May 31, 2010

2010 Library Tour (now with pictures!)

Encountered on the walk there...

 Room with a view (European shoulder-bag at right)

Stories of stacks in view

 Le Grand Reading Room

Orton Hears a Who

Sitting in the sublime 11th floor aerie of Ohio State’s Thompson library. Ah for such inspiring architectural wonder at my workshop. College kids enjoy the sweet privacy and breathtaking views of these little open “rooms”, approximately six-by-six feet. Looking over the camp-pi I can see a spire sprouting from the round tower of what looks to a castle. Then too there are crisscross stichwork of sidewalks, a web designed to prevent pedestrian shortcuts over the fine lawns.

Such a visual era, college is, when you are unnaturally surrounded by tall ceilings and grand reading rooms and grand landscape and beautiful young people with statuesque good looks.

Today it’s surprisingly packed with students.. So industrious! On this warm, sunny Memorial day. They lounge or lean over their computers or texts with the air of reading rooms everywhere.

Up on the 11th, the chair is cozy leather and a small table provides space for books or laptop and coffee.

May 30, 2010

Cap'n Obama of the Exxon Valdez

One of the news magazines had an article that purports to give us an insider's view on how the health care bill got passed. And a big part of it was Obama's determination to pass it because he wanted to prove that government could govern.

That's it? This was all a big exercise to "prove" that government activism works? This strikes me as very lame. The focus should've been on everything BUT testing government's mettle. It should've been about the American people.

Because the funny thing is, passing the bill doesn't begin to prove the government can govern. That's like the captain of the Exxon Valdez getting drunk so that he can try to prove he can skipper the rig competently while wasted. And while getting the bill passed is much harder than getting the captain drunk, it is also by far the easiest part of the whole process.

So the folks who brought us Medicare and all its attendant waste, fraud and abuse such that waste, fraud and abuse is to be this amazing font of found money, is getting another crack at it. It's almost as though Obama is trying to prove that the incompetence of government.

May 28, 2010

Tempted by the Libe of Another...

Browsing: here... Donald Judd has 13,000 books and has them all displayed. Be cool if Steven Riddle did this.

Reading Ideas

50 Summer Reading Suggestions from ROFTERS (ROFTERS stands for “Readers Of First Things," not "Rolling On Floor Throwing Eggs and Reuben Sandwiches.")

Various & Sundry

Here's my Yogi Berra impersonation for the day:
90% of belief is believing.
You heard it here first!

Proof of God's sense of humor: Jesus lists, in Mark 10, the things that the believer can expect more of than what he gives up - including houses, family, land, and... persecution.

The air is scented with a bouquet of rain on a overcast night as I look upon the buff-colored stones of the patio. They differ pleasingly in size and shape and abut white flowers tinged with pink and stamen'd in yellow.

I like National Review's covers, especially this month's "Visit Beautiful Arizona". The shelf-life of magazines are such that these days if I don't read them in the day or two I receive them I likely won't read them at all. They spoil faster than milk, are more perishable than undercooked sushi. So a good cover draws me in and I read a review of the new biography of Limbaugh and react consumeristically, as Pavlovian as a young woman over an attractive pair of shoes.

Yesterday's three-mile run in the heat followed by a weight workout prompted thoughts from long-ago, as if the shot of adrenalized exhaustion recalls moments of youth when exhaustion was familiar if quite temporary. Unbidden a song rises:

...a grasshopper stepped on an elephant's toe,
The elephant said, with tears in his eyes,
"Pick on somebody your own size!"

Sat on a back patio enlivened by sun and shade and a myriad of flowery glories which hang in baskets from the limbs of an old warhorse, the old pine whose inner dead branches faintly resemble the tusks of mastodons.

In the tree'd middle distance I spy a blue spruce amid the burning bushes and Norway pines. A fine collection of varied plants that feels so much less sterile than the single species of trees.

The new Dominican priest at the downtown parish is a real eager beaver - how many priests who tell us that he has a sign-up sheet in the back of church where you can put your email address and he'll send you Pope Paul VI's apostolic talk on necessity of Christian joy?

I was surprised to find that an admirer started a Facebook Appreciation page for him. It tells us his good deeds, like driving hours to Cleveland for a Habitat for Humanity gathering and getting home after 1am despite having 7am Mass the next day. I got tired just thinking about it.

In his homily he said how Catholics are so often portrayed as "guilt-ridden" and he said that's not the way it's supposed to be. He said that Catholics are not "guilt-ridden" but "mercy addicts", that we line up in long lines at the Confessional because we are seek the sacrament of God's forgiveness and mercy.

May 27, 2010

Drinking Game

Drink every time you hear the phrase "Nobel Prize winner" in connection with Obama administration efforts to defend itself.

(Btw, ever since Al Gore won one there's been deflationary pressure on the prestige of the Committee.)

Surging Blood & Oil: When Patience Becomes Folly

I've been hyp-mo-tized by the lack of environmental concern Obama seems to be showing with the BP spill. The lack of a sense of urgency reminds me of George Bush's surreal patience in Iraq in '05 and '06.

As with the surge in Iraq, this "top kill" procedure to try to stop the flow of oil prompts me to ask myself: "If this was an option, why the hell hadn't he tried it before now?" And it's not as though Obama doesn't have the power - the spill occurred in federal waters.

It's fascinating how politics is getting turned on its head. Historically, the Republican party hates nation-building, and yet a Republican president decided he could do it in Iraq. The Democrat party historically has shown more interest protecting the environment, and yet a Democrat president has been lax.

I tend to think that a Republican president - at least one other than George Bush who tended to be almost immune to media pressure - would've handled the spill better, if only in terms of pressuring BP, simply because the liberal media would've applied greater heat sooner to a Republican. You can tell that some sort of tipping point has been reached for Obama since just in the last couple days he seems to be getting the message.

May 26, 2010

In the Wheelhouse of Spring

Superstar weather = cellphone snaps from the patio:

Who Doesn't Love St. Philip Neri?

I've lately been wanting to read a Russell Kirk biography. Why? Because I long for a replacement hero now that William F. Buckley has fallen in my eyes after reading his son's painful expose.

Oh I know, saints are our heroes, after Christ, but often we need a model of a model, if you catch my drift. Or a model of a model of a model. For greater accessibility you know.

