Christ. Woods writes:
Gooch lays O’Connor’s genuine distinctiveness to the side, and thus fails to bring her life into the sharp focus it demands. His biography has no overarching theme, no compelling trajectory, no revealing figure in the carpet. He seems to believe that O’Connor was a rara avis, but his main evidence is that, as a child, she trained a chicken to walk backward and that, as an adult, she raised peafowl and other exotic birds... Instead of probing the complex depths of “Flannery,” Gooch has written a jauntily superficial book....

Gooch chooses to make Freudian readings that obfuscate rather than clarify. He interprets the brilliant brat in “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” as wrestling with her dawning erotic desires, arguing that her sexuality is finally “sublimated in religious expression.” Such sexual preoccupations blind Gooch to the child’s real problem: She is afflicted with a condition far more fundamental than her prepubescent sexuality — namely, her religious pride as a Roman Catholic.


Flannery O’Connor found herself sent on a similarly urgent mission at a now-famous dinner party hosted by Mary McCarthy. Having recently “outgrown” Catholicism, McCarthy opined that she still found eucharistic symbolism literarily useful, even though she didn’t believe any of its hocus-pocus. With a candor not usually encountered at New York social gatherings, the usually taciturn O’Connor could not remain silent, even at the cost of giving great offense. “Well,” she said, “if it’s a symbol, then to hell with it.” Gooch makes nothing of this scandalous claim, nor does he deal with O’Connor’s later elaboration: “That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”

The Eucharist does not merely point or gesture toward something vaguely transcendent, O’Connor was saying; it sacramentally enacts the Reality it declares: This is Christ’s life-giving body and blood, the feast without which we are literally starved of life. Or else it is a snare and a delusion that should be denounced as such. Gooch observes, instead, that O’Connor “framed her new life in religion” when her illness compelled her to return home and live with her mother back in Milledgeville for the last dozen years. Quite to the contrary, O’Connor had already framed her life — both literary and existential — in her Catholicism. “I am a Catholic not like someone else would be a Baptist or a Methodist,” she said, “but like someone else would be an atheist.”
Wood also asks a fascinating question:
The deeper problem is far more perplexing: Why, prior to Flannery O’Connor, had this country — the only Western nation “with the soul of a church,” as G. K. Chesterton famously said — failed to produce a single major writer whose work is Christian in both form and substance? Why would a triple outsider to the American project — a self-declared advocate of 13th-century Catholicism, a southerner who refused to apologize for the evils of her region, a sympathizer with backwoods Protestant fundamentalists — become this country’s first thoroughly Christian writer of fiction? Why are nearly all of our eminent writers — Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Melville, Poe, Hawthorne, Twain, James, Frost, Faulkner — heterodox at best, atheist or even nihilist at worst? Why was Flannery O’Connor the first distinguished American writer to have her imagination shaped by the scandalous claims of the Gospel? Why, above all, does her greatness lie precisely in her being “such a Roman Catholic,” a Christian convinced that the triune God has uniquely and definitively identified Himself and His will for the world in the Jews and Jesus and the Church?

Attorney General's Comment Ignorant on so Many Levels

What to make of AG Eric Holder's comment that Americans are cowards for not talking about race? One could more easily say, based on the AG's comments, that America is a nation of blowhards. I'll try not to stereotype as he did.

I suppose it would be cowardly to talk about race just because a race-conscious government office holder (no pun intended) wanted to talk about race. As if that's the main problem in America today. Not the economy. Not jobs. Not declining devotion to Christ. Not killing children in the womb. Not sky high rates of unwed motherhood. Not the schools.

I don't even understand what he wants. Race has been a national obsession for decades for good or for ill. See Martin Luther King and Archie Bunker respectively. And didn't Messiah Obama's race speech in Philly fix everything? A bully like Holder is never satisfied.

The idea that talk solves everything reminds me of our corporate diversity classes where the instructor begins class throwing out insults that portray stereotypical views of each race and apparently assuming, just by airing them, that biogtry and prejudice will be gone. This is sort of like the idea that sexual sin will disappear if we had more sex ed in schools.

In other words, would talk help or make it worse? With blogs you can find anybody talking about anything if you want it. David Duke and Louis Farrakahn talk about race; is Holder happy with them? If he'd said Americans need to be less prejudiced then that's one thing. But to say we need to be talk more about race in order to decrease race-consciousness is stupid.

February 20, 2009

Wordplay in Gray February

Of wordplay there is no end and Roy Blount Jr. brings the enthusiasm of an amateur in his tasty "Alphabet Juice". Note with what relish he handles the long-standing controversy between gray and grey:

To me, grey looks greyer. The Middle English form (AHD) was grei. And the British, who see a lot of it nearly every day, prefer grey. OED points out, however, that Dr. Johnson's dictionary spelled it gray, that grey is "phonetically ambiguous (I suppose it could be mispronounced to rhyme with key, by someone unfamiliar with bey, fey, hey, lei, obey, prey, they, threy, whey, and oy vey), and that there are other linguistic arguments for the -ay spelling.

OED also notes that some nineteenth-century printers asserted that grey and gray were not quite the same color: the former being only a mixture of black and white, while the latter might be lighter or warmer - or "any broken color of a cool hue," according to Field's Chromotography (1885), which insisted that "the distinction between grey and gray should be carefully observed." A voice in the wilderness.


Scriptractions is a neologistic combination of "Scripture" + "distractions" and refers to the elusiveness of trying to figure out exactly what Jesus meant in a particular verse rather than simply absorbing the whole or meditating on the spiritual sense. This played out recently for me while I was reading Michael Dubruiel's book on the Mass when I came across a quote of Luke 19:42, which is how Jesus wept over the fate of Jerusalem. I'd heard it many times before and always saw it as simply as Jesus feeling compassion for Israel's unrepentance and how they would soon see their Temple destroyed by the Romans.

Reading the passage again though it seemed, for a moment, that Jesus was saying they could've avoided that physical fate though I wasn't sure He meant in earthly terms or spiritual terms or both:
As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
I consulted everything, starting with the Catena Aurea (which I always want to spell as cantina as if it were water in a desert) then Orchard's "Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture" followed by the Jerusalem commentary and then Haydock. Orchard made mention of the possibility of the Jews escaping their fate at the hands of Rome by referencing an earlier passage in Luke about how if an army is coming that is much bigger than ours we should sue for peace ahead of time. But no commentary seemed to explicitly say what exactly the fate is that they could've escaped, which likely means the answer is simply that they could've escaped the fate of not believing in Him.

