December 31, 2012

Seven Long Takes

Scene outside our door at dusk yesterday.
The high, high ceiling of St. Ann's Church caught my eye Christmas Day. There in the rafters was a small blue-stained glass window, one seemingly put there just for the angels to enjoy. What a marvelous touch, I thought, putting that little window way up there as if symbolizing the heights to which we are called to or representing the element of surprise that God employs. It has about it a kind of divine hiddenness about it, as if the church designer wanted touches that transcended utility or usefulness. That little window could not be observed up close by anybody and yet I imagine the artist wasn't making it half-assedly in an attitude of "well, nobody will see this up close" but more in the spirit that God intends all of our works to be: done in a spirit of care because God sees.

St. Ann's has the little surprises of old churches, like an inexplicable nook on the other side of the altar. It's a building that invites exploration unlike most dull, modern churches which tend to eliminate mystery, much as the church in the years immediately following Vatican II tried to eliminate mystery by dumping Latin and watering down "Catholic distinctives" like the rosary. So often art and architecture and liturgy mirror what we believe. Or don't believe.

I love the stained glass windows at St. John's Byzantine church, even more so because they quote inspiring Scripture at the bottom of them instead of having the gauche script of many Roman Catholic churches, "Donated by Mr. and Mrs. So and So".


After-Christmas was marked dramatically by conditions just shy of a blizzard. Cincy supposedly had a blizzard, while we got a winter storm, the difference apparently being just 5mph in wind (20-25mph with 40mph gusts for them). We were supposed to get a gaudy 6-10 inches of snow, but I'm thinking we ended up with maybe 4-5. Certainly wasn't overtiring shoveling the driveway. Never one to let a good crisis go to waste, I decided to work from home on the 26th.


Books! You knaves! You drive me to distraction with your infinite variety and buy-crying, voices calling to me with such seductive flair! I had to buy Hilary Mantel's "Bringing Up the Bodies" of course, seeing how it's about a period of history I'm particularly interested in (King Henry VIII-era). And of course I had to buy Jody Bottum's work called "Christmas Plains" simply on the basis of his discursive, eclectic and engaging writing.

Finished ye olde "The Bartender's Tale", my 16th of the rapidly fading 2012. It was engaging if a bit sentimental. Kind of Earl Hammer-ish in some ways.


From Chesterton:
"Christ­mas occurs in the win­ter. It is the ele­ment not mere­ly of con­trast, but actu­al­ly of antag­o­nism. It pre­serves every­thing that was best in the mere­ly prim­i­tive or pagan view of such cer­e­monies or such ban­quets. If we are carous­ing, at least we are war­riors carous­ing. We hang above us, as it were, the shields and battle-axes with which we must do bat­tle with the giants of the snow and hail. All com­fort must be based on dis­com­fort. Man choos­es when he wish­es to be most joy­ful the very moment when the whole mate­r­i­al uni­verse is most sad. It is this con­tra­dic­tion and mys­ti­cal defi­ance which gives a qual­i­ty of man­li­ness and real­i­ty to the old win­ter feasts which is not char­ac­ter­is­tic of the sunny felic­i­ties of the Earth­ly Par­adise."
-- “Christ­mas Books,” Appre­ci­a­tions


I'm getting little gleams of goodness from the Catechism readings. Like the following passage, which offers a kind of "course correction" on my assumption that God the Father approved of his Son's obedience in being baptized by John merely for his own sake:
"Father’s voice responds to the Son’s acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son. The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to “rest on him.” Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism “the heavens were opened”—the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed—and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation."
This suggests that the Father's joy over Jesus was for our sake, that Jesus had, with his Baptism, opened the heavens for us! Again it shows a Father not bent on receiving his obedience for His own sake, but towards a goal of restoration of everyone. I've always pictured it as God the Father seeing Jesus subordinating himself to John and saying with exasperation, "At last! Someone down there has done it right!" False!


Despite all the turmoil and craziness of the holiday season, there was under-girding it all a kind of feeling hard to describe. If it felt like a roller-coaster ride during which I wasn't much in control and barely hanging on, there was a sort of refreshing brainlessness to it, a change of pace from the heavy mind use that constitutes my daily life of reading and computer programming. The great chill - it was in the 20s yesterday which is reasonably uncomfortable for someone of Irish heritage who, in his blood, has rarely seen sub-40 temps - contributed to a feeling of convalescence, of those "bad old days" when I actually got a cold or flu once or twice a year and thus was "subjected" to a massive influx of entertainment.

Thinking of getting Tom Wolfe's latest novel about Miami titled "Back to Blood". The title is a reference to a character saying that in these post-religion days we're losing that which united us and thus we're "back to blood", i.e. feeling solidarity only towards those of our ethnicity. Downloaded first chapter on Kindle and am surprised by how engrossing it is. I'm going to order the hardback because I wanted to re-experience the sensuous presence of a physically well-built book, as most of Wolfe's are. I'm not sure it's the best thing for him to write so nakedly about tensions between whites and Latinos (does writing about race inflame the situation further?) but it's interesting to read his novelistic reportage on how many Hispanics view "Americanos", the term used by Miami Cubans when talking among themselves. "Anglo" is the term for whites when they're talking to outsiders. I sense it's not a good sign when you refer to a group by one name within your own group and by a different name outside that group. Ala the n-word being used by whites historically.


So the sweet uplands of vacation are now behind me and I face the physics of moving my body from shower to car to parking garage to work.

Began watching How Beer Saved the World last night, a tasty little Netflix offering. A documentary with a sense of humor. Also have "Captain America" in the queue.

For better or worse, I'm long past the need to do something social on New Year's Eve simply because it's New Year's Eve. In the bad old 80s and 90s it was a grand holiday spent at bars with the boys looking for girls. But certainly marriage drains the social impulse greatly by eliminating the chase of the skirt. Not sure how much was my appreciation for camaraderie with the guys and how much was desire for finding a potential mate.


Didn't go to my Byzantine parish yesterday in part because that Eastern liturgy's music is not influenced by liturgical season. Nothing really of Christmas to it. But the carols at my Roman Catholic parish were terribly saccharine, like Away in a Manger. My least favorite ones with two of the four I'd never even heard of. Oh but I was hoping for "O Come All Ye Faithful". I know Christmas is supposed to be twelve days, but the flavor at mass is more "one and done" as compared to Easter. With Easter, you're likely to hear "Jesus Christ Was Risen Today" two consecutive Sundays, while with Christmas the Sunday after we're celebrating the Holy Family and the childhood of Jesus. There are still Christmas hymns sung on the Sunday after but they tend to be more like "Away in a Manger" than "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". A bit o' a letdown. Not that we go to church for the hymns of course.


Grandson Sam was saying over and over, "I want Netflix." About ten times we'd watched the familiar castle at the beginning of a Netflix'd Disney show, rewinding and cheering as it loomed back into view. Definitely as he nears 3 years old he's feeling his oats these days, is much more assertive and energetic. Gosh I don't know how parents do it, but about the 70th time Sam said "I want Netflix" I felt a bit of chaos: I was trying to figure out how to program the remote to the new TV while Sam was saying "I want Netflix" while our 100lb dog was trying to hop in my lap and while baby Will was starting to cry. I can see so clearly the necessity of mancaves and just why they are so popular. They're completely optional - unless you have kids.

My wife certainly seems in her wheelhouse here in this land of kids and plenty. Vacations at home are always her favorite since she has the comforts of home, joined with the possibility of making home improvements of some type, joined also with ubiquitous grandchildren opportunities.

Parents take on superhuman qualities in my eyes after getting a glimmer of what they go through daily. (Stepson Aaron says his secret to parenting is "have very low expectations about how the day will go.") Kids drive parents crazy, almost by design it would seem. It's sobering to realize I was once all need, all noise and an effective agent of parental insanity.

I must admit that drinking with the kids here makes the kids being here 62% more enjoyable by volume, where volume is measured by the ale pint and the wail-cry. All-in-all much nicer where "nicer" is defined downwardly. I'm thinking that it's better to bring a bad mood into a medium mood versus transforming a medium mood to a great mood. Ok, enough whining. And wine-ing.

Sam was unbearably cute in a video Steph made of him waiting for my arrival on Christmas Day. He was waiting by door, looking for any sign of "Paw-Paw" and alternating between audible thoughts of Paw-paw and Uncle Bud, the latter of whom Sam said over and over, "Uncle Bud has a boo-boo." (His nemesis Uncle Bud being in the hospital for a potential blood clot.) Sam was giddy upon recognizing my car in the driveway and when I got in immediately treated me to a drum solo on his new equipment.


It looks like my fetish to "live like a hunter-gatherer because that's the way we evolved except with respect to alcohol consumption" may have another requirement. I just read a Daily Beast article on the parenting hunter/gatherer style and it seems that "allo-parenting" is probably good for kids and certainly has the wisdom of the ages behind it.

Allo-parenting is basically letting everyone help raise your child, particularly grandparents and aunts and uncles. So it would seem that parents spending less time with kids is not likely to weaken the parent/child bond.

The article certainly makes me queasy on certain things, like the insouciance traditional societies have with regard to premarital sex - and it makes me outraged over others, like the approval of infanticide. My fetish for all things natural comes up against the object of man as a dogma-making animal. That which make us different from animals is that we don't simply do what "comes natural". We are called to something higher. The author of the piece seems mainly concerned only with what "works" rather than what's right. The two notions aren't the same.

