May 31, 2005

That Hoits!

My brother-in-law, who is a landscaper, stopped by the house yesterday and after surveying the garden asked if my tomato plants, which look pale and sickly unto death, were "volunteers".
Packing Heat

All booklovers know the great drama that is packing books for a trip. Knowing which to choose is an art and not a science since it requires an openness to serendipty and grace that is somewhat beyond our control. Nevertheless, I try to approach it with some organization.

The "four food groups" of my vactional reading include: fiction, history/biography, spiritual, and baseball. Or, to switch metaphors and stretch the analogy, they are the four major conferences whose champions will receive an automatic bid into my suitcase.

The rulz say: I will take the top three finishers in each conference except baseball, which is given only one automatic bid. All other books have to precariously rely on an "at large" bid, which is dependent in part by their physical size, their suitability for beach reading, and of course desirability.

I already know some of the automatic bid winners:

Fiction: "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens; "Sanibel Flats" by Randy Wayne White
History/Bio: Rothman's "Early Bird", Douthat's "Privilege"
Spritual: Nash's "Worthy is the Lamb", "Blessed Margaret of Castello" by Fr. Bonniwell
Baseball: "The Old Ball Game" by Frank Deford. (There is usually very little competition in this category; only Jack McKeon's "I'm Just Getting Started" this time.)

Here are just a few of the hundred books who are battling for either third place in one of the conferences or for an at large bid:

  • Kevin O'Hara's "Last of the Donkey Pilgrims"
  • Joseph Pearce's "Literary Giants, Literary Catholics"
  • Waugh's "Helena"
  • WFB's "Miles Gone By"
  • Kreeft's "The God Who Loves You"
  • Naipul's "The Writer and the World"
  • Russell Kirk's "Ancestral Shadows"

    The total number of at large bids varies depending on length of vacation, size of suitcase, and size of the "at large" books. Just going on the trip doesn't guarantee anything of course. Of all those receiving suitcase bids typically only three will become favorites during the week and one actually finished. Last year's ultimate winner was Joseph Pearce's biography of Oscar Wilde, which wasn't suprising in hindsight given that it contained a mix of poetry, history and spirituality - nourishing enough to contain all the major food groups except baseball. This is akin to a team having a great guy in the middle, an excellent ballhandler and a great outside shooter.
  • May 29, 2005

    Two Perspectives

    When I was perusing the angst of the progressive bloggers post Benedict's selection one stood out. She said that the election of the pope simply doesn't matter to her, that her faith isn't in the pope and will continue unaffected by whoever sits in that chair. And I wasn't sure whether this was the best or worse response from the liberal bloggers.

    But I know there is a humility and a becoming littleness in what Scott Hahn, who would seem far less in need of a spiritual father than most of us, recently wrote in his newsletter:
    I find it hard to describe how much I depend on the spiritual fatherhood of the pope. We are one family as Catholics. And for a couple of weeks, I know you, too, felt like orphans. Then suddenly, a new Holy Father was raised up for us. We have a pope!

    And what a pope we have. Benedict XVI is one of the world's most profound biblical theologians. I don't think any pope since Peter has equaled Benedict in his knowledge of the Old Testament. He writes like a man who works out his theology on his knees in prayer.
    The 5-Hour Camping Trip

    My in-laws like to camp and head out every Memorial Day weekend from Friday morn to Monday afternoon. My wife and I generally join them for a 30 hour stint but it was shrunk to five this year on account of rain and fatigue and lack of interest. I can’t say I’m too upset although I do miss the post-camping euphoria. Camping, like swimming the English Channel, may not be enjoyable at the time but afterwards you feel whistle-clean.

    But five hours lends no sense of accomplishment and instead the opposite. On the way home my brother-in-law’s voice on the cell sounds crestfallen. He is coming up Sunday morning and we are going home Saturday night and all we can say in our defense is that we are duds. His disappointment is oddly touching and I consider the possibility of making the 90-minute trip back to the camp the next day until sanity is restored.

    We got there about five on Saturday and it’s pouring down rain. We make for the camper and lay down, lethargic from the drive. In my drowse I hear ominous words like “house boat”, “Lake Cumberland” and “rent” and I lie back down. The sound of the rain against the canvas top is comforting and relaxing.

    The rain eventually quits and we’re back out doing what camping is all about: preparing the next meal. It’s discovered we’re low on firewood so four of us head back to Aldephia, Ohio population 400. The trip takes about 45 minutes and then we can begin cooking in earnest. There are pork chops, steak, chicken, brats, mets, hamburgers and hot dogs. Paradise for the Atkins dieter.

    By 8:30pm we’re sitting down to dinner and getting down to some serious eating. An hour later we’re staring catatonically at the fire, giving Gov. Bob Tax hell. We try to solve the school funding crisis. By 10 we’re back on the road, and by midnight back in our own bed.
    Of Books

    NR’s Nordlinger quotes someone who quotes ancient Chinese scholar Yuan Mei that sums up how I feel some days: "The moment I awake, I long for my library and bound towards it, swift as a thirsty cat."

    The books on my shelves stand like a collection of future promises not unlike the gleam of whiskey bottles behind a bar. I wake with a thirst for a specific book, apropos of nothing. “Worthy is the Lamb” is something that has recently been the target of that thirst. But it could just as easily be Mark Falanga’s “The Suburban You” or Frank Deford’s bio of John McGraw & Christy Matthewson.

    As with NFP, a few days away makes the heart go fonder. There's nothing better than sitting in the recliner feeding the mind after having exhausted the body with exercise.
    The Bane of Spring, Summer, Fall and Early Winter

    I see the inevitability in sounding like a curmudgeon. But if there's one thing that really grates on me about spring is that horrible tune the Ice Cream man plays as he makes his rounds.

    And makes his rounds he does. When I was a kid we got maybe five visits a summer if we were lucky. Now the truck comes around pert near every other day. Doesn't matter that it's April and 50 degrees with a 30 degree wind chill, there's the ice cream man playing that maddening tune at the decibel level of the average jackhammer. You can hear him three neighborhoods over.

    This can be explained by a few trends. First, we've become much more of a service industry, and mr. ice cream is yet another service. Second, parents can no longer direct the word "no" to children and still remain on speaking terms with them. Third, ice cream isn't just for breakfast anymore - it's become recognized as one of the four major food groups. That must be true since there are three ice cream joints within a mile of my home and someone must be buying.
    Slippery Slope?

    Has the slippery slope come to Jeff Culbreath's blog? He who has trod the narrow way for so long has at last succumbed to a book quiz.

    This prompted our crack research team to do some digging, suspecting that Jeff had reneged on a promise. Oh me of little faith. This has turned out to be false, as he'd never promised us a rose garden or to avoid a book meme. And a quick check confirmed that I have been mostly successful in keeping my promises too.
    From same NR article:
    [Flannery O'Connor] frequently turned that unflinching gaze of hers upon herself. More often than not, the characters in O’Connor’s stories who are the most obtuse, the most prideful, are the isolated would-be intellectuals who believe their genius puts them beyond good and evil...what about Joy in “Good Country People”? Stuck in a rural home with a narrow-minded, pragmatic mother, Joy decides to withdraw into her own arcane studies (which sound a lot like deconstruction theory), taking the harsh name of "Hulga" to complete her self-reinvention. When a seemingly naïve and gawky young man comes to her door with bibles for sale, she thinks she can see through him. But she has another thing coming — experiencing a reversal that strikes down her pride. Did the writer, who chose to go by her unusual middle name, rather than her given name of Mary, see something of herself in the lonely, angry Hulga?

    May 28, 2005

    Wolfe asks: "Do good people make good art?"

    Interesting NR column on whether creativity is a virtue:
    So where does this leave us? If creativity seems unequally distributed, can bring about destruction, does not intrinsically aid in the moral perfection of the creative individual, and has been tainted by the Romantic cult of genius, it doesn’t seem to warrant consideration as a virtue.

    And yet there is something in most of us that accords a high measure of dignity and worth to the creative impulse. Nearly all the world’s religions are grounded in creation stories that also ennoble human beings as agents who perpetuate the divine act of creation by their own actions. In turn, each human action partakes in some measure of the supernatural powers of the creator.

    On a personal level, we witness and are enriched by the grandeur of creativity when we see it embodied in art or engineering or statecraft. We sense that creativity lies at the heart of what makes us human, and that without it our lives would be spiritually and materially impoverished.

    The world’s great religious traditions reinforce this intuition...While creativity itself may not be a virtue, then, I would argue that the truest, most unsentimental thing we can say about creativity is that it is a constant invitation to virtue...
    As the Solemnity of Corpus Christi Nears

    ...An excellent reminder on adoration of the Holy Eucharist.

    May 27, 2005

    Up Arrow for The Word Among Us

    Like Julie of Happy Catholic, I used to be very content with my Magnificat subscription. And I do miss it from time to time. But like her I switched to the meditations in The Word Among Us. I appreciate the greater simplicity and practicality and most of all the tone of encouragement.

