October 31, 2013

Trucker Studies

Link here...

Warning: Driving a truck for a living can be hazardous to your health — if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, researchers say....

They had a hunch that truck drivers might be vulnerable, because previous studies had suggested that long-term exposure to the kind of “whole-body vibration” endured by men working with heavy equipment could increase prostate-cancer risk.

It’s unclear why this would be, but one possibility is that the vibration prompts the body to produce more testosterone, which is a known risk factor for prostate cancer.
Now I don't know nuthin' about truckin' or prostrate cancer, but what I always wonder about with studies like these is whether they take into account that there's some self-selection going on, that likely men with higher testosterone levels go into trucking or other heavy equipment work.

Surely - surely! - they've thought of that but they don't mention it in the article which is another reason to be skeptical. Or are they not allowed to think that because that would be "politically incorrect" for reasons unclear?

October 30, 2013

The War on Us

From American Catholic:
Increasingly  many Americans, most, but not all, conservative and/or religious, are being treated as enemies to be subdued by their own government.  Angelo M. Codevilla in a brilliant post at the Library of Liberty and Law faces the issue squarely:
Increasingly, the US government’s many police forces (often state and local ones as well) operate militarily and are trained to treat ordinary citizens as enemies. At the same time, the people from whom the government personnel take their cues routinely describe those who differ from them socially and politically as illegitimate, criminal, even terrorists. Though these developments have separate roots, the post-9/11 state of no-win war against anonymous enemies has given them momentum. The longer it goes on, the more they converge and set in motion a spiral of civil strife all too well known in history, a spiral ever more difficult to stop short of civil war. Even now ordinary Americans are liable to being disadvantaged, hurt or even killed by their government as never before.
It does seem like there's an unseemly aggressiveness of government at all levels. I'm amazed and disheartened by the militarization of non-military government entities and there's a new level of surveillance even at the most local of levels.

It seems a kind of sickness, this need for safety so pronounced that we spy our friendly leaders like Germany's Merkel. I think something in our national psyche went haywire after 9/11.

It's a ridiculously trivial example, but this past summer I headed to a local metro park (paid for with our tax dollars) for a little kayaking and snorkeling in the lake. There was a "no swimming" sign, of course, but I figured that was to cover themselves legally in the case of drowning. I was in a secluded area for just a few minutes, looking at some yellow fish and a fine-looking turtle the size of my palm. I was spotted by a couple park rangers who raced over like I was a four-alarm fire they intended to put out, and I expected a good chewing out. I was ready to take my verbal lumps.

"Were you swimming?"

"Yes, just a bit."

Then, instead of a warning they said, "have you got identification?"

This was unexpected. Identification for swimming? What kind of police state are we running here?

"Nope." I said.

"Meet us at your vehicle," one of them huffed.

I kayaked back to my vehicle and found the red carpet was all laid out for me. The flashing lights of the park ranger vehicle were on, another vehicle as well, and four rangers were there in case I attempted to flee after the dastardly crime of swimming in a lake.

The head ranger dude came up and demanded identification, which I had in my truck and produced.

After five minutes of running my record and examining my emails via the Park Ranger database's connectivity with the National Security Agency, I was free to go. (The latter a joke. I think.)

October 28, 2013

Stars in Their Courses

From the book of Baruch (“One biblical scholar has summed up this book as 'spirituality for displaced persons.' Isn't that what we need right now?” - William Griffith):
“Stars twinkle and blink and seem quite happy in his company. When he calls, they say, 'We're already here,' blinking and twinkling with joy at the one who made them.” - The Message
“Joyfully the stars shine out, keeping the watches he has appointed, answer when he calls their muster-roll, and offer their glad radiance to him who fashioned them.” - Knox
“the stars shine joyfully at their posts; when he calls them, they answer, ‘Here we are’; they shine to delight their Creator.” - New Jerusalem
 Found via a Daria Sockey post

This past Saturday's first reading from the Office of Readings (Baruch3:9-15) again delighted me with words about the stars:
He...before whom the stars at their posts
shine and rejoice;
When He calls them,
they answer, "Here we are!"
shining with joy for their Maker.
It's like something out of a child's fairy tale, transforming these vast balls of burning gas into a persons, and friendly ones at that. In fact it transforms them into children eager to please their Father.

This verse puts me in mind of two things. First, C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader it is revealed that the stars of Narnia are rational beings, who after their long lives in the heavens may come to live down on earth.

