July 28, 2015

Art Balms

Among the magic treasures spotted at the Columbus Museum of Art this past Sunday:

Who doesn't love a ship? From the 1830s, New of York.

Christ holds a goldfinch, which has potentially multiple meanings: http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/pharos/collection_pages/middle_pages/563/TXT_BR_SS-563.html 

Love the tiny lamb at the foot of this painting and the symbolized gentleness.

Created by a local black folk artist back in the 1970s; depicts Crucifixion going
all the way back to the blacksmiths who created the nails. 


Spotted online, some of Herman Melville's poems.  It doesn't float my boat too much, but I'm riveted by how riveted he was by a figure of fascination to us both: Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson:

Mortally Wounded at Chancellorsville

The Man who fiercest charged in fight,
Whose sword and prayer were long -
Even him who stoutly stood for Wrong,
How can we praise? Yet coming days
Shall not forget him with this song.

Dead is the Man whose Cause is dead,
Vainly he died and set his seal -
Earnest in error, as we feel;
True to the thing he deemed was due,
True as John Brown or steel.

Relentlessly he routed us;
But we relent, for he is low -
Justly his fame we outlaw; so
We drop a tear on the bold Virginian's bier,
Because no wreath we owe.

And another poem about the Jack man:

One man we claim of wrought reknown
Which not the North shall care to slur;
A Modern lived who sleeps in death,
Calm as the marble Ancients are:
'Tis he whose life, though a vapor's wreath,
Was charged with the lightning's burning breath -
Stonewall, stormer of the war.

But who shall hymn the Roman heart?
A stoic he, but even more:
The iron will and lion thew
Were strong to inflict as to endure:
Who like him could stand, or pursue?
His fate the fatalist followed through;
In all his great soul found to do
Stonewall followed his star.

He followed his star on the Romney march
Through the sleet to the wintry war;
And he followed it on when he bowed the grain -
The Wind of the Shenandoah;
At Gaines's Mill in the giants' strain -
On the fierce forced stride to Manassas-plain,
Where his sword with thunder was clothed again,
Stonewall followed his star.

His star he followed athwart the flood
To Potomac's Northern shore,
When midway wading, his host of braves
'My Maryland!' loud did roar -
To red Antietam's field of graves,
Through mountain-passes, woods, and waves,
They followed their pagod with hymns and glaives,
For Stonewall followed a star.

Back it led him to Marye's slope,
Where the shock and the fame he bore;
And to green Moss-Neck it guided him -
Brief respite from throes of war:
To the laurel glade by the Wilderness grim,
Through climxed victory naught shall dim,
Even unto death it piloted him -
Stonewall followed his star.

Its lead he followed in gentle ways
Which never the valiant mar;
A cap we sent him. bestarred, to replace
The sun-scorched helm of war:
A fillet he made of the shining lace
Childhood's laughing brow to grace -
Not his was a goldsmith's star.

O, much of doubt in after days
Shall cling, as now, to the war;
Of the right and the wrong they'll still debate,
Puzzled by Stonewall's star:
'Fortune went with the North elate,'
'Ay, but the South had Stonewall's weight,
And he fell in the South's great war.'

Herman Melville

What the Huck?

So I hear some outraged media types all atwitter and hot and bothered over something Mike Huckabee said, so I googled the comment and am underwhelmed and not feeling outraged. I feel shortchanged.

My take is that only the Israelis can say if Huckabee's oven comment was over the line, not Democrat operatives (aka the media).  Lord knows Iran getting a nuclear bomb and potentially using it on Israel is equivalent to the ovens.

What I'm not getting about the whole Iran deal is how it matters, ultimately.  Because won't Israel bomb Iraq with or without our permission should Iran be close to going nuclear?

I also see that the Administration's mantra: "Anytime, anywhere" with respect to inspections actually means "it depends on what you mean by 'anytime'.  Obama's chaneling Bill Clinton's "depends on what the meaning of "is" is.


Elsewhere spotted: Nice zinger-tweet from Alan Jacobs: "New book by Jen Gunter: 'What To Expect When You Have Products of Conception'"

July 24, 2015

Excerpt of a Poem Found in Anthology

[This sounds "theology of the body"-ish, what with this point about bodies saying truths. Excuse the my lack of formatting the lines of her poem due to lack of Kindle highlight formatting.]

The Wedding Vow

Sharon Olds

We stood beside each other, crying slightly with fear and awe. In truth, we had married that first night, in bed, we had been married by our bodies, but now we stood in history—what our bodies had said, mouth to mouth, we now said publicly, gathered together, death...