    A recent example:
    We’ve all read fairy tales about a baker or a woodsman or a rash widow who was granted three wishes and squandered all three of them on silly things. And we’ve all thought: “My first wish would be to have an unlimited number of wishes!” This is the kind of mentality that lay behind James’ and John’s request: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). It’s as if they were treating Jesus like an all-purpose appliance existing only to do their bidding. When challenged by Jesus, they quickly claimed to be willing to pay the price for the honor they sought. But it’s clear that they had no idea what “drinking the cup” entailed.

    How easy it can be to approach Jesus in the Eucharist in the same way—with a wish list of sins we want forgiven and favors we want granted, but with no sense of being connected to him. On one level, such an approach appears to honor him as sovereign Lord. But if we really want to know how to come to Jesus at Mass, perhaps we should ask how he approaches us.

    “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)...Instead of coming to the Eucharist with a list of petitions or asking Jesus to fill you with blessings, try this approach every now and then. Try offering to Jesus everything you have: the work you did last week, your talents, and your accomplishments. Come to him the way he comes to us—as one who gives instead of one who receives. You’ll be amazed at how much heavenly grace will flow into your life. Just like Jesus, you will be lifted up by your Father in heaven.
    After all these years KTC comes out of retirement to play...

    ...Alphabet Meme!

    (because you can take the blogger out of the ham, but not the ham out of the blogger!)
    Age = a scant 5 years away from AARP eligibility!
    Booze = Carrabba-rita (big Margarita—plenty of salt—with a surprising splash of Amaretto)
    Career = Yes: homemaker and salon-hostess
    Dad’s Name = Bill
    Essential Party Items = cigars
    Favorite Song at the Moment = “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow”
    Hometown = West Chester, PA
    Instrument = guitar
    Jam = Blackberry, seedless raspberry; Jelly = guava
    Kids = 5, plus my husband’s 22-y-o cousin who resides with us
    Living arrangement = house
    Mom’s name = Cass
    Names of Best Friends = Lynne, Kat, Valerie, Robin, Jane
    Overnight Hospital Stays = 9
    Phobias = husband barging in and announcing “Time to Clean” before I’ve had three days to prepare mentally
    Quote I like = “It is idle to play the lyre for an ass” (my man Jerome)
    Relationship that lasted longest = marriage: 20 years; friendship with Lynne: since 7th grade (33 years)
    Siblings = nope
    Vegetable I love = Fried OKRA!
    XRays = teeth, lungs, spine
    Yummy Food I Make = My Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce; Special Recipe Fried Okra; Enchilada Casserole; Pulled Pork BBQ
    Zodiac Sign = Sagittarius (just like Anna Nicole Smith)
    Alphabet Meme

    A is for Age - "old enough to know better but still too young to care" (song lyric I like)
    B is for Booze - yes
    C is for Career - yes
    D is for Dad’s name - Mark
    E is for Essential items to bring to a party - Guinness
    F is for Favorite song at the moment - Baby Girl, Sugarland
    H is for Hometown - small town in southwestern Ohio
    I is for Instrument you play - sousaphone
    J is for Jam or Jelly you like - blueberry
    K is for Kids - One
    L is for Living arrangement - a house
    M is for Mom’s name - Mary
    N is for Names of best friends - Dave, Jeff
    O is for overnight hospital stays - yes
    P is for Phobias - hard work
    Q is for Quote you like - "He jests at scars that never felt a wound." - Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet"
    R is for Relationship that lasted longest - Other than siblings, Hambone probably
    S is for Siblings - one sister and one brother
    V if for Vegetable you love - brussel sprouts
    W is for Worst trait - laziness
    X - is for XRays you’ve had - teeth
    Y is for Yummy food you make - O'Garlic poor boys
    Z is for Zodiac sign - Cancer
    Comments on Commenters from a Commentless Blog

    I'm lately fascinated by the commenters any given blog attracts. Over a period of time, does this say something about the blogger or do certain commenters create a climate independent of the blog? Do bad commenters drive out good in a sort of Gresham's Law?

    The vast majority of blogs get too few comments to have any climate at all. But my impression (no empirical work has been done in service of this post) is that Mark Shea's blog has, or had, a higher quotient of the idiotic and mean-spirited than Amy Welborn's.

    Camassia's are polite and intellectual; Tom of Disputations are impolite and intellectual. Tom's commenters are probably the most annoying per capita. Two frequent commenters bring hobbyhorses: one is fixated on money and another on just war theory. It's oddly fascinating to see how the latter will slip in a reference to war in a completely foreign context. (Well, I generally skip his comments so it must not be that fascinating.) If bad commenters are temptations to crossness, then there are those who flee from temptation (me, Eve T., & Mark of Minute Particulars ?) and those who embrace them as temptations to be overcome.

    I'm not holding my comments as any sort of standard, especially compared to someone like Neil who modestly quotes only other people's words. There is something oddly inspiring in this, a tacit recognition that what we say has usually already been said better by someone in the past. There's an "I must decrease, You must increase" flavor. He must have a large library and a nose for good quotes.
    Bingo Redux

    For an introvert like me, volunteering at bingo is far too stimulating. I come home hyper and can't get to sleep and then wake up early to make up for it.

    Perhaps writing about it will help leave it behind.

    First there's the gentle, befuddled look of the bingo caller, who I have the sneaking suspicion might be a saint. I first noticed him at Mass where he sings in the choir. He sings with the abandon reserved for the drunken or the innocent. I also saw him singing Handel's Messiah at an annual city event held at a local Lutheran church. And he goes to Eucharistic Adoration and adores. And he has a smile for everyone, an equal-opportunity smile. But I can't know his soul so it's just a hunch. And, as most really decent people, he gets abused. You're supposed to have to call for only two of the four hours since it gets tiring, but he calls for the whole time because no one else is trained or wants to. Apparently no one wants to be a callers since they get heckled and require thick skin.

    I make my rounds selling instant winner tickets. And since I work in an office that is as homogeneous as it gets (mostly white males, mid 30s, running the gamut from middle class to upper middle class), it's a little slice of cinema veritas here at bingo.

    Most interesting was the attractive woman in her early 30s sitting in the back. She was showing acres of leg and thigh but there was something just a bit off. I couldn't quite figure it. Was it her hairline? Her facial features? Just something. Now since a full circuit takes only a minute and since bingo lasts forever, this means I'm making more circuits than Michael Jackson has problems. And each time it dawns on me, to my horror and deepening curiosity, that she is...or was... a he. A transsexual. The deeper-than-normal voice eventually confirmed my suspicions.

    Then there was the guy who was just amazingly large. Not only obese, but just plain big. His shoulders and back were just explosively large is the only way I can say it. His wife was anorexic. Must've weighed 80 lbs. The mind reels at a couple so physically mismatched. They looked vaguely familiar until it finally dawned on me -- they were the husband & wife from The Incredibles!

    A blonde, well-dressed professional woman sat near the entrance. That alone was intriguing since well-dressed professionals stick out here like Fenians singing "God Save the Queen". She bought tickets from me as inobtrusively as possible. No wasted motion. I wonder what brought her here.

    The crowd was younger this time. There were several very attractive, well-endowed women. Alas. And here I'd thought bingo was God's gift to the lustful Christian.

    It was painful to hear the numbers get called and have to sit on the (obvious) line "you sunk my battleship!". I finally used it on a co-worker, since that's what co-workers are for. I think he smiled.

    May 26, 2005

    Pharmaceutical Ethics

    Heard a talk show host castigating a pharmacist for wanting the right not to have to fill a prescription for what I assume was the morning after pill. The talk show host, Mike McConnell, says if he doesn't want to fill a legal prescription then he should sacrifice his job. He said early Christians died for the faith and now they won't sacrifice their job. The pharmacist replied that doctors don't have to perform abortions but McConnell said that that's because their job allows specialization while a pharmacist job does not. The pharmacist said that when he signed up he wasn't signing up to fill death pills - i.e. they changed the rules. McConnell countered that perhaps there were early Christians became Christians before the rules changed on whether you could be a Christian.

    It's an interesting subject. Obviously a pharmacy owner doesn't have to stock what it doesn't want to stock and the government shouldn't be allowed to force them. But should that worker's right be respected and keep that particular job? I'm sympathetic to McConnell's point. Yet in our age we seem to accommodate a person's conscience as long as they're not a Christian. What the pharmacists need to do is just find a American Indian who can't fill a certain prescription and let them represent them in court. Teehee.
    ___

    From Pope John Paul II in Centesimus Annus:
    Authentic democracy is possible only in a state ruled by law, and on the basis of a correct conception of the human person. It requires that the necessary conditions be present for the advancement both of the individual through education and formation in true ideals, and of the “subjectivity” of society through the creation of structures of participation and shared responsibility. Nowadays there is a tendency to claim that agnosticism and skeptical relativism are the philosophy and the basic attitude which correspond to democratic forms of political life. Those who are convinced that they know the truth and firmly adhere to it are considered unreliable from a democratic point of view, since they do not accept that truth is determined by the majority, or that it is subject to variation according to different political trends. It must be observed in this regard that if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.
    Update: Looks like Amy and her posse have already covered this topic in depth.
    St. Philip Neri Feast

    Here's a saint whose example is like medicine to our age - he was cheerful without artifice, joyous and humorous. Humble enough to be able to identify with the ultimate sinner - Judas. He said that serving the sick was the quickest path to saintliness.

