January 31, 2014

Novel Excerpt

Interesting passage on Scripture in the Karl Ove novel I'm reading (“My Struggle”):
I was slowly realizing I wanted to explore: the sacred. In my novel I had both travestied and invoked it, but without the hymnic gravity I knew existed in these tracts, in these texts I had started to read; and the gravity, the wild intensity in them, which was never far removed from the sacred, where I had never been or would ever go, yet which I sensed all the same, had made me think differently about Jesus Christ, for it was about flesh and blood, it was about birth and death, and we were linked to it through our bodies and our blood, those we beget and those we bury, constantly, continually, a storm blew through our world and it always had, and the only place I knew where this was formulated, the most extreme yet simplest things, was in these holy scriptures. And the poets and artists who dealt with similar themes. Trakl, Hölderlin, Rilke. Reading the Old Testament, particularly the third Book of Moses with its detailed accounts of sacrificial practices, and the New Testament, so much younger and closer to us, nullified time and history, it was just a swirl of dust, and brought us to what was always there and never changed.

Lent Playlist?

Oxymoron alert!

January 28, 2014

The Pre Years

I've always wondered about society before society.  For example, reproduction. The first humans - who gave them instructions on what goes where?  It's like God gave them equipment but not necessarily the operating instructions.  This is like how I'm always a bit puzzled over humans living without the light of the gospel, and (previous to the Jews) before the light of the Torah, etc... (Answer: they had grace.)

On reproduction, given that all animals propagate without instructions I suppose it's a moot point.  Perhaps instinctual though I know it sure wasn't instinctual to me.  I was shocked and surprised when I learned about the birds and the bees. Seemed awfully counterintuitive to put that there given the re-use of these things for urination.  Have to think outside the box on that one.

Post 9/11

Thinking back to 9/11/01, that fateful day, and how we were sent home from the office around 1pm, presumably for security concerns or simply recognition that work was somehow a sacrilege given the circumstances. In hindsight it was obviously the right call, not for security concerns given Columbus was hardly a target, but because there is something right and proper to acknowledging the moment. I thought it kind of strange at the time but wiser heads prevailed.

My own reactions included incredulity that people would work so hard for such an evil purpose. Being naturally lazy, I'm hard-pressed to work hard for a good purpose let alone an evil one, so this struck me as nihilism run amok, a demonic, Hitler-like action. Evil is not only horrifying but seems rare: in the normal course of my everyday I come in contact of some sort with hundreds of people at work or on the roads or in the neighborhood who are most decidedly not evil. The “norm” for me, born lucky in the safety of American suburbia, is not malevolence.

The other reaction I had to 9/11 was surety that we would get bin Laden though it would take years. And that we would pursue him with the fervor Jewish organizations do ex-Nazis. I feel prescient in this, both in terms of how long it took and how un-forgetful America was.

But what I think I missed was how watershed an event it was. I didn't see how it would change us, how we would mark time as before and after 9/11. Despite the craziness of it, with all air traffic grounded and with both towers down and so many lives lost, I don't think I expected it to be as JFK-like as it turned out to be even though it deserved to be. If in 1963 we still held our leaders with a kind of imperial regard, after the '60s took hold we became even more thoroughly democratic. The “best and brightest” took us to Vietnam after all. Authority was depreciated and after the '60s came the de facto triumph of everyman over “Camelot”, the re-appreciation of the little guy as represented by various movements from women's rights to civil rights.

So the loss of 3,000+ Americans in democratic 2001 was at least equivalent to the loss of our “king”, Kennedy, in 1963. And while I saw it terms of ineffable tragedy, of those lives cut short without mercy, I didn't see it as transformative as it would become. I saw it as essentially a personal tragedies times 3,000, a predictably overly individualistic approach. I didn't dream it would result in two protracted wars lasting over a decade, or that grandmothers would be patted down in airports, or that potential terrorists would be tortured, or that the NSA would spy on all Americans. I couldn't have imagined our government, so typically Barney Fife inept, would be quite so vicious and determined, especially given our slack dealings with previous terrorist episodes during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Quick Takes

...as begun by Jen of Conversion Diary:

So there's this husband of my wife's friend, Randy, with whom I went to NYC a few years back (the four of us). He lives in Kentucky and is of the liberal political persuasion but talks mostly about sports, mainly collegiate, and mostly University of Kentucky. On Facebook he's generally quiet as a titmouse, only once every six months posting a picture of his kid, or praising his mom (on the anniversary of her death) or opining on some UK basketball game. So you can imagine how surprised that he posted an article about Cardinal Sean in Boston, a picture and account of the prelate apparently being anointed by a female Protestant minister.

For me it was a non-story, in the sense that I was neither outraged by the Cardinal participating in it, nor was I particularly pleased by it. Maybe deep down I viewed it as just another indication of our current desperation, of how our church is humbling itself to try to win friends. You can argue that this is in imitation of Christ, who humbled himself for us, or you can argue that we're losing respect for our own tradition or losing the certainty of truth.

So I'm not particularly interested in Cardinal Sean's doings but I am amazed that Randy would be interested in this because he's a Protestant who seems to show no particular interest in religion. I think it's sort of related to Pope Francis's popularity too. I hope to ask Randy soon why he posted it and what he's thinking. Perhaps it's as simple as the photo of Cardinal Sean being anointed by a woman minister is such a "man bites dog" story, a "Ripley's Believe It or Not!". And I'm not sure if he approves because he's Protestant and thus can identify with the lady, or disapproves because he's a Protestant who doesn't believe in women pastors. Any way you slice it I'm really surprised a Kentucky Protestant would post a link of a top Boston prelate given the disparity of cult and geographical area.


From Morning Prayer's Ps 117 I read "The Lord is at my side; I do not fear" and thought immediately at how that was *literally* true for Dismas, the good thief.  The Lord was at his side, dying on the cross next to him, and I thought about how for Dismas The Lord being at his side did not preclude his suffering from crucifixion and pain but that he could still be chipper about it, saying that what he was dying of he deserved.  (No wonder he's St. Dismas.)


This just in: it's cold!

I tend to use evolution as a crutch, as if we're not called to overcome whatever impediments are in our way. I see this even in the weather - I think, “man, this is not what I'm naturally inclined to take. It's 49 in Galway, Ireland now. That's what I've been conditioned to.”
I lust not for flesh but books, for whisper-quiet libraries and genteel Sunnybrook days for patio-sittings --- oh how I long for a return to the Yard, that Eden, to campfires fed by booze and Zane Grey novels.

I miss Pope Benedict, his gently understated and undemanding ways, his scholarly bent and introversion, his way of not applying guilt.  Pope Francis so different and yet so needed!  The Church is not "I" but "we" and how much do we thirst for the yang of Francis after the yin of Benedict. Benedict taught us to look to Christ and now, as naturally as day follows night, Francis teaches us to look to Christ in our neighbor.  As Amy Welborn wrote the other day, "the primary way that I, as an individual, encounter the Holy Spirit is through the prayer, works of mercy....".**


The Drudge Report reads almost like a parody given its constant parade of doom, doom, and more doom. Read a bit of Chesterton as a redress to hopelessness. He is such a prophet of hope, responding here to Yeats's cry that we leave this sad world and escape into myths and faeries:
"The world is hot and cruel,
We are weary of heart and hand
But the world is more full of glory
Than you can understand."


