May 31, 2007

Back to Back

Well I got home from bingo, a rare back-to-back bingo, only to find a strange truck in the driveway.

I went & got the shotgun out of the gun rack, but turns out it wasn't an illicit affair but merely my sister-in-law visiting in the new vehicle she'd gotten.

She's getting married Saturday and apparently the wedding dress had to be adjusted again and my wife has the seamstress skills of ten women.

There was a wittiness in the air today as co-workers' moods were aligned in good humor. Even the old Italian millionaire wasn't his gruff self; he paid me a compliment by saying I was selling good. I was taken aback.

Pat & Kim, who I'll call "Pat" & "Kim" for the purposes of this blog, were soldiering on despite a bronchial infection & a back ache. Sometimes I do think women are inherently better people than men. Willie Cunningham, radio talk show host and voice of the common man, said that society is only good as long as its women, the "gatekeepers", are good.

If this post seems a bit thin, well, Kim (we'll call her "Kim") asked what I could possibly blog about tonight since there weren't a lot of customer-related unusual-alities. I took it as a personal challenge, like making poetry out of spam. (And with similar results.)

Oh, and you do know I was just kidding about the shotgun right?! :)
Moral Relativist Seeks Less Certainty About Moral Relativism

This was like watching someone try to wrestle a greased pig. It conjures an imagined conversation:
Moral Relativist: "There's no such thing as truth."

Queasy Moral Relativist: "That's true, but what if people can't handle this non-truth truth?"

Moral Relativist: "That's your reality."
The tone of condescension in the article towards those who "long for clarity" is sort of humorous to me since I spent a lot of my life longing for unclarity since clarity would require behavior changes. They ought to try it for awhile, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

May 30, 2007

Various

So there's a four-lane street downtown, practically a mini-highway, and an obviously drunk guy careens out of the corner market (imaginatively called "Corner Market") straight into the rightmost lane. The grocery door is one step from the curb. Thank God the car in front of me stopped. I thought if I had been the car in front I don't see how I would've stopped. Seems I would've had an 80+% chance of hitting him. "Angel of God, my guardian dear.." and his guardian too. I tried to get a better view of this excellent driver. Appeared to be a woman in her late 20s. Good reactions, good peripheral vision?

The drama wasn't over. He had to make it across the other three lanes and I thought about getting out and trying to stop him but figured it might scare him into doing something even more rash than what he was already attempting. Getting across that traffic sober would be a challenge.

He barely made it. Almost got clipped by oncoming traffic and received horn blasts from two vehicles.

May God continue to protect drunks and fools.


Continuing on that Yeats quote from yesterday, the one where he said that men are creatures of their age, not their nation, reminds me of John O'Sullivan's book on the fall of the Soviet Union.

What was surprising was that they fell with a whimper. They were, in the end, "too soft" (praise God) to clamp down in Poland like they did in other Eastern bloc countries.

Where did that softness, for want of a better word, come from? Perhaps from the worldwide culture, which had softened considerably. We tend to think they were immune from the 60s and all that jazz but ultimately perhaps even the Soviets were more creatures of their age than their country and system. The first five decades of this century had unbelievably hard men, made so in part of out applying Darwin's "surivival of the fittest" to nations and not just individuals. WWII seemed to disprove that, given the demise of the Axis powers.

Today, of course, we have the surreal hardness of terrorists who would make even the Soviets blush, since the latter weren't suicidal. If Islamic fascists aren't creatures of their country they seem to be influenced by the current "culture of death" and nihilism. Isak Dinesen wrote back in 1960 that Arabs love the "grand gesture", adding that they adore "danger and death". Culture of death + Islam = suicide bombers.



Read something from Ben Stein that reported that as of 2000 the average 45-54 year old has saved $23,000 in 401k. Yikes. Stein says it appears likely baby boomers will experience poverty in their old age. What's surprising is that everyone knows Social Security will be diminished and yet the national savings rate is near zero.

I'm not sure exactly what Stein means by this comment:
Consider the fact that if everyone were to save equally, then this would confer no net advantage on anyone. We'd all be pitted against one another to exchange the same quantity of stocks and bonds for the same goods and services from younger Generations X, Y, and Z.
If the natural rate of savings was 10% instead of 1-2%, wouldn't that solve the problem? Sure there would be no net advantage for individuals but it would seem to be an advantage for everyone. The saver isn't hurt by his countrymen saving is he? Sure it dampens the economy but if the natural savings rate was 10% the economy would adjust.



It's nice to find some decent fiction for vacation reading purposes. Read the first thirty pages of Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and it's riveting. Dick is funny which is absolutely necessary given the grim scenerio. In that way he reminds me of W Percy - talking about serious themes but underlayed with humor to soften it.
More French Whine than French Wine

From here:
A poll of 15,000 hotel workers found that the French are the worst guests and Americans the second best, after the Japanese.
Very predictable list of countries. Who would not have predicted that an Asian country would be the best and French the worst?


* * *

The French also dominated the "Top 10 Most Demanding Workers" (i.e. "Whiniest"):
1 France, 2 UK tied with Sweden, 4 USA, 5 Australia tied with Portugal, 7 Canada
The least complaining workers were number 1 Netherlands and 2 Thailand tied with Ireland.

You would think the higher the morale the less complaining and that's true. But the lower morale doesn't correspond to higher complaining. Japan has the worst morale and Germany second-worst and yet aren't among the complainers. The Germans and Japanese still have that sense of duty about them, don't they? They are the predictable stoics - you can see that by the unimaginable levels of casualties they almost casually endured during the horrific wars of the last century.

* * *

A professor and registered Democrat says: Americans hate their fabulous economy
The Bright Side

To that long illustrious list of silver linings we add a few more:
  • On Bill Buckner's blunder in '86: "He almost got it."

  • On Rose betting on baseball: "He never bet against the Reds."

  • On Barry Bonds breaking Aaron's record: "He hit some of them without the help of steroids."

  • On Frank Robinson trade for Milt Pappas: "Milt is frankly a better pitcher than Robinson."

  • On the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yanks: "The money is still compounding."

  • On the Chicago Blacksox throwing the 1919 World Series: "We're still fay-moose!"
  • Coca Cola, the Flag, What's the Difference?

    "I pledge allegiance to Coca Cola of the United States of America...".

    This is part of NR's latest cover, and at the bottom of it there's an apparently unretouched part that shows a woman in a California pro-amnesty march hoisting a Coke can instead of a flag presumably to show her patriotism and solidarity with America.

    High-laire, but somehow appropriate given Frederica Matthewes-Greene's comment that we define ourselves by what we consume. (See latest "Spanning the Proverbial Globe".)

    I tease, but I don't have the high ground of course. If I was in an Irish parade in Dublin and didn't have an Irish flag handy I'd probably hoist a Guinness. Here is a subtly re-touched photo:



    Speaking of Ireland (I am the Cuchulain of segues), I read recently that William Butler Yeats said that men are completely creatures of their age rather than their country. That sort of fatalism is so Irish don't you think?
    Fiction for a Wednesday Morn: "The Illusions of Children"

    Women are like cruise ships with unpredictable itineraries. Moody, they take you where you do not want to go and dress you as you would not dress. One minute you're on your way to Burma, the next Siberia. Guided by moonbeams, it's Scylla by Tuesday and Charybdis by Friday. But it is for our own benefit. Men without women are ignoble savages.

    My father had a mistress was named Work. In the German she was called arbeit, pronounced not coincidentally "our bite". She demanded my father dress in a business suit made of polymers and took him to where he did not want to go. He left us for her every morning and the parting was made worse by our mother's cries, which we romantically imagined were due to separation from him but were actually caused by the anticipated persecution from us, her children. We were, to put it mildly, oblivious. We were delightful creatures of God utterly without sin though with the lung-power of ten men.

    At church on Sundays I saw men wearing suits made of polymers called "ushers". I did not like or trust ushers. They wore the clothes demanded by father's mistress. But then my father became an usher and they were alright again.

