April 29, 2011

Another From NR

Interesting 1967 National Review piece on the hippies:
But, above all, it is in their orgiastic wallowing in enjoyment and love that they recall the Adamites; for the Adamites, despite Scripture which tells us that Adam and Eve were put into Paradise to “keep and to tend it,” in other words to work and cultivate it, always insisted that Paradise was for “bliss and joy.” The hippies, I imagine, are not much on the Bible or the Christian tradition (they prefer Krishna and the Buddhist sutras), and so they probably do not see the connection...

Perhaps the most shattering comment on the hippie love-mystique was made long in advance by that well-known protagonist of the Old Left, V. I. Lenin. It is a familiar hippie slogan, as an expression of love, love, love, that “if it moves, fondle it . . .” Keep this in mind. An anecdote is recalled about Lenin, years before the Revolution. Lenin was passionately fond of classical music; and, one day, as he was listening to something from Beethoven, his favorite composer, he turned to his companion, and said: “What greatness, what beauty, men have produced. One feels like patting them on the head for such marvelous achievements. . . .” Then, suddenly, he caught himself and exclaimed: “But be careful! They’ll bite your hand off!”

Saint Angustine somewhere says very much the same thing. And when Augustine and Lenin agree on something, it is surely a something well worth taking note of.

That Glowing '50s Economy

A National Review columnist, not surprisingly, differs with liberal Paul Krugman on the reasons the economy was great during the '50s and early '60s:
My motivation in writing about political economy is, in some ways, much like Krugman’s. But rather than seeing that moment as primarily the product of policies like unionization, entitlements and high taxes, as is Krugman’s view, I believe that it was primarily the product of circumstance. We had just won a global war, and had limited competition; we had a huge wave of immigration, followed by a multi-decade pause; oil was incredibly cheap; a backlog of technical developments had yet to be exploited and scaled up, and so forth. We can’t go back there, at least not exactly.

Ye Old Kindle Sale

Time to sell my old first generation Kindle since I'm quite pleased with my second generation. It's surreal that sellers are asking between $110 and $1,100 for something that is now in the third generation and goes for $114 new.

I put mine up for $105, since dropped to $85:

Quick Takes (Now 25% Quicker!)

Read an interesting line from a Peter Daly column about giving up things for Lent and how that can discipline you but it doesn’t change your attitudes, the internal things that make us unclean like anger, lust, envy etc... Of course the two aren’t mutually exclusive as Heather King pointed out in a post; the discipline of fasting carried over into the discipline of not engaging in gossip or judgmental talk.

* * *

I hunger now for some Donald Hall lyricism as a rare stretch of sun gleams in the bookroom window. I look at the great diversity of trees out front and think how I underrate the front porch; the back patio overlooks a maple, a peach tree and thirty evergreens. The front yard overlooks a panoply of trees of every description and, blessedly, only one evergreen. I like pine but one there’s a uniformity to them that eventually bores. In spring one wants to see the excitement of change, and the pines change not.

I was on the front porch earlier and a fine rain sent white petals drifting in the wet wind. A few land on my face and arms, sent from a neighbor’s dogwood.

* * *

Lent is over, which feels shocking. It comes to such an abrupt halt. Our early lives are like a long Lent; we may look back and say, “I could’ve done more, been more charitable, prayed more, …” and I look back with similar sentiments on Lent when Lent ebbs.

I devoted some time to Fr. Groeschel’s book about the history of devotion to Christ in the Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox variations. Was dubious about the value of the book for me, but it’s full of little histories of the only thing that matters: faith. And I feel I have a better feel for some of the issues of, say, Russian spirituality. What makes the Russians who they are? (The quote goes that Russians are like everybody else, except more so.) Why has their beautiful liturgies not availed? The short story is that liturgy got linked to the state and cruel tsars and the Faith never does well when linked to state. (Perhaps we see a bit of that with Ireland, which seemed to be the exception until the recent freefall.) Also there’s no substitute for a more personal, mystical relationship with Christ.

* * *

I’m surprisingly sanguine about the Noah-ic rains and storms. I feel like I have the whip-hand on nature; the relentless march of the calendar is on my side this time. The tide has turned, the calendar can’t lie much longer and the cold and gloomy weather will be as temporary as crayon tattoos. Perhaps I’ll even miss it when it’s gone.

The gentle, ceaseless rains make for good sleeping weather. I drink gallons of sleep! I have an ocean of it, and it’s full of dreams and soothing restfulness, my limbs like tree-trunks.

I rather like the inclement weather. It makes me feel grounded. Sometimes I sit out on the front porch and smell the wet wind and enjoy the somber air. I feel no pull to travel when the sky is grey and cloudy. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than at home, on the porch or in the comfort of the recliner, the reading light on.

* * *

A few weeks ago I'd won free tickets to the foreign film Of Gods and Men. It was, proper to its subject matter, suitably intense.

Reminiscent of Into Great Silence - right down to the lingering on the faces of the monks - only this time the film had a plot.

