December 31, 2010

Bush & the 2% Raise

Am enjoying George Bush's memoir but find the parts about Iraq and Afghanistan overly familiar and thus a bit of a slog. Am wondering if, in all those history books he consumed, he ever came across the story of the British empire and the overreach thereof. If the story of Britain was too much colonialism, perhaps the story of America is too much safety consciousness? Bush writes with regard to Afghanistan, "Our government was not prepared for nation building." Not a supreme surprise. That said, I understand why we went to war in Iraq & Afghanistan. There was a compelling case to be made even if hindsight makes me long for the days of Clinton sending expensive missiles into empty desert tents. The irony is that we actually thought that that was expensive!

Another line in the bio just read: "In early 2003, Alan Greenspan told me that the uncertainty [about whether to go to war with Iraq] was hurting the economy." Aren't we all getting a mite tired of having the economy hanging over our heads? Of course now it looks funny since the world of hurt that the economy was going to suffer in '08 made any potential '03 "hurt" look like a piker. Still, it is tiring to be ever the servant of, rather than master of the economy. And we see this most blatantly in our huge bank bailouts and the "too big to fail" firms. Kowtowing to Wall Street is getting a bit long in the tooth, especially given that the gains on Wall Street don't seem to be replicated in the employment market.

Am looking forward to the new tax law that is going to provide a 2% raise in '11 even though it's stupid and will be paid on the backs of our grandchildren. As a co-worker put it, "they're not taking from us some of the money they're not going to give us" (i.e. Social Security). Ben suggests we stick it in our retirement account but I say it should go to beer. I'm guessing this is going to be a "real 2%" raise instead of the pseudo 2% raises which, after taxes, are reduced to about 1.2%. (Actually the 2% raise may cover the soon-to-be $4 a gallon gas.)

December 30, 2010

Benedict on Bologna

The Holy Father on Poor Clare abbess St Catherine of Bologna, who sounds like our contemporary:
In his catechesis, the pope described the life of St. Catherine of Bologna, an abbess of the Poor Clares and "a woman of great wisdom and culture" who lived in the 15th century.

Despite the many centuries that separate her time and today, St. Catherine still speaks to modern men and women, said the pope.

December 29, 2010

Dedicated to Ellyn

Chesterton defends the seeming prosaic:
I remember a long time ago a sensible sub-editor coming up to me with a book in his hand, called "Mr. Smith," or "The Smith Family," or some such thing. He said, "Well, you won't get any of your damned mysticism out of this," or words to that effect. I am happy to say that I undeceived him; but the victory was too obvious and easy. In most cases the name is unpoetical, although the fact is poetical. In the case of Smith, the name is so poetical that it must be an arduous and heroic matter for the man to live up to it. The name of Smith is the name of the one trade that even kings respected, it could claim half the glory of that arma virumque which all epics acclaimed. The spirit of the smithy is so close to the spirit of song that it has mixed in a million poems, and every blacksmith is a harmonious blacksmith.

Even the village children feel that in some dim way the smith is poetic, as the grocer and the cobbler are not poetic, when they feast on the dancing sparks and deafening blows in the cavern of that creative violence. The brute repose of Nature, the passionate cunning of man, the strongest of earthly metals, the wierdest of earthly elements, the unconquerable iron subdued by its only conqueror, the wheel and the ploughshare, the sword and the steam-hammer, the arraying of armies and the whole legend of arms, all these things are written, briefly indeed, but quite legibly, on the visiting-card of Mr. Smith. Yet our novelists call their hero "Aylmer Valence," which means nothing, or "Vernon Raymond," which means nothing, when it is in their power to give him this sacred name of Smith—this name made of iron and flame.

This 'n That...

Reading, writing & a drink-metic...
Christmas Eve traveled to Cincy where the nieces and nephews opened the OSU-themed presents I'd gotten them and one of them asked, with all the innocence of youth, "are these [OSU socks] meant for me?" Not having to get your non-Godchildren gifts means one-stop shopping at a Buckeye store. Poor timing, as it turned out, given le scandal. Meanwhile back at our homestead brother-in-law Greg, an almost semi-professional actor, played the part of Santa for the little ones. They apparently didn't know who he was what with the disguised voice. From playing Scrooge to playing Santa in a week. He's been busy.

On Christmas Day there was 8am Mass, a minimalist one free of hustle or bustle or choir but still Christmas, be it a high or low Mass. Christmas is not a feeling but a fact, and that first Christmas was in many ways low-key. Still, I always want, one day, to go to Midnight Mass. Call it a bucket list item.