    I liked the priest's colorful and free-flowing robes. He called his mistress "Mother Church" and under the influence of the nature philosopher Mogli of The Jungle Book I deemed liturgy, a form of play and yet etymologically "a public work", the only worthwhile work even though it didn't happen outside, in the natural world, where saints like Euell Gibbons lived. But there were the natural ingredients of bread and wine and his mistress only made him work on Sundays. Or so we thought.

    May 29, 2007

    "Food is Empty Calories!"

    The latest National Review has a few mini book reviews worth sharing:
    Anthony Esolen, an accomplished Dante translator, is also an incisive literary critic. In his generous new book, Ironies of Faith: The Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature (ISI, 350 pp., $28), he discusses great works from Shakespeare to Tolkien — and points out how the divine mysteries always end up being deeper than we think we know. The worldly-wise are confounded; strength is made perfect in weakness; eros becomes a vehicle of grace. “It is as Mauriac once said: We will be surprised to see not only the harlots and publicans enter before us, but even the persecutors and the atheists. Let us pray we will be in a position to enjoy the irony.”

    * * *

    The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine, Whiskey & Song: A Spirited Look at Catholic Life and Lore from Apocalypse to Zinfandel (Crossroad, 402 pp., $14.95) is even more fun than it sounds. One need not embrace the religious and political opinions of the authors — text, John Zmirak; recipes, Denise Matychowiak — to thoroughly enjoy this book. Among the potent insights: “Devout Guinness drinkers like to explain that food is empty calories — it gets you fat, but doesn’t get you drunk.” And: “If, as Walter Pater wrote, all art aspires to the condition of music” — here Zmirak adds, in a laconic footnote, “it doesn’t” — “then all vodkas distill toward the flavor of moonshine.”

    Speaking of Zmirak's book, Phil from Germany (aka Deutschland to those of us in the know, *wink-wink*) has what looks to be a very serious post here on the subject. Or if you didn't pay attention in German class, it's mangled hereby Babelfish.
    David Brooks Lobbies For "CINO's"

    Brooks preaches a gospel of lukewarmness for greater earthly success because, you know, that's what we're here for.

    Apparently a pinch of religious skepticism is the way to greater wealth. (Pope Benedict differs, though he's talking about a different sort of treasure.)
             

    Our forebears defined themselves by what they produced. Now people define themselves by what they consume. And this undermines our sense of effectiveness in the world. No matter how much you define yourself as this important, significant individual, there's a feeling that nothing you do is going to make any difference. This is even harder for Christians. We have the mandate to go out and bring the gospel to the world. And yet it often seems like nobody's listening. So we are tempted to try things we shouldn't get into, because we think nobody will find out. That's the path to disintegration-when we are so isolated, lonely, and ineffective that we start to think our lives don't matter. - Frederica Matthewes-Greene via MamaT of "Summa Mamas"

    Unbelievable: The Stratford Real Ale Festival ran out of beer right in the middle of the celebration. Man, that’s like a Catholic Church running out of bread, a public library running out of books, a public school running out of condoms. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

    Progress and potential future progress that is out of my hands, which is a very weird feeling. Things might happen next week, they might happen in a few months - and of course, they might never happen. You never know. Which is good for one's spiritual life, and I'm not being sarcastic. - Amy Welborn of "Open Book"

    I was interested by the following passage in an old New Yorker piece... that put its finger, without the author quite knowing it, on the cause of [Jerry] Falwell's success, and the thing that so many of his critics never at all grasped. The passage is speaking of Falwell's church: 'It's a laboring church,' said one of the five businessmen who had been on the committee to straighten out the church’s finances — the president of the First Colony Life Insurance Company. 'There’s no participation in it by community leaders, and that is probably why it is so successful. The nonachievers have to have something to be proud of, and they are proud of their church and contribute handsomely.' As Get Religion's Douglas LeBlanc notes, this is a very classist quotation. But it shows an insight into something that many people find utterly mysterious, namely, his widespread appeal, particularly in his heyday: he let ordinary, decent working people in on something big, in a way that gave them a personal investment and an essential role to play in it all. That has powerful draw, and for very good reason; and it gave him both a stable core of influence and a very public platform from which to speak. - Brandon of Siris

    An unexpected bonus of having 2 full-time jobs, as I have now, is a renewed appreciation for life's pleasures... played golf today w/good friends... had lunch outside at Sky Galley, at Lunken Airport... after golf, smoked a cheap cigar and drank a Keystone on the back deck home... watched the squirrels chase the birds... will watch T. Soprano tonight... all this stuff used to be routine, before I added Sports Talk to my plate. Now, it's all magical, in a way I never understood until 6 weeks ago... for what it's worth... - Paul Daugherty, Cincy sports talk show host & columnist

    Communio sanctorum bibentium - title of Scipio of "Intelligam" post, Latin for "Gemeinschaft der heiligen Trinker" translated by Babelfish into "Community for Holy Drunkards" (I thought Trinker was 'drinkers'?)

    At Disputations, a summary of Fr. Bill Byrne's approach as chaplain during the time that, Father says, the Catholic Student Center at the University of Maryland saw Sunday Mass attendace triple: 'God loves us, and His Son is here in the tabernacle.' Can he turn and point to it when he says this? It would have to be somewhat different at St. Al's: '...His Son is out the exit of the church, make two lefts, and go the the far side of the new chapel, in the tabernacle. On your way, please pick up your pledge card to help reduce the mortgage that built this.' Reminds me of a homilist who, for emphasis, turned around to point to the Crucifix, then realized there wasn't one. - Terrence Berres of "Provincial Emails"

    Praying for the intercessions of the Saints is just one example of this. Authentic Catholic mysticism frightens most Protestants because they've been given a very rational, egalitarian, materialistic, and therapuetic view of salvation. While that view isn't neccesairily wrong, it puts severe limits on Christ's Revelation. - commenter on "Open Book"


    - daughters of Elena of "My Domestic Church", after a First Communion
                   

    You know, there’s a reason why “spirituality” is so popular in the United States today and religion is so criticized. Private spirituality can be quite satisfying. But it can also become a designer experience. In fact, the word spirituality can mean just about anything a person wants it to mean. It’s private, it’s personal, and, ultimately, it doesn’t place any more demands on the individual than what he or she wants. Religion is a very different creature. The word religion comes from the Latin word religare—to bind. Religious believers bind themselves to a set of beliefs. They submit themselves to a community of faith with shared convictions and hopes. A community of believers has a common history. It also has a shared purpose and future that are much bigger than any political authority. And that has implications.Individuals pose no threat to any state. They can be lied to, bullied, arrested, or killed. But communities of faith do pose a threat. Religious witness does have power, and communities of faith are much harder to silence or kill. - Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, via "Ten Reasons"

    Samuel Johnson, while expressing reservations about a mode of romantic fiction gaining popularity in his time, noted with a prescience prophetic in its measure the dangers of narrative technique in which character is subordinated to action, and vice and virtue so co-mingled that "no common mind is able to disunite them." He warns of writers who, "for the sake of following nature, so mingle good and bad qualities in their principal personages, that they are both equally conspicuous, and as we accompany them through their adventures with delight, and are led by degrees to interest ourselves in their favour, we lose the abhorrence of their faults, because they do not hinder our pleasure, or, perhaps, regard them with some kindness for being united with so much merit." One of the problems of the modern approach to narrative (the anti-hero as hero) has never been so nicely encapsulated. It should be applied with even greater severity to other popular R-rated shows like "The Shield" and "The Sopranos", in which characterization is at once far superior to, and more insidious than, 24's. - Bill Luse on "What's Wrong With the World"

    Methods go only so far as the intrinsic limitations can carry you. It is impossible to examine the infinite with anything less than the infinite; however, when looked at from a great diversity of view points, the Infinite comes more clearly into focus than the view of any one school can possibly allow. I don't do exegesis as such, but every time I pick up the Bible, I recall that it is the passionate narrative of God's love for all of His people. There are certainly themes and variations, but it is the constant, underlying strain of love that guides my reading of any biblical text. God is present and God is telling you that He loves you. Strain to hear this and you cannot go wrong in reading the Scriptures. - Steven Riddle of "Flos Carmeli"
    Cal Thomas on Israel's Next War

    In the futures market, apocalyptic stocks are rising. Israel doesn't seem to be taking the fact that they recently lost (or at least didn't win) a war lying down. According to Cal Thomas: "When Israelis feel threatened they have always looked to the right and this time they appear eager to again turn rightward."