    Here's hoping that Donna Marie Lewis will soon have her annual philip-bration on her blog...
    Speaking of Proof that Life is Unfair...

    ...Bill Luse hasn't blogged for ages.
    Rambling Thoughts

    The seasons seem temporal as we get older. Winter and summer seemed experientially more or less permanent fixtures when I was young. Perhaps there was less reason to gather up and treasure that first warm day in May, knowing there was plenty more where that came from...Spring has grown on me. When I was younger it seemed a pale imitation of summer, a sort of cooled over Episcopalian service compared to the majesty of summer's Tridentine rite. But now I'm less choosy. Perhaps part of my new appreciation is that when I was ten percent body fat, seventy degrees was borderline jacket weather. Now, at twenty percent body fat it feels positively balmy. And spring has many a fine 70-degree day.

    * * *

    I was driving out to the "sticks" Sunday, aka out to a rural area, when I happened across a tiny brick church. It was around 11:30am and they were still having their service and I'm a sucker for little country churches. I parked the car & poked my head in the window and saw maybe fifteen in attendence and a large heavyset man in a tan 3-piece suit energetically pounding on the table. I wanted to go in but decided there was no way I could do so unobtrusively. Movies can seem so contrived to me. Bingo and rural church services have the scent of the unfamiliar about them without contrivance.

    * * *

    Proof #371,212 that life is unfair: Steven Riddle got to sit in Sophia Loren's lap.
    Proof #371,213: he was six.

    * * *

    Sounds like spam but it's not: ball for life. Seriously, it goes to a fabulous cause - Fr. Groeschel's Good Counsel ministry for unwed mothers.

    * * *

    I'm pretty sure I'm the only man in the country with a Warren Carroll volume bookmarked by an evangelical (Vineyard) women's retreat (bookmark courtesy my wife).
    Snort Not Lest Ye Be Snorted

    The snorter in the next cubical reminds me of St. Therese. Not because he wears a habit or is a Doctor of the Church but because St. Therese taught suffering small annoyances with patience is meritorious. And surely they don't get any smaller than this. So I've tried to look at it in St. Therese's light. Only once have I radically failed; a (nearly) involuntary snort of my own when once he walked by my cubical as he engaged in a honker. Humor seems a great aid in dealing with minor anoyances although full disclosure requires that I don't recall reading that in "Story of a Soul"...
    To Tune "Killing Me Softly"

    Snorting quite loudly through his nasal cavity
    Singeing my ears with his sounds
    Driving me crazy with his song
    Driving me crazy with his song
    At irregular intervals, he snorts loud
    Driving me crazy
    ...with his song.

    I heard this is quite common
    in his native country
    And so I began to see it
    as my problem after awhile.
    I prayed that he would finish
    but he just kept right on...
    REF: Driving me crazy...

    He snorted as if he knew this
    would cause me dark despair
    And then he snorted right near me
    as if I wasn't there
    But he was there, this stranger,
    snorting clear and loud
    Snorting quite loudly while wearing earphones,
    Singeing my ears with his song,
    REF: Driving me crazy...

    May 25, 2005

    Ha!

    From National Review:


    " 'Do what you love, and the money
    will follow' sure doesn't seem to work
    very well with
    drinking."
    Vintage Post Sale



    In order to cut costs without sacrificing quality, I've decided to inaugurate a new feature here at VMPDS. "Vintage Post Sale" will reprint an oldie but goodie free of charge. Here's a post originally aired back in September 2003:
    Kathy Defends an Ass! ...film at 11

    "The only thing I would quibble with (both then and now) is the defamation of the character of Balaam's ass. Balaam's ass was the instrument of the Lord; her speech was supernaturally produced!"

    Other colorful KTC quotes include:

    "I did inform one young lady that she was on 'the bullet train to hell'".

    "In my little sphere, though, I'm not asked so much to give advice; rather, I end up hearing presentations of the cultural values of my seeker friends (and they ARE friends, not merely curiosities or my version of 'the white man's burden')."
    ___

    "...thyme’s always short."
    - Gregg the Obscure
        Spanning the Globe To Bring You The Constant Variety Of Posts

    Criminy. I turn my back for five minutes, and the place fills up with Protestants explaining Catholic theology to each other. Led by that most cautious and tentative dialectician, Rob. - Tom of Disputations

    Then I had a sudden inkling of the dorkiest thing I've ever done. Tom and the girls died laughing in agreement so it must be true. Ready? You're not gonna like it ...It is Happy Catholic....They find out how much time I spend blogging or reading blogs ..... hmmm, yeah, I'm going with this blog as my dorkiest moment ... which means I live my life in dorkiness ... as Queen Blogging Dork! Bow down before your queen! ha! -birthday girl Julie of "Happy Catholic"; I can relate.

    I was able (thanks to the miracle of cable television and being home sick as a dog) to watch hour upon hour of Catholic pageantry and punditry while simultaneously being fed even more information and commentary on the Web. Meanwhile, oh glorious day, the new Pope has been thoughtful and challenging and ooh, oh so cutely bookish! Heady stuff. The problem is: where does the joy of unified worship of God end and mere fannish enthusiasm begin? Can I keep my joy without becoming embarrassing or turning the culture of the Church into my idol in both senses? As usual, the test and the corrective action is the same: I have to turn my mind toward Christ, and Him crucified. - Banshee of Suburban Banshee

    Catholic Utopia is appealing and utterly unrealizable. The only groups that have really succeeded at such a venture are the Amish and the Mennonites and their faith builds in a community structure that most Catholics--consciously or unconsciously--eschew. - Steven Riddle

    Unlike the other books on this list, I’ve only read it once, but it was the right book at the right time. Those of us who are just plain complicated like me rather than complex like Aquinas sometimes have to go back to the source and learn to trust God like a little child, an art that the Little Flower raised to a level of complex beauty that would have made Aquinas smile in wonder. - on St. Therese's "Story of a Soul" by Matthew of "Holy Whapping"

    Rejoice with a great glad noise, without shame,
    Man alone pines, mourns, walks as though he's lame,
    Til one Man returns to teach him to sing.
    -excerpt of Steven Riddle poem

    How does Ms. Fonda approach The Word? "For me," she says, "it's metaphor." What does she mean? If something is metaphorical, it means that it isn't to be taken literally. When the movie Barbarella came out in 1968, starring Jane Fonda, guys used to say that she was "hot." They didn't mean that her body temperature was alarmingly elevated. "Hot" was simply a metaphor for the elevated temperatures of their own libidos, which is to say: she looked sexy. What does Ms. Fonda mean by calling The Word "metaphor"? Does she mean that the Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension, Redemption, and promise of Eternal Life are not to be taken literally? - Dr. Blosser of "Musings of a Pertinacious Papist"

    Santorum told National Catholic Reporter, a U.S.-based weekly, that he considered George W. Bush, a Methodist, to be "the first Catholic president of the United States."... Santorum explained his claim to me: "What I meant was if you look at the two major issues of the church, it's sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage and the family -- and third is care for the poor. And you have a president who is consistent with Catholic social teaching on all of these issues." - NY Times piece on Sen. Rick Santorum

    The Anti Christian Liberties Union - title of Karen Hall post on "Some Have Hats", describing the ACLU mandate
    Don Marquis Poem
    We are ourselves, and not ourselves . . .
    For ever thwarting pride and will
    Some forebear’s passion leaps from death
    To claim a vital license still.

    Ancestral lusts that slew and died,
    Resurgent, swell each living vein;
    Old doubts and faiths, new panoplied,
    Dispute the mastery of the brain.
    - Excerpt of "Selves" by Don Marquis

    May 24, 2005

    Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

    Well there was a standoff and the Republicans blinked. As Pat Buchanan said on Imus today, over the past few decades twelve Supreme Court justices have been nominated, ten by Republican presidents. And four of the ten were duds. Souter, Blackman, John Paul Stevens & one other, whose name thankfully escapes. And three are swing voters. Only three conservatives. It's no wonder the judiciary has become a law-making entity.

    It's hard to support the abuse of the filibuster for the purpose of further abusing the judiciary. The Democrats used the filibuster like Mayberry's Otis Campbell hit the bottle. It's the oldest story in the book: abuse a privilege, lose a privilege. Besides, the filibuster ain't what it used to be in Mr. Smith's day. Now you can phone it in.

    McCain, God love him, I've always wanted to vote for him. I admire the heck out of him. But I can't. He's out for me in '08. (I'm sure he's quaking.) And et tu Sen. Mike Dewine? What are you standing up there with Olympia Snow & Sen. Collins & Sen. Warner? Birds of a feather? Have you gone Washington on us?
    Rest Homes

    One of the things I wish I'd read more about on blogs is a discussion on how to treat the elderly with care and respect and when the use of a rest home is necessary.

