April 30, 2009

Swine Flu Before It Swines You

I'm not going to blast the hype concerning the Swine flu. The battle with microbes has not been won, just mostly suppressed, and just as the boy who cried wolf eventually met a wolf we'll eventually be faced with something on order of the infamous 1918 influenza.

As it happened yesterday my wife and I and her parents were at the OSU Medical Center for a procedure she needed, and today we learn from the Dispatch:
Last night, Ohio State University sent an e-mail to staff members and students saying an employee of OSU Medical Center was being treated there for a probable case of swine flu.
A bit too close for comfort. I hope we all washed our hands afterwards. (I know I did.)

The subject came up, natch, with a nurse yesterday. She said she wrote a paper for her Masters degree on what would happen given a pandemic flu. She said part of what makes it scary is that a vicious flu would not target the young and the old but the most productive, those between 20 and 40, and she said think about how that would affect society in general: how the economy would be shut-down by the shuttering of daycare centers and how caregivers would have to stay home, and of course, policeman, firemen...

Made me want to go out and buy a gun!

Third Way?

From NRO
The choice is not between torture and ignorance of what is in a terrorist's mind. Being tough and aggressive doesn't require Us to become Them. Handcuff him to a chair and swab his arm with alcohol. Don't worry, fella. This won't hurt a bit. And it just might work.
Relatedly, I was surprised to find that I guess case against torture is not as slam-dunk as I thought.

Let's Play...

Why's My Bookbag (or e-reader equivalent) So Heavy? (Trademark not pending.)

Bought Nasty, Brutish and Long, a book for Mother's Day since my mom likes to read about depressing subjects such as the horrors of eldercare and nursing homes in this time in which many of us live long lives due to modern medicine.

From Kristol in the NY Times:
Many people doubt the effectiveness of foreign aid, and a new best-selling book called “Dead Aid” by an African finance expert, Dambisa Moyo, even argues that government-to-government assistance is often harmful to recipient countries. It’s true that aid of all kinds is harder to get right than people usually assume, but the kind that has the best record is grass-roots investment — with strong local buy-in — in health, education, agriculture and microfinance. I’ve repeatedly seen these kinds of programs transform families and communities, from Africa to Afghanistan. Frankly, this kind of aid is also pretty beneficial to the donor. For my part, I gain [much psychic value] from the $24 a month from sponsoring [a child].

Another from the Times:
...the trend has generally been toward less competition. Indeed, it may be precisely because close Congressional races are so atypical that the exceptions get so much attention. Why is it that there are fewer close elections than there once were? We can think of three reasons: POWERFUL INCUMBENTS

The incumbency advantage has generally been increasing over time. A 2002 paper by Stephen Ansolabehere and James M. Snyder Jr. of M.I.T. examined the incumbency advantage in elections since World War II, and found that it had increased from about a two-point head start in the 1940s to eight points in the 1990s. Since there are no term limits for Congress, and since most senators and representatives today are career politicians who won’t retire until age or scandal forces them to, this means that elections in the vast majority of states and Congressional districts are never competitive. There are many theories as to why this is the case — in the television and Internet era, name recognition may be a more powerful advantage.
Interesting that there is an incumbency advantage in the Congress at exactly the same time Congress has become even more feckless and ridiculously incompetent as ever.


From "Redeemed" by Heather King:
Sometimes I think the whole reason I converted to Catholicism is because its churches are open all day. My career in the bars was at bottom a search to belong, and I have always had a sense of almost abject gratitude for open doors, spots to rest, the opportunity to sit quietly near people without having to talk to them.

Instead of immediately reading the new Christopher Buckley memoir, I've been satisfying my craving for fiction, for lyricism, with his uncle Fergus Reid Buckley's Servants and their Masters.

Reid can write, in a way I hadn't gleaned from my foray into his non-fiction (a memoir of the Buckley family). He makes his brother Bill's vocabulary look small by comparison and I amazed by the stamina of his prose-poetry. At page 100 of a nearly 600-pg book, there's no discernable let-up. He has the habit of dousing the prose with lots further encryption in the form of Spanish.

Written around 1972, it inevitably includes the de rigeour sex scenes. He writes of them sans approbation or approval but that, as usual, gets lost in translation, just as a Bougereau painting of naked angels makes few red-blooded man think of...angels.

Buckley rather keenly describes the debaucheries of a man living a "dissipated life" as was also said of the young St. Anselm, whose feast was a week or two back. I always wonder what exactly a dissipated life is. If you ask to ask? I suppose it depends at least in part to what God wants. If he designed a Trappist monk and you're living as a Franciscan, perhaps you could be said to be living a dissipated life. Similarly perhaps a Charles Bukowski was actually living...or maybe not.

Greed or Stupidity?

What are the roots of the big housing debacle and subsequent banking crisis?

Some, like Fr. Cantalamessa, say we should look at greed. Which is certainly a likely scenerio. I think the banks saw the money the hedge funds were making and wanted a piece of that riskier action.

But there's also a huge element of stupidity. Columnist David Brooks argues that stupidity, rather than greed, was the root cause. And a video has recently turned up shows that Barney Frank (who presumably did not profit from the housing industry the way his Senate companion Chris Dodd did) said in 2005 that there could be no such thing as a housing bubble.

His was the conventional wisdom of the time: there could be no systemic, nationwide decline in housing prices. And that's the hinge on which all the huge bets were made.

April 29, 2009


Article on the future of books given the advent of e-reading:
An infinite bookstore at your fingertips is great news for book sales, and may be great news for the dissemination of knowledge, but not necessarily so great for that most finite of 21st-century resources: attention.
I'd quote more but I don't have the patience for it.

One for the Archives...

From Bill Luse:
The elder daughter has a question...

...For example, you're diagnosed with, say, some kind of fatal cancer. You're given two years to live. There will of course come a time when the end is in sight, at which point you might decline further intervention. But at the beginning of the two years: are you morally obligated to take treatment (some of which might be fairly unpleasant), or are you free to say 'no'?

LustBeGon Now Available at Store Near You

New! From Ronco!
Studies show it prevents lust in over 90% of men!

Just in time for spring and especially appropriate for the Saturday pm Mass, this handsome, aerated, anti-lust blindfold is made with breathable microfibers.

For a limited time only, you can have your own LustBeGon for just $9.99, along with a free garden weasel as our way of saying thanks.

(Guide dog not included.)

April 28, 2009

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Laetare Recipient Wanted (Notre Dame, IN) / South Bend Craigslist - via Terrence Berres via Dale Price at Southern Appeal

I think it's important to do this before jumping on a bandwagon formed out of churches with a different ecclesiology and sacramental understanding than we have, no matter how successful it may seem, numbers-wise. In other words, after years of observing, I think evangelical-envy is not a surprising reaction from Catholics, and there is much to learn, but at the same time, part of what we have to be open to learning is the downside. As in...what are evangelical Protestants worried about now? How are they re-evaluating the processes and programs which Catholics are just now noticing? - Amy Welborn

We are an Easter people, as St. Augustine put it...Yet the Easter season drags on for weeks. Long after I've recovered from the physical privations (such as they were) of Lent and rebounded from the psychological desolations (see prev.) of Holy Week, I'm still supposed to go about making Alleluia my song. Am I merely imagining a touch of "can we get on with it" in the disciples' Easter season question to Jesus, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" Still, there may be a lesson in this for me, over and above the fact that the Church continues to not construct herself to fit my druthers. It may be that the joy of Easter is a thing too great to be sustained by physical or psychological means; that it is an act of love for God, and that flagging joy signals flagging love; that he who is tired of Easter is tired of eternal life. - Tom of Disputations

Twice a year we visit approximately 300-400 homes in a local neighborhood with the purpose of inviting people who do not currently attend a church to consider visiting our parish. This has been very effective - but not necessarily in the way one might initially think... The people who go door-to-door find that it is incredibly spiritually beneficial. It is an opportunity for them to do something our culture tells them they should not do at work or in "polite company:" talk about their faith. People come back energized and often later tell of now having the courage to speak to a co-worker or family member about their faith. We have many encounters where we can show the love of Jesus to someone who is hurting or lonely. I just had an experience last week in which I was able to pray with a woman who just lost her husband. Even if this woman never comes to our parish, she will always remember that at St. John Neumann there are people who took the time to pray with her in a time of need. - commenter on Amy Welborn's blog

Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student. -George Iles

The failure to consult the local bishop who, whatever his unworthiness, is the teacher and lawgiver in the diocese, is a serious mistake. Proper consultation could have prevented an action, which has caused such painful division between Notre Dame and many bishops -- and a large number of the faithful.- Bishop D'Arcy in a letter to ND's Fr. John Jenkins

I was dreaming of inexpensive Eastern Orthodox books at a subterranean bookstore when the 5 o'clock fire alarm (?!) woke me up. - - Dylan of "dark speech upon the harp"

- Zoo Trip photo found on Via Media

One of the last projects Michael [Dubruiel] worked on was a prayer card distributed in January, which features a prayer that President Obama and all public officials might have their hearts opened to the sanctity of life. The card has proved a popular item, and orders have come in from all over - including, one day, a woman from a South American country requesting 100,000. The secretary asked...why? Why do you want prayer cards for your country praying for our president? "Because," the woman said, " more babies will die from abortion in our country because of his actions funding them." - Amy Welborn

I can say this much about evaluating moral proportion in infliction of pain: there is a proportion relative to the one on whom the pain is inflicted, in addition to the proportion relative to the one inflicting the pain. The same face slap that might get the attention of a yegg might kill an invalid. Yet Jimmy Akin seems to ignore the proportion relative to the one on whom the pain is inflicted in discussing waterboarding:
I would say that waterboarding is torture if it is being used to get a person to confess to a crime (it is not proportionate to that end since it will promote false confessions). I would also say that it is torture if it is being used to get information out of a terrorist that could be gotten through traditional, less painful interrogation means (it is not proportionate to the end since there are better means available). I would not say that it is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution).
The only concept of proportion I see considered here is whether the act is the best means to an objectively good end. That is certainly an important question, but it is not the only question. Considering the ways in which our society currently muddles its moral reasoning, I'd say the question of whether the act is proportionate to the dignity of the human persons involved -- both pain inflicter and pain inflictee -- is far more important, because it's far more disputed. - Tom of Disputations

In modern society we have lost touch with the reality that life is often beyond our control. That one works hard does not necessarily mean that one's labor will bear fruit. That one is a good person does not mean that bad things won't happen to you. Through most of human history, this reality was constantly impressed upon us by the fact that most people lived by subsistence farming, which meant they were constantly at the mercy of the weather, pests, diseases, etc. - Darwin Catholic

In declining to receive the Laetare Medal alongside President Barack Obama's honorary doctorate of laws at next month's commencement, Glendon has refused to participate in the shabby manipulation Father Jenkins attempted to engineer. It is a rare personage who could ennoble an award by refusing to receive it, but Professor Glendon has done just that. The Laetare Medal will now be known best for the year in which it was declined. Glendon chose, to use the apt words of Bishop John D'Arcy in this regard, truth over prestige….What Glendon will not say at Notre Dame will finally be a fitting response to what Gov. Mario Cuomo said there some 25 years ago. - - Fr. De Souza

Crashing The Wedding Crashers

I suspect I’m one of the few people under 50 never to have seen the 2005 movie The Wedding Crashers and that streak would’ve continued except for my wife. I thought it was a funny and light entertainment. I realized anew that I underestimate comedies. As I told my wife, “comedies are funny!”

The movie was not only that but none-too-subtly conveyed the familiar “Pleasure Curve” principle. The pleasure curve begins with harmlessness, ascends to heedlessness, and ends in heartlessness and horror, the last played convincingly by Will Ferrell who depicted a monstrous cardboard cutout of man bent only on his own satisfactions. Ferrell’s character was a study of the natural end of hedonism. As the drive for more and more insinuates itself, he turns to funerals instead of weddings to crash.

But in the beginning all is idyllic, a Garden of Eden, and the two protagonists say their rehearsed lines perfectly and dance expertly. It depicts well the joy natural life is capable of bringing, especially in the context of weddings. Music, wine, attraction, laughter. But eventually things begin getting slightly out of control, shown by the slo-mo popping of champagne bottles and unruly release of foam and liquid. Then a succession of bra-and-panty clad women fall against a bed, as if slain.

I thought: despite its reputation as a chick flick, this is a screenplay a man would write. Sure enough, a quick check of the 'net reveals not only the director was male but both writers. No surprise at all. Only reprobate men write morality plays (see Oscar Wilde)? (Obligatory disclaimers apply; 'reprobate' is hyperbolic and I don't know the writers of course.)

Live-Blogging a Real, Live Corporate Meeting

...so you don't have to!

9 AM:
An early morning 2-hour meeting has been scheduled so I cradle my coffee as if it's beer. We're watching a DVD of a meeting that already took place so this was essentially a meeting of a meeting. I didn't notice if we were being filmed so I'm not sure anyone will view a meeting of our meeting watching a meeting.

9:12 AM:
Oh so it's not so bad. It's restful. I misunderestimate these sorts of meetings. It stars Peter, a dynamic speaker who does try to keep things moving. These type meetings also tend to attract the most mellifluous of talkers, whose dulcet tones undulate over a broad range of pitches. They talk fast, offering a pleasingly high density of information that gives the illusion of speed. No "uh's" or "um's" or other speech holders. They speak like streams, and the effect perhaps harkens back atativistically to the time we were read to as children.

9:16 AM:
Meetings are not so bad because they give you the feeling of doing work without really doing any. It's like how sometimes after I run I'll get on a bike and it's amazing because I'm going faster with less effort. Or like driving a fast car after a 4-cyclinder. Meetings can be like that, especially if you can take notes like I'm doing. (The main effort is to avoid falling asleep; best to remain in that hazy semi-soporific range.)

9:21 AM:
Sigh. Much of it rehashes common sense. Like just now how we're starting to target customer groups. Gee whiz Batman! You mean we weren't targeting customers?

9:42 AM:
Very, very thin these people. Disarmingly so. The camera can't be adding weight to them. One tiny guy ought wear a tighter suit, I think. His arms are swimming in the jacket sleeves. No tie, striped shirt. Not sure if that's a good call. Absolutely not even the hint of a stomach. Amazing. I put the over/under for the combined weight of the last three speakers as 400 lbs. They must eat financial statistics for dinner. Sales figures instead of pancakes for breakfast.

9:43 AM:
I'm in Conference Room "Pine". The new set-up has eliminated calling rooms "A", "B", "C" ....or numerically, but now Pine, Hickory, Mapel, Cedar, Brazillian Nut Tree. I joke about the last. Nice, I guess, although the power of association makes me question it. How many times have flowers been ruined for people who've experienced them during long hospital stays?

9:47 AM:
Oh this is rich. An undertaker-type guy is head of outsourcing. Tall, black suit, properly sober tie, distinguished gray hair, he offers to talk to any group who will have him about the benefits of outsourcing. Though he tells us the answer in advance: "cost savings". Common sense again rears its ugly head. Imagine though, having to sell the benefits of outsourcing to potentially outsourced employees? Form meets function; you can imagine him whispering, "may I extend my sympathies on the loss of your job."

9:48 AM:
Guy named Troy speaks. That's a really strong name.

10:07 AM:
There's a digital timer on the screen that provides the elapsed time. It's like a progress bar in Windows, makes you think something's happening when nothing really is.

10:09 AM:
Next speaker refreshingly non-corporate. She has long black hair, a bit unruly, unabashedly feminine clothes, a huge flashly belt with silver hoops. High cheek bones. Pleasantly attractive in a girl next door sort of way rather than erotic way. Tall. Uses the world holistically a lot. Six times in last four minutes?

10:15 AM:
Next speaker has red hair, and looks like a cross between Shirly MacClaine and Andrea Mitchell. Puts up a brutally busy slide and said she was going to try to unbusy it but that she decided she liked the way it is because it shows how much work she's done. "I could stand up here and talk all day," -- striking fear in every heart -- "but I won't," our fears relieved.

10:17 AM:
Three more mentions of holistic! Houston, we've got a winner. Holistic must be the hottest new buzzword in corp-land.

10:18 AM:
Funny, if hurtful, line from uber-salesman: "Working with the regulators makes meeting with pricing actuaries look like a frat party." Ouch! I resemble that remark.