    Thomas writes:
    If there is to be another war and so soon, Israelis are asking themselves who they would rather have leading their nation: a wishful thinker like Ehud Olmert, who, according to the government report on the Lebanon war, "made up his mind hastily, despite the fact that no detailed military plan was submitted to him and without asking for one," or Benjamin Netanyahu, who understands better than most that Israel won't get a second chance in an all-out war.

    It's a good bet that Olmert's days are numbered and Netanyahu's return as prime minister is drawing near. It had better come quickly, because if Ambassador Meridor's worst-case scenario comes true, not only summer is just around the corner; the next war may be as well.
    Olmert, a "wishful thinker" who went to war without detailed military plans, sounds vaguely familiar.
    From Today's LotH Reflection:

    St. Gregory the Great:
    For it is written: On the day of prosperity do not forget affliction, and on the day of affliction do not forget prosperity. For if a man receives God's gifts, but forgets his affliction, he can fall through his own excessive joy. On the other hand, when a man is bruised by the scourges, but is not at all consoled by the thought of the blessings he has been fortunate to receive, he is completely cast down.

    Thus both attitudes must be united so that one may be supported by the other: the memory of the gift can temper the pain of the affliction, and the foreboding and fear of the affliction can modify the joy of the gift.

    May 28, 2007

    Yum...




    My, but does it not take your breath away? Note the infinite variety of gold & amber tones generated by antiquarian lighting bouncing off the oaken hues. Then there's the wonderfully auld sod sign "Wildy & Sons" straight out of Dickens...Tender, solicitous volumes bathed in a lacquer of luminence stand in stalwart shelves, some leaning casually against each other as if in poses of coit-idyll.

    Picture taken from Book P*rn (via Irish Elk), who posts this picture with the caption: "demonstrating that even law books can be hot".

    Yes indeed.
    Various

    I’m jealous of my wife's simplicity. Sitting in the living room enjoying the restful earth-tone squares of the rug and the tranquil mason jars of seashells on the shelves of the entertainment center I recall how much she appreciates the natural world and accepts it as a blessing. Animals are seen as proof that God exists; dogs are "angels in fur suits". She lives in the moment much better than me, better able to forget what she could be doing at any given moment. A bumpersticker I can relate to is: “I’d rather be reading” but for her there’s a sense in which she’d rather be doing what she’s doing. Which is why it’s so hard for her to leave a given activity for an ostensibly better one. She’ll work late because she’s in the moment. She’ll be reluctant to drop the chores in the yard for dinner even though the chores can wait. She has no trouble separating out the strands of others’ failures, financial, moral or otherwise, from her life. She’s sympathetic and will do what she can but by living in the moment she feels no guilt for the blessings she's received. You ask how the saints enjoy Heaven while others are in Hell? She has found it - by living in the moment.

    * * *

    My favorite bible versions o'er time:

    Pre-College & College: New American Bible
    1997-2003: New Revised Standard
    2003-2007: New Jerusalem

    Ranking of Interest in Various Civil War Personages:

    1) Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson
    2) Robert E. Lee
    3) William T. Sherman
    4) Jefferson Davis
    5) Abraham Lincoln
    6) James Longstreet
    7) U.S. Grant

    * * *

    Been reading spiritual books but as a foil “And Then It Came to an End”, a comic novel about work, but hardly the sort of yearn-fiction I yearn for. The sort of lyrical fiction that you save for an uncluttered Sunday afternoon -- for those peaceful, locked-in-the-book-room days of yore. There a contemplative spirit that springs up on you unawares. After three or four or six hours you’re in a different world.

    I haven’t been able to find quite the right book lately. Modern fiction leaves me cold. There’s a warmth and aura and lyricism to Isak Dinesen’s fiction and non-fiction. Warmth and a lack of pretense is what is so appealling. Who would write a “Babette’s Feast” today? Modern fiction is coldness and pretense, though I do generalize.

    I’m going to read some Philip K. Dick soon. I hear he has lyricism and Bone swears by him.
    Via Email - Ways to Improve Your Writing
    1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
    2. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
    3. Employ the vernacular.
    4. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
    5. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
    6. Remember to never split an infinitive.
    7. Contractions aren't necessary.
    8. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
    9. One should never generalize.
    10. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
    11. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
    12. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
    13. Be more or less specific.
    14. Understatement is always best.
    15. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
    16. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
    17. The passive voice is to be avoided.
    18. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
    19. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
    20. Who needs rhetorical questions?
    21. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
    22. Don't never use a double negation.
    23. capitalize every sentence and remember always end it with point
    24. Do not put statements in the negative form.
    25. Verbs have to agree with their subjects.
    26. Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
    27. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
    28. A writer must not shift your point of view.
    29. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
    30. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
    31. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to the irantecedents.
    32. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
    33. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
    34. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
    35. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
    36. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
    37. Always pick on the correct idiom.
    38. The adverb always follows the verb.
    39. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; They're old hat; seek viable alternatives.

    May 27, 2007

    Quick Hits...

    You've read Memoirs of a Geisha? Now there's Memoirs of a Dishwasher.

    The newest human right is the right to wear a bikini.

    Touchstone reveals the interesting history of Protestants and contraception.

    A quick parody of Scheske's blog requests:
    I’m looking for blogs that originate from Naples, Florida and whose subject matter centers on Arkansas Razorback football. Please email me for those qualifying...
    On a Friend Being Out of Work

    You can’t live another’s life
    though you’d like to take the reins,
    and try to give them a lead
    as if it were a relay race.

    You imagine you'd be their savior
    You imagine you’d wallpaper the world with resumes,
    That your desperation would unlock any treasure,
    That the imposition of your will would surely work.

    It’s folly, of course.

    His Pride hackles would engage
    even as you don your Messiah glasses
    and between y’all nothing would be accomplished.
    Nothing important anyway.

    May 26, 2007

    I'm OK, You're OK, at the Local 5K

    Ran the suburban 5k today. It’d been awhile. There was the familiar sight of serious runners in good enough shape to actually jog a mile or more before in preparation. They are the "diehards”, as my mom calls bikers who go to the trouble of wearing helmets and skin-tight Spiderman outfits before hitting the local bike path. (By contrast, I just try to find shorts that don't have holes in the crotch.)

    Before the race runners are engaged in a collection of nervous tics that pass as stretching exercises. Superstitiously I do a few stretches even though it seems like the stretches make me sore before I even start the race. Maybe I’m doing them wrong or too strenuously.

    I line up in back because I’m getting over flu-like symptoms and am treating this (at least in the official discography) as more of a training run than a race. I start behind a porcelain skin'd girl who hadn’t been out in the sun much. I think: man she’s exposing a lot of skin to the sun’s unforgiving rays. It’s a 4pm start, really hot, and our master of ceremonies (aka the starter guy) worries aloud about getting us all back healthy. I say if it’s your time, it’s your time, let’s get on with it. The crowd is so young I almost feel like Creed on NBC’s The Office.

    The starting gun, or what passes thereof, goes off and I start slow and taper off. Actually I start slow because there are a few hundred people in front of me and I have no choice. But when the crowd thins I decide I like the slow pace and continue it awhile. My plan is to go slow the first couple miles and then sprint the last mile and tenth. Or better yet go slow the first 3 miles and sprint the last tenth.