Second, I think of medieval theology, which explains that the movement of the stars and the planets is supervised by the angels: that God delegates some of his ongoing work in holding all creation together to his mightiest servants. One can read these words and picture the angels, joyful in doing the work God has given them, shouting out their nightly greetings to their Creator.

Third, every created thing, rational or non-rational, animate or inanimate, truly does offer praise to its creator simply by doing that which it was created to do. So this scripture verse reminds me of how blessed are the stars, how happy they would be if they were rational, because they do fulfill God's will perfectly. In this we might well envy them.

Then, I read today's (Sunday's) second reading from the OOR, where St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians takes up the topic of order and obedience in nature.

By his direction the heavens are in motion, and they are subject to him in peace. Day and night fulfill the course he has established without interfering with each other. The sun, the moon and the choirs of stars revolve in harmony at his command in their appointed paths without deviation.

Google Self-Indulgence Alert

A minor thing, but symbolic of something larger I think.

Today the Google homepage features "Edith Head's 116 Birthday".  I'd never heard of her but apparently she's a fashion designer (I searched via Bing to avoid giving Google the satisfaction).

Google used to avoid adorning their page with their pet people and issues, but a lack of self-restraint, so prominent these days, has shown itself over the past few years. 

How long before C-Span will lose its aura of non-partisanship and almost preternatural lack of self-indulgence?  I assume when Brian Lamb dies.

Prices...1955 and Now

My sister recently forwarded me one of those nostalgia-twinged emails about the high cost of 1955 living (high to them). Inflation since 1955 results in things costing about 11 times more now and it was interesting to see what was over the rate of inflation and what wasn't.

Food, auto, postage stamps, hamburgers all came in at or under the rate of inflation (and surprisingly, gasoline isn't too far off).

Cigarettes, baseball salaries, hotel room, day at the hospital and haircuts have have all soared, some astronomically.  (I was especially aggrieved at hotel room costs.)
Week's worth of groceries was $10  ($110)
New Car $2,000 ($22K)
Cigarettes: 20cents a pack ($2.20)
Stamp: 7 cents (77 cents)
Min Wage: $1 ($11)
Gas: 20 cents ($2.20)
Highest paid baseball player: $50K ($550K)
Hamburger McDonald's = 15 cents ($1.65)
Hotel room = $2.00 a night ($22)
Day in Hospital = $15 ($165)
Haircut = 30 cents ($3.30)
Politicians talk about the woes of the middle class (without doing much) but the data below seems to suggest that we're much better off than in 1973, or would be without debt payments. 

American are spending less on essentials but with far less savings to show for it (and what's interesting on the housing side is houses are so much bigger than in 1973):

By  Walter Hamilton

LOS ANGELES TIMES Sunday October 27, 2013 9:27 AM
The average person spends 81.2 percent of his or her post-tax income on food, housing and other expenses, according to ConvergEx Group, a New York brokerage.

That’s down from the 85 percent that Americans shelled out for mandatory and discretionary items in 1973.

“In short,” the report says, “spending — and saving — among American consumers is changing, and not necessarily for the better.”

The U.S. savings rate is a fraction of what it used to be: 4.6 percent today versus 13 percent four decades ago, according to the report.

“Where are we putting the extra money? Not into retirement accounts, stocks or bonds, clearly,” the report says.

In 1973, according to ConvergEx, the average American had post-tax income of $9,700. Annual spending was $8,270, or 85 percent of income.

Income has risen to about $63,000 today, but per-person expenditures average only 81.2 percent.

October 24, 2013

Poetry Corner

Thomas DeFreitas writes vivid poems:
America, As Promised

Team-building exercises, twister and cribbage,
touch football near the shady picnic tables,
hangman in the breakroom, coffee-gossip,
Biff and Marty playing Trivial Pursuit.

Individual couples therapy, your midlife crisis
solved for the fee of ninety bucks an hour:
roving eye, boudoir stare, those cocktails of
opportunity, wedding band in jacket pocket.

Pilates and Yoga and Zen dentristry
(what is the sound of one tooth decaying?),
lesbian ergonomics! fundamentalist feng shui!

O proselytizing peepshow pleaser, brace me
after the fourth Glenlivet; O gender-neutral
apostle of fairness, incentivize me to groupify!