10:33 AM:
"Any questions? I know we've thrown a lot of information at you..." Uh, wouldn't that make for more questions? Or were we all information-stunned, a sort of corporate tazing?

10:34 AM:
Ben was out sick today, definitely a "felix culpa", a happy sickness given this meeting being on the schedule. But then P. says he's going to have to watch the DVD later himself. Ouch. That's just cruel and unusual punishment.


It was the late ‘70s and Bruce Springsteen was dangerously wild while I was still a tender ingenue. I liked his music if distrusting his euphoric swings, and just when I began to trust the extremes he seemingly jettisoned them, seeking the steadiness of marriage in ’85.

Springsteen divorced around ’89, just when I’d begun thinking positively about domesticity. In his ‘88 song "One Step Up”, he was writing about the handwriting on the wall: “Bird on a wire outside my motel room / But he ain't singin' / Girl in white outside a church in June / But the church bells they ain't ringing.”

Certainly not what I wanted to hear at the time since I was becoming receptive to that “girl in white outside a church in June”. The one rock star I’d respected proved to have feel of clay.

The biggest shock was perhaps Tunnel of Love which included the none-too-cryptic lyrics:
It ought to be easy ought to be simple enough
Man meets woman and they fall in love
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough
And you've got to learn to live with what you cant rise above if you want to ride on down in through this tunnel of love
The song must've had an impact for how familiar and iconic the images of that music video look to this day:
Surely the easiest way to discourage a bachelor is for a married man with all the options in the world to say that love "ought to be simple enough". It was like a rich man admitting he couldn't pay his bills - what hope was there for the rest of us? (Shades of the apostles' query and accompanying answer "with God all things are possible.")

The divorce was a pivotal moment, the moment I realized the Boss didn’t have all the answers (and perhaps this is what Elvis' death did for Bruce?).

It’s sort of funny that that Springsteen, who’d met a million girls and could have his pick, picked the wrong girl. But consoling in a way to those who wouldn't have his choice in women. You’d think if anyone had the odds in his favor it’d be him. Julianne Philips seemed the sort of the uptown girl that Billy Joel sang about, but Bruce was a downtown guy as was Joel.

April 27, 2009

Sweet the Rain's No Fall....

...sunlit like Heaven.

Such was the weather this past weekend. Rock star weather, during which there happened to be a minor league baseball game being played downtown.

I arrived at 1:15 for the 1:05 game and was impressively impassive despite the long lines at the ticket window. It's a brand new stadium, a handsome one, so I'd planned to walk around it slowly though ended up coming to a breach in the fortress - these little little gated areas in deep centerfield from which you could watch the game for free! Given that it looked to be a sellout, this was the only good option. It felt sort of Wrigleyesque and I think it's cool the Clippers built-in these windows of opportunity.

I felt a camarderie with the "enemy" centerfielder, a smallish twenty-year old playing for the Indianapolis Indians and standing not far from my vantage point. His foreignness was appealing, meaning the blankness of his story: an unfamiliar player on an unfamiliar team playing in an unfamiliar uniform. I wondered how long he'd been in the minors, what his chances of making it to the show were. Later I looked him up on baseball-reference.com.

So close and yet so far away...

A beautiful diamond...Let's play two!

The gated view

Stage right - lawn and bleacher seats

the really cheap seats...

Later, on a bike ride, the sad sight of a church (not Catholic) being converted to condos.

A Story with Legs

I really can't believe the legs the Notre Dame scandal has had. It's as if some sort of tipping point has been reached, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. The remarks of many of the bishops directed toward Fr. Jenkins sound almost New Oxford Reviewian.

I think their patience with the flouting of the hierarchy has, understandably, at last been exhausted. I think there is a new mood in the bishopry in the United States, as shown by one diocese that now imposing the discipline of every Friday being meatless. Perhaps many are becoming more comfortable with the "remnant" idea.

And the latest news is that the "answer" to the Obama invite, the woman who was gonna give ND what for, is bowing out:
I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the president an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops' express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" and that such persons "should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution's freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.
That last line perfectly mirrors my own confusion. When I first heard the news, it was a WTF moment.

Annual Cellphone Photo Essay & Sale

In past years, I've offered a set of limited edition artistic cellphone photos or LEACPTM for sale.

As a concession to the recession (rhyme unintended, so no charge!), this year's cellphone photographs will be marked down 20%, though only gold or gold equivalents will be accepted as I'm no longer accepting fiat currencies. Sorry.

As always, any asexual reproduction or other transmission of the following photographs is strictly uninhibited.

2009 Cellphone Photoblog - all rights preserved (in pickle juice in the basement)

Don't Tread on Me © 2009    (matted $799)

This was taken on a sandy bikepath in southwestern Columbus, Ohio. This is an unretouched photo since the artist doesn't believe in photoshopping, believing that that practice saps the elemental authenticity that grounds all great art. The artist (for purposes of authenticity I must disclose that I am writing this, so don't be fooled by the third person references) sees in this picture the great dichotomy between the rough tread of the tire and the hard frame with the soft-ish sand. (Hmm...maybe Freud was right....)


Interior Windmill © 2009    (unmatted $678.44)

The above art was captured via cellphone in the bathroom of local park. It suggests, or rather it screams, that beauty can be found anywhere, even in city park bathrooms. All one has to do is open one's eyes!


Floor © 2009    (matted $420 OBO)

This, the floor of the same city park bathroom, can either be purchased separately or with its companion piece Interior Windmill. From the lyrical heights of the A-frame bathroom of the previous photograph, we descend to its blood-colored depths, a Dantean journey that moderns can understand.


The Rich Aren't Different From Us, They Just Have Longer Driveways   © 2009    (matted $499)

I'm not going to lie to you. This photograph was exposed poorly and didn't turn out the way I wanted it. That's why it's only $499 - my loss, your gain. This depicts the property of one of the major landowners in the area, a bastion of old money such that they have one of those little men in the hut at left to run the gates to keep the riff-raff out. You probably can't tell from the photo, but the driveway looks like it goes on for miles. I've heard they're actually raising bison.

April 24, 2009

The Guarantee is No Guarantees

Nail, hammer, head.:
So for all the bankers annoy me, their pay--and its difference from mine--doesn't outrage me. The difference between their pay and that of a physical therapy assistant or an auto line worker doesn't outrage me. No one deserves their pay, so I can hardly be angry at the folks on Wall Street for taking what they could get. And so I wonder why so much of the commentary on Wall Street--not on the pay caps, but just on Wall Street in general--focuses on how much they were paid. Would it have been better if they had only been paid a third, or a tenth, or a twentieth as much? Would that make the recession significantly more enjoyable for the rest of us?
I sent Darwin's post to my brother-in-law (my liberal one, not my parody co-author), which was sort of like waving a red flag before a bull.

From the latest New Yorker...

Interesting article on the history of the automotive industry, click for enlargement purposes (no Viagra required):

Divine Mercy Ministry Plea

From Mark Fleming of the Divine Mercy Ministry, the founder of a Catholic-based ecumenical prison re-entry program for women located in Columbus Ohio:
God has put an amazing opportunity in front of us! We have option to purchase a 4th ministry home for under 10,000. The home needs some work, and we intend to make repairs with volunteers, Youth ministry programs, and Catholic High Schools who have been working with us for past 2 years!

Please prayerfully consider if you can help or know anyone who can help! We can have up to 20 partners for $500 each, 10 partners for $1,000, or one for $10,000. The realtor already donated $600,and we have 3 $500 donors so far! This home is next door to one of our other ministry homes! Please Pray-Pray- Pray, this is biggest thing we need!...I believe we will be able to pay back any investors within 1-3 years. We will secure loans as a mtg. against home. Please let me know if anyone has interest to help! Thank you for your time and consideration!

MARK FLEMING, Founder/Executive Director
Divine Mercy Ministry

Parody Blog Updated...

...with my brother-in-law's take on Hillary's diss of Dick Cheney and word of McCain's campaign manager wanting the Republican party to throw out religious conservatives.

Me versus Bingo: a Ten-Rounder

Or, "I'll Get By With a Little Help from my Blue Jackets"

Or, "How I Survived the Crushing Boredom of Bingo and Lived to Tell the Tale"

It was impossible, or as the French say, impossible! (That works better audibly.)