    But then I remember Richard Nixon quoting St. Thomas Aquinas. Nixon, in his book "Seize the Day" or something like that, mentioned that Aquinas said something like a ship's purpose is not to just sit around in harbor.

    It’s an out & back course so I spend the end of the first mile constantly waiting for the out & backers to come back. I want to see the leaders, I want some inspiration damnit. Finally they appear and I’d like to applaud but quash it since the energy that would take might add a few seconds to my time, as if that mattered. The apples-to-oranges principle states that one must not do anything differently in this 5K in order to compare it validly to 5Ks in the past.

    During the race I can’t help but notice that I’m not passing quite as many runners as I’d expected and the runners I am passing are rather elderly. I’m starting to see the advantage of youth. It’s real. When I was younger I thought that races were mostly the result of your training. Input = Output. You train hard, you race hard. But in this race it’s deeply suspicious that all the early leaders were young and we trail-unblazers were middle-aged or older.

    As we came to the home stretch I found myself comfortably enscounced between guys about my age. I felt the whip hand of the slow start and began dramatically picking up the pace. I passed a struggling runner but tried to do so as unobtrusively as possible. But he noticed, perhaps because nothing is more obtrustive than unobtrusivity, and my passing him proved his inspiration. He found a second wind and easily passed me. He began a very strong sustained sprint-like sprint. I decided to try to stay with him since I was curious to see how long he could go with it since he was seriously dragging when I passed him. I didn’t catch him.

    Come to think of it, he was younger than me.
    Burying the Lede

    An AP story today said that "forty-six percent said they expect spiking gasoline prices to cause them severe financial problems".

    Let's say the average family has two cars and drive them a combined 22,000 miles a year. That's 1833 miles a month. If they average 20mpg, that's about 91 gallons a month. The recent surge is about 50 cents extra per gallon. This means an extra $45 a month, or $11.25 a week.

    The real story is that the richest country in the world can't afford an extra $11.25 per week without facing "severe financial problems".

    There are legimately tight budgets, but there are also a lot of budgets made artificially tight by expensive clothes, cars and gadgets.

    If we can't afford a fifty cent increase in gas price, how in the world are we going to afford the increased taxes that will occur in 2010 when the current tax relief expires? And yet how many voters voted for Democrats while ignorant that Dems are extremely likely to scrap the tax relief?

    The extra $540 per year in gas prices - assuming gas prices remain at $3.25+ a gallon for a whole year instead of just during the summer driving months - is dwarfed by the $1,800 tax increase the typical family of four making $60,000 a year will experience in 2010.

    May 25, 2007

    History & Violence

    Interesting New Yorker article on Lincoln and whether “Now he belongs to the ages” or "Now he belongs to the angels" was said (accounts differ) by his friend Edwin Stanton at his deathbed:
    Stanton was weeping, Lincoln had just died, the room was overwhelmed, whatever he said was broken by a sob—the sob, in a sense, is the story. History is not an agreed-on fiction but what gets made in a crowded room; what is said isn’t what’s heard, and what is heard isn’t what gets repeated. Civilization is an agreement to keep people from shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, but the moments we call historical occur when there is a fire in a crowded theatre; and then we all try to remember afterward when we heard it, and if we ever really smelled smoke, and who went first, and what they said. The indeterminacy is built into the emotion of the moment. The past is so often unknowable not because it is befogged now but because it was befogged then, too, back when it was still the present. If we had been there listening, we still might not have been able to determine exactly what Stanton said. All we know for sure is that everyone was weeping, and the room was full.
    There was also some interesting thoughts about Lincoln's near obsession with the words of Claudius in Hamlet:
    That cannot be; since I am still possess’d
    Of those effects for which I did the murder,
    My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
    May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?
    In the corrupted currents of this world
    Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
    And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
    Buys out the law: but ’tis not so above;
    There is no shuffling, there the action lies
    In his true nature; and we ourselves compell’d,
    Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
    To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
    Try what repentance can: what can it not?
    Yet what can it when one can not repent?
    O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
    O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
    Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay!
    There’s no reason to believe that Lincoln “identified” with Claudius, or thought his own conduct evil. But he shuddered to think what his ambition, together with his principles, had helped make happen. He recognized and understood the pain of one who, believing himself, as Claudius does, to be essentially good and capable of salvation, knows that he is covered with blood—one who, having chosen to take on the weight and worry of the world, knows that he has done it and, like Macbeth, too, cannot be free of its guilt: Help, angels! Make assay!

    What makes Lincoln still seem noble, to use an old-fashioned word, is that he had not a guilty sense of remorse but a tragic sense of responsibility. He believed that what he was doing was right; he knew that what he was doing was dealing death to the undeserving (knowledge that must have been doubled at the Soldiers’ Home as the bodies were brought to be buried week after week). If Lincoln truly has something in common with Jesus, it is that he is the model of a charismatic ethical intelligence who was also a calm dealer of punishment on a vast scale: Some to my right and some to my left . . .

    Lincoln exemplifies the problem of liberal violence: the disjunction between the purity of our motives (as they appear to the liberal) and the force of our violence (as it is experienced by the victim). The reality of his faith in his beloved rule of reason, and the constant presence of his magnanimous and winning character, doesn’t preclude his engagement in mass killing. The corrupted currents of the world. (That other autodidact Midwesterner Harry Truman also turned to “Hamlet” to find words to expiate his blood-guilt, underlining at the end of a book about the atomic bomb a long quote from the last act of “Hamlet” that begins, “Let me speak to the yet unknowing world / How these things came about: So shall you hear / Of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts / Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, / Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause . . . And, in this upshot, purposes mistook / Fall’n on the inventors’ heads.”)
    And in Heaven All the Cooks Are French...

    I happened across this German commenter on Scipio's site, and noticed that the blogger's favorite films were mostly American, favorite writers mostly British and favorite musicians mostly German. That seems somehow right, doesn't it?

    May 24, 2007

    A WhippyDip's Kind of Bingo

    The Padre is here tonight. Always good to get some face time with the Padre. I figure if he sees me enough then maybe he'll come to the house or hospital and give me the last rites should I need them. I suppress the urge to jokingly ask him how much time off Purgatory for this activity. You know how Ken Cooper came up with aerobic points for everything from cleaning house to running a triathalon? Well, I figure there should be Purgatory points for bingo. I'm guessing a 3-1 ratio: three hours out of Purgatory for every hour spent at bingo. (Hold the disputatious emails; speaking of time in eternity is speculative at best.)

    My but the kids are randy tonight. Kim said someone was "rubbing her butt". I said it wasn't me and she said she knew that, said it was some older lady who was doing it in order to ask her to get her a hotdog. I ask you: whatever happened to the simple arm tap?

    Later Kim hears the word penis and freezes; her ears prick as it were. "You don't hear that word very much among a bunch of ladies!" she explains. She asked the sayee why she said that word and the sayee told her grandson or some such lad got it stuck in a zipper. Case closed. Or zipper closed. Ouch.

    I'm selling 300s, or "Tree-hundreds" as they're cornily known. People like "Rednecks" and "Kings"; I can't much blame them for spurning something as hard corn as "Tree-hundreds", complete with a picture of a tree above the "$300". Pat is selling Kings. It's like she's selling Chivas Regal and I'm selling Wild Turkey. For the same price.

    Kim gut-punched me. Said we have to do this again next week. We get July off, which makes it more palatable, but still it's bru-tile. I've got a rehersal dinner the next night and a wedding the following day. But to tell the truth I actually look forward to bingo. It's a wonderful test - a micro acid test of Christian commitment (sort of like how Opus Dei'rs spike their morning showers with ice cold water) since it's something I can't do in my natural strength and wouldn't dream of doing normally. I can do all things, even Bingo, thru Christ which strengthens me. And of course my fellow workers are salt and light and great fun.

    I'm greatly heartened by some of the customers. There are a couple of grandmotherly women with truly beatific smiles. I try to return them just as well as they were delivered but I don't know that I could or did. They are the sort of smiles one normally never gets. Long-lasting, glad-to-see you smiles with eyes twinkling like stars.