The monks themselves, or actors playing the monks, did a good job in showing sanctity doesn't result in copy-cutter saints.

There were a few gut-wrenching lines delivered when they discussed whether to become martyrs. "No servant is greater than his master," quotes one monk, ominously. Another said,"A wildflower moves not to the sunshine...but remains where it is." "We are nothing but birds on a branch here," said one monk and one of the villagers replied, "we are the birds and you are the branches."

The film opens with a quotation from the Book of Psalms, Psalm 82:6-7: "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes."

One of the monks wrote in a farewell letter, “Here it is mayhem and violence. We are in a high-risk situation, but we persist in our faith and our confidence in God. It is through poverty, failure and death that we advance towards him...May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen.”

Sundry Thoughts

I often tempted to see the miraculous as the sole means that God - or the saints - express love towards us. And I've fallen into the bad habit of thinking that love "wears off" over time, such that the reason no one claims a miracle from St. Perpetua or St. Augustine anymore (but do claim one from St. Therese or John Paul II), is that those older saints have lost interest in us, have "moved on" to an even higher version of the beatific vision. (St. Jude being a notable exception.)

All of this is deeply heretical but it's hard to remove these sorts of obstacles because I tend to equate presence with the miraculous, rather than to see the Presence as the miraculous.

Not long ago I was trying to imagine what Jesus was saying to the sinners and tax collectors he ate dinner with. And it suddenly dawned on me that it was less what he said than the very fact that he was there. That spoke volumes. The poor sinners of Christ's time were used to the Pharisees wanting nothing to do with them, and so the fact that here a holy man, a rabbi, would eat with them made them feel like a million bucks. Made them feel loved. And it's just as amazing and miraculous when he comes to us today in the form of the Eucharist.
* * *

As a child I had not a thought for the thieves and their pain. They must’ve done something horrible, I thought, to deserve such a death. Something far more than just stealing a hubcap, or the first century’s equivalent to it. I would never be in that situation, I subliminally thought, and so I didn’t identify with the thief. I just thought that when Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” that that was quite generous.

Now I look at the thief differently. I see how justice is often applied unjustly and have little trust in human law. I also have much more respect for the pain and agony of crucifixion and consider no one deserving of that; I find such suffering to make the victim inherently worthy of sympathy. (For good or ill, I am a creature of this age when it comes to pain.) I'm also much more impressed with what the thief said to Christ. As a veteran of a million COPS episodes, it's amazing - a miracle? - to see admission of guilt.

Truthers to the Left of me, Birthers to the Right

The great national issue of our time - whether Obama was born in the U.S. and whether the non-continental U.S. counts - has been decisively settled. And I'm proud of the birthers because they humbly proved, to the great satisfaction of the MSM, that conservatives can be conspiracy theorists blinded by hatred just as much as liberals. Somebody had to step up to the plate and sacrificially offer themselves to the world in order to show that we're not all William F. Buckleys or George Wills here and thus remove any sense of superiority. God bless 'em.

And just as liberals were unrepentant Fenian bastards when it came to admitting they were wrong about x, y, z (where x, y, and z are a nearly infinite supply of facts beginning with the fact that Communism didn't work out well), so too are some of the birthers incapable of admitting error. One I know helpfully supplied a link of Michael Savage asking that Obama now turn over his passport, kindergarten records and rectal thermometer readings. I kid you not, except about that last part.

And, of course, MSNBC, terrified of losing its subject du jour du year, culled its rolodex and found the Last American Birther, a woman who saw through the long form certificate Obama produced. Chris Matthews didn't even have to tell us he had a thrill up his leg while he was interviewing her.

Personally, I've started to stray from my previous obsession with the "rule of law". With Clinton I was right there with the congress folks who wanted him impeached because of the perjury committed. But ultimately the whole crisis seems overblown, if in retrospect.

Much more important in developing my new attitude was what came next: the Iraq war. I understood the reason we were going to be Saddam Hussein's flouting of the ceasefire conditions of the Gulf War. But today, after all the blood and treasure spilt, including the side effect of the demolition of the Iraqi Christians, it feels a very, very hollow thing, that of trying to attend to the letter of your word, in this case concerning the Gulf war ceasefire. A Pyrrhic victory.

Jonah Goldberg has some thoughts:
Frankly, I'm perfectly happy Obama released his birth certificate. I always thought that the only thing worse than the birthers being wrong would be the birthers being right.

Igniting a whacky constitutional crisis because Barack Obama spent a few weeks or months in Kenya as an infant seemed like madness to me. Throwing out the first black president in the middle of his presidency would be absurdly difficult, painful, and counterproductive in every way, dredging up a level of biliousness this country has rarely if ever seen. And at the end of the process, even if a "birther Congress" could have successfully impeached and removed the guy for being ineligible, we would have . . . President Joe Biden.

(By the way, I've long pondered what a Biden presidency would look like. I think the Lloyd Bridges character in Airplane! gives us a good sense of what Biden's presidential leadership style would be.)...

