June 30, 2011

Varous & Sundry

The difficulty of computers is avoiding the omnipresent temptation to read news (oh shiny, new!) rather than something of greater depth. Man cannot live on bad news alone. I hereby thirst for more Bible and Kindle and less of the crack-cocaine of the news hit.


Beautiful incandescent weather today: upper 70s/low 80s, dapply-sunny, full of the green of leaves and lawn and all living things. That sweet revolution of the sun has visited the Western hemisphere again. Am listening to blues station on the back patio, indulging in a malty number known by the unpronounceable, at least by me, Trois Pistoles (I think of it as 'Troy piss-tole-eez').


For vacation, am suddenly taken by the idea of experiencing art in the form of natural or manmade landscapes, specifically the Grand Canyon & Vegas and/or New Mexico. I could see flying out and renting a car and doing a lot of driving since states out west seem to have positioned themselves inconveniently distant.


Thinking of getting the book Heather King recommends on St. Therese.


My mother visited a relative ("Fr. Jim"), who turns 100 this summer. She reports nothing introspective from his lips, no utterance along the lines of elderly's occasional query of wondering why they are still living. Fr. Jim instead seems to say little about himself, likely a sign of optimism and faith in God. No complaints, apparently, despite the right to a bushel load of them. Makes me want to go up and visit him just to ask why he doesn't complain more. :)

June 27, 2011

Hodgepodge of Discontinued Items...

A couple of Arthur Philips tidbits from his novel "The Tragedy of Arthur":

I always associated with the sponsorship of Minnesota Twins games, delivered to my bedroom on summer nights with the windows open, through a battery-devouring radio and a single white earphone, yellowed from use, pressed in place during the frustrating not-dark of summer bedtimes when I was expected to abide by the clock, not the sky, and so lay in bed clandestinely listening to Tony Oliva and Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew and Bert Blyleven battle the endless tide of Tigers, Brewers, Royals, Angels.


Jana was nothing; Petra was everything. What mechanism can so alter us? How could everything I once thought was undimmable fire now seem shadowed ash? An adolescent could blame it all on (or credit it all to) the new love’s dawning glow: she was so much better, so much more, that all I’d loved before was revealed as dim and dun. Romeo has very little difficulty casting off Rosaline once he sees Juliet, easily downplaying all he had previously felt and suffered as mere fantasy, and we all take his side, and make excuses and say now he’s learned real love.


While almost drifting off to sleep I had a sudden flashback to that land of sun and honey, of that sparkling balcony and stunning privacy back two weeks' past in Hilton Head. It's very rare indeed when a Hilton Head trip is immediately followed by such gloomy, cool weather since we go south in either June or August. But this year it's been different, very cool and constantly rainy, annoying as a buzzing mosquito who seems to have a lot of mosquito friends. Swat one and another comes. It has made the adjustment to non-vacation reality more whiny but, as the Psalmist says, "clouds of the sky, praise the Lord!"

On the edge of sleep I remembered a minor thing, infinitely minor: the casual tossing of a blanket on the chair next to the television in the seaside condo. But it was like I was there again, there in that place filled with such privacy and wonder, there where I had time to sit and think, to read and drink. As Heather King recently wrote, beehive huts are conducive to thinking. (And maybe SC beach condos too.)

Indeed part of this reverie was no doubt prompted by another wonderful HK post about the desirability of remote Irish beehive huts, and how they would be great places to spend with a breviary and a stack of poetry.

'Fest 11

So it's Comfest weekend, better known to some as CommunistFest. They have a full slate of jazz artists, and jazz is a musical genre I can't seem to get enough of lately. Undaunted by the cool temps and a stiff wind, I was daunted by the pouring rain. It looks like I'll break my string of annual one-hour visits to the Goodale park festival that famously features the occasional bare-breasted gal and the smell of marijuana smoke, punctuated by the sight of booths affirming every liberal cause from amnesty to abortion.

This year the organizers have turned their focus - naturally - away from war, because they are better Democrats than Communists. As long as Bush was in office, war was a terrible blight. Now it's something more easily overlooked, apparently. Oh, it's true the Comfest program took a swipe at our huge military budget, but the main thing they are rallying behind is a repeal of Ohio SB 5, a bill that would limit collective bargaining by public employees. Unions, God love 'em, seem to be going the way of the dinosaur, as are these old hippies who have added an "In Memoriam" section to the program. We'll miss both unions and the hippies; neither is completely bereft of truth.

Update: Went on Saturday while the sun was shining, as evidenced by picture at right.

June 24, 2011


George Berkeley (1685-1753), Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, 1901), p. 62:
Look! are not the fields covered with a delightful verdure? Is there not something in the woods and groves, in the rivers and clear springs, that soothes, that delights, that transports the soul? At the prospect of the wide and deep ocean, or some huge mountain whose top is lost in the clouds, or of an old gloomy forest, are not our minds filled with a pleasing horror? Even in rocks and deserts is there not an agreeable wildness? How sincere a pleasure is it to behold the natural beauties of the earth!

--Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902), California Springhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

And from Heather King:
But the place that really haunts me is The Beehive Hut, on the Aran Island of Inishmore, in Galway Bay. The hut built and maintained by my friend Benny McCabe of Dublin, who, among other things, is a traveler and citizen of the world, a tango dancer, a poet, a political activist, and a psychotherapist. "What would you do there?" a friend to whom I was waxing ecstatic about the Beehive Hut asked. "DO? My God, man, I would sit. I would look out the door. I would smell the sea. I would walk and poke around and think."

Who would not want to hole up in there with a teapot, a breviary, and a pile of poetry?

So I have got Robert Flaherty's Man of Aran in my netflix queue and An Aran Keening by Andrew McNeil lie on my bed side table and I probably won't get there this year but I have "planted a seed." I've been to Europe twice, both times during "los años oscuros" (the drinking years), so to go sober, and also to see a place, that from the pictures, looks so much like the coast of New Hampshire, where I grew up, and to visit the coun­try from which my paternal grand parents emigrated, and to go to Mass in some little stone church would be a special kind of pilgrimage.