The Red Line

I should have written it down, the one about
the fetishist in the subway, with a metric converter
and several hectograms of lechery in his lunchbox.
It's gonna be a tough commute, said the T cop

who pronounced "Ashmont" to rhyme with "parchment."
Stand behind the yellow line. If you see any lubricious
activity, alert an MBTA official. We are experiencing
moderate delays in service. The next train to Alewife

is now arriving. Brogues, clogs, flip-flops, wedges,
heels, flats, sandals, sneakers on the escalator.
A drunk on the platform, counting the riders' toes,
lapses into metatarsal reverie, fueled by cheap gin.

For plaintive yearnings or exultations, call
(617) 222-3200. Tomorrow the T will operate
on a Saturday schedule.  Don't forget your personal
longings. Thank you for riding the MBTA.


Sweet airheads of Enlightenment, forsooth,
bandy progressive nostrums, put bright stickers
on their hybrid's bumper, "End This Endless War!"
and "Re-elect Dronestrike in 2012!"

Insufferable twerps of Tolerance politely
abort veracity in the fourth trimester,
execute beauty over a mocha frappuccino,
terminate freedom for everyone except...

The Terrain of Sørland

Nice to read a physical book sometimes, especially one so handsome as the Salinger oral biography. Reading about him invariably reminds me of my old high school English teacher who loved Salinger.

Mr. R. seems a puzzlement to me in part because I wonder how he came to such appreciation for an author who wrote books about the modern malaise and the themes of alienation and suicide. He seems so … mentally healthy and with such a superficially uneventful life that you'd think he'd never experienced any sort of darkness. He was sort of a Renaissance man. He coached football - how many Salinger lovers have ever coached football and thus dealt with some of the biggest miscreants, high school boys, on the planet? He's a man of mystery to me, and I envy those classmates who had long discussions about literature with him. I was insensible to symbolism.

Through the miracle of Facebook I learned he has four children, two of which don't share their FB posts. One daughter, a beautiful blonde with his high cheek bones and patrician nose, is married to a U.S. Marine and lives in Japan. She conventionally loves fashion, the Reds, the Bengals. Big on the military as expected. His other daughter is outspokenly political, a libertarian keen on gay rights despite not being gay herself given her marriage and kids. Or maybe not big on gay rights so much as gays not living in the closet. It does seem that Mr. R's deep belief in tolerance was passed on to that daughter even if religious values don't seem immediately evident. (It's not stalking, it's writerly research. Don't judge!)


Learned Billy Collins has a new book of poetry out today and I'm sorely tempted to purchase it, especially given there's a poem titled “Catholicism”. Probably negatively oriented but ….

Read some of Fox's Pagans and Christians and I was surprised to learn that the word “pagan” was apparently given to the pagans by Christians and originally meant “civilian” because they weren't enlisted by Baptism and soldiering for Christ against the forces of Satan. As the author says, it's an interesting view of the mindset of early Christians. The concept of the “Church Militant” has a long history.

Impossible not to buy a collection of William F. Buckley's essays on Kindle for $1.99 or Ron Rash's highly praised, award-winning short stories set in Appalachia for $2.99. My interest in Buckley has waned since his death and since reading his son's rather unsavory memoir, but $1.99 is practically the price of a cup of coffee so it's sort of insurance in case I feel a Buckley revival coming on.


Went to Ireland one July, the chilliest and rainiest July I'd ever experienced. Partially ameliorated by the sweetness of the Irish, who repeatedly and humbly apologized for it. I kind of miss olde Ireland, the slight foreignness that was so fetching. As the narrator of the novel My Struggle puts it:
"And it’s these small divergences, these small differences that are almost familiar, almost the same, yet aren’t, that I find so unbelievably attractive.”
"I’ve always felt that attraction,” I continued. “Not for India or Burma or Africa, the big differences, that has never interested me. But Japan, for example. Not Tokyo or the cities, but the rural areas in Japan, the small coastal towns. Have you seen how similar the landscape is to ours in Norway? But the culture, their houses and their customs, are totally alien, totally incomprehensible. Or Maine in the USA? Have you seen the coast there? The terrain is so similar to Sørland, but everything man-made is American.

October 23, 2013

Musing from a Coffee Joint

This just in: I Love Coffee

Hipster outside the window

With camera editing filter added

Not too terribly much writing lately. Perhaps due to the lack of sunspiration, the lack of light felt on mornings and eves, or simply not enough reading – which is the Fertile Crescent of writerly inspiration. Heather King said recently that her reading and walking activities generate her posts. She was rather sharp about what a burden email correspondence seems to be for her. It seemed a vent but then she tried to turn it all around by saying that's what we're here for, to be leaned upon by others. Still, it's pretty surprising her “blogesty”. And I'm also a bit surprised that this Bobby takes starting a blog so seriously, as if blogging hasn't already jumped the shark and as if it already wasn't as easy as rolling off a log. (Although admittedly his query about how to gain readers is understandable.)


