August 29, 2013

Miley Melee

Ham o' Bone  mentioned recently that the real surprise in a video of Ohio State University player involved in an assault case at a club was the club, specifically that it's arranged like a strip joint even though apparently it's just a garden variety club the kids go to these days.  There's an elevated dance floor where only the girls are dancing while guys stare at their rears. The pornification continues.

August 28, 2013

Those Wacky Mail Room Guys

Well now...'s a fellow I'm guessing isn't against public breastfeeding!:

August 27, 2013

Douthat on Bottum

[Bottum] has never been a zealous culture warrior or an eager political scrapper; as long as I’ve been reading him, he’s chiefly been a literary Catholic, a poet and critic and essayist with a sideline in history and philosophy. And coming from that place, especially, there is something that is frustrating-to-the-point-of-exasperation about the role that the Catholic Church has been cast in in so many of our post-sexual revolution debates: As some vast edifice of puritanism, handing down “thou shalt nots” and drowning the varied colors of the world in whites and blacks. That is obviously how any religion that preaches a rigorous moral message will sometimes be perceived, but to anyone who knows Catholic history intimately and has experienced Catholic culture from the inside it is a peculiarly ill-fitting caricature. And the more aesthetically and culturally-minded that Catholic, the more ridiculously frustrating it seems that their faith of all faiths (the faith of Italy! of France!) should be cast as the enemy of bodily pleasure — that their church, with its wild diversity of weirdo, “dappled” saints, should be seen as a purely conformist and repressive enterprise — and that the religion of Wilde and Waugh and Manley Hopkins and so many others would be dismissed as simply and straightforwardly homophobic.
 That’s how I read Bottum’s essay, at least in part: As a literary Catholic’s attempt to wrench the true complexity of his faith back out of the complexity-destroying context of contemporary political debates. He’s writing as someone who loves his church, and wants everyone else to love it as he does — and I don’t blame him for imagining that perhaps, just perhaps, ceasing to offer public resistance on the specific question of gay marriage would liberate the church from some the caricatures that the culture war has imposed upon it, and enable the world to see its richness with fresh eyes.
And Rod Dreher makes a good point:
 I did a count of all the posts I’d written about homosexuality in the previous year...Somebody’s obsessed with the story, and it ain’t me.
That's precisely the issue, that we don't get to choose our issues.  The culture at large has become obsessed with it and that has consequences. 

Sometimes You Get Lucky

I received the following email from a right-to-life organization and it reminds me that sometimes you DON'T get the government you deserve, sometimes you get a little bit better.  And I think Gov. Kasich is better than Ohioans deserve given our mottled voting record. "Simply put, Governor John Kasich has exceeded pro-life expectations."  It's time pro-lifers recognize a job well done.
Governor Kasich is compassionate toward the needs of Ohio families
Governor Kasich is focused on bettering the quality of life for families. To ensure that all Ohioans receive exceptional care, Mr. Kasich authorized the implementation of insurance coverage for families with autistic children.  Furthermore, he established a task force to provide employment for the disabled and directed funds to benefit research and care for drug-addicted infants.  Our Governor provided much needed resources to Ohio's food banks to help fight hunger.  He is also leading the effort to combat human trafficking in Ohio by establishing a statewide task force to identify real solutions for government to advance.  Finally, John Kasich created a unique to Ohio and first of its kind mental health intervention program to aid and assist children with violent tendencies.   

Governor Kasich is compassionate toward the educational needs of Ohio's children 

On the educational front, our governor has been revolutionary in his initiatives to meet the 21st century educational needs of Ohio's children. Through budget initiatives that expanded school choice and provided vouchers and scholarships for low-income families, Kasich has sought to ensure that children, regardless of family income, receive a high caliber education.

Governor Kasich is compassionately pro-life            

Simply put, Governor John Kasich has exceeded pro-life expectations. Kasich has demonstrated his concern for women's health and the unborn by supporting a record number of pro-life initiatives. Most notably, Mr. Kasich signed and made effective the late-term abortion  ban in July of 2011. No longer in Ohio will babies who are eight or nine months in utero be at risk of dying via abortion. Most recently, Governor Kasich signed five pro-life initiatives, which will protect pro-life taxpayer dollars, defund Planned Parenthood, and provide resources to our pregnancy centers. 

With such a strong and consistent track record of pro-life and pro-family legislation, we must ask ourselves, "Who has done more to aid the families of Ohio than John Kasich?" We proudly laud this remarkable servant leader and thank him for all he has done and continues to do for our Buckeye State. 

Front Page Drive-In News

Riveted by the Jody Bottum bombshell in which he appears to counsel not putting up a fight against gay marriage. It's hyp-mo-tizing to see such glittering Catholic stars as Brendan H. and Betty Duffy at contretemps on JB's essay. It's the Catholic world equivalent of the “wardrobe malfunction”. Nothing to see here folks, so quit refreshing Elizabeth's Facebook page.

[Hits refresh.]

And gosh was it fascinating to read Robert Royal's rejoinder (say five times fast) about beauty and how its transcendence doesn't seem to be saving the world. All the glorious cathedrals in Europe being empty, etc… Although the tone of it was awfully off-putting.

Unfortunately I read Bottum's piece after the well was poisoned and couldn't bring fresh eyes to it. Be interesting to see how I would've reacted had I not seen the negative reviews (although the subtitle alone might've put me off).

I agree with Eliz that it is annoying to read people annoyed by the length or discursiveness. It seems a gratuitous piling-on representative of a mild hysteria.  It's like reading a critique of the prose stylings of Marx in the Communist Manifesto or reading a review of Playboy magazine that went on about the articles.

Regardless, it's always good to reach a secular audience and even in Bottum's seeming capitulation there is the core criticism, which may smart the jet set, of the re-framing of the sexual revolution from one of liberty to that of a dramatic drainage of meaning. That can't be all bad.

Initially I thought it was beholden upon me to choose sides though that's utterly not the case, although sure as shooting I'm interested to see what sides others have chosen.  Thank God no one put up a poll because I seem to reflexively respond to online polls. I was, though, a bit surprised by Mark Shea's “burn the heretic!” post given the relatively recent declaration of a kindler/gentler Shea. But then we all fight long battles. I'm also dismayed by the incredible restraint of Jeff Miller aka "Curt Jester" on this subject. Very wise no doubt.