Reminds me of something I copied into my journal more than a decade ago: “I wish, O son of the living God, O ancient, eternal King, / For a hidden little hut in the wilderness that it may be my dwelling.” – hermit from 600 AD Ireland

Birthday of the Baptist

Birthday of St. John the Baptist today. It's the only birthday the Church celebrates other than Jesus's and Mary's I think. I tend to underestimate this prophet and saint and think of his role as somehow extraneous or at least so completely overshadowed by Christ's that he sort of falls in with St. Joseph, for me at least. He's not known for great miracles, though he likely performed many given the crowds that followed him, and he's known for baptizing with humble water rather than with the Holy Spirit.

When I think of great saints of the Old Covenant, I think of Moses or Elijah, but John was greater than "any man born of woman." That's pretty definitive, and perhaps greater trust in Jesus will open my eyes that holiness is not synonymous with practicality or effectiveness but with following the will of God. And John the Baptist did that from his mother's womb onward. It's certainly my ignorance that seems to want to slough off John's ministry as extraneous when Jesus himself gave him that role, the role of pointing to the Christ.

I'm glad the Church has this solemnity, and for the reminder that the standard by which we measure is Christ's.

Interesting Review...

...of the CTS Bible, one that Bill White and I both own.

Best Corapi Post

...that I've seen is likely the one here at Chesterton & Friends.

A contrary and probably less accurate thesis is my own supposition that his vocation was simply extremely ill-fitting; I recall him saying that standing up in front of people and giving talks is the LAST thing he wanted to be doing. He said he'd rather be a hermit in Montana. So I thought maybe he subconsciously "blew up" his situation.

I was previously amazed at his staying power in the face of something he stated he hated doing. (Grace builds on nature, doesn't replace it.) There was, in some of his talks, much evidence of "strain", strain in living a public life, strain in getting along with his superiors and disappointment over wayward priests. But at Chesterton & Friends, the post's author has a whole different way of looking at it, saying that he might be a "fame junky". The money quote is:
After the attack all of his media outlets, except his website, were cut off to him. In one of his talks he had mentioned that if this kind of allegation happened to him he would just spend more time with his dogs and do a lot more fishing. His addictive personality could not let him do that.

June 23, 2011

Politics and Stories

I'm always looking for a "system" to predict presidential contest outcomes, despite the fact that there are surely too many variables to take into account, not the least of which are mistakes the candidates make themselves during the election season.

But it seems like if there's a pattern in recent years it might be this idea of Americas wanting to cast a vote less on measures like experience, competence, intelligence or even ideology but for someone they can root for, an underdog, which means someone who has overcome odds, someone with "a story".

Does the man with the "better story" always win?

Obama v. McCain: Both have stories, Obama coming from African-American roots and raised by a single mother, and McCain as war hero in Vietnam. But we've had a boatload of war heroes as POTUS before and no black President, so advantage easily Obama.

Bush v Kerry: Bush had the story of being something of a f--k up from a famous family, and an alcoholic, and so his inspirational story of becoming a highly disciplined sober person was something the American people ate up. With Kerry, his war story was somewhat tainted by "swift boat" allegations. Advantage Bush.

Bush v. Gore: Again Bush had the conversion story of being the black sheep of the Bush family who made good. Gore had no real narrative. Advantage Bush.

Clinton v. Dole: Being an incumbent likely makes the story narrative less effective since on the basis of stories Dole's heroic service - and his limp, injured arm - would seem to trump Clinton's triumphant rise from an alcoholic father and "a place called Hope". Advantage Dole.

Clinton v. Bush: George H.W. Bush was a WWII vet but Clinton's rise from a tiny Southern town seemed to trump the familiar war trope. Advantage Clinton.

Bush v. Dukakis: Bush's war record barely trumps Dukakais' coming from second generation immigrants. Advantage Bush.

Reagan v. Mondale: Not sure Mondale has a story; if he did the fact it wasn't well-publicized was a problem. Reagan rode high answering the question, "Can anybody really become President, even an ex-actor?"

Reagan v. Carter: The story of an ex-Hollywood actor rising up the political ladder is inherently more exciting than a peanut farmer's rise.

Who will win in '12? I don't know enough about the '12 candidates or their stories yet, but I do know there was a lot more thirst in America to elect the first black man than the first Mormon, given the relative unpopularity of Mormonism. (Not to mention that you won't get high-fives from the MSM for voting for a Mormon instead of an African-American.) Based on the story theme, only Bachmann seems to jump out, and maybe Pawlenty on the slim basis of coming from a blue collar background.

Critiquing My Better

Mark Shea recently posted on Fr. Corapi, persuasively arguing what should be obvious, i.e. that the things stinketh in Denmark and the black prince is troubled. But the unintended hilarity was a link asserting that Fr. Corapi only follows Fox News on Twitter, something that is apparently extremely troubling to Shea. I tend to think Mark's jihadistic attitude towards Fox is the result of being corrupted by the left coast, left wing media (my sense is that we're shaped by the local media we watch; I grew up in rightwing southwestern Ohio).

Shea belongs to the neither the Republican or Democrat parties but to the Utopian party. To his credit, he believes in an inclusive, catholic church but an exclusive, provincial political party (consisting, apparently, of himself) and that's the opposite of the modern tendency to join a successful political "team", the Dems or Repubs, while being okay with splintering into a million church denominations. If you have to do one or the other, he certainly chose the better half.

I"ll never forget when a blogger attacked him for "just trying to sell books" when it's obvious he's anti-marketed himself due to his political convictions. I love Shea's anti-branding. He purple proses equally against what he calls the Evil Stupid Party and the Stupid Evil Party, terms that won't endear him to those who have signed up for one of those teams. (Given the mess we're in financially, morally and every which way but loose, I suppose Shea might just be ahead of the curve here.) It's really quite refreshing, in this age of button-downed everything-for-marketing types, that he's willing to be unpopular on his blog. The contrarian in me makes me want to buy his books -- and, at the same time, watch more Fox News.

Vignettes of Varying Quality

Chesterton wrote,
"They have too much in them of an ancient laughter even to endure to discuss the difference between the hats of two men who were both born of a woman, or between the subtly varied cultures of two men who have both to die."
They say death is the great equalizer, and indeed it seems so silly sometimes to contemplate our differences when each of us is going to go through the titanic event of dying. How can I look at my enemy with anything but love, knowing that his time on earth will pass and perhaps there will be great pain involved in the labor of leaving this world?