Web-searched for Rush Limbaugh's view of the government shutdown. It's interesting how Ann Coulter, a bomb-thrower, hasn't put herself in the Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh camp. She was okay with raising the debt ceiling, loves Sen. Mitch McConnell, and reiterates that Republicans are only ½ of one of three branches of government.


The lack of self-restraint among all of us now is pandemic, but what's interesting is that it seems to play itself in politics as not having to think about strategy but simply, like the charge of the light brigade, run up and die. We don't have to apologize for being strategically wrong nor do we have to ever settle for less than exactly what they want. You see it in some of the strategy of pro-life groups where bills are sent up to legislatures that pretend Roe v. Wade never happened.  Incrementalism is dead, or at least has been discredited, but then the NRA is the most successful lobby group in history and has a take-no-prisoners attitude and that zealously guards against the slippery slope.

It feels like all of this started with Judge Bork when Democrats scorched earth in preventing his nomination. Gentlemanliness be damned. The levers of power are being exploited ever so ruthlessly and it's not unlike how markets function: inefficiencies are taken note of and exploited. Politics has become capitalism by other means and the once Senate rubber stamps on presidential Supreme Court picks, the filibuster, and the debt ceiling are the“inefficiencies”. It used to be that just because you could do something didn't mean you should, but now in everything we do we're seen as fools if we don't exploit loopholes and/or opponent weakness.


Last night was intrigued by offer of magazines in exchange for Delta Skymiles. Since I'll likely never use the Skymiles, this was like free magazines. Ended up going with a year of the Economist, a weekly, over the Wall Street Journal because the Journal is print and digital and it's simply unconscionable to have to bend over and pick up that print newspaper every single day. Don't need that much news in my life anyway given how much negativity there is inherent in it. So likely a good decision although Sports Illustrated was tempting as well. Could wish there as a Catholic mag in the bunch but they're going for the largest possible audience obviously.


Trying a new coffee shop in the Short North. Ordered an “ordo verde”, whatever that is. Sort of like the ordo novus? Tastes like coffee though.  Bittersweet, from Honduras. Music a bit distracting but got a window seat. One Line Coffee is the joint, or perhaps I should say one line coffee as the sign says. Cummings reference?


We've had a “disposable culture”, a throwaway mentality, for decades now but it really seems to have hit the fan of late. It's one thing to have to replace a car every eight or ten years, but with technological gadgets like computers, smart phones and e-readers, the associated companies seem to expect you to re-buy every year. That's planned obsolesce to a pretty high degree. Of course you don't have to replace your Apple gadgets, for example, but the software apps won't long be supported under old operating systems, and Apple won't support old operating systems indefinitely. With the Amazon Kindle, the improvements since 2008 have been significant enough for me, at least, to continue to go the replacement route (helped by selling the previous Kindle to third parties along the way, so at least there's some measure of recycling going on).

On one hand, I find this very unsettling. I don't like the fact that I can't buy a quality device that will last for decades as you can with a decent wristwatch or a physical book. There is a permanence to these latter objects that feels consoling both in terms of their familiarity and stability and in the lower ongoing price in purchasing once instead of having future claims on income due to technological improvements.

But on the other hand any notion of “permanence” and “material goods” is oxymoronic and a fantasy. Loyalty needs to be directed to God and people, not to physical objects. To treat objects as though they are other than useful, temporary tools is to arguably treat them with more deference than deserved.


This just in: Pope Francis getting criticized by SSPX is like Soviets criticizing the U.S. during the Cold War.  So difficult it must be for the strict orthodox or the strict liberal to stay within the far-stretched Roman fisherman's net! We tend towards our tendencies, no deep thought there grin.

Cardinal Ratzinger could sure throw a zinger every now and then:

The shepherds of the Church not only find themselves exposed today to the accusation that they still hold fast to the methods of the Inquisition and try to strangle the Spirit by the repressive power of their office; they are, at the same time, attacked by the voice of the faithful, who accuse them more and more loudly of being mute and cowardly watchdogs that stand idly by under the pressure of liberal publicity while the Faith is being sold piecemeal for the dish of pottage of being recognized as “modern”. An important scholar, who is likewise a thoughtful and intelligent Christian, recently reduced this protest to an unforgettable formula. He writes: “A more or less lengthy visit to a Catholic bookstore does not encourage one to pray with the psalmist: ‘You will reveal the path of life to me.’ Not only does one quickly discover there that Jesus did not turn water into wine, but one also gains insight into the art of turning wine into water.