The clock said 7:15pm, but that couldn't be right. I'd been in the ring for less than an hour but it felt like four. Bingo already had me on the ropes. I was out of shape, under-trained but suitably wary because I knew Bingo had the reputation of being the greatest prize fighter of my generation. My goal was to go all ten rounds. To go for a decision.

The game-changer, or rather match-changer, came when the correct channel for game 4 of the NHL playoffs starring the over-matched Blue Jackets was found. Even better, there were two places to watch: out in "the field" where a new television (as if in a special act of creation) had been installed and, of course, in the small office where the tickets and money were doled and counted. Suddenly I was enthralled not by my own slugfest with bingo boredom but with the slugfest on the ice. The Blue Jackets, i.e. Rocky Balboa, were playing Apollo Creed and the Detroit Red Wings. I could empathize.

[Queue music: Gonna Fly Now!]

The Blue Jackets, like your bingo instant winner seller and like Balboa in Rocky I, were quickly brought low. By the time the correct channel on the satellite dish was found, the Jackets were down 3-1, which was almost quicker than I could yell, "Popeye!", the name of the new lottery game.

But new life came to the Columbus team. Two goals were scored and the game was tied. Since bingo was slow tonight and we were overstaffed, it allowed for plenty of hockey and the action was not foreordained. We were actually getting to see a game.

The Red Wings, like Apollo Creed, were outraged by the Jackets response. "We just made them mad," someone said. The two unanswered goals were answered and the score was 5-3 Red Wings.

My symbiotic relationship with the game was such that I was ready to quit, to hang up my figurative bingo gloves. "We're overstaffed today," I thought, "I could go home." But I didn't want to, not on this, my last Bingo until August at the earliest and perhaps the last one period. This was a case of serious bingo burnout but I wanted to go all ten rounds with Bingo one last time in part because I'd bailed last month at 8:15 and felt unsatisfied, as if it had knocked me out. A TKO, for sure, as I'd not been given much advance notice to sub that time, but a knockout is a knockout.

Thoughts of going home vanished when the Blue Jackets quickly scored a 4th goal. They weren't going down without a fight. A loss would finish their season; they had nothing to lose, just as I had nothing to lose in going all ten rounds and playing it out, leaving nothing on the ice - I mean bingo - rink.

Then, as miraculous as it sounds, a 5th Blue Jacket goal. Tie game. And so it went for awhile as both teams slugged it out. The minutes of the third period ticked down. Five minutes. Four. Three. Two--- uh oh. A ticky-tacky penalty. Someone didn't get off the ice quickly enough. Too many skaters on the ice. A penalty play.

With 44 seconds left in the game, in a heartbreaker not dissimilar in kind and effect than the Frozen Four final, the Detroit Red Wings scored.

But the men in blue had gone the distance, and their loss at least partially rested on the judgment of an umpire who wouldn't let the teams play in the waning minutes. I celebrated with pizza and pop saying, "Ain't gonna be no rematch."

* * *

At the end of each Morning Joe, the premiere political talk show in America though hosted on the Darth Vader of networks (MSNBC), the participants stand up and say what they've learned.

So I'll talk about what I learned from bingo last night. Co-worker C. (name withheld for reasons that will soon become clear) is one of five children who drove their good Catholic mother certifiable. Which, incidentally, is the role of children.

C. made clear that her mother is the gentlest, kindest soul in Christendom who prays constantly, etc, but who, back in the day, would call her offspring "f-cking a--hole bastards". To this day C. and her other siblings refer to each other as FABs. Amusingly, her father would responsd with "don't call them bastards!". The poor guy apparently wanted credit for fathering f--king a--holes.

I've learned that my mom, who feels terrible that she called her children idiots, ought be less self-critical.

April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday Bard

Bingo Bango Bungo

I'll serve no whine before it's time.

To paraphrase the great Samuel Johnson, "One of the disadvantages of whine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts."

Of course he said "wine".

Ach! But bingo doom I face, the teeth of boredom and wearying fatigue staring me down the barrel of the Thursday night gun...I am restless, hungry for the esprit d' corps of a sight-seeing vacation.

I would make a bad monk.

Blame it on Rio, or the Rio weather that approaches. Or blame it on my cursed Irishness that always drives one westward. I'm dingle-dangled by even the whiff of book, allured by titles and jackets such as Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin despite the subject matter promising to be of little interest but recommended on the Columbus library website.

The restlessness is amplified by the long pre-announced keen weather up & coming, eighty degrees by Friday, a prospect too promising to be filled, the garden already in... I may take a vacation day tomorrow and drive to Cleveland.

Chicago tantalizes more but for the time commitment. And what is there to see in Chicago besides the art museum & Wrigley anyway? Cleveland has the promise of a day trip while Chicago would only make me mourn for New York; it's the Little Debbie roll to Manhattan's King Don.

One of the anecdotes to restlessness is reading of the Lives of Saints. It lends perspective. A steadying influence. A couple days ago, on his feast day, I was hungry to read about St. Anselm, whose name was completely familiar but whose life and work was completely opaque. In other words, I knew absolutely nothing about him other than he was one of those famous "A" theologians of the Middle Ages: "Ambrose, "Abelard", "Anselm", "Aquinas"...

My interest was piqued when I learned at mass that he was the founder of scholasticism, or at least one of the earliest scholastic scholars. "The seed of Aquinas!" I thought, and as someone always interested in the source of great rivers I longed to read more about him. I hie'd back to my towered canopies, to my amazonian library, and picked up the red leather-bound, fifty year old Lives of Saints and read at a clipper pace. He'd been restless too, after his saintly mother had died, living then under the chafing of an angry and domineering father. (His life refutes the fiction that only those with good earthly fathers can have a positive image of our Heavenly one.) I then picked up the 1911 Britannica, the print of a size that required my magnifying reading glasses, and read more about Anselm and those faraway days...

April 22, 2009

Quick Hits

Please don't think that I don't have an opinion on the daily minutiae just because I don't comment on it. This post will attempt to rectify this oversight since your right to my opinion on these matters supersedes my right to blog, or something like that.

  • Of course Obama's going to buddy-up to Chavez. It's like buddying up to his younger self or buddying up to Bill Ayres. I'm just sayin'...

  • Ham of Bone wants to know if Perez Hilton thinks Obama is a dumb b-tch. The answer is no, because Hilton knows that Obama's a politician and you know how to tell if a politician is lying, right? The great line in all of this comes from "Mr. Pete", aka Elena's husband:
    I'm wondering what qualifies Perez Hilton to be a judge at the Miss USA contest in the first place. Mr. Pete said it was like asking a cat person to judge a dog show.
    Thank you Mr. Pete, now we're talking.

  • Except that he's spending us into bankruptcy and has approved abortionphilic executive orders, there's little about Obama's first 100 days that I've disliked. (I realize that's like a husband saying that except for his wife's alcoholism and running around on him she's been a peach but...) But there's a new test for him. Heard Judge Robert Bork say yesterday that prosecuting the Bush administration would set a terrible precedent, which Obama apparently has yet to rule out. Bork explained how that's what banana republics do, criminalize political differences. Let's hope Obama doesn't listen to the worst impulses of his fellow party members.

  • Really great season of 24, after a couple weak ones. Also Chuck wasn't bad last night although I really didn't need to see Yvonne Strahovski in her underlovelies, as Mrs. Darwin so graciously puts it. It's the erotic equivalent of an atomic bomb.

  • And now something completely different...(can you tell I've recently watched Rocky & Bullwinkle?). I downloaded via Project Gutenberg Typhoon by Joseph Conrad, one of the sea stories in his collection titled Sea Stories. I like the idea of reading about the sea even though it hardly ever pans out. There is something so different from the reality of the ocean that doesn't seem to translate well, or perhaps I haven't tried enough different authors. A western, by contrast, can take me straight to that desert town; I can see the catci and smell the copperheads.

  • The Word That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Our pastor continued his string of not mentioning the “m-word” (mercy) on Divine Mercy Sunday.

  • I vote yes on local school levies probably 90% of the time, but it still irritates me when the issue is framed one-sidely. The Dispatch editor writes: "School districts are asking voters for more money to build and operate schools. Where levies fail, districts are threatening to close schools and eliminate teaching positions." Why not: "School districts are asking voters for more money to build and operate schools. Where levies pass, property owners will be further pressed in a tight economy and foreclosures increased. Where levies fail, districts are threatening to close schools and eliminate teaching positions." The funny thing is there is little evidence of a link between money (i.e. smaller class sizes) and a better education.