Another Chesterton quote, also from Heretics:
Any man with a vital knowledge of the human psychology ought to have the most profound suspicion of anybody who claims to be an artist, and talks a great deal about art. Art is a right and human thing, like walking or saying one's prayers; but the moment it begins to be talked about very solemnly, a man may be fairly certain that the thing has come into a congestion and a kind of difficulty...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.

Ok. I miss Hilton Head.

I miss the spray from her buttressed waters.

I miss the sheen of that singular sun.

I miss the gleam of skin, ease of motion, smell of lotion.

I miss the music of the surf and pine for that elusive thing I might’ve learned had I just had more time down there, or read more, or gone off on rides amid the tangled Spanish moss.

I miss the talisman of preserved jellyfish on the beach, clear and transparent.

I miss the green of tropical leaves along the path to Sea Pines plantation, the scent of pine needles, the morning breakfasts and gaping ‘gators.

I miss the long bike ride, the annual ride that gently offers the possibility of insight at the risk of boredom.


Have a stack of books a mile long I'd like to read, today if possible. Don't know where to begin, though I started with the latest Heather King post on co-dependency and St. Therese. Not sure I understood it completely, although basically I think it's that we're to please people, but only with the proper motivation. Whether you're a saint or co-dependent the behavior may not be different but your motivation sure will be. In the first you'll be free and you'll be doing it for God. In the second, you'll be doing it to assuage your own feelings.

Right now I just want to let it all sink in, "all" meaning the dappled sun on the moss-framed pavers, the drinks of bold-flavored coffee, the magic of this magical typing machine. How peaceful! It's one if those days where I just want to vegetate and recreate that monied time in Hilton Head when I read out on the deck - but not enough - and today I have that opportunity. I must choose my reading carefully and wisely, not waste it with the newspaper or fritter it with trivialities. I must be as bold in my reading as my coffee is bold in its flavor.

Last night drank a beer on a dry patio while the rain pelted and held within the foreknowledge that tomorrow I'd be off work and free to imbibe the poetry of Cummings and Rimbaud and fly unto that sweet nectar that is McDonald's cinnamon melt. Oh what a sad day when next perchance they do not offer it anymore!

I love the smell of rain in the evening.

And the return of those lighted bandits, fireflies. They signal (no pun intended) my birthday week for me about as well as anything.


A return visit to Ohio State and the famous Mirror lake Tuesday, the longest day of the year. A National Review poster, all doom and gloomy, said that we got gypped as far as May and June weather and I can't disagree.

This return to a Hogwarthian setting reminds me of my alma mater and how I'll have to get there in the not too distant future. To write, perchance to dream! To dream, perchance to live! My doing college in four years seems somewhat piggish, since those going to school longer do the world a favor by staying out of the labor market for a year or two and thus freeing up jobs for others.

June 21, 2011

Art from Photos

Buddy on the front porch


The bookroom


Rick Brookhiser in the latest National Review nails why old rocks songs don't sound quite the same to my ears as they did way back when:
The production tricks of the past are always indistinguishable to the listeners for which they were made, obtrusive to their successors. Eighties music sounds calculated and a little metallic...

Parody blog updated...

...with news of the Bush-Obama war doctrine.

June 20, 2011

Whatever Happened to Iceland?

A few years ago, Iceland's fall was all the rage and 60 Minutes did an Armageddon-like scenario concerning their economy, but now you rarely hear anything about them (except in precincts I rarely frequent).

Well turns out Iceland's fine, thank you very much:
Today, Iceland is recovering. The three new banks had combined profit of $309 million in the first nine months of 2010. GDP grew for the first time in two years in the third quarter, by 1.2 percent, inflation is down to 1.8 percent and the cost of insuring government debt has tumbled 80 percent. Stores in Reykjavik were filled with Christmas shoppers in early December, and bank branches were crowded with customers.
And even during the worst of it, in 2009, the Icelanders seemed content.

Meanwhile, years ago watching European countries fashion a unified currency without a democratic underpinning seemed crazy. It was:
I sometimes think Kohl, Mitterrand, Delors and co instinctively knew that this would happen.

They probably calculated that if only they could achieve monetary union, the euro would create such strains that the de facto creation of a United States of Europe would be impossible to resist. The trouble is that there is just no democratic mandate for anything of the kind.

As Angela Merkel is constantly obliged to point out, the German people would never have supported joining the euro if they had been told that they would become the guarantors of the debts of Greece. The Greeks would never have gone into the euro if they thought it meant the complete surrender of their economic independence and the destruction of their standards of living. As for the UK taxpayer, none of us believed that a condition of EU membership was the payment of billions in ransom money to stop the euro blowing up.

For years, European governments have been saying that it would be insane and inconceivable for a country to leave the euro. But this second option is now all but inevitable, and the sooner it happens the better. We have had the hamartia - the tragic flaw in the system that allowed high-spending countries to free ride on low interest rates. We have had the hubris - the belief the good times would never end. We have had nemesis - disaster. We now need the anagnorisis - the moment of recognition that Greece would be better off in a state of Byronic liberation, forging a new economic identity with a New Drachma. Then there will be catharsis, the experience of purgation and relief.

Various &/or Sundry

On Fr. John Corapi, now apparently just John Corapi, what can you say other than people are complicated? Most surprising is the fact he trademarked the phrase "black sheep dog" over year ago, well before all this happened. And there’s something creepy - even demonic - about the black sheep, the way the camera pans the white sheep in the eye of the black, and it slowly pans back to reveal the menacing black fur.


It twas a dark and rainy Father's day. I spent a couple afternoon hours alternately napping and reading Donald Hall's soothing memoir.

Hall links poetry and sex, which likely explains my interest in the former. He makes the observation that the dearth of women poets in earlier times coincided with sexual non-liberation. Makes it seem almost seedy to appreciate poets.


Mass with my folks at a different parish on Sunday because we had word that a foreign missionary whose speech was difficult to understand had given a 20 minute homily the day before at St Ann's. So we went to another to avoid that and ended up with - ! - a missionary from Ghana who was plainspoken and brief. He was inspirational in part due to his brevity, and the wisdom of his words, how when we do good to others, we do good to ourselves. When we do bad to others, we are hurt ourselves.


Life is all about making adjustments, just like major league hitters must.