February 19, 2009

Behind the Scenes

I'm a sucker for a fish-out-of-water story like this one concerning a quiet writer who worked undercover for awhile as a car salesman:
Many salespeople find that humor is a good way to overcome objections. If a customer says they're "only looking," the salesperson might answer, "Last time I was only looking I wound up married." If a customer objects to being hurried into buying the car, the salesperson might say, "The only pressure on this lot is in the tires." These prepackaged lines were exchanged between car salesmen in the slow times with the feeling that the right joke at the right moment could be the ticket to a sale.

Of course, a good joke in the salesman's opinion might be considered the ultimate cornball line by the customer. In one case a veteran salesman bragged to me that he sold a car to a woman by telling her, "You know, you look great in this car. The color matches the color of your eyes." Oddly enough, that very night I was talking to a woman who told me she had once had a car salesman tell her that the car matched the color of her eyes. Her reaction to this? "Oh please!"

Car salesmen and women seem to exist in their own world. What they think is cool is viewed by the public as tacky and obvious. For example, why do they insist on wearing white shirts and silk ties? Or what about gold watches, rings and chains? Who wears that stuff anymore? Don't they realize they are turning themselves into walking cliches? The only answer I came up with was that, as a salesman, I spent all my time with other salesmen. They were my friends. Believe it or not, I tried to fit in, to belong. So I began to develop an interest in gold ties, white shirts and dress shoes. I even grew a goatee because a lot of the guys had beards. And I put gel on my hair and combed it straight back.


Since I was still a "green pea" the other salesmen tried to push me to wait on undesirable ups — the undesirable customers who the salesmen thought wouldn't or couldn't qualify to buy a car. My manager had, at one point, described the different races and nationalities and what they were like as customers. It would be too inflammatory to repeat what he said here. But the gist of it was that the people of such-and-such nationality were "lie downs" (people who buy without negotiating), while the people of another race were "roaches" (they had bad credit), and people from that country were "mooches" (they tried to buy the car for invoice price).

I'll repeat what Michael, my ASM, told me about Caucasians. He said white people never come into the dealership. "They're all on the Internet trying to find out what our invoice price is. We never even get a shot at them. I hate it. I mean, would they go (to a mall) and say, 'What's your invoice price on that beautiful suit?' No. So why are they doing it here?"
I assume because that's the price on that beautiful suit isn't negotiable.

"Riskless Risk" is Risky

I'm hyp-mo-tized by the failure of the banking system not because it killed the economy (economies like all flesh eventually crumble; I've been telling Ham of Bone for years to spend his money since what's on paper is so illusory) but because the best and brightest were able to so miss the boat. It's like how Rumsfeld and Cheney were able to miss post-war planning in the pre-Iraq war stage. Those reputed to be brilliant are often the least.

Last night I watched the Frontline program "Inside the Meltdown" and despite the humorous PBS bias (the Republicans wore black hats, the Democrats white, and Freddie and Fannie were reduced to insignificance) it still had the inherent drama of the inexplicable: how could a few subprime mortgages bring the system to its knees?

The answer, I think, is that the system is made for risk and risk for the system. They are inextricably bound. My notion of banking as old-fashioned and conservative was rather old-fashioned itself. David Smick writes:
The U.S. financial services sector has dominated the world precisely because of its cowboy-like approach, always pushing the envelope of risk and reacting to market developments with rapid-fire decision-making. This is a system that in recent decades has contributed to an American entrepreneurial renaissance.
No risk, no reward. Which brings a sort of inevitability to the whole thing. Bankers thought they'd found a version of nirvana: "riskless risk" via the securitization of bad mortgages. But then risk is what makes the world go 'round, even riskless risk, which is the riskiest risk of all. To use a biblical analogy, the investment banks may be hot or cold but were never lukewarm.

February 18, 2009

More Stuff....

It may be no real significance to the fact that Pope Benedict's encyclical on hope is #44,619 on amazon's book list and the Holy Father's first one on love is at #84,285. After all, Spe Salvi is more recent. But it does suggest that the thirst for hope goes beyond its common parlance as campaign word.

"Only when we look in the direction of the sun do we perceive this dazzlement of day ribboning from...bushes, trees, or even free-floating in the air. Look in another direction, and you will not see it at all. Walk through it, adn you will feel nothing.

Still, it is real enough...The day being somehow salubrious, myriad small spiders are moved by wanderlust. With deliberate intent, they...spin out their long, invisible strands that will bear them off on the slightest air current...Like animate seeds they disperse their kind to fresh fields and pastures new.

It is usually very young spiders of many different species that exhibit this aeronautic proclivity. Their weightier elders are shackled by the webs they spin. Chains for the one prove wings for the other, as if it were the privilege of the young to soar...Should they fall upon water, their infinitesimal weight will not break the surface tension, so they may be wafted ashore or aloft again. These little Argonauts have been caught in ships' rigging hundreds of miles at sea."

- Morgan Bulkeley Sr. via Roy Blount's "Alphabet Juice" on the word "gossamer"


I'm relieved to see our pal Jeff Culbreath is no Jeane Dixon (except for predicting the Obama presidency).

February 17, 2009

A Bank Rant

We all have our pet villains in the corporate world. For some it's "Big Oil". Others "Big Auto". For some it's Enron or World Com. For me it's the banks. I hate the banks.

Why? Mainly because the gap between their performance and expectation of performance was so huge. Banks were always expected to be solid and stolid and investors would therefore expect less return. People didn't invest in a bank stock to get rich but for the stable dividend.

But it's the oldest story in the book: the solid citizen has a mid-life crisis. Banks wanted to be cool. Hedge funds were the happenin' thing and the bankers looked at the hedge fund managers with envy. Mr. Banker sighs to his wife one day,
"I want to be in Barron's. No one respects me because I'm not getting double-digit returns. Johnny has a new hot-rod hedge fund and my old Ford... Have you noticed my hairline is receding?"
One could wish he'd have had his mid-life crisis by buying a Corvette.

We're going to have to start over, from scratch almost, and I don't doubt that the Dow deserves to be crashing. The shape of the economy and the corruptness of the financial architecture deserves a 6000 Dow. The stock market is the only instrument these days that is reflecting reality. Certainly not the Congress, eager to borrow billionsin some hair brain'd Keyensian scheme.

The sins of the banking industry dwarf all other corporate sins. If the fault of Big Auto is one of omission (i.e. so little in terms of weaning us off petrol) and the sin of Big Oil is simply profiting when their commodity is pricey, and if the sin of Enron is the typical corruption of a company rather than an industry, then the sin of the banks was a large-scale industry-wide sin of commission: pure and rank greed.