Ultimately, I'm not sure that the success or failure of the truth in the world at large is in our purview - didn't Mother Teresa say that we're not called to success but to faithfulness? That the Church is utterly failing in terms of influence does not automatically mean the Church is wrong in approach let alone content. There's an aspect of Rodney King sentiment in Bottum's essay: “can't we all just get along (and sing folk songs)?” I'm wondering about this in connection with the book Boundaries by Clay and co-dependency in general and how we tend to think that we are automatically at fault if there's human discord. Co-dependency is defined as “a psychological condition of a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition - typically narcissism or addiction, and in broader terms, it refers to the dependence on the needs of, or control of, another.” Sadly, this ex-friend of Mr. Bottum's sounds like he has issues. Just as we have to come to see atheists, for example, as not the enemy but having something to offer us, so too does this apply to Bottum's old friend. (Recall Jesus letting those go who couldn't accept his teaching on the Eucharist in John 6.)

This is not to suggest we shouldn't lighten the burden as much as possible of our fellow travelers and given the premise of the world view on sex, i.e. that it's not infused with meaning, the Church's position on homosexuality must seem bigoted. And Bottum makes an excellent point about how divorce has undermined marriage to the point of near parody. One can readily understand and sympathize the incredible difficulty gay people must have with a Church that seems to have a different stricture for heterosexuals as homosexuals. The words of Flannery O'Connor ring true, about how all voluntary baptisms are miraculous.

I know the gospel tells us to be “shrewd as snakes” but given all the variables and complexities involved, I'm extremely skeptical of the efficacy of longterm strategic thinking such that we give up on this issue in order to gain traction elsewhere. I came to this view late, and once upon a time naively thought “oh I know! We'll give you the abolition of the death penalty in exchange for the right to life of the unborn!”. Aw, 'twould such problems be so easily solved (and with such an advantageous swap for our side). Pope John Paul II pretty much made that swap and we see how well that's gone.

The Church is said to think in terms of centuries but that may simply be due to the famous Roman slowness to react or perhaps the gift of the Holy Spirit, but rarely do I think of it as the sweat equity of human intelligence. Perhaps I'm wrong but if I was wrong, would I be a blogger and thus protected from error?

Diaristic Wanderings from the Weekend

Ahh sky the color of blue as patented by the Creator. A lovely eastern sun gushes down the side of my face and arms. The lovely laugh of my wife, chuckling over a dog video on the iPad... Ah the lush cacophony of birdsong accompanying it all….Oh the wonder of reading about Hilton Head in the 19th century, and about how one man would punctuate his speech when in anger with the word “Confound!”, a delightful anachronism that merely by touching the word on the virtual page it brings up the etymology of the word, stemming from French and ultimately Latin for “chaos”. I was only saddened that the dictionary didn't tell me when “Confound!” used as a swear word begun. Of such trivia I revel.

But oh the time-greed I feel! And sun-gluttony increases as the summertime dwindles.

Book-glutton too, I found a trove of books on the 1913 flood, it being the anniversary, and immediately purchased Washed Away and began reading away. Easter Sunday night it all began with a tornado in Omaha, Nebraska. The author makes the point that everyone sees the 1913 flood as a local event, hence “the Columbus flood”, “the Dayton flood”, “the Louisville flood”. But it was actually a huge weather event that occurred through a vast swatch of the country.

Then, to change the scene of death and destruction I headed to Michael O'Brien novel and came across this metaphoric line: “Marija, if we do not play in the dangerous surf, we will drown in puddles.”


Nice ride on Saturday afternoon. Food for the soul on a picture-book weather day. Did twelve miles at Glacier Ridge Metro Park, getting satisfyingly lost amid the loops. There was the warm sun against my forearms, the songs of Neil Diamond running through my head, and the occasional stretch of pleasingly dense forest. I told Steph that our hero John Switzer sometimes haunts these parts and it all reminded me briefly of Sea Pines at Hilton Head, the tall trees and marshes. Kind of hard to stop after just twelve.

And then as we wrapped it up Steph made a celebrity sighting: the fabled John Switzer, resident Dispatch naturalist-columnist himself. I didn't want to bother him, knowing that naturalists appreciate their privacy and tend to be introverts, but I accommodated my wife. He had his camera in hand and wore the trademark mustache that greatly aided in identification. (He looked a bit heavier and older than in his Dispatch photo, but then don't we all, ha.) He was photographing black-eyed susans. We walked up and nodded a hello and strolled by him, but I couldn't resist saying “Mr. Switzer” (quietly, I thought) and he immediately recognized his name of course and turned and said hello and tipped his cap to us, in a gentlemanly old throwback sort of way, and we told him how much we enjoy his column.

Afterward we stopped at a little farmhouse selling all manner of fruits and vegetables. We bought peaches but they weren't nearly as good as ours! More apple-like, less sweet and way less juicy.

Drank beer in the sun at 3 in the afternoon while listening to Mexicano music and it reminded me of that golden day spent at that Cozumel beach resort during the February cruise. That day has legs, memory-wise. I'm of the Rose Kennedy school of survival. She went on quarterly trips to Paris for mental health purposes. I go on trips to the beach.

Holed up now on shore of the quiet southern lake in the great (ha) Prairie Oak chain. I feel no immediate need to put in - just enjoying the quiet. Makes me think of the voluble Sirius XM radio priest who said he went to the lake to boat and fish last week. Seemed so…quiet for one so active in ministry. Also reminded me of how grandpa used to like to fish in Lake Michigan. He was likely the most laconic man I ever knew, so much so that I can't remember what his voice sounds like now. He seemed like a character in an old Western, quiet but rock-steady. No drama. Low profile. Only lived to 69, another way of keeping a low profile.


Got to thinking while saying the Glorious Mysteries how different the “look and feel” of Pentecost in medieval art compared to the words of Scripture. In Scripture the event seems more about the apostles speaking in the native tongues' of the listeners in a crowded Jerusalem square than in the act itself. The Scripture is memorable by the result of the Spirit and the crowd's reaction of amazement to the apostles. It's more people-focused, it seems to me. But most art seems to emphasize a devotional God-focus. THE scene is the reception of the spirit while praying in an ornate church and it makes the event of Pentecost seem calmer, more private, more prayerful and more inward and contemplative, while Scripture makes it seem more outward, more activist, more evangelical and exuberant. Both/and I suppose.