And of course I'm not exactly thrilled about how traditional societies reject consuming anything passively from outsiders, be it books, movies, etc... But that would explain their marked sociability and length of time spent talking. If one doesn't read or watch tv, you have plenty of time and inclination to find your entertainment in talking to others and being more sociable. I predict the explosion of entertainment options with the invention of tablets and smart phones will make social skills even rarer going forward.


Am haunted by Cardinal Dolan quoting St. Padre Pio today as saying something along the lines that "silence and tears are the only way to God". Must google exact quote. I think about how rarely I do either one.

Cardinal Ratzinger writes about silence in a recent meditation in "Co-Workers of the Truth":
"Christmas beckons us to enter into God’s silence; and his mystery remains unknown to so many because they cannot find the silence in which God is active. How can we find it? Absence of words alone does not yet produce it. For a person may well remain silent outwardly, while inside he is completely torn apart by the restlessness of so many things. A person may well be silent, and yet there is a frightening noise inside him. To enter into silence means: to discover a new inner order."

"The dinosaurs are said to have become extinct because their development went in the wrong direction: plenty of armor plate and little brain, plenty of muscles and little sense. Are we not also about to develop in a wrong direction: plenty of technology but little soul? A thick armor plate of material expertise but an emptied heart? Dearth of the ability to perceive God’s voice in us, to recognize and acknowledge what is good and beautiful and true? Is it not high time for an adjustment in our 'evolutionary' course?"

December 22, 2012


"Look at the sun, it is grand, glorious, and majestic; nobody could possibly overlook its yearly triumphal return. Should not its Creator at his arrival be even more majestic, more impressive? Should not this very sunrise of history flood the face of the earth with inexpressible glory? Yet instead—how miserable is everything we hear about in the Gospel! Or could it be that this very misery, this insignificance within the framework of this world, is the hallmark of the Creator, by which he makes known his presence? This, at first, appears to be an unbelievable thought. And yet—if we explore the mystery of God’s providence, we will see ever more clearly that God seems to give of himself a twofold sign. There is, first of all, the sign of his creation. But alongside this sign there appears more forcefully the other, the sign of what is insignificant in this world. The most genuine and most important values are found in this world precisely under the sign of humility, of hiddenness, of silence. Whatever is decisively great in this world, whatever determines its fate and its history, is that which appears small to our eyes. God, after having chosen the small and ignored people of Israel for his very own people, has made, in Bethlehem, the sign of insignificance into the decisive sign of his presence in this world. This is the challenge of the holy night—faith; faith to receive him under this sign and to trust him without arguing or grumbling."

Cardinal Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth

December 20, 2012

From the Dep't of "You Can't Make It Up"

Only half of Americans are dissatisfied with the way Obama handled Benghazi. Koolaid, meet drinker; drinker, meet Koolaid.

All of which leads me to wonder if Nixon would've had to resign in disgrace if he'd been more likable.

Interesting Election Take

...i.e. follow the economy, via NR (click to enlarge):

Image and Likeness

I could profitably meditate, perhaps forever, on the startling truth that man was made in the image and likeness of God and that therein lies the source of our dignity.

I recall a decade or so wondering why the Church thought the modern world devalued ourselves. Isn't it rather the opposite, that we are making ourselves gods? And yet I see the wisdom in it now: we undersell life at every opportunity, most notably in killing our unborn. A million babies a year dying says, in an especially stark way, that we don't value life. That existence is not necessarily better than non-existence. That was brought home to me in a conversation with a co-worker who was in favor of abortion for those who would be born in poverty.

Do we see others as so infinitely precious that God with sacrifice Himself to Himself for each of us? That is such a hard vision to maintain. We are, after all, abundantly numerous. There are billions of us in the world. We are not cheap or rare in the way a diamond or gold is, not scarce in material terms. But we are very dear in spiritual terms. And we suffer, in small ways or in large, and suffering in life tends to make us think life is worth less, that it's more burden than gift and in old age or sickness euthanasia becomes attractive. We judge life on the pleasure it brings us rather than the goal of virtue and Heaven.

I Smell a Rat least two Ignatius Press books, including:
The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist


The Splendors of the Rosary
....are not available on except after a delay of weeks. (I'd ordered the Splendors book on Dec 7th and still haven't received it and the estimated ship date for "The Complete Thinker" is into mid-January.)

Ignatius Press is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. My purchases were meant to be gift books for Christmas but now I won't purchase the Alquist. (Did purchase the Rosary book through Ignatius Press website, which falls right into their hands I suppose.)

December 19, 2012


My theory is that the material object the male mind is most sensitive to for comparison purposes (besides women's breasts and his own reproductive equipment) is the television. Normally I'm pretty impervious to what other people have. They may have nicer homes, better cars, awesome refrigerators, etc. and I'm fine with it but wow - does a big TV get my attention or what? They used to call television the "small screen" but now I'm beginning to wonder.

It's kind of fascinating to observe the consumer impulse so nakedly present in myself. Who knew the very thing that has created a nation of debtors is in me as well! I was over at my brother-in-laws and saw part of OSU basketball game on his 60-inch screen and I couldn't look away. Transfixed I was, as if at a strip club - not that I've necessarily ever been at a strip club but....

It's a cliche, but it's really like being at the game. The immersiveness is off the charts. Now I feel keenly the difference between that 60-inch and our 38-inch television. I've long put off television purchases on principle, thinking this drive towards bigness an indication of an impoverished literary state among other things. It felt too symbolic of all that was wrong with the world, with its primacy given to the visual over the textual, the worship of the narcotic ease of effortless leisure over more demanding and more satisfying activities. It seemed a symbol of a misplaced priorities, conspicuous consumption and shortened attention spans. Even my 38-inch was a Christmas gift from my wife, as I was more or less content with the previous 32-inch.

But a funny thing happened on the way to my self-righteousness party: I'm finding I'm not immune. It's very hard to resist the 'suasion of this new era of overgrown tv/movie theaters especially given that they seem to be the "new normal". When ALL your brothers and sisters and brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws have bigger televisions than you, you do start to feel it. There's a cumulative effect of sorts.

So give me a trailer where the buffalo roam, and a big screen TV. That's all I ask. (Yeah, right.)

December 17, 2012

Media Coverage Rewards the Killer

From Jim Geraghty:
The one gun-control proposal I'm starting to think about is the argument about extended clips. The standard version of the Glock, the most popular handgun in America, has 17 rounds in its magazine. I believe in a near-universal right to carry arms for self-defense, but does anyone feel their ability to defend themselves — the guy working the midnight shift in a convenience store, the coed walking home alone, the senior citizen in a bad neighborhood — depends upon the ability to fire more than 17 rounds without pausing to reload?

Of course, an extended-clip ban wouldn't end mass shootings. But it would mean that every maniac on a killing spree would have to pause to reload at some earlier point than some past shooters have, perhaps giving other victims a better chance to overpower him or escape.

But in the end, we're still left with the bigger problem: young men who want to kill as many people as possible.

We have quite the well-established profile by now, don't we? Young men alienated from their peers and society at large. They don't have many friends; they don't have girlfriends; they feel denied some sort of recognition or appreciation they deserve. They respond to this with an emotion so far beyond the garden-variety frustration, depression, or anger that it's hard to comprehend. Oftentimes they leave some sort of note or e-mail detailing their grievances against the world. They decide that they're going to become famous and well-known in death in the way they never could achieve in life — and then a world that never seemed to care about their troubles or how they felt will spend a lot of time thinking about them.

I'm pretty convinced that the media coverage fuels these impulses in these young men, disturbed and full of rage and desperately craving some recognition of them, their potential, their pain.

John Tabin spotlighted this assessment from a forensic psychiatrist:

If you don't want to propagate more mass murders . . .

Don't start the story with sirens blaring.

Don't have photographs of the killer.

Don't make this 24/7 coverage.

Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story.

Not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.

Do localize this story to the affected community and as boring as possible in every other market.
And of course, each one seems to spur copycats.

December 13, 2012

A Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items

Glorious was working out on the elliptical with iPad at hand and discovering the obscure (to me) book of Judith, one not found in Protestant bibles. The prompt was saying the Glorious Mysteries and coming across a quote from Judith chapter 15 in which Judith sounds like Mary, a blessed and praised woman in Zion. And so I read a couple chapters and then reveled in the Collegeville commentary. It was especially poignant in laying it all out there, and much was highlight worthy. God is free, she says, to do as He wills. Let us not put God to the test, or in our little boxes.

Some the book of Judith:
But you have no right to demand guarantees where the designs of the Lord our God are concerned. For God is not to be threatened as a human being is, nor is he, like a mere human, to be cajoled. Rather, as we wait patiently for him to save, let us plead with him to help us. He will hear our voice if such is his good pleasure.