Rod Dreher's never been my favorite columnist; he just tends to rub me the wrong way for whatever reason. I still come across his work via the American Conservative, a publication I started reading for the insights of Alan Jacobs, who seems to have a very small footprint of late. 

Anyway, Dreher wrote a piece arguing for less sympathy towards those in Hell and the Hell-bound, buttressing it with the "scriptural" account known as Dante's Inferno.  The piece annoyed me for this whole adulatory practice of raising Dante to the word of God (Dreher going so far as to say "tolle lege" at the end, a reference to Augustine's inspiration to read the real Bible).  It amazes me how many Christians seem to take Dante's masterpiece as non-fictional. (Although I'm certainly not above putting my pet writer in the pantheon of inspired scripture: certainly I see in Shakespeare a kind of otherworldly wisdom.)

Anyway, last time I checked the Divine Comedy wasn't part of the Bible and that Dante wasn't canonized.  Set rant off.


Oh Mahler! The ale for what cures me!  Mahler's 6th has winds to lift me from the quotidian on this day, my mind bone-wearied by too much information running through my brain. I sprinted to the finish, I did, sacking Rome and dredging the canal of work right up till quittin' time.  Drove me crazy trying to tie up the never-ending loose ends of SQL, such a demanding fiend!


Spent some time enjoying the ever-rich river of  Logos Bible software, centered this time on St. Paul's assertion in 2 Cor 5:13:

For if we are out of our minds, it is for God; if we are rational, it is for you.
Or, from the NJB:
If we have been unreasonable, it was for God; if reasonable, for you.
Very different interpretations given: some say it means that Paul is referring to ecstatic experiences that scared off some would-be converts, others think he's referring to stern corrections and hard discipline!


* * (full context): "When we reflect on how the Holy Spirit acts in our lives, I think we should be wary of an overly individualistic take.  The way I have come to understand it is that the Spirit was poured out on the Church – the Church as a whole  – and that the primary way that I, as an individual, encounter the Holy Spirit is through the prayer, works of mercy and big T Tradition of that Church."

January 17, 2014

Interpretations of Losing the Ark of the Covenant

Interesting how the same event can be seen in different lights by Catholic biblical commentaries.  Collegeville casts a positive spin on the disastrous defeat of the Israelites to the Philistines which included losing the ark, the symbol of the presence of God:

"Even when captured the ark works against the enemy for the good of Israel. This section of the narrative shows the Israelites, greatly disadvantaged before their Philistine enemy and attempting to use the presence of the Lord to bring them victory.

Israel brings the ark into battle. After their disastrous defeat at Aphek (vv. 1–2), the people of Israel look for a more efficacious defense against their most dangerous enemy, the Philistines. These “Sea Peoples” had entered Canaan from the west and had settled along the coastal plain about 1200 b.c.e. They were non-Semitic, worshipers of the grain god Dagon, and were militarily and culturally superior to the Israelites.

The usual battle strategy having failed, the Israelites send for the ark of the Lord. The Lord is described (v. 4) as seated upon cherubim, representations of winged mythological beasts which guarded pagan temples. These cherubim were positioned on the cover of the ark as emblems of God’s ministering spirits. The ark’s presence in the Israelite camp disappoints the Philistines but induces them to fight with extraordinary bravery out of fear that they might become slaves of Israel. Not only were thirty thousand Israelites slain (v. 10), but the ark itself is captured — an event that causes all ears to tingle when they hear of it (3:11)."
Other commentaries blame the Israelites for their woes. From the 1950s-era "Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture":
In Num 10:35 we read that the Ark was carried in battle and the same was true at the siege of Jericho (Jos 3:4). On this occasion a false and mechanical trust in the material presence of the Ark was disastrous. There was a similar false trust in the Temple in the days of Jeremias (Jer 7:4). 4. ‘The two sons of Heli’: mentioned here because their fate is involved in that of the Ark. 6.... 21. ‘Ichabod’: ‘Without glory’, for the visible sign of God’s presence in Israel had gone leaving them in darkness and despair—a fitting name for the son of the man chiefly responsible for the disaster."
From the Haydock commentary:
"The Israelites had witnessed the victories which had been obtained while the ark was present. Jos. 6:4. See Num. 14:45. But they ought to have considered, that their infidelity rendered them unworthy of the divine protection; and that God was more displeased at their profanations, than at the indignity to which the sacred vessels would be exposed. He would know how to vindicate his own honour and glory. The symbols of religion were thus carried in the army, by the Persians, &c. Herod. vii.—The Romans regarded their standards as so many deities. Halicar. vi. See 2 K. 6:21. 2 Par. 13:8. C.—The confidence which the Israelites placed in the ark was commendable, but their sins deserved to be punished. W. Num. 10:35.

Ver. 4. Ark. On this extraordinary emergency they thought it lawful. Abulensis, q. 6.—They easily obtained the consent of Heli; and his sons went to take it down, and to attend it to the army, as he was incapable of doing duty. We know not what ceremonies were used, nor whether the brothers acted as high priests alternately.
In Jeremiah 3:16, the prophet prophesies that the ark will eventually be a distant memory for the people of Israel:
When you increase in number and are fruitful in the land—
oracle of the Lord—
They will in those days no longer say,
“The ark of the covenant of the Lord!”
They will no longer think of it, or remember it,
or miss it, or make another one.
At that time they will call Jerusalem “the Lord’s throne.” All nations will gather together there to honor the name of the Lord at Jerusalem, and they will no longer stubbornly follow their wicked heart.

Bruce Can Pick His Nose But He Can't Pick His Fans
(A Tragic Story of Unrequited Love)

In better days....
HuffPost says that Bruce Springsteen was "less than enthusiastic" in shaking hands with Chris Christie during Hurricane Sandy relief months ago. Ideology uber alles!

Now superfan Christie takes another cut from his favorite rocker:
This week Bruce Springsteen appeared on Jimmy Fallon's show to sing a song mocking "Chris Christie's New Jersey Traffic Jam." John Podhoretz notes Chris Christie is now being redefined in the public's eye through culture, not politics:
On Tuesday night, Jimmy Fallon teamed with Bruce Springsteen on an immensely clever "Born to Run" takeoff that will probably have 50 million YouTube hits by the time the 2016 election rolls around.
"They shut down the tollbooths of glory 'cause we didn't endorse Chris Christie," Fallon sang, while Springsteen complained he needed to go to the bathroom but couldn't because he was caught up in "Governor Chris Christie's Fort Lee, New Jersey, Traffic Jam."
Yes, Springsteen is a leftist, and yes, this is a classic mainstream-media hit on a Republican. But to use a term beloved to Internet marketers, the idea behind the video is "sticky." It will persist . . .
Christie and Sarah Palin have very little in common, to put it mildly, but the moment in 2008 that Palin became the gleeful object of belittling late-night satire, she went from being a raw political talent Democrats deeply feared to a comic wellspring from which they drank deeply.
Rich Lowry notes that Christie shouldn't be that surprised by the betrayal:
Memo to Chris Christie: They hate you. If you don't know who "they" are, you haven't been watching the news or reading the papers.
Usually, it takes winning the GOP presidential nomination for a Republican media darling to experience such an onslaught of gleefully negative press coverage. John McCain was the straight-talking maverick right up until the moment he effectively clinched the nomination in 2008 — immediately triggering a thinly sourced New York Times report insinuating an affair with a lobbyist.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has gotten his disillusioning out of the way early, if he needed it. An occupational hazard of a certain kind of Republican is wanting to be loved by the wrong people. If the past week hasn't cured Christie of that tendency, nothing will.