Meanwhile, the morning prayer of Daniel 3 goes in part, “you sons of men, bless The Lord!” and I always want to say, “you sons of bitches, bless The Lord!” Sillly me.


Saturday night 19-year old Kevin arbitrated on whether a “selfie” refers to any picture taken of yourself by yourself or specifically a nude picture of yourself. He said the former usage was fine. Urban Dictionary seems the final arbitrator and it's funny how the 'net allows even the old to be hip, or I should say allows the old to at least be able to find a translation of the language and secrets of the young. That works both ways since Kevin never heard of the reference of “movin' on up / to the East Side”. I assume that is instantly google-able. Kind of interesting how some see selfies as slightly disreputable. I can see the narcissism angle but also that we're made in the image and likeness of God and so from that perspective our own appreciation of our visage might be respectable. I recall a priest with a lot of pictures of himself on Facebook and felt...mixed emotions at it.


Got back home at 4:30 we took the grand boys to the “mountain” (a hill actually) and then to the fake deer (reindeer according to Sam) and to the large slide as well. (Sam strongly urges grandparent partiicipation, not merely spectating, so I obliged him by sliding head-first down the narrow slide and going approximately 1 mph since I was too wide for the slide. Steph burst out laughing.)

August 26, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance

Why are these men smiling?  God love 'em, but I've never seen them write anything but doom and gloom!:

August 23, 2013

The Demise of August

“Not so long ago—well within the memory of half the American population—August was the vacation month. It was a time, much anticipated and much appreciated, of leisure, languor, lassitude and lingering at the beach well into suppertime… What we’ve done to August has made it the cruelest month: infuriating work and inescapable school obligations amid intoxicating weather.”

Link here.

Mom & Pop Operations

Blogs especially in the early days, exhibited grand idiosyncrasies,  amateurism, and lack of marketing influence.  Very refreshing.

I was thinking about that while I read this article about Starbucks, specifically this passage:

About That Logo...

At close inspection, the Starbucks logo makes no sense. At closer inspection, it makes even less sense, plus you risk dipping your nose in frap foam.
There's some lady with long hair wearing a crown and holding what appears to be two"¦ giant salmon? Decapitated palm trees? Miniature sand worms from Beetlejuice?

Conspiracy theorists have had a field day with the cryptic image...The real story is less about evil conspiracies than prudish graphic design.
Since Starbucks was named after a nautical character, the original Starbucks logo was designed to reflect the seductive imagery of the sea. An early creative partner dug through old marine archives until he found an image of a siren from a 16th century Nordic woodcut. She was bare-breasted, twin-tailed and simply screamed, "Buy coffee!"
In the ensuing years, Starbucks marketing types decided to tastefully cover up the mer-boobs with long hair, drop the suggestive spread-eagle tail and give the 500-year-old sea witch a youthful facelift. The result? Queen Esther at Sea World.
This seems the typical process: you do something creative, like use an image from a 16th century Nordic woodcut, and then it gets watered down or modernized by a marketing area. In Christianity there's ever the same temptation, to give oneself to the marketing reps and allow anything distinctive or creative to be watered down. (You just knew some church would 'modernize', even if in the 16th century, and deny the seemingly eccentric belief that the Eucharist was the body and blood of Christ.) 


I was also thinking this also when I realized that the '60s station on Sirius XM radio almost never plays Richard Harris' MacArthur Park.  The song is too eccentric and colorful, but personally I love the chutzpah it took to write the lyrics, "someone left the cake out in the rain / and it took so long to bake it." 

Those "anti-romantic" and anti-poetic lines, married to a striving melody with orchestral climax, make it a most interesting song even if one widely vilified.   Writing about cake left out in the rain with the green icing flowing down is the equivalent of trying to write poetically of spammer's emails,  suburban Ohio, or Tuesday afternoons.  It ain't easy when you can't sprinkle in French place names.

Beatific Vision

They say the Beatific vision of God in Heaven will overwhelm us such that we won't be too interested in meeting, say, our departed dog (should dogs be in Heaven, which I believe they will since God doesn't create only to destroy). I “get this” certainly. I suppose it's like if you fall in love with a girl, head over heels, you think about her all the time rather than, say, your cat. And love for God in Heaven makes earthly love look like nothing.

So granted it's possible that we'll be swept up in the beatific vision. But what that doesn't explain is how God isn't similarly imbued. He's not so wrapped up in Himself or in the other persons of the Trinity that he's not interested in counting the “hairs on our head” or notes when a sparrow falls. We're not God, obviously, but I can't help but think that we'll be more like Him in Heaven that we are now and so surely we'll appreciate the New Heaven and Earth that Scripture says will be created.

August 20, 2013

Seven (Times Seven) Quick Takes

The sun was high (and high-producing) and I rested my eyes for a few minutes under it, reading a bit of the Peart travelogue. Sat a minute in the sublime chairs under the tree-line canopy. Then checked out the garden. The grapes are producing! They've turned purple and we tried a few and the flavor is astounding. I'm amazed at how they taste so much sweeter and “grapier” than store-bought grapes. Picked a grape-load of them today and plan on taking them into work tomorrow - wonder if co-worker Ben will confirm my only take on them, on their astounding flavor. Then too the peaches are bearing and I plucked and ate one of those. Surreal that you can eat something that good for free and with no toil. Fruits versus grains in Genesis:
Before the Fall:
"The Lord God planted an orchard in the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man he had formed..the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

After the Fall, no easy fruit pickings but instead hard-won grain:

"...and you shall eat the grain of the field."


Our grandkids' daycare lady said the boys have been “clingy” today and yesterday, which she says is typical after a vacation since kids get used to all that personal attention.


Oh the sun feels so faux-y up here in the northlands! And yet I cling, like Sam does to the daycare worker. I cling to its evanescent self, moving chair and Kindle out to the nether-regions of our yard where the 7pm sun still doth shine.