I seem to take it as a knock on Buckley's piety that he suffered at the end without the peace that transcends all understanding, nevermind that I continually fall into the same trap.

Today, in the Word Among Us, I read a quote from St. Philip Neri:
"Sympathy with those who have fallen is the best way of not falling yourself."
Suggesting that rather than throw WFB overboard, I should pray for him and have greater sympathy for him and the trial at the end of his life.

May 25, 2010

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Listening to "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," we hear from the back seat, "I don't want to rule the world: people would expect me to do stuff." - Steven of "Momentary Taste"

Two years ago when Kay Ryan was named U.S. Poet Laureate she told an interviewer:
“I've always taught part time, to a great extent, so that I could have most of my life for wool-gathering. You have to do it about 100 pounds of wool-gathering for an ounce of really good language. So it's very inefficient, and it takes an awful lot of time…”
This week as she prepared to step down from her laureateship Ryan told another interviewer:
“I plan to do a lot more bicycle riding. I got a beautiful new bike and am looking forward to riding it more. I also want to do more woolgathering—idle rumination, daydreaming—which is absolutely essential for poetry, and which I can do on the bicycle.”
Some of my favorite writers are woolgatherers and I’m not surprised Ryan savors the word. “Woolgathering” entered English in the mid-sixteenth century meaning “indulging in wandering fancies and purposeless thinking.” It was a vestige of the pastoral past and literally meant “gathering fragments of wool torn from sheep by bushes.” - Patrick Kurp of "Anecdotal Evidence"

The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs. It is a disease which arises from men not having sufficient power of expression to utter and get rid of the element of art in their being. It is healthful to every sane man to utter the art within him; it is essential to every sane man to get rid of the art within him at all costs. Artists of a large and wholesome vitality get rid of their art easily, as they breathe easily, or perspire easily. But in artists of less force, the thing becomes a pressure, and produces a definite pain, which is called the artistic temperament. Thus, the very great artists are able to be ordinary men – men like Shakespeare or Browning. - G.K. Chesterton in "Heretics"

Anyway, it's all very interesting, if a bit strange, that so many people seem to need to find the ark to confirm their belief in the truth of Scripture. I'm a little surprised they're not trekking through Iraq looking for the Garden of Eden. One would hope their faith is not dependent on such physical evidence. I certainly don't believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ because I also believe in the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. I see the Shroud simply as a nice gift left behind by Our Lord, not as the source of my faith. How does that old hymn go? "We walk by faith and not by sight..." - blogger at "Being is Good"

Life has been handed to me on a platter and I still manage to find fault with it. Except when I don't. - Betty Duffy tagline

Although I teach by the Socratic method, which entails plunging the students into confusion before rescuing them with clarity, I am aware that the confusion wants to persist. I introduce a text by identifying its chief problem. (A “novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.” —Randall Jarrell.) Then I propose and reject several current or notorious answers before settling upon a more adequate resolution. My apology is that students ought to be shown that the pursuit of truth depends as much upon refutation and falsification as upon assertion and corroboration. - blogger at "A Commonplace Blog"

I was previously aware that the two major schools of thought regarding predestination in Catholics theology circles was the Thomist and Molinists views. The argument did get rather heated at one time until I believe the Pope told them to basically “chill out.” So there is no official teaching of the Church in regards predestination other than ruling out some aspects of the subject such as double-predestination as taught by Calvin where some are predestined to Hell. So currently the Thomist, Molinist, or some composite of the two are acceptable views for Catholics to prudentially hold. I find myself more sympathetic toward the Thomist view and the author of this book argues from the Thomist view. This is not the easiest of subjects and there is a very good reason the word mystery really comes into play when discussing it. As with all mysteries it certainly does not mean we can know nothing on the subject, only that we can never fully understand it. - Jeff of Curt Jester

I have always been so drawn to Augustine, because he is all the proof I need that a sinner as great as me can one day become holy and generous in my love for God and man...My biggest enemy these days is sloth, the vice that for me consistently serves as the black hole that seeks to suck out all the oxygen in the fire of my soul. But today I prayed, if not very well. Veni Sancte Spiritu. It may have been but a mutter, a grumble from my heart instead of a blaring trumpet as I wish it were, but it was the expression of desire, and I trust faithfully in the words of St. Paul [in] Rom 8:26-28...My nearly lifeless prayer is given life by the Spirit of God who intercedes for me, aiding me when I do not pray as I ought. For I ought to pray with a heart full of love and gratitude for the many gifts with which I have been blessed, most of all the very gift of my salvation, and the gift of God's own Spirit which allows me that loving knowledge of my God. But this is too often not how I pray, because sloth resides so deep in my mind, body, and soul. But today I prayed, and today I both welcome presently and anticipate hopefully the transformative power of God's sanctifying Spirit.- Michael at "Psalm 46:11"

When I first found the Divine Mercy prayer, I was struck by what seemed like the presumption of me - me - offering the Father the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of his own Son. Then, I realized I was incapable of offering anything else, and the thought took my breath away. - Roz, commenting on this blog

Van Eyck, St Jean-Baptiste, 1432

Via Old Paint blog

Diaristic Wanderings

Nature abhors a vacuum (as do I when it comes to house-cleaning), so I'll post what follows despite its self-indulgent nature. My excuse is that fellow blogger Dylan has had computer problems for the past week and thus posting to our shared private blog has become a de facto journal entry from an audience point-of-view.

Yesterday was Hilton Head-type weather, the real deal, 80+ degrees with some staying power. Even at 6pm it was toasty enough that I was still seeking umbrella ministrations. The sun had some serious giddy-up and if the other day felt like the first day of June, this felt July-ish.

Having gone to Mass on Saturday I was free to "move about the cabin" all day Sunday, and so I started it with a bit of reading on the back patio, followed by a hike & bike ride to & from the bike path. Read a snippet of "Reading & Writing" by Michael Chabon. Then in the slanting rays of the bookroom I hit the crack-cocaine that is Twitter, which is addicting in part simply because I'm ever seeking the perfect "line-up" to follow, which means looking through the line-ups of those I follow in order to recruit fresh talent. It's my own sort of fantasy league. And I was pleased to see Betty Duffy join the fray if only to express puzzlement over what the fuss is all about.