January 15, 2014

Existential Questions, Like Can a Slim Jim Go Bad?

Thank God the Internet has answers to questions like Can Slim Jims go bad?

The half-eaten one in my desk, two months old, probably is best to pass up.

I rather appreciate our town's desire to produce history where little to none exists: I have had a similar issue with my own genealogical history given the paucity of stories.

The town is named for land speculator, a John Hilliard. Around 1860 he realized there would be a railroad going from Columbus to Plain City, a distance of maybe twenty miles, and so he bought land where apparently there would be a station. The tiny village was known as Hilliard's Station until it became Hilliard's until, about 40 years ago, it became Hilliard.

I asked a local historian if there was something special about how John Hilliard chose this town, hoping for some story that set this land apart, made it special, like maybe it was an old Indian gathering place or that some natural wonder was around then. I was hoping for too much; the guide said he didn't know. Maybe it was chosen randomly.

But the funny thing about history is you can always go deeper. John Steinbeck writes of the dry country east of Salinas, California in a novel:
“My father bored a well. The drill came up first with topsoil and then with gravel and then with white sea sand full of shells and even pieces of whalebone. There were twenty feet of sand and then black earth again, and even a piece of redwood, that imperishable wood that does not rot. Before the inland sea the valley must have been a forest. And those things had happened right under our feet. And it seemed to me sometimes at night I could feel both the sea and the redwood forest before it.”


Sampled a bit of my old favorite novel, Steinbeck's East of Eden. How delicious the prose and how different it felt now! Last read in 2003, a lot of water has gone over the bridge and like Chesterton's Orthodoxy which revealed whole new vistas upon a second read I suspect Eden would prove likewise. As a reviewer on Goodreads put it: "This is at the very top of my list of favorite books. This book is a friend that needs to be revisited after a while. Steinbeck at his absolute best."

I couldn't resist the tug of the new, the novel as it were. And so I got another of us, The Winter of Our Discontent, and started reading though I tend to doubt that lightening will strike twice. It's not as lyrical for sure. But I feel like I want to give it a try if only because there is something in Steinbeck that is very appealing to me and I'm interested in him and what he wrote.

But still I'm gonna have to get East of Eden and re-read to discern how my reaction has changed. 2003 was so much before: before the mini “fame” of blogging, before the years of bingo, before middle age. I was practically newly married at that point.


The seasons are instructive should I ponder them. Today I looked at my weather app to see what time the sun rises: 7:51am. I thought “isn't it time for an earlier rise?” but then recalled the great break with the sun and how long that takes to be “healed”. It feels like it's been awhile since the equinox of 12/21; so often I tend to measure things in terms of weeks when things often take months, years or lifetimes.


Article in Catholic World Register addresses that familiar ache, that of wondering why God left so much to human freedom (including, for example, the ability to combat human disease): “God did not, in creation, give us all the solutions. He gave us brains, hands, and imagination to figure it out for ourselves, a much greater manifestation of divine wisdom.”

Kind of unsatisfying answer: it's easy to say God gave us brains though it took centuries and many great minds to come up with the solution to what caused plague, to use one example. “God gave us brains,” suggests a problem like me trying to decide the best commuting route to work or solving a crossword puzzle.

But that seems like the same issue played out societally as well: how much government should give to the poor, say, in order to help them rather than make them dependent and enslaved.


Listening to two people I much admire - Peggy Noonan and Cardinal Dolan - I was struck by Noonan's response to the Cardinal's question as to where she feels the Church is falling down. She says that there's this unbelievable richness of inspiration of stories of the saints and these stories are so rarely told now in churches. “They would make great movies!” she said. And I immediately thought how the only thing my stepson was attracted to as far as the Catholic Church goes was the stories of the saints. The only religious book he borrowed from my library was a book on the saints. People long for heroes in this anti-heroic age and the Church is an institution with plenty of them. (Such as Emily Cavins' well-written story of St. Kateri.)

January 14, 2014

Where the People Go

The only state that really surprised me was California.  Someone on Twitter said it was because the governor of California, Jerry Brown, is big into energy extraction and that's creating jobs.

Saving Mr. Banks

Interesting commentary on the new film:
Perhaps if you love Disney’s Mary Poppins, you can shake your head indulgently at Travers’ misguided efforts to thwart the cinematic apotheosis of her magical nanny: Some people just don’t know what’s good for them. I confess I’ve never fallen under Mary Poppins’ spell, either on the screen or on the page, but for what it’s worth, my sympathies are rather more with Travers than with Disney.

Here’s how I see it: What makes Saving Mr. Banks different from Finding Neverland and Becoming Jane is that it’s precisely about the tendency of Hollywood in general and Disney in particular to reshape everything they touch, repackaging it into a palatable, reassuring something the masses want, or what the filmmakers think they want, instead of what it really is.
“Maybe not in life, but in imagination” is how Disney, in a crucial scene toward the end, describes the sort of “salvation” stories offer. He suspects Travers’ own stories are all about trying to “save” a Mr. Banks in her own life, not in life, but in imagination. Whatever liberties have been taken, at least the film confesses that’s what storytellers do.

Travers feels strongly that magical nannies should prepare children to face up to the realities of life and disapproves of leading children down the garden path of whimsy and sentiment. On the other hand, the realities of life do not include magical nannies, but they do include whimsy and sentiment. Wounded souls find respite from this vale of tears in different ways. Some turn to comforting, cheery tales like Disney’s Mary Poppins; Travers turned a different way, but the tenacity with which we cling to our preferred narratives, whatever they are, tells the same story.

January 09, 2014

Appalachian Poverty Link & Comments

Interesting article from Kevin Williamson in NR about Appalachian poverty. The comments were interesting and lively as well:
Groceries are separated into three categories at checkout:

1. Milk, cheese, Cheerios, Canned Orange Juice (stuff you get free with coupons from the state).

2. Regular groceries (to be paid for with EBT/food stamps, and then consumed at home or sold for cash outside the store, at 30% to 50% cash value, depending on how hard up people are.

3. Cigarettes, beer, lottery tickets (paid for in cash)

This bothers the taxpayer because it is in abuse he has to watch over and over again. Don't know about Boeing mark-up on airplanes for the Air Force, or how all the government-supported windmill factories are doing, but everybody sees food stamp abuse and fraud.

A great read. But what of "the poor you shall always have with you"? I, like the author, am an applied economic analyst, and this statement attributed to J.C. has very real meaning in the context of this article.

Poverty is not to be cured or eradicated...It is a state of nature and is why J.C.'s aforementioned comment on the matter is truth. The meth head mountain man in Hanson is rich in humility but poor in dignity, while I am potentially poor in the former (because of more material wealth) and have the benefit of the latter. Perhaps Charity is the medium by which we trade.

If anything, the article points to the exhaustive opportunities to Love our neighbor, which is a most vital virtue for a people to thrive.

Marriage by itself is not enough. This area needs investment and for one reason or the other isn't getting it.