Why, I sigh, must lambs act like lions? Why, I sigh, must the architect of the whole flippin' financial system (the banks) be stupid and foolish and greedy too? The whole point of banks having low expectations in terms of stock "sizzle" was that so other stocks could shine. Banks are the crucial industry, arguably the crucial industry since they affect every single industry, and yet they acted like teens too.

I feel a bit of the loathing that the beautiful Natalie Wood, who played Maria in West Side Story, expressed at the end of the film. To paraphrase: "You all killed him. You killed the economy. Not with bullets, or guns, but with greed!"

More from David Swick's "The World is Curved":
The story starts in 1998 after the collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management. With great panache, the global banks responded by tightening credit controls over the hedge funds (hedge funds leverage large amounts of capital to trade, often using bank loans). But here’s the irony. At the same time, the banks adopted a much looser approach to their own trading desks with weaker defined risk management standards. Not surprisingly, bank risk soared. Hoping to emulate the hedge funds and investment banks, the banks took riskier and riskier bets in search of ever-higher profits. The financial system has safeguards to control bank risk. The Basel international bank capital adequacy standards, for example, force banks to place more capital on the sidelines as noninvested collateral if the banks want to increase their level of risk. The Basel standards are like an insurance policy to protect the integrity of the global banking system, including bank savings deposits, money market funds, and other financial instruments used by the average citizen. However, the international standards presented the banks with an unattractive choice: either opt for greater risk and larger returns but stockpile higher levels of noninvested capital in case something goes wrong, or accept lower risk and smaller returns, but have more capital that they can put to work in the markets. The banks accepted neither choice, and the results were catastrophic.

To maneuver around this Basel dilemma, the banks (joining the investment banks) set up a kind of dual market. Almost every large financial institution set up independent, off-balance-sheet financial vehicles to obscure risk.

Take Citigroup, for example. The outside world, including the bank regulators and credit rating agencies, fixed their eyes on the well-known institution and the bank’s visible, on-balance-sheet risk. What the world couldn’t see were the less-well-known, independent financial vehicles (often called conduits or structured investment vehicles) that Citigroup set up separate from the parent institution. Officially, the often ugly liabilities of these independent investment vehicles were not included on the books of the parent institutions.


One of the difficulties I had in the past was wondering why God would not appear to each of us individually once to say, basically, "hey, I exist." After all He's all-powerful. But it occurred to me recently how even a personal appearance, as life-changing as it might be, could eventually be seen as inadequate. If everyone got one visit from God then we'd complain: "why don't You appear every moment to me?" Which is really calling on Him to remove his gift of freedom, which would be to remove our dignity, which make us no longer made in the image and likeness of God.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

At the age of eight, my daughter developed a keen interest in whether the books she read were "true stories." She was wondering if there might be something about a not-true story that made it less worthy of her time. Imagine her joy when, after many tries, she held up a book, and I could finally tell her, "Yes. This is a true story. Her name really was Laura, and she really lived in a little house in a big wood." I feel the same way about faith as I listen to Luke begin his gospel. In no uncertain terms he tells me: The story you are about to hear is the true story. This is the story worth living for. - Amy Welborn in "A Catholic Woman's Book of Days"

The age covered by the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I was richer in writers of genius than is our own, and we should not expect a translation made in our time to be a masterpiece of our literature or, as was the Authorized Version of 1611, an exemplar of English prose for successive generations of writers. We are, however, entitled to expect from a panel chosen from among the most distinguished scholars of our day at least a work of dignified mediocrity...There may be Ministers of the Gospel who do not realize that the music of the phrase, of the paragraph, of the period is an essential constituent of good English prose, and who fail to understand that the life of a reading of Gospel and Epistle in the liturgy is in this music of the spoken word. - TS Eliot on New English Bible via Bill White of Summa

There's no such thing. I just lower my standards and keep going. - Poet William Stafford on writer's block, quoted by Kathleen Norris (ht: Dylan)

The novel is arguably a Protestant literary form--and the rise of the novel certainly coincided with the decline of poetry, drama and storytelling as a communal experience. Today, reading is considered to be something one does in solitude, away from the madding crowd (in a manner of speaking), so as to have an individual experience of the material. That makes (some) sense only people can still talk about the same book. Fr. Stephen's Brideshead Revisited ("the story of grace and salvation in spite of human waywardness") and Barb Nicolosi's Brideshead Revisited ("the invitation of grace to 'grow up' and assume responsibility for our lives") are definitely the same book. Andrew Davies' Brideshead Revisited ("The villain is manmade theology . . .") makes one wonder whether someone switched dust jackets on him for a prank. Yet his reading is awarded the same validity as theirs....[but] we simply cannot talk about the same book unless we really are talking about the same book. Spain seems to have the right idea about their treasured Don Quixote, arguably the first novel ever written... Many readers, of different ages and accents, but one book: the same book. Spain is blessed to have a novel that is such a part of its cultural identity that they can treat contrary interpretations the way actors treat a new play: as a short dip into make-believe after which one can rejoin the real world. In short, whether we are talking about the inspired Word of God or the pulpiest Thriller ever printed, sola scriptura is not enough. - Sancta Sanctis

"I want to hear Latin in the Mass; therefore, I must hate the Jews." ??????? - friend wondering why anti-Semitism is often found in radTrad communities

"If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or, as it were, fondle them ... arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you will at least know where they are." - Winston Churchill via commenter on Darwin Catholic

Kathy Shaidle has a tagline for her recent posts about the Vatican: "These people aren't smart enough to tell me how to live." Not the way I'd put it, but it's a fair point. You could even say it's one of the keys to how the Church understands herself. We don't believe what the Church teaches because Church teachers are smart. Church teachers teach what was handed down to them by the Apostles, and from all accounts the Apostles were as sharp as a sack of wet mice. The personal virtues of an evangelist make the Gospel more credible to those who hear it preached, but they aren't the foundation of a faith that lasts. - Tom of Disputations

Please authorize me to spend a bajillion dollars. We don't have that kind of money in the treasury, of course, but don't worry about it. We'll leave a big stack of IOUs; the taxpayers can settle up later. The important thing is to inspire confidence in the health of the economy...The economy is terrible awful horrible bad. Worse than you can imagine. Toxic. Can't get better by itself. The important thing is to inspire confidence in the health of the economy. - Diogenes via Terrence Berres