    A couple decades ago they were to be devoutly avoided, thought to be houses of abuse. My grandmother recently went to one and I was surprised by the quality of the rooms and beauty of the building. The workers there are by all accounts wonderful. But she obviously misses her house and I wonder if there couldn't have been another way.

    My wife says, bravely, that our parents will never go to a rest home because we will take them in. Which is only right, as there is a good symmetry to it as in the saying, "we'll change our parent's diapers as they changed ours". But speaking for self, I'm not sure I wouldn't prefer a stranger do that than a loved one. Is it in some way easier to be vulnerable in front of a stranger than a loved one? Or is that squeamishness a part of the larger problem of a culture which likes to farm off to strangers less than pleasant tasks?

    I guess an obvious case of the need for a rest home is when it is too dangerous to leave them alone for even short periods of time, which seems to be the case with my grandmother. The around-the-clock availability of a nurse on call is comfort. But rest homes feel unnatural, a kind of re-institutionalization.
    That's Gotta Hurt!

    Oh the slings and arrows of outrageous fate. Ham o' Bone just called to say that he checked the latest Variety and lo & behold Sly Stallone is directing a film about Edgar Allen Poe, who happened to be the subject of Bone's latest screenplay. Obviously Stallone has been monitoring our emails and/or conversations. In fact he may be reading th- [I will encrypt]:

    Fejm33mkajb7  372mccmb7 ddjf7cm321 2jm   djxu722mm

    This has happened to Bone before when wrote a sequel to the classic Dumb & Dumber (having done due dilligence in reading Variety and other magazines to assure no one was making or thinking of making the sequel) only to have to shop it around in competition with what would become the non-classic Dumb & Dumberer.

    His wife wonders if this is a sign from God. My take on it (Bone thinks it sounds Jungian) is that ideas often come in bunches, as people are constantly reacting to their culture in somewhat predictable ways. If you want to sell something, the key appears to be not on the leading edge, but slightly ahead of the leading edge.
    Comfort With Contradiction

    Jonah Goldberg on the definition of a conservative:
    I think any definitive definition would have to take the notion into account: Comfort with contradiction. I mean this in the broadest metaphysical sense and the narrowest practical way. Think of any leftish ideology and at its core you will find a faith that circles can be closed, conflicts resolved. Marxism held that in a truly socialist society, contradictions would be destroyed. Freudianism led the Left to the idea that the conflicts between the inner and outer self were the cause of unnecessary repressions...

    Listen to Democratic politicians when they wax righteous about social policy. Invariably it goes something like this: “I simply reject the notion that in a good society X should have to come at the expense of Y.” X can be security and Y can be civil liberties. Or X can be food safety and Y can be the cost to the pocketbook of poor people. Whatever X and Y are, the underlying premise is that in a healthy society we do not have tradeoffs between good things. In healthy societies all good things join hands and walk up the hillside singing I’d like to buy the world a coke. Think about why the Left is obsessed with hypocrisy and authenticity. The former is the great evil, the latter the closest we can get to saintliness. Hypocrisy implies a contradiction between the inner and outer selves. That’s a Freudian no-no in and of itself....[part of the] general hostility the Left has to the idea that we should live in any way that doesn’t "feel" natural. We must all listen to our inner children.

    Now look at the arguments of conservatives. They are almost invariably arguments about trade-offs, costs, “the downside” of a measure...The beauty of the conservative movement — as Buckley noted in that original essay — is that we all get along with each other pretty well. The chief reason for this is that we all understand and accept the permanence of contradiction and conflict in life. Christians and Jews understand it because that’s how God set things up.
    I agree with Jonah but I don't think only the left goes gaga over hypocrisy. Bill Clinton was the poster child for it wasn't he? There was much angst when it was said he was using church services for photo ops, complete with large telegenic bible. He stole conservative ideas and then took credit for them and that drove us conservatives crazy. So while I agree that hypocrisy is the joystick that moves liberals, I'm not sure it isn't a feature of modernity rather than a feature of any one party.
    Cowboys & Disco

    Jeff's post about cowboys reminded me how growing up during the '70s/80s there seemed two models for dissolute men boys on the silver screen. One was John Travolta and the Saturday Night Fever mentality. It seemed a decadence. There was nothing attractive in men who were full of pride and weak with addictions.

    But cowboys seemed to capture the attractive side of wildness. They were humble about their vices. They were hard workers, evidenced by the long cattle drives. Dodge City was not their life (as it was with the club worshippers), it was a reward at the end of a many months. They were forced into chastity and temperance for much of the time. There was a sort of purity in their debauchery although that makes it more dangerous since the "boys will be boys" attitude seemed attractively presented.
    Fictional Tuesday
    Nuala's heritage was clouded in the otherworldly. It was said she was descended from a race of kings in a far away village in a mountainous region off the rockey Lughaidian coast.

    All of the villagers there, so the tale goes, had either blood the color of robin's eggs or blood black as coal. The peasants had black blood and the royals blue and so lineage would be easy to tell except they never bled, and to bleed themselves was a great taboo and so most lived in the unknowing.

    Nuala knew her father had blue blood because it was said she'd required a transfusion at birth. The country doctor was no longer alive and the details were murky, which led one villager who wore his black blood on his sleeve to call the facts made up, something said only to reassure her, since she certainly didn't look like her father. She had to admit her nose was broad and flat while her father's long and sharp. His hair was gold and her's dark, like the peasant Milesians.

    She thought it odd that when she was younger and looked even less like her father she assumed her blood blue, but now even though her nose had matured and looked a bit less flat this only seemed to remind her of how much she didn't look him. Would she trust only that which she could see, only her features? Or would she know her blood blue despite the accuser?
    _

    And divine grace is the inestimable treasure through which vile creatures and servants like ourselves become dear friends of our Creator. -St. Alphonsus

    May 23, 2005

    2001 Film

    The Lipstick Librarian describes her initial viewing of 2001 A Space Odyssey.
    Sunshine On My Shoulders...

    ..makes me healthy.

    First dark beer, and now the sun. God is good.
    Mowing the Land

    Scarlett: Oh, Pa. You talk like an Irishman.
    Gerald: It's proud I am that I'm Irish, and don't you be forgetting, Missy, that you're half-Irish, too. And, to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them - why, the land they live on is like their mother. Oh, but there, there. Now, you're just a child. It'll come to you, this love of the land. There's no getting away from it if you're Irish.


    Is there a man whose heart doesn’t beat faster when atop a riding mower? Why, he is king of his world then, there upon his green chariot, producing a fine felt carpet in his wake! There he sits like Eddie Albert upon his tractor making the land his own. Nay I say what man doesn’t hold the immortal words of the poet Victor Mizzy close to his heart?--
    Green Acres is the place to be!
    Farm livin’ is the life for me,
    Land, spreadin’ out, so far & wide!
    Keep Manhattan just give me that countryside
    And you can do fun stuff like see how fast you can go without wrecking into a tree. This requires lightning-fast reflexes and great hand-eye coordination which I have in abundance, most obviously shown by my Kindergarden grade of S+ (satisfactory plus to the uninitiated) in coordination skills.

    You can do figure-eights, or cut messages into the turf like when in newlywed bliss I cut a swath reminding my wife I loved her. She could make it out from the 2nd story window.

    Yes, few pleasures are as underrated as riding the mower. There's the smell of grass in the air, the feel of the saddle, & the knowledge that the dog poop you just ran over would've found your shoes had you a push mower. Progress may not always be progressive but exceptions can be made.
    The Rapture & Redemptive Suffering

    I think the Rapture as popularized by the Left Behind series is hogwash. And one of the reasons that it sounds implausible is that it's not the divine pattern to arrange for the good to avoid suffering in this life. God shows no favoritism, unless one looks upon the opportunity to suffer as a sign of favoritism. (Do all the saints have that outlook in common? I should ask Kathy Shaidle - see previous post.)

    St. Thérèse's father, for example, lapsed into mental illness and was hospitalized for the rest of his life just days after she entered the Carmelite order. An extremely bitter pill for her since she loved him so dearly. But she said that God must love her father very much to allow him to suffer so. It would never occur to her that this was a sign of divine disfavor. Similarly, another sister in her order soon fell ill and the nuns resolved to pray for her but St. Thérèse saw that it would not avail - in a dream she saw that sister with a luminous cross on her back.

    May 22, 2005

    Woe to the Late Sleepers

    Kathy Shaidle has stalked the saints looking for commonalities. In "A Catholic Alphabet" she writes,
    'Saint watching' is a longtime hobby of mine. The only thing I know for sure about the saints is that I know very little about them, even after years of not-very-scholarly study...(From what I can make out, the only trait they all share is an aversion to sleeping late).
    Russia's Slow Suicide

    This was predictable. Of course the breakup of the Soviet Union was going to be blamed for Russia's national drinking problem. The money quote: "Dr. Alexey Magalif, a prominent Moscow psychiatrist whose private clinic specializes in the treatment of alcoholism and depression, thinks Russian society has 'very deep psychological problems in the wake of the breakup of the Soviet Union'".