I remember when I was a kid observing in the book of Acts how the Holy Spirit completely changed the apostles from cowardice to martyrs, and I recall thinking how "it's too bad we don't have the Holy Spirit now like they did then," but that presumes that God is holding back on us, that He doesn't want to give us the really good gift.

But Scripture tells us that if men give their children good things, how much more will our Heavenly Father give us his good Spirit. A fine rebuttal to what the devil whispers to me. And it's been said that God gives those sorts of experiences to those who become martyrs so be careful what you wish for.

Alcohol is made for older people the way sunshine and horseshoes are. It perfectly diagnoses the problem with middle age and beyond, that of boredom and routine, and temporarily alleviates it. It's not made for the young, who have enough excitement in the rush of new friends, new experiences, new feelings. And yet I'm so conservative by temperament that I looked at alcohol as a nouveau remedy of dubious progeny. I looked at alcohol as an unwelcome innovation when it's as old as civilized man (although not always a civilizing influence) and has certain aesthetic qualities. To my 19-year old self, alcohol just got in the way of study and indeed I suspect that's the reason Steven Riddle is a teetotaler. My first reaction to beer was sheer amazement that someone might be drinking it on a Wednesday evening on the Oxford campus. It was impossible that students of such imagined quality and rectitude could drink a beer in the daylight weekday hours. I was so incredibly naive thinking that I was in a land of gentleman scholars, of would-be Thomas Jeffersons (notwithstanding Jefferson's fondness for wine) when, truth be told, there were not a few Jim Belushis.

Two things surprised me about the "real world" of college and work. One was that in college, most didn't work too hard. And the second was that in workaday world, most didn't work too hard. Although I understand better now that one has to pace oneself and you simply can't push yourself for too hard for too long without the train breaking down. Or perhaps that's my own laziness and lack of ambition talking.

I always romantically overestimated my own intelligence in part because my mom overestimated it and in part because I was always on the outer suburbs of genuine talent without ever quite getting reaching the city. I read our local sports columnist and think, "wow. There's a reason he's a professional." Or I hear the SAT scores of a sportswriter, significantly higher than my own, and I think "well maybe I haven't underachieved."

More important than achievement for achievement's sake is what one achieves, and I've always been suspicious of the value of entertainment.

Michael Chabon wrote in Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands:
"Entertainment has a bad name. Serious people learn to mistrust and even to revile it. The word wears spandex, pasties, a leisure suit studded with blinking lights...Intelligent peole must keep a certain distance from its productions. They must handle things that entertain with gloves of irony and postmodern tongs...It's partly the doubtfulness of pleasure that taints the name of entertainment. Pleasure is unreliable and transient. Pleasure is Lucy with the football. Pleasure is easily synthesized, mass-produced, individually wrapped. Its benefits do not endure, and so we come to mistrust them, or our taste for them.

"Yet entertainment - as I define it, pleasure and all - remains the only sure means we have of bridging, or at least feeling as if we have bridged, the gulf of consciousness that separates us from everybody else."
Many writers successfully write potboilers or sports columns, but I've always been too dismissive of the value of those genres. Prententious no doubt, but it has its claims. For a good part of my 20s I thought the only good literature was "good literature" despite the fact that the number of novels I honestly appreciated was slim. I enjoyed a few of Updike's if mostly for prurient reasons. Other particularly memorable novels included Dickens's "Great Expectations" and "David Copperfield" and McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City". The problem with my goal to write the Great American Novel is that I didn't much like novels and never wrote fiction. *grin* I liked novels mainly derivatively, that is by the esteem with which those writings were held. I glommed on early to the fact that there were fiction writers and non-fiction and fiction writers were the glamorous.

On the other hand, there's no question I was a dreamer and novels are a kind of dream. My appreciation for lyricism and melody over plot and lyric suggests a variety of novelistic purity. I was never dumb enough in math to forsake it, especially given how much more lucrative it is. Math majors do better than English majors 80% of the time and my conservative temperament led me to always play the odds. I still have to laugh over the line Fr. Neuhaus had about someone so disliking of change that they "complained on the second day of creation."

May 19, 2010

The Daily Blog

Been doing a lot of writing, if not for public consumption. Would like to post it but it is what it is: complaints that aren't worth airing. 90% of what I get angry over isn't worth getting angry over. Poor targets, in other words. Instead of the injustice of abortion or Obama's spending us into oblivion I'm nickel and dimin' another blogger over their nickel & dimin'.

On the positive side, I may have the opportunity to go to China pending the status of my wife's possible business trip; I mentioned it to my boss who said I'd likely be bored if I stay for more than a few days, and I'm thinking he's right. Can't speak the language, which is a real drawback, and my wife will be working all day. Still, the opportunity for that sort of adventure is once in a lifetime and it seems a no-brainer. It's one thing to miss Amsterdam, it's another to miss Red China. My boss reports that it's a whole country of spoiled children due to the one-child rule, since the parents treat their one kid like royalty.


Have that yearning to breathe novels again. It's so nice to read a book (the Arthur Philips novel Prague) that is lyrical without being depressing, a seemingly rare combo. I highlight passages that strike me as poetic and induce the sort of gentle fugue of relaxation:
" jog over the guidebook bridges and along the parapets and paths that run alongside the Blue Danube, which was this morning, as always, the deep cerulean Matisse blue of caramel or mahogany."
"The Chain Bridge's lights have painted its pocked stone bricks a soft yellow and Emily's hair a dark gold, and the river stops flowing for John to memorize it, to count the blue and white lights sprinkled over the roll of its immobile waves..."
"A walk to the door, a mouthful of summer night, and, at the mere sight of her, a taxi sprouts from the ground and opens to embrace her."
"...the plump iron leaves, the graceful metal ivy, even the brittle metal twigs were still solid."