What a woeful vessel [Marcial] was he for this apostolate, but there will be more saints because, and now perhaps in spite, of him. We do not know the whole story and the bad news will probably get worse. The inevitable braying in the media and in the blogosphere is deafening. Leon Podles calls for the suppression of the Legion of Christ and of Regnum Christi. Rod Dreher calls Regnum Christi a cult and oddly uses the crisis to settle an old personal score with the now deceased Father Richard John Neuhaus. Under the guise of a letter to a friend, which in friendly fashion he released to the blogs, Germaine Grisez calls for an investigation, but assumes the Legion must be dissolved...I think of all the thousands of the faithful of the Legion and Regnum Christi who are hurting today. To them I say, remember the good and holy priests and all the members of the movement who are the charism... Either it is false and will die, or it is true and will be your guide to Heaven. - Austin Rose in "The Catholic Thing"

Doesn't anyone out there know that there are seven stages of grief? People respond to grave news through a process. Not every Legionary priests is going to jump to a clear, concise, understanding and acceptance of this and then be able to give just the right balanced answer. Give them a break. After all this is more a tragedy for them than it is for most of us. They need our support and understanding so I don't think we should be adding insult to injury with our complaints that they "just don't get it." Believe me, they get it. They get it down to the bone. Pray! Pray! Pray! and when possible send them a note of love and support. Treat them as if they were in they have been through a trauma - oh yeah! They have! - Mary of "Broken Alabaster"

[Been] dipping into Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice (speaking of vampires!)...I am most interested in thinking about her Catholic childhood, and how she learned the faith in an iconic, non-reading way. Though I was Episcopalian, not Catholic, as a child, some of what she says resonates deeply with me and my faith journey. Those childhood memories stood me in very good stead when I walked away from the Church (though I never became an atheist, as Rice did). There was never a moment away when I did not realize that I had left something. Something to be reckoned with. It wasn't just nothing. And those invisible strings, stitched into me so very long ago, eventually are what kept me from falling farther away than I did and drew me back into the Church in the end. - MamaT of "Summa Mamas"

Muzak Holdings LLC files for bankruptcy. It's a measure of the severity of the current downturn that a company that survived disco cannot survive this. - Tom Maguire at "Just One Minute" via Terrence Berres

Grief is messy; the general trend is toward healing. But it's disorganized and sad and out of control. You don't expect too much of yourself and you do what you can do. The Blessed Mother gets it, by the way. The day we told our kids that their dad had cancer, we ended up renting "What's' Up Doc?" with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal and watched it as a family. Surprisingly, it's still a good memory for me and the kids. - Roz of Exultet

I cannot believe that a charism should have to depend upon the moral consistency of the one who receives it. If this were so, we would all be doomed! A charism is a gift from the Holy Spirit (who is anything but tame!) for the Church, for us. Who knows why the Holy Spirit chose to use this particularly fallible priest in order to bestow a charism? - Blogger at "Come to See" via Fred of "Deep Furrows"

February 16, 2009

Trust Uber Alles

On the television show "Friday Night Lights", the mother of a teenager is taking her daughter to have a tattoo removed. She pulls her car over, gets out, and has a heart-to-heart. She asks her to promise she will not let her down and won't go down the slippery slope that the tattoo seem to presage. Daughter says yes. Mother trusts her. Mother turns around and drives home.

Amazon.com reviewer of Joe Torre's "The Yankee Years":
Torre offers his clear-eyed assessment of Rodriguez as a player who can't succeed as a team player because of his fear of failure. "There's a certain free-fall you have to go through," he says, "when you commit yourself without a guarantee that it's always going to be good. There's a sort of trust, a trust and commitment thing that has to allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to be embarrassed. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. And sometimes players aren't willing to do that."

Cardinal Ratzinger from book "In the Beginning":
Humans are dependent. They cannot live except from others and by trust. But there is nothing degrading about dependence when it takes the form of love, for then it is no longer dependence, the diminishing of self through competition with others...And because humans are dependent, only love can redeem them, for only love transforms dependence into freedom. Thus human beings will only succeed in destroying their own redemption, destroying themselves, if they eliminate love "to be on the safe side."

Confessions of a Book Whore

My brother is to movies what I am to books, and rates each film by whether he'll see it in the theatre, buy the DVD, watch on television, or skip it altogether. I'm thinking I need a similar scenerio for books. It used to be so simple ("could it be that it was all so simple then..."): If it had a cover with pages in between I wanted to own it. Now I've reached the saturation point where less is more. I'm returning to my roots (the library). Here are the three levels for books:


The pluperfect rentable book is Joe Torre's "The Yankee Years", unless you're like, say, 144th on the list and won't be able to get the book until you're old(er) and gray(er). Sports books are those which I almost never re-read. Another book I want to check out is Robert Samuelson's "The Great Inflation", but an even better example is a book like Peter Schiff's about surviving the coming Great Depression. Since most books about economics and market predictions are wrong I feel better about not having given my money towards one. (In fairness, Samuelson's book is not a predictor of inflation but a historical look back at the '70s.)


A Kindle book is a book that I won't spend a lot of time flipping back and forth. The e-reader medium is limiting and encourages a sequential reading. Novels are ideal, especially novels I'm unlikely to read again. The Updike novel "Widows of Eastwick" was an easy Kindle decision since it was something I wanted to take my time with (i.e. no library) but also was unwilling to shell out $18-$20 bucks for.

Own Actual Book

This is a category into which spiritual books, reference books, art books and obscure books might fall, the types of books where there is the hope for re-consulting. Also, many books simply aren't on Kindle or even at the library such as the biographies of Hester Thrale and Orestes Brownson.

Various Sacred & Profane Thoughts

It was like a taste of the supernatural in the purely natural, that of our dog smelling the seemingly unsmellable, in this case deer in woods in the distance. He didn't see them (as usual --sometimes it's like his breed needs a seeing-eye dog rather than being one), but he could smell 'em. To put it in visual terms, a dog's nose is high-def and a human's is Etch-a-sketch (or the crude markings on a stone tablet).

The lack of bipartianship in Washington is not particularly surprising given that the American people expressly voted for partianship. If we wanted the parties to work closely together we wouldn't have given large majorities to the Democrats in Congress, nor married them with a Democrat president. Sometimes you get what you pay for. We're getting what we paid for.

I like "The Catholic Comparative New Testament", which has eight versions of the bible side-by-side for comparison purposes. Check out the differing translations of 1 Cor 13:7, from the famous Pauline section on love:
"[Love is] always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope..." (Jerusalem), "It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope.." (New Jerusalem), "[Love] beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things..." (Rheims), "[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things...", "Love excuses everything, believes all things, hopes all things" (Christian Community Bible), "Love never gives up, and its faith, hope and patience never fail (Good News Translation).