What Took Him So Long?
I got a lot of grief from the usual types for asking why Obama dragged this out as long as he did. I still think it's a perfectly legitimate question.

It seems to me that if there was no "there" there this whole time, the responsible thing would have been for a junior deputy assistant press secretary to release the thing over two years ago.

Think about it. Liberal surrogates in and out of the press and the administration have been saying for two years that the birthers are discrediting the Republican party. They're racist. They're nuts. They're trying to tear down the president and the country with their paranoia. And yet Obama could have put the whole thing to rest with five minutes of paper shuffling. The White House only asked Hawaii for the birth certificate last week. And this was after we'd been told incessantly that Hawaii couldn't find or couldn't release the long-form birth certificate.

(Never mind that we never heard anything like the same level of outrage and dismay over the "truther" conspiracy theories, which A) were more widely held on the left than birtherism has been on the right and B) were far, far more repugnant. One theory held that a politician was hiding something on his birth certificate for political reasons. The other theory held that the United States government from the president down systematically planned and carried out the worst terrorist attack in American history and then successfully covered it up with the help of nearly all of our elite institutions.)

It seems to me the strategists around Obama liked it this way. They thought they could exploit the birthers the way Clinton exploited the militias. Keeping the story in the news by letting the birthers drive themselves nuts helped them. The press helped, too. Did you ever notice how whenever a Republican denounced the birthers or dismissed the issue, the press would often cast it as a tactical move to win moderates, not an act of conviction?

During the week of news coverage that Obama says was dominated by the birther issue, you were something like 35 times more likely to hear about the subject on CNN or MSNBC. Do you think those outlets framed the issue in a light favorable to the birthers or to the president? (Even now, the only media types really eager to prop up the birthers as a serious force are MSNBC hosts and their freelance producers at Media Matters & Co., who want to use the topic for guilt by association.)

Trump changed the equation. As odd as it is to me personally, Trump is a mainstream figure and his birtherism wasn't discrediting the GOP because he's not identified as a "real" Republican. And given the awful economy and the general pessimism out there, the birther thing had more salience culturally (which is unfortunate).

But also, Obama has been cultivating his image as the "grown-up." The White House has been trying to position Obama as the adult in the room, above the squabbling parties. Releasing the birth certificate now and having the president denounce "silliness" and "distractions" was a great way to get that message out there.

Or at least it seemed that way. My hunch is that Americans are starting to figure who Obama really is -- and the answer, as always, has nothing to do with his birth certificate.

April 26, 2011

Art Museum Tour Redux

Two visionarily dulcet hours in the Cincy art museum on Saturday. It felt downright vacational. The magic of Onstar made the route there painless despite the pouring rain, and the museum tour began with Greek and Roman art, some from the time of Christ (and therefore Pilate who is the subject of my latest read). I was bedazzled by the new addition, a Cincinnati-themed wing that featured various and sundry old paintings of Southwestern Ohio, a replica of the Fountain Square statue and a naked-as-a-jaybird “Eve Disconsolate” (later there was another Eve Disconsolate statue, also naked as a jaybird. What is this fascination with Eve at this art museum?)

The Cincinnati entrance wing had a quoted (on the wall) an august figure of the time (whose name now escapes me) who remarked in 1840 on the plethora of artists the city has produced. “What is it about Cincinnati that produces such artists?” he asked.

Upstairs there was a mix of the sacred and the profane, of medieval religious art to an exhibit titled, revealingly, “The Way We Are Now”. The modern art exhibit showed pictures of naked women with wolves heads photoshopped on, and a television with a nude black woman dancing and chanting or singing, I can’t recall which. I can’t think of a better way to say, “our society is in trouble” than that modern art exhibit. “The way we are now,” seems more accusation than anything else.

Driving from the museum, I’ve noticed that for all its prominence in the life and geography of Cincinnati, the Ohio River tends to be elusive. The hills and valleys seem to hide it, for there were only occasional glimpses accorded to me as I drove around. How different, it seems, from lakes or oceans which often have a flat, ocean-view road you can drive along. No such thing for dense cities like Cincy & Pittsburgh which live along a river.

April 22, 2011

Into Your Hands Excerpt

From Fr. Stinessen's book:
If we are subject to trials here on earth, if we must struggle to say Yes to God, it is because in eternity God wants to say to us: 'You have given me something. It is not only I who give, but rather we give to each other. I give myself in gratitude because you have given me something that you could have refused to give. Now you can no longer give me anything, but at one time you did, and it has an eternal value. I never forget.'

Theology has always taught that we cannot 'merit' anything, either in heaven or in purgatory. To "merit", that is, to do something for God, belongs to our earthly life. In heaven one is like a straw that is carried by the ocean. There is love, an overflowing stream of love, but no voluntary giving. One is taken, filled, in ecstasy, but one does not actually "give", or, better said, one gives because one has once given, once freely said Yes to God, and now is fixed in that Yes forever.