Then, her plea for the divine succour ended, Judith rose from the ground where she lay prostrate in the Lord’s presence, called her maidservant to her, and went downstairs into her house. Flung aside, now, the sackcloth, folded away her widow’s weeds; she bathed herself, anointed herself with the finest myrrh, parted and tied her hair. The garments of happier days she donned anew, put on her sandals, took bracelet and anklet, ear-ring and finger-ring; decked herself with every ornament she had. The Lord himself lent grace to her mien; manly resolve, not woman’s wantonness, was the occasion of her finery, and he would enhance her beauty till all beholders should vow there was never woman so fair. A bottle of wine she bade her serving-maid carry, and a phial of oil, parched corn and dry figs, and bread, and cheese, and so she went out on her journey. When they reached the gates, they found Ozias and the elders of the city awaiting them there; and no sooner did these catch sight of her, than they fell into a great wonderment of her beauty...

No sooner did she stand before him, than Holofernes’ eyes made him her prisoner. Meanwhile, his lords were saying to one another, Who shall belittle the Hebrew folk, or doubt they are worth the attacking, when for prize there are such women as this?
From the commentary:
They think that if God is just and yet they are suffering, then they must have been unfaithful...They have made the theory of retribution into an equation that is automatic and interchangeable. If disobedience brings suffering, then all suffering must be the result of disobedience. But the relationship between God and the people is personal rather than mathematical. Just as God is free to send blessing when it is undeserved, so also is God free to send suffering for purposes other than punishment.


They must be grateful to God, even in the midst of distress and even on account of their distress, because their affliction is a proof of God’s love for them (see Prov 3:12). Finally, they must remember God’s dealings with their ancestors so that they will understand God’s fidelity and the meaning of their own suffering.


The second doubt that Judith treats is the people’s lack of faith in their own fidelity to God.


Judith’s second preparation for war is the enhancement of her beauty. After bathing, she uses all the human arts available to her to make herself both beautiful and captivating: perfumed ointment, a fancy hairstyle, festive clothing, and jewelry (10:1–4).

Judith understands the goodness of her body. She knows that her physical beauty is good and that it comes from God. She also knows that the power of her beauty comes from within her, from her holiness, from her faithfulness to God. Since both her exterior and interior beauty come from God, her beauty must be devoted to the service of God. God intends to use her beauty as a weapon to liberate the people. She will wield the weapon to the best of her ability.

The response of others to this second preparation of hers testifies to its effectiveness. The men of her own city are astounded at her beauty (10:7). After she arrives at the enemy camp, the guards of Holofernes gaze at her face in awe because of its wondrous beauty (10:14). The crowd that gathers within the camp at her arrival marvels at her beauty. They say to one another: “Who can despise this people that has such women among them? It is not wise to leave one man of them alive, for if any were to be spared they could beguile the whole world” (10:19).

A coincidence, perhaps, or maybe God telling me something, but it seemed like this morning's theme was the tears of God and the tears unspilt by me. Jesus wept and agonized in the Garden of Gethsamene and a human rendering was that this was due to his fear of what lay ahead. But another view is that of seeing him as agonizing over the sins that we committed as a human race. St. Paul said that Christ became sin for us, took on our sins, and thus was in some sense perhaps not weeping for himself but was repenting on our behalf. In this way we can see why He said on the way of the cross to weep not for him, but for ourselves. Anyway the thoughts about tears were reinforced by my chance reading of Edith Stillwell's winter anthology this very morning:
Drop, drop, slow tears,
   And bathe those beauteous feet
Which brought from Heaven
   The news and Prince of peace:
Cease not, wet eyes,
   His mercies to intreat:
To crie for vengeance
  Sinne doth never cease:
In your deep floods
   Drown all my faults and fears,
Nor let his eye
  See sinne, but through my tears.

The next poem went:

Since Thou didst weep, as many tears
Have flowed like hourglass sand.
Thy tears were all,
And when our secret face
Is blind because of the mysterious
Surging of tears wrung by our most profound
Presentiment of evil in man's fate, our cruellest wounds
Become Thy stigmata. They are Thy tears which fall.

That was an excerpt of a beautiful poem titled "Lachrymae".


Incredibly, reality television has come to a Catlick blogger. Jennifer of "Conversion Diary" fame has her own show on NET network, whatever the NET network is. Fortunately one can view online, and I plan to be watching episode uno on Thursday at 8pm. That Warhol guy was incredibly prescient on the fame thing, about everybody getting their fifteen minutes' worth. And he said that long before the democratization of the Internet, and invention of phone video cameras, YouTube, blogs, etc... I'd love to learn how he arrived at that conclusion because he really seems prophetic.


Well, it seems important to mark yesterday down as the first really cold day since last winter. Twenty-something degrees gets my attention. I suppose it's necessary to notice if only because if God went to all the trouble to create seasons and weather then it seems reasonable to acknowledge his work. Hence, the first day of true warmth or true cold seems worthy of comment. It's certainly a mercy to say that the first really chill-bone of a day comes in December. Really shrinks "winter" if you have as warm an October and November as we've had.

Personally, I don't know how those Floridians feel in a Christmas-y mood given the warm temps down there. It seems almost a farce, like "Christmas in July", but then that's just my own cultural associations talking. I heard Lino Rulli say something similar about Californians. Christmas is certainly awesome no matter where it's celebrated and weather is ultimately a distraction. No snow in Bethlehem I'm guessing.

I'm always surprised by hope, surprised by the optimistic tone of the Advent readings. I'm glad I'm not jaded enough to still be warmed by them. Advent readings are to the liturgical calendar what the late, great Gerard Seraphim was to Catholic blogdom. Pure positivity rushing down.

The first reading from Baruch the other day was nothing short of radiant, the sort of reading that seems to overshadow anything in the supposedly more celebratory season of Easter. Advent readings seem more incandescent than Easter's. Isaiah has passages that radiate joy, such as the verses where all the world's tears will be wiped away and the lion will lie down with the lamb.


Read long today of an absorbing new biography of Joseph Kennedy, 'The Patriarch'. Part of my interest is to see how and where this family, that has had so much of an impact on 20th century America, went astray.

There are many interesting descriptions of East Boston and impressive Boston Latin. So very far away was Boston proper from East Boston that it was as if they were different cities. The money seemed to come in stages: Joe's grandfather Patrick came over during the famine and was skilled enough to work as a barrel-maker and thus become solidly middle class. Patrick's son Joseph P. became a very popular politician, the first of that particular breed and someone who was upper middle class, perhaps. It's interesting reading about the environs of Boston in the late 19th century, of the ward bosses and the reaction of the Yankee Protestants to this political takeover by the Irish. The Prots were especially fearful when the Irish controlled both the city and the school district, fearing there would be money funneled out of the public school fund and towards the parochials. Not too farfetched, perhaps, given that graft was not unknown in Boston politics at that time or even now.


Was constitutionally unable, for whatever reason, to sink into a novel the other night. Instead was wunderkind'd by a transfusion of art on the "magic tablet", the iPad, via tumblr. Then headed over to YouTube to look for videos of Woodstock, for reasons uncertain. That led me to that magical appearance of Grace Slick singing, "White Rabbit". That led me, I'm not sure how, towards videos of news anchors making huge slip-ups by saying things like "penis" on air. That led me to videos of "Fails" where people painfully run into things. That led me to a video of young men and women diving off a cliff into a lake. So as you can see, I got waylaid by a major YouTube time wastage. From the beauties of art to the precincts of anchor flubs and kids hurting themselves. Nicht zu gut when there's a avalanche of beauty waiting to be explored in the form of great film, great spiritual reading, great novels and poetry.


Nice on the vacation to get a good variety of music and how nice to listen before bed, the earbuds full sanctioned.... To start and end the day with music isn't bad though obviously 'twould be best to start and end the day with prayer! So often the truth of John Denver's song comes through: "I'd play Sally Gooden all day if I could / but the Lord and my wife wouldn't take it very good." Truer words were never spake. But there's a middle ground and I hope to find it.


Heard Beethoven's Ninth on the tinny speakers of the iPad and it still sounded good. Great music seems to surmount the limitations of the equipment. I think as tinny as the Catholic Church seems in many ways, tinny in example of her flock (like me), tinny in terms of its response to the priestly scandal, tinny in terms of the watered down music and liturgy, there's still a beauty to her that cannot be hidden, much as Beethoven's music's beauty can't be hidden. And that beauty is, of course, Christ. Shining through it all.

December 12, 2012

A Disease Everyone Would Like to Catch

Found here:
George Moore, Memoirs of My Dead Life (London: Heinemann, 1906), p. 140:
You ask me why I like the landscape? Because it carries me back into past times when men believed in nymphs and in satyrs. I have always thought it must be a wonderful thing to believe in the dryad. Do you know that men wandering in the woods sometimes used to catch sight of a white breast between the leaves, and henceforth they could love no mortal woman? The beautiful name of their malady was nympholepsy. A disease that every one would like to catch.

December 11, 2012

Parody Blog Updated....

It's heartwarming to see today's youth so socially conscious as to tailor their illegal graffiti with an eye towards the needs of the community.

Truth and Mercy

Happened across the painting above (via Tumblr) titled Truth and Mercy by Pompeo Batoni. A Google search reveals varying impressions:
Batoni had no qualms about reveling in female beauty....[including] in religious subjects such as a pair of allegories based on Psalm 84:11: "Mercy and truth have kissed." In Truth and Mercy, Truth again goes above and beyond the call of duty in making revelations, while Peace and Justice exhibits more restraint.
--from Pompeo Batoni: Prince of Painters in Eighteenth-Century Rome by Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter Björn Kerber

A blogger named Ernest wrote:
..The Truth versus Mercy is a totally different allegory. The Truth is holding firm and up a more material symbol, a tragic shiny face. From his attitude we feel the Truth is very important and self-centered. The kneeling Mercy appears as if she is one with the viewer, she demands compassion. The material, more earthly Truth, cruel and unforgiving, is facing us and the Mercy’s humble request. Is judging more important than forgiving? The viewer is involved, a mature person may decide different than a young one.