Also the NY Times has a pretty good piece today about Vermont's governor dedicating his entire state of the state speech on drug abuse. Evidently VT and much of New England is in the grips of a heroin epidemic. It appears the "real America" is falling apart while our leaders fiddle about worrying about illegal immigrants.

The GOP has an opening if they would simply address the needs of people who live in these areas as opposed to chasing down Hispanic votes.

The one policy change implied by Williamson's article that makes imminent sense would be to replace the food stamp cards with plain old cash....or at least debit cards that represent real money that the recipients could spend as they wish.

Doing so would cost the taxpayers literally nothing, but would instantaneously eliminate the absurd "convert food stamps to soda and then to cash" process, along with its equally absurd 50% transaction cost. The only "losers" in such a change would be the shopkeepers who are making a crazy profit laundering food stamps.

There is NO need to FIX this situation. Regardless of it is government subsidies or private investment it will end in abject failure. I grew up in areas not unlike what is being described. I then worked in similar enviornments half a world away and one thing is common to both of them, people live in these isolated communities because they want to be left alone. They are not being held in place by economic forces and they are not being held there against their wills. They will take whatever is offered to them, but on their terms and no one elses. That is why you have starving children with pallets of soda. That is why you have unemployment and a good enough attitude and a hand full of lotto tickets.

You can talk tourism, private industry, Wal Marts and government reforms but what everyone needs to understand is that the people are who they are. Nothing will change this. It's human nature.

I have quite a few relatives and friends who are or were working in the injection molding and tool and die trade. Between outsourcing to China and automation many either saw their wages cut or they lost their jobs entirely. After 2008, many of my towns too and die and plastic shops closed, and the jobs are not coming back. The best and the brightest (and ambitious) moved to places like South Carolina and Alabama were tooling jobs and pay are better. Many got out of the trade; still others remain on long term unemployment and spend their days drinking and doing nothing. The lucky few are on disability.

Substitute coal for skilled factory labor, and one sees the scourge that plagues many portions of our nation and our economy. The White Ghetto is more ubiquitous than we realize. Appalachia just had a 50 year head start.

Excellent article--having come from a similar area in the Ozarks, I believe Williams has it spot on. The dole kills dignity and it breeds dependency. The point about violent crime is the most interesting one to me. I think it's a cultural difference between the inner city and the rural ghettos. People in these areas won't tolerate violent crime--and they are all heavily armed If violence were merely the result of the coexistance of weapons and poverty, the rural areas would have killed one another long ago.

Welfare is a lifetime "Poverty" sentence for those receiving it, politicians use those people as voting rats and then toss the aside when they're done voting. Instead of them embracing a changing world and moving where the jobs are they wallow in the days of lore and it's the kids that suffer the most. What kind of parent would want to keep their kid illiterate so they can get more money?

Interesting how so many people can read the same article and see it very differently. I did not find this article offensive at all, and it's offers up some points that could be explored on their own. My overall takeaway is the quote “...America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency.” And may I add that it becomes a lifestyle for generations. In our desire to "do good" we end up causing more harm over time. And not just in backwoods of Kentucky, but in the projects of Chicago, Detroit and so on.

It may appear to be "broken" to an outsider, but it was never really "fixed" by the standards of other regions in the first place. Since the arrival of the Scots-Irish in the years before the Revolution, "hillbillies" have been described as "broken" in all sorts of ways because they don't accept deep-south ideals of status, midwestern ideals of orderliness, and New England ideas of social unity. Appalachians have always played by different rules how ever much or little they've had to play with.

I like status, order, and social unity. Maybe that's why I hate living in Appalachia.

My coal-mining grandfather was a hard-working, God fearing, wonderful man who worked and earned a good pension, raised a good family, worked to buy a piece of land and build a house for his family, raised animals and a huge garden enough to feed 4 kids for most of the year, all in the heart of eastern Kentucky. My dad was far from perfect but he also raised good family and was a hard worker who earned a good pension. It was the grandest treat in the world when we were kids to go visit our grandparents in Kentucky from our home in Ohio. On the other hand, the other side of my family, who also hails from the same area of eastern KY, are more of the welfare brand. They aren't stupid or mentally ill by any means, they are just flat out lazy. Most of my uncles on that side drive trucks or are mechanics (and very good ones) but they just aren't motivated to do much more than is necessary to keep the lights and satellite dish on. So...it's a bit hard to figure out what your point is. If you think that most of those in your 'ghetto' are mentally ill or stupid, well maybe you aren't too far removed from those genes yourself. Just sayin'....

i moved to EKY in the late 70's (from FLA) and attended Lee's in Jackson to get into the coal business, reclamation as it was. i met and married a beautiful and brilliant girl there and we moved to Dallas (i ended up with a geology degree from EKU) as even then there were very few jobs and little attraction to stay. My wife has excelled here and we've made a good life with kids and now grandchildren. Whenever she goes home to Breathitt Co she says its like coming back from the 1970's. Things and life there hasn't changed, only the desperation and poverty seem worst. When there's nothing to do, nothing to look forward to and apathy run's rampant you get what you pay for. Notwithstanding, some of the people i met back there were the kind of people, when you get to know them, are as friendly as you will find anywhere. Once you make a friend of a hillbilly (as a term of endearment) you've made a friend for life.

My job (as well as my previous job) takes me all over rural KY. I get to eastern KY many times a year. The conditions he describes are real. It does seem, as one commenter already eluded to, that he stayed on the main roads. Going to the county seat in any county shows you the richest town in the county. Get off the main roads and go up a few hollars if you want to see the worst of the worst. While some homes will be nice, well kept (a coal mine foreman's house for example) others will barely qualify for the descriptor, shack. When working as a biologist (my previous job) I once heard a vehicle driving down the stream I was sampling, not crossing it, driving down it. It arrived where I was, the man driving it was very friendly and told me he was coming from his grandmothers house which was located up that branch. There was no road or driveway, the creek bed was the road. During a storm, she was isolated. During the wetter months, she might be isolated for days or even weeks. I thought I had seen it all by that point, I was wrong.

To say that welfare has entrapped these people is putting it mildly. A school teacher I know was horrified to hear the answer to her question "What do you want to do when you grow up?". A significant number of her class couldn't wait to be old enough to get their own welfare check.

Its all they know, and all they aspire to.

In the old DDR the city of Hoyerswerda was once considered a model city. The UN showered it with awards for its 100% employment, public transportation and subsidized housing. After the Berlin Wall fell, and the massive subsidies were removed the city collapsed. Over half of the population left for points west, factories closed, and the only people that remained were artists, the underclass, and anarchists. As a matter of fact, the entire state of Saxony (and most of the states that made up the DDR) lost close to half of its population (the exception being Berlin). The German federal government poured close to a half trillion in infrastructure over a period of 20 years at a time when East Germany was becoming one large ghost town.

But in recent years, yuppies with a lot of cash noticed how cheap real estate was in the former Communist state. And lo and behold the rich are buying up real estate and empty villages and turning them into vacation destinations. This is probably the only viable option for Appalachia. Of course, if the "artistes" and wealthy fill in the gaps, those places will go from red to purple to maybe blue (look at Montana and Colorado). Personally, I don't think there's enough money left in this nation for that to happen. But, it is Appalachia's only hope.

There are some good comments below, and I live a good hrs drive from such places in the article (15 min as the crow flies). The cost of living in such places would allow someone to have a very comfortable living if they could lay off the meth, and many do.