Winter has a way of making me thirst, Proustian-like, for the summer, even for the deep loneliness of that county fair on that late July night.

I remember it like it was yesterday, the loping horses, the tractor pull, the rabbits and roosters in their cages observed by a coterie of significantly-breasted girls in tight Hooters shirts. I tried to look at them and not look at them at the same time, the sort of look perfected by Vince Vaughn in a scene in Four Christmases.

I could feel the summer slipping away already. On that late July night I felt a corner turned, felt the haunt of age, knew the inadequacy of the dizzying summer to fill me up enough. Oddly it seems that the moments most memorable were the ones that jumped the shark; the first lengthy bike-ride in exotic Clintonville felt satisfyingly disorienting, as if I were on vacation in my own town, but then I repeated it thrice, and fice, and the initial moment was unrecreatable. The story of pleasure, 'eh?

I have trouble ascribing moments of natural transcendence to God, or seeing them as metaphors of Heaven. It’s a sore lack for it would be beneficial in one so inclined to the aesthetic experience. (But then that would give it a utilitarian twinge, as if God doesn't want us to enjoy something simply for its own sake.) I am slightly jealous of those who see a landscape and thank God, such as my wife. It's no wonder she so easily sees dogs in Heaven. I know intellectually that God created everything but my joy in nature is mostly disconnected from God, perhaps because I've long been in the habit of seeing nature as red in tooth and claw and thus "neutral" in terms of the sacred and profane. Or maybe it's a Puritanical streak in seeing no credit in it, as if I’m goldbricking when I’m enjoying created things.

I've sometimes understood capitalism (which is a terrible system though the best we have) in terms in which the goal is to get us to keep up with the Joneses by spending ourselves into an early grave. An advertising-driven, profane phenomenon. I struggle to see it as a way to turn our talents over to God, to spend the day giving something that would help someone else instead of merely satisfying ourselves. I was reading part of “Conversations with God” recently and there was a passage about work that mentioned how we should do it excellently, with great attention to detail, so that it might give a good appearance to others (perhaps some of whom are non-Christian), and they will be drawn to the Faith by our observance to quality.

Sound advice surely, though I thought it a stretch that one work extremely hard so that a co-worker might notice and become Christian. Certainly my own reversion wasn't triggered in the slightest by the examples of co-workers who went to meetings with relish and were seemingly absorbed with minutiae. In fact, they might've been an obstacle. My bad of course. (St. Joseph the worker, pray for me!)

Their mindset was also inconsistent with the philosophy of my own buying habits; back in the early '90s, I actually preferred a “disposable” American car to the higher-quality Japanese models. I was willing to take the gamble of more repairs in return for the cheaper price. Time value of money suggested that less I pay upfront, the better and I didn't want to own the same car for twelve years. I also had the considerable consolation of knowing I was helping save American jobs.

As we all know, the American automoble industry has hugely improved on quality so that's no longer an issue. But that's cars. There are certain professions in which you always yearn for high quality, such as doctors, nurses, priests, lawyers, artists.

February 15, 2009

Simulating Stimulation

On This Week this week, Sen. Lindsay Graham came off as remarkably adult-like when he said that housing and banking are the critical components here and that if we don't fix them then all the stimulus is throwing good money after bad. Indeed, I'm stunned by how the Congress has been able to ignore the most critical issue - that of the freeze-up of the banking system due to 'toxic assets' - while indulging in spending that would make a sailor blush.

And hey I was just kidding, I thought, when I parodied the stimulus package as benefitting illegal immigrants but then I should know by now it's hard to stay ahead of the parody-generators in D.C.. When willst I learn?

On the issue of executive pay limits for bankers, some say that would cause a 'brain drain'. This is one of those situations where a brain drain sounds very appealing. If they had been dumb as rocks they wouldn't have gotten us into this situation, proving again that it takes an intellectual to really mess things up. Instead of managing risk, the banking industry managed to magnify it. It would be nice if instead of limiting exec pay their compensation was tied to some fancy unregulatable derivative that the execs actually had to understand in order to get paid.

Addressing the fear created by banks with bad assets is one thing, but to try to borrow your way out of a problem caused in good measure by too much debt is, to put it mildly, dubious. Extreme scarcity is driving up the price of common sense these days: if it was a commodity it'd be selling for higher than the price of gold.

February 14, 2009


Answering Facebook's eternal question "What are you doing now?":
Christopher Blosser is updating his status on Facebook.
Very literalist, he.

My Florence Nightingale

Chairgate ’09 was finally resolved, or so I think. Like many a March it went out with a whimper and not a bang.

The trouble started with the unlikely event of my being spotted in the cafeteria Tuesday by my Chair Lady bete noir. I didn't think she saw me but in retrospect if she didn't notice me initially she would've by my non-subtle evasive tactics, i.e. running at top speed in a crouched position carrying three dinners. I get so few opportunities in daily life to act like Jack Bauer that I found this one irresistible.

Having penetrated her frontal lobe she made a phone call to our secretary to check up on my progress in becoming properly chair'd. The subsequent error was our secretary mentioning the tragic situation to a boss three levels above me. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of office politics knows that you want to pick your battles, and the battle for my old chair was not one I wanted picked. But I daresay our secretary lives for these moments. It’s a bonding experience – between myself and her surely but it also plays to the whole scapegoat thing, the scapegoat being the outsider insisting our chairs match the furnishings as if we’re modelling for a cover shot on “Corporation Today” magazine. The sublime ridiculousness of it got her attention too. And half of us are just trying to feel meaningful and so, God love her, she tilts at windmills like trying to resolve my chair situation.

Word came down that the boss three levels above me, who hereafter will be referred to as BTLAM, was very supportive. He would use his great power and kill any would-be usurpers of my old chair. That seemed to end the matter although I was expressed my disappointment of myself to the secretary for my not having told her not to tell BTLAM of the chair situation.

But a day or two later BTLAM apparentally had second thoughts. He gave the matter over to the boss two levels above me (interesting, also acronymed by BTLAM). This BTLAM was 38% less impressed by my cause. He said I would have to report to a corporate nurse forthwith in order to secure a proper defense for the chair. I’d resisted up to the point both for the hassle and because my understanding was that said nurse would still not sanction said old chair. But I was convinced things were getting out of hand enough that I should see a nurse.

I explained the situation crisply, in about 15 seconds, and Nurse Nightingale smiled and said I could keep my old chair. Just like that. She would send a message, issue over. It was like justice and mercy kissing.

Now sure I was underwhelmed when the email she sent got my name completely wrong. She combined my first name with my bosses’s last name. But I still think it’s binding. At least I hope. Though stay tuned for further updates.