It was a vow of the present and the future, and yet I felt it to have some touch on the distant past or the distant past on it, I felt the wordless, dry, crying ghost of my parents’ marriage there, somewhere in the echoing space—perhaps one of the plummeting flies, bouncing slightly as it hit forsaking all others, then was brushed away. I felt as if I had come to claim a promise—the sweetness I’d inferred from their sourness, and at the same time that I had come, congenitally unworthy, to beg. And yet, I had been working toward this hour all my life. And then it was time to speak—he was offering me, no matter what, his life. That is all I had to do, that evening, to accept the gift I had longed for—to say I had accepted it, as if being asked if I breathe. Do I take? I do.

But They Didn't Have Ellen

The early Mormons are surely spinning in their graves shocked that even religious liberty, the first clause of the first amendment to the Constitution, wasn't enough to secure polygamy, but The Ellen DeGeneres Show and public opinion are enough to legitimize gay marriage in the eyes of the law.

July 21, 2015

Obligatory Weather 'Plaint

Weather reports are now changeless as God: rain, clouds, thunderstorms. They ought to do breaking weather news for sun, not storm, since rain is the default. I can see it now: The National Weather Service has issued a severe fine weather alert for Franklin and surrounding counties. Sunshine has been spotted thirty miles west of Columbus. In the event of actual sunshine, you will be instructed to venture outdoors…

Ah that's probably wishful thinking since the best we can hope for is a sunshine watch not warning.

July 14, 2015

One Hand Gives, the Other Takes Away

It's kind of funny (if it wasn't sad) when you see one Supreme Court justice (Roberts) so desperate to apply a fig-leaf to the Court's loin, while another (Scalia) so intent on revealing the truth that the emperor hath no clothes. From the Scalia dissent:
"It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words 'established by the State.' And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words 'by the State.' other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges. '[T]he plain, obvious, and rational meaning of a statute is always to be preferred to any curious, narrow, hidden sense that nothing but the exigency of a hard case and the ingenuity and study of an acute and powerful intellect would discover..' Lynch v. Alworth-Stephens Co., 267 U. S. 364, 370 (1925). Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved....
"Ordinary connotation does not always prevail, but the more unnatural the proposed interpretation of a law, the more compelling the contextual evidence must be to show that it is correct. Today’s interpretation is not merely unnatural; it is unheard of. Who would ever have dreamt that 'Exchange established by the State' means 'Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government'?... It is probably piling on to add that the Congress that wrote the Affordable Care Act knew how to equate two different types of Exchanges when it wanted to do so."
 The Court’s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges."
The irony is that by trying desperately to protect the reputation of the Court he ultimately undermines it.  He makes the Court look silly (when it doesn't look malicious, such as in the finding a right to an abortion). It reminds me how the Church tried so hard to protect her reputation (by allowing pedophile priests to go to other parishes) that it ended up damaging her reputation much more severely.

The case is textbook in that it also neatly explains how it is that the Bible has been so often misinterpreted or ignored.   I used to wish, naively, that Jesus had emphasized Peter as the rock more often in the gospels, or that He would've made it even clearer (how could He?) that the bread and wine becomes his Body and Blood.  But words are fragile things in the face of a powerful desire for an alternate reality.  Even miracles, we have on good authority, aren't enough.


In other news...Watched the adorable Nikki Haley on Meet the Press. She may end up being the Sarah Palin that Palin so utterly failed to be: a smart woman governor and presidential prospect. Admirably adult.

I do find it almost amusing to see how the national media thinks the removal of the confederate flag from the SC state capitol as worthy of twenty minutes of an hour weekly news show.  Shows the unbelievable power of symbol. You'd think that someone had just cured cancer, or racism, when all that happened was a flag got hid from view. People and media are certainly foolish enough to be entertaining.

I feel a bit uneasy over the continued erasure of regional differences. Soon all will have the sins and blindnesses of the north without the virtues of the south.

July 13, 2015

Pope and Capitalism

I'm fascinated by the pope's anti-capitalism stand in part because I'm so curious what he makes of the gains made in millions of people in India and China brought about by capitalism. Perhaps that the relieved poverty is only temporary?  Or the toll capitalistic practices can take on the environment are not worth it?  Or that statistics are lies by another name?