The usual Sunday morning was in force but for the agenda was to get an air mattress that wouldn't sink in the middle of the night like a book-room Titanic. Stopped at Bath, Bed & Beyond and blanched alliteratively at the $159 price tag. Decided to try to repair existing one, which fortunately held its air this time for whatever reason. I "feel" $159 richer.

Like a switch flipped, the Christmas music plays no more on Sirius/XM satellite radio. Proof that if I want to hear carols, I best hear them out of season or buy them for my iPod.

Meanwhile the six-day hiatus is on the cuspward side as I listen to Harvard's classical music station and drink an Ed Fitz porter. I feel as though I'm ready to go back to work, having read my eyes off (mostly non-fiction, including most of "Paul Among the People", about St. Paul.)

Had the "healing breakfast" of McD's. Oh but that Wildberry shake felt good against my raw throat. Headed to the 'brary around 10 and then subsequently read, slept till 4pm, with a timeout for 20 minutes on elliptical trainer. Enjoyed coffee's strong delights too.

The book on St. Paul was a bit on the liberal side of things but was interesting nonetheless. She examines some of the harder sayings of Paul and tries to soften them by offering the context of the times. Alan Jacobs, who is one of the most interesting non-Catholic writers working in the spiritual field these days, said it was one of the best books he read in 2010.

Also read some of Chesterton's Heretics, and was greatly pleased to note that even hypocrites are not beyond the pale for Chesterton the Good. From Heretics:
We ought to see far enough into a hypocrite to see even his sincerity. We ought to be interested in that darkest and most real part of a man in which dwell not the vices that he does not display, but the virtues that he cannot. And the more we approach the problems of human history with this keen and piercing charity, the smaller and smaller space we shall allow to pure hypocrisy of any kind. The hypocrites shall not deceive us into thinking them saints; but neither shall they deceive us into thinking them hypocrites. And an increasing number of cases will crowd into our field of inquiry, cases in which there is really no question of hypocrisy at all, cases in which people were so ingenuous that they seemed absurd, and so absurd that they seemed disingenuous.

December 22, 2010

Diaristic Wanderings

Homilist at downtown Mass: "when Jesus said my burden is light, he knew there would be a cross along the way but that that burden (the cross) is much, much smaller than the burden carried by those who sin. How much suffering sin causes others even in this life!"

Highlight of Sunday was listening to a city choir perform Handel's Messiah. Wonderful to take in the message and get into the Christmas spirit. The sopranos induce chills, as do those moments when the whole choir is singing the same words at the same time. Handel emphasizes the really key messages that way, it seems.

Car tire warnings seem proof of the questionableness of progress. Back in the old days if I was low on air I was blissfully ignorant and now there's the equivalent of a four-alarm fire on my dash when one dips below 24psi.

Had the elixir of a dark, smoky Edmund Fitzgerald last night. Man, but that drink sings! It's a porter of no wasted movement: you can smell it long before you taste it. The first drink is like a bass blues singer driving home the beat that singes your synapses. The other one was the delicious Bells Best Brown Ale; the adjective gives no lie (brown or best). Flavorful with a hint of sweetness. All-in-all surprisingly good, the second even better. It ranked a 94 on the rate beer scale, whereas O'Fallon's Hemp, Hop & Rye, which I tentatively was going to gift, rated only a 42.

Excerpts from the novel Let the Great World Spin:
What Corrigan wanted was a fully believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth—the filth, the war, the poverty—was that life could be capable of small beauties. He wasn’t interested in the glorious tales of the afterlife or the notions of a honey-soaked heaven.


he’d rather die with his heart on his sleeve than end up another cynic.

“That’s what I like about God. You get to know Him by His occasional absence.”

The men sat rooted like Larkin poems.

And a funny line from "Russian Debutante Handbook" by Gary Sheygnart:

“I am a writer-poet. No, a novelist-poet. But for a living I make investments. A novelist-poet-investor. Plus I do dance improv.”

Memory Lane

On my desk sits a framed photograph of the baseball team my grandfather managed. "They're all dead now!" Mom might exclaim in the perpetual surprise we all feel at the brevity of life. A tree stands in the background which, perhaps, has escaped the ravages of time and bulldozer.

The team looks full of half-familiar faces. Hamilton, Ohio seemed so large and impersonal back when I was growing up; now it seems smaller and more insular. Looking in the high school alum magazine, one sees the same pattern of names. Doing genealogy research one sees the same continuity backwards.