May 18, 2010

Complaints, I Have One

With sooo many Catholic blogs, I expect there to be commentary on nearly any religious topic under the sun, so imagine my surprise when there is nothing, apparently, on Adam Gopnik's article on Jesus in the latest New Yorker. I haven't read it yet, but went to the Catlick blog search engine and came up with no hits. I'm guessing that the overlap between Catholic bloggers and readers of the liberal New Yorker is small.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

When I watch the news, I often leave with the feeling, "Now, how do I find out what really happened?" How do I pierce the double veil of agenda and entertainment?
- Steven of Momentary Taste

It's said that one knows an institution is in decline when its occupants have to be competent; conversely it's another quality of "true liturgy" that it works - it "tells the story" - even when it ought not to work.
- blogger at the Undercroft

At one of our parties in April, I went out to jump on the trampoline after eating too much cake. I didn't mean to make a sly disappearance, and surely, anyone who looked out my kitchen window would know where I was...This is, of course, a double standard, because my husband vacates the party all the time: "Oh, your family's coming over? I'd better get some work done in the shop." And not long ago, at my parents' house, my Dad was seemingly overwhelmed by a need to take up the roto-tiller: "see tiller, must till" even if it's dinner time on Easter Sunday.
- Betty Duffy

My own personal mother... always scoffed at Mother’s Day, claiming that it was all just a means to assuage guilt for ignoring mothers the rest of the 364 days of the year. I’ve pretty much followed in her footsteps. I’m not much of a holiday person anyway, since to me holiday=more work, and I always stand resolutely against anything that =more work, even if the holiday is ostensibly in my honor. - Amy Welborn

while in college I forced myself through at least part of The Prelude and didn't much enjoy it. But truth to tell, college courses are largely designed to enforce dislike of the subject matter--you have to read a hundred books in a semester and none of them are given the time that they are really worth. A whole semester could be devoted to a careful and proper reading of Wordsworth's poem--and probably should have been. To have it thrown in among a hundred other poems scarcely does the work justice. In defense of the poor teachers, though, one needs to provide a broad sense of things before diving in deep and so this is a necessary risk in our reading. - Steven of Mementary Taste

Just doing my part to increase your available money for almsgiving, one bra at a time. - Roz on Darwin Catholic offering ways to cut costs on women's undergrarments

I'm a regular at daily Mass; I've been joined all the May devotions to Mary; I go to Confession regularly; I kiss crucifixes and the feet of statues; I'm nurturing a deep devotion to Mary Mediatrix of All Grace; and I've almost memorised a long Seven Sorrows and Joys of St. Joseph Novena that my parish prays every Wednesday. My intellectual faculties may be on strike, but my feet know where to go every 6:00 PM, my mouth remembers all the formula prayers it needs, my fingers thrill at the feel of rosary beads, and even my hair behaves under my mantilla. There were times over the past seven years when I felt so thoroughly convinced by the Truth that I should have been doing all these things, but didn't do any of them. I am stunned to see that now that my spirit has become weak, my flesh has become totally willing. It feels right. Do you know the prayer, "Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief"? It applies perfectly, but I prefer the intensity of St. Philip's plea, "Lord, show us the Father and that is enough!" and Jesus' reassuring answer that anyone who has seen the Son, has seen the Father . . . though the catch is that I don't know if I have ever truly seen the Son. - Sancta Sanctis

You're asking the best questions: "the catch is that I don't know if I have ever truly seen the Son." Only Christ is enough but we have to look for him where he is working: in the Church and in daily life... 99.9% is Christ who makes himself present, .1% is recognizing him and responding. - Frederick of "Deep Furrows" responding to Sancta Sanctis

May 17, 2010

Paintings Found by Googling "Painting" amid Images

Diaristic Pseudo-Weather Report

Saturday was a gilder, a mint julep from the get-go. I heart Saturday mornings; the gentle relaxation response of having the whole enchilada in the front mirror without any mixed metaphors. While my wife went to water aerobics I dallied with a book till it was ten am and McD’s was wane-songing. I hustled right out to the bike path and pounded out thirty minutes and then collected breakfast from the Lebron James of fast food breakfast joints. Ate out on the patio, a gift from the returning gods of summer.

Sunday was surprising for its variability. From a deep well of sunshine, trick-or-treating up to 78 degrees, to a sudden cloud putsch and immediate temp drop.

It feels of Ireland now, the coolish but not cold temperatures, the clouds, the memory of sun with the threat of rain. The clouds don't bother me so much as offer fluffy opportunities to read something serious.

Our independently wealthy neighbor is showing some financial bicep by building a four-car garage next to their 2-car garage. I guess the guy likes cars. It does make me feel less sheepish for having AAA come out today and install a new battery in the truck instead of installing it myself. Sometimes I wish we’d get serious and try to save vigorously but it's difficult when I see most savings options as illusory, the stock market a pie-in-the-sky confidence-man scam.

Called AAA and the old gentleman, a throwback to an earlier era, went about his work as methodically as a Methodist. Since we’d already tried to jump start it and since the battery is older than Betty White, it was a foregone conclusion we’d need a new one. But he was dead set on proving to us it was dead, and was so chipper that he was a living advertisment on how one gets to be 90: friendly and optimistic, like Bob Hope. He also had that Great Depression-era streak of frugality, shaking his head sadly when we decided to have him install it.

Planted the tomato plants and geraniums, clipped the hedges in front and the side yard. A nap at 2-ish, a 5pm dinner., until the sudden cooling. Read more of a biography of Charles Carroll, Catlick signer of the Declaration. Meanwhile the sky looked like a series of low-hanging pillows over two recently planted trees which provided scale for the pillar'd twelve-year old pines.


Said a Divine Mercy chaplet the other day and appreciated its audacity yet felicity in offering the Father the blood of His son with the refrain "for the sake of His sorrowful passion...". Reminded me to be grateful. Want to be grateful in advance, like Christ did in his loving the Father before the Father raised Him up on the third day. I always think that others are receiving greater experiences of God and the Spirit and that that somehow absolves me from lethargy. But that's a non-starter because a) He loved us first and b) taken to its absurd physical end, not thanking and praising Him till "after the fact" would mean we can't praise God until after death and the general resurrection. It's nonsense and it's not how we're made. We're made to adore and worship now; the only question is WHAT we will worship. It makes no sense to worship what perishes.