Humans are very tenacious. They scratch out livings for thousands of years north of the arctic circle. Our welfare system will create many such places as it develops and people slowly but surely migrate there. One wonders with the very low real estate prices in Detroit if this will happen there.

The attraction of being close to their families, of not being required to work very hard, of doing without and being satisfied with what you have has kept people there. If there were jobs, they'd work. Very simple: they aren't leaving. It takes too much energy. The people aren't lazy, or stupid or dumb. There's nothing to do in these communities - nothing for teenagers, nothing for their parents, They worship UK basketball, it's the most interesting diversion, Most of them worship God on Sundays, and thank Him for their blessings which is mostly made up of some sort of assistance payment. They depend on the 'check'. It's a way of life. The 'gubment' has taken away all their ambition. It has created a dependency that will continue. All the writers in the world can't solve this issue with articles about the beauty of the area and the squalidness of its residents. Until food stamps are replaced with paychecks, nothing will change.

One hundred years ago hundreds of tiny farm village dotted the Plains from Montana to Oklahoma. For a variety of reasons these farms failed, and the people left. If there was welfare back in 1930 and EBT cards in 1950, most of those "farmers' would still be living there. And reporters would be filing human interest stories about their plight.

The mindset that you can't move, that somehow leaving your childhood home is anathema, is a big part of the problem here and in the urban ghettos. The WWII generation was uprooted by war, and then decided they could move again. Demographically, these leftovers in places that just don't support having people live there, are the descendents of those who didn't "get out". With no ability to support themselves, and no desire to move they've been left behind. Without government support they would have had to move out or figure out how to eat without it. There are places all over the world that supported communities sometime in history, when the reason for them being located there passed away, the people moved. These people got stuck, just like people get stuck in the ghetto.

January 07, 2014

To Tune "Love the One You're With"

If you're down and confused

And you don't remember who you're talking to

Concentration slips away

Because your season is so far away

Well there's a rose in a fisted glove

And the eagle flies with the dove

And if you can't be in the season you love, honey

Love the one you're in

You gotta love the one you're in

You gotta love the one you're in

You gotta love the one you're in

Don't be angry, don't be sad

Don't sit crying over good times you've had

Well there's a season sitting right next to you

And she's just waiting for something to do


Turn your heartache right into joy

Be it cold or warm jus' don't be coy

Can you dig and make it nice?

When you ain't gonna need anymore advice


Bitterly cold doesn't begin to describe it. Below 0 with 20mph+ winds. It's the real deal and I went out in it for curiosity's sake. What does extreme cold feel like again? But you can't really experience it in a detached way since it's so painful and inherently distracting. It's like wondering, “what would burning my hand feel like?” You stop wondering the second your hand starts to burn.

I feel a great dependency on, and gratitude for, house and heating. It's so cold outside that I begin to wonder if this longitude/latitude is really meant for man given how easily it would seemingly be to die in this cold. But then nature is never a friendly to us as we imagine. We're “impaired” by the rose-colored glasses of central heating and air-conditioning, medical science, etc…

Thoughts Not Imprimatur'd

Holy Car in Church Parking Lot

Watched the DVR leavenings from the Buckeye bowl game in which they lost to the Clemsonites (say like “Sodomites”).  Sunday, watched the Bengals predictably lose their annual one-and-done playoff game. At least was competitive for the first 2 to 3 quarters.


Lavished my roll-top, a replica piece I found used for $125, with polish and oil. Found this on the 'net:
Roll top desks are a source of fascination because of their reputation for guarding secrets. Their impressive appearance and grand structure suggest to the imagination they are meant to hold items of significant value. From successful entrepreneurs to Presidents, generations have trusted desks to hold secrets they would never entrust to another living soul. Consider several factors when purchasing or building a roll top desk to carry on this tradition.

Good to hear Lino Rulli on the radio over the holidaze even if it was a “Best Of” segment. Makes me want to pick up his book Saint again. He's amazingly over-the-top, giving away second-class relics of himself on the show and holy cards to “St. Lino”.


A storm that was supposed to go gangbusters on us today but said weather got shy and proved elusive.  6-10 inches of snow to....zero inches. I tweeted ("tweeted out" sounds lame) I have a new weather app that's manual but effective: look out the window. It's incredible how much faith I put in weather reports when they prove less accurate than horoscopes. My weather report: mostly cold, snowy in winter. Mostly warm, sunny in summer. Mostly raining, cool in spring. Mostly dry, autumnal in autumn. That's as accurate as they get.


Started reading a very compelling history of the watershed Vatican II council as recommended by that young whippersnapper blogger/brand-wise Brandon Vogt.  He said it came highly recommended to him (and Brandon is well-placed to receive good recommendations), that O'Malley's “What Happened at the Second Vatican Council” is the best read on the subject. I don't know too much backstory on it other than the basics, like who called it and that there was a lot of infighting which belies the final calm and peaceful final documents.


Our culture and world view tends to make demands on God. The ancient Israelites wanted a king not because God did, but because all the other nations had one. So they demanded of God a king and got Saul.

Similarly, in this democratic age there's a demand that the Church become more democratic and less monarchical.

But I think another defining characteristic of our age is the unbelievable ease of communications. It's instantaneous and painless. There are few barriers to entry - no stamps required, no two-week (or months in old times) waits for mail to arrive.

Perhaps this leads us to expect more of God, to think he ought communicate to us plainly and easily, without intermediary, and immediately. We don't want to have to “work”, to sit in silence to discern God's message. Perhaps this is part of the difficulty we have with God in the 21st century.

Of course you can say that given how accessible the Bible is, how everyone can have access to it virtually or via print or library card, that God's message in that sense is more accessible and easy to get to than ever. Same with the Catechism and the truths of the Faith.

And yet in any case an ease of communication doesn't change the fact that He is God and we are creatures, with an infinite gulf in intelligence. Our dog ate a bunch of gum today, apparently toxic, so I had to make him vomit. There's no way to tell this being of lesser intelligence why this was happening.  He has to have trust in me.


“The middle class is going away,” is a familiar refrain and I wonder how much of it is due to a decrease of acceptance of mediocrity due to computers and outsourcing. “Middle”, after all, implies a sort of mediocrity, a sort of middle land between top performers and bottom ones.

There seems to be less tolerance for mediocrity these days given the ruthless quality of computers and robots. You can see it in the American automobile industry, a once huge and thriving workforce of generally mediocre workers and executives. Then the Japanese came along with their robots and quality-mindedness and it humbled the American industry to the point that it's maybe a tenth of its former size in terms of workforce. Cars are a lot better these days but there also fewer jobs for workers with mediocre skills, which is most of us. You look at amazon.com and Apple and you see an excellence in customer service or product that shames many earlier companies. It's sort of like an arms' race towards quality.