February 13, 2009

Fiction for a Friday

Books climb like finely-bound clementis vines along the master librarian's desk. Just the sight of the 19th century volumes clustered relaxed Donald more than TM ever did. He could even hear the 1911 Britannica with its surreal old symbol of the past empire embossed on the cover regale its book mates with tales of mustachioed men on the Indian subcontinent.

He listened in, and the old sorrel book quoted his owner at length:
“I was working for the East India Tea Company, on assignment for a British contracting firm. Our job was to wear wide-brimmed hats, take long siestas, manicure our handle-bars, and supervise the Empire’s progress in assimilation of new British subjects. As work goes it might not have been back-breaking but isn’t one’s geographical and chronological position determinative anyhow? A policeman in the most rural English countryside can read 'War and Peace' and empty the station-house of 19th-century donuts before something happens to break up his day, while the lowliest cop in London is busy the live-long day. Where’s the fairness in that?”
A neighbor book of fine green binding with corrugated pages describing the correspondence between two long dead figures concerning the Civil War spoke up after clearing his voice of the dust of centuries:
“The fairness is that if 'the lowliest cop in London’ wants a more leisurely work day he should move to East Anglia, while the ambitious and hard-working East Anglian might well move to London.”

Pelosi Romes While America Burns

I just would like to know whether we're heading for rampant inflation or deflation. My economics wizard contact says he doesn't know but:
"I do know that t-bills may be a tough sell to governments worldwide when those governments and their citizens are more interested in their own economic stimulus plans and spending, I predict that the interest rates will rise and the treasury will buy it's own t-bills with printed money, causing inflation."

Leadership Considerations

Dick Morris recently predicted that President Obama is walking a tightrope: if he talks down the economy, he makes it worse, but if he talks up the economy he'll be perceived as being out of touch with the American people.

Leadership is difficult and that isn't an unusual tension. In the spiritual life there are those who are relentlessly upbeat to the point where they seem not in touch with the reality of pain and loss that humans are subject to. Others emphasize pain and suffering to the extent that it encourages self-indulgence and which ignores the reality of Heaven and the Resurrection. St. Paul said we are to "rejoice in all things", which would imply erroring on the side of upbeatness - if one can call it error.

It's surely glib to say that Pope John Paul II was the optimist, the one who would talk up the economy, while Pope Benedict XVI is a bit more pessimistic, seeing the Church as possibly getting smaller. Both, of course, are optimists in the long run since in the long run death and the devil are defeated.

Since I mentioned the economy (there's your segue for the segue-discerning impaired), heard on a radio show a pundit say that the "whole country is going the way of Michigan" and that we ought to learn from Michigan's mistake, that of constantly electing liberals.

That didn't seem fair to the state up north and in looking at MI's list of governors the voters there seem to have switched from parties frequently:
44 William Milliken January 22, 1969 January 1, 1983 Republican
45 James Blanchard January 1, 1983 January 1, 1991 Democrat
46 John Engler January 1, 1991 January 1, 2003 Republican
47 Jennifer Granholm January 1, 2003 Democrat
The MI unemployment rate through the years shows a lot of variation. Given the slowly collapsing automobile industry, I probably would've guessed rates from 7-11% over this time period instead of 4-9%:

Set whine on: "My guvmint got drunk on spending and all I got was a lousy sales tax deduction." Not true, but it seemed too good a line to pass up. The boys on Capitol Hill cut their gigantic spendulus package by 3 1/2 percent (by my calculation) but guess what was part of that 3.5 percent? That's right, 80% of the new car tax benefit. Instead of deducting interest & sales tax, you can now deduct only sales tax. Set whine off.

February 12, 2009

People of the Screen

Provocative look at the future of reading; Rosen finds the Kindle wireless feature more distracting than I do, since the web interface (thank God?) is clunky and I don't care about "Now Now":
In a.d. 1000, the Grand Vizier of Persia, an avid reader, faced a peculiar logistical challenge when he traveled. Unwilling to leave behind his precious collection of 117,000 books, as historian Alberto Manguel tells us, he hit upon a unique strategy for transporting them: four hundred camels trained to walk in an alphabetically-ordered caravan behind him on his journey.

What the Grand Vizier needed was a Kindle. Since its much-hyped launch in 2007, Amazon’s portable electronic reader (if it is the “reader,” what does that make you?) has received outsized media attention. In a characteristically enthusiastic article about the device in Newsweek, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was quoted as saying, “This is the most important thing we’ve ever done....It’s so ambitious to take something as highly evolved as the book and improve on it. And maybe even change the way people read.” The market for e-books, although growing rapidly, is still less than 1 percent of the total publishing business: perhaps 400 million paper books will be sold in the United States in 2008, and Amazon expects to sell 380,000 Kindles in 2008, resulting in an unknown number of book downloads.

Much has been written about the Kindle’s various features: wireless service that allows for rapid delivery of e-texts; the ability to search the Web; a service called “NowNow” that performs real-time searches (using human beings!) to answer questions; a dedicated “Search Wikipedia” function. These features are remarkable—and remarkably distracting.
So I disagree with her there but she does make a good point with this:
The Kindle will only serve to worsen that concentration deficit, for when you use a Kindle, you are not merely a reader—you are also a consumer. Indeed, everything about the device is intended to keep you in a posture of consumption. As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has admitted, the Kindle “isn’t a device, it’s a service.”

In this sense it is a metaphor for the experience of reading in the twenty-first century. Like so many things we idolize today, it is extraordinarily convenient, technologically sophisticated, consumption-oriented, sterile, and distracting. The Kindle also encourages a kind of utopianism about instant gratification, and a confusion of needs and wants. Do we really need Dickens on demand? Part of the gratification for first readers of Dickens was rooted in the very anticipation they felt waiting for the next installment of his serialized novels—as illustrated by the story of Americans lining up at the docks in New York to learn the fate of Little Nell. The wait served a purpose: in the interval between finishing one installment and getting the next, readers had time to think about the characters and ponder their motives and actions. They had time to connect to the story.