The picture was likely taken in the early 1900s and Grandpa himself looks Jewish, what with the prominent nose and smallish height. I've always thought he had a most distinctive face despite the rather commonplace combination of Irish and German forebears. His dark eyebrows flare up high off the eyes and his cheeks are clearly delineated from his mouth and nose. Perhaps it was just that he was still "close to the boat" to look too Americanized, since his mother was an immigrant from southwest Germany.

German immigrants of the 19th century were notorious for being “good drinkers”. They were the opposite of the Irish, whose example provided much of the impetus for the costly experiment of Prohibition. The Germans were industrious and upstanding despite their penchant for beer and Grandpa took after that side, not having the problem with it his Irish father had.

He wears a uniform with an "H" on his chest, surely signifying "Hamilton". I wonder now if he ever felt the outsider, being a Catholic in the public school system when that was rare. Or as an athlete but a small one, someone who had to rely on a certain amount of stealth and skill rather than raw brawn.

Always a lover of sports, I didn't realize, growing up, that he was so good at them, that he wasn't just a spectator. He had “played the game” to paraphrase Howard Cosell...

December 21, 2010

Last Minute Gift Suggestion

Uncle TSO scored a huge hit last year when he gifted his 9-year old nephew with the old classic Strange But True Baseball Stories. My nephew's read it three times o'er.

I see someone went to the effort to actually put a video review on

December 18, 2010

Quick links from my iPod

Rare footage of Padre Pio. link

I'm shocked I agree with a Leftist:link

The murse dilemma: link

Rebecca West on boredom: link

Going to adoration is proof of gratitude. Catechism 1418

Contrastong medieval images of the Virgin Mary with contemporary pornography link

No Fear Felt By Woman Without Functioning Amygdala: The amygdala, an almond-shaped part of the brain... link

Lack of reading privacy w ereaders link

December 17, 2010

Central Ohio Nun

As Dylan says, "Nuns are some of the happiest human beings on the face of the earth!"

December 16, 2010

Free Sample...

...of Gilbert Magazine (pdf), dedicated to furthering the writings of GK Chesterton.

And from this...

"The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos." - Stephen Jay Gould

And from this one could take it two ways: from the agnostic view, of the inability of man to reach convictions about anything, including God, or from the theistic view, as a display of the startling largeness of God.

Parody blog...

Early Adopter Swears Off Afghanistan 1.0 & 2.0 Versions

It's Not the Size but the Quality...

...of your audience:
Now if I just had something worthwhile to say I'd be all set.

Pointless Asides R Us....

Oh, I remember those delicious side trips to Thompson library this summer, which held all the associations of travel with none of the expense. I remember those impressive, impassive surroundings, flanked by trees shedding like dogs in the heat. I remember how the reading room was recently featured on 60 Minutes, showing the correspondent strolling through with Fed chief Ben Bernanke: arguably the second most powerful man in America was ambling in the very room I spent some time in this past summer.

Was reminded of sense memories yesterday while watching Samantha Brown's trip on the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship. There she was in that gaudy midway, with pubs full of drinks and drinkers. Then too the bracing balcony views, where I puff an imaginary cigar in my mind's eye.

Oh but I also recall that single moment, dare I say singular one, poolside Wednesday with the full hull of day ahead. What a lovely ache it produces now when time has turned and I sit in the drear of winter! There I was with the full suite of tools - the iPod, the netbook and the Kindle, reading, writing and music. How odd, it seems, that it was only so late in the week that that moment was recalled, as if all the days before were mere trompe l'oeil! That single view of gently pulsing water, that blue meridian time resonates, the time when I reclined under the firm yet gentle sun and looked out on the tropical fecundity. I recall the first day and how it felt like cheating but how by Monday or Tuesday it felt natural, it felt real and how by Wednesday or Thursday I felt oh so present. I recall the island-y drinks, only three of them given the expense and naturally now I wonder at my frugality. I recall the brazen displays of womanly flesh, of bare cups and flush feet and rim'd suits running to the sweet spots.

December 13, 2010

Interesting Quotes from Somerset Maugham...

Found in his memoir The Summing Up:
The humorist has a quick eye for the humbug; he does not always recognize the saint...You tend to close your eyes to truth, beauty and goodness because they give no scope to your sense of the ridiculous.

* * *

Selfishness and kindliness, idealism and sensuality, vanity, shyness, disinterestedness, courage, laziness, nervousness, obstinacy, and diffidence, they can all exist in a single person and form a plausible harmony. It has taken a long time to persuade readers of the truth of this...It is evidently less trouble to make up one's mind about a man one way or the other and dismiss suspense with the phrase, he's one of the best or he's a dirty dog.