Interesting perspective from biographer Leon Edel:

“I was asked to write a fifty-page pamphlet on Thoreau. I did a lot of reading, and rereading. I came to him quite freshly. The biographers had been using their received image of him for a long time. He had become very popular in the 1960s. He was at the center of two myths: one was that he had built his hut in the wilderness and escaped from the tyrannies of civilization. The other was that he went to jail to defy a form of taxation and so stood up for civil disobedience. Both myths had in them not the truths of what Thoreau did, but the wishes of most Americans at the time. When I had looked afresh at all the data, it was clear Thoreau had not moved into the wilderness. He moved one mile from his home into the woods at Walden Pond, within walking distance of the life he had always led. So it was a gesture. And his civil disobedience had been considerably rewritten, as it were, by Gandhi, and it had worked for Gandhi. I wasn’t trying to debunk the magic of Thoreau’s myths, but I saw that Thoreau himself wasn’t at all the Thoreau of legend which biographers and folklore had built up. The biographers had all told the story of how Thoreau, in a dry season, fried some fish in a tree trunk and set fire to the Concord woods. What I saw was that he had come to be hated by the townspeople, that he was a meditative narcissist with more feeling for trees and plants than for humans. I had asked myself the question: Why did he really at that moment of his life move a mile down the way to the edge of the pond? The answer was because he had become very unpopular in the town.”

Still can't believe how cruel this weather is compared to Orlando: what a difference only 980 miles makes, ha. As the author HP Lovecraft said in a 1934 letter, “O Floridian More Fortunate than you can Realise…” (HT: Steven R.)


I love the Keil commentary on Old Testament books like Micah, who said that God would abandon Israel and I felt insecure over that harsh terminology but it appears it was already sort of taken for granted by the Jews and so not so stinging:

This is the correct explanation; for the reason why Israel is to be given up to the power of the nations of the world, and not to be rescued earlier, does not lie in the appearance of the Messiah as such, but in His springing from little Bethlehem. The birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, and not in Jerusalem the city of David, presupposes that the family of David, out of which it is to spring, will have lost the throne, and have fallen into poverty. This could only arise from the giving up of Israel into the power of its enemies.


Got involved with documenting my Bibles. I guess if you have to document your Bibles in order to keep track of them then you have too many Bibles. There are at least four that have become obsolete or redundant given subsequent purchases. I have the translations I like: NJB, Knox, JB.  I want to like the Douay-Rheims but find in the few times I engage with that text I'm put off, off-put. 

Going through them and enjoying the various texts, so different in style and typeface, I'm struck by how surprisingly beautiful the Fireside NABre Catholic Companion Edition NABre is. Very compact and yet oh-so-readable. Kind of an underdog but it comes through.

The Little Rock NABRE is door-stoppingly huge and has a lot of boxes, little devotional asides, that I end up reading more than the biblical text! The style is to put them in the form of a question such as “How can I be more open to the will of God?”. I always tend to think questions are a way for them to dodge and seems lame.

The French Moroccan leather Cambridge NRSV seems a ne'er to be used one, alas. No notes, and no electric feelings in the look & feel. The text is redundant now that I have the awesome New Oxford Annotated NRSV with notes. Re-sold back to amazon. Not every book purchase is going to be a home run.

The CTS New Catholic Bible presentation edition tries hard but just plain comes up short. The print is a bit faint and bleeds through the pages. On the plus side there's new introductions by Wainsborough of each biblical book and some new notes. Plus it's the Jerusalem version.

The New Jerusalem leather edition holds up well and is still sharp if noteless. Very readable text both physically and comprehendingly. Hard to find a niche for it though since I'm so addicted to commentary and notes.

The New Jerusalem with Notes leather edition is physically old and “skanky”, with pages yellowing and such. But the quality of the notes and commentary is top notch and unavailable anywhere else since there's no electronic version available on Kindle or Logos. Certainly this is the edition that most complements my electronic Bible app.

The Holy Bible with Illustrations from the Vatican Library is surreally attractive but so, so huge that it sadly never gets opened.

The Message is printed in a very attractive font with decorative flourishes. Very attractive look and feel but the language is usually off-putting and jarring, like going to the opera and hearing someone speaking redneck English. It's a shame because at times the translator is lyrical but much of the time it's lowest common denominator stuff: the exact opposite of Ronald Knox.

The Knox Bible is certainly an irreplaceable treasure, something that I'm glad I purchased. It's well bound with good paper and font, but the layout leaves a bit to be desired, running all the Psalms and other poetic books together without line breaks or headings or decorative flourish. Very blue-collar inside. The language is, alas, distracting, with thees and thous and other archaisms. It's not always as clear as I might like. A random example from Micah:

Recklessly, at Lachis, harness they steed to chariot; Lachis, that first betrayed poor Sion into guilt, that was Israel’s mistress in wrong-doing! Marriage-dower this daughter of thine, Moreseth-gath, shall cost thee; here is Achsib, too, for the royal policy how rude a set-back! Thy marches, Maresa, shall be ridden once again; to Odollam …
What you talkin' about Willis?

The Message version is on the cringing side of the ledger:
All you who live in Chariotville,
get in your chariots for flight.
You led the daughter of Zion
into trusting not God but chariots.
Similar sins in Israel
also got their start in you.
Go ahead and give your good-bye gifts
to Good-byeville.
Miragetown beckoned
but disappointed Israel’s kings.
Inheritance City
has lost its inheritance.
Pretty much unreadable also. The Message lost me at “Chariotville”. (Goodbye-ville? Really? Trix are for kids!)

The NET Bible translation strikes a lucid middle ground:
Residents of Lachish, hitch the horses to the chariots! You influenced Daughter Zion to sin,for Israel’s rebellious deeds can be traced back to you! Therefore you will have to say farewell to Moresheth Gath. The residents of Achzib will be as disappointing as a dried up well to the kings of Israel. Shave your heads bald as you mourn for the children you love; shave your foreheads as bald as an eagle, for they are taken from you into exile


Planning to read more of that Maurice and Therese book about the letters between St. Therese and a missionary priest. It was sort of billed as a book from a saint to a sinner, but it's more like conversations between two saints. Which isn't quite what I was hoping for. I'd hoped to hear St. Therese talking to me.

Interesting Clips from Charles Krauthammer Book:

From his collection of columns:
To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil. 

Liberals believe that human nature is fundamentally good. The fact that this is contradicted by, oh, 4,000 years of human history simply tells them how urgent is the need for their next seven-point program for the social reform of everything. Liberals suffer incurably from naïveté, the stupidity of the good heart. Who else but that oracle of American liberalism, the New York Times, could run the puzzled headline: “Crime Keeps On Falling, but Prisons Keep On Filling.” But? How about this wild theory: If you lock up the criminals, crime declines. 

Accordingly, the conservative attitude toward liberals is one of compassionate condescension. 

[Woody] Allen had admitted that he (1) could not name a single one of his children’s friends, (2) had never taken the children to the barber or given them a bath, (3) did not know who their dentist was, (4) had never attended a parent-teacher conference for son Satchel. In fact, the three children whose custody he seeks had never spent a night at his apartment. Lack of parenting skills? One might as well say that Jeffrey Dahmer lacked interpersonal skills...The problem here is not some absence of technique. It is an absence of something far more basic: an instinct, a feeling, the normal bond that ties the average parent to his child...Allen’s problem is self-absorption taken, as with most everything in his life, to the point of parody. Here is the artiste so jealous of his autonomy, so disdainful of attachment, that his children may not spend the night at his apartment, though this should not prevent the court from awarding him custody. 

The fact that the grotesque absence of these qualities in Allen could be interpreted as a lack of “parenting skills” shows how far we’ve gone in the belief in the mechanization of ordinary human feeling.

Woody Allen, the movie character, once said: I’ve had 17 years of psychotherapy—one more and I’m going to Lourdes. Time’s up, Woody. You’ve tried technique. Now get on that plane.