Today was the first day I felt wistful for the time on the deck at Hilton Head. The good thing: I didn't get bored on the trip. The bad thing: I didn't get bored on the trip. Boredom is perhaps a sign of having filled the tank, of having refreshed such that no more refreshment is needed. Which generally happens at Hilton Head. And I certainly never got to that point this time, ha. It seems I spent too little time on that meditative, monkish natural space just before the dunes.


Co-worker Philip never eats cafeteria lunches because “something's got to give when you have five kids.” Too expensive even at $4 an entree, so he brings peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. It's funny how some in the workplace think the cafe is too déclassé, while here's Philip thinking the cafeteria is a five-star restaurant.

Philip noted that both his kids are debt-free are college which is pretty amazing except for the fact that at BYU if you're Mormon you get your tuition paid for by the church. So there's that. Rich church. Think what Jesus could've done with that kind of cash (I say tongue-in-cheek).


  Catechism lesson with a quote from Newman:

The sense of the sacred is part of the virtue of religion:
Are these feelings of fear and awe Christian feelings or not?… I say this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. They are the class of feelings we should have—yes, have to an intense degree—if we literally had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe that He is present, we shall have them; and not to have them, is not to realize, not to believe that He is present.
Also liked the generous assertion that “The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession.”

Read for the first time about the man St. Maximilian Kolbe saved, a guy who managed to live for four years in Auschwitz and then another concentration camp. It would really not be providential if St. Maximilian died in his place only to have this guy die a few weeks later. But he lived till 1995 and reunited with his wife after the war though, unfortunately, his sons were killed in the war.


Lino Rulli mentioned the last two nights he's gotten very little sleep. Woke up at 3 or 4am both nights and couldn't get back to sleep – my old problem. He said he started saying mindless Hail Marys in order to get to sleep and felt very guilty the next morning, since it was using prayer as a sleep-aid, like Sominex. I guess so, but I think God wants to help us. I mean you shouldn't use prayer as a means to an end I guess but at the same time it seems almost as if God would say “it's okay” simply out of love for us. Interesting.

Nice thought from a Catholic radio show on the reading of Revelation chapter 12: “The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.” A teacher at Franciscan U. suggested this desert might be the desert of our human hearts and how enthralling that simple suggestion of God's and Mary's largesse towards the spiritually arid. 


Got sidetracked while reading a book on Pope Francis about the story of Argentina's dramatic economic fall. It's sort of like Detroit, only it happened to a nation five times the size of France. One hundred years ago Argentina was among the richest of countries and now 40% are below the poverty line. A riches-to-rags story, rare in developed countries, so rare that the author of one book has difficulty in what to call it. He settled on 'impoverishment'. You tend to think that once a nation gets developed it stays so.  I requested a couple via the library, one with the title, “Argentina: What Went Wrong”. 


Pope Francis urges us to see the creative force behind work:

“The good thing about work, going back to what I was saying before, is that one sees the result and feels “divine,” like God, able to create. In a certain sense, one feels the way a man and a woman do when they are holding their firstborn in their arms.”

Our cafe now allows local restaurants to cater food in on Fridays. I snapped up a delicious  Mediterranean sampler today with chicken shwarma and rice and pita and a whole heaping of delicious hummus. Googled and found out they come from Israel, but I guess to advertise as such would turn off too many of the liberal Palestinian-lovers.

Ten years ago or more I was much less likely to want to try foreign foods. Chinese was a huge step, taken only by the prompting of  a co-worker since there was a Chinese restaurant at the food court across the street. He said I'd like something strangely called “wor sui gai” and don't you know I did. Later I discovered General TSO chicken as well.

Took me until 2000-ish till my next food adventure, Indian food via Aaron and Julie (which I grew to love it as well). And now, wow, Middle-Eastern food. Wonders never cease. I, who wrote a paean to the McDonald's quarter-pounder sandwich at university (received my lowest grade ever for a composition, a C-, but then I was writing for a prof who had sushi catered in because he was so enamored by the foreign, and so I was swimming upstream on that one). I, who took “meat and potatoes man” as a phrase of praise.

The same evolution happened with beer. I was plenty content with Busch Lite until the magical discovery of Guinness sometime around the mid-90s. My first was a “black and tan” - or “Guinness on training wheels” as a co-worker called it. How daring it felt to drink black beer, ha! Eventually as my palate developed I discovered a heretofore unexplored world of craft beer treasures. I couldn't believe the variety of taste – and intensity of taste – that a simple product like beer could provide, a beverage that I thought was more or less uniform.

I started drinking coffee for wakefulness purposes at work in the late '80s. Purely for utilitarian reasons. But something happened on the way to utilitarianism: I found out there were coffees beyond the instant coffee machine at the workplace where you put a quarter in and a Dixie cup fell down and filled with brownish water. I discovered the deep, richer taste of Starbucks and now have opted for a less bold flavor when I found my “dream coffee”, Nantucket's Blend made by Green Mountain.

And chocolate.. Did anything other than milk chocolate ever exist prior to 2000 for me? And yet - wow - once I acquired a taste for dark chocolate (I'm at 70% cocoa, finding the 80%'s a bit too much) well, it's just a whole new ballgame.


Much moved by a Dispatch article Sunday on a priest, Fr. H., who met and gave the last sacraments to a death row inmate just before his execution. Fr. H. asked him to take care of his aching shoulder as a sign that all was well with the prisoner after his death:
[The priest] didn’t witness the execution but waited at the prison while it was carried out. About 10:45 a.m., Hummer noticed that his shoulder had stopped hurting.
“The ones who had been witnesses said the time of death was 10:42,” he said. “I just smiled and realized what had happened.”
Hummer, 66, said he had built an “incredible spiritual bond” with the 49-year-old Wiles. The experience, he said, was “probably the most grace-filled” of his long life in the priesthood and something he hadn’t expected.

 Very fall-ish morning, but maybe part of it is I'm ever more keenly aware of seasonal shifts. I like noting the subtle boundaries between seasons, the nuances, even though the weather bounces around so much, with one day feeling like two months' prior and the next two months' ahead. They say in Alaska winter comes in like a lion, very definitively. One day it's summer and the next winter, with a blanket of snow covering the ground. And it's not calendar-dependent; winter may start there in late September or early November.

When I was a kid it was almost like there were two seasons: winter and summer, cold or warm. But now, much like my beer palate has gotten a bit more sensitive, my “weather palate” has become sophisticated as well. The first feeling of fall or summer will vary with the year and it's sort of interesting to me to chart those days.