Read about Steven Riddle's 3-4 hours of leisure reading a day and found that somehow inspirational, this permission to read unapologetically. Then too was Betty Duffy's husband, who makes beautiful tables in his leisure time and finds it therapeutic when her folks come over. *grin*

May 14, 2010


...from Fr. Cantalamessa's Sober Intoxication of the Spirit:
Let us invoke special assistance from the Holy Spirit, because Jesus said that repentance cannot happen without His action... Only He can touch us in the neurological place that He alone knows and convince us of the seriousness of sin.

To repent means to change our way of thinking and judging. It is not a question, however, of abandoning our old way of thinking, the mentality of our age, to form a better one, perhaps more conformed to the gospel. That would be substituting our judgment for another judgment of ours. The miracle of repentance, then, would not occur.

The real metanoia, that is, change, occurs when we abandon our way of thinking and receive God's way of thinking, when we put aside our judgment and take on God's judgment. To repent means to take a running leap into the abyss of God's judgment! His judgments, says one of the psalms, "are like the great deep" (Ps 36:6).

When this happens, a person begins to see his or her life and sins from within God's heart, and then things change. Seen in the light of the immense love of the Father, sin appears for what it truly is: a betrayal of His immense love, 'crucifying again the Son of God and...holding him up to contempt" (see Hebrews 6:6).
"Neglected Books"

May 12, 2010

Various & Sundry

Interesting link about how police in New York City are asked to cover up crime statistics; reminds me vaguely of how in The Big Short Michael Lewis points to errant compensation models as incentivising stupid behavior on the part of Wall Street bank firms.

What's interesting to me is how this mania towards measurement has crossed into so many different areas. With major league baseball and the growth of sabermetrics there's this drive towards greater and greater efficiency while ignoring the human factors that go into it. You see it on Wall Street where these investment firms went from private companies to public and began courting the quarterly statement. And now we see a police department in NYC cooking the books.

Ran into a co-worker as she was text-leaving the building, texting on her iPhone while stumbling slowly in the direction of the exit. "Never text and walk," I advised, and she said that she's worried about being addicted to this thing, how tough it will be if she has to go without it. I commiserated as a fellow "creature of the grid." It seems like a large step on the road of dependence to go from having a boom-box that uses six D-batteries (which can be stockpiled), to these Apple and Amazon e-readers and smart phones that not only require batteries that depend on electricity, but have batteries meant to be irreplaceable except through Apple, Amazon or hackerdom. The road to serfdom it is I tell you. But no one's holding a gun to my head either.

Enjoyed catching a bit of ESPN's coverage of the Tigers-Yanks game tonight. Nothing quite like an expansive view of a new ballpark, or at least one I've not seen before. I wonder if I'm the only one who watches baseball not for the game or players but for the scoreboard, surrounding buildings, agrarian field and basepaths.

Basketball I do follow, specifically the Cleveland Cavaliers in the playoffs where it's been a soap opera but with more ups and downs and far-fetched plot twists. Lebron James turns from Superman into Clark Kent before your very eyes, in successive games. His play is art, not life, it's a jazzy, improvisational foray up and down the court, and if the defense doesn't allow him some freedom of movement he simply passively passes the ball. He won't force notes, I mean shots. He manages to look above it all, above grubby panic, despite the circumstances. Down 2-3, they have to win two straight to advance.


Took Tuesday off because I felt "in the groove" of yesteryear, those halycon daze of whine and poses. And for the sake of the cold. For it was only when sick that I seem to allow myself pure laziness, to watch fluff on tv, to cast out all thoughts of exercise, to eat indulgently of sweets, to maybe even sit quietly in the bookroom and absorb that most fleeting of all things: solitude. The fact it was rainy made it even better, for I had no shining hours to "live up to". There was no nagging you-should-be-outside-itis.

The last sick day I spent like this was likely just before Pope John Paul II's death. That Friday I'd called off due to flu and spent an a lot of time in bed watching the reporters watching for signs of the Pope's death. The next day I remember watching "Lawrence of Arabia", the sort of long-winded show that fares best when your attention span is longer than normal. I think I'll never forget where I was and what I was doing when I learned of JP II's death. Don't recall JP I's or Paul VI's deaths.


A magical part of the day was reading a bit of the novel Prague, with its fish-out-of-water story that I so like. The typical American transplanted in Eastern Europe, with long David Foster Wallace-like asides which in this case included the protagonist's study of nostalgia.

Reading Rites of Spring: The Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins and feel the smarter for it. No twadling piffle, it's the vermouth of history books.


I'm feeding a cold with beer right now, a gentle crest of Lion stout to be chased by a zephyr of Sierra Nevada. Perfectly civilized, if I do say. Moments of Lichtenstein...well I was taken aback again by Ps 42's "By day the Lord will send his loving kindness; by night I will sing to him, and praise the God of my life." And I took "day" as meaning when things are going well and by "night" when things are going not so well and I thought of how difficult it is to praise God during the nights of our life, but I can see how St. Paul did it so well, singing hymns in prison.


I was always sympathetic to the view of a Protestant friend who said that Catholics use the Confessional as a revolving door and go out and sin immediately afterward. I was determined not to become one of "those Catholics," even though now I pretty much have. Now I wonder if that's a feature of Catholicism and not a bug, as they say in computer parlance. In short, I'm wondering whether we ought not be celebrating the forgiveness of sins rather than cursing our constant need for it?

I look back on my own past and see that the only unforgivable sin was sex, and so I was scandalized by the fraternity member with the cross on his chest and a girl in his bed. But didn't Christ hang with prostitutes? Was his sin so unforgivable or was it me that lacks "the long view". Sure he was greiviously sinning, but then so were the prostitutes and probably tax collecters Jesus associated with.

Jesus didn't seem to set up a litmus test and rank people but to win them - all of us - over. And he had the long view in mind; too often I look only at the short run and saw that guy as bad when he is probably holier than me at this moment.


I was generally patient and cheerful with my boss this week. He attributed it, likely correctly, to the post-vacation bliss and he urged me to go on frequent vacations. Between him & the Darwins, I think I'll be ready every other week.