We would have to be God to be able to give ourselves totally, in absolute freedom, without any possibility of saying No. Freedom and necessity coincide perfectly in him. To give is his nature, a nature that he has not received but that is...if our Yes is inevitable, we cannot say that we give anything to God. A compulsory Yes would in itself be a gift from him and not, as it is with God, something we have of ourselves. And if we cannot give anything to God, we do not have a share in his Spirit, who by his very nature is Gift...

If God had let us behold his face from the beginning, we would have been fixed in a definitive state of mere receiving. But he wanted us to be like him and live in both giving and receiving. He could not shown us a greater honor!

April 21, 2011

This & That

John Zmirak at Inside Catholic on Good Friday:
It's always a testy issue, how to celebrate Good Friday. Those of us who have the day off wonder whether we're really luckier than those who have to work: At least those people have got their penance already, and can mark the day properly by stepping out at noon to say the rosary, perhaps in a nearby church. Some parishes have evening liturgies, where working stiffs who've put down their daily crosses can gather to mark Christ carrying His, then trickle back home to a sober evening, perhaps spent watching a film that fits the day, while feasting on bread and water -- something like Quo Vadis or The Passion of Joan of Arc.
* * *

Parody is Therapy updated to address the ultimate question for birthers: was Obama born at all?

* * *

I remember why I rarely hit Drudge's site. It's a source of irritation. I'm especially unduly irritated by non-sequitors like Manson's take on Obama. That the LA Times decided this was news was bad enough, but to get picked up by Drudge is ridiculous.

* * *
It’s Holy Thursday and a middle-aged man’s thoughts turn to God. Specifically to two related pieces of information recently garnered.

The first was a review in NR praising the film “Of Gods and Men”. The film showcases Algerian monks who were later murdered by Muslim terrorists and how they (the monks) debated whether to leave and save their lives or stay and lose them. They wanted to live. They loved life and the goodness of creation. The reviewer makes the point that there’s a such a difference between gnosticism, seeing the world and flesh as inherently evil or burdensome, and the monks’ sensibility.

The second bit of information was reading Fr. Stinessen’s explanation of free will in Into Your Hands. To paraphrase perhaps very roughly, he says that God is all about relationship (the Trinity is all relationship) and the quintessential aspect of relationship is giving and receiving. Thus we (and the angels) were created such that there is a period of time in which we can give to God. Once in Heaven, it’s all receiving and no giving. The only time we can actually merit something is now, before Heaven. God gives us the privilege to give Him something and thus be imitative of Him.

* * *

Trying to decide which, if any, magazines I want to subscribe to. I'm currently hooked up (er, can I use that phrase these days?) with National Review and First Things but I seem to have fallen out of the habit of reading them. Wish they were available on Kindle because I think the additional accessibility would help. There is an NR digital subscription, with a pdf I could send to my Kindle.

Haven't subscribed to Time or Newsweek in years due to their overt bias. My subscription to National Geographic has long been fallow.

Other magazines that entice include but don't preclude All About Beer and y Gilbert!, the magazine of the Chesterton Society. Also for something along the lines of The Atlantic or The New Yorker, both of which I've subscribed to in the past and both of which I thought let me down in various ways. Still looking for that "perfect" magazine, which likely doesn't exist.

Librarything.com now has a feature that calculates how tall your book stack would be. Of course I have a good number on Kindle, so it's not entirely accurate but..

* * *
I liked the title I came up with for a post the other day: “Boehner’s Boner” (for the milquetoast budget deal). Like most of my “discoveries”, it’d already been discovered before. A quick Google revealed a decent number of fellow title-holders. It’s part of the fun of the internet age to coin a neologism or fun phrase and see how many beat you to it.

April 18, 2011

Christendom Review Up

Fine issue here with a rich poetry section that included:
Thomas DeFreitas

Some like to study distant galaxies;
Some like to look at Jupiter and Mars:
I tell you, though, this young black woman’s eyes
Could make astronomers forget the stars.

Gods and Politics

Lee Evans

We have so much in common, you and I;
Yet not enough, it seems, to make us friends.
The music, books and politics should end
In an intense communion of our lives,
Instead of this indifference that belies
The interests that we separately pursue.
Not even our religious creed can fuse
Our wills together—what does that imply?
“All things are led by thought”: this much is so;
But just a thought is not enough to share,
Unless its current joins all lives that flow
Toward the same great ocean: Loving care
Unites us more than only thought can do,
Though all our gods and politics refuse.

Bill Luse also has a fine piece in thus edition.

PowerPoint Decree

From McSweeney's:
In Xanadu Did Kubla Khan a Stately PowerPoint Decree.
BY Mike Lacher

- - - -

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately PowerPoint decree:
For VP of Logistics, Stan
And key stakeholders of the plan
For scaling in Q3.

So ninety slides so media-rich
With animations on every switch.
And here were slides rife with sinuous clip art
Where blossomed many a stick figure with a key;
And here a line, pie, scatter, and bar chart,
Enfolding watermarked stock photography.
But oh! that massive romantic flowchart which raked
Down multiple slides athwart notes of automation!
A savage place! as convoluted and opaque
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By a manager wailing for best practices for escalation!