Foggy morning and a bit cloudy, accompanied by the hum of insects and tweets of birds. It does feel like a back-to-school morning, those days of yore when the mornings were cool and all the indicators said that summer was o'er.


My latest book obsession is indulging in the freebies from Project Gutenberg. Found an app that categorizes them and thus makes an ocean a bit more manageable. Something like 40,000 books are available, all from the public domain (prior to 1920). There are some good ones even if the style is different (more verbose). There are lots of books on book-collecting, as well as Literary New York (about just what the title indicates). Also William Gladstone, prime minister of England back in the 19th century, on how to arrange your books. Needless to say he didn't anticipate the Kindle, or that someday an American would read his words via it.


Ah, the actor Richard Burton is like me in more ways than a fondness for alcohol. He wanted to be buried not underground given his penchant for light. Quote:

“She [Isabel] was desperately anxious to accede to the [burial] wishes Richard had expressed during their walk a few months earlier; 'he hated darkness so much that he would never have the blind down lest he might lose a glimpse of light from twilight to dawn.'”

August 15, 2013

There Oughta Be a Book....

Read this in a book about Cardinal Bergoglio: 
 ....former president of Uruguay, Julio María Sanguinetti, in which he states, “Someone once said that countries could be classified into four categories: first, the developed countries; next, the underdeveloped countries; third, Japan, whose development cannot be explained; and finally, Argentina, whose underdevelopment cannot be explained.”
And it makes me want to read a book that likely hasn't been written, a book giving us the inside scoop on countries of the world.  Not the sort of cold hard facts of the CIA World Factbook, but national reputations, gossip, juicy stuff, the kind of stuff you know the world leaders know and revel in.

The Only Holy Day in Summer... today's solemnity, at least as far as being a day of obligation.  Cardinal Ratzinger in Co-Workers of the Truth says:
"The holy day, which is something quite different from the holiday, is the Church’s gift to man. The mere not-having-to-work does not constitute a holy day. This is one of the problems of contemporary society: that it is, on the one hand, thoroughly sated with the worship of work but, on the other hand, cannot find the alternative—which would be freedom, a break with routine—and hence comes gradually to find freedom more threatening and more uncomfortable than work. But what makes a day a holy day? Precisely the fact that it is not dependent on our own decision; that it is, as it were, not homemade but ordained; that it is based on a precept we have not decreed. There is nothing arbitrary about a holy day. We do not make it; we receive it. Even more: a holy day possesses a reality that is lasting and by reason of which it is transformed from a pause in our occupations into a reality of another kind. A third fact must be mentioned here: a holiday can become a holy day, in the true sense of the word, only if it stems from a precept that it be celebrated as such. The holy day, on the other hand, is an expression of the fact that we receive our time not just from the movement of the stars but from those who have lived, loved, and suffered before us—in other words, that man’s time is human time.

Even more significantly, it is an expression of the fact that we receive our time from him who sustains the universe. It is the invasion of the quite Other into our lives—the sign that we are not alone in this world. For its part, the holy day has engendered art, beauty for its own sake, which we find so endlessly comforting precisely because it has no compulsion to be useful, because it does not owe its existence to a leisure that we have devised for ourselves...The Church will have to learn again how to celebrate holy days, how to radiate the brightness of a holy day. Her obeisance to the rational world has been much too deep in latter years; she has thereby let herself be robbed of a piece of herself. The Church should invite us to the holy days she has preserved in faith. In doing so, she will enable even those to rejoice for whom her glad tidings are inaccessible because they are viewed too rationally."

August 14, 2013

Ohio in 1836

Fun what you can find on the internet. This is from the Ohio section of the 1836 guidebook titled A New Guide for Emigrants to the West via Gutenberg site:

Animals.—Bears, wolves, and deer are still found in the forests and unsettled portions of the State. The domestic animals are similar to other States. Swine is one of the staple productions, and Cincinnati has been denominated the "pork market of the world." 

Cincinnati is the great commercial emporium of the State. It is pleasantly situated on the right or northern bank of the Ohio river, about equidistant from Pittsburg and its mouth, in N. lat. 39° 06', and W. lon. from Washington city 7° 25'.

Columbus, the political capital of the State, and nearly in the centre of the State, is a beautiful city, on the east bank of the Scioto river. In 1812, it was covered with a dense forest, when it was selected by the legislature for the permanent seat of government. 
Cleveland, the "mistake on the lake", brews exceptionally fine beers.  [JOKE! Wanted to make sure you were paying attention.]
Education.—Charters for eight or ten colleges and collegiate institutions have been granted... One township, (23,040 acres,) and a very valuable one, has been given to the Miami University, at Oxford. Two townships of land, (46,080 acres,) though of inferior quality, have been given to the Ohio University. 

Antiquities.—Much has been said about the antiquities of Ohio,—the fortifications, artificial mounds, and military works, supposed to indicate a race of civilized people, as the possessors of the country, anterior to the Indian nations... I have no doubt, however, that credulity and enthusiasm have greatly exaggerated many appearances in the West, and magnified them into works of vast enterprise and labor. Mounds of earth are found in every country on the globe, of all forms and sizes; and why should they not exist in the western valley? 
 Those who delight especially in the marvellous, may consult the "Description of the Antiquities discovered in the State of Ohio, and other Western States, by Caleb Atwater, Esq."

History.—The first permanent settlement of Ohio, was made at Marietta, on the 7th day of April, 1788, by 47 persons from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. This was the nucleus around which has grown up the populous State of Ohio. Some slight diversity exists, in different sections of the State, in manners, customs, and feelings, amongst the people, in accordance with the States or countries from which they or their fathers emigrated. These shades of character will become blended, and the next generation will be Ohians, or, to use their own native cognomen, Buckeyes.

August 13, 2013

Generational Tags

Kind of fascinating how easily pegged I am, how much a creature of my generation (GenX according to the book Generations at Work - they define it as those who can't tell you where they were when Kennedy was killed but know it was a traumatic event in our history).

Mine is said to be cautious, more conservative, skeptical, a tad lazier than average, very much into limiting their work hours type of generation. What we love to hear is “less meetings” among other things.