October 22, 2013

Mexico Hearts Canada

Interesting link on how various countries perceive other countries.

It's interesting to me that while Mexico doesn't have much use for us, Canada gets a thumbs up. There's also some of "like likes like" going on - we like Australia and Great Britain, while Mexico likes Spain.

October 11, 2013

A Two-Hour Tour

Yesterday I headed, if a bit tensely, towards German Village for my annual afternoon there. Wasn't sure it would be worth it since I didn't much feel like fighting the traffic and figuring out where to park, no small task in a place blanketed with permit-only parking. Eventually I found a legal spot - or so I hoped - set off on bike southward.

Oh what a genteel and comely place is German Village on a sunny fall day! The beautiful old red brick, the winsome gardens, the European flavor. Even a whimsical statue (a life-sized lass bent over tending a garden). It was tourism on the cheap and it makes me wonder why I don't go there more than once a year. Hassle factor I'm sure, despite it being only five minutes from work. It's the sort of place one could spend a day there, and there was a tour bus in evidence - which only drives home the fact that we least often tour our own nests. I could imagine a day spent walking the tree-lined cobblestone streets, going to St. Mary's ever-open church, eating at one of the many fine German restaurants, and finding a joint to sip a beer. I had to laugh that even the laundromat for heaven's sake, was a sight to behold with tasteful art on the wall, tall ceilings and a European feel. Real cities have a way of making the mundane seem special, although admittedly the most mundane part of NYC, the subway, is perfectly uninspiring.

I rode past Schiller Park, past a young Germanic-looking gal with a child, and ended up eventually reaching a dead end at Bruck Street (only highway-like Parsons Avenue and High Street continue south). Serendipitously, I stumbled on “Guinness on Innis”, the new headquarters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The neighborhood looks iffy at best and there are a lot of vacant lots around. A big sign on the door announcing the place is alarmed, which seems a good plan in this neighborhood. How far the once proud club has fallen from those heady late '90s days when all the young and hip gathered at St. Patrick's social hall and drank in honor of the church's namesake! A more sober pastor put a stop to it, leider, even as club membership nosedived in favor of the Shamrock Club.

Felt more relaxed after the ride and even better when I entered Heaven on earth, St. Mary's Church. Spent a half-hour there praying belated morning lit of hours and then a needful rosary. Built in 1865, the church still retains charms that soothe, such as the large and beautiful script “Ave Maria - Gratia Plena” over the altar. Beautiful art and a wonderful message and the only other time I'd witnessed words in a church design that had such impact was in St. Peter's in Rome where the Latin for Peter's designation as the rock and foundation rings so memorably. On the ceiling here at St. Mary's there are all those “bitte fur uns”'s, aided by somewhat cryptic pictographs. I'd thought the “pray for us” would apply to different saints, but all the pictographs turned out to be symbols of Mary, such as Mystical Rose, Morningstar, Ark of the Covenant, House of Gold. There is something otherworldly about that place of worship; I think it's made even more special by the fact that I'm only there when it's quiet and I'm alone (more or less - there were ladies from the tour group making the rounds).  I picked up a flyer with information about the church even though I'm wondering if ignorance might've been better. I kind of liked the mystery of those strange pictograph paintings and wondering what a golden house had to do with praying for us. It made it more “other”.

"Bitte fur uns"

Craftsman restoring altar

After that golden half-hour I headed to the famous bookshop with “32 rooms of books”. The downside to that bookstore is that every room has it's only song playing over individual stereo speakers. I don't like music in a bookstore - it's distracting. One room had Irish drinking songs playing and I lingered in there even though I didn't like the books. Another room had unappealing music but I liked the books.

Didn't buy anything though I was tempted by a couple tasty morsels: the new biography of J.D. Salinger (there's nothing more charismatic than a recluse in an age that worships celebrity), and a book called “The Novel Cure” which rather ingeniously devotes a page or two to classic novels for any need.

October 10, 2013

That's Some Serious Redefining

We live in odd times.  This, from our work's health care material:

Maybe Clinton wasn't so silly when he quibbled over the meaning of the word "is".