    Pam (!) scoops me concerning one of the Grand Poobahs of bingo, an elderly Italian gent in OSU gear who pushes a cart of hotdogs & snacks around. Turns out he's a multi-millionaire. Whoda thunk it? His wife plays bingo every week and only throws small bills around, $1s & $5s. You know the highway signs that tell you what food and lodging is at the exit? His idea. Made a mint. And yet here he is at bingo. Pushing a cart full of stale foods. I love this parish.

    During "after-bingo", that heady, drunk-on-fatigue time when we all gather round the pizza and make confessions like Kim did ("I wanted to be a nun...I dressed in black like a nun when I was younger..."), it comes out that Pat met her husband at the rather eerily unromantic "WhippyDips" restaurant. Some words are just funny on their own, like "WhippyDips". Much teasing ensued...They go there for their anniversaries, Kim said. It's the only time...oh nevermind.
    Excerpts from Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth:
    There are two other great narratives concerning bread in Jesus' life. The first is the multiplication of the loaves for the thousands who followed the Lord when he withdrew to a lonely place. Why does Christ now do the very thing he had rejected as a temptation before? The crowds had left everything in order to come hear God's word. They are people who have opened their hearts to God and to one another; they are therefore ready to receive the bread with the proper disposition. This miracle of the loaves has three aspects then. It is preceded by the search for God, for his word, for the teaching that sets the whole life on the right path. Furthermore, God is asked to supply the bread. Finally, readiness to share with one another is an essential element of the miracle.

    * * *

    This brings to light the real meaning of Psalm 91, which has to do with the right to the ultimate and unlimited trust of which the Psalm speaks: If you follow the will of God, you know that in spite of all the terrible things that happen to you, you will never lose a final refuge. You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One who loves you. Yet this trust, which we cultivate on the authority of Scripture and at the invitation of the risen Lord, is something quite different from the reckless defiance of God that would make God our servant.
    Various

    Blame this post on Ham o' Bone. He called and got me all riled up on issues foreign & domestic:
    * * *

    From Pot-Calls-Kettle-Black Dep't: Isn't Jimmy Carter calling Bush the worst president a bit like Pol Pot calling some other regime the worst in history? If Jimmy would've stood up to the Iranians in '79 maybe we wouldn't be in our current mess. On the bright side for Bush, being called the worst president is quite a promotion from being called Hitler as many critics are wont to do.
    * * *

    In other news, the Ohio House is telling the clergy how to pray, requiring pastors to submit their prayers before sessions 72 hours beforehand. Where's the love for diversity of prayer styles, for ministers more prone to extemporaneous praise and petition? As always, the secular left likes diversity as long as they approve it in advance.
    * * *

    Sure it's not Joycean, but Tony Blankley can flat out write a good editorial.

    * * *

    I find it high-laire that the same politicians who never met a gas tax they wouldn't hike are now suddenly solicitous of consumers paying high gas prices. Since 20-30% of the price of gas is taxes, one would think they might feel a bit sheepish about putting a lid on oil profits while ever seeking to maximize their own. (Politicians see the public trough as the source of their status because their power is contingent upon it. No money, no power.)
    Options

    The heretical "fundamental option theory" sounds very attractive, but isn't it likely that if it ever became commonly accepted it would eventually be deemed too harsh and a fresh "one-time option" theory would spring up in its place? Slipping into parody...
    CHICAGO, IL--Six in ten theologians now support the controversial "One Time Option" theory of salvation.

    The theory posits that salvation is attainable by having at least once entertained the idea of serving God. The thought need not be conscious.
    Whilst doing a Google, I came across this post from Pontifications, written back when he was still Anglican:

    But over the past year I have discovered, to my chagrin, that the fundamental option theory has been severely criticized by the Catholic magisterium. Now as an Anglican I do not need to take the Vatican’s criticisms with solemn seriousness; but when I read Pope John Paul II’s critique of fundamental option theory in his encyclical Veritatis Splendor (65-68), I had to change my tune. I find the Pope’s criticisms of fundamental option to be compelling:
    "By his fundamental choice, man is capable of giving his life direction and of progressing, with the help of grace, towards his end, following God’s call. But this capacity is actually exercised in the particular choices of specific actions, through which man deliberately conforms himself to God’s will, wisdom and law. It thus needs to be stated that the so-called fundamental option, to the extent that it is distinct from a generic intention and hence one not yet determined in such a way that freedom is obligated, is always brought into play through conscious and free decisions. Precisely for this reason, it is revoked when man engages his freedom in conscious decisions to the contrary, with regard to morally grave matter."
    Faith in Christ, in other words, cannot be divorced from the various concrete ways this faith is incarnated in our moral lives. “Show me your faith apart from your works,” the Apostle James writes, “and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:18). Clearly faith is a mystery that cannot be reduced to a transcendental relation to God independent of the concrete actualities of living. To one degree or another, my acts are directed to or away from God.

    May 23, 2007

    The Curse of the "R"s

    Eighteen and twenty-eight,
    records shared by Royals, Rangers & Reds*;
    Tis a bad time to be an "R" team,
    someone should call the Feds.
    __

    * - Rockies are at 19-27, Rays at 18-26.
    A Bleg

    If you could say a quick prayer for a friend at church whose home is slated to be sold at a sheriff sale next month due to foreclosure I'd appreciate it. He's been out of work for three years and recently acquired a low-paying job but will probably have to declare bankruptcy.
             

    Simply said, you are my best friend - I don't know any of my friends that would send me money when I'm broke or work three jobs to help make all of my dreams come true. You are there for Ebes and me day and night, 365 days a year, and don't think that goes unnoticed. I don't know how you balance everything in your life and continue to always be such a wonderful mom. You are going to have to share your secret with me one day. You are the definition of unselfish - you put your family before everything, even yourself and for that I just want to say thank you and I love you. - Bill Luse's daughter's tribute to her mother

    Our news cycles move so fast now, so incredibly, terribly fast. All of [Va Tech] was just a month ago - April 16. One month. That's all. It filled the news for a few days, but now the news has moved on to something else, back to other things. But hundreds have not. You know, when I was younger - actually not much younger - the life of a contemplative was unimaginable to me. How, I wondered, could anyone pray all day? What could keep you down on your knees so much? How could you think of enough to pray for? Slowly, I'm beginning to figure it out. And now I think there are not enough hours in the day or night. Not nearly enough. Trusting that the prayers rise out of the grief, making their way, not into the air where they cannot be answered, but into the waiting embrace of Life and Love Eternal. - Amy Welborn

    Good thing Ascension Thursday Sunday doesn't have an octave. Then we'd have Ascension Thursday Sunday Monday, and Ascension Thursday Sunday Tuesday, etc. ... commenter on CWN's "Off the Record" via Terrence Berres

    Unlike the Clinton administration, which lied with a fluency and bravado that will impress PR hacks for decades to come, the Bush administration stumbles, flusters, and eventually disheartens even its staunchest supporters. Or, as my friend Bill Walsh puts it, they cannot even tell the truth convincingly. - David Frum of NRO

    As I see it, Lambeth didn’t legalise contraception it legalised sexual perversion. Once you allow emission of semen from its proper designated place, well, it ends up anywhere. -- commenter on "What's Wrong With the World"

    Fr. Byrne decided he would operate the CSC by a straightforward rule: the Center would be about Catholic kids doing Catholic things with other Catholic kids. If it wasn't 100% Catholic, he wasn't going to invest time, money, or effort in it. One good thing about a culture in which tolerance is the only virtue is that it's easy to recognize how radical is the claim, "God loves us, and His Son is here in the tabernacle." Fr. Byrne began with that 100% Catholic claim, and once (but not until) his flock got a firm handle on that, he worked his way out from there. He says weekly Mass attendance has gone from 350 to 1,000 in the eight years he's served as chaplain; attendance has also increased from 12 at the one daily Mass to 50 across the two daily Masses. - Tom of Disputations