On Saturday found a sunny hole in an otherwise cloudy day and so rode bikes, and Mom told me about visiting Fr. Jim and how his brother, the Irish Fr. John, was told by his bishop (back in the 1930s?) to go to a German parish and help to integrate a local church scene that had become somewhat splintered by language and custom. The parishioners wanted no part of this, and sent a petition asking the bishop overturn his decision. No dice, so Fr. John went there and won them over by sheer force of personality such that six years later, when he was to be assigned elsewhere, the parishioners sent a petition asking that he stay!


Watched the remake of True Grit, a riveting show produced by the Coen brothers. Spoiler alert: The odd thing about it was the ending, which showed the young spunky 14-yr old some 25 years later, a mean old spinster with part of her arm cut off. To me it was clear what the meaning of this was: when Maddie had the choice to choose which marshal she would hire to avenge her father's death, she chose not the best one, which was her originally stated aim, but the meanest. I thought this is a case where we become what we choose, or rather who we choose to be our hero. Rooster, played by Jeff Bridges, wore an eye patch and was cold and unfeeling when it came to killing although he did save the young Maddie's life at greats personal sacrifice. But when I went out to read several reviews, I saw little to no mention of the epilogue. In fact, one reviewer saw the story as a "conversion story". Go figure.


Anthony Esolen's columns are interesting if so self-consciously male. In his latest column he praises the book "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", a movie I loathed for reasons unclear although surely connected to the depressing and despairing nature of it. I actually almost felt sorry for the nurse in that film. Nor did I appreciate the callous disregard for life as shown in the end where one of the inmates kills Jack's character because he's been damaged, having been given a lobotomy.

June 17, 2011

Republicans Return to Reality

Peggy Noonan has a good column about how Republican candidates are seeing the light:
The problem with Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter, is not only that after 10 years our efforts have turned out of be—polite word—inconclusive. We are spending money we don’t have for aims we cannot even articulate.
This newfound wisdom on the part of some of the candidates seems the fruit of Obama being so interventionist since, of course, anything one party does the other party has to be "agin it" and anything your party does you must be for (hence that's why Obama's Bush-haters don't seem to complain about Obama following in Bush's footsteps).

Why's My Bookbag (or e-reader equvialent) so Heavy?

From McCullough's The Greater Journey:
The Seine could be any of a dozen shades of mud-brown or chalky green, gleaming silver or a deep indigo, depending on the time of year, the time of day, or simply whether the sun was out. The change could be astonishing, theatrical. In the gloom of winter, sand-colored bridges and palaces could look as leaden as the skies overhead, just as in full sunshine—even in winter— the same bridges and palaces would glow with such golden warmth it was as if they were lit from within. Naturally most Americans, unlike their countryman Cooper, greatly preferred Paris in sunshine.


Nathaniel Willis, having spent his first week walking the city in drizzling rain, said that when the sun burst forth at last it so changed all his previous impressions that he had to set off and see it all a second time. “And it seemed to me another city,” he wrote. “I never realized so forcibly the beauty of sunshine. Architecture, particularly, is nothing without it.”


It was a first encounter with a great Catholic shrine, with its immense scale and elaborate evocations of sainthood and ancient sanctions, and for the Americans, virtually all of whom were Protestants, it was a surprisingly emotional experience. Filling pages of her journal, Emma Willard would struggle to find words equal to the “inexpressible magic,” the “sublimity” she felt. I had heard of fifty or a hundred years being spent in the erection of a building, and I had often wondered how it could be; but when I saw even the outside of this majestic and venerable temple, the doubt ceased.
"When I entered the interior, and saw by the yet dim and shadowy light, the long, long, aisles—the high raised vaults—the immense pillars which supported them … my mind was smitten with a feeling of sublimity almost too intense for mortality. I stood and gazed, and as the light increased, and my observation became more minute, a new creation seemed rising to my view—of saints and martyrs mimicked by the painter or sculptor—often clad in the solemn stole of the monk or nun, and sometimes in the habiliments of the grave. The infant Savior with his virgin mother—the crucified Redeemer—adoring angels, and martyred saints were all around—and unearthly lights gleaming from the many rainbow-colored windows, and brightening as the day advanced, gave a solemn inexpressible magic to the scene."

From Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running":
If pain weren’t involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive—or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.


in the final analysis what’s most important is what you can’t see but can feel in your heart. To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient acts. But even activities that appear fruitless don’t necessarily end up so.

From Pat Conroy's "South of Broad":
“Men. Say something in defense of your sex,” she challenges me.

“We’d be fine ’cept they gave us dicks.”

From "The Tragedy of Arthur" by Arthur Philips:
I loved Venice first for its surface beauty, just like all the other suckers. But soon enough I loved its ability to hide from prying, to withdraw its essence behind those thousands of cleverly identical façades and squares, to vanish despite a billion grazing eyes, as though the tourists were all walleyed or willfully blind.

This & That

Interesting article on the incredible shrinking American vacation. I'm so European when it comes to vacation that I'm afraid of being labeled a socialist:
Performance increases after a vacation, with reaction times going up 40 percent. Vacations cure burnout, the last stage of chronic stress and something very difficult to shake. Burned-out employees are a major liability to effective performance. They may be at the office physically, but output is next to nothing when cognitive, physical and emotional resources have been depleted. Vacations regather crashed resources and restore productive capacity. But it takes two weeks for the recuperative process to occur. Only 14 percent of Americans take more than one week of vacation at a time these days, according to a Harris poll..
I've never once taken a two-week vacation in all these years, thinking the better idea is to spread them out. The longer break seems somehow more suited to the human person somehow, although if I had to work the other eleven months with only a week off I'd likely feel differently.


Read some of Donald Hall's poetry memoir. Liked it. How strong is his sense of place! I wonder how far my sense of place extends. Is the U.S. or the Midwest or Ohio too vast? Is a city more in keeping, or is even a city too big? If a place changes, as my original hometown has, can it still be considered "yours"? Or do we have no earthly city and so it's not really germane?

I would like to write a story detailing a micro-space, that tiny enclosed spot under the staircase of my parent's former house. Wouldn't it be something if the new owners put the house up for sale and they had an open house and I could sneak into that space if the realtor wasn't looking and reenact a small fragment of my childhood, the place I wrote my first poems (to the extent they could be so dignified)?


"Who has cupped his hand the waters of the sea and marked off the heaven's with a span?"