This is said to be an outgrowth of the shocks of the '70s: OPEC, Vietnam War loss, inflation, impeachment of Nixon, joblessness, etc… We grew up with these things in the news, in the air, and it made us more distrustful of authority, more guarded and risk-averse. 

It occurs to me that it's not just peers that so determine a generation (like Gen X) but media choices.

More so in my case since my peers weren't too deleterious, though I had a whole heaping helping of news and entertainment, from Love Boat to the pop-psychology in Your Erroneous Zones to David Letterman. It's crazy to oversimplify human beings but I'm always tempted to, and I've been tempted to think that children are half products of their parents and half products of their peers but that ignores the unbelievably powerful sway of one's entertainment and information sources. I might wish now that I'd grown up without Summer of '42, Letterman and Ordinary People, as well as so many shows that may've unknowingly influenced me, from M*A*S*H* to what not but….

But really we swim in the environment we swim in and to wonder about what I'd be like with only Beverly Hillbillies and Little House on the Prairie and '40s movies in my brain is a pipe dream. There's no way parents can protect kids from culture anymore than they can protect them from news. At the time we're most susceptible to influences and least able to see the longterm consequences of them is when we're subject to them. We think we're not only immortal physically but impervious to negative influence. Anyhow it makes more sense, logically, to characterize people by generation than by horoscope given how powerful the media is compared to the moon.

Ye Beach Trip Log

FRIDAY:  Oh the glittering glory of writing on my iPad at 1:42pm on a Friday! I alone escaped from work to tell about it. Took a half-day off in order to try to cram a bit of reading in.

Had hoped against hope to get home by noon-ish, but work intervened and then had to pick up the incidentals: ice for cooler, toys to occupy grandson and beer (that needful thing that I'm always a day or so of being out of – feel like going to store and buying a metric ton if'n I could only store it! Would be, literally, 99 bottles of beer, though not on the wall.)

Could feel my blood pressure race against the clock: packing, shopping, hustling to get the details right at work and at home.

It was good to see my old boss last night. He's looking hale and hearty and he seems pleased that I've stayed in touch. Students are crazy about him (he's a professor now) and I don't wonder why.

We ate at Cimino's or something like that, a pizza joint.  Rick, God love him, spent $17,000 to upgrade his laundry room. You can't make it up. Has beautiful granite counter on which to fold laundry. Wow. He's eccentric as the day is long. Also he's tempted to pay his psychic $250 to “cleanse his aura”. The psychic now lives in California and does his “readings” on Rick by phone (nice work if you can get it - psychics having the original virtual home office). Apparently Rick's aura is naturally blue but is currently brown and one needs to get them cleansed every six months, according the Mr. Psychic. Oy.

Rick continues his winning ways. Won $2500 on a slot machine, I think in Cincy (he's been to it thrice now). Unreal. Also went to Atlantic City with comped flight and comped room. Gambling seems to be less a hobby for him than a source of income, a part-time job.


WWWWWWhhheeeeewww! Sometimes extra punctuation makes sense. A rollicking roil of a day, a long (lloooooonnng) 13.5 hour chariot ride beginning at 5:15 am (after spending an hour trying to mount the four bikes on the bike rack, an enterprise dauntingly time-consuming - followed by a fallow securing of the cargo load above the Honda Pilot, fallow because we found out shortly that the height of the SUV with the cargo was too tall for our garage door. So we had to painstakingly dismantle the 220 latches, take down the cargo carrier, and reassemble it in the rain just beyond the garage door. Kind of a false start to put it mildly but then I wasn't the one who felt the need to get to our destination before 8pm.)

But I shouldn't complain; my driving load was scandalously easy. On my drive time I listened to the best interviewer of our generation, C-Span's Brian Lamb. On my wife's drive time I slept, ate, slept and slept. And more than occasionally occupied Sam.

The huge difference this year on the drive was, of course, that we had our 3-year old grandson. He was surreally good given the length of drive and was even better when he was sleeping, ha. Seriously he was amazing. He had to pee far less than Steph! I feel a special kinship with Sam since he has fears, and I have fears. Different ones, but still....

The first thing we did when we got to the condo was take Sam to the ocean, a reward for his perseverance, and he had me hold him as the waves smashed into him. It was neat to be able to show Sam's parents, Aaron & Julie, such a fun part of our existence, our “home away from home” for a week a year going on 20 years now, or maybe 20 for me and 13 for Steph.

And now I drink a beer on the balcony and dream in words....

The blowing fronds
of palms bedecked
the sea gulls fly
without neglect.


Unintentional hilarity: this hat tells you where the bottle opener is. If you're too drunk to ascertain that without instructions, then you're too drunk!

79 degrees and humid at 8:30 in the morning -- salve to my summer-starved soul. It's odd that I had to travel seven hundred miles to find warm weather. When the wind blew I actually felt almost cold at the Irishfest in Dublin on Friday. I always thought global warming ("climate change" Mark C. corrected) would be different, merely a rise in temperature, but in practice it seems to work itself out in extremes - either too much rain or too little, too much heat or too little, and too many freakish, tree limb-breaking storms.


We've created a monster of sorts - Sam so thrilled with us yesterday that he wanted to wake us up this morning. I like his enthusiasm. (Steph says, "he loves us because he never hears the word 'no').

Julie said no as far as waking us up, thankfully. Steph is retrieving him presently (8:30am) to bring him over. I think young children and older folks like me live in different temporal worlds: a single day or night is like an epoch to them, while a week can seem like a day to us. Perhaps a metaphor for God's view of time versus our own, we who think our earthly lives so lengthy that we try to avoid even "legitimate suffering", the kind that maketh saints.


Graceful she bears her dignity
the arch of back and brow and book
a grey sundress, her carry proud
a woman's burden trumpeted.


Steph, ever useful, found a blanket to put on the kids' glass coffee table. The table was part of the reason Aaron was unhappy with the place calling it not kid friendly. This simple maneuver helped much.

Enriching day so far. Morn spent in perfect leisure: read some of the novel NW while sipping tasty coffee. Then walked the beach for about 40 minutes. Then some 10am prayer before Steph & Julie arrived with McD's breakfast around 10:30. I'd already made some deee-licious french toast, seeing how delayed breakfast was. As they say, "breakfast delayed is breakfast denied"!