  • I get the impression from my non-Catholic father-in-law that he viewed the Georgetown/Obama controversy as the fault of Obama handlers, where I laid the fault on Georgetown for accommodating the request.

  • Susan Boyle and the Heisenberg principle - can it be applied to bloggers too given our micro-fame? From the paper of record (the New York Post):
    Most disturbing of all, perhaps, is that not since Saturday has Susan Boyle been Susan Boyle. It's a permutation of the Heisenberg principle: That 30 million people have heard her, seen her, embraced her has already changed who she is. The shy churchgoer who said that her recently deceased mother encouraged her to "take the risk," who admitted in her audition that she has never been kissed, who has forever lived as something of an accidental outcast - she now seems too much of this world. "I've been for a meeting with Sony BMG, but I can't say much about it," she said this week. "It's early days." Susan Boyle is now one of us. And that is really a shame.
  • The Fall of the Newspapers

    To paraphrase Dick Nixon, it's not going to be fun when we won't have newspapers to kick around anymore. It's looking like in a few years the paper copy may be as rare as the dodo bird, due to a perfect storm of (self-inflicted) bias, reduced advertising revenue, and, of course the "free" news on the Internet.

    Bias is the climate condition that the newspapers themselves would deny, but it certainly played the main role in my decreased consumption of the product. (Obviously my case is anecdotal and subscription money is likely only a fraction of the advertising money for papers.) They say that 2008 was the year newspapers lost all pretence of objectivity but I noticed it in 2003 & 2004, causing me to cancel the Columbus Dispatch. Not quite a year later, I restarted but on weekends only.

    The Dispatch's foray into bias in '03 may have been a calculated move, like MSNBC's. The rap against the paper was that it was too boring, too Republican, it needed a edge like the blogs and cable tv shows, and that edge is opinion. Liberal in this case. Unfortunately, the result was even the front page became a receptacle of opinion.

    It may or may not be coincidental, but liberal newspapers have been in more trouble than more mainstream ones (one example: the Wall Street Journal is doing better than the New York Times).

    Perhaps there's an analogy to the banks and Wall Street investment firms. Banks saw the hedge funds doing big business and wanted a piece of it. The newspapers saw the blogs and talking heads and wanted the joy of venting outside the confining confines of the editorial page. One possible difference is that the big banks were greedy while with newspapers there was an element of just trying to survive.

    It's sad because I love the feel of newspaper in the morning. Especially weekend or vacation mornings when I can take my time with it.

    April 21, 2009

    Start Reading...

    I got a kick out of this "Start Reading Catholicism, Sexual Deviance and Victorian Gothic Culture in under a minute!"
    At $60, I'll wait for the movie.

    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

    Just as sometimes a child when he or she grows up in the teenage years might grow rebellious, lose their moorings with their family, and then come back to it ... I'm thinking, I'm hoping, that's the way it is with a lot of our people who have decided to depart from the church...We see in the sociology of people that leave the church, many of them, most of them, ... go to the evangelical mega-churches, where they find the preaching of the Bible, the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus, preached with particular vigor and clarity. I wonder if we have to examine our conscience as a church to say have we done that... or have we gotten a little too subjective... diluting, watering down the essentials of the faith. - New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan

    I am slowly becoming grateful for the people of my past who allowed, encouraged or witnessed my fall. They did not steal my Jesus. They ultimately helped me to discover the Risen Christ. I had spent years feeling crushed by my repetitive failures. I had spent years trying to excuse my sin, or rewrite how I felt about it, or blame others for it, when I needed only to have my sin redeemed by a love I had not yet truly known. One’s history leaves an indelible scar on the soul. My past has reared its head at various points in my marriage. It has resurfaced at times in my relationships with family members I once or twice wounded. It has had to be dealt with regularly, and privately, and sometimes publicly. But we are incarnate beings. One can no more erase years of one’s life than they can erase the “Catholic guilt” or the effects of sin. I wish I could say that I never sinned again after my reversion. I wish I could say that I never sinned mortally. I wish I could say that my marriage has been a safe haven from any sort of temptation, and that all of my writing now gives glory and praise to God. But I cannot. I can only say that I now have a Redeemer for my sin, for my married life, for my motherhood, and for my writing. No small statement. - Betty Duffy

    Little Michael, who had been making his way around the room during most of the prayer [on Good Friday night], had ended up in the desk chair - Michael's desk chair (my desk space is in the kitchen. It works.). He was spinning around and insisted that it was time for him to do his "made up prayer." "It doesn't have Pokemon in it, does it?" I asked warily... He sat in his daddy's desk chair. He twirled and did the Sign of the Cross - which he does much better since starting "school" - having to serve as "Prayer Leader" there on occasion - and started his prayer. As he sat there, for the first time, I could see the resemblance to his father. With Joseph, it is easier to see. Michael's mother said, in reference to Michael as a child, "He (Joseph) looks like he did and he (Michael) acts like he did." But just something about his face right then..I could see it. He prayed. "God," he said, as he turned this way and that, "we will see you in no time. And then we will see you all the time." Amen. - Amy Welborn

    When I used to see large families (say, families with five or more children), the idea always creeped into my mind that one or more of the children are, for lack of a better term, expendable. That’s not quite the right term, but let me illustrate this creepy attitude that used to afflict me. A guy down the street had seven children. His wife had complications with their eighth child and was hospitalized for a few weeks. My wife was talking with a few of the older children one afternoon to see how their mother was faring. Their little little brother (four years old or so) came running up and said to my wife, face beaming and excited, “My mommy’s coming home today.” My wife told me this charming story, and I immediately started wondering, “How special is a mommy to a little boy with six other siblings? Can he really be that special to her and she to him?” I now have a large family (six children, oldest being ten; more may be coming). I frequently find myself picking up one of them and thinking “What would I do without this little guy/girl?” My mindset has—with no willfulness on my part—intuitively switched from presuming expendability to presuming necessity. There’s something in me that says this fourth/fifth/sixth child is crucial to me and my family. I’m curious about that unnoticed change in my mindset (what causes one’s mental landscape to swtich? Obviously, external factors play a critical role, but how does the switch occur? There’s fodder here for research and contemplation and writing). I’m more curious, however, about its relationship to God. The rigors of logic and philosophy tell us that God created this world and all its creatures because He wanted to, not because he needed to. In this sense, we are expendable to him. This seems especially believable when one considers the billions and billions of people that have passed through these earthen gates. But the rigors of theology (which start with His revelations) tell us he mourns to lose any of us. Theology also analogizes him to a parent. The parallels to my previous attitudes are remarkable. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

    I was unprepared for the fact that the experience of artistic nudity is by nature an act of objectification. The artist evaluates you on the basis of color, shape, or composition. And it didn’t matter how much of my soul I tried to project to Karly. I would end up a two dimensional image on a canvas. I should have known better. - Betty Duffy, recalling the time she served as a nude model

    I have to believe that artistic expression can aim for the communication or representation of soul, although it must speak in the language of shape and form--or, in the case of writing, these clumsy words. (in fact, that was the subject of my master's thesis, on Thomas Eakins' portraits---he wanted his students, after being well-trained in the matter of anatomy, to learn to capture the figure's "centre line"--a unique, determining meridian, from which all else flowed.) I know that I didn't manage to capture much of your soul in my chances at drawing or painting you back then, and honestly feel that I know you better now after being made privy to the revelation of your writing. But learning to see the face of God in others, in the people around us, is one clear path towards the divine, and attempts to represent that vision can be, however limited, a holy offering. There is nothing we want more than to be understood, to be seen fully, and our friends
    and community can provide a taste of that..." - the artist responding to Betty Duffy

    Michael once had to send a book for an imprimatur. (This is done by the diocese in which the author resides.) The book was one about nurturing faith in young children, and emphasized, as one would do with young children, the concrete, emphasizing the importance of things - beads, statues, water, pictures...and the value of teaching young children prayers and so on. The book was sent back with a terse note from the religious sister in the diocese who had read it, "That's all pre-Vatican II. We don't teach those things anymore." Well, evidently, the purpose of the imprimatur had been lost in translation, the purpose being not whether you enjoy the content or not, but whether it is contrary to Catholic doctrine or not. That said...this was the woman religious in charge of religious education for that diocese (who was not the person to give the imprimatur anyway, of course), and who had been for years. One could multiply examples - Amy Welborn

    Thoughts While Listening to '70s Music

    The ‘70s were kind to the Irish, that is to lovers of ballads. There was If You Could Read My Mind, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, Lukenbach Texas, Witchita Lineman, Three Times a Lady, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, You Light Up My Life, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head and much of the Carpenter’s oeuvre, to name a few. Songs seemed slow in the ‘70s, ballad-slow. There was more of a reflectiveness and a inner-directedness, for good and ill.