December 07, 2012

Bond, James Bond

Bill O'Reilly on Bonds of old and new:
Now we live in a new age, and we have a different James Bond: Daniel Craig. He's a much more sensitive soul than Sean Connery. In the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall, Craig rarely smiles, goes about his business with grim determination, and looks like he's in the gym quite often. While Connery spent his spare time chasing ladies and drinking martinis, Craig is apparently training for the triathlon.

However, the biggest difference between Connery and Craig is that old Sean seemed to be having fun racing around the world doing the bidding of the British government. Craig does not seem to be having a lot of laughs. In fact, Craig is a major brooder - and so is his boss, Judi Dench. Watching these two have a conversation is like watching Dr. Phil yell at some guy who just abandoned his family.

December 06, 2012

Let's Play....Why's My Bookbag or E-Reader Equivalent So Damn Heavy?

From Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives by Pope Benedict XVI:
Yet “his kingdom will have no end”: this unique kingdom is not built on worldly power, but is founded on faith and love alone. It is the great force of hope in the midst of a world that so often seems abandoned by God.


If we may say that the form of piety found in the New Testament can be summed up in the expression “a believer,” then the Old Testament idea of a whole life lived according to sacred Scripture is summed up in the idea of “a just man.”


On the other hand, though, this definition of the Messiah’s mission could also appear disappointing. The prevailing expectations of salvation were primarily focused upon Israel’s concrete sufferings...The promise of forgiveness of sins seems both too little and too much: too much, because it trespasses upon God’s exclusive sphere; too little, because there seems to be no thought of Israel’s concrete suffering or its true need for salvation.

it does not match the immediate expectations of Messianic salvation nurtured by men who felt oppressed not so much by their sins as by their sufferings, their lack of freedom, the wretched conditions of their existence. Jesus himself poignantly raised the question as to where the priority lies in man’s need for redemption on the occasion when the four men, who could not carry the paralytic through the door because of the crowd...

Man is a relational being. And if his first, fundamental relationship is disturbed—his relationship with God—then nothing else can be truly in order. This is where the priority lies in Jesus’ message and ministry: before all else, he wants to point man toward the essence of his malady, and to show him—if you are not healed there, then however many good things you may find, you are not truly healed.

...the explanation of Jesus’ name that was offered to Joseph in his dream already contains a fundamental clarification of how man’s salvation has to be understood and hence what the Saviour’s essential task must be.

From Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War by Douglas R Egerton
Yet so convinced were they that Yankees were but a nation of clerks that southern politicians easily brushed aside any fears that secession would mean war. “You may slap a Yankee in the face and he’ll go off and sue you,” sneered one fire-eater, “but he won’t fight.” The younger Rhett echoed those sentiments in the Mercury. That the “people of the North, prone to civil pursuits and money-making, should get up and carry out the military enterprise of conquering eight million people,” he wrote, “is one of those absurdities which none but a professed panic-maker could be capable of announcing.”


As Seward explained to a Rochester, New York, audience, a labor system in which workers drew no wages contained “elements of weakness that must inevitably produce its final extinction.” If isolated within the South, slavery would finally collapse from its economic inefficiency. The institution, Seward observed, “must either advance or recede—and that the special business of the republican party was to withstand its aggressions.”


Although advocates of free wage-labor capitalism criticized the South as economically backward, they blamed the institution of slavery rather than black workers for southern poverty. A system that provided laborers with neither wages nor incentives reduced the slave, Seward charged, to “a brute” incapable of surviving in a modern, diversified economy. Denied literacy by most southern states, uneducated slaves doomed the South to remain a rural, agricultural colony of Europe and the industrializing northern states since mechanized societies required a labor force “perfected by knowledge and skill.”


The incessant Republican talk of the virtues of white laboring people proved a powerful draw to northern voters. Evangelical abolitionists in New England called upon white Americans to love African Americans as brothers and sisters, but most Republicans required only that voters reject the planters’ refusal to respect “the dignity of labor.” Because “agricultural labor is the chief employment of slaves in the South,” one observer commented, haughty planters expressed “a contempt” for all labor. As another Republican added, in the North hard work was “held honorable by all” because it was “the vocation of freemen.”


Although few planters cared to admit it, the Republican free-labor critique of the South accurately emphasized the economic handicaps under which slave societies functioned. African Americans carried on a persistent campaign of sabotage against tools and animals, which forced masters to eschew faster horses for mules and oxen and mechanized reapers for specially made hoes. If cotton did not deplete the soil as had tobacco, the single-crop production mandated by the South’s export-based economy did exhaust the land. In short, masters could either transform their unpaid workers into wage-earning laborers and diversify their economy or carry their antiquated mode of production into the western territories.

From Moby Dick:

For sinful as he is, Jonah does not weep and wail for direct deliverance. He feels that his dreadful punishment is just. He leaves all his deliverance to God, contenting himself with this, that spite of all his pains and pangs, he will still look towards His holy temple. And here, shipmates, is true and faithful repentance; not clamorous for pardon, but grateful for punishment. And how pleasing to God was this conduct in Jonah, is shown in the eventual deliverance of him from the sea and the whale.

But, perhaps, to be true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of so living or so striving. So soon as I hear that such or such a man gives himself out for a philosopher, I conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he must have "broken his digester."
To truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.

From Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior:
Even the teenage cashiers at the grocery would take an edge with her after this, clicking painted fingernails on the counter while she wrote her check, eyeing the oatmeal and frozen peas of an unhinged family and exchanging looks with the bag boy: She’s that one. How they admired their own steadfast lives. Right up to the day when hope in all its versions went out of stock, including the crummy discount brands, and the heart had just one instruction left: run.


A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture. Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise. Innocence was no part of this. She knew her own recklessness and marveled, really, at how one hard little flint of thrill could outweigh the pillowy, suffocating aftermath of a long disgrace.


Whoever was in charge of weather had put a recall on blue and nailed up this mess of dirty white sky like a lousy drywall job.


The electric pulse of desire buzzed through her body like an alarm clock gone off in the early light, setting in motion all the things in a day that can’t be stopped.


Cub and his dad drove the all-terrain up this way sometimes to get to the little shack on the ridge they used for turkey hunting. Or they used to do that, once upon a time, when the combined weight of the Turnbow men senior and junior was about sixty pounds less than the present day. Back when they used their feet for something other than framing the view of the television set.

Oblivious to the storms inside her. Cub moved in slow motion. His gentleness was merely the stuff he was made of, like the fiber content of a garment, she knew this. Something a wife should bear without complaint. But it made him seem dumb as a cow and it made her mad. All of it. The way he let his mother boss him around, making him clean his plate and tuck in his shirttails like a two-hundred-pound child.


She longed for relief from her crazy wanting...Wild in high school, that’s how it goes with the pretty ones, early to ripe, early to rot.


The way he looked at her suggested he’d be willing to bring her golden apples, or the Mississippi River.


Roping a pair of dumbstruck teenagers into a shotgun wedding and then taking off with a laugh, leaving them stranded. Leaving them trying five years for another baby, just to fill a hole nobody meant to dig in the first place.


But like Moses she’d come home rattled and impatient with the pettiness of people’s everyday affairs. She felt shamed by her made-up passion and the injuries she’d been ready to inflict. Hester wasn’t the only one living in fantasyland with righteousness on her side; people just did that, this family and maybe all others. They built their tidy houses of self-importance and special blessing and went inside and slammed the door, unaware the mountain behind them was aflame.

December 03, 2012

Sympathy for Pontius Pilate

Interesting homilies last couple weeks, one in Florida and one here in Ohio.

IN Florida, the young priest seemed slow of mien and slightly turgid of speech, but that first impression was somewhat false. He had a calming voice and manner as it turned out and he surprised me (so rarely am I ever surprised by a homily!) by mentioning that Pontius Pilate is honored as a saint by Ethiopian Christians, that they see how Pilate (unlike Herod) was open to the truth as shown by three times declaring publicly that he found "no guilt in Jesus" while St. Peter, at the same time, was denying Christ. The priest said that Pilate was not given the gift of faith, through no fault of his own, since he said, "I am not a Jew" and presumably followed the Roman pagan gods.  He seemed an honest seeker and a "potential model" for the many of those who currently don't have the gift of faith. He also quoted St. Augustine as saying that "believing helps the believer", which sounds sort of circular unless one sees that believing is perhaps not so much binary but a continuum.

Felt transported by the Byzantine liturgy on Sunday back home. The stained glass looked particularly winsome and consoling despite a rainy, cloudy day. Landed in the back right "overflow" bench, and got acquainted with some of the fine and unfamiliar saints (icons) surrounding me. Fr. T's homily was striking. It took a very familiar Scriptural scene, that of the rich, young man who went away sad after Jesus telling him to sell everything, and made it completely new. Fr. Terry said that what the young man was really asking was, "What can you offer me? How are you different from what we've already been taught? What do you add?" And Jesus replies, "Trust me. [i.e. sell everything). Love me [i.e. follow me]." The young man had already kept the commandments but Jesus was ultimately saying that only He Himself saves. Wealth and health cannot. He said we should follow the commandments not in an effort to be saved - for only Jesus saves - but in response to Christ's love.