Politically Incorrect

Angel, a Catholic blogger and teacher in Spain, has a map of the U.S. in his office and it probably doesn't require the Babelfish translator to know this might be controversial:
I have not moved it*

What is expected of me is the Discóbolo or the Partenón or the Cariátides, perhaps a map of Greece (and yes which I had long time a map, to see where it was the Citerón, Quío, Mégara, Tégea, the Cyclades or the way from Athens to Delphi)... And until recently [the U.S.] map, in which I like to look for Amherst, Eden Prairie, Birmingham (Alabama), Newark, Scranton, Albuquerque, Milledgeville, the squared borders of the states of the west, or Columbus (Ohio: greetings, Poncer), or Wyoming, were a contracultural gesture even; now they give temptations me to clear it, is not going somebody to think I put that it by our Mesías...the other day a professor made the typical bromita of Bush.
* - through fracturing lens of Babelfish

February 11, 2009

Two Genesis Accounts

A Word Among Us meditation on yesterday's first reading:

Imagine that you have taken a hiking trip in the mountains. While standing at the foot of the slopes, you become absorbed by the surrounding forest and its wildlife.

Then, after climbing to the top, you marvel at the breathtaking view below you. The two perspectives complement one another and enrich your appreciation of the beauty around you.

In a similar way, the opening chapters of the Bible present two different accounts of creation, accounts that enrich us by their distinctive points of view. The first account (Genesis 1:1–2:4a) gives a panoramic view of the universe as God’s creation. This “view from above” emphasizes the sovereignty of God and highlights the effortless manner by which he brought everything into being. The universe is created with magnificent order, with man and woman as the crown of this creation.

The second account (Genesis 2:4b-25) offers a “view from below.” God is described in personal terms, planting a garden for the man who is his precious creation. Like a skilled potter, he forms man (“Adam”) from the mud (“adamah”) of the earth and breathes life into him. This account is filled with indications of God’s personal love for man and woman, whom he created with such care and mastery.

These two accounts come from different periods in Israel’s history. The second account comes from the “Yahwist” tradition (named because of a preference for using the term “Yahweh” or “the Lord”), which produced it in the early tenth century b.c., during the time of David and Solomon. The first account comes from the tradition of the “Priestly” writers in the fifth century b.c., when the Israelites were returning from exile and wanted to establish their unique identity among the peoples.

We have benefited greatly over the past century from the work of biblical scholars who are unlocking the treasures of divine wisdom contained in Scripture.

Reflexive Cringe

I reflexively cringe when I see mention of the Church on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch (or any secular newspaper for that matter). I expect half-truths at best. And the headline doesn't give me much hope:
I haven't read the story yet, so I'll dare you to.

Why Not the 'Unicorn Plan'?

From Parody is Therapy blogorhythm:
WASHINGTON D.C.-- Leaders of the House and Senate met today to iron out the shocking non-details of a new stimulus package that will cost the taxpayers absolutely nothing. Dubbed "the unicorn plan" by cynics, many economists say it is an improvement over previous Congressional plans.

"Our polling shows that merely talking about passing an $820b stimulus package is making Americans nervous and undermining consumer and credit confidence. Americans don't see spiraling further into debt as the solution. So we've decided on the '2009 Imaginary Stimulus Act'."

The new imaginary plan already has the votes of all one hundred senators and over 400 House votes. Liberal members see it as adding 300 million jobs via public works programs that will disproportionately favor minorites and illegal immigrants. Conservatives see it as an across-the-board 100% tax cut. Reports say the final vote could come as early as Thursday.

"The purpose of the stimulus is confidence, and so if the American people promise to be confident we won't have to spend a bazillion dollars of their money. I wouldn't call it blackmail exactly, but it does imply a threat: stop fretting or you'll make your country a banana republic."


Okay so we all know we're in economic catastrophe mode, but do we have to hear it from the POTUS? I thought he was supposed to calm things down since economic doom and gloom is to some extent self-fulfilling.

I have a car with over 100K miles, failing brakes and old tires and I was thinking this might be a good time to buy a new one, especially since there's supposedly a tax break for new car purchases in the economic spendulus package. But now I'm rethinking things. I'm thinking maybe I should wait.

I thought this was just me but a very smart, hard-working co-worker of mine said the same thing. Then I hear a talk show host say the same thing again, that is how Obama's speech made him think things are worse than he thought. Good for the individual but bad for the economy?

And the President said during the news converence that we're supposedly in agreement that FDR's policies ended the Depression, or words to that effect, though I have a number for you, courtesy George Will: 15. That's the percentage of unemployed Americans in 1940.

February 10, 2009

"The Way, the Truth, and Philip Jenkins"

The March issue of First Things takes on Philip Jenkins regarding his latest book "The Lost History of Christianity" (title of article quoted in blog post title).

Jenkins seems to typify the modern, pragmatist outlook: begin with a desired outcome and then move towards that, rather than beginning with Christ and reacting to Him.

On an individual level, we want to use God as an instrument in furthering our well-being and, on a societal level, Jenkins wants us to use Jesus as an instrument for earthly peace and civil conduct (instead of Jesus using us as an instrument for His purposes, mysterious as they may be.)

Alan Jacobs writes,
Jenkins presents, for our edification and (I think) admiration, the story of "Peter Phan, a Jesuit theologian whose main sin, in official eyes, has been to treat the Buddhism of his Vietnamese homeland as a parallel path to salvation." And then he writes, "Following the ideas of Benedict XVI, though, the Church refuses to give up its fundamental belief in the unique role of Christ."

Now here is where I pause in wonderment. Does Jenkins really and truly believe that "belief in the unique role of Christ" is an "idea" distinctive to the current pope? Can he be unaware that he would have come nearer to the truth by writing, "Following the ideas of Benedict XVI, of every previous occupant of the throne of St. Peter, of the apostles, of the Church Fathers, of the leaders of the great Reformation traditions, and of the most influential leaders of Christianity throughout the world, the Church refuses to give up its fundamental belief in the unique role of Christ"?
I've heard that Jenkins is an ex-Catholic and that Jacobs has never been (he teaches at Wheaton), and this is one of those (typical?) cases in which a non-Catholic knows more about Catholicism than an ex-Catholic.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Doug asked Father Benedict to elaborate on something that Father had called the “big lie” in his book. The “big lie,” Father Benedict said, (and I’m paraphrasing him at this point), is to think that if we say all the right prayers and live correctly, then nothing bad will ever happen to us. Sadly, there are many good people who have lost their faith by believing such a lie, and that makes it a big one indeed! One only has to think of Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, and how much He suffered on the cross, to correct one’s view on this matter…None of us knows what the future holds, but hopefully we can embrace what is inscribed in our coinage, “In God we Trust." - Michael Dubruiel's last column