    Since time varies, moving faster (perception-wise) earlier in life than later, I’m never quite sure if those balladeer days were slow of their own accord or aided and abetted by a culture that was reeling from Vietnam and was ready for some “downtime”. Perhaps both.

    Rock philosopher John Cougar Mellancamp counselled “hold onto 16 as long as you can”. It sounded like good advice at the time, though my credo was to hold on to 10 as long I could. (At 16, I was working at McDonald's and lacked a girlfriend.)

    “A good age,” I recall my mom saying, or maybe grandma, at my tenth birthday party. Perhaps a throwaway line for whoever said it but there are no throwaway lines to someone receiving it for the first time. It never occurred to me at the age of ten that some ages could be "better" than others. When young we think we're immortal and immutable.

    April 20, 2009

    That's Just Wrong...

    A co-worker went to Hillbilly Days in Pikeville, KY and shared these photos. Said that Fried Oreo's are good.

    There was also some Moonshine flavored chaw:

    If you're wondering what Pikeville's near, it ain't:

    When I was a child, my family would travel
    Down to western Kentucky where my parents were born
    And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
    So many times that my mem'ries are worn

    And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
    Down by the Green River where Paradise lay...
    - John Prine song

    Readings from the Weekend

    Rock star Bono writes here:
    Christianity, it turns out, has a rhythm — and it crescendos this time of year. The rumba of Carnival gives way to the slow march of Lent, then to the staccato hymnals of the Easter parade. From revelry to reverie. After 40 days in the desert, sort of ...

    Carnival — rock stars are good at that.

    “Carne” is flesh; “Carne-val,” its goodbye party. I’ve been to many. Brazilians say they’ve done it longest; they certainly do it best. You can’t help but contract the fever. You’ve got no choice but to join the ravers as they swell up the streets bursting like the banks of a river in a flood of fun set to rhythm. This is a Joy that cannot be conjured. This is life force. This is the heart full and spilling over with gratitude. The choice is yours ...

    It’s Lent I’ve always had issues with. I gave it up ... self-denial is where I come a cropper. My idea of discipline is simple — hard work — but of course that’s another indulgence.

    Then comes the dying and the living that is Easter.

    It’s a transcendent moment for me — a rebirth I always seem to need. Never more so than a few years ago, when my father died. I recall the embarrassment and relief of hot tears as I knelt in a chapel in a village in France and repented my prodigal nature — repented for fighting my father for so many years and wasting so many opportunities to know him better. I remember the feeling of “a peace that passes understanding” as a load lifted. Of all the Christian festivals, it is the Easter parade that demands the most faith — pushing you past reverence for creation, through bewilderment at the idea of a virgin birth, and into the far-fetched and far-reaching idea that death is not the end. The cross as crossroads.

    * * *

    San Pedro / San Pablo (June 29th) -- by Jay Wright

    There are moments when I wish that my mother
    had less of the book by heart,
    and that the sugar bowl of her faith
    were sometimes dry.

    Who wants her spicy saint's eye
    following you into the plaza's dark and curiously
    curled corners,
    after you have left the dance in your neighbor's stall,
    and gone currying for the love thorns on Nicolasa's body?
    And who wants to hear her voice,
    exalting the coverlet of a light blue morning sky,
    while you, fastened in a pinafore of your petate bed,
    toss in a faceless novia's arms?
    It is enough that she imagines that this lake
    is Bethsaida, or Galilee, and that the rock hard
    sustenance she finds in you grows
    from the temple bell voice you've heard,
    calling you away from your exhausted nets.

    But so, my name was given by my arrival
    in summer's first heat,
    and by my mother's understanding
    that what is sown dies and comes to life,
    love's seeded protestation,
    the spirit's rehabilitation after it has denied itself.
    And yet, when I stand and pull the radiant fish
    from Ajijic, I feel the Pauline tension in my body.
    I know this day holds a double blessing,
    and perhaps it would have been better
    for my mother to conceive,
    and to bear upon this very day,
    a second gifted child, too diffident to deny
    the authority in my name.

    I would have had reason then to argue
    with her need to lament the withered fig tree
    of her body, her desire
    to extol the conversion of a rejected stone,
    in to a riverworn altar,
    or into a sun calendar,
    turning of its own weight.
    And, though this lake lies distant from every gate
    my mother's heart has entered,
    to prepare me to hear the divinity in my calling,
    and to see at the end of sun-benumbed days
    the Lazarus light of this Mexican soil,
    I would have welcomed the starfall of suffering
    her life had promised me.

    Now, I go slowly over the rock of my name,
    touching the water-smoothed edges,
    listening for the cock crow in my spirit,
    the threefold betrayal of my mother's grace.

    "Why am I in peril every hour?"

    If he has appeared to Simon,
    it is by the grace of God I am what I am
    and the desert light becomes the lake light.
    The saints have married.
    And my mother will call me Peter,
    and ask me again to "speak to the people
    all the words of this Life."

    April 18, 2009

    The Race

    9:15am. Drinking coffee without caution for there would be an outlet. In the car, turned the radio loud to music not talk. Something with a beat.

    There are few things more pleasurable than the anticipation of a race on a fine summerish morning.

    I arrived thirty seconds before the race began, scribbling my name on the registration paper and performing the bureaucracy before the coming mindlessness. There was no gun, just a word I guess, for suddenly the crowd was moving and I was with the walkers at the back. I quick-time'd it towards the starting berth.

    I was full of running because of its lack the past week or so due to a back ache and so this felt sweetly regenerative and it was all I could do to hold back, not sprint now come what may in the future of this 5k. But I did hold back, I took the first mile easy and began to suspect that three miles would not satisfy. I picked up the pace. We arrived too quickly at the half-way point. This was not the agony planned but a walk in the park.

    I could see that I had more in me than the race had left in her, so I continued to pick up the pace and my breathing grew heavier and heavier in the typically embarrassing way that races produce, the sort of intimate noise you wouldn't make except under the drunkenness and euphoria of a road race. Yes, I'm leaving it all out there. Yes this is my best effort, despite the fact we're a million miles away from the leader is what my wordless breathing seemed to say.

    The finish line came into sight a half-mile out and it was motivating; faster and faster I went, enjoying the coltish feeling of a fine spring morning as well as the lack of restraint that the finish confers. It occurred to me later that it seems miraculous that (spiritually speaking) some are motivated by the finish line - Heaven - despite the distance that represents. The finish line seemed impossibly far at the start of the race; I could dismiss it out of hand as ridiculously irrelevant. And yet when a half-mile away it became real to me, it became motivating. How do you see the finish line as something cogent when you're just past the starting gate? How do you taste Heaven when you face a long Purgatory?

    The last hundred yards I'd settled comfortably into this yearning pace, this maximum speed while still under control. And at the finish, like something demographically choreographed, Def Leppard blasted from the speakers creating a surge of adrenalin almost orgasmic (which I daresay was the intention of Master Leppard).

    April 17, 2009

    School Newspaper

    I'd recently learned that my alma mater had put all the old college newspapers online.

    Browsing around the early '80s issues, it was a bit disturbing to see how old-fashioned things looked back then, the haircuts and clothes and even the design of the paper. Somehow I thought I might actually remember some of the articles but, of course, I didn't.

    One of the issues devoted a lot of print space, a news article and an editorial, concerning Brown University voting to stock cyanide capsules because they would rather commit suicide then die in a nuclear war that Ronald Reagan was sure to cause. Left-wing paranoia is humorous, which isn't to say the right is exempt of course. My friend Ham o' Bone said he was relieved when Obama went back on his campaign promise concerning the way he would do funding. It meant Obama wasn't a true believer. Many of us were also relieved when his cabinet turned out to be a rehash of the Clinton administration. History will judge.