Allan Bloom once described a man who had just gotten out of prison, where he had undergone “therapy.” “He said he had found his identity and learned to like himself,” writes Bloom. “A generation earlier, he would have found God and learned to despise himself as a sinner.” 

Bloom notes that in the mind of this ex-con, “the problem lay with his sense of self, not with any original sin or devils in him. We have here the peculiarly American way of digesting Continental despair. It is nihilism with a happy ending.” 


The role of the artist has changed radically in the last century and a half. It was once the function of the artist to represent beauty and transcendence and possibly introduce it into the life of the beholder. With the advent of photography and film, the perfect media for both representation and narration, art has fought its dread of obsolescence by seeking some other role. Today the function of the artist is to be an emissary to the aberrant: to live at the cultural and social extremes, to go over into the decadent and even criminal, to scout forbidden emotional and psychic territory—and bring back artifacts of that “edgy” experience to a bourgeoisie too cozy and cowardly to make the trip itself. 


The whole natural childbirth phenomenon is an astonishing triumph of ideology over experience. Pain is normally—indeed, “naturally”—something humans try to avoid. And the pain of childbirth is among life’s most searing. It is also, today, entirely unnecessary. 


The second conceit is that somehow, thanks to Freud and modern psychobabble, we have real access to the inner man. As a former psychiatrist, I know how difficult it is to try to understand the soul of even someone you have spent hundreds of hours alone with in therapy. To think that one can decipher the inner life of some distant public figure is folly. Even the experts haven’t a clue. Remember that group of psychiatrists, 1,189 strong, who in 1964 signed a statement asserting their professional judgment that Barry Goldwater was psychologically unfit to be president? The very attempt to make such a diagnosis at a distance is malpractice. 

Even Nixon, his private thoughts spilled out on tape forever, is no open book. Sure, the seething cauldron of inchoate hatreds and fears helps explain Watergate. But how do you match that with the man who cut through the paranoia and fear and opened the door to China, fashioned détente and ushered in the era of arms control—something less psychically roiled presidents had not been able to do? “Know thyself” is a highly overrated piece of wisdom. As for knowing the self of others, forget it. Know what they do and judge them by their works.


Recently heard the great and wonderful Fr. C at the Dominican parish. It's like magic hearing him talk, he's so conversational. I won't do justice at this remove but he mentioned how many are coming back to church due to the influence of Pope Francis and said some Catholic theologians like himself wonder why it is that they expound on abstruse and very deep things while Pope Francis says very simple things and people love him and want to come back to the church. He said that people just want to know they're loved, that God loves us, and they see that in Francis. 

It made me wonder about Fr. T's theory of secular types not wanting a God who loves us since Francis is popular with some seculars precisely because of that.  The message I think is not all secular types are the same, duh. 


Headed to the airport just before 10am for an 11:30am-ish non-stop.  On the plane read a lot of a Margaret MacMillan book trying to figure out how/why a prosperous Europe decided to destroy itself via World War I.  Just a fascinating topic and a hot one now given the spate of WW I books on that very subject.

So then it's 2pm, I'd just gotten off the plane in Orlando and walk in a direction that looks promising towards the goal of locating Mom & Dad's plane, scheduled for 3:15. My phone battery was dying, as Apple iphone batteries are wont to do, and so I looked for a place to plug in. First I went through my shoulder bag looking for the charger when it occurred to me: shouldn't I have more luggage? Yes, I should have more luggage! I had left my carryon suitcase stowed away in a bin above seat 17D. I ran back through the terminal and located a flight attendant and - relief! - had my clothes for the week. 

Soon a comedy of errors ensued that it really was sort of funny, or at least you could only shake your head: my sister Jean arrived and tried to upgrade to a bigger vehicle to accommodate us.  Only $75 more, though eventually it became clear that was $75 more *a day*.  The killer bug of rental cars is how endlessly sssllloww it is to actually acquire one.  Even though Jean and Dad had conferred at the Budget car counter for a good long while, it wasn't that simple.  Somehow they didn't have the car promised, and Jean had to spend yet more time in the Budget garage area.  Worse, my nephew had accidentally picked up the wrong luggage, an identical purple bag.   

Finally we get a car, a pitifully small "full-size" Infinity, and we crowbar four of ourselves in the back.  We also manage, some how, some way, to NOT move all the bags in.  When we finally got to the house around 7:15 (after Jean blew past a toll without paying) we found Dad's bag was AWOL.  Instead of going back that night, which in hindsight might've been a good plan since Budget DOES NOT MOVE THE BAG until the next day at which point the bag goes to an unknown facility somewhere probably within a hundred mile radius of the airport called, informally, as the "Budget Rental Lost & Found".  No civilian has seen this Lost & Found; it exists perhaps only as definitively as Area 51.  It is as difficult to penetrate and it took 20 minutes just from the time they said "the bag is being sent over to the Budget counter" till it got in my hands.  Was the Lost & Found twenty minutes away by foot? Or is that just long enough to get it from Langley, Virginia, the CIA headquarters, via military jet? 

One thing's for sure, they don't take their Lost & Found lightly.  I called while waiting in line the main Budget number and asked the location of the Lost & Found and they would not tell me, preferring I wait in line for at the Budget counter (where, despite having a large room behind them, they don't apparently store lost & found items as I'd errantly assumed).  Initially they simply said they couldn't find it but as a concession to my withering look told me they'd get back to me after they physically looked for it.  Then they wanted a "reference number", given to anyone who loses luggage but not given to my sis-in-law last night apparently.  Eventually they decreed me worthy to take possession of the Precious suitcase, but only after the courier checked with a Budget person at the counter.  I was  tempted to take the suitcase and run, run like the wind! Sort of like one of those Bourne Identity chase scenes.  

Other problems were legion:  I'd left Mom an extremely long time at Terminal B's Budget counter, hoping that we'd save time by not waiting in the same endless line.  I assumed Mom would call me if there was a problem, but I'd never told Mom to bring her cellphone in with her that I can recall.  Obviously I'd like to have that moment back.  I sure had plenty of opportunity to remind her to bring her cellphone and ask she turn it on since it seemed like it took at least an hour to get to the 'port.  

I thought I could get through my line before she did hers and still get back before she reached the start.  Terminal A seemed to be the place to be since it's where we lost the luggage, so it was hard to leave the airport's lost & found in the middle of the complex, head back to B and get Mom, and then head all the way to A.  The other issue was that Dad was circling the airport endlessly when he wasn't getting chased off by cops intent on preventing him from parking.  Eventually he gave up and parked and headed in the airport apparently around the time we were departing, so we waited seemingly forever for Dad to reappear.  "You ever heard of cellphones?" asked the cop of Dad but unfortunately mine was the only cellphone in use, which does no good at all. One cellphone is less useful than one beer.  Mom left hers turned off in the car, which was a double trick:  not only was there no way of her communicating with me but also by preventing Dad from hearing my phone calls as well.  

In retrospect, I'd have just headed directly to the Budget counter and effectively cut in line.  Or we could have all stayed together so at least we all knew what was happening. 

But all of that nonsense happened the next day after the "strip mall church" and breakfast.  Saturday night we were ready to relax after the sardine-packed Jeannie joy ride.  