* * *

I lived at this time in a group of young men who had by nature gifts that seemed to me much superior to mine. They could write and draw and compose with a facility that aroused my envy...I know now that all they had was the natural creativity of youth. To write prose and instinctive with a great many young persons. It is a form of play, due merely to the exuberance of their years, and is no more significant than a child's building of a castle on the sands...Youth is the inspiration. One of the tragedies of the arts is the spectacle of the vast number of persons who have been misled by this passing fertility to devote their lives to the effort of creation. Their invention deserts them as they grow older, and they are faced with the long years before them in which, unfitted by now for a more humdrum calling, they harass their wearied brain to beat out material it is incapable of giving them.

* * *

The value of culture is its effect on character. It avails nothing unless it ennobles and strengthens that. Its use is for life. Its aim is not beauty but goodness...There is no more merit in having read a thousand books than in having ploughed a thousand fields. The True, the Good and the Beautiful are not the perquisites of those who have been to expensive schools.

* * *

To me reading is a rest as to other people conversation or a game of cards. It is more than that; it is a necessity, and if I am deprived of it for a little while I find myself as irritable as the addict deprived of his drug.

* * *

I can never forget myself. The hysteria of the world repels me and I never feel more aloof than when I am in the midst of a throng surrendered to a violent feeling of mirth or sorrow... I am incapable of complete surrender. And so, never having felt some of the fundamental emotions of normal men, it is impossible that my work should have the intimacy, the broad human touch and the animal serenity which the greatest writers alone can give.

December 10, 2010

Let Evening Come

by Jane Kenyon
Jane Kenyon
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.

From a 30 Rock episode...

...Liz Lemon comes through one of those super cool-moe faux book doors:

An Address... Charles E. Rice, professor emeritus of Notre Dame Law School:
We are privileged to be at Holy Cross College, an institution that “Rudy” put on the map. That film, incidentally, was not fantasy. In addition to football, Dan (Rudy) Ruettiger in his senior year, was vice-president of the Notre Dame Boxing Club which raises large sums of money through the Bengal Bouts to support the Holy Cross missions in Bangladesh. “[T]ough-as-nails senior Daniel Ruettiger,” as he was described, won the 175-pound championship in 1976. Dominic Napolitano, the legendary director of the Bengal Bouts, said Rudy was “one of the greatest motivators in a dozen years.”

So Rudy is real. And so is the achievement of this excellent college. In important ways, Holy Cross College is what Notre Dame was before it began its pursuit of prestige and the approval of the academic ruling class.

God, the Poet of Oceans

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are. - Anais Nin
I long to savor, to look back, on the week still so prominent in my cell memory: that of the burnished pool-side sun in San Juan. How charismatic those nearby waters seemed, sparkling like colorless champagne! Comforting waterfalls sounded in the background while weighty deliberations took place in deciding what to read.

I long to remember it, memorize it even, those ambulatory mornings to the pool, checking out two towels ("Room 1432"), followed by sterling mint sun the color of translucence. I could feel the heat on my bare skin as I pulled out the Kindle and its salutary delights. I'd adjust my ballcap in acknowledgment of the sun, my sunglasses on as I commenced reading with great ache, gobbling up the text as if filet mignon.

We fell into the routine as into a hammock, our days broken up by a civilized 11am workout overlooking the ocean. Steph read "You Had Me at Woof" and Dave Ramsey's Money Management Book. I read too, drunk on prose and occasionally poetry.

The bright sundial of time was between 10 and 2, that royal "we" during which we were immune from the troubles of limits. A couple days we walked in that gilt-light to the local stores, an activity at once productive and a way to enjoy the weather.

Then too there was the taste of happy hour in late afternoon, the consolation of the later hours, drinking beer the color of sunshine. We'd walk out of the pool area past the ever-present security guard through the slim portal to the ocean. We'd find two open loungers and sink into them, my earbuds alive with song while Steph read or people-watched.

I spent an hour of the early eves out on the balcony, taking in the sunset while smoking a cigar and writing of the days' "events".

We slept deliciously, the room satisfactorily chilled; I'd awake at 6:30 or 7 and head out to the balcony for morning prayer and a morning read. Breakfast would come with immediately upon hunger: cereal, peanut butter and a protein shake...