    One thing to also note is that most all of Jesus’ famous sayings came from the OT. This means that we can see the struggle of the OT Hebrews between knowing their God as love and one as a tribal sponsor defeating all their enemies. Jesus came with the authoritative answer. He pointed back to the parts of the OT that are of God’s nature...I respect your search through these questions. These were my own questions as I moved from agnosticism to faith. For me, the questions finally went away as I started working in service to other people. Love is a verb, not a noun. And so there are many, many questions I don’t have the answer to. But what I do know is that God exists, He is love and He has called me to participate in His providence. - commenter on "Roman Catholic blog" to another commenter seeking answers

    Conservatives tend to make a big deal about the occasional irruption of straightforward anti-Catholicism, from Amanda Marcotte to Tony Auth. But that kind of anti-Catholic bigotry, the kind of day-to-day stuff that gets Bill Donohue all riled up, is often the sincerest form of flattery: When you’re as big and old and imposing as the Church of Rome, of course a lot of people are going to hate you, and when the Marcottes of the world stop spewing venom in the Church’s direction it’ll be a sign that Catholicism is on the way out. Nuland’s anecdote, by contrast, gets at something that should actually bother Catholics, and something worth struggling against: Namely, the fact that our culture’s entire self-understanding – the story it tells itself about its own past, about where it’s been and where it’s going – is steeped even now in an Anglo-Protestant interpretation of history, and shot through with anti-Catholic assumptions and prejudices. Most Americans don’t think that John Roberts and Sam Alito are secretly loyal to Rome, for instance, but everybody knows that the Middle Ages were dark and brutal and barbarous, everybody knows that Protestantism freed the Western mind from bondage and that the Protestant work ethic built the modern world, everybody knows that the Church has always been an inveterate foe of scientific inquiry (Galileo! Galileo!), and so on and so forth. And that everybody includes an awful lot of American Catholics, the unwitting heirs of a Whiggish interpretation of the past that downplays, denigrates and dismisses their own religious patrimony. - Ross Douthat of "American Scene"

    The dog's very lawlessness is but an extravagance of loyalty; he will go mad with joy three times on the same day, at going out for a walk down the same road. The modern world is full of fantastic forms of animal worship; a religion generally accompanied with human sacrifice. Yet we hear strangely little of the real merits of animals; and one of them surely is this innocence of all boredom; perhaps such simplicity is the absence of sin. I have some sense myself of the sacred duty of surprise; and the need of seeing the old road as a new road. But I cannot claim that whenever I go out for a walk with my family and friends, I rush in front of them volleying vociferous shouts of happiness; or even leap up round them attempting to lick their faces. It is in this power of beginning again with energy upon familiar and homely things that the dog is really the eternal type of the Western civilisation. - GK Chesterton

    May 22, 2007

    Interesting...

    ...First Things article titled, cheerfully, Death & Politics:
    The claim here is that without shared dead, the strong feeling for community fails, leaving us with only associations on the level of bowling leagues—or worse, the decay of bowling leagues into what the popular sociological writer Robert Putnam in 1995 called the “bowling alone” of contemporary America: a culture with such a damaged sense of community that it has difficulty maintaining even small, genial associations of mutual interest.

    Like his fellow communitarians—the writers who, from the 1980s on, have accurately seen that a large range of political and social benefits are lost when voluntary associations disappear—Putnam seems unwilling to reach down to the metaphysical causes of the communities for which he longs. Indeed, the communitarians generally appear to imagine communities will form almost of themselves once people grasp the sociological good that comes from the existence of communities.

    It is not true, of course, or true only in such rare instances that it might as well not be true. Mutual burial societies, congregations at prayer for the dead: These are the human associations engaged in the kind of metaphysically vital work that makes a community feel important and weighty to its members. Not all groups—not even a particularly large percentage—need to serve death, but a culture’s longest-lasting and most-influential communities always will, from the churches to the charitable guilds. Whether it’s grand state obsequies at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., or Remembrance Day at the Elks Club in Ottumwa, Iowa, funeral associations are what establish the pattern of community from which other associations in the society benefit.

    * * *


    Making philosophically defensible their distaste for grief, the Roman Stoics find themselves teetering on the edge of determinism and the denial of the capacity of the will to direct meaningful external action: “If you wish your children and your wife and your friends to live forever,” writes Epictetus, “you are foolish”—not merely because the wish derives from a misunderstanding of the world but also because it reveals how willful its motive is: “for you wish things to be in your power which are not so.”

    A serious investigation in the intellectual history of ethics might trace this thought through antiquity as it runs all the way down, as if by its own momentum, to Marcus Aurelius—for whom all external things, even his own actions, come to seem at last slightly unreal. It is for “our faculty of intelligence to apprehend” how quickly all things vanish away, he writes: “how worthless and despicable and unclean and ephemeral and dead!” Time will hide everything, for the present is only a passing point in the infinity of time. Death reduces all to the same condition, what we prize equally with what we despise: “As well fall in love with a sparrow that flits past and in a moment is gone from our eyes.”

    Stoic ethics reenacts the pattern of reasoning that modal logic had predicted: A denial of the reality of the dead will always issue in a denial of free will. Fatalism is the cost of a failure to grieve.
    Once a Priest...

    A family member is scandalized by a priest who left the priesthood but who continues to celebrate the sacraments, specifically the Eucharist. I don't know his canonical status, but it's not a public Mass. I am not scandalized because I believe ordination is life-altering. It's not simply a piece of paper, just as marriage is a sacrament and not paperwork.

    Just as once someone is validly married and then gets a divorce and re-marries, the remarriage occurs only in the eyes of the world. It doesn't change the underlying validity or permanence of the first marriage in God's eyes, the eyes that count.

    I think in modern democracies people are allergic to differences, let alone differences that can't be seen with the naked eye. But the Church is not a club or a bowling league. The rules are enforced and the powers which flow are by and from God, not from its members.

    The ordination ceremony quite clearly states that "you are a priest forever". It is a mystery of faith that he is not the same after ordination than he is before, but too often in our prosaic non-metaphysical world we don't recognize that. I love the sense of permanency.
    St. Rita of Cascia

    Some saints become of particular interest or devotion when some momentous event in our personal life happens to fall on that saint's feast day, as is the case for me with St. Rita (wedding anniversary).

    She was born and died on this day, May the 22nd.

    From Fr. Kienberger: "On May 24, 1900, Pope Leo XIII canonized St. Rita, heralding her as the saint of impossible and desperate cases...The Saint's prayers have aided countless youths in choosing a vocation which they never would have dreamed humanly possible to achieve."

    Bitte fur mich St. Rita!
    The Early Bird Gets the Books

    Given the strong sales of the book (#20 on Amazon after just three days or so), my advice to those reading Pope Benedict's new Jesus of Nazareth is to read quickly, if only for the crass reason that there's going to be a run on the out-of-print books he mentions as having influenced him. Fortunately with the book I'm about to mention there appear to be a lot of copies.

    The parables of Christ have always been of particular interest to me and the slim chapter in Jesus of Nazareth on three of them (oh he doth tease!) was riveting, such that I now am very tempted to buy Rediscovering the Parables by Joachim Jeremias. Check out these reviews:

    SCHOLARLY BUT READABLE, May 24, 2002

    I read this book when I was a seminary student in the late 70's. Sad to say, it wasn't required reading. I read it on my own, and it's one of the few books from that era in my life that I remember having read. I know Koine Greek, so Jeremias' quoting the original language of the New Testament was wonderful to me. However, for those who don't know Greek, there is a condensed Greek-free version of this book titled, "Rediscovering the Parables." It's probably available somewhere used. If you're reading this review, then you're interested enough in this topic to get your hands on either version. "The Parables of Jesus" is a book you will read and revisit through the years. Get it.