May 07, 2010

May 06, 2010

Quotable & Linkable

Came across an interesting link from the Undercroft:
Fr. Baker has a post today about liturgical silence, from which I've borrowed the image above. He writes:
I think there is a real problem many people have with integration of personal and liturgical prayer. It is perhaps easier with the use of the Missal of John XXIII and its silent Canon or the Byzantine rites when the Canon is in silence, the Royal doors closed and the veil drawn, and prayerful hush descends on the congregation.
I smiled, thinking of something that occurred in my delightful Greek parish a few weeks ago. In the course of twenty-five years of attending Orthodox services, in England and in Greece, what has always fascinated and beguiled me is that almost miraculous conjunction of high solemnity with an easiness and geniality that somehow never descends to irreverence. Well - I say "never"...

My friend Arturo Vasquez has somewhere identified as a quality of "true liturgy" that it always "tells the story". I was thinking about Pascha and Pentecost (although it was still Lent) and the crowds milling in the street below that upper room, where "the doors being closed" the Glorious One appeared in the midst of his Apostles, or the tongues of fire descended upon them. Soon the doors of that hidden room would open, and emerging, they'd reveal to the street "He whom the world could not contain".

It's said that one knows an institution is in decline when its occupants have to be competent; conversely it's another quality of "true liturgy" that it works - it "tells the story" - even when it ought not to work.

May 05, 2010

More Cell Phone Pics from Chicago

Dominican Priest's Homily

Read the line from a hymn yesterday: "For the sheep the Lamb has bled." I thought how lambs are sheep, and so the analogy of God becoming man, God with us, is perpetuated in this statement. For the sheep, a sheep has bled! 

Then too the Gospel was from John where Jesus says, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives peace....".   And the Dominican priest who gave the homily straightforwardly laid out three ways we have this peace. What peace can the world not give? The world doesn't assert that God has a plan or that our burden of sin is forgiven. The really important things, in other words.

The homilist's three ways of how Christ gives us peace are:
1) Freedom from sin via the forgiveness of our sins. We can shed the guilt of our sin by the price Christ paid. We don't have to worry about whether or not we are forgiven.

2) Divine adoption. We are sons and daughters of God.

3) When suffering comes we can know that God has a plan.
He mentioned how while training for the Dominican order, a fellow novice said of the fasting asked of him, "Hey, this wasn't in the brochure!" Meaning the recruitment brochure. And how often, the priest said, we see this with God such that we want to say of something, "this wasn't in the brochure!" But we can't say that because we know who the brochure of Christan life is - Jesus. And we know he suffered. It's all there.

Bright the light's new-fall stout,
bright the burnished volumes bount,
Drink the dust of centuries there
burn with patent leather flair.

Glancing rays off glistening jackets
dense contains their covetous facets
Drink the draught of rich men wise
Drink I through a thousand sighs.

Dear old Gladstone in his stacks
Upon my books his picture backs
19th century England fair,
21st century States my lair.

Dreams I dreamt when I was young
Dreams of books with tongues that sung,
Now I gaze on volumes rippling,
Shall I have some Yeats or Kipling?

May 04, 2010


Want to get these links in my archives:   Darwin on the rural ideal versus the suburban compromise and Betty Duffy's response.   The rural ideal seems less and less appealing to me unless the farm is right by a church.  It feels like I've spent my life commuting and I'd druther not spend my golden years doing that with daily mass, if I had my druthers.


Roger Scruton writes lyrically:
The elderberry grows wild in our hedgerows, and produces the fragrant flowers which are at their headiest on midsummer nights - exhaling the perfume evoked in Act II of Die Meistersinger, as Hans Sachs sits before his cottage, meditating the great problem which, in my experience, wine does more than anything else to solve - the problem how to turn eros into agape, how to give up wanting someone, so as to want her happiness instead.
Hmm.... I could wish the Holy Father had mentioned this in Deus Caritas Est...

The Hot Corporate Phrase... best in breed. Our CEO uses it almost as often as dead people in Chicago vote. I'm sure Steven Riddle's heard this one.

Usage: "Frankly, our sales culture is not best in breed."

Frankly, this seems a step up from the impersonal "human resource" given that being referred to in canine terms beats, say, a mineral deposit.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You
the Constant Variety of Posts

Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search thereof when he is grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. - Epicurus from "The Letter to Menoeceus" via Steven Riddle

What Epicurus seems to point to is not allowing the good things of the world own us. When we allow them to get their claws in and was luxury becomes necessity, we've lost a little bit of ourselves to it. Think about it--how many of us now "need" e-book readers, computers, iPods, iPads, laptops, cell phones, and all of the paraphenalia that seems to accompany contemporary life...I'm not trying to say that all such items are worthless, 'but rather that we have so completely sold ourselves to them, we're no longer in a place that allows for objective analysis of actual utility. And I sit squarely in the center of that "we" and "us." I am not exempt, as exhibited by the fact that I type here on my laptop with my cellphone at my side and my iPod playing Debussy piano preludes as I wait for the three-second water boiler to stream water through the nearly instant ginger tea basket. All luxury that leads to slavery. Now I have to find some way of toting all of these "necessities" from place to place, rather than just going myself. Now I must care for them and must guard the bag that contains them rather than treating them like my suitcase (isn't it Iago who says "Who steals my purse steals trash?"--so too with my suitcase). - Steven of Momentary

We continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure. -From “Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict” via BD

While discussing Absalom, Absalom! last night, Darwin and I were wondering if there were any great Southern writers from before the Civil War....Did it take the War to produce a specifically Southern style? Perhaps that has something to do with what Quentin Compson ponders at the beginning of Absalom, Absalom: that although he was born after the War and had no personal connection to it, just by the fact of living in the defeated South his psyche is populated with the ghosts of those who died to defend a doomed culture. - Mrs. Darwin at "Reading for Believers"

It took me so long to realise why so many writers are alcoholics: because they are scared. - author Alain de Botton

You should remove your hair shirt,
The plank in your eye, you choose
to look for pain
So you are less
saddened by the good
When good isn’t certain. - Excerpt of Betty Duffy poem

...thus the attraction of suburbia, which grants its residents a stand-alone house and enough yard to give privacy and some sense of touching nature, while at the same time leaving them able to commute to their jobs, belong to a church which only claims membership by a minority of the population, enjoy bookstores and ethnic foods and all the bustling variety which an urban center provides. Suburbia represents a compromise between our natural desire for land and local rootedness, and our cultural and economic desire to take part in city life. - Darwin Catholic