And from this flowchart, with ceaseless sound effects blasting,
As if the typewriter noises were everlasting,
Mighty WordArt momently was star-wiped;
And in faux-3D metallic letters was typed
Huge statements of "scale" and "ROI"
And colorful encouragements to "reach for the sky!"
And 'mid these dynamic calls-to-action
Came a Family Circus cartoon with relevant caption.
Five questions marks with a blinds-in animation
Representing the questions the audience surely had
Then reached the answer to make them glad
That what they need is team-based innovation
And 'mid this slide came to Kubla's attention
Ancestral voices prophesying higher rates of client retention!

The shadow of the PowerPoint slides
Floated across the conference call
Where was heard the muffled asides
From Denver and St. Paul
It was a miracle of device,
A PowerPoint with graphics so nice!
A damsel with a laser pointer
In a vision once I saw:
It was a Senior Logistics Strategist,
And with her pointer she never missed,
Highlighting key takeaways.
Could I revive within me
Her slick presentation,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me
That with slides and presenter notations,
I would build that PowerPoint in air,
That sunny deck! Those slides so fine!
And all who heard should see him there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His swirling text, his Aeron chair!
Snap your laptop at its joint,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of PowerPoint.

Of Polls and Gravy Trains

Tis a truth that can be widely attested: no one likes to feel manipulated. We at least want a wink & a nod from our would-be manipulators when called out on it.

Yesterday received a push poll from the school district, and the caller wouldn't wink, nod or admit it was a push poll despite my asking why the question, "Do you feel property taxes are too high?" wasn't included (she said now that would be a push poll.) All the "questions" were heavy-handed groaners about the goodness and belt-tightening of the district. Given my smugness of seeing through it, I expected to be praised for my astuteness, which shows how much "astute" I lack. I loathe these sorts of tactics and told them that this call will make me LESS likely to vote for the levy.

Of course they wouldn't tell me who funded this "survey" but gave me a number to call. Which told me all I needed to know. The "survey" is a way to get their message out without our realizing they’re getting their message out. Despite the propaganda sent in the mail and columns from the superintendent in the newspaper, we need to be further edumacated.

I sense a bit of vindictiveness in my desiring to see the teachers’ gravy train end. I don’t have it hard enough, personally, to not let them live in their faux world, a world of artificially high wages and small class sizes created by the all powerful union and threat of strike or the pulling of sports. Why begrudge someone a good gig if you can afford it? And I can. Teachers in our district make surprisingly good money and unparalleled job security. Sure they’re overdue for a comeuppance, for a brush with reality. But aren’t we all, in the spiritual world if not material? Where’s the mercy, not justice?

“Charity,” said Chesterton, “isn’t charity if it’s deserving,” or words to that effect. I’m too much the conservative, which leaves me slightly uneasy.

April 14, 2011

Boehner's Boner

Dennis Miller Comment

...strikes me as spot on:
[Obama's] devotees are so far in the bag, this guy could drop an atom bomb tomorrow, and they would say it was clean weaponry. The simple fact is he has no tether. I would do it, too, if I was him. Nobody is going to hold him accountable. Keeping Gitmo open, the Patriot Act, starting a third war, following Bush's footprints in Iraq and Afghanistan, or reinvigorating Afghanistan, following them in Iraq, increased drone use, and all of a sudden everybody is Curtis LeMay on the left. What fear does he have? Nobody is going to hold him accountable.

Of Books & Weather

Summer visited us with the full faith and credit of the U.S. government this past weekend - 80 degrees and “sunburn-capax” - and I spent some of it biking and later half-dozing while reading the dense prose of Donald Hall's Seasons at Eagle Pond.

With Hall’s gorgeous prose I suspect poetic license; did he really see the New Hampsire summer people, the renters, packing up their vodka on Labor Day or did he merely summon that image for alliterative purposes? Either way, he ends the book with a bang and it is superbly written, seemingly without a word out of place. A true craftsman. Thoreau without the baggage.

Otherwise been absorbing great amounts of Maier’s historical novel titled “Pontius Pilate”. It’s a two-fer given that Pilate is a figure of interest to me as is early Rome. It’s highly readable and yet not cloying or desultory as many historical novels seem to be.

Also picked up a couple new books, both encyclopedic in nature, wide in scope. Both can double as reference work and pick-and-choose reading. Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s history of Christian devotions is compelling though possibly familiar in places. And Fukuyama’s touted work on political order is a sort of grand theory book that I couldn’t seem to pass up, if only to see how medieval Catholicism, he claims, led us towards individualism (I thought that was the result of Luther & the Reformation).

I barely avoided buying Jay Bakker’s “Fall to Grace”, a book mentioned by the blogger at “A Part-time Monk”. Have requested it from the library. Bakker is the son of Tammy Faye & Jim Bakker. I’ll be really interested to hear what he has to say since I find Bakker’s rise and fall compelling. Jim is back in ministry again which doesn’t seem like the best idea but then where is the forgiveness in that?