And of course deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses are going up 10% to go along with a similar rate of premium increase. 

Adults In Multicultural Societies Fare Worse on Int'l Test

Link here
"In math, reading and problem-solving using technology — all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength — American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test."

...And what do adults in Japan, Canada, Australia and Finland have in common?  Class?  Yes, they have ethnically homogenous populations. Coincidence?  You make the call.

October 07, 2013

Sevenish Quickish Takes

On Friday I felt out of breath, work-speaking, if vaguely inspired by the amount of grind I covered in a relatively short span of time. (Intentional sic, as all my sics are. jk.) Couldn't quite get it done without some drama, i.e. a leap year error, but such is life in these United States.

Surpassing warmth for October. I spend a minute outdoors under a pleasant sky. Cloudy, but that's all for the good given that I lack sunglasses. The overcast afternoon lends a lull to things while at the same time offering a a vibrant undercurrent of electricity. (Am I drunk?) Now raindrops are fallin' on my head and I must head in. Maybe in just a bit…

Lovely little stream, manufactured though it might be, out in the landscape bed. A corporate stream, which makes it fake but anyway, still….I can smell the freshness of the water, or maybe that's the chlorine. Took a picture because, as Pee Wee Herman used to say, it'll last longer.

Sittin' in the lush
of tropical hush
abounds le' thrush
where nature feels plush.


Oh row a tree!
There's not a rhyme for “poetry”?


I made a picture out of a humble thing: tall ornamental grass growing at a 45 degree angle over the pink and gray granite with a maple seed showcased front and central.


Saturday was a fine young cannibal sort of day. The morning was typically filled up with "fiddling", as in fiddling around the house, reading the paper, getting McDs, etc…Planted one of the new peach trees then starting digging a hole for a second one, out front, when pain shot up my back and I instantly hit the ground. From upright to fetal in less than half a second. Lower back spasm which put my tree-planting to a sudden end. Fortunately residual effects seem small. A bit sore, but no serious pain. In fact, with the help of my magic magnetic belt, I was able to complete a desperately needed 2.7 mile run.  Then took Buddy to the park for a walk but the rains came. I do feel it incumbent to take him on a walk at least once a week. His life consists of 85% sleeping and it seems like he needs to get excited (by smells) once in a while.


Mahler's 2nd, the Resurrection Symphony, begins the Columbus Symphony season tonight. At 8pm. People sure must have a lot of energy to want to get all dressed up and drive a half-hour downtown and listen to music. God bless 'em.


Love that Psalm 92 (morning prayer Lit of Hours), especially:

To proclaim your love at daybreak,
your truth in the night.

This line always hits me so powerfully, and I searched high and low for commentary on it that says what I always think about it, and finally I did from Keil:
Loving-kindness is designedly connected with the dawn of the morning, for it is morning light itself, which breaks through the night (Ps. 30:6; 59:17), and faithfulness with the nights, for in the perils of the loneliness of the night it is the best companion, and nights of affliction are the “foil of its verification.”

Also mesmerized by the energy (and devotional energy) of this blogger:
Carumba! Her relentlessness comes through, relentless pursuit of God and virtue. Fanatical, one could say, but then that's how the saints were, and that childlike intensity I think is what God expects of us. I think of the Beatitude: “blessed are they who hunger and thirst after holiness, for they shall be satisfied.” Her love of Scripture, shall I say adoration of Scripture, comes through, and it's interesting that she sees now that even that has to be moderated, that one can't simply read Scripture and not work and serve.


The novel My Struggle contains some arresting lines on death. The non-believer narrator/character calls it the thing that makes life meaningless (because nothing lasts) and meaningful (because it makes the days precious just by virtue of its brevity). Reminds me of how momento mori is taken so differently by Christian monks versus pagan Mardi Gras revelers. For the former, it's “remember you will die and be held accountable.” For the latter, it's “remember you will die, so eat, drink and be merry now!”

The novel also mentions how there is much “excitement and intensity” when we read of others dying in, say, a plane crash even though we don't know the victims because we identify with them:

“What was this? Were we living other people's lives? Yes, everything we didn't have and were not experiencing, we had and were experiencing even so, because we saw it and we took part in it without being there ourselves.”
Speaks to some innate sense that we are all one Body perhaps, and I think it also explains why I'm bothered by “outliers” and seeming unfairness, like those who did not get to know Jesus simply because they lived before Him. But perhaps this is majoring in minors since what we know of God now, even the saints among us, is likely an infinitesimal fragment of what we'll know of Him in Heaven.