I will be cramming 14 weeks worth of stuff into 6 weeks, twice. I accomplish this by doubling the speed at which I speak. It's like attending an auction. - Professor Luse of Apologia

Only prayer is a cure. It is a cure each day, when each day the demons attack with fresh ferocity. It is a cure when my will is not enough to overcome fatigue, when nothing is good: “Let us sing to the Lord all our life, alleluia!” What the hell language is that? The language of the Church supplants my own. I need new words, those of my fellow believers. “The waters swirled about me, threatening my life; the abyss enveloped me.” (Jon 2:6) and yet, “From on high he reached down and seized me; he drew me forth from the mighty waters.” (Ps 18:17) I had forgotten. Even since yesterday, I had forgotten that the wind and sea obey my God. Sometimes I need the Church to speak for me, to pray for me, to save me. Sometimes I don’t want to pray; death is preferable. But the words read from the liturgy of the hours, other people’s words, the prayer of the Church throughout the centuries, literally saves my life. And then the magnitude of that universal prayer lifts me up. I am in awe of it: the idea that if I pray for the whole Church, everyone is the beneficiary of my prayer, including myself. And if others pray for the whole Church, I am the beneficiary of others’ prayers, even those in another part of the world, in other times of history; the Church eternal, the Kingdom of God, prays with me and for me. It saves my life. And it blows my mind. - Betty Duffy

It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable. - Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005.

May 03, 2010

The Big Short

Much enjoyed -- although "enjoy" might be a stretch given the subject matter -- Michael Lewis's The Big Short, which attempts to get at the root cause of the banking debacle last year.

I’ve mentioned before that the biggest shock of my adult life was discovering there were no adults, or at least precious few. Lewis mentions something along those lines with respect to the financial world:
“The big Wall Street firms, seemingly so shrewd and self-interested, had somehow become the dumb money… Charlie and Jamie had always sort of assumed that there was some grown-up in charge of the financial system whom they had never met; now, they saw there was not.”

Chicago Trip

Midwestern born and bred,
Midwestern I've been fed,
Midwestern, have I said?
Midwestern till I'm dead!   --
It was an idea born of a double-shot of Jameson after beer pong at the local Delta Chi house. (Just kidding.) Where could a Midwesterner go for a cheap vacation in April? Chicago! And whoda thunk it'd be warm and sunny and with streets full of surprise and relish (and not the kind they put on Chicago hotdogs)?


As I get older, I seem to have greater appetite for a nice view from the hotel room. Call it my own personal gentrification; I've come a long way from running down the streets of South Central L.A. It's why I go with the balcony option on cruises - there's just something electric about eat/drinking/smoking a cigar while eating up the view.

Because sometimes it's all in where you sit. Take today - if I sit in the chair beside the big window that faces east, I see the curve of the green Chicago river against the gothic, church-like Chicago Tribune building - a pleasant view made more so by the hint of blue spire in the gap next to the Tribune. It looks like a misplaced relic from a bygone age, a bit of Tolkien whimsy brought to life.

But if I sit in the middle of the window and look straight ahead all I see is an ugly tower cum parking garage. And if I sit and face west, all I see are molten modern skyscrapers and hotel high-rises.

It reminds me of how author William Least Heat-Moon describes a remodeled house in Kansas, of how it went from "grace to practicality, the commonplace absorbing the beautiful and superfluous, as the twentieth century often does to the nineteenth."

But later the sky darkens and the cars in the tower parking garage magically disappear and the skyscraper lights glow and the Westin sign sings its red and from any direction it’s not so bad.

We took the El train from O’Hare to get here. “It’s part of the adventure,” Steph said, and I agreed, though even more so when I found out a subway ride was $2 each, everything else $25 or more.

I read while she chose the better and observed the colorful urban scenery. The elevated subway is a chance to see neighborhoods far beyond the sedate Loop.

As soon as we got downtown we looked for a promising restaurant, and Ronny’s Steakhouse, established 1963, looked a likely suspect. Afterwards we walked towards Lake Michigan via the winding BP Bridge in Millenium park. It seemed like we walked as much east-west as north-south but it mattered not for the weather was excellent.

Then it was to the downtown where we wandered aimlessly waiting for a trolley car, and it eventually became evident we weren’t going to just run into one by accident. So I looked up the double-decker bus phone number at a Barnes & Noble and called to find where to meet one.

We rode past the Magnificent Mile, the home of Oprah Winfrey (whose apartment overlooks a Chicago beach that in July is “packed with bodies” according to the tour guide), Holy Name Cathedral, Blue Chicago, the Sears Tower, Soldier field and the museum area. It was disappointing only because it didn’t go to any of the neighborhoods, no authentic Polish culture for example, to the extent you can see derivative Polish culture from a swing by in a double-decker bus.

‘Round 4pm Steph went back to the hotel while I briefly hit the Art Institute and its glories. I was hypmotized by the simplest paintings, admonished by beauty.

Then hoofed it past the House of Blues, the Rock Bottom Brewery to the Holy Name Cathedral where a Mass was in process. Initially disappointed, I was transported by the IHS porthole in the center of the church dome, it looking like a giant host in the ceiling as if to signify the centrality of the Eucharist.


Sat in the windowsill and planned the day, which officially began after with a delicious breakfast at a nearby restaurant that was, unfortunately, a chain but location is the mother of invention, or words to that effect. “Potbellies” was close by, even if the d├ęcor, which included a portrait of Robert E. Lee., didn’t exactly scream “Chicago” .

Over fresh coffee I mused aloud. “When I nuke coffee,” meaning heat it up via microwave, “it never tastes that good.” Steph affirmed that, and I was glad for the confirmation. All these years I wondered if it was just my imagination that coffee tasted worse after being microwaved and now I can rest easy.

Afterwards I headed north up to the Old Town neighborhood, past interesting architecture and an Orthodox church that had apologetic material in its sign-board, mentioning how all churches except the Roman Catholicism go back to Christ, and the Romans broke off from the Orthodox. Tried to visit the church but it was locked, proving it can’t be the One True Church. *grin* St. Michael’s was open and I explored it before heading back to the hotel.

Soon it was on to famous Wrigley field, my first trip to the ballpark gem. The weather was splendid, a very sunny 65-70 degrees. I bought a Cubs hat to shade my eyes and as souvenir. The Cubbies held it close for 4-5 innings before completely falling apart. When we left it was like 13-1.