A trying day that begun nicely, with Mass at St. Faustina's, a tiny strip mall makeshift church that was so crowded that Jean spent half the service trying to park and where all of us sat in an annex completely removed from the sight of liturgy - we saw nothing of altar or priest, an auditory Mass.  As Mom said, it felt like we were praying to Pope Francis since his picture was on the wall in front of us.  

Then breakfast at a jam-packed buffet ("Golden Corral" or something like that).  It didn't look particularly clean or smell great but there were 150 buffet items which helped, and the bacon was delicious.  Instant food. An all-you-can-eat after last evening's early meal was just the ticket. 

After eating we began our miasma of misery, our period of poncitude. Drove to airport to get Dad's luggage, and the traffic was skin-crawlingly slow.  Disney was the reason, of course, we were heading into *that* stream of park visitors.  Apparently prime time.  It took maybe 40 minutes to go one five mile stretch.  Eventually to the airport and Budget Rental (now a curse word in my lexicon), which turned out to be a comedy of errors.  Funny for awhile - what else could go wrong? - but eventually it slipped into being more frustrating than funny.  The Magic Kingdom I was interested in was not at Disney but the Budget Lost and Found, a place seemingly as rare as the unicorn.  Long lines, of course, at the rental car counter.  It's kind of surprising that given the cost of human labor it still takes as long as it does to rent a car.  I believe it's now quicker to buy a home mortgage.  And almost cheaper. 


Back at the house, I went on a blood pressure-deflating run, a healthy 30 minutes down a blocked-off road in the wonderful warmth, a strange enough sensation after a colder than normal November/December in Ohio. It was humid and the whole day was off-and-on light rain despite the reputation of this being "the Sunshine State".  An aside: I heard on the radio one of the hosts refer to this as "paradise", something I heard in the Caribbean, Fort Myers and now Orlando.  Seems we're watering down the term "paradise"? Orlando as paradise doesn't quite fit for me and I wonder how far north they dare use that term. Tallahassee? Southern Georgia? Middle-Tennessee? 

Soaked with sweat, went back in took a shower, came back out and planned on a little bike ride with Mom.  Tried to put air in tires, began sweating profusely again from the effort and broke pump.  Now we have to go target Target and buy another one. 

The Big Decision tonight was movie or Outback and I went with movie option. We made a wrong turn (surprise!) and we ended up stuck in surreal traffic, literally inching our way up the last few hundred yards. 

We missed the 7:30 showing so settled for 8:30, eating a dinner of hotdogs and popcorn. We were seeing "The Secret Life of Walter
Mitty", starring Ben Stiller.

A couple of future movies held my interest: "Winter's Tale" because of the uncommonly beautiful Jennifer Connelly, so affecting in "A Beautiful Mind" and a film about Jesus, at least the scene where Peter is asked to walk out of the boat, no small thing given that in those days in a storm getting out of the boat often meant death.  It's was pretty dramatic cinematic moment as depicted there. Pretty bracing corrective to my whining. 

The movie Walter Mitty wasn't bad at all.  I give it 3.5 or 4 out of 5 stars. Read a line from the Charles Krauthammer book earlier in the day which applies to movies for me but could also be applied more broadly: "Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment."  

I liked the female lead and the vistas of distant realms (Iceland, Greenland) made it particularly attractive to this would-be traveler. I was also pleasantly surprised by the message (courtesy the original Columbus author James Thurber I presume) about the beauty of the unseen.  The key quote is when Sean Penn's character says "Beautiful things don't ask for attention" and how at the end the beautiful thing is not a snow leopard but Ben Stiller's character's diligent behind-the-scenes work ethic at Life magazine.  It's sort of St. Therese of Lisieux's message of the "little way". The elusive "image 25" that Stiller spends the whole time seeking and was as thought to be as grand as the leopards in the mountains of Afghanistan turns out to be that of his humble Stiller self.  


Fun, relaxing day.  Overcast morning but one made infinitely better by not having to rush-rush-rush to airport or anywhere else. Coffee on the pool deck, a bit chilly for shorts at 60 degrees but still an electric feeling.  Beautiful pool area and so big!  Plenty of comfy chairs and recliners and the screen around the pool area went sky-high and thus felt airily spacious, especially compared to to the more pinched ones you see on most Sanibel lanais. Later a cigar on the patio, what could be amiss? 

Well...the house conditions were slightly sub-optimal.  Very few towels and those quickly became soaked from the frequent kids' pool usage.  I only took one shower all four days to save time and avoid towel usage.  There also looked to be crumbs in my bed (although no forensic research was done) adding to my suspicion the sheets hadn't been washed. The rental house was pretty dirty: hair in the bathtub that clogged it, very few cleaning supplies if any, broken bottles on the driveway, lame bikes, trash scattered around the yard.  We saw an eerie-looking bird, presumably a black vulture, atop the garbage can this morning, gigantic-sized with a grey, smooth head.  Like something out of Poe's "Raven", I assume that was the fellow rooting through the trash nightly and creating a mess around the can. Fortunately no bedbugs since I'm sure I'd be itching by now, and it was a good sign when a pool cleaner guy stopped by to do his thing. 

Afterward we headed to Target (Steph calls it "Tar-jay" as if it's French). We needed to buy a bicycle pump to replace the one I broke while trying to put air in the lame free bikes with no air in tires and missing pedals in the garage.  

Spent afternoon lazing around the pool, reading, drinking.  I even got in the pool, doing a cannonball that must've sounded like the crash-landing of a 747 jet.  Nice to get in the water a bit -- I'd waited for the sound of a whistle and the announcement "Adult Swim!" but not hearing it for a long time figured I head in anyway, ha.


Around 6 we all went to dinner at Joe's Crabshack and had a seafood feast. Fun to have everyone together looking sharp and enjoying the camaraderie. Took pictures of the girls wearing funny balloon hats. The only downer was when that evergreen topic of how much we fought as kids reared its ugly head and my sister almost convinced me she had been conceived without sin and had been innocent as a lamb during our quarrels.  I thought: "mea culpa" but, alas, my repentance was extremely short-lived and I said basically that she was no picnic either.  Graciously she allowed that she knew how to "press my buttons" and did so that was progress. She said her defense was out-running me, which I don't recall happening but then memories and gospels differ. But I did appreciate her saying that about her having a role in fighting. There's no objective measure of sibling fighting, no scorecard that says if I fought more or less than all the legions of brothers and sisters before me. Not that that should matter, of course. 

Back at the place we played the card game spoons and my brother had a funny line about Mom & Dad not playing: "If you're still able to use a spoon, you can play spoons."  The older kids won;  I made poor Aaron cry by supposedly stealing his spoon and Doug humorously said, "if you cry during spoons then you're too young for spoons." 

That night we started to watch a brand new DVD at the house but, hilariously, the DVD player started breaking.  This was comical, especially for me since I didn't think the movie was all that good based on the first 20 minutes when the DVD player was working. 


Ride to the airport was uneventful - cabbie was about 15 minutes late but it was an easy 30 minute ride.  Started off visiting the closest restroom where I shaved and brushed my teeth, not having done so yet today.  I'm getting to know this Orlando airport almost better than Columbus's. 

I checked my ol' trip logs and found the last time I'd been to Orlando was April of 2006, so almost eight years ago!   The difference this time is I made Aaron cry and Mom almost cry.  Budget Rental made me cry.