Quote below, written of the fifth century Germanic tribes reminds me of violent youth today:
“All the most brave, all the most warlike, apply to nothing at all…They themselves loiter. Such is the amazing diversity of their nature, that in the same men is found so much delight in sloth, with so much enmity to tranquillity and repose.“ Excerpt From: Tacitus, Cornelius. “Tacitus on Germany”.
There the similarities end and abruptly. Tacitus describes the Barbarians as having a lot of impressive qualities. Adultery is exceedingly rare. Reluctance to having children is shunned, and abortion considered evil. The hospitality and generosity is incredible - when someone runs out of food and drink they go to the neighbor's house and run them out of food and drink, and the neighbor is glad to accommodate them. And of course the bravery is exceptional.

There is something about some of these old societies that seems healthier than our current one. Brave and eminently hospitable, one could do worse than that.  These Germanic tribes who drank, drank, drank did so constantly but without it entering into the typical sexual debauchery of more advanced societies. The lack of pornography among some of the cave dwelling artists is a similar sign of restraint. They drew beautiful images of cattle, horses, but not of naked women.

Of course the Barbarians were hardly perfect, and I found this matter-of-fact verbiage unintentionally humorous:
“To continue drinking night and day without intermission, is a reproach to no man. Frequent then are their broils, as usual amongst men intoxicated with liquor; and such broils rarely terminate in angry words, but for the most part in maimings and slaughter.”

Pope Francis

Interesting to see Jim Curley's thoughts on Francis, and he pointed to a good

October 04, 2013

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

From NW: A Novel by Zadie Smith
She is in terrible mourning. She is unfamiliar with the rules concerning the mourning of animals. For a cat: one week. For a dog, two will be tolerated, three is to begin to look absurd, especially in the office where—in the Caribbean spirit—all animals smaller than a donkey are considered vermin.
In the end, all the things Grace claimed to like about Marlon—that he was not a “playa,” that he was gentle and awkward and not interested in money—were all the reasons she left him.
Rodney had in his hand an abridged library copy of an infamous book by Albert Camus. Both Keisha Blake and Rodney Banks sounded the T and the S in this name, not knowing any better: such are the perils of autodidacticism.
They were going to be lawyers, the first people in either of their families to become professionals. They thought life was a problem that could be solved by means of professionalization.
She didn’t approach Frank, nor did he approach her, despite their keen awareness of each other. A poetic way of putting this would be to say: “There was an inevitability about their road toward each other which encouraged meandering along the route.”

It is perhaps the profound way in which capitalism enters women’s minds and bodies that renders “ruthless comparison” the basic mode of their relationships with others

Natalie was enthralled. The idea that her own existence might be linked to people living six hundred years past! No longer an accidental guest at the table—as she had always understood herself to be—but a host, with other hosts, continuing a tradition.
“MTV Base. Music videos are the only joyful modern art form. Look at that joy.”
Natalie Blake had become a person unsuited to self-reflection. Left to her own mental devices she quickly spiraled into self-contempt.
Many things that had seemed, to their own mothers, self-evident elements of a common-sense world, now struck Natalie and Leah as either a surprise or an outrage. Physical pain. The existence of disease. The difference in procreative age between men and women. Age itself. Death.
 From Moby-Dick
He was the elected Xerxes of vast herds of wild horses, whose pastures in those days were only fenced by the Rocky Mountains and the Alleghanies. At their flaming head he westward trooped it like that chosen star which every evening leads on the hosts of light. The flashing cascade of his mane, the curving comet of his tail, invested him with housings more resplendent than gold and silver-beaters could have furnished him.