Everybody came down to our pad till around 11:30 after which we went to the beach-nik. I played with Sam about an hour, 12:20 to 1:20; we threw plastic toys into the surf and then collected them as they flowed towards us. And then everybody went in for naps and I did an obligatory jog, without much relish.

Steph still thinks they won't last long here, that Aaron will want to flee in a day or two. I'm not so sure. Julie said, "next year we'll come down here and rent a two-bedroom.  A bit small for them I guess.

A couple in front of us on the beach, three kids in tow, downed six beers between them by 1:30pm. Not bad. The beer cure for having children on vacation. (As Amy Welborn quoted someone else, "There are two kinds of travel: with and without kids.")
This buried boy has need for a sand bra.

Went to morning mass, thank God. A respite and a helpful corrective though I feel like I need more than Mass for complete corrective (i.e. rosary, morning prayer). Transfiguration today. I love that there was a reference to it being a wonderful prefiguration of our own sonship of God. That idea of God being not only our Father but also of Father saying to us, “You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased” is mesmerizing.  To have a father is one thing, to have a father who is pleased with you is a whole 'nuther matter.

Speaking of fatherhood, Aaron said that he's trying so hard to build up the trust with S. such that he has some room to operate, to receive the benefit of the doubt. You can't be harsh right away else they won't trust that they will accept discipline in the spirit of love as is intended. Pretty deep stuff since that's also how God must work with us. He tells us in Scripture that he chastises those sons he loves, so part of that divine sonship.


Big decision at 4pm: whether to turn chair to face sun or sea!

Monday morning sure was nice. The much appreciated lingering over coffee capped by the poignant walk on the slightly cloud-lit beach.  Sunday night wasn't bad either given the quick hustle-down of two Edmund Fitz porters. You take your moments when you can.

Sam has a healthy confidence in his persuasive abilities, no doubt proved true by experience. When I told him our dog Buddy wasn't allowed here, he said he'd go down to the beach and straighten this out. “Hi boss!” he practiced saying. Sam also has trouble with the letter “l”, making it silent. This really isn't good when he says the word “flag”, for obvious reasons. Julie thinking about speech therapy although I doubt this is the sort of thing that would worry a pre-1990s parent. Fr. Groeschel said worries mushroom in affluent societies, even though you'd think it would be the exact opposite.


“What time do you get up in the morning?” Julie asked last night. This is not a question this lazy grandparent wants to hear because, translated, it means: “What time can I give you the kids?”

I can see why Aaron gets up at 4:45 every morning in order to have some free time before the call of the wild begins. There is something about that morning hour without disruptions that is very appealing. Philip at work does the same thing - gets up before the kids do, as does Jennifer of Conversion Diary I believe. This means getting up insanely early because young kids get up early as it is.

Julie's secret to child-raising sounds like a Cold War policy: containment. She whispered the word to me like the guy who says “plastics” in the film “American Graffiti”. Containment as in try to limit their field of motion, thus a pool is better than the beach since a pool has boundaries (a locked gate). A bike trailer is nice for the same reason - they're limited in mischief potential.


Oh how I've longed for this all-access sun pass! A week of days of consolations in reparation for the cool summer and the dearth of vacations. All have been a day here, a day there, and all under the auspices of chilly rains. I appreciate this more for the lack of sun this summer, particularly July 4th weekend's truly dismal weather performance.

Oh how nice not to have to immediately shave, shower and brush teeth! And how nice to blow off nightly brushing and flossing. It's those little things that unduly annoy, liking brushing twice a day and flossing once.

By 10:30 Sam was up and soon Steph and I took him on a nice 40 min bike ride towards Sea Pines. Earlier, before breakfast, Steph and I had taken a wonderful walk along the glittering shore. There's something special and magical about morning sun on the sea. Today was the first day I really felt relaxed.

Played that classic “Brandy” to feel all poignant for sea enchantment purposes. Perhaps it's a metaphor for the male longing for journey and novelty compared to the female desire for stability and safety. The complementarity of the sexes is simultaneously beautiful and tragic. Like the song “Brandy”.

Spontaneity is the mother of invention, so I headed to my trusty steed and biked for 70 minutes to the muse of music instead of reading the Kindle. I get sappy on vacations (or “corny” as black folks call us). It's the only time in my life I listen to Dan Fogelberg, in this case Run for the Roses - the most inspirational pop song short of Rocky- and Longer, that hymn of prevenient grace. Later there's Barbara Streisand's ethereal Evergreen.


Can't believe all the animal drama going on at home. Buddy got skunked in Marsha's small urban yard. Bud's dog Bridgette had a mild heart attack. And Lazarus developed an abscess on his face. Sounds like our animals need us.


Foolishly I overindulge
Not in liquor but in exercise
To exorcise the demons
Of lost youth.


Reading book Detroit is the Place to Be! Great title. The whole decline and fall of Detroit strikes me as similar to that of so many ghost towns in California and Alaska - they were tied to boom years in gold exploration and died when the gold dried up. Similarly, Detroit boomed with the American auto industry and now is experiencing the fall of it. Not to say the city hasn't been badly managed, but do we really expect government and central planners to overcome what is essentially a marketplace problem?  Kind of want to check out the ruins of Detroit as well as the art museum there.


Sam is a morning person, wanting to see me first thing. Julie says I'm a celebrity to him. Steph sends out a text message alert as soon as I wake up: “PawPaw's up!!” No rest for the wicked, and no time for grounding prayer, coffee. Timing is everything. The very thing work most denies me - leisurely mornings - turns out to be elusive down here.

It's overcast but that just lends to the variety and will surely be temporary. Steph loves the weather down here - good golf score temperatures (low 80s) and the occasional respite of light cloud cover.

Wunderbar 30 minute run but then after I made the really, really stupid decision (judgement after a run is never really sharp - it produces a sort of drunken obliviousness) to snap the iPhone on the bill of my cap and cool off in the ocean. Of course the weight of the iPhone eventually tipped it forward, unlatched, and sank into the salt water. So predictable! And yet it felt like a sort of challenge. I retrieved it instantly but there was damage. I can't power it up now for more than thirty seconds. I feel at a loss without it since it's my music player and my virtual pad of paper for writing. (Am writing this on my iPad now up at the condo, with consolatory cigar for baby-sitting service rendered between 8:30 and 2).