Today's prayers that really struck home was a simple line from the gospel that we must forgive others' transgressions so that God will forgive ours. Oh so familiar and yet I recalled I held something against my wife and I realized I needed to forgive her and I felt the healing balm of obedience to Christ.

Then too I appreciated the lines: "The Lord has chosen Sion as his dwelling place," and I thought about how great we can substitute "us" for "Sion" now and how beautiful it is that Christ actually desires to live with us and does so uncomplainingly. It occurred to me that it's not true that Jesus doesn't show his love in a supernatural way - what is the Eucharist if not a supernatural demonstration of his willingness to be close to us?

June 15, 2011

Coffee & Chocolate

This looks promising... Catholic Relief Services is involved in a coffee/chocolate program aimed at helping cocoa farmers and such via "fair trade".

More about it here.

That "W" Word

I recall seeing the quote on a banner at my alma mater: "To think that in such a place, I led such a life.". That seems so well-situated to the romantic clime of college and so foreign to the workplace. Why? Wonder starts at deeply appreciating that there is anything at all, that there is existence rather than non-existence. It would be well to cherish that quote in every place of our lives.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with work, albeit without the "love" part.

I've tended to see it as something imposed from without rather than something intrinsic to the fallen human condition. I must've missed Genesis 3 in religion class back in grade school, that part about toiling for one's daily bread.

I've always looked at work as something of a fluke, an accounting error, something that a better bottom line could fix. If I'd simply save more money, live more frugally then work could be optional. If I'd just live in a double-wide, I could be free of dependency on the job and that would make me free in spirit if not in fact.

I think back on how different this mindset is from, say, Mother Teresa's. She wasn't concerned about getting or keeping a job, because her life was her job and her job her life. I couldn't picture her saving money for "retirement", for a saint never retires, has no apparent thought of "living in leisure" and besides which is fully dependent on the will of God and not their own strategies. As the old saying goes, "if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans."


I find it interesting that Christ's most powerful means of showing his love for us was not supernatural, but natural: that of dying on the cross rather than miraculously healing us of all our ills. His Resurrection was proof that the Cross was taken on voluntarily, out of love. It's not either/or, of course, because some see God's love expressed in miracles, but it seems as though the "normal" way of experiencing God's love for us is to meditate on His sufferings.

Excerpt of a Wallace Stevens Poem

Found here, via Dylan:
Sea Surface Full of Clouds

In that November off Tehuantepec,
The slopping of the sea grew still one night
And in the morning summer hued the deck

And made one think of rosy chocolate
And gilt umbrellas. Paradisal green
Gave suavity to the perplexed machine

Of ocean, which like limpid water lay.
Who, then, in that ambrosial latitude
Out of the light evolved the morning blooms,

Who, then, evolved the sea-blooms from the clouds
Diffusing balm in that Pacific calm?
C’etait mon enfant, mon bijou, mon ame...

From a David Mills Piece...

in Touchstone:
Love demands the particular things that have been loved. We hope for Heaven, and for those things that will, as far as we can tell now, make Heaven more heavenly. My family doesn't want the ideal golden-haired mutt romping with us around the New Jerusalem. He will be perfect, but he won’t be good enough. We want to see Ben, because he is the dog we loved, even if he keeps wetting the golden streets.

June 14, 2011

St. Anthony Map

Ever seen those maps of the U.S. that show where "pop", "coke" and "soda" predominate? We need one of those for the prayers of St. Anthony. Where do we say, "Dear St. Anthony I pray / help me find x today!" (where x = what we've lost, often our sanity), and where do we say, "Tony, Tony, look around. Something's lost and must be found!"

June 13, 2011

Move to Ohio Feels Right

From California to Ohio, a man bites dog story?...
Firelight glowing. My daughter sleeping on the couch. Candles throwing shadows on the walls. Kitty napping among the pillows. Champagne shimmering in a glass.

I pick up the champagne and slip outside barefoot, raising the glass toward the moonlit mountains in a toast. As a silken breeze wafts over me, I say goodbye with my eyes: Goodbye, rosebush. Goodbye, palm trees. Goodbye, dark-green blades of grass and endless sky.

It's late December in California, and tomorrow I'm going home. Or am I leaving home? I can't decide.

"If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up somewhere else," Yogi Berra once said.

The paradox clamored in my mind the day I left California - my golden state for two decades - to return to Ohio.

June 12, 2011

North & South Carolina Trip Log


Our hotel the Edgewater in Gatlinburg was situated in the perfect location relative to the mountains but wasn't much fun to get to. We had to drive through trafficy Pigeon Forge, which is as ugly a town as Gatlinburg is pretty. Gatlinburg is nestled in the embrace of mountains while Pigeon Forge sits in drab foothills, and the natural beauty of the mountains absolves many a city planner sins.

Billboards advertised a theatre featuring the Hatfields and McCoys and I wondered how historically accurate that would be. I suspect not much. The depiction on the billboard was not cause for hope on that score. There is something profoundly corny about the ads but that is somehow strangely intriguing. Is it because it lacks irony?

Woke up at 6:30am for the Great Smoky trail and was pennywise and pound foolish with my time. Instead of diving deep and taking the hit in terms of time, I picked up little half trails off turnabouts along the way. Though it started with a vivid image - a wild turkey standing in the middle of the road.

I started out on a horse trail and found it reminiscent of southwestern Ohio, which is to say disappointing. I was expecting more, something on the order of how I experienced the Smokies back in the 90s. The only telling distinctions of these woods, so far as I could tell, were the plentiful rhododendrons and the nearby creek, which was rockier and cleaner than Ohio creeks.

A few miles later I find an explanation for why this wasn't true Smoky Mountain landscape - turns out this land on the fringe of the park was, a century ago, settled land. Hence the nouveau trees and unstartling views. In hindsight it's not surprising that parks have buffers - adjacent unglamorous land to protect the interior beauty from predations of asphalt and buildings.

So I finally got smart and headed for the interior, where all goodness lay. One can't expect nature to give up her jewels so easily. Like the supermarket, where they put the beer and milk in the back, the best parts of the parks are away from the entrance. Parks naturally will have some buffer. And the chimney top trail 10 miles in was packed full of wonder. Everything was bigger: the rocks of huge slabs arranged as if with an eye to artistry amid the bigger streams. Trees stood old and varied, rhododendrons bloomed more boldly and the coolness given off the mountain streams more refreshing. wildlife encountered included a snail, mid-trail, and three quiet turkeys. No bear!