    The best of the historical Jesus scholars, December 28, 2001

    Forget about those silly ... over at the Jesus Seminar. Jeremias is the real deal. He dedicated his life to building a bridge from the primitive church back to the actual words of Jesus and I think he was remarkably successful. The heart of Jesus' message is the parables and this book takes us into the company of Jesus. It's as if we're hearing him for the first time.
    Anyway, reading Jesus of Nazareth feels a bit like running ahead and climbing a tree for a better view of Him - ala Zacchaeus.
    Dog Poem I

    What should we think of dogs?

    Should we regard their exuberances as misplaced?

    Why all the fuss over me, I think, as I fuss over him
    and his simple repertoire of expressions that never get old.

    Does he not teach me more than I teach him?
    For what indifference the holy dog has to success!

    He treats equally the experience of the squirrel
    who daily frustrates and taunts him,
    as that of the postman-burglar
    whose nefarious activies are e'er thwarted!

    * * *

    Dog Poem II

    They say big dogs don't live as long as small dogs
    And there are those calculating fools
    Who take that into account
    And seek to limit their lifetime quantity of heartache
    as if they actually pretended to believe
    the heresy that all dogs are the same.

    * * *

    The Norways

    Chancellors of the realm,
    They stand thrice a human's height,
    grandeured old men groved
    in long-standing meetings
    discussing weighty matters
    such that their piney limbs
    droop or soar depending on their mission.

    In spring they alight with candles on each bough,
    bright lights of irridescent green
    limbs aglow like fireflies--
    though constant and steady
    like the annointing of Baptism.

    May 21, 2007

    Walker Percy & Jonathon Franzen's The Corrections

    Interesting link, via Korrektiv:
    In their marital battles—over child care, housework, their individual behavior —Gary is, like his father, a small and close minded moralist. This of course is reprehensible, but note that it is so not because the old-fashioned notions of personal responsibility and truth telling are reprehensible—far from it —but because Gary improperly understands and enforces these concepts.

    In contrast, Caroline is completely committed to seeing all behavior exclusively in biomedical terms. As Gary expresses it, “His lumbering forces of conventional domestic warfare were no match for [her] biological weaponry. He cruelly attacked her person, she heroically attacked his disease” (Franzen, 2001, 201). This would seem to grant Caroline the moral high road. In fact, however, Caroline is, perhaps unknowingly, committed to an overthrow of morality since on her view behavior is nothing more than biochemistry of the brain. And correcting behavior is not about moral responsibility, it’s about chemical change: behavioral change is much better left, she believes, to external forces like Corecktall (or, e,g., an SSRI) rather than an internal recognition of a need to change.

    That this is a false position is argued for in the ending of The Corrections. Despite the fact that Gary is now full of whatever the latest developments in psychopharmacology can offer, his life remains empty, and he is no closer to coming to any sort of self-recognition...Gary continues to shift blame away from himself onto others and seeks happiness from external sources such as can be provided by psychopharmacology.
    Politics Happens

    I think the allergy of the conservative base to illegal immigrant "amnesty", or anything close to it, is in interesting because I think there's something more to it than we've been hearing.

    I don't believe it's mostly of the John Derbyshire variety -- he who felt the sting of going through all the legal hoops and and now feels the unfairness of illegals finding a path to citizenship. There aren't enough legal immigrants in the Republican party to explain that, and I think it's human nature that most people will not want to harshly punish someone getting away with something that they themselves would've done if they were in lawbreaker's situation. (Which is why Clinton got a pass from the Left -- most of the Left saw lying about sex as something they'd have done in his situation. Most of the Right didn't want to give him a pass because they couldn't imagine lying under oath no matter what it was about.)

    Certainly the base feels like Charlie Brown when the football is removed the twentieth time just before kicking it. Neither party's elites are much interested in border enforcement and yet that's always used as a pledge of good faith when it comes to immigration bills. (This Administration comes by its negligence honestly; when we went into Iraq the borders remained open & thus invited Syrians and Iranians over to join the Baathists in a jihadist's wet dream.)

    That's perhaps half the reason. The other half of the reason much of the base is repulsed by anything close to amnesty is fear that the illegals will eventually become voters. As Bill O'Reilly recently said (while reluctantly supporting the bill now making its way through the Senate), "The Republican Party will probably be wiped out. The new citizens are going to register three-to-one as Democrats, and we're going to have a one-party system because of this." The current office-holding Republicans can support it because they'll be out of office by the time it happens, and/or they see it as happening eventually with or without an immigration bill (i.e. demographics).

    This may be the elephant in the room but is why the status quo will probably remain. That and the inability to predict how costly it will be to grant illegals legal status in terms of social services and such. Since there is no moral imperative to give immigrants citizen status, it likely not to happen out of political considerations. Btw, it's not just Bill O'Reilly who sees a big Democratic Party payday. Kate O'Beirne quotes the National Journal and Rep. Barney Frank:
    Top Democratic leaders and activists see Hispanic migration as a long-term opportunity for the party. The arrival of additional immigrant workers is "bad for blue-collars," Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told National Journal late last year. But immigrants can help elect Democratic majorities, and "if [a Democratic Congress] were to significantly strengthen unions, then you would offset the negative effect on the income of workers," he said.
    Point Counterpoint

    I report, you decide. Recent letter in recent NR:
    Good to see the bald eagle is resurgent (“Baldly Back,” April 30), but a cost-benefit analysis of the bird’s recovery is in order. As John J. Miller reported, there were 417 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in 1963. Since the ban on DDT, that number has swelled to 9,000 pairs. But DDT effectively controlled the Anopheles mosquito that carries the malaria parasite, reducing the number of cases to near zero. The ban, and our attendant unwillingness to use DDT in the developing world, has allowed the scourge to worsen. Some 350-500 million cases occur worldwide each year, and more than a million die from the disease, primarily children in sub-Saharan Africa. This is brutal math — it costs the lives of scores of black and brown babies to save a single eagle. --Clark Larsen
    Response from my environmentalist uncle:
    They don't tell you that mosquitoes can become resistant to DDT very quickly and that it is absorbed into our system and accumulates in our fat tissues. It caused thinning of the eggshell in birds to the point where they broke when the birds sat on them. Who knows what it does to people. There are safer pesticides out there, and the problems in Africa stems from there corrupt goverments and a lot of other issues. There are other ways of dealing with malaria, among them distributing nets to sleep under which has reduced malaria incidents greatly where used. If the West suffered from malaria like the 3rd world does a lot more money and research would be invested into the problem. But that may change with global warming and the spread of the malaria moquitoes futher north into previously safe areas.
    Various

    My brother-in-law shared this link, which advertises a "9-11 Truth Debate":
    "We are looking for someone who will defend the official story that fire brought down the twin towers for a debate to be held later this month."
    The funny thing about debates about conspiracies is that it's only the paranoids who are invested in it - they are the only ones who will take all the time to come up with odd explanations. Sane people wouldn't want to waste their time debating wackos.

    But that's probably a poor strategy.

    Too many people believe the Da Vinci Code is fact simply because it was a bestseller long before it started being regularly refuted. Sane people tend to simply dismiss convoluted conspiracies, but that leaves the field wide open for uncontested lies and gives ignorance time to gather a critical mass.

    * * *

    I love the time I get to spend sprinkling pixie dust, the stuff of legends & myths, in my journal. When I write I feel so alive. There just great delicious-osity in describing events in life, in the power of words to make the realities of every day life even more vivid and real. When my boss mentioned his dream-tangle with SpongeBob Squarepants (or SpongeSquare BobPants as I mistakenly called him), it triggered my own imagination. It was as if the richness of the Dickensian landscape were transplanted to central Ohio, for what could be more Dickensian than my own dear boss whose life is roiled by the minorest of things (so much like mine!).

    * * *

    Was watching Saturday's episode of COPS and I was struck by how behaviorly indifferent to pain both lovers and haters are. The police told this arrestee multiple times that he would be tazed if he didn't calm down. The idea of tazing had the opposite effect and, alas, he was tazed. There was little question he knew it would be painful but it didn't matter.