But not only did each of these famous whales enjoy great individual celebrity—nay, you may call it an ocean-wide renown; not only was he famous in life and now is immortal in forecastle stories after death, but he was admitted into all the rights, privileges, and distinctions of a name; had as much a name indeed as Cambyses4 or Caesar. Was it not so, O Timor Tom! thou famed leviathan, scarred like an iceberg, who so long did’st lurk in the Oriental straits of that name, whose spout was oft seen from the palmy beach of Ombay?5 Was it not so, O New Zealand Jack! thou terror of all cruisers that crossed their wakes in the vicinity of the Tattoo Land?6 Was it not so, O Morquan! King of Japan, whose lofty jet they say at times assumed the semblance of a snow-white cross against the sky? Was it not so, O Don Miguel! thou Chilian whale, marked like an old tortoise with mystic hieroglyphics upon the back!
From America 3.0 by James Bennett...
Over centuries, in a roundabout way, the slow and grudging English religious toleration led to an American constitutional guarantee of “the free exercise of religion,” which then “blew back” and substantively impacted the way the Catholic Church itself came to understand religious freedom all around the world.
...the Protestant settlers of America also brought their medieval constitutionalism with them as well, which they had inherited intact from the Catholic centuries in England. In that sense, and ironically, the colonists carried ancient Catholic notions of political liberty with them into the American wilderness, even though they were the very “Protestants of Protestantism.”

He Loved Us First

Occurred to me on the morning commute that all the old pop songs that I sung passionately in my youth (mainly in the shower) were directed towards a future unnamed love interest. “The Impossible Dream” from the Don Quixote musical is one example, as well as “Wichita Lineman”. I sang with emotion, imagining myself saying these words to a lovely young maiden. This is natural, no doubt. Men are expected to be the pursuers in the earthly love game.

But I never imagined or considered the possibility of being the recipient of the emotions of the those songs. I never thought a woman would hunger for me like that and if one did I'd surely think her mad or desperate. And certainly I hardly conceived of God as thinking of me in those terms, as wanting me or needing me (understanding that God's "need" is somewhat of a hyperbole given that He is not contingent).

But I think I had a tendency to underestimating his love and I think it's confirmed by my perhaps exaggerated reaction to a homily I heard about ten years ago. I was floored when the homilist preached on the story of the Good Samaritan and not, as is typical, making it about the bone-dry (if always needful) lesson of serving others. No, he mentioned that Christ was the Good Samaritan to us, that Jesus found us bleeding by the side of the road nearly dead with personal and original sin, and helped us up and bandaged our wounds and gave us to the care of the hospital (the Church). It was about as life-changing a homily as I've ever heard because it gave me permission to see Jesus as not simply telling me how to see others, but in actively seeing me the very way he says I should be seeing others, i.e. with love! That turned-upside-down reading of the parable was like a balm and I'll always have a soft spot for that particular priest. How incredible a hermeneutic it was to be able to turn Our Lord's stern words as not only applying to us, but also applying to Himself concerning us!

Our current pastor is stingy with such interpretations, always preaching on human effort and rarely on God's love or grace. Presumably priests assume we already understand that God thirsts for us and gives us abundant grace. And I certainly understand the need to challenge us, living as we do in the wealthiest of civilizations and ever prone to complacency. But sometimes you want to hear about love.

I think part of my difficulty stemmed from a former imperfect understanding of creation, of seeing it as “of God but not by God” in a sense. In other words, I held a more Deist notion that God set things in motion held sway in my earlier years given that with evolution He didn't have much to do with creating us individually (our parents did, and the chance of egg and sperm).

Eventually I came, with God's help and grace, to a more concrete awareness and faith in the soul and that a special creation was involved with that. Here, at last, was something parents (and chance) didn't provide, and God was fully in action! The soul was my inroads to a personal God; I felt as though God was in creation on a real-time basis given the constant production of souls. (Of course, God is outside time and souls aren't material and such but this was my perception at the time.)

It's perhaps related that I was so bowled over by the apparition at Medjugorje. Wow, here was an active God! Not just parceling out an apparition for a week or few months every fifty years or so, but a God who would have his mother talk with us consistently for years on end in a continuing apparition. 

I remember a few years ago going to a carwash done by the evangelical Vineyard church my wife attends. I offered to pay something for it and was turned down. I tried again, referring to it as a donation. “It's free….like grace,” they said. The whole point of the exercise wasn't to raise funds for the church or for a worthy cause like but was simply to showcase God's grace. I was taken aback by it, and it reminds me how Catholics do have the reputation of thinking we have to earn our way to Heaven (which of course has pretty wide Scriptural warrant, starting with the book of James). Unfortunately, because of my native laziness, I can never tell how much of my appreciation for grace (i.e. free gift') is reasonable and how much is an excuse to be lazy.

Ham o' Bone once emailed an atheist co-worker one line: "God loves you."  I thought at the time it wasn't the most persuasive of evangelistic techniques, but now I find it growing on me...

October 03, 2013


Sunset over Oktoberfest.  The Goodyear Blimp is visible in the sky, providing video shots of nationally televised Ohio State night game.