Heading down the path I recalled a long cherished hike in Hocking Hills of an inner pasture framed by a hedge of trees, which recalled Chesterton's assertion that man loves frames. I also thought with relish how the Cherokees hid out in these woods so long ago. It just feels right that there be somewhere to hide, somewhere wholesomely inaccessible to law and the masses. I wished that a band of Indians still hid out here.

The hotel was also ideally situated for Mass, since the church was only four-tenths of a mile away. The universality of the church was highlighted by the southern accent of the priest - so often I associate Southern accents with Baptists and Methodists.


Feel in MBD (mild beer deficit), the first real day of vacation now that the duties of driving between the white lines and finding hotels have passed. Now it's pure saline water playing ceaselessly along the shore. Now the long vacation drought has ended, the January to June run that seems like the longest time I'd gone without a vacation since a previous century. So I whine.


Hit the beach and read a bit of an Arthur Philips novel and found it trying and wonder if Steven Riddle isn't right in having recently if temporarily sworn off modern novels. Wondering how good writers like Heather King can survive without selling out in some way. I'm worried for them, worried that God won't come through, as crazy as that sounds, for it's crazy to distrust God.

The sun spells two o'clock in the capacious sky. I dream of iPads, glowing in their crystalline way and how it seems to spin limp prose into gold. I think of Flipboard and how someone on Twitter said it was the reason to buy an iPad. I ponder which novel to read next, be it a morsel of sand, as wind-driven wave or the saturnine sun. Sea birds waddle along, busily looking for food as seeming always, pecking at the sea like a nervous tic. The wind pipes a tune in my empty beer bottle while I get set to think deep (copyright pending). I drink a Brooklyn brown ale, a broth the color of resin and reminiscent of antique furniture, built to last.

The waves have not regular hours; they check in and check out continuously 24/7. The ocean plays it's music and desensitizes me to sentiment such that I pick up a Pat Conroy novel. Three o'clock and the sky darkens and the horizon groans thunder. People begin clearing out, the wind stiffens. A front ahead, a front behind!

I love the drama of an approaching storm, the long tell-tale slight overcast, the full-on cloud cover, the distant drums before the sudden alarm of rain drops, here and there, enough to cease reading a book but not to forfeit this tiny spit of sand. Athwart the slings and arrows of outrageous precipitation, we'll not so easily submit! I keep a weather-eye on the life guard, figuring she knows the score. Meanwhile bamboo sticks are heaped up in mid-beach like kindling wood offerings. Kites fly like extras in "Mary Poppins".


Mass this morning. They say the only sure things are death and taxes, but Scott Hahn and family at mass during our week in Hilton Head seems in that same ballpark. It's consoling and inspiring.

The priest made mention of St Paul's struggles with humility. In Acts 20, we see him seemingly consciously trying to reenact Christ's death. Paul was going down to Jerusalem, like Jesus, and said that none of whom to he'd preach would never see his face again. But God had other plans, namely that Paul die in Rome. When I heard of the legend saying St. Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy of following Christ's example, it just seemed so amazing given how being crucified itself is so daunting, let alone be thinking at the time of not being worthy of it. There's not a smidgeon of self-entitlement in Peter, not a bit of being impressed over what he's "doing for God". Paul is more relatable, more understandable in some ways.

The priest spoke of how he has a spiritual director and it came to light that he can't speak of his father, dead some thirteen years, without shedding tears. The director said it sounded like he hadn't worked through the death of his father, but in truth the priest saw that he hadn't worked through the life of his father, that is, his current life, eternal life. Ever since then the priest has been able to talk without tears on the subject.

Meanwhile Steph has been reading Kreeft's "Angels and Demons" and she asked for her guardian angel's name last night. In a near dream the names Simeon and Ladicus came to her as names of her angel and mine respectively.


After a delicious breakfast of ham and cheese and eggs and crisp bacon, we headed out to conquer Sea Pines on bikes. We traveled by land and by sea (or at least sea shore) toward our destination of Lawton Stables where Steph enjoyed the animals while I bike-circled the extensive acres of gardens. Flowers as well as vegetables graced the plots and it inspired me to think about weeding and flower-seeding my own garden when I get back to the land of Oh-hi-ya.

Today's reading highlight was Murakami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running". Always inspiring to read about someone doing a 62-mile run just before I put my two-miler in. He is of that provincial unbeliever bent, alas. Also read a bit of Amby Burfoot's book on the necessity of movement given the way we've evolved. Half-dozed as I read more of the Conroy novel (noticed someone else reading it down here - he is master of the Low Country).

Meantime three strata greet my vision: sea, sand and sky. Sand is approximately thirty percent of the slice, sea around fifteen percent and sky the other fifty-five percent. A slight tilt of my head and sky becomes fully eighty percent, decorated with a half blue and half white of cloud.

The ocean, like a clipper ship, has sailed away from us! The tide moves so we move closer to the goal line where water rushes. Holes of sand crabs dot the immediate landscape.


"Well I was born in the sign of water / and it's there that I feel my best / the albatross and the whale they are my brother." - Little River Band

Wednesday, sweet Wednesday, who could not love a vacation Wednesday? The sky shimmers, the wind caresses my supine frame. Three days of extra exercise has left me sun-blissed and prone. Am on the sun deck, feeling an undertow of breeze while overlooking a veranda of green and blue. Wednesday afternoon. It sits meditatively. The rush-rush-rush in the blood becomes a hush-hush-hush. The daily do list has shrunk and the sea calls.


Sightly marred the morning by reading all about the resolution of "Wienergate". Why dost that interest me? Part of it was pure curiosity as to whether Anthony Weiner would get away with a rather obvious lie. But why would he lie about the prank, but so steadfastly not lie about it not being him? I suspect because the lie about being pranked came instantaneously, and was a panicky "3am" lie, one he would thereafter be stuck with. He found it more difficult to lie in the soberness of the next morning, in front of reporters, about whether the picture was of himself (though he did lie about not knowing whether it was him when he knew it was).


The ingredients of a good vacation seem to include access to decent food and as little driving as possible. Getting into HH at 7pm on Sunday felt too late. We didn't need to eat out on the way in, and groceries are easier to get the next day. A 3:30 arrival is much better, allowing a beach crash from 4-6. Monday felt like starting in a hole.