* * *

But oh the sweet solace of swaggeringly sunny weather in Central Ohio yesterday. It felt of San Juan and indeed I put a Latin radio station on the iPod jukebox. It felt also of Florida and that little island called Sanibel.

The day is mint-julep beautiful. White blossoms grace the trees out front. Ye olde footpath has survived the winter - is there not something in us that loves a bench beside a fountain? Meantime the sun capers along the the brick wall of the porch after having frolicked past the mulch bed. When the wind dies down it’s close enough to perfect, a perfection that reminds me of God’s perfection and thus his plan for my own. Let his fire be purifying, not condemnatory!

I look at the still spare trees, still mostly bark and twig, and think about the monks of New Skete and their book cover featuring bare trees. An odd choice? Or not...any worldly person would cherish leaves in full beauty but the spiritual person sees that life comes via death. Perhaps it’s a momento mori thing.

There’s a startling brightness to the air, a startling lightness to everything. All is made new. And yet already we see the seeds of the coming noise, of all manner of suburban factory noise in the form of lawn mowers, leaf blowers and weed wackers. The outdoors becomes public again instead of a place to get out of, as it is in quiet winter. And who can blame us? Sensory-starved eyes can feast on the spring delights, on the crystalline sunlight and the ravishing flowers. I take in a panorama, from the bench and fountain to the clumps of green plantings, to the angel statue, to the maples (Japanese and silver).

A slight cool breeze is compensated by a shaft of warm sun and I feel hungry for the book that lies in wait at the library. I long again for the physical book as object, having spent too much time in the world of Kindle.

My fingers leap to the last page to see what sort of type font is proffered. It cracks me up how every book seems to have a unique font face such that they seem almost made up: “This font is the famous Ingot Ceour of Richard the Lionheart’s personal press.” I’m sure they could just make something up and 99.9% of people would believe them. Still I like knowing what the type face is, especially when the book’s as inviting as many of mine are.

* * *

A fine tribute to an ol’ warhorse in my high school alumni magazine today. He taught English composition classes back in my day and now he’s set to retire after 41 years. Says he’ll stay busy by getting his train set out and enjoying his baseball memorabilia. And traveling. He likes Salinger (he teaches “Nine Stories”). Also still has everyone read “In Cold Blood” after all these years. And his penchant for things African-American continues with his teaching African-American poetry. I wonder how many football coaches love J. D. Salinger?

* * *

And now the sun riots in the bookroom! How I love it when that late day sun slants and slashes into the sanctums of the library, a dash of regal sash!

* * *
A Note About the Typeface

This post is set in the typeface Nederlandischer Renneker, invented in 1637 by the drunken monk Placidus von Leeuwenhosen. [Courtesy Xerxes Riffraff.]

April 12, 2011

Alack & Alas

Sadly I must report that my consecutive streak of 1,925 meals successfully brought up from the cafe to my desk on the tenth floor has been cruelly snapped. And it was a completely unforced error - nobody coming around a blind corner to run into - though aren't they all? Even more ironic is that I was carrying a light load: two six-inch subs for dinner and one chicken parmigiana for lunch. I was also within just eight feet of my destination. It's a well-known fact that accidents are most likely within twenty-five feet of your cubicle, which is why I try to stay as far away from it as possible.

The resulting smash-up wasn't too bad. Some tomato sauce on the floor, a few stray noodles and three or four brussel sprouts were casualties.

At least I covered the spread; the over-under on number of days I'd be able to carry sans mishap was 472.

April 11, 2011

Ohio Right to Life in Dispatch

I was taken aback by the long message in local church bulletin concerning the fractiousness between pro-life groups concerning the wisdom of the Heartbeat bill. It was a long plea for peace, for unity. And now I see a letter in the Dispatch about the bill:
Heartbeat bill' won't get the job done
Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ohio Right to Life has over the years been held in high regard by state officials, resulting even this year in the fast-tracking of legislation that makes abortion more and more difficult within the context of existing law and court decisions. For example, the Ohio House of Representatives has passed a bill that would stop judges from rubber-stamping approval for the requests of minor girls who seek to avoid telling and getting the consent of their parents for an abortion.

Ohio Right to Life's endorsed bills currently before the General Assembly include Senate Bill 72 and House Bill 78, which would prohibit abortion after the time of viability outside the womb, or around 20 to 23 weeks of pregnancy. Passage of these bills would constitutionally and legally ensure implementation immediately.

Very little opposition to this legislation arose during committee hearings. In other words, by pushing the envelope incrementally, and until Roe vs. Wade can be overturned, almost 1,000 abortions would be stopped annually.

This legislation — called the late-term abortion ban — is yet another step in a national, carefully determined strategy of steps with the ultimate goal of eradication of abortion in Ohio and the United States. This strategy has an obvious goal of overturning Roe vs. Wade entirely. In the meantime we continue to chip away with significant gains in saving lives of unborn children as best we can without ignoring the current legal conditions.