    But the same article provides a statistic that refutes this as the cause of suicide by alcohol: "Drinking began to rise dramatically in the Soviet Union about 50 years ago...per-capita consumption in 1950 was the equivalent of 0.8 gallons of pure alcohol per year. By 1985 it had soared to 3.75 gallons per person. In recent years it's climed again, to 4 gallons per person."

    So it's at 3.75 gallons per person in '85 - before the fall of the Soviet Union in '89 - and we're supposed to think that the breakup was the cause? It's irritating to read this and have to pretend that there's no spiritual dimension to all of this. Nowhere in the article did it dare be politically incorrect enough to suggest that perhaps a society which cultivated atheism might eventually spiral downwards.
    Sol & Me

    Back when I was young and more impressionable, I read a very influential book by Sol Gordon. This was back in the '80s when Planned Parenthood seemed a benevolent organization. I was naive and thought that experts like Dr. Gordon spoke with authority. If he said fornication was natural and normal then it might be. He seemed far more up-to-date than my fast-receding-in-memory fifth grade nun. In fact, the biggest shock, post-college, was to learn that goodness and expert opinion were so often mutually exclusive.

    Gordon was very literate & wrote interesting poems & recommended novelists like Iris Murdoch, whom I hadn't hear of at the time but took a great liking to. He also had the audacity to call Margaret Sanger one of his personal heroes but I didn't know her from Adam. And it seemed his modus operandi was pleasure. The secret to life. He claimed, persuasively, that if "we want to grow up, and not old, we should be able to intensely enjoy at least the number of things equal to our age." In his view of things, survival was our first responsibility and survival was dependent on the amount of pleasure we derived.

    After all these years I googled his name. Wondered if he might be preaching a different gospel. And sadly the answer is no.
    Random Thoughts

    Overheard a remarkable comment from Fr. George W. Kosicki, the editor of this book, describing an odd-sounding phrase in Pope John Paul's encyclical on mercy in which he said that our mercy should extend to Christ. Have mercy on Jesus!? Fr. Kosicki went on to briefly say that what is the Stations of the Cross and similar devotions but reparations that speak to that point?

    * * *

    Concerning John Paul & Benedict: both saintly, brilliant writers and thinkers, but I'm amazed by how well they complement each other. Benedict's more accessible to me because he's more modern, less mystical, less optimistic and more practical. But on sexual ethics Ratzinger has little to say while JPII was the master. These two have been so providential, a sort of Babe Ruth & Lou Gehrig, for the Church.

    May 20, 2005

    '80s Song Plays in the Gym - Benatar
    Now I believe there comes a time
    When everything just falls in line
    We live an’ learn from our mistakes
    The deepest cuts are healed by faith
    Now I Want To Read It

    Sometimes I try to play book matchmaker, a practice that has resulted in success most often with my mother. Not so impressive - I know her so well that's akin to saying "hey, I can pick out great books for me". Whooo ee!

    But still, I take some pride in a recent home run for Mother's Day. I got her this book, which she is now reading a third time. The basic story is that an atheist was converted to Christianity after a near-death experience. (He became a protestant minister, so now Mom can say that I don't only give her Catholic books - she's far more ecumenically-minded than me, listening to Joyce Meyer more than anything on EWTN.)

    She called the other day to say that now my sister now wants to read it because her pastor at St. Susanna recommended it during his homily. He even read the final page to the congregation!
    Quote
    Here [in Latin America], to some extent, Christianity arrived by way of Spanish swords, with deadly heralds. In Mexico, at first, absolutely nothing could be done about missionary work - until the occurrence of that phenomenon of Guadalupe, and then the Son was near by way of his Mother.

    --"God and the World" Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

    May 19, 2005

    Bush Challenges America To Start Twenty Million New Blogs by 2009


    Above: Bush urges Americans to 'blog, blog like the wind'

    WASHINGTON, DC—Making a strong statement of appeal to "the long-standing tradition of bold opining that made this nation great" Monday, President Bush challenged the U.S. blogging industry to produce twenty million new blogs by summer 2009.

    "My fellow Americans, it's time for more pundits," Bush said in a special prime-time address to the nation. "America has the technology. Blogger.com. Blog-city.com. We have the market-research capacity. We have the braggadocia, the bloggadocia, the bloviation and the resources to express our opinion. If we all pull together, we can create twenty million new blogs by 2009. And America will be able to hold its head high again."

    "Yes I want to know about your cat. I want to know what he had for dinner last night. I want slice of life vignettes and stream o' conscious tales of life in these United States. And yes, most of all, I want your quizzes!"
    __

    Inspired by/cribbed from the Onion
    To Tune "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"
    You don’t check my license
    You must think I'm middle-aged
    You hardly card me anymore
    When I enter the pub
    At the end of the day.

    I remember when...
    You couldn’t wait to card me
    You thought my ID was fake
    You said I looked seventeen
    when I was plenty lean.

    Well it’s good for you barkeep,
    it's saving you time
    When you just serve me Guinness
    And you don’t check my ID anymore

    It used to be so natural,
    I thought you'd card forever,
    but used to be's don't count anymore
    not when even short jogs make me sore.

    And barkeep I remember
    before I got a few grays
    before I got very far
    into O'Malley's bar
    my youth would jar--
    ...but you don't check my license anymore.
    A Poet in Winter

    From Times article:



    Stanley Kunitz, Pulitzer Prize winner, poet laureate of the United States - twice, the first time from 1974 to 1976, when the title was "consultant in poetry," the second in 2000 at the age of 95 - will turn 100 this summer. And he is still hard at work, he says, in his office and his garden.
    Darling, do you remember
    the man you married? Touch me,
    remind me who I am.
    Stream o' Consciousness     (from the 'remember what you paid' file)

    I get a kind of pleasure out of scaffolding Excel macros to do in a few minutes what used to take eons. For the lazy there's no better job fit (a co-worker once said that laziness is the programmer's best friend, inspiring one to make onerous tasks light). There's a joy in latching on to the correct solution, in figuring out, for example, where Microsoft hides the source of Pivot tables. (Who knew you had to go to the wizard?)

    So I admit that there are intellectual pleasures in left-brain thinking even though the right-brain is where the action is, i.e. creativity. Computers can replace the left brain but never the right; no program could produce spam poetry. (Well,...perhaps that's not the best example. Ha.)

    Surprisingly, over the years my lust for retirement has abated. Perhaps a function of not being over-worked. Primarily, I suspect, due to a decreased desire to travel, which might be due to a decreased curiosity. But travel also seems a form of seeking and perhaps in my 1998 return to Catlicker fundamentalism I see less reason to look for answers in other cultures. And there's also a greater need to be of service since, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, the purpose of life is not pleasure.

    The itch to retire was mainly inspired by Henry Thoreau and Albert Brooks. Thoreau went off to the Walden woods and Brooks - in the film "Lost in America" - traveled the country in an RV. Were their choices so different? Thoreau argued that one could explore the world from a hidden corner in New England. Emily Dickinson traveled far from within her room. Brooks had something more literal in mind.

    Ham of Bone is now in a kind of semi-retirement and plans on writing screen plays till he drops. In a perfect match of subject and writer, he's doing a "biopic" of Edgar Allen Poe, with whom he has always felt a deep kinship. He recently finished a sixty hour fast for "purgative" purposes. I'm chagrined to learn that he wants to limit his drinking to only St. Patrick's Day, though there is something amusing about an English Protestant drinking only on St. Patrick's Day.

    I was reading Information Week the other day and they interviewed a 57-year old making do with temporary programming jobs until he can find something permanent. He says "I'd rather do something to keep my mind sharp than playing solitaire." Retirement sounds pretty lame if explained in those terms, especially if it doesn't include ingredients like volunteer work and poetry and daily Mass.
    By Death He Conquered Death

    One of the things I like about the Eastern liturgy is how carnal it is, carnal in a postive, in-carn-ational way. The responses and hymns are very matter-of-fact such as the Easter season hymn, which is sung with great gusto:
    Christ is Risen,
    Christ is Risen,
    Christ is Risen
    From the dead!

    By death he conquered death!
    By death he conquered death!
    and to those in the graves
    and to those in the graves
    he granted,
    he granted,
    he granted life!
    Then it is repeated in church Slavonic, which I don't know. So I listen, and it sounds as foreign as the Who's singing "wah-hoo, wah-aay" in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas". And the message from the Whoville is that they sang without the presents, without the trees and the Christmas dinner. A good lesson to praise in all times. From Sirach 2:
    "Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the Lord and been forsaken? has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?"

    May 18, 2005

    Proof That I Should've Taken Spanish in High School

    ...exhibit A and exhibit B.
    Harsh, But...

    Greeley's analysis of the reasons for the church's loss of authority after Vatican II is totally believable, but that is not news. What is news is that Greeley bases his belief that the Catholic church and faith will survive entirely on what early 19th-Century Europeans called a Romantic defense of religion -- essentially invented by people like Chateaubriand, it held that religion would last because it was "beautiful." Because it filled a need and no amount of scientific evidence against its dogmas or practices would make any difference. This is about what I would expect from Greeley -- an abandonment of reason and logic in favor of sentimentality.