It's pretty easy to run down here: sand is easy on the legs, the sun bright not not too hot, and sea breezy. I did day one's run to Abba's "Supertrooper", day two to "500 miles" and today to the Rocky soundtrack, specifically "The Final Bell". The hairs on my arms stood on ends and adrenaline coursed my veins. It's all I can do to keep my hands and arms from directing the symphony in my ear. Compliant muscles fell into an uncomplaining rhythm. It was as if I could feel, in real time, my body getting in better shape. I lope down the beach past the curious sight of bodies laying flat against the sand, immobile as police chalk outlines.

Am now reading some of David McCullough's latest, "The Greater Journey", about 1830s Americans going to visit or live in Paris. There's the shock and awe, vividly described, of Protestant Americans seeing the cathedral at Rouen for the first time. A "fish out of water" type read. "Paris was a place where one wanted to walk - flaner, as the French said - where to walk is practically a way of life." Seems the mark of a great city is one you want to walk, something I feel only in NYC among American cities. Balzac wrote: "Flanerie is a form of science, it is gastronomy of the eye." The bedding and breakfasts of Paris were also enthusiastically proclaimed: "the was no 'opiate' like a French pillow," said one vistor. Here on this South Carolina beach I could enjoy a decadent "two times travel", a vicarious trip on a real one, making it doubly pleasurable. And I'm hardly a Frenchophile. McCullough is tops.


Oh the sea, the live-long sea! The grey-green sea and its many-splendored waves. Today it felt providential to come upon Murakami's mention of how human beings love to "look at water."

Today was a grandiloquent 10:30am to 5pm day, a generous one without the distraction of bike ride. Just sea winds and wave raves! Music, beer, beach and books, the great white way of sand with no lane lines, no beach traffic controllers, just room to zig and zag when the tide allows. I like a vacation where the biggest responsibility is toting the beach chairs to and fro.


Took the traditional Long Bike Ride (TM) to the little roadside stand that time forgot. Then beyond it to its apposite: the young mansions near Shelter Cove.

The sun is lemon yellow and the surf busy as usual. Beryl waves lap the shore. ("Beryl" is my new favorite word.) I feel a slight unease since tomorrow is already the last day, as if a "gathering storm" is gathering. Read a bit of "Drood" by Simmons, for olde time's sake, for vacation's past.

Pondered last Saturday in the Great Smokies and how I would look at a distant mountain and wonder what it was like there, inside the mountain. But that's fool's gold since I was already on the inside, I could see the representative of its beauty right in front of me. "The mountain is always greener from another mountain!"


I thought about work today in the context of the news of higher than expected jobless claims. Feel I should value my job more, give more thought and energy to it, be more helpful and consistent. Also thought about how the new zeitgeist is "Wikipedia over tags expert" or collaboration over individuality in the workplace. No wonder there's so much emphasis on getting together and hanging out.


Surprised to be reading the Murakami memoir and "The Greater Journey". Kindle is a godsend. It seems logical I would want to read something other than what I was just reading in Ohio. Fresh vacation, fresh reading material. "South of Broad" has taken a detour, gotten preachy. He's great when he's lyrical but less good when dialogue takes over.


Smoky flavor of Edmund Fitzgerald porter intoxicates, even apart from its modest alcohol content. I savor each sip - in fact, each sip seems a slight insult to the last, as if five minutes between sips is not long enough to enjoy the lingering flavor. I've a sudden hankering for old Indigo Girls tunes, always a sign of a vacation well underway. I recall the tune "Nashville" and mentally substitute "Thursday" for Nashville. There are two kinds of waves to ride down here, the kind in the ocean and the "buzz line". A steady .05 in my blood, although that sounds unduly technocratic and chemical.

Meanwhile the sun sparkles gold on the beryl sea. The burnt-early sun reminds me of a long ago "Yes" concert. I remember the strains of '84 reverberating in my memory. The soak of nostalgia under that same '80s sun. And those "Sweet Home Chicago" drives away from home. And how keen the memory of that Fenian band at the Irish pub in NYC - before Irish pubs became common as water.


Hello! Whoa! Feeling the effects of uber-exercise. Light-headed when I get up from a prone position and have developed a supra economy of motion (read: strong desire to do nothing but lay on the beach). Crashed my metabolism such that biking or running on this last day feels punitive rather than restorative.

Still looking for all things Lowcountry on the literary front. Read a Hilton Head travel guide. I like the Columbus Dispatch when in Ohio; down here I avoid the auto-downloads on the Kindle as if it were contaminatory material. Would like to read another Lowcountry author but the pickens seem slim. (Update: later found Dorothea Frank and Cal Linke as possibles.)

Hilton Head was not named after a hotel chain but an early explorer, and read of a potential etymology of the word "Gullah", the language of freed slaves after the Union took the island during the Civil War. The language sounds like Ebonics to me but am strangely drawn to it and regret not buying that Bible in Gullah I saw at a shop a couple years back. History reverberates even here in what ostensibly is a tourist trap.


Murakami's rather prosaic running memoir has inspired this travelogue! If a pro writer can write at length about his tight muscles, then why not a blogger about the beryl sea and my own exercise down here? (Ok, two wrongs don't make a right but...)

I write in part to stave off the erosion of vacation's resin, to preserve as in amber some remnant. A fool's errand but in some quixotic way satisfying nevertheless. A youngster plays in the sand and reminds me of Chesterton - full of wonder over what I so easily overlook. What, pray tell, interests the child in the digging of sand and the resulting immediate water fill? What prompts the travelogue? Like a child in the sand I write in quicksilver on this Etch-a-sketch. I just wish I was in better shape so I can access those insights reserved for longer distance running.

Leonine mothers,
Full of the bumper of fat,
Designed to nurse and nourish.

I sit watching the sea, wondering how much sea to see, wondering how long this landlocked soul should soak in this perishable resource. I took a bike ride in the morning, the trees gift-wrapped with Spanish moss, the sun a living slainte. Savannah and her gothic-green squares lies just twenty miles south but an hour by car. I'd rather float there. The theme from "Gilligan's Island" inevitably comes to mind down here: "no motor cars / not a single luxury." (Except for, oh, stores, beds, beer, Kindle, iPod, etc.., etc...). Monday I swim in the ocean out of an atavistic obligation. Friday I tear into the same with relish. Oh, for another week?