Fr. T then mentioned that one of his best friends is an Independent Baptist minister, a full-blooded fire-breathing fundamentalist. And people wonder what they have in common, a Byzantine Catholic priest and a Baptist minister too radical to be a Southern Baptist, but Fr. T says they have in common the belief that only Jesus saves. The minister says, "if I'm laid up and near death, can you come and bring your oils?" Fr. Terry said in reply, "If I'm laid up and near death, can you lay your hands on me and call the Holy Spirit down?" A beautiful ecumenical sentiment.

Larry Hagman, R.I.P.

Larry Hagman died the other day, as I'm sure everyone knows by now.  I grew up watching him, first in "I Dream of Jeannie" when I was a wisp of a youth and later on "Dallas" when in high school.  

He portrayed very different roles which I suppose showed his acting prowess.  Later I became fascinated by his eccentricities: his Sunday "silent day" during which he would not say a word, his daily, minute-by-minute alcoholic buzz which in the end caused him to lose his liver.  He stopped drinking immediately and  apparently without missing it much. The L.A. Times had a nice article on this "Mad Monk of Malibu" who often led impromptu parades dressed in costume on the sands outside his home.  He flew a flag that said "Life is a Celebration" in Latin.  He would sometimes go grocery shopping in a chicken suit.  He seemed a bundle of contradictions: comical but also a perfectionist/control freak who discovered how to "calm down" after $40,000 worth of therapy.  

Snapshots of Fort Myers Beach Trip


First thing we did was visit the famous Trappist Monastery at Fort Myers Beach. The monks make time for "tanning, surfing and triggering prayer in pilgrims by taking them on harrowing jet ski rides."  

Ha, obviously kidding. No monasteries here and I do wonder if there's any monastery near a beach. It doesn't seem too conducive to the monastic spirit of detachment. It's true there were monks on deserted islands in the Irish sea, but those weren't sand beaches in sunny climes. It's just hard to picture a monastery on, say, Miami beach.  Deserts, mountaintops, yes, but beaches seem to get the short shrift. 

So we ate lunch Saturday while watching OSU finish an unlikely perfect 12-0.  Worst team ever to go undefeated? Maybe not, but surely in the ballpark. Can't go anywhere bowl-wise due to NCAA ban.  Tomorrow I plan to drink the suds amid the sands and wax poetical in my mind if not on paper. But now am overlooking the lit city after dark. Quite a pleasing view from the 12th floor! By daytime I see the long scallop of beach as well as part of the city. It's a rather different; I can't recall being parallel to the ocean like this instead of just looking straight at ocean. I guess I get the best of both worlds here, nature and urbanity. 

Stopped at a slightly raucous beach-side bar for a light for my cigar and I thought about how foreign that environ feels now. Many Friday nights in my 20s were spent in locales like that bar with its pumping music and rows of stools along the gleaming wood.  The bartender said she didn't have any matches.  A bar without matches? Wow, what's this world coming to. Back in my day....


Ahhhhh memory foam mattresses! God's gift to modernity.  Sleep never tasted so good.  Woke up reluctantly despite the beckoning sun.  Now to the spacious balcony to watch the scalloped shore and its slow-slow-slow ripple-waves.  I can see for miles and miles as the (now) old song goes.  Full patio sun in the morning. Heavenly. Who could brush their teeth or shave while this is going on?  How pitifully bourgeois teeth-brushing feels on a vacation morning!  Let the dead brush their teeth. 

How amazing it feels, perfectly situated to catch the morning rays. It faces directly east instead of south towards the ocean and that seems a feature, not a bug.   I could spend a year on this balcony I think. It's magic time, especially in the morning before the bad pop music plays from the bar area, making concentration difficult.  Here in the morning it's pure gold and now I curse that memory foam that robbed me of an hour on this hotel-top eyrie! The twenty-by-seven balcony is enclosed by screen, no doubt a concession to drunks who might topple. Views transform even pedestrian landscapes into magic. I'm used to beach hotels being planted on long, straight beaches, but here it's right before the Gulf makes a sharp right turn. Thus I get to see a big promenade of land curving out into the water and thus adding interest.  

Certainly feel resilient given I could follow a 30 minute elliptical session today with a mile run that included some near sprints. At home a mile is far more effortful; here I run gusting as the wind, effortlessly gobbling shore. I did relish this fascinating Busch biography yesterday. The Busch brew-family of St. Louis has a history as varied and wild as the Kennedys. They call this place paradise, but paradise is arguably only as paradisiacal as the employees reflect it.  Magic is only magic if it extends not just to vacationers drunk on sun and drink, but on the toilers. And they seem happy to be here.  I can understand the notion that we won't be happy in Heaven unless everyone's there. 


Yesterday's exercise exuberance extracted a price for each time I turned in bed I felt sharp pain in the groin. Looks like I won't be running today, and will be walking with a limp. But I like these conditions of warm temps (but not hot), and the tide-less waves.  It's just a different feeling to be at the beach this close to the water, without the crowds and without the race of tides moving strenuously up and back.  On this vacation I briefly wondered why I'd go on any vacation except a beach vacation, although of course that's while under the influence of these primal elements and a certain dispositional laziness. 

Delightful to be off work - read from the Catechism about the goodness of creation, appropriate given this venue.  Logos software links to a variety of sources including St. Francis's prayer in praise of creation (in which he begins, I mention approvingly, with the glorious sun - he says, "worshipful sun" but the Catechism mutes the preceding adjective a bit, understandably). We ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant and lingered languorously over coffee researching (in Steph's case) the cost of a timeshare here (verdict: "no!") and me researching the beginnings of the infancy narratives (via Pope Benedict's latest book). Then down to the beach and immediately I set out walking east, down the primeval sandy paths and green-tinged waters.  Past tiny, darting fish and swooping pelicans, and sea birds sharply attired. I continued past colorful and manifold buildings.  Came across a big three story house with large balconies festooned with chairs.  Who does not love a balcony overlooking the ocean?  It was almost as captivating to me as the ocean itself, and I imagined myself out on that balcony on a permanent Tuesday morning.  Walked about three miles before camping out on the recliners for awhile.  Suddenly it's 5pm! I see the world fresh this morning and now in the afternoon I need to see it fresh again through the glasses of hops. 

Tomorrow we break routine in the form of a 9-11am dolphin-watching wave runner tour. Nice bit of trip spice for Steph. 


Ninety minutes of torture today on a "wave runner", or more accurately, a "wave collider". Jet skis, it turns out, are not my friend. They are to me what scorpions are to Jennifer of "Conversion Diary" fame.  They feel remarkably unstable and you have to maintain a certain high rate of speed for it to "work", to the extent a roller coaster is considered  to be "working".  I think I'm philosophically opposed to machines without breaks. Of course I don't like scuba diving equipment either. I seem to lack trust in machines other than lawn mower, car, or planes. Because it wasn't IF we'd flip this craft but WHEN.  Oh give me my slow-moving kayak.  Was initially torn between driving it, and thus having some measure of control, and ceding control in exchange for not being responsible for our death and dismemberment. Ominous, it felt, when the tour guide said that dolphins when drawn out of curiosity to ships sometimes get hurt in the propellers but that's okay because we humans are sometimes injured in extreme sports which, naturally, I categorized as including this activity.  It seemed extreme to be racing along an inherently unsmooth surface, slamming into waves.   "Speed is your friend," said the tour guide.  No, my friend is the shore.  

The trip was 95% jet-skiing and 5% dolphin-watching, which is the opposite of the way it's advertised.  Also while the dolphins - who were obviously having a far better time than me - were glimpsed they were not overly close to us. Maybe twenty or thirty feet away. Because the guide didn't feed them, there were no up close and personals.  Maybe I'd have felt better in pads and a helmet. I later googled "are jet skis dangerous" and "jet sky accident" and was mollified by getting positive hits. I sent the links immediately to Steph because, you know, it's not chicken blood, it's being "physically risk-averse." Yeah right. 


The fullest of moons graces the balcony here in the November dark.  There's a feeling of completeness in such a moon, a feeling of loose ends tied up.  I bet people with O.C.D. don't like un-full moons.

I look at the glowing trifecta of Christmas trees in the rental next to the beach and think two thoughts:  One being that it's a slightly pathetic effort to celebrate Christmas in this warm clime and two, a half-pang of memory at the mid-December trip to Cozumel a few years back with Mark and Sandy and how children come up to our table and begin singing to us something in Spanish.  That particular vacation has acquired the panache of veneered nostalgia and thus makes me wistful to go back there, with Mark and Sandy and Steph again, and to recreate it.  As if recreation is possible! Time marches.  
Dream a minute with me,
Living always in the land
Of sunshines and eternal pools,
Cabanas full of food
And drinks with reggae
I can almost picture that
Psychedelic life staring at the
Birds on wing from the north
While a merengue plays
And even those gauche things like
The hotel sky-rise

It's fake living I suppose,
Cruise ship living,
But I can't but fall under its sway
At least today.