Others are advancing House Bill 125, the so-called heartbeat bill. At first blush, it seems like the right idea. However, in its current form, the bill contains insufficient language to survive any court challenge whatsoever. Federal courts have uniformly ruled that specific language must be included in any abortion-related legislation, and without such language, any state laws would immediately be ruled unconstitutional.

If passed in its current form, the heartbeat bill would not save a single baby’s life. Further, the federal courts would award fees to Planned Parenthood’s attorneys, resulting in hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars essentially supporting abortion. The heartbeat bill also is outside the current framework allowed under case law, and there are not enough justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade — at least not yet.

Accordingly, Ohio Right to Life is correctly using strategies that are immediately achievable in the saving of as many lives of the unborn as possible. We align ourselves with the Catholic Church and other church teaching in order to achieve the ultimate goal while working to preserve life in the present moment.


Board member

Ohio Right to Life


April 09, 2011


How potent is the Democratic party's reverence for abortion? From the Dispatch this morning: "In the [budget] deal, aides said, Republicans dropped that demand [to defund Planned Parenthood]. In return, Democrats agreed to additional spending cuts."

April 08, 2011

Friday Randomness

Euphoria comes, when the work day is done! And the reward for the mental toil and fearfully early wake-up call is a Magic Hat #9 ale. And some Rilke poetry. And some country music. Not all at the same time, though all three have in common being as far from computer programming as can be, short of orgasm. The Magic Hat is sort of a fruity Sierra Nevada Pale. Slightly less bitter and slightly more sweet.
* * *

Finished the Hitchens memoir. Very good read; he certainly needs praying for. Feel ready for some fiction and, of course, some Chesterton. Either poetry or biography or Heretics! Been too long, and too many Chesterton-free mornings. I can certainly see how the Am Chesterton Society is so cultishly enthusiastic. The definition of a good cult, in my estimation. It’s like Nancy Brown has found her mission - to read Chesterton and plug him via podcast, blog, etc.. Promulgating Chesterton isn’t a bad gig to have in the Body of Christ.
* * *

Found a different version (Belmont Abby’s) of the Stations of the Cross to go with during weekly Adoration. Much colder, sterner stuff than the Amy Welborn/Michael Dubruiel collaboration Apple app. But still good to do once. Read Padre Pio’s instructions, on a blog, on how to enter a church. (With great reverence, with a slow deliberate sign of cross, etc..). Guilty of being too casual!
* * *

The weather has turned a corner and is sprinting south. The weekend promises to be a long home run to center. All-star weather in early April. Winter would seem to be officially over.
* * *

Ignatius Press has a new DVD with three documentaries on The Shroud of Turin. Am tempted to buy. I’m pretty susceptible to their winsome catalog. Advertising works!
* * *

12 Candidates in '12

Mitt the Romniac is in the lead,
with The Donald news will always bleed,
Newt the Ging finds chameleons quite charming
while Sarah never finds a bear alarming.
Haley bears the comet's fervid name,
while Barack Obama never takes the blame.
Tim Pawlenty makes a wicked stew,
Daniels isn't one to drink a brew.
Michele Bachman has such pretty hair,
while Huckabee hides out in his FOX-y lair.
Rick Santorum thinks he has a prayer,
while ol' Ron Paul doesn't have a care.

The Prefect of Judea

Eternal fame came to a man
through the auspices of another,
I wonder in what light he looks
at the world's greatest Lover?

I wonder what his days were like
after the blood he'd shed.
I wonder if back he looked
if "What if?" was ever said.

In life he washed his hands
of the blood he saw as other,
does he now wash his soul
with the blood of his own brother?

April 07, 2011

One for the Archives

The inimitable Zmirak shares his Lenten read:
Therefore, it seems to my risk-averse, utility maximizing mind that the wisest course of action is to shun at once the madness of the saints and the worst excesses of sin, to keep my head down in the security line lest the Theocentric Security Angels (TSA) stop me and frisk me, hoping that I can make it onto the flight with my 7 oz. bottle of illegal tequila.

Remaining in such a state is not the ideal way to spend a Lent -- and we only get a limited number of them before we die, so it only seems prudent to make each blasted one of them count. So I'm trying a few expedients to pry my slothful soul from its Tempur-Pedic® easy chair.

April 06, 2011

The Budget Pie

Spring Thoughts

With spring, the light precedes the warmth. The light makes me feel like I should be doing something outside, while the lack of heat prevents me from the consummation of reading on the back patio. Spring is a tease - all short skirt and no cattle.

* * *

A tweet from Fr. Martin left me feeling a twinge of wonder: he said he was asked what he likes about being a Jesuit and he was left speechless since there is SO MUCH. Wow. Now that’s evangelistic.

* * *

One thing I’ve noticed about drinking in this era compared with past eras: I appreciate it more though I enjoy it less. Which is not to say I don’t enjoy it greatly now - I do - but I couldn’t possibly enjoy it MORE than I did in the context of those long alcohol-fueled nights listening to live country bands and dancing. But back then I took it more for granted. Now, with weight a concern, beers have to pull their own weight, so to speak.