December 08, 2010

Benedict the Pastor

Nowhere in the Pope's Q&A book is the term "mortal sin" used, which I think is interesting. The Church has lessened emphasis on that either/or, saved/not saved, state of grace/state of sin dichotomy. Where it's particularly interesting is how Benedict looks at the case of those remarried and divorced. They cannot receive Communion because, objectively, it would seem they are in a state of mortal sin. And yet Benedict refers to them as being in a "canonically irregular" situation (this is not your father's church) and is very kind, gentle and offers a lot of hope to them and therefore to all of us:
Pastoral care, for its part, has to seek ways of staying close to individuals and of helping them, even in, shall we say, their irregular situation, to believe in Christ as the Savior, to believe in his goodness, because he is always there for them, even though they cannot receive communion. And of helping them to remain in the Church, even though their situation is canonically irregular. Pastoral care has to help them accept that, yes, I do not live up to what I should be as a Christian, but I do not cease to be a Christian, to be loved by Christ, and the more I remain in the Church, the more I am sustained by him.

December 07, 2010

Chesterton Quote o' the Day

"It is but part of the modern malady; the incapacity for doing things without overdoing things. It is an incapacity to understand the ancient paradox of moderation. As the drunkard is the man who does not understand the delicate and exquisite moment when he is moderately and reasonably drunk, so the motorist and motion-picture artist are people who do not understand the divine and dizzy moment when they really feel things are moving."
- from "Generally Speaking"

Post-Vacation Errands, Check

Busy couple of lunch hours so far this week, the product of renewed post-vacation zest for knocking out errand-ish tasks.

On Monday, dragged my arse to the local gold shop and sold the two American eagles I'd purchased in March. They wanted a ridiculous amount in commission, which reminded me why I don't like gold as an investment (high transaction costs) but for all I know about selling gold, perhaps that's typical. Since the world didn't come to an end during the past six months, I figured it was time to exchange it for something a bit more liquid. She gave me $2,634 in cash, mostly in 50s, and I felt like a drug dealer carrying all that (minus the heat of course). Went to the bank and deposited it and the cashier didn't blink an eye. I suppose a couple grand isn't what it used to be. (The new $600?).

Today I got smart and shopped for a real alignment shop and not lame Tire Discounters who say they align but really do not. Spent the hour gainfully reading the Pope's new Q&A book. Tis true that there's little in it so far I couldn't have predicted, based on my wide reading of his thought, nevertheless he always has a good diagnosis of modern ills.

The twenty-something gal at the register noted my Kindle and gushed: "Oh I want one of those SOOO bad. I'm reading this book today and my son bent the pages and if I had an e-reader...". Said that she saw one for $60 on Craigslist and hopes her boyfriend got the message concerning it.

Am sort of following, appreciatively, Dylan's appreciation of Heather King of late. Surprising to see him rank her ahead of Merton. She is such an interesting figure and seems to have only one gear: full. She is semi-exhausting to read, at least for me, given how real and raw much of her writing and posts are. She seems to know suffering and is not afraid to write about it. Meanwhile I'm afraid of suffering and have even a low tolerance for reading about it. And yet I read Redeemed. Her humility is humbling, as is her writing talent.

Now I have to get moving on PARCHED since Betty Duffy's to be discussing it at Reading for Believers site.

December 05, 2010

Is this a great country or what?

Overnight bus takes visitors to Manhattan for a 12-hour whirlwind

I may have to take advantage of that sometime.

Various & Sundry

Mike Poterma in NR... On Sarah Palin

* * *

Free e-book on Amazon and presumably elsewhere: Anthony Powell's first volume of "A Dance to the Rhythm of Time".

* * *

"For fear of the newspapers politicians are dull, and at last they are too dull even for the newspapers." - GK Chesterton

A Prayer

Read something recently in which the saint exclaimed that being persecuted was not as difficult as it would seem because Christ was bearing most of the cross, while his portion was very small. A saintly attitude indeed!

Lord let me seek thee in Thee
and in others,
let me persevere
like the thief on the gibbet,
whom once in my childishness
I thought: "there is the least of saints!"
though he endured the greatest of suffering
without rebuking his God.
Dismas, Dismas,
pray for us!

December 02, 2010

Damn Lies, Statistics, etc...

'Twould seem that my Twitter stat counter suggests I'm still a long way from complete worldwide Twitter domination. I love the deadpan vote of no confidence in suggesting I'll likely lose a follower:

Testing of the Emergency Blogcast System

This is a test of the emergency blogcast system. This is only a test. Should an actual blogmergency occur, you will be notified.