What a fine morning today as compared to yesterday's fiasco. At daybreak Steph hunted down shells while I walked the beach with the tune "King of the Road" humming in my head.  The great sun rose up and shone a brilliant path along the waters.  Only thing better than leisurely sipping coffee over a book is leisurely sipping coffee while strolling a beach. Felt as though I could walk all day, and felt consolation that Saturday I'll have another leisurely morning since we don't have to leave until around 11, though tis true this vacation is getting ahead of me - not ready for it to be Thursday already. Wednesday would seem far more reasonable.

Then to McDs I went, on bike.  Saw a guy talking a dog for a walk had a shirt that said LIVE SLOW.  I'm beginning to do that down here. Today I started out at the pool but its charms are momentary given the music is much too loud and distracting.  Couldn't read here to save my life. But then into each life a little brainless living must fall as well some unchosen music.  It's funny how "trained" I am to tailor music to my precise desires.  Feels a hundred years since I last listened to a popular radio station and thus was captive to the tastes of a radio programmer.

Looked with affection for a long time at the rippling waves this morning. Such a simple pleasure that I'm beginning to be convinced I'm simple! Almost had the humorous incident of someone telling us they weren't going to pitch us by pitching us. Lady wanted to sell us a timeshare here so she comes up and says, out of the blue, that she insisted on not selling timeshares out on the beach walkers but to those here at the hotel (presumably because we're an immobile audience.) A couple times she got perilously close to 'selling language" but seemed to steer clear of that cliff of meta.  A hard job, no doubt. Feel a twinge of sorrow for her, though that's perhaps the angle she's looking for.

1pm and the sun is making a sea path of sparkles directly in front of us. Funny, but first time all week I was awake to this fact that 1pm is the ocean's peak time of sparkle-making, shaking the stars out straight ahead. Perhaps I'd been reading before or, perish the thought, working out on that fool elliptical in the indoors! The sand here is of a particularly fine vintage. Powdery, uncannily white and without any coarseness about it.  Does not hold the heat, meaning no burnt feet bottoms. Shoe prints look like those produced on the moon landings.

It's almost 3 and I'm ready to drink. I excuse the earlier-than-normal happy hour by virtue of the fact we go to bed a couple hours earlier than the average folks down here. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Plus who wants to salute a dying sun when you can raise a glass to the top shelf variety?  Seems more of a celebratory occasion that way. Very little reading this morning - just a bit of P.J. O'rourke's "Holdays in Heck".  Looks like he starts out with a visit to the Galapagos Islands. Not bad beach reading. Light, funny and tropical.
Dancing on the keyboard,
fingers like dendrites,
sun-fall at the pool y'all,
jazz playing and it's like...home.
In summer though.

Drunk on Kindle,
Moby Dick and the Odysssey,
verbiage galore!
I shan't be cheated.

The days here form a fine pattern: mornings lingering over coffee or shelling the beach (or better both at the same time), stellar late mornings spent greeting that strong sun and cloudless blue, midday walks or runs or elliptical training, late afternoon beer and music, evening dinner and post dinner cigar. Retirement, they say, gets old after the first couple weeks or months or if you're lucky, years, and so now I see no panacea in it, no paradise on earth. Plus I can certainly donate more to charity while working than when not. Time off seems like buying acreage - it's never going to be enough. 

See a young couple with two young boys walking the beach and am reminded of the Amy Welborn quote about there being two kinds of travel: those with children and those without - the latter being of a first class accommodation -  and I'm reminded how next year it appears we'll be beaching it second class with our grandchildren. That should be interesting.


The last day by the sea.  We had breakfast at a 'wafel' joint, which is I guess the French word for 'waffle" and then proceeded to bike down to Bowditch Point and look for gopher tortoises. The waters there were alive with wind and a little cove felt like an undiscovered island, as long as one could mentally remove the unsightly Bud Light can from the picture.  

Feel really tired now, the bod physically spent.  Time, alas, for a day off from working out.  It's overcast and windy, not ideal for the last day but perhaps fitting.  Some folks seem oblivious given their bikinis, attire that befits the locale if not the weather. Sunglasses now are purely for effect.  It's kind of interesting that even this far south and before winter officially starts the weather can have an edge to it, as it did Wednesday and today. Sweatshirt conditions. Playing the weather game involves a matrix of month and geography unless we go to Cancun or Puerto Rico where the weather is predictably peerless. A variety of desultory reads today: Michael Chabon's novel, the story of the Busch brew scions and the Pope's latest.  Caught up on blog feeds last night, which was nice. Came across a story of the generosity of spirit and wallet of the late Larry Hagman.  

Meanwhile Steph found some shells that made the first cut but not the final and so I throw a few of the out along the shoreline and wait to see who picks them up.  So far three happy customers. Initially the seagulls thought I was throwing food and grabbed a shell only to wind up disappointed. Starting to get sappy around them.  Hard to look them in the beaks and not toss them part of a granola bar.  

Gravely overweight man on elevator with bellhop with bags.  Bellhop asks where he's going and heavy guy says, with German accent, "home through New York to Paris to Berlin".  That is a helluva long and painful way to come just to get to a beach, I think.  Makes me appreciate our two hour nonstop.

November 20, 2012

San Bernardino's Fall

It's all sort of Decline and Fall-ish, catnip for doom & gloomers, these tales of city bankruptcies. You always wonder how they allowed it to happen, how they didn't see the barbarians coming and prepare if only out of naked self-interest.

The money quote, literally and figuratively, appears to be:
The chronic mismanagement in San Bernardino, though, is a common feature of local government in California and around the United States. Much power over municipal finance lies in the hands of those with the most at stake — city employees, elected officials and others who depend directly on government for their livelihood. And California is moving to put even more responsibility and funds, not less, in their hands.
Which seems (and that quote is from a liberal news source) to bolster Romney's argument that if you hook enough people/institutions/local governments on benefits then they'll bleed you dry. (I used to think that employees of the school district should recuse themselves from voting for levies, ha.)

The famous quote goes, "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.”

The attribution of which turns out to be hotly debated. I'd thought it was from the 18th or 19th century, which suggests that people are being extremely dilatory in discovering the unearth-shattering fact that they can vote themselves largesse. But according to Wiki, it was first said by someone in 1951, an Oklahoman named Elmer. Perhaps he's a prophet.


Tangentially-related, in an item in the liberal New Yorker on the rise and fall of Twinkies, we read that unions were looked on favorably when there were a lot of union members but that now they aren't since they get perks few people get these days. Which might also be read as saying that as more people get dependent on government, people dependent on government will be looked on even more favorably:
"The real issue here is that people’s image of unions...seems to depend quite a bit, in the U.S., on how common unions are in the workforce. When organized labor represented more than a third of American workers, it was easy for unions to send the message that in agitating for their own interests."
And perhaps similarly now if perhaps a third of Americans are dependent on government, it's easier to sell the message that Democrats are agitating for their own interests.

November 19, 2012

Rantasaurus Rex

I'm fascinated that we refuse to learn from history. Or heed a siren call.

Before 1993, the Republican party was reasonably popular in California, of all places. But around '93 the Republicans in that bellwether state decided to be hardline on immigration policies. If not actually anti-immigrant, close enough for government work.

And what was the result?

The end of the Republican party in California. For a generation and counting.

The more I think about it the more pissed I get that Republican candidates are so lousy on immigration policy as well as on health care. Self-inflicted wounds are the worst kind. Of course the Dems are horrible on both issues, but I expect more from the Republican party. Maybe the problem is that the "conservative" party wants to "conserve" a broken immigration system and a broken health care system. The old think tanks like the Heritage Foundation either suck, or their ideas aren't making it down to the candidates.

It's one thing to be a party bent on making government smaller and taxes less. It's another thing to refuse to do anything but that -- to be completely insensate to problems not related to taxes. It's pretty bad when even the National Review knocks the party for failing to come up with many quality ideas on keeping health insurance affordable. I almost feel like the Republicans deserve being in the political wilderness simply for being uninterested in solving any problem but high taxes.

November 16, 2012

Mitt's Comments

Romney blames his loss to Obama on gifts to minorities and the young, but gifts to certain groups of voters seems the way it's always gone throughout our history. Certainly the ol' Democratic machine politics in the 19th century seemed to work that way.   Of course our debt situation is at the point where the givin' has to stop sometime.

You could look at it as a contest between the Republicans -- who like to give the gift of tax money back to the tax payer (recognizing, of course, that it's our money in the first place and thus not technically a 'gift') -- and the Democrats, who like to spend borrowed money to use for gifts. Perhaps part of Romney's problem was he wasn't promising big tax cuts, which may've been what got Bush elected in '00. (Or it could be simply that Romney didn't speak any Spanish, ha. And was worse on the border from the Hispanic perspective.)

With the debt as crushing as it is, the Republicans seem to have been the first to "blink", to promise less.

In some ways, pundit Michael Kinsley's thesis back in 1993 has a whiff of truth about it. In an interview with the sainted Brian Lamb:
There is a theme running through [my collection of essays], which is irritation at what I regard as the fairly fatuous pseudo populism that suffuses our politics at the moment; this idea that the politicians are terrible and the people, but the people are wonderful; that the people are being ignored by the politicians and that's the reason for our problems. I think the reason for many of our problems is that the politicians are exquisitely attuned to the people. The people say, "Cut our taxes, raise our benefits," and then get shocked when the result is a huge deficit. That's just one problem. That's the best example of my problem; that the people are very often big babies, unable to understand, as babies can't understand, that you have to give up something in the short term to get what you want in the long term.