In the year 2000, I think I might have heard the word “blog”. I didn’t know half as much about my faith as I thought I did. All sorts of things were waiting, good and bad, and he’d be one of the people who would anchor me and others through them — but most of us hadn’t even heard his name, or Amy’s name. If he had died back then, it would have been a sad newspaper story in Ft. Wayne and a few comments in Catholic websites and publications. Not a worthless life by far, but not quite as shining a one, either. So it seems that it’s not a matter of “Why did God allow him to die so young?”, but rather “Why did God let him live? How many more years did God give him than he might have had?” Apparently God wanted him to have more little children, to do great things in the blogosphere that had just come into being, to stand by Amy’s side for a few more years. And apparently, now his work is done. Hard as it is for poor Amy and the kids, in this case it seems that God decided the time was ripe — or not unripe, anyway.- Maureen of "Aliens in this World"

Many thanks for all of the prayers and notes. It is overwhelming. Many have asked what they can do of a material or concrete nature. All I can say is to simply buy his books. Not from me, because I am in no position to fill orders, but from anywhere else. He long ago promised God that he would give all the royalties of The How To Book of the Mass to the children’s college funds, which he did faithfully. It is in good shape because of that. Buy them, read them, and give them away to others. Spread the Word. That is what he was all about. - Amy Welborn Dubruiel, via "Musings of a Catholic Bookstore" blog

I myself do not think the Freedom of Choice Act—which would, among other things, mandate that every medical student be trained to perform abortions—will pass in this Congress. But the very fact that it has been proposed is clearly a salvo in what will surely be an epochal battle. The bill is flagrantly unconstitutional; but that is hardly consolation, since the same holds true of Roe vs. Wade. Liberal creep, in other words, means a slow drift toward coercive liberalism. - Edward Oakes via "Paragraph Farmer"

All I want to say is, I’m sorry. I want to say it here, because I defended Fr. Maciel here, and I need to be on the record regarding that defense: I’m sorry, to the victims, who were victims twice, the second time by calumny. I’m sorry, to the Church, which has been damaged. I’m sorry, to those I’ve misled. I did it unwittingly, but this isn’t a time for excuses. The Church gave me great, great good in Regnum Christi. The Church did bring justice, and did penalize this man. Thank God for the Church. I seek repentance and forgiveness, and I leave it at that. - Tom Hoopes on Amy Welborn's blog

In my experience, I have little doubt that the desire to be set apart catalyzed much of my study. I wanted to be smarter, more knowledgeable, better at debate, than others, so I read and read and read. As I read, I underwent an unwitting transformation, where I began to realize that true knowledge dovetails with wisdom, and the beginning of wisdom is humility in the face of knowing you know nearly nothing next to the All-Knowing. At that point, it seems the desire for knowledge is pursued for no particular reason. Now I just read. Not to set myself apart (hopefully), but because I want to know, to understand, and maybe contribute to others knowing and understanding—all the while trying to keep a sure eye on my ego to keep it in check because, whenever one starts out to do something good, you never know if it’s ego or love, self-regard or other-regard, that triggers it. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

Taking a vacation day to clean was a practical and spiritual mistake. Better that I had stayed with my initial plans to prepare for my sister's visit by putting 40 watt bulbs in all the sockets - aka the "Blanche DuBois" maneuver. - Ellyn of "Oblique House"

When moralizing conservatives get caught, say, cheating on their wives or challenging stall mates to robust Greco-Roman wrestling in airport bathrooms, liberals justifiably howl at the hypocrisy of it all. When liberals fail to pay taxes it’s merely, to borrow an old catchphrase from Daschle, “sad and disappointing,” but ultimately not that big a deal. If Democrats are serious about their arguments for raising taxes, shouldn’t they be downright giddy about paying what they already owe? And shouldn’t they loathe tax cheating more than anything? - Jonah Goldberg

I’m skeptically impressed that most Catholics don’t need a book aid before or after communion.... If I don’t use a book, my mind almost always wanders. I’m in good company, though. St. Theresa Avila said she feared approaching prayer without a book. I’m in her camp: start with a book, and if unaided prayer takes over, put the book down - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

"In people who pursue the spiritual life, you can distinguish two ways. The first strives for the love of God through the virtues. They mortify themselves in a spirit of penance; they practice humility because justice demands it; they obey because duty demands it. These moral virtues are geared toward restoring order in the soul and, little by little, they will lead on to the sphere of perfect charity. Others take an opposite way. These immediately look to love. This is the virtue they wish to acquire . . . For them, this queen of virtues is, so to say, the only virtue from which all the others flow." [Achille Durant C.SS.R] I'm reminded that God's way with each human heart is personal and individual. Is one more valuable because of feelings and expressions of devotion? Or is another more admirable because of its strength in fidelity, fortitude and sense of justice? Though there are differences of degree (and we keep pressing on to make him our own because of Christ Jesus who has made us his own), we are different from one another as an orchid and a waterfall differ. Each beautifully glorifies God, not by resembling one another, but by displaying something unique God has created. - Roz of Exultet

Turn left and try to not to gasp as a courier bicyclist avoids instant death by dealing a hearty slap on the fender of a cab moving right toward the curb. How does a person live with such encroachment? The cabbie brakes and waits for the tender soul to pass: there is a respect even here for the fragility of human tissue versus money-making metal....There is no bell curve of beauty here. Like Paris, the inhabitants are either beautiful or ugly. And even the ugly have a beauty all their own....Turn left on 56th and it's more of the same. Activity breeds activity. The buildings seem to be packed full of people who can't wait to hit the streets. After watching a continuous stream of people issue forth, it is natural to assume the building is now empty. But that assumption would be wrong wrong wrong. There are always more people inside....Pad softly past the news stand with the invisible vendor snuggled down into an unknown depth of glossy merchandise. Oh, there is a young man who desires to make a purchase and up pops the man of the store....Back to the apartment building now, nod thanks to the doorman and let your eyes take inventory of the lobby. See the business man with the sun tan that only comes from flying a window seat above the clouds. See the model, see the immigrant twice-removed, see the energy of charmed lives living in a City that moves. - Hambone of "Social Engineer" on NYC

Zippy is the future monarch of the Catholic kingdom of Zippydom, where statutes are enacted in accordance with natural law, theology and moral ethics are required courses starting in the 3rd grade, and the king shows his beneficence by taking everyone for a ride in his airplane. - Bill Luse, on the query asked of Lydia McGrew: "Who is Zippy Catholic?"

I think it was one of the things that put him at odds with the majority of his peers as American writers - both the kind of patriotism he felt and the kind of religion that he practiced. - Adam Gopnik on John Updike

Minister reading wedding vows on a kindle, must be marrying nerds. - Gizmodo blogger concering video while live-blogging amazon press conference

You felt lucky to be reading someone who felt lucky to be alive. - Phil Albinus, on John Updike