Last night we rode bikes to the surprisingly enjoyable Coligny Square. No square is honored if too close to where one's staying, hence we've long avoided this place replete with places to eat. We found an outside cafe with a fine guitarist and good food, and with craft beer to boot.


Reading about the 19th century, it occurs to me how people seem to have made life worse. Every aspect of existence seems to have been made more difficult by Victorians. For example, clothes. It took women several hours to dress in all those cumbersome clothes. I exaggerate only slightly. Second, the Industrial Revolution forced people indoors under unnatural and overly long work conditions. Third war, the greatest producer of misery mankind has yet invented, and in this country the Civil War was arguably over slavery, another producer of misery. Murakami says pain and pointless effort is salutary (except in the case of war and slavery, of course), because "exerting yourself to the fullest with your individual limits is a metaphor for life." He argues to live life to the fullest is to engage in the challenge of triathlons, hoop skirts and, perhaps, the charge of the light brigade. Me? I prefer the slow suck of beers on a sandy beach. I'm a creature of my age, alack and alas.


So we packed and got out the door around 8am, but I could wish we'd hung out just a bit longer since 10am is the latest we could stay and well the weather was stellar as always, another sunny morning while now, in Virginia, we're hitting rain (a foreign substance of this week). Read desultorily. I miss HH already. How great would it be to retire here! (Note: Must play the lottery.) But the key is to recognize what we're here for, and it's not self-indulgence. Need to read a spiritual book.

Yesterday on the beach we met a fellow Ohioan - surprise - "Ohio South" strikes again. Afterward I took a valedictory bike ride on the nearly empty beach and then went a short way along the bike paths toward Sea Pine.


And so I wake up and almost - almost - expect to see the sea and travel on my bike, a ritual so often repeated this past week. I weigh myself and find it slightly humorous that despite my strenuous exercise I've lost nary a pound. Or I could presume that plenty of muscle was added, offsetting the fat loss. Ha ha.

The weather today is 66 and cloudy in Columbus. It's 73 and sunny down in SC. But the clouds aren't so bad. There's something pregnant about a possible thunderstorm. And it is home anyway. I remind myself I hadn't evolved to live in hot, sunny climates; my sunburnt-skin attests to that.

June 03, 2011

Friday Quick Hits

Recent tweets & retweets!
"Marilyn Monroe, an avid reader, would have turned eighty-five yesterday. See what's on her bookshelf."


Dogfish Head Raison D’Être: In the world of beer, there are Belgians and there are Germans.


"It’s fun when I discover a new musical group while trolling the hidden corners of the internet. Give them a try: ABBA." - Steve Martin tweet.


Tressel: Christian under fire.


"I find it funny that most priests complaining about the new translation are the same ones who change the words we have now." - Fr. Charles OFM


I think of Detroit as close to dead, but it appears to still have a great art museum amid the ruins.


"Overheard, in song: 'The Lord is kinda merciful.'" - Fr. Charles tweet


#Amazon Reveals the Most #WellRead Cities in #America


"Tonight's meditation: Double-Stuffed Oreos should just be called Oreos, and regular Oreos should be called Diet Oreos." - David Pogue


How Jay Nordliner Stopped Worrying and....


Artsy, museum-going men are happier, new study says. (And not always gay!)


"When I was a kid, the Dead Sea was only sick."

June 02, 2011

This & That

Went on a Heather King blog binge yesterday, lapping up two or three weeks’ worth in a single sitting. It was the next best thing to reading one of her books. She has a knack for finding great obscure quotes as well, such as meditations on the cross in Christian life by a French murderer and subsequent penitent.


The rank sun shines as I trudge/jog two miles. How woefully out-of-shape I am! But I plug on. Yesterday I carried 40-lb bags of mulch around the yard and am reminded how those carrying extra weight in the form of flab are, in some weird sense, athletes. It's a challenge carrying it!


There is no pint in going on,
when three I've had and more for sure,
next beer I drink I may well don.


Read yesterday's Dispatch and methodically gobbled up all the travails of resigned-in-infamy coach Jim Tressel of Ohio State. Then I consumed a Sports Illustrated article on the same. Deeply interesting to me given his charitable spirit, and famous Christian rectitude. I guess he thought the stakes were worth it - i.e. to lie to the NCAA in exchange for a possible national championship. Or, more charitably, he wanted to protect his players, despite his players being mostly spoiled brats. It's strange to think that he thought the university wouldn't read his emails when his email address is on OSU's domain.


Hilton Head beckoneth. Three days from now we'll be on the road. Would like to stop somewhere on the way down, preferably near some hiking trails, but it seems many of the parks along the way don't look any different from southeastern Ohio. Certainly none look quite like that one-of-a-kind forest primeval that is the Great Smokies. Good hiking places = anything west and south of Colorado and anything in the Great Smokies National Park. To detour to the Real Thing would be an extra two hours, which I suppose is possible. The other option is a park in West Virginia which is the "crown jewel of West Virginia parks" though that might like being the best '12 Republican presidential candidate. Just kidding WV!


With the dentist, you just try to hie through an obstacle course of x-rays and visual examinations and hope your teeth pass muster. You're at cross purposes: the dentist's living depends on finding problems, while you hope he finds none. But it sure beats the alternative: tooth aches and teeth pulls.

June 01, 2011

Politics, '12 Style

So we Republicans have often bamboozled and befuddled ourselves by a tendency to pick the trooper, the guy who's waited his turn, be it George HW Bush or Bob Dole or John McCain. Turn-waiting is overrated.

I've been looking more seriously at Tim Pawlenty, but he's a bit too much of a standard-issue military industrialist it seems to me and from what I've heard he's unwilling to tell the truth about Afghanistan:
"Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the country should try to decrease its troop levels in Afghanistan within the next two years, but only if conditions allow it."
Conditions, of course, will never allow it, given that the nation's longest war shows no markers of victory.

I don't much like Ron Paul's it's-America's-fault-for- everything-that-happens attitude, but am tempted towards a protest vote for him.

Pawlenty's pro-life credentials don't strike me as poor enough to throw the Minnesota governor overboard, but he seems to have waffled on waterboarding, first being against it before he was for it.

The trick to being a happy voter is to not look at any of the candidates too closely. Pretend you didn't read this.