November 15, 2012


Starbucks has probably improved your coffee-drinking life even if you never step foot inside a Starbucks shop. Because, again, what chains do is set a floor for standards beneath which it is not wise to fall. Starbucks may not be the best coffee in the world but if you’re competing with Seattle’s largest you better offer something better than they can provide.
The reason Starbucks and other chains have made less impact in, say, Italy or the Netherlands is that these countries were amply-stocked with places you could purchase good coffee before Starbucks et al arrived. Britain? Well, not so much.
Those wealthy consumers who deplore Starbucks and want to stick to their single-tree sourced, Ethiopian high-roast or other comparably trendy, exotic and fussy brews are entitled to their prejudices. But they might at least recall that Starbucks created the market in which they can parade their snobberies. They owe something to Seattle too.
 Alex Massie

Apples Far from the Family Tree

Read a fascinating first chapter from Andrew Solomon's book (thank God, not Andrew Sullivan's -- they're both gay but Solomon's calm and more reasoned view of things makes for a much better reading experience). Solomon has written Far from the Tree about how parents deal with children very different from themselves. A good and sometimes sobering look at difference, disability and diversity. I hadn't really considered just how strong the human desire for conformity is and how that will eventually be reflected in a homogenization such that future parents will simply abort children with genes that show deafness, autism, a cleft lip, homosexuality, dyslexia - i.e anybody not perfect. The author also makes a case for how the "disabled" in some form or another, makes up the majority. One person put it, 'we begin disabled (i.e. as infants), we reach some level of of ability, and then reenter disability in old age. That's if we're lucky. " True words. The author says that diversity is, counter-intuitively, what ties us together. It provides grist for what he calls the "imagination" of love. To love our children who look like/function like us is natural, but what if a child has inherited some "horizontal" trait, a recessive gene or a deformed gene that results in some anomaly? Then it takes this imagination he says, and there's more of that around than one would think.

A quote from writer Claira Claiborne, who has an autistic daughter: "I write now what 15 years past I would still not have thought possible to write: that if today I were given the choice to accept the experience, with everything that it entails, or to refuse the bitter largesse, I would have to stretch out my hands - because out of it has come, for all of us, an unimagined life. And I will not change the last word of the story. It is still love."

Another mother interviewed said she had no sense of purpose until her son was born with severe disabilities. "Suddenly, I had this object for all my energy. He gave me a whole new reason to be alive."

According to a psychologist, "'The great surprise of resilience research is the ordinariness of the phenomenon.' Resilience used to be posited as an extraordinary trait, seen in the Helen Kellers of the world, but cheery recent research suggests that most of us have the potential for it, and that cultivating it is a crucial part of development for everyone."

2013 Office Tour

At lunch before Mass I decided to go on an impromptu "office tour" to see where the big guys live. First up was a senior vice president Tim F., who is a giddy five levels above me in rank and three floors above me geographically. I was surprised to find a large section of the floor sectioned off with glazed opaque windows and special card key entry. But I eventually came to Tim's rather pedestrian office. Not too much bigger or better furnished than the big cheese's on my floor. Of course I couldn't penetrate the office since it doglegs to the left and thus achieves perfect secrecy. It even features a secretary guarding the entrance to this "bat cave".

Next up was Tim's boss, one Mark T, who lives on the 37th floor, some 24 floors above Tim. Quite a lot of distance between boss and report, ha. I self-consciously headed for that odd bank of elevators on the other side, the ones labeled Floors 20-38. I entered with a well-dressed man and pushed the 37th floor but to no avail: it wouldn't light. So I pushed 36, hoping to walk a flight. The 36th floor had folks like one Terri Hill, the president of something. This indeed was rarefied air, with plush home-like surroundings full of comfortable furniture, artwork, wood paneling and wood filing cabinets instead of plain walls, whiteboards and grey metal. The rooms (aka offices) reminded me of the congressional offices in D.C.

Then to the 37th floor! I hiked up and locked down. I tried my keycard to no avail, our leaders inaccessible as US presidents, their workplace as locked down as the White House.

Power to the people! Let's storm that Bastille!


Had 9am meeting, meetings being not my favorite way to start, end, or middle a day. Craig and the big guns sitting around a conference table talking about the potential of a "universal datasource". (Only twelve years too late, in my opinion.) The upshot is there is little potential for it happening. "It can be done," sayeth Dan, "but not without a lot of work." Thus we see nature at work: boss asking worker to take on a great amount of additional work, worker pushing back saying, "tell me you mean it by clearing my other work." In other words, boss asking, "can I get free stuff?" and employee says, "no, you have to pay for it." Of course the adversarial relationship is necessary. Bosses have to push against employee complacency and employees have to push back when too much is asked. A see-saw where balance is sought.

November 12, 2012

From Ex-Major League Pitcher Dirk Hayhurst

It’s silly. I miss the feel­ing of run­ning out to the mound to music I picked. My walk-out jam. The clos­est thing a play­er has to his own, per­son­al super­hero theme song, since, after all, he is dressed in a hero’s cos­tume while it’s play­ing. The dra­mat­ic entrance, the announc­er call­ing my name, the fans clap­ping mod­er­ate­ly to reflect my obscu­ri­ty… Music has such a strong tie to mem­o­ry that when the songs from my super­hero past hit me, in the car or gym or wher­ev­er, I go back. Back to the scent and sound and nerves and hope that coa­lesce into what a play­er calls life, or some­thing like it. Some­thing that, even in those moments of music and nerves and hope, I never truly under­stood.

The irony of a life lived in the moment is that it can only be appre­ci­at­ed when the moment is over. But how hard it is to face that moment. How trag­ic it is to know that we can never fully embrace the moment since we have no idea how it will unfold, nor can we go back and enjoy it when we can final­ly make sense of its unfold­ing?

Thank you music, for tor­tur­ing and humor­ing me with a sound track to my mem­o­ries that will never match the real thing, but never let me for­get it was once real.

St. Basil Quote

A keeper from St. Basil:
"Any part of the Scriptures you like to choose is inspired by God. The Holy Spirit composed the Scriptures so that in them, as in a pharmacy open to all souls, we might each of us be able to find the medicine suited to our own particular illness.

Thus, the teaching of the Prophets is one thing, and that of the historical books is another. And, again, the Law has one menaing, and the advice we read in the Book of Proverbs has a different one. But the Book of Psalms contains everything useful that the others have. It predicts the future, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living, it suggests the right behavior to adopt. It is, in short, a jewel case in which have been collected all the valid teachings in such a way that individuals find remedies just right for their cases.

It heals the old wounds of the soul and gives relief to recent ones. It cures the illnesses and preserves the health of the soul.

Every Psalm brings peace, soothes the internal conflicts, calms the rough waves of evil thoughts, dissolves anger, corrects and moderates immorality.

Every Psalm preserves friendship and reconciles those who are separated. Who could actually regard as an enemy the person beside whom they have raised a song to the one God?

Every Psalm anticipates the anguish of the night and gives rest after the efforts of the day. It is safety for babes, beauty for the young, comfort for the aged, adornment for women.

Every Psalm is the voice of the Church."

This & That

Rain-sotted morning but at 55 degrees still pleasant to soak up the atmospheric atmosphere on the front porch. The nearby Japanese ornamental is budded with drops.

Oh would love to stay on this front porch and continue to watch this movie of gentle rains falling on terra firma! Very cinematic. The neighborhood trees have mostly lost their leaves but I see some yellow and rust across the street.

Oh the exhilarating smell of rain in the air! Oh nature's bounty rakishly lavishing itself on us! How it reminds me of my childhood when I loved to be in the rain, when I was so much weather hardier. Adults, we fools, carry umbrellas, a tool of the devil!

Oh yes what a fine day it would be to play hookey. To find a good movie to watch - oh but it feels like it's been forever since I've done that. To drink hot chocolate and curl up on the porch all day. To eat chicken noodle soup as if I were sick. To read gratuitously and indulgently and prolifically. To read poetry. To drink the stars. To ride the sun.

Fall is a far-cry from winter, fall a season unto its own that refuses to be stereotyped or lumped with its adjacent bedfellows.


Woke to reality of a plugged-up toilet. Worst part was finding plunger which was in the garage. I couldn't find it but Steph immediately did. I don't know how she finds anything in there, it's like a wonder of the world. It's frustrating because the plunger should not be in the garage, it should be in the hall closet. The secret to finding things seems to have everything in duplicate and have a secret place for things, the way I keep a scissors and hammer and nails hidden atop a bookroom bookcase.


Read some of "Telegraph Avenue" last night in order to round out the weekend but it felt of a checking-off-a-list type of thing. Had not that desire to revel in the understudy of words, examining their carriage and heft, their beauty and sagacity, their allure and sensuality.

Feel in something of a book-buying frenzy. Spent the $25 gift card that I won in a work contest in a hurry: Douthat's "Grand New Party", Alquist's "The Complete Thinker: GK Chesterton" and "The Short Night of the Shadow Catchers". But wasn't slaked because I came across Basbane's bibliolatry essays and then a history of Columbus. Going thru a rare hard thirst for history over the delights of language in fiction. Likely partially the result of the election, which has me curious again about past and present realities. You'd think I'd want to escape in fiction.