    - amazon reviewer of Andrew Greeley's latest
    Forgot to mention ...

    ...that the Flannery O'Connor blog was updated.
        Spanning the Globe To Bring You The Constant Variety Of Posts & Pics

    The First Thing She Said: "Thank God I'm Single!"

    - Karen Hall of "Some Have Hats", on news that a Kansas woman severely brain-injured after an accident in 2002 has begun speaking

    I'll tip my hat to the Dogmatic Constitution...

    - first line of Jeff Miller's revised refrain to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again"

    The life of a bookseller is very demoralizing to the intellect... He is surrounded by innumerable books; he cannot possibly read them all. He dips into one and picks up a scrap from another. His mind gradually fills itself with miscellaneous flotsam, with superficial opinions, with a thousand half knowledges. Almost unconciously he begins to rate literature according to what people ask for... That way lies intellectual suicide.

    -Christopher Morley, in "The Haunted Bookshop"

    A poem, compared with an arrayed religion,
    may be like a soldier’s one short marriage night
    to die and live by. But that is a small religion.

    Full religion is the large poem in loving repetition;
    like any poem, it must be inexhaustible and complete
    with turns where we ask Now why did the poet do that?

    -Scipio of Credo Intelligam

    To understand the Catholic Faith you have to understand that it is not primarily about intellect, or even morals: it is about Christ received through the sacraments, because He commanded it, and because those who love Him will do as He commands because they love Him. And He commands as He does because He loves us. Understanding may follow practice, to a greater or lesser degree. But the Catholic faith is a loving response to our King and Redeemer, not an intellectual response to a text. A Downs Syndrome Catholic who can't read the Bible is in no way lesser than a theological polymath. The Catholic faith doesn't get snagged on "what exactly is it that saves us" because the thing that saves us isn't an "it". The thing that saves us is a Who. Asking what you have to do to be saved is like asking what you have to do to make sure that your wife will still love you tomorrow (or in this context what do you have to do to make sure that you still love her tomorrow). There may be things you can do, but it isn't a mechanical process. It isn't something that you do today, making everything that you do tomorrow irrelevant. It is love.

    - Zippy Catholic

    Back to work...my cold is mostly behind me (prancing on the lawn at 3:00am in my nightshirt didn’t help - but I don’t think it hurt, either.)...[I'm] hoping that the ad hoc wedding coordinator that is working on one of the weddings won’t be too dismayed when I can’t find her two altar servers of equal size. And her message also said that I should bear in mind that the bride is a tall girl. What does that mean? She wants tall servers to make her look shorter - or short servers to make her look taller? This is a church, lady, not central casting.

    - Ellyn of Oblique House

    It's like herding cats... shepherding the intellectual lives of theologians and philosophers. But it has to be done. Free enough to be joyous and productive (catching lots of mice, teaching lots of students, leaping out the hayloft window, following the fascinating new concept.....) and controlled enough to stay safe (not get lost off the farm or hit by a car, not wandering off into heresy or getting mauled by other creatures on and about the place....).

    - Karen of Anchor Hold

    A priest I know once pointed out to me that one of the marks of the satanic is that it claims to see right through you, to identify you with your sins and pin you to the wall like a bug on a card. The devil, in speaking to Jesus, says "I know who you are!" He does the same to us. He says "I see right through you. You are your sins. This is who you really are!"

    - Mark Shea

    I suddenly had a whole new vision of how much God loves us. I was so used to the popular view that Earth is merely average and ordinary. No matter how fully I accepted the idea that God created the universe for man, I was indoctrinated with the concept of our world being just one more average little planet, in one more average little galaxy, tucked away in a remote corner of the universe. Robin Collins had a whole new view. God could have created the universe with a sense of delight over giving us surprises. This was an astonishing spiritual insight to our relationship with God.

    - Julie of Happy Catholic

    I'm not saying this to suggest my superior spirituality. Far from it. Most days, I'm barely hanging on in that respect, my faith this strange, fluid mix of constant questions and moments of complete trust.

    - Amy Welborn

    I’m Too Sexy for This Faith

    - title of huffingtonstoast.com parody post attributed to Andrew Sullivan


    (photo credit - Jeff)
    Good Cop, Bad Cop

    (-a parody, not available in stores!-)

    Need a good spiritual pick-me-up? Too cheap to spring for the hundred bucks that most retreat centers ask? Then experience the pleasure/pain of a Blog RetreatTM with retreat masters Hans & Franz! They will Pump You Up!

    Hans & Franz took their show on the virtual road three years ago. They call it "Good Cop, Bad Cop": Hans will flatten your psyche and harden your abs with his x-ray vision of your sins and the sins of others. Got a problem with presumption? Come to Hans bebe! Armed with a stiletto pen and a razor mind, he'll remind you of the depravity of self and mankind.

    Got a problem with despair? Come to Franz, who as the good cop sees God's mercy as truly powerful and not just something buried in the fine print. Armed with a spirituality that recognizes the desert and can find water there, Franz will help you see not only yourself but also others as God's children.
    2001 Redux

    Accountants are going over the numbers now, but the volume of email response to the 2001 review has been unprecedented! Early reports show two pro-2001's and two anti-2001s, so I guess this is one of those movies you either love or hate. (It also spawned a thoughtful review, in which Steven suggests in Hal and the endeavor as a vision of man unaided by God.)

    Since Kubrick is generally recognized as a film genius, I don't claim to say anything other than I don't get it, but I'm certainly happy for those who do. One of the things I try to guard against is measuring things against my subjective standard and calling it objective. Someone once told me that Beethoven's music was not qualitatively better than rap music, which dramatically reflects our modern tendency towards relativity.

    May 17, 2005

    Time Waster

    Amazon.com has a new concordance feature on new books that tells you the 100 most frequently used words the author used. I picked a conservative and a liberal.

    See if you can pick out which is which from their 100 most used words*.

    always am american art authority beauty behavior believe between birth bishops catholic catholicism century change church clergy control council countries does even event experience fact faith first go god good grace heritage however human imagination indeed issues laity less life little liturgists liturgy lives long love mass may metaphors might must need new often old own parish people percent perhaps pope power priests problem question reform religion religious revolution right rules sacraments say schools search see seem sex sexual should states still stories structures study teaching think though thought time two vatican want whether wineskins women work world wrong years
    __
    against america american among approach belief between catholic century charity child children christian church considered dewey economic education educational end era even example experience explained fact faith father first god good great himself human ideas indeed individual intellectual itself james john kind law life man matter may men merely method mind modern moral movement must natural nature need new order own part philosophy point pope pragmatism principles progressive question reason religion religious school science scientific secular set shields should simply social society sociology soul state study supernatural system teaching themselves things thought thus time true truth view whose work world

    * - okay, okay I know the word "sex" gives this one away.
    a case of bookcase lust

    Received a fine oaken bookcase, via a relative, and placed it next to the computer where it serves as both distraction and a constant prompt of wonder. The books look fiercely handsome in the new case, their hues glowing in the diffuse light. The titles glisten with poetry:
    el beisbol
    Baghdad without a map
    in Patagonia
    Europe on a Saturday night
    ciao, America!
    passage to Juneau
    the spears of twilight
    notes from a small island
    amazon journal
    stranger in the forest
    how I worked my way around the world
    the water in between
    Inspired by a Steven Riddle Post

    I wonder how much of the Crucifixion was for purpose of atonement and how much was simply the dramatic gesture of showing that the love he taught wasn't merely words. Was part of his death not because of our sins per se but our difficulty in conceiving his ability to love us? It seems that the blood-sweat in the garden of Gethsemane was a visible measure of love, his Blood already willing to be outside himself and within us.
    1997 Quote
    "I have often reflected since then on this remarkable disposition of Providence: that, in this century of progress and faith in science, the Church should have found herself represented most clearly in very simple people, in a Bernadette of Lourdes, for instance, or even in a Brother Konrad, who hardly seemed to be touched by the currents of the time. Is this a sign that the Church has lost her power to shape culture and can take root only outside the real current of history? Or is it a sign that the clear view of the essential, which is so often lacking in the "wise and prudent" (see Mt 11:25), is given in our days, too, to little ones? I do think that precisely these "little" saints are a great sign to our time, a sign that moves me ever more deeply, the more I live with and in our time."
    - Cardinal Ratzinger in Milestones
    John Paul the Personalist
    Upper lips flabbed
    during the days of Donahue
    donning the skin of eggshells
    we cried at Oprah's touch.

    'Where has duty gone?'
    Dr. Laura asked
    'Get over yourself!'
    Judge Judy rasped.

    But it was the Age of Machines
    and the personal was personal:
    Christ died to save all mankind--
    but did he die for me?