It’s relatively easy to do twenty minutes of exercise five times a week. But to double the exercise, as I should, is more problematic. Being heavier looks pretty acceptable compared to two hundred minutes of exercise every week. Besides, what more characteristically characterizes middle age than a burgeoning weight, a broadening middle? That’s why it’s called “middle” age, isn’t it? The word middle seems to connote what it means. Two big “d’s” in the center, like a beer belly. I suppose two and a half hours of exercise in the course of a normal week doesn’t seem too terrible. The trouble is actually doing it.

April 04, 2011

Poetry Monday

Youthful Portrait of My Father
...by René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke:

In the eyes dream. The forehead as in touch
with something far. About the mouth enormously
much youth, unsmiled seductiveness,
and before the full ornamental lacings
of the slim aristocratic uniform
the saber's basket-hilt and both the hands-,
that wait, quietly, impelled towards nothing.
And now scarce longer visible: as though they
first, seizers of far things, would disappear.
And all the rest curtained with itself
and effaced, as though we could not understand it,
and clouded deep out of its own depths--,

You swiftly fading daguerreotype
in my more slowly fading hands.

Work & the 'Net

From the New Yorker:
But, crazy as such estimates are, there’s no doubt that the Internet has made it much easier—and more entertaining—to slack off at the office. In a widely cited survey from 2005, people said that the Net was their favorite way to waste time at work—and that was before the advent of Twitter.

...And the curious result was that those who hadn’t watched the comedy video made significantly more mistakes than those who had. You might have thought that those who had spent the previous ten minutes laughing would become distracted and careless. Instead, it was the act of following company policy and not clicking that button that eroded people’s ability to focus and concentrate.

The basic insight—that giving people some respite from difficult tasks, along with the chance to let their minds wander, will make them more productive—remains true. Sometimes, it turns out, you have to take your eye off the ball in order to hit it.

Pictures from a Cube

April 03, 2011

Weekend Thoughts

It’s funny how quickly non-fiction surfeits; a steady diet of it this week leaves me "unenthralled". How nice to it was Friday, on the cusp of the weekend, drinking a craft and listening to the Dvorak. I overlooked a colorful cliff of books - how yummy! One is titled simply “Beer” and is naturally appealing given my beverage of choice. Then there’s the shadowy “Shadow Country” by Peter Matthiessen. I also am in the mood to recover some of McMurtry.

It’s Lent and so I’m reading a spiritual book although I think I’d be better off just praying more. There’s a saying with regard to teaching that “those who can do, those who can’t teach.” Perhaps a corollary is: “those who are holy are, those who aren’t read about it.”

Agree with Amy Welborn’s bafflement over “The Imperfectionists”. I’m stuck in a chapter of caricature and the novel is without local color. You’d hardly know it was set in Rome.

* * *

Been a long time (in my terms) since a sight-seeing vacation. Last April’s Chicago trip. Ponderous. Might be time to plan a NYC or D.C. getaway. DC has a lot of good museums and is likely cheaper, although admittedly NY is NY and is the drug of choice when it comes to big cities. I could do worse than juggle NY, Boston & D.C. as the annual jaunt. Spring comes and I feel a bit of wanderlust.

* * *

Drinking in the bookroom, both literally and figuratively. Drinking, in the bookroom. Drinking in the bookroom. I catch the scent of folly, of so many half-read or unread volumes collected in one place. I look at it lightheartedly except with the spiritual volumes. Elsewhere it smacks of wisdom - what profit is there in completing a 1600-page book chronicling the history of Europe? - but sometimes I’m wistful. What does it say that so many spiritual books remain half-read? It makes me want to finish “Into Your Hands” just for the sake of finishing it. I suspect part of the half-finished nature of spiritual volumes is that they are so potent. One can read a paragraph and have much to think on, to meditate on. A 100-page book can be as full as a 400-page history tome.

I revel in all the details of the grand bookroom space, and I think of how precious the few minutes pre-work I have here and now, granted with time to spare, I wonder what it would take to welcome Monday with open arms and to not so covet those early moments.

My eye goes to the beautifully bound old books about my alma mater, how now it seems such a small percentage of my life. Less than 10% of it I spent on that ground and yet I have a spate of books describing it through time. It feels almost a random place now, no longer sacred in the technical sense but meaningful as every square inch of plot is meaningful because all was God-created. If before there were wastelands in my imagination, now I remind myself that even the most inhospitable, "god-forsaken" climes as still imbued with God since he created it. I remember a film with an ending lonesome as lonesome can be, with the hero casting himself out into deep space without any means of sustenance. He had no choice, and the movie sort of presented it as exhilarating but I saw it as the ultimate disconnectedness. But is not God even in the most outer part of outer space?

April 01, 2011

Sounds like Obamacare and the Tax Code

From The Federalist Papers No. 62, James Madison:
The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessings of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulged, or undergo such incessant changes, that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess, what it will be to-morrow.