The Shadowcatchers book is likely the weakest purchase since it's dense and of a topic only tangentially interesting. Alquist's book on GKC is something I'd have bought eventually since I seem to have to have everything on GKC. The Grand New Party book was only $4 so it almost doesn't count. Basbane, an impulse purchase, was just too delectable to pass up even though I have one of his other books unread in my library! The history of Columbus seems a no-brainer, since I don't have much local (Columbus) history and this looks like a tasty morsel.

Still reading Hillerman's book that I took from my New Mexican villa. (The owners said I could take any book I want - Steph interestingly said that that only applied to fiction, which I more or less agreed with. I'd have not taken Fodor's Guide to New Mexico, for example, or even the essays of Bernanos (even though I suspect I'll be the only one ever to read that one) but to take one of the four or more Hillerman novels seemed less audacious.)

As much as I don't appreciate Mark Shea's heavy-handed hatred of the GOP, I do appreciate that he appreciates Ross Douthat.


Read a particularly spiritually fragrant Horizons, the newsletter of my Eastern Catholic diocese. There was an article on the new evangelization, as well it might given how dire things look in both RC land and EC land. I don't doubt that EC is sort of a canary in the coalmine and may go down quicker than RC since high liturgy doesn't seem to do it for most people. People seem to want more community, something the ethnic Eastern churches are losing due to homogenizing forces, and more Protestant style worship, again something extremely far from the Eastern rite look and feel. Certainly there's a reason the Latin Mass was ditched, and I suspect it's because the RC is flexible enough to change with people. The bend but don't break philosophy is partially what has kept the Church in decent stead these past 2000 years. It would be a great loss to the Church to lose the Eastern Catholic branch so it's a crisis for all involved.

Like it or not, we Catholics are going to have to become more like Mormons as far as lay participation. In a sense, it's sort of like how the Republican party must reach out to Hispanics - it's not optional. Similarly the Church must change and follow the instructions of Popes John Paul II and Benedict.


Bought orange circus peanuts for grandson Sam but the verdict was thumbs down. I'll give it another try in a few years I guess. Kind of surprised since I thought sugar was the universal language of childhood. Redeemed myself by offering him some dark chocolate in recompense.

More popular was jumping in the leaves with him. I threw him in there at first, but instead of Sam-tossing he wanted the more strenuous form of activity where we both ran and fell in the leaves head-first. We must've done that about twenty times, each time prefaced by the phrase, "ok, one more time!" I bring new meaning to the term "indulgent grandfather". Can't say no to that young whippersnapper.


Kind of taken aback by the boldness of a local priest who is politically conservative and not afraid to show it, recommending on Facebook that people read Thomas Sowell. Not used to priests being as obvious as he is, politically, especially on the right.

Heard Cardinal Dolan on his radio show today mention that he really gets steamed over the fact that Billy Graham can endorse Mitt Romney without the press going bananas, while if he or a priest did that all hell would break loose. Says it "gets his Irish up", that double-standard such that Protestants can get away with a lot more than Catholics.

November 09, 2012

You Gotta Be Kidding

You mean Romney was shocked he lost?

Reminds me how Bill O'Reilly says that the rich can be too confident of the future, can get so used to personal success that they lose a sort of reality-based view of things that the poor or middle class often have. O'Reilly said George W. Bush had that disease and that's why he was so cavalier about Iraq even when it was not going swimmingly.

As I've said here often, the Columbus Dispatch poll is uncannily accurate in these matters and they had Obama up by 2 on the eve of the election, so it's hard to figure Romney's surprise. Apparently he doesn't have internal pollsters as good as the Columbus Dispatch. So much for his reputation for excellence in management, ha.

Sundry & Various

Oh the banter of light play in the morning! For a brief period now - at least until maybe early December? - light floods the pathways of my mind and face on the way to work, now that the time change has taken effect. The time change seems perfectly timed since I don't even miss the hour on the other end. Morning light over late afternoon/early evening light in my book, or at least I think that in the morning.


Read compulsively more news, the Columbus Dispatch, perverse as that is given the negativity of it, i.e. Obama's reelection. I seem to be fascinated by the turn this country has taken and long to read Douthat's book called "The Grand New GOP", written a few years ago, which is supposed to blueprint a way forward. If I wasn't convinced an overhaul was necessary before, I'm certainly sure now. Those election results concentrate the mind powerfully. For the first time in a long time (or ever?) I feel like the country's changed, that here was an objective result of the culture of death and decay and sloth. Perhaps I felt it in '96 when Clinton, a perjurer, managed to beat Bob Dole, war hero. In the black and white of voting statistics, this election seemed an index of our citizenry's venality.

Was surprised to learn that Romney had been secretly taped awhile back saying that Republicans have got to appeal to Latino voters. Ironic given his own inability to connect with them. He might've taken his own advice. I think it was George Will who said, in his election recap, that this one might've been lost when a primary opponent challenged Romney to be tougher on illegals and Romney made some sort of over-the-top statement decrying the Dream Act and such. It kind of surprises me that Romney didn't move into an open border sort of guy after winning the nomination. Sure he'd catch hell, but that's never stopped him from changing a position before. If I were Mitt I'd have hijacked Hispanic media and outspent Obama hugely there. In the end the Mittster tried very hard, fought hard, but was a bit too predictable. He evinced a sort of lack of creativity and relied too heavily on the debates alone to change his course. I mean Mitt was losing practically the whole election, so there was plenty of opportunity to try something like a screen pass instead of simply handing off to the fullback every play. But that's Monday morning quarterbacking.

Whether it's the dog or the dog food is interesting. Rubio ought to test the theory in 2016 just to see whether Hispanics are hooked on ideology or packaging.

Also surprised that McCain supposedly got more votes than Romney. That be a headshaker. How Rs could not come out for Romney after the chastening effect of four years in the political wilderness under the messiah-bama is beyond me. File it under the "People Are Different" category I suppose. The funny thing about politics, and religion, is that it's so difficult oftentimes to imagine how people come to the conclusions they do.


A good reminder:
The great challenge for the Republican Party now is how to change its ways without changing its principles. Its principles are right and have long endured because they're right. But do all the party's problems come down to inadequate marketing, faulty messaging, poor candidates? Might some of it be policies, stands, attitudes?

...Some of these are referred to as "the woman problem" or "the Hispanic problem"—they presumably don't like the GOP. But maybe they think the GOP doesn't like them. What might be the reasons?

That will be a subject here in the future. For now, in politics as in life, you have to play the hand you're dealt. You have to respect reality. Which is where conservatism actually starts, seeing what is real.
- Peggy Noonan

Powerfully attracted to upgrading to the starter's package on Logos Bible Software. A pricey $210 though. Get a lot of new resources like the Catena Aureau, Haydock commentary, a lot of the early Fathers. The top package is something like $2,200! These guys are serious.

The Protestants are, as usual, even more serious about Bible study. Their packages go up to $5k. I think unless you're a pastor or something it seems a bit much. But they're hardcore. People like to have the best, witness the sums bikers spend on their bikes and colorful unitards. Or amateur photographers, who've got to have the best equipment. Or me, who has to have the best craft beer.

I was somewhat surprised, if disappointed, to learn that St. Kateri was into that self-flagellation stuff. Sounds masochistic to me but then of course it would since I seem to place fleshy desires so often above the spiritual. It's not by accident that the ugly small pox scars that she bore in life disappeared upon her death, one of the first signs of her sanctity. "The violent bear it away," said Christ. (Now if I had my Logos I could read every commentary and early church father on that verse in Matthew.)


Going through the beer drive-thru, my eye is caught by the sight of Circus Peanuts. I buy it on a whim, hoping to try that childhood treat on grandson Sam, eager to initiate him into the secret Circus Peanut society and to "differentiate myself" from his parents and grandma with this particular treat. I so closely associate it with my own childhood. I want to be the first to introduce him to them but not at too early an age. Such goes the thoughts of a foolish grandpa!

"Grandpa" still sounds ridiculously premature. It wasn't really until I entered the early 40s that I had a sense of the brevity of life and a greater sense of the passage of time and a generational view, such that I could actually be a father with a kid going to college. That's an eye-opener. I understand more deeply the three ages of man: young adulthood with death as a joke, in middle age, when you're in the on-deck circle, and in old age, when you face the "last enemy" as St. Paul calls it head on. There's a sense in which all of life is a lead-up to your death. Certainly in the time of Shakespeare that was the thought: a good death, defined as one in which you'd repented of your sins and were in the grace of God. And even in the 4th century, Emperor Constantine didn't get baptized till he was on his deathbed because there was the belief that the only time that counted was your deathbed and he didn't want to take the chance of getting baptized too early in his life and spoiling his baptismal garment with sin. At death was said that the eternal decision is really made, for or against God, which is why I suppose suicide is considered such a huge sin: it's the opposite of a "good death".


Beer Haikus:

Drink the hops product,
enjoy the beery merry
Cold beer beats the night.

First beer, second beer
a holy rush to the head
third beer all decline.

Oh Columbus Brew!
You make the drink of angels
You'll do till Heaven.

When in doubt or fear
brew a cheer and drink a beer
and you'll sing ye poem.