Behind us one fan commented to another that “it’s summer boys, the ivy is growing.“ And indeed although it was a bit scraggly and pale in color compared to its typical mid-summer hunter green, it was a timeless reminder of the ballpark that changes with the season.

After the ballgame we took the train back to the Loop and had a pleasant dinner at Berghoff’s, a German restaurant that brews its own beer. Steph loved the seasonal beer, a “Solstice Wit bier with a hint of orange.” I had the Amber since they were out of Pale Ale.

Thursday night at the Art Institute there’s free admission from 5-8, so we headed there immediately after dinner and I drank in room after room of wondrous paintings. With the Columbus art museum, it always feels like “is that all there is?” while with the Metropolitan in New York it seems overwhelming. Here was an in-between.

I found Steph sitting under the tail of the huge lion statue out front. The night air was tangy and the view restful. "You’re in a risky spot there,” referring to the possibility of artificial lion poop. “Want to hoof it?” . And we did, avoiding cab fees though not foot soreness.


Friday morning felt like the first real day of vacation given that it always takes a couple days to re-awaken a sense of wonder. But in this case it was also the last. Got a seat with a view at breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Down the street there was a Church of Christ of interesting architecture and I wondered how I had missed it when walking on street level. Perhaps because it takes time to really see?

After breakfast we lazily made our way back up to the room where I languorously reading about the near magical catches of Willie Mays in his initial year.

Then we planned the day - I called the Chicago Transit to ask how to tour Chicago neighborhoods via subway, and he suggested the Brown line. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in a subway train on such a beautiful day (third in a row, shocking for April in Chicago (if not Paris).

Steph wanted to do the Field Museum of Natural History, so we hit the trains and headed to see “Sue”, a nearly intact dinosaur skeleton some 67 million years old. Just as the heavens suggest distances untold, dinosaur bones test ones ability to conceive of time eternal. Our historical record goes back a few thousand years, which is likely as small relative to the history of the planet as our solar system is in the much larger universe. It was amazing such creatures existed, and like Christ showing his wounds to the apostles after the Resurrection, it was easier to believe in examining the arthritis on the bones, broken ribs that had healed, abscesses in the jaw. Even gigantic carnivores have reason for pity and it seems Sue lived only 27-28 years.

It was also wild to touch a meteorite, something that is not only the oldest thing in the universe, dating from about the time of the Big Bang, but that which comes from an asteroid belt off the coast of Mars, making it an object from the farthest away.

There was a large gemstone exhibit including a display on gold coins, where it said that gold coins were not just a form of hard currency but a work of art. So now I have both art and gold in the form of a couple “double eagles”.

Another exhibit showed a “what if you crossed a Chinese person with an Irishman?” and variations on that theme. Showed pictures of men and women and children of wildly disparate genetic blends. “I am what everyone will be in 2500 AD” wrote one man under his picture, which suggests that he thinks we are moving towards homogeneity. Likely in some things such as skin color but looking at the diversity of pictures, it seemed like greater variety.

The Irish and German cultures in America in the late 19th century often clashed over cleanliness issues (the Germans more so than the Irish) and language and culture, but now not at all. Is intermarriage as the great assimilator?


It’s energizing to walk around a big city, never sure what might be around the next corner. The bright-lit theater sign lured me down a side street, and the fresh smell of gourmet popcorn lured me into a shop on that side street where I picked up some pecan-carmel crisp. Warm, and delicious as it was serendipitous.

I see little girls like butterflies in a room high above street level, performing ballet moves. It reminded me of Bill Luse's daughter makes a living doing it in this very city.

I’m often surprised in a big city how individual people seem to be, how far from wanting to fit in they often feel the freedom of anonymity and reflect it in outrageous ways. We see a guy singing and waving his arms to his ipod music as if he were Fred Astaire in “Singin’ in the Rain”. A woman clutches her stomach with both hands, grimacing in pain with tears in her eyes, right there on State street on a Friday pedestrian rush hour (or not so pedestrian as the case may be). Young women wear shorts so short or tops so revealing as to reveal a casualness, a comfort in their own skin such that it’s like they’re in their boudoir. It seems paradoxical that a large city would bring out more individuation rather than less, although with the short shorts that’s less individuation that simply the new fashion.

IN the afternoon, as precious vacation time slowly perished, I walked back from the public library to meet Steph at Potbellies. The Harold Washington library, with all due respect to Harold Washington, was a disappointment; the 9th floor winter garden was closed off for some event and the rest of it seemed like an example of modern architecture’s difficulty with creating beautiful spaces. Or, as was said of one beautiful 19th century building, “you couldn’t build that today even if you wanted to.” I was chagrined to have been conned by the library. I’d have rather just taken the brown line subway and looked out the windows, a $2.25 form of travel. Or even give me a Starbucks or local coffee shop for the smells if not the bells. I feel more writerly there, a superficial reason that ought not be discounted merely for it being superficial.

Back on the El for one last ride. I looked out the window this time, and watched the city exhaust itself until it transformed into suburb. One-by-one the riders left until a nearly empty train deposited us at the airport. I'd not packed any eczema medicine and the underside of my left knee looked like hamburger meat. It itched like crazy but I ignored it because itching, like sin, doesn't accomplish anything. And I thought about how it seems easier to avoid the "sin" of itching when real sins come more easily despite worse results. It takes very little faith to know that itching causes greater misery, but it does take some faith to see that our sins make us worse off.  When I got home I immediately applied the medicine, which immediately made it itch. But this time I attributed the itch to healing. Could I welcome the itch now, knowing every minute was a moment closer to itch-free skin? Could I not apply that to the spiritual life and know that the medicine of suffering can be similarly applied?

While at the TSA, watching all the passengers go through the security measures, I thought: “all this just because some people half-way across the world don’t like us.” The cost of hatred, though admittedly a tiny, insignificant one compared to those who died in the attacks on 9/11.

I asked a attendant there if we still had to take off our shoes.

“Everyone but the workers,” he said. A mini haha.

It seems like that practice started just after the shoe bomber was discovered. What relief he wasn't “the Penis Bomber”. Imagine having to be castrated just to go on a flight?