    It was interesting to see that back in the day you could publish pictures of a beer chugging contest:

    '80s saying: "It's all fun until somebody gets hurt."

    '00s saying: "There'll be no fun because someone could get hurt."

    Sentimental Fool

    Vacation mornings
    like so many dawns
    age poignant in retrospect
    like grape juice into wine.

    Even the walk-ons
    and stray characters in our film
    now seem larger than life
    in the afternoon vintage.

    Like the tall plain-faced waitress
    who served us coffee and biscuits and
    omelets and pancakes while I mused
    "What a nice place to work."

    That morning so recent and so long ago
    with a comradely rain that made for privacy
    lingers like the black coffee we sipped forever
    two pots and three sitting on the granite counter
    like time immemorial.

    Fr. Cantalamessa's Response to Anti-God Advertising Slogan

    I've started going through the Holy Week homilies and messages, and this from Fr. Cantalamessa was striking:
    One of these challenges [to the faith]... has become a publicity slogan plastered on public transport vehicles in London and other European cities: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

    The most striking element about this slogan is not the premise, "God doesn't exist," but rather the conclusion: "Enjoy your life!" The underlying message is that faith in God keeps you from enjoying life; it is an enemy of happiness. Without it there would be more happiness in the world! Paul helps us answer this challenge, explaining the origin and meaning of all suffering, starting with Christ's suffering.

    Why "was it necessary that the Christ suffer so as to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26). This question receives what might be a "weak" answer, and in a certain sense, reassuring. Christ, revealing the truth of God, necessarily provokes the apposition of the forces of evil and darkness, and these forces, as happened to the prophets, will lead to his refusal and elimination. "It was necessary that the Christ suffer" would then be understood in the sense of "it was inevitable that the Christ suffer."

    Paul provides a very "strong" response to that question. The need is not of the natural order, but rather the supernatural. In the countries of historic Christian faith the idea of suffering and cross is almost always associated with sacrifice and expiation. Suffering, it is believed, is needed to expiate for sins and placate God's justice. This is what has provoked, in the modern world, the rejection of every idea of sacrifice offered to God, and in the end, the very idea of God.

    It can't be denied that we Christians have possibly exposed ourselves to this accusation. But we are dealing with a mistake that a better understanding of St. Paul's thought has already definitively clarified. He writes that God has preordained Christ "to serve as an instrument of expiation" (Romans 3:25). But such expiation is not applied to God in order to placate him; rather it is applied to sin to eliminate it. "It can be said that it is God himself, not man, who expiates sin. … The image is more like that of removing a corrosive stain or neutralizing a lethal virus than that of anger that is placated by punishment."[2]

    Christ has given a radically new meaning to the idea of sacrifice. In it, "it is no longer man who exercises influence on God in order to placate him. Rather it is God who works to make man stop hating him and his neighbor. Salvation does not start with man asking for reconciliation; rather it begins with God's request: "Let yourselves be reconciled with God" (1 Corinthians 2:6).[3]

    ...Through his death, Christ has not only denounced and conquered sin, he has also given new meaning to suffering, even to that which does not depend on anyone's sin, like that of the terrible earthquake that recently hit the neighboring Abruzzo region. He has made it an instrument of salvation, a path to resurrection and life. His sacrifice exercises its effects not through death, but rather thanks to the conquering of death, that is the resurrection. "He died for our sins, he rose for our justification." (Romans 4:25): the two events are inseparable in the mind of Paul and the Church.

    It is a universal human experience: In this life pleasure and pain follow each other with the same regularity with which, when a wave arises in the ocean, a trough follows a crest and pulls down the shipwrecked sailor. "Full from the fount of Joy's delicious springs Some bitter o'er the flowers its bubbling venom springs."[4] Drug use, the abuse of sex, and homicidal violence, all provide intoxicating pleasure in the moment, but lead to the moral dissolution, and often even the physical ruin, of the person.

    Christ, with his passion and death, has inverted the relationship between pleasure and pain. He, "in exchange for the joy which was placed before him, submitted himself to the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). No longer is it a pleasure that ends in suffering, but rather suffering that leads to life and joy. It is not just a different order of events; it is joy, in this way, that has the last word, not suffering, and a joy that will last for eternity. "Christ risen from the dead will die no more; death no longer has power over him" (Romans 6:9). And it will not have power over us either.

    This new relationship between suffering and pleasure is reflected in the way in which time marches on in the Bible. According to human calculations, day starts in the morning and ends at night; in the Bible, day starts at night and ends with daytime: "It was night and it was day: the first day" says the story of creation (Genesis 1:5). It is not meaningless that Christ died in the evening and rose in the morning. Without God, life is a day that ends at night; with God it is a night that ends with day, and a day without a sunset.

    So Christ did not come to increase human suffering or preach resignation to suffering; he came to give meaning to suffering and to announce its end and defeat. That slogan on the bus in London and in other cities is also read by parents who have sick children, by lonely people, the unemployed, refugees from war zones, people who have suffered grave injustices in life. I try to imagine their reaction to reading the words: "There's probably no God. Now enjoy your life!" How?

    April 16, 2009

    Taxed Enough Already

    It was an overcast, drizzly day in Central Ohio when the phone rang.

    *insert dramatical pause*

    It was Herr Bone calling. At his town, about an hour away, he'd talked at a Tea party. He'd cobbled up a talk based on complaints about government spending and media bias as featured on his blog. He mentioned and he was going to the tea party in Columbus and wondered if I wanted to go.

    A crowded Statehouse lawn

    One guy had a well-made sign listing what he paid in taxes, federal, state and local, with the tagline "Why isn't that enough?" I quickly figured about what he made a year based on his federal tax.

    Love that cabinet jibe

    Newark, Ohio tea party

    I arrived at statehouse lawn and errantly called Ham's home number instead of his cell phone. Given the background noise, I didn't recognize his wife's "hello" as significantly different from his.

    "The eagle has landed," I said, still relishing after all these years the spy/ walkie-talkie aspect of cellphones. "I'm at Broad Street."

    "Don't you recognize I'm not Dave?" she said incredulously. She always loves the drama of faux outrage and loves a scam.

    "You have a deep voice for a woman," I said, and, thinking I'd just dug myself in deeper, "like Lauren Bacall. Husky; it's a good thing."

    Her outrage continued unabated so I changed my tune. "Plus it's loud here."

    I was surprised at the size of the crowd and was thrilled to be among "my own kind", politically speaking. Conservative rallies are as rare as self-indulgent Disputations posts. Of course this wasn't exactly my own kind; most were to the right of me on these issues and I'd have preferred all these folks had gathered to protest abortion. (It's a crime and a shame that the young have adopted gay rights as the 'civil rights issue of our time' rather than the plight of unborn babies.) I've got more supply-side economics in me than deficit hawk. Still, anyone can see that Obama's budget is insane and I'm old enough to remember when fifty billion was ridiculously large sum. (See Robert Rubin's unintentionally hilarious 2003 book In an Uncertain Age when he had to beg Congress to bail out Mexico, a bailout that has been utterly dwarfed by more recent ones. Bank bailouts will never play well politically because no one ever, ever, appreciates damage avoided. You just don't get credit for it. No one, for example, credits George Bush #41 today with heading off Saddam Hussein's control of the world's oil. Just as no politician will get credit for helping prevent our government from spending itself into fiscal insolvency.)

    The positive reaction to Hambone's speech suggests that he is something of a political wunderkind and ought run for office. Bone's talk about mainstream media bias is what resonates most strongly with me, and watching a CNN reporter blast a Tea party participant was pretty close to sickening.

    Bone has a taste for what sells and most importantly doesn't make it about himself. I don't think anyone was at the Tea party came to listen to a politician brag about how he saved the taxpayer a buck here and a buck there. But there one was. This is the essence of politics as business as usual - see a big crowd and use it to talk about yourself.

    The other unfortunate tendency was of speakers to pander, saying how we were all are patriots and wonderful and good and what's right with America. Perhaps this was to counter the left-wing media image that we're right-wing nuts or would-be terrorists, but still it's a waste of our time and feeds self-righteousness.