A New York Times piece has an interesting quote:
[Pope] Francis has such a strong sense of urgency “because he has been on the front lines with real people, not just numbers and abstract ideas,” Mr. Schneck said. “That real-life experience of working with the most marginalized in Argentina has been the source of his inspiration as pontiff.”
Is it simply that Francis prefers an anecdotal approach than one involving measuring? Is it simply that he hasn't met anybody whose life was improved by capitalism? (I doubt he's buddy-buddy with any Chinese entrepreneurs or Indian middle class workers. Meanwhile, even rock star like Bono, hardly conservative, defends capitalism.)

I'm not sure why "numbers" are counterpoised with "real people" as if numbers of real people lifted from poverty is abstract because it involves a number.  Maybe unless you can put a name and face with a number... I guess it's the same impetus of a pro-life group posting pictures of aborted babies on billboards -- i.e. that unless you see it, you don't believe it.

July 10, 2015

Ode to the Donald

Oh, say can you see by the Don's early light
What so proudly he hailed at the Apprentice last screening?
Whose broad swipes and blight tars thru the merry-less fright,
O’er the sham tarts we watched were so silently screaming?
And the Donald's red glare, his bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through this sight that our nation is bare,
Oh, say does that star-bangled ego yet wave...

Football Cards I Have Known

July 08, 2015

Non-Imprimatur'd Thoughts

I read somewhere an opinion piece suggesting men are necessary as priests as a sort of acknowledgement of the weakness of men, that without this “carrot” they would be indifferent to religion even more so than is already currently the fashion. Already women comprise sixty percent or more of congregations, and there's the sense that if they became priests that number would rise.

And I thought of that while I read something about the breakdown of the family, suggesting the respect and responsibility men had back in the '40s and '50s was irreplaceable. From a short story in Paris Review:
“…at least patriarchy existed. I mean, as a social system it was able to perpetuate itself. There were families with children, and most of them had children. In other words, it worked, whereas now there aren't enough children, so we're finished.”
It's perhaps that God condescends to the weakness of the male that he allows him positions of authority like father or priest.


One could see the ocean as impossibly large and impersonal, as something so big that it's a resource wasteful and easily wasted --  but with a slightly larger frame of reference you notice it's a mere speck in the solar system let alone the galaxy let alone the universe. Given that perspective, it's incomparably precious.

I think of the water cycle, the way vapor from the ocean rises to clouds and snows or rains miles away, and I think of how careful nature is to recycle, such that we could learn a lesson.


The pope's encyclical is engaging because it's not too abstruse or theological, but neither is it the dumbed-down cliche-driven bromides given at weekly audiences. Those weekly audiences are pep talks, like what you might hear in the huddle in a football game. Here Francis is at his most persuasive by explaining the why of it, not sound bytes.


The first reading today was Jacob's hip problem after wrestling with God. It made such an impression on his fellows that the Israelites began avoiding the eating of the sciatic muscle, presumably as a way of remembrance and reverence. You'll know Jacob by his limp, in Heaven, just as Thomas (and us) shall know Jesus by his wounds. When God and man come together there are injuries, bruises, collisions of wills.

“I have seen God and lived,” says Jacob, the Old Testament's version of salvation and God's approval. To look upon God or to enter the Holy of Holies was to court death, or ecstasy. Now we receive Christ in the sacrament, more holy than the Holy of Holies, but know that the Judgement Day will be a risky, risky business, and so in that sense not too different from the ancient Jews.


Thursday I hitched up my pony (my bike) and made out while the getting was good. Put my earphones in and listened to music while cycling to the very end of the bike path. First time this year. The old saying about corn, “knee high by the fourth of July” is now “eye high” by this Fourth of July.

Towards the very end of the path I came across that rarest of rare sights: a bluebird. Man but that's a beautiful bird. Though surely not more so than a cardinal and yet I'm numb to cardinals having seen them so often. We only seem to appreciate the rare, the scarce! Is that why no prophet is without honor except in his own hometown?  A hometown prophet (like the cardinal) is too familiar to people to warrant appreciation and belief?

A fine ride it was on intermittent sunshine, sun that would soon falter and weaken and die, going to sleep around noon-thirty after which it became relentlessly overcast and rainy.  “A Republic, if you can keep it,” said one of the Founding Fathers of this nation. “A sunny day, if you can keep it,” sayeth I today.


The Fourth was, shockingly, sunny.  We checked out the fireworks that night and it's just so much more amazing in person versus the television screen and it makes me think that so too is the experience of the astronauts in space back in the '70s compared to our watching them on TV. Some things just can't be replicated or approximated.  Really, I'm not sure why the bother to televise them.