    So came a wise man from the East
    with lips not stiff or soft,
    like God he saw just opportunity
    where donkeys and elephants had not.
    On the Eastern Catholic Liturgy

    One of the refrains in the Byzantine liturgy that I find particularly appealing are references to Christ as "lover of mankind". Lovers of mankind are few and far between and perhaps can only truly be said of Christ and His mother. Many of us are either lovers of individuals while vaguely aware of "mankind", or sensitive to the plight of "mankind" while heedless of individuals. Christ cares about both individuals and mankind and of him the title "lover of mankind" isn't unwashed sentimentality.
    __

    The Byzantine rite often repeats things three times, in honor of the Holy Trinity, but when I first began attending the liturgy I thought they did that because the chances were increased that we'd be fully attentive during at least one of the three repetitions.
    __

    Some of the Troparions sang from the latest liturgy:
    Blessed are You, O Christ our God. You filled the fishermen with wisdom, sending down upon them the Holy Spirit. Through them You have caught the whole world in Your net. O Lover of Mankind, glory be to You.

    Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen. When the Most High descended and confused tongues, He scattered the people; but when He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all men to unity. Therefore with one voice, let us praise the Most Holy Spirit.

    May 16, 2005

    Innerestin'

    From Times review of John Cornwell's "The Pontiff in Winter", on Pope John Paul's difficulty in reconciling freedom and order:
    Cornwell's view of the conflict between top-down ''fundamentalism'' and bottom-up ''pluralism'' is unduly Manichaean. But he is right to see that the church now faces a choice between schism (if it goes too liberal) and a '' 'remnant' catacomb church'' (if it goes too conservative). That this tension worsened during the papacy of John Paul II does not necessarily prove the pope was at fault. It may mean only that Christianity has proved a much harder faith to practice ''moderately'' than both its defenders and its detractors used to assume.
    Blogging Like It's 1499

    Something tells me this blogger is trying too hard. The whole zen of blogging is not to care (which I'm struggling to get better at - *grin*). Who among us hasn't had the experience of more good coming from inadvertent comments than advertent ones? Plus, the removal of SiteMeter has made me fifty percent less anal retentive by volume. The great James Lileks has neither comments nor a statistics monitoring tool, so I follow his example. Now if I could write like him!

    (Hat tip Julie.)
    Quotables

    Rule number one: never read anything theological before bedtime.

    I wanted to read Bleak House last night but I simply (cliche ahead!) could not put Cardinal Ratzinger's books down and ended up reading them all night. Technically speaking that is; i.e. past midnight. The way he puts things is so disarmingly honest and explicatory that it's extremely difficult to disengage.

    Here are excerpts from Milestones and The Ratzinger Report:
    Revelation is not a meteor fallen to earth that now lies around somewhere as a rock mass from which rock samples can be taken and submitted to laboratory analysis. Revelation has instruments; but it is not separable from the living God, and it always requires a living person to whom it is communicated. Its goal is always to gather and unite men, and this is why the Church is necessary aspect of revelation. If, however, revelation is more than Scripture, if it transcends Scripture, then the "rock analysis" - which is to say, the historical-critical method - cannot be the last word concerning revelation; rather, the living organism of the faith of all ages is then an intrinsic part of revelation. And what we call "tradition" is precisely that part of revelation that goes above and beyond Scripture and cannot be comprehended within a code of formulas.
    __

    The Catholicism of my native Bavaria knew how to provide room for all that was human, both prayer and festivities, penance and joy. A joyful, colorful, human Christianity...While Protestantism certainly could give the impression of superiority and greater learning, I was more convinced by the great tradition of the Fathers and medieval masters...Protestantism arose at the beginning of modern times, and thus it is much more closely related to the inner energies which produced the modern age than Catholicism is. It has acquired the form it has today largely in the confrontation with the great philosophical currents of the nineteenth century. It is wide open to modern thought, and, as well as constituting a threat to it, that constitutes both its opportunity and its danger.
    _

    Ratzinger considers that where Protestants and Catholics live side by side, the latter are more in danger of adopting the positions of the former. "Genuine Catholicism", he says, "is a highly sensitive balance, an attempt to unite aspects in life which seem to contradict one another and yet which guarantee the completeness of the Credo."
    Perfect. That's it, isn't it? Holding the tension of seemingly contradictory notions makes Catholicism less accessible. "Both/and" is faithful to Scripture, but difficult for the human mind period (let alone in theology, where it is exacerbated by our desire to put God in a box).
    Good Fit For Pope Benedict

    From Lives of Saints, concerning St. Benedict:
    The order which Benedict founded has spread over the earth. It was mainly responsible for the conversion of the Teutonic races...
    Book O'licious

    Memed by Julie of the winsomely named blog and arguably the most likeable person in St. Blogland. (Speaking of memes, regarding that earlier one about things I "just don't get" I forgot one: the voluminous bedrooms of the 3000+ square foot McMansions that are popular now. You could fit an Olympic-sized pool in some of the master bedrooms. I mean, I can understand a big living room. But bedroom? I don't even want to know what people do in rooms that size.)
    Total Number of Books I’ve Owned: Somewhere north of 3,000. Not many by Steven Riddle standards, but enough to encourage rootedness since the thought of moving them leaves me underwhelmed.

    Last Book I Bought: Dom Cuthbert Butler's history of the first Vatican Council. (Couldn't find "Thomists Are From Mars, Augustinians from Venus" else I'd probably gotten that.)

    Last Book I Read: Mr. Blue – Myles Connolly

    5 Books that mean a lot to me: An impossible question. I'll expand it a bit. Since the bible & the catechism are everyone's list I'll assume they transcend the category.

    The Correspondence of Walker Percy & Shelby Foote - Tolsen, ed.

    Old Thunder – A Life of Hilaire Belloc - Joseph Pearce

    Lost in the Cosmos - W. Percy

    Sun Dancing - Geoffrey Moorhouse

    The Circle Dancers - Diana Der-Hovanessian

    Rome Sweet Home - Hahn

    The Secret of the Rosary - St. Louis De Monfort

    Stonewall Jackson - James Robertson
    Movie Review

    Saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time over the weekend, which continued my string of not really liking criticially-acclaimed movies. Roger Ebert called it "transcendent". Man I am so jaded.

    A short synopsis:

    Ape-like humans protect watering hole by performing early rendition of Jane Fonda aerobic routine, complete with whimpy rebel yells that wouldn't even have scared McClellan. One ape discovers the destructive capabilities of a bone and aerobics routine is no longer effective. Moral: ignorance is bliss.

    Something buried on Moon. Four million years ago. Very suspicious. Astronauts go to Jupiter.

    HAL 9000, a super computer, can read lips. Who knew? Hal discovers that the crew is going to take him out so he takes out the crew first. And you thought the blue screen of death was bad.

    Space pod ends up in somebody's living room. That can happen. Astronaut interrupts a man eating. Man looks over his shoulder. Continues eating. Then gets up. It's the astronaut! Then same astronaut is in bed, looking much older. Turns out Kubrick could imagine a lot of stuff in 1968 for 2001 but not the invention of Botox.

    At the end, the '60s montage drags a bit. Psychedelic colors - L.S.D. reference? Fortunately, the greatest proof that mankind is progressing - Tivo - allows me to quickly fastforward. A baby in the womb is shown and show's over. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. And stay away from the brown acid kids.

    May 15, 2005

    On Pentecost

    By Augustine's day Pentecost was a separate liturgical festival, and Augustine understood it as a celebration of an event no less historical than the birth of Christ. In a sermon preached on the day of Pentecost, he says, we are celebrating "the solemnity of a day so holy, that today the Holy Spirit himself came."
    - Robert Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought
    _

    The Straight Dope on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
    _

    Gifts versus fruits of the Holy Spirit.

    May 13, 2005

    Good Reads

    Reading tames the savage beast - or more likely I need to read if only in order not to feel deprived. Call it a placebo.

    Tonight I caught a glimpse of Sen. Bradley’s wife’s memoir and it was greedily consumed. She was born and lived her formative life in Germany (close to the Czech border but at least it’s southern Germany), a country pleasingly foreign and yet not-so-foreign, impregnated as it is with ancestral resonances. It promises to be chockful of Germanic things, a plump memoir meaty with literary allusions (she’s quite the reader).

    My ancestors came from "good" places to come from, if I can say that without bias. If living in the Midwest is an impediment to a strong sense of place (New England and the South have much more history and "placeness") then my ancestors are rich in what I lack. Southern Germany is the stuff of novels: the land of the Schwarzvald, castles, and Bavarian solicitude. The other side of the family came from Ireland, home of kings and saints, warriors and poets. I could read about either for quite a while.
    TAN Books Update
    Evolutionary Exchange

    Normally I try to receive permission before posting emails but one takes liberties with blog friends. Steven Riddle is an expert on things paleo, so I asked him about reconciling this quote I happened across a while ago (didn't save the author's name):
    "Augustine seems to be the first observer, at least in writing, to have noticed the greed, jealousy, and rage of which the human infant is capable. By pointing out the survival advantages of the infant's relentless self-interest, Mr. Miceli raises a central dilemma that has yet to be addressed by contemporary theology in dealing with original sin: how do we reconcile evolution with Genesis? If these behaviors are not only advantageous but evolutionarily essential, how can they be regarded as products of sin, which entered history only at the moment of our First Parents and which in any event must be eschewed? This question, in essence, constitutes Nietzche's central objection to Christian ethics..."
    To which he offered a helpful answer, excerpted partially here:
    My answer is that Augustine placed adult interpretations on infant behaviors--he saw rage--was it hunger? He saw jealousy--what was it really? Having a child really changed my perspective on what children are feeling with respect to adults. My little boy spent much of the years from 1-4 in a world with which I had remarkably little contact or understanding. The state of being simply isn't the same. Rage isn't anger at this age it is pain inside, etc. In other words, this is one of those places that I think Augustine was just plain wrong...[But] if I grant that Augustine is right, it still poses no problem for me because somewhere along the line God did intervene and made human beings of an entirely different order of creation than all the rest [since] human beings are the only animals that can choose consistently to act contrary to their own natures.
    Ham o' Bone Responds to an Earlier Post
    "I now think that the antichrist will be riding a 2054 Hover KX4."
    Always so prescient, that Bone. Except for the global depression. :-)
    Fictional Friday
    "I just got in this to write about it, to experience it. I don't care about being Trump's apprentice," I told my brother at a family gathering. "I'm thinking of just walking off the set. I'm going to get killed in the boardroom. We're down to six and I can't hide anymore. I can't just do a decent job on the tasks and survive by being small. He's going to say, 'you've never been project leader for ten tasks! You've never volunteered for anything! Why are you here?'."