I'll know within 48 hours for sure if this iPhone is dead - they say not to power it on for that long but, of course, I already tried. Curiosity killed the cat and my iPhone. I probably blew the circuits. Costly vacation but then if all you're concerned about money you wouldn't go on any vacations. They are money pits, not the least due to having to spend a lot more on food than one otherwise would.


Excitement at the beach - large crowd gathers, always a sign of something Big. Headed over there when I saw a fisherman hauling in something which I hoped was a shark but turned out to be a large stingray. Watched them unhook him, a slightly bloody operation, after de-barbing him prudently first (stingrays grow stingers back). Then they put him back in the surf to go his merry way, an unintentional catch.


Last day.  Have landed on the deck after the trip to Lawton Stables with Sam and Julie and Steph. Aaron and Will made an abortive effort, cancelled by Will's crying. He doesn't much like the bike trailer, presumably because of the helmet.

We rode to that iconic breath of western ranch and petted the huge Belgian horse. Sam wouldn't touch him out of fear, nor did he feed him. Then, surprisingly, he wanted to go on a pony ride and so he did.

Now looking over the pleasingly fecund prairie edging and protecting the beach. Nice, full sun but not terribly hot. I would guess 80, 83 at most. Awesome weather. Heard that it was raining the other night in Columbus. So glad not to be in that “London summer” this week.

I have missed the restful mornings the most, the very gentle waking up with coffee, maybe a walk on the beach and the slow build-up till a delicious breakfast at 10 or so. Reading the Island Packet! I feel nostalgic towards it.

Ran one more time and swam one more time even though my limbs are putty. Ex-haust-tation.  Easy day today Sam-wise given the 2.5 hours spent bike-riding, displaying the containment principle in action.

Hilton Head feels the anchor of the vacational year. There's something so right, so seasonally appropriate, so “in tune” in going to Hilton Head in the summer and experiencing the full sun-sation not in the winter but when my own body clock is set for it. There is something glaringly artificial about the winter trips to sunshine venues, sort of like watching baseball in December.

I like the August trip if only because the barrier to ocean entry is non-existent. The water is perfectly warm. There's no startle like in June. It's August when the livin' is easy. And this August we scored unbelievably because not only did we have great gobs of sun but it's not been overly hot, just low 80s.

Statuesque blonde rides a curvy red bikini, a febrile sight. Beer consumption rises with the tide. Her friend a brunette looks a twin but for the hair. Still, there's something too picture-perfect in their skin and figures. They are like dolls. There's no self-disclosure in their rubrically-correct swimwear. They are walking Coppertone ads but there are no bodily idiosyncrasies. It's as if they studied themselves in their suits in the mirror, exposing only what they want to expose. Plenty, it's true, but nothing…accidental. Their bodies as if made by Fisher. Madison Avenue. Maybe too the metaphorical lack of wounds, the lack of scars. There's no sense of life lived, of a humility born of once having things get out of hand.

And so the blue sky, empty of clouds at 1pm, seemed a balm to my summer-stunted soul. Oh the wonder of the cumulative effect! On this last day I still gloried in the glory of creation and found new inspiration in the sea waters and Sea Pines greenery. This week I certainly wasn't cheated weather-wise, I ran the gauntlet in the sparkling wine sun, gathering every stray moment like the treasure it was.

The perfect cap to a fine day: an elderly gentlemen sitting next to me is smoking a fine cigar and I catch the inadvertent whiffs of memories encased in fragrant smoke.


Am suffering from a case of PTKS (post-traumatic kid syndrome). Sometimes every kid minute feels about three times as long as a non-kid minute. We had Sam from 9pm Friday till 9:15am Sunday and it about kilt me. Thirty-six hours, with fifteen off for sleep.

Parents seem like superheroes to me. Like made of something other than flesh and blood.

The drive was purgatorial. We got up at 7am and it took two hours to load up, set up the bikes, cargo carrier, empty refrigerator into cooler, ad nauseum. Nine a.m. was a painfully late start, and we were soaked with sweat in the burgeoning heat. Then it took us 13.5 hours all told, arriving at home just after 10:30pm.

Sam's learned that to request something eighty or ninety times is to get it. Persistence in prayer and petition doth work. We stopped five times on the ride because he had to poop, only each time he didn't poop. As soon as we got home he did poop, so I guess he just didn't want to poop in public restrooms for which I don't blame him.

The pure incessancy of questions and play gave me an insight into how much God loves us, since he puts up with us in a similar way that adults put up with young 'uns. It's just unreal, that kind of exhaustive love. It made me realize just what a huge debt my parents paid and what a debt my sister and brother paid. “Forgive us our debts, and we forgive those in debt to us” we pray in the Our Father and I find I have a lot more debts than those in debt to me.

Was moved by hearing on C-Span that Rose Kennedy wished her grandchildren and children would've reached for a rosary in times of stress instead of for a drink or drugs. She herself was “wind-aided” with prescription sleeping pills and other pharmos. But it's a sign of humility, I suppose, to accept help where you can find it. I didn't realize she had such bad insomnia, proof I guess that insomnia is not fatal given her length of life.


Post-church began mainlining a cigar on the hammock (Stop! Hammock time!) and my iPad.

Aaron and Julie said they concluded they were glad to have done it for Sam's sake, since he appreciated it so much. It's a tad bittersweet he'll never remember this trip at all five or ten years hence. It's like a dream for him, a sweet one, but one that will be forgotten. Or it's like a drinking bout, one that is perhaps pleasurable at the time but of which you have no memory the next morning.

Meanwhile Buddy still smells like skunk (or “stunk” as Sam calls it), at least on his head and neck. Sam says that “Aunt Beth hit Buddy with a stunk” which is pretty funny. No idea how he came up with that one.

Last night we had a ball with the moon. Sam - surprisingly - knew the moon was a crescent one and he loved it when I said, “Where's that crescent!?” when it was hidden by trees. He'd say it after me, “Where's that crescent?”. “THERE'S that crescent!” I'd say when it re-appeared, to Sam's explosive laughter. Steph caught it all on audio tape. I think we both sound drunk even though we were both sober as judges. Long drives make you giddy.