Then the next day to the ol' ball orchard. There's nothing quite like the moment you first glimpse the ballpark through the narrow walkway (section 140 in this case). It's “visual poetry”, seeing that expanse of green with only the outfielder and pitcher in view (we arrived after the game started). I felt with that first glimpse the way Emily Dickinson felt about the sea:
    Exultation is the going
    Of an inland soul to sea–
    Past the houses, past the headlands,
    Into Deep Eternity!
    Bred as we, among the mountains
    Can the sailor understand
    The divine intoxication
    Of the first league out from land?
So a nice couple hours at the ol' ball orchard despite the cloudiness and the shock of beer prices - $22.50 for two of them. Culpable, to buy beer at those prices. I think beer at a ball game is price inelastic, to borrow a term from Econ 101. You can charge pretty much anything and you'll have suckers.


Light ups like slots
Lightning bugs at dusk
Running the 8:55 bus
To immortality (a mate and offspring).


While plenty of people assert, validly, that God still works miracles in our day, there's no doubt that He doesn't raise people from the dead anymore. Or at least I haven't heard of it happening. That suggests that miracles should not be used as a proxy for God's care and concern for us. One can be certain that if more miracles and dead-raisings would truly help us, God would do it. And the proof of that is the Cross: St Augustine wrote, “He came to the marriage bed of the cross…and when he sensed the creature sighing in her breath, he surrendered himself to torment for his bride in a communication of love.” As much as I tend to think miracles show God's love, it's really not so because miracles are simply an expression of power and take absolutely no effort on God's part. Becoming man and dying on a cross takes effort and shows a level of love that dwarfs the mere exercise of power.


Kind of interesting to think of Christ as the "real Pan".  A shepherd of flocks and herds.  Man and God (as Pan was goat and man).  Christ's sudden appearance (Resurrection appearances) caused terror initially. "God of nature or the universe". 

July 01, 2015

Vignette Reportage

Sing, muse, of lakes of books, nay, seas of them, all for $2 each regardless of merit. And similarly huge selection of $2 DVDs.

I'm speaking of the Half-Price Books clearance sale held at the huge Ohio Expo Center held annually (and last weekend). We walked in Saturday to a warehouse filled with long tables of books: a tsunami of books, a greedy bibliophile's delight or curse -- curse because you can't look at a fraction of them. It's a drown-a-thon, and to have an hour there is to just smell the coffee grinds.

I bought but was surely influenced heavily by the cheap prices. It's hard to keep one's head in that heady atmosphere. The trick is to ask myself: Would I buy this for near full price? Would I be likely to buy it in the future? If so, get it, otherwise no.

Day 2, Sunday, we went back for more and I picked up Frost/Nixon and Borat  on DVD which was sweet as hotcakes and syrup. Both were movies I'd toyed with paying full price for, so ironically the DVDs are probably what I ought to have concentrated on.

Saturday was chilly and cloudy and windy, like San Francisco but without the sun or charming Victorians. We gamely happy hour'd out on the front porch, covered up in blankets. Mark Twain said the coldest summer he ever spent was in San Fran, but Columbus this year might be in the money.

Later that night we watched some Alaskan Bush People , a reality TV show.  The thing about the family depicted is how strikingly individual each one is. Most are pretty eccentric - something more typical in the country than the city, perhaps due to the lack of leveling conformity of culture. Or perhaps due in this case to a bedrock layer of acceptance. It's only with that sense of love undergirding us that we can be fully who we were meant to be, in all of our wild weirdness, and not captives to trying to please others by being someone we're not, by wearing masks. Hence the saints are said to be wildly unique.

Brief Thoughts on Gay Marriage Decision

What has the Supreme Court to do with Christianity? Nothing. It seems like for some of those without religion, the court system is their vindication, the instrument of absolving of sin. The nine “priests” on the Court have ruled that the homosexual lifestyle is a-ok, and that's what they wanted most. “We are not our desires,” is one of my favorite church catchphrases. To say “I am gay” is to reduce one's complexity and dignity to mere desire for same-gender sex.

Sadly the way these things happen is we swing widely from one extreme to the other - there's no middle ground.  Thus we enslaved blacks and now prefer them via affirmative action and college placement.  Similarly our society once bullied and demeaned gays, but now they will be looked upon as saints and anybody criticizing their lifestyle will be persecuted.  Alas.

But God (not some human form of what we might call "love") wins in the end.