    "Just go in there and schmooze and be political. That's what he's looking for."

    "You know I can't smooze. A decent handshake is as good as I can manage - after that it's inevitably downhill."

    "Look you made it this far-"

    "I don't want to trash the family name."

    "It'll be more embarrassing to the family if you walk off the set! You don't think they won't spend a lot of air time on that?"

    "You may be right but the more I fight in the boardroom the more obvious it will be that I have no case to make and the more ridiculous I'll look."

    "You wanted to to experience, to observe, to write. Why would you pass up the boardroom!? Why would you pass on the experience of hearing Donald Trump say, 'You're fired!'? For that reason alone you should go."

    "Well, okay. I guess. But it's not going to be pretty... and you're going to be infamous by association!"

    "That's what family's for. At least since Adam & Eve.

    May 12, 2005

    WFB Review

    William F. Buckley reviews Ross Duthat's book "Privilege" about Harvard:
    His fine coda tells of the author’s sensitivity and the range of his concern.
    “I hope, in the end, that I love Harvard as we should love the world: not because it is good (it is not) but because there is good in it, and things worth fighting for. Perhaps the rest will pass away, until in my memory and the memory of my classmates only the best remains, the beauty of the place and the promise of greatness, a promise that went unfulfilled in my four years but endures nonetheless — as if around another corner, through another ivied gate, there waits the university of our imagination, the Harvard of our unrequited dreams."
    Quotable
    There are no longer any deep loves or passionate devotions to great causes; expediency and self-interest are too general. Politics and economics are our major interests, and neither can warm the souls of men. Our fires of patriotism, evangelization, and zeal are being reduced to embers. We are cold, dull, and apathetic. One tiny effect of that want of fire is the fact that in our Western world there are but few orators. Most men in public life are readers.

    -Archbishop Fulton Sheen
    From the latest National Review

    Michael Potemra on Pope Benedict's false reputation:
    He shows a sensitive appreciation of developments in other denominations, applauding what he sees as “a new vitality” in Protestantism: “The Evangelicals and fundamentalists always used to be typical leaders of the opposition to the papacy. But there have been astonishing changes there, because they can see that the Pope is actually the Rock who asserts before all the world exactly what they confess in opposition to modern versions of watered-down Christianity. So, from a certain point of view, they see the Pope as their strong ally, even though their old reservations have not been cleared away. . . . What we dare to hope for we should await confidently, but with great patience.” Lest this be misinterpreted as a belief that Protestants will be simply absorbed into Roman Catholicism, Ratzinger says, “The formula that the great ecumenists have invented is that we go forward together. It’s not a matter of our wanting to achieve certain processes of integration. . . . [The Catholic Church] will allow herself to be educated and led by the Lord.”...

    He shows the same basic generosity of spirit in miniature, when he discusses Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin leader who condemned Jesus and has been presented as a pure villain throughout much of history: “As high priest, Caiaphas is responsible for the faith of Israel. Naturally it doesn’t occur to him that he might really be condemning the living Son of God to death. He sees in Jesus someone who has done injury to the very heart of the Jewish creed, the belief in one God, by the presumptuous claim to be himself God’s Son. And, certainly, he does this in a state of blindness, unable to perceive the mystery; his faith is encapsulated in a formula. We ought not to be too ready to condemn him, since in some way he believes, of course, that he is acting responsibly on behalf of religion.”...

    After making his way through these books, the reader may be hungry for graduate-level Ratzinger — for example, his 1968 book Introduction to Christianity, a meditation on the Apostles’ Creed. Here he writes of an adult faith in which doubt and belief coexist:
    Both the believer and the unbeliever share, each in his own way, doubt and belief, if they do not hide from themselves and from the truth of their being. Neither can quite escape either doubt or belief; for the one, faith is present against doubt; for the other, through doubt and in the form of doubt. . . . [Man exists] in this unceasing rivalry between doubt and belief, temptation and certainty. Perhaps in precisely this way doubt, which saves both sides from being shut up in their own worlds, could become the avenue of communication. It prevents both from enjoying complete self-satisfaction.
    Meme Me Up Scotty

    The young & talented Enbrethiliel has tagged me. Five things about which I ask 'what's the big deal?'.

    1) American Idol. Never seen it, but it appears to have a cult-like following. Perhaps it's unfair to have something on the list I haven't personally tried but...

    2) Jazz music. Blues I can get into, but jazz gets under my skin. Bad jazz is worse - Kenny G music would get me to talk at Guantanamo.

    3) Bingo. I wrote a post a couple weeks about it. One could also put in this category Las Vegas, which I know I'll have to visit some day if only to try to understand the fuss.

    4) American Express credit card. Let's see...you have to pay for the right to carry their card? Am I missing something?

    5) Longaberger Basketry - every year there's a convention that takes place downtown not far from where I work. I see thousands heading to convene on all things Longaberger. It's one of the most inexplicable things I've ever seen. To each his own as they say.
    Evolution of a Blogger

    Despite appearances to the contrary you just don't become a blogger over night. It takes years of practice and preparation. You have to earn your spot in the trenches of complete anonymity in order to earn a shot at near complete anonymity. Here was my path to blogging greatness:

    Pre-1990:
    I cut my teeth on poetry. A sample began:
    Bad poetry,
    Ain't kilt no one yet.
    1990-1998:

    Something called Profs Notes was the preferred corporate communication before Lotus Notes. In the days of Profs, fellow conscriptees would pass notes under the barrack walls, bonding over our shared juvenility. [Warning, rough language ahead.] Example:
    "In one of the ironies of [this company] you might notice when next riding the 'vadors [elevators] that if you say only the first syllable of every other word in the phrase that appears therein, namely, "Press alarm button for assistance." you get 'Press butt ass', a bit redundant I know."

    Reply by fellow conscript: "Hmmmmmmm, and if you say only the first syllable of every word, you get 'Press all butt for ass.' Seems kinda' blatenly obvious, eh?"

    Reply by another conscript: "If you get on the elevators at [company name] and say out loud what I am usually thinking, you will get "f*ck. f*ck. F*CK.!!!"
    1998-Present:

    Began a private journal. Equal parts exaggeration and lamentation with a twist of self-pity. Shaken, not stirred. Example:

    [On moving from the first home I'd owned]: My house is like a gunfighter, making his last stand. He’s there with his Colt rifle, standing in the aging sun, a bit sad that it has to come to this. I’m a bit sad, too, in that all the creature-comforts I’ve built up will be ripped suddenly and new ones will have to be stitched in the garment of life. The comforts I think of include the short drive to work, the cavernous book room downstairs, the 2-minutes to Kroger, the ancient and crusty (pun noted) Antolino’s pizza tradition...Yes, I can’t kid myself, it will be tough. I’m ready though, and now I freefall like Van Halen, singing ‘might as well jump’.
    _

    We discussed the relative value of suffering for Christians, whether the Red Sox will ever win a World Series (speaking of suffering), whether the French film Ham rented was a ‘ship movie (short for relationship, i.e. chick flick), the best place to put one’s money during the coming global depression (metals vs cash), the best way to allocate one’s lunch money, whether the anti-Christ will drive an S.U.V. (me taking the con, Ham the pro), how to get rich by checking friend’s couch cushions, the best way to drink a Guinness (four opposing fingers to thumb), the healthiness of watching too many X-files, Mr Boo’s last vowell movement, and whether either of us could come up with an oxymoron using the word "oxymoron". (More journal excerpts here.)
    One of the things I like about blogging is the low expectations. It's something we can be good at. Let's face it, we don't really have to worry about the Peter Principle in blogland.

    And generally I like what I'm good at. I like playing basketball more than baseball because I'm much better at it. I chose a career for similar reasons (or at least my reviews are good). But the rub is that what I did not choose - to be a Christian - is also what I'm not particularly good at. For once I can't alter the playing field to my own advantage. That that bothers me goes to pride of course.