    Ham's political instincts are keen enough to yell out a word that no speaker uttered: "Michigan". That's the red meat, populist word in Columbus, Ohio. Ham said of Ohio politicians who spend our tax money carelessly, "ship 'em to Michigan!" bringing great guffaws from all who heard. Michigan is a dual-use word since it stands for "blue state, high taxes" to Ohioans and also, of course, as the great enemy on the football field. Pretty politically shrewd for Bone to notice that. "Who said that?" asked one elderly gentleman with a huge smile.

    We were standing beside three young girls, presumably sisters, ages perhaps 12, 15, 17, who were carrying "Who is John Galt?" signage. Not particularly heart-warming since I'm not much of a fan of Rand. (I always figure, rightly or wrongly, that in a Randian world I'd be killed for not being productive enough.)

    There were some good lines, such as the fact that borrowing was a form of taxation, and that fees are also taxation. It's so disingenuous for government to find all these tricks and "hidden taxes" in order to try to slake it's unending thirst for revenue.

    Hambone made the excellent point that while the speakers were all talking about taxes, they weren't talking about controlling spending. That's another "business as usual" tactic, at least for Republicans. The great sin of the party is that it lacks all will to control spending. Oh for those glory days, back in '94 and '95, when whole government agencies like the Department of Energy and the Department of Education were in danger of being eliminated! How nostalgic it feels now, and how incredibly fragile that moment when big government was on its heels turned out to be.

    John Kasich spoke to cries from the crowd of "Run, John, Run!". He's thinking of running for governor in 2010 and one would hope he'd announce soon. He's the great conservative hope in Ohio, the only one who has any credibility, earned during his years as the budget maven. He's acknowledged (by me at least) as the country's second greatest member of Congress during the '90s, second only to Newt Gingrich. Despite Kasich's nearly spotless record and superlative service, there's always a sense that he underachieved although perhaps it's merely reflective of voter underachievement since, after all, he did run for President.

    So it was lovely....

    ...in the old-fashioned sense, drifting off to sleep Tuesday eve not with a knotty intellectual study like American Babylon by Fr. Neuhaus, nor with the misanthropic meanderings of many of the passages in Updike's Widows of Eastwick, nor the occasionally sexual provocations in Family Planning, but to simply drift off under the green baseball fields of a Reds/Brewers game on television, drifting off even as the Reds took a rare commanding lead. I'd taped the game and woke up with it as well. Welcome back baseball!

    April 15, 2009

    The Lost Art of Nigerian Scamming?

    How lame is this!? Instead of a long, painstakingly crafted email, I just received the following, replicated in full:

    It was Resolved and Agreed that your Over Due Payment Claim FUND will be released on a special method of payment which tag CERTIFIED BANK DRAFT/TT TRANSFER OR BY CASH,SEND NAME,ADDRESS,PHONE AND FAX #,ACC.# to claim your fund.Alternative:jekejnr@indiatimes.com.

    Dr Jerry
    I'm guessing they no longer get paid by the word.

    Parody Blog Updated...

    ...with news that North Koreans are greatly upset at the thought that they may not be able to join the community of nations any time soon, and that their leader is being compared to George Bush.

    April 14, 2009

    Bowgate '09: It's Never the Bow, It's the Cover-up

    I don't care whether Obama bowed to the Saudi king or not, but what is mildly interesting is why Obama would spend some of his "liar's capital" to tell us that it wasn't a bow.

    Just as every politician has a certain amount of political capital, they all have a certain amount of lying capital. Spend too much and people will begin to think you have a credibility problem and won't believe you. (See Bill Clinton.) And for Obama to spend it so frivolously, on something so unimportant, well...

    He really is a spender, isn't he?

    My hunch is that it's almost impossible to come up with something original with respect to politics so let's Google and find out:
    "Bowgate" or variants: 15,000 hits
    "It's not the bow" = 6 hits
    "It's not the bow, it's the cover-up" = 1 hit (Kudos to a commenter named Bob Wang on this blog, great minds and all that)
    "Liar's capital / lying capital" - 0 hits (Very awkward locution so not surprising that there's no hits; plus people don't want politicians to have lying capital)

    Various & Sundry

    Bad guys usually have the advantage because they have the element of surprise. The rogue in the Audrey Hepburn film How to Steal a Million Dollars had that. The art thief would pick his time and place while the guards had to be everywhere and always there.

    Perhaps that is why Christ emphasized, "Watch!"

    I like watching, being alert, at least in the non-spiritual sense. I even like watching other people's alertness. I liked, for example, seeing Julia Roberts playing a CIA operative in Duplicity and how she walked into a room with her eyes alertly surveying the the scene. Same with Jack Bauer, who always needs to have eyes in the back of his head. He tends to shadow doorways, gun unholstered, before entering.

    It's fun in part to have knowledge ahead of time. It can be as simple as anticipating which elevator door will open first given what floor it's on now and which direction it's moving.

    It reminds me of being on a basketball court and how you have to be aware of all nine other players without giving away where you're looking, especially if you're about to make a pass. It's all in the peripheral vision. It's like driving a car; I like to know where the other cars are in the event I need to pass. I like to see what's ahead. I like driving the truck, being able to see up ahead in traffic, and I hate the blind spot that sometimes renders a car invisible. I'll look over my shoulder, not trusting my mirrors.


    Under the aegis of an ‘80s station, I can hear Howard Jones’ spectacularly fantabulous No One is to Blame followed by Aerosmith’s Angel. This particularization is fascinating; we’re able to live within the confines of our particular youths with ever greater fidelity.

    Hearing the music reminds me of a encounter from that recent past. I was buzzed past locked doors into the domain of the parish secretary of a downtown church. I was there to request that a Mass be said for someone. She was unusually friendly. It was only at the very end of our exchange that she asked if I went to the same college as she and said that she knew me there. But, like St. Thomas, I needed more proof. I tested her by asking which hall she lived in freshman year.

    I didn't know what to say after that. She didn't look so different really. Why had she recognized me and me not her? I took it personally since we would-be writers pride ourselves on our ability to notice. I hadn't even known she was Catholic back in school or if I did I didn't recall it now...

    Her unremarkability in 1982 seemed now suddenly remarkable in 2009. She who lived in those rarefied time of red brick campus and old oak sun had survived the intervening years intact and no worse for the wear and now presented herself under the unlikely appearance of church secretary of the most traditional church of the diocese of Columbus.

    I interrogated my memory: she seemed at the time somewhat mousy although now that seems ironic since no 18-year old gal could ever be described as mousy by a male over 40. It's all relative, except when it's not. I recall a sort of camaraderie but no meaningful conversation with her. Freshman year was still a sort of hazy period during which I was preoccupied with baseball cards and daydreams, figmentaory panty raids and pizza deliveries. Was she more alive than me at the time and that's why she recognized me today?

    It was a rainy vacationary morning as we headed to the local coffee shop. The coffee there was okay though not as good as McDonald’s. Instead of collapsing in the ridiculously comfortable sofas and chairs we hit the quiet back table and hard chairs where we read the paper.

    Afterwards it was on to the greener pasture of Bob Evans to which no superlative properly applies. The d├ęcor within is instantly comforting - does it not smell of vacation and homey ruralness?

    I ordered everything but the kitchen sink: blueberry pancakes (mostly uneaten), those uncannily scrumptious biscuits, and the sublime ham and cheese omelet. We paid a cheerful elderly lady with black, dyed hair. The food was far better than even Scrambler’s and afterwards I had an immediate vision of the importance of breakfast and why retiree Dad always goes to breakfast. When you’re in you’re 20s the highlight of the day is beer at the local bar; when you’re over 40 the highlight of your day is your daily breakfast at the local breakfast place!

    This of extremely parochial interest but...oh the fascinating vagaries of my parish priest! He's retiring soon, but his communication of it was a bit unsatisfying. It was rather defensive. Surely there is a lot of backstory I'm missing. I don't know why someone can't say, "I'm retiring" and leave it at that. I'm not sure I buy the "I'm forced to hand in my resignation at the age of 72 (or whatever) and the bishop accepted it". I always figure the bishop takes the priest's wishes into account. We want to be told what the facts are. We want the truth. ("But we can't handle the truth!" I know.) Heck he was pastor for like 7 years? That's a good run. That's about all one can expect. We have no right to a lifetime appointment. I think he should've simply said that it was time for him to move on and that he felt God was calling him to teach because that's where his heart is. Stop me before I write him.