    Then there was a married couple having domestic difficulties. The policeman said that three or four times a week they visit this couple. They were obviously in misery but the woman had asked him to come over. It ended in disaster but the man was still hopeful of saving the marriage.

    A much clearer illustration of a lover's imperviousness to pain is, of course, what Christ & the saints and martyrs have gone through.

    * * *

    Never put your CD player on "Track Repeat" and play Never Ending Song Of Love, the Patti Loveless/Dwight Yoakam duet, and expect it not to constantly replay endlessly in your head the next day. I like the song, but that track repeat feature is a dangerous thing.
    * * *



    Funny beginning to That Catholic Show.

    * * *
    A dog poem.

    May 20, 2007

    Quote Heard on C-Span

    Stephen Prothero author of "Religious Literacy", on whether all religions are the same:
    If you ask something simple like, "What is the problem that Christianity solves?", the answer would be sin. If you ask what problem Buddhism solves, the answer would be suffering. Are sin and suffering the same? No, in Christianity suffering is in some senses a good thing, in Buddhism there is no sense in which suffering can be considered good.

    So I think different religions are not different paths up the same mountain but have mountain climbers climbing different mountains with different treasure chests at the top.
    My Spidey Sense Says...

    We saw Spiderman 3, which turned out to be a 90 minute movie with a 2 hour 10 minute body. It’s amazing how no one can edit a movie anymore. There was this sand man villian who, like the godly Melchiezdech, seemingly came from nowhere and then disappeared. If I found it hard to care about these characters, how much less do I of the characters on 24. Manishevitz but this guy named Mi-low (sp?) got shot and, like Johnny, we hardly knew ye. He courageously said he was in charge of CTU and the terrorists shot him in the head, but it was nothing like losing Edgar last year. How different was NBC’s Friday Night Lights. You cared about those characters.

    The writers who flesh out the characters on 24 and Spiderman 3, call to mind Casey Stengel’s lament: “can’t anyone here play this game?”

    But Spiderman 3 wasn’t a waste by any means. The movie had a certain gravitas simply by nature of its message. There was a chilling scene of the newspaper photographer who, saved by Spiderman from a viscous black liquid that binds to your skin & metaphorically your soul, leaped back towards the viscous black liquid. Leaped towards his physical and moral death. You want freedom? There’s your free will in action. This movie screamed that actions have consequences which makes it bracing in a way that “Superman” or “Batman” or any other recent superhero film hasn’t been.

    May 18, 2007

    They Don't Get It After All

    The first time I saw this Kohler television ad I missed the first twelve seconds or so.

    Seeing only the last half I thought: they get it! They understand! At last, someone who understands.

    In the picture at left, our protagonist is obviously pouring a whole bag of dog food down the toilet in effort to establish his dominance over a previously recalcitrant foe! He is doing the mild-mannered homeowner equivalent of the endzone dance!

    I knew I had to post a link to the commercial on this site. I found it on the Kohler website but was gravely disappointed when I viewed the whole thing and saw that he was repeatedly flushing objects down the toilet not in a re-enactment of Hitler at the Arc de Triomphe but merely due to base sexual motivation. How grossly disappointing. No wonder I didn't buy a Kohler.
    The Case of Bible v. Church

    Growing up a Catholic in a sola scriptura culture, I’d always held the Bible in far more esteem than Tradition or the Magisterium. In a way I was like the ignorant client who had the best lawyer in the world but insisted on reading the fine print of the legal document. Every time I verified in print what I’d already been told I'd say to my lawyer, “Hey you were right!”. It’s not dissimilar to how your father is ignorant when you’re fifteen but becomes much wiser when you’re thirty.

    I find that reading the Bible has increased my faith in the Church because I see how obedient Church teachings are to the whole of Scripture. This makes sense because the giants who helped determine the shape of the Church were far more familiar with Scripture than me. It’s said that Aquinas knew the bible by heart and the early Fathers were scarcely less familiar. There is nobody thirstier for Scripture in general and the correct interpretation in particular than those who would and did die based on it - i.e. the early Christians and Fathers. And as Francis Beckwith recently said, the early Church was very Catholic. For example, all of the early Church fathers without exception took Jesus' words at face value and believed and taught the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In order to dance with the girl that brung ya you have to dance with a sacramental Church.

    They were familiar with the big picture as well as the micro pictures and how the latter fit intricately with the former. They struggled with faith versus works and free will & God’s sovereignty, and discovered heretofore hidden gems like the role of Mary in salvation history. Yet like a typical modern I assumed those who came before me were either a bit obtuse or disingenuous. For example, I assumed they either missed or arrogantly dismissed the part in the bible where it said Jesus had brothers.

    Reading the Bible gave me greater faith in the Church in part because whatever difficulties lay in the tensions between Church teachings of different eras, the same tensions were already present in the Bible itself. Luther wanted to dump the book of James because he saw it as too much in contrast to St. Paul's letters. Learning this, I could embrace whatever difficulties the Church presented because she at least came by it honestly!

    Bible v. Church was ingrained but turned out to be false distinction. I love the Bible and need the reassurance and reinforcement of the fine print. Nothing can replace the direct words of Christ upon which literally everything is based. But I’ll also trust my lawyer and mother dear, Mater Ecclesiae.
    Getting Terrorists to Talk

    Interesting article in the Atlantic about the intelligence team that cracked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s inner circle - without using torture:
    The interrogation methods employed by the Task Force were initially notorious. When the hunt started, in 2003, the unit was based at Camp Nama, at Baghdad International Airport, where abuse of detainees quickly became common. According to later press reports in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other news outlets, tactics at Nama ranged from cruel and unusual to simply juvenile—one account described Task Force soldiers shooting detainees with paintballs. In early 2004, both the CIA and the FBI complained to military authorities about such practices. The spy agency then banned its personnel from working at Camp Nama. Interrogators at the facility were reportedly stripping prisoners naked and hosing them down in the cold, beating them, employing “stress positions,” and keeping them awake for long hours. But after the prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib came to light in April 2004, the military cracked down on such practices. By March of last year, 34 Task Force members had been disciplined, and 11 were removed from the unit for mistreating detainees. Later last year, five Army Rangers working at the facility were convicted of punching and kicking prisoners.

    The unit was renamed Task Force 145 in the summer of 2004 and was moved to Balad, where the new batch of gators began arriving the following year. According to those interviewed for this story, harsh treatment of detainees had ended. Physical abuse was outlawed, as were sensory deprivation and the withholding or altering of food as punishment. The backlash from Abu Ghraib had produced so many restrictions that gators were no longer permitted to work even a standard good cop/bad cop routine. The interrogation-room cameras were faithfully monitored, and gators who crossed the line would be interrupted in mid-session.
    The press, in exposing Abu Ghraib, seems to have discouraged the Administration's initial tendency towards resorting to torture. So I guess the good thing about being PR-sensitive is that the press can help correct ethical lapses.
    Blessed Margaret of Castello

    She was "born a blind, lame, deformed, hunchback midget." There was, to paraphrase the Suffering Servant text in Isaiah, nothing to attract us to her.

    And yet you see a bit of how just as we tame the gospel by making it all about health & wealth & getting, we change the image of this physically unattractive saint:

      to this:  

    (Even the first image is probably very kind.) But the funny thing is, there IS a lot to attract us to her - her virtues and her great love:
    Despite her miseries, Blessed Margaret of Castello was serene, cheerful and courageous. She never became bitter, never complained, never reproached others or lost heart. Discouragement was a word she did not know. She found strength in prayer, in daily Mass, in Holy Communion and sought help from Jesus, Mary, Joseph and St. Dominic.
    Never reproached others! Amazing. She whom her parents were ashamed of to the point of abandoning her and leaving her homeless never reproached others.
    Various & Sundry

    From the Corner:
    Ted Kennedy on Immigration [Mark Krikorian]

    1965: "The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs."

    1986: "This amnesty will give citizenship to only 1.1 to 1.3 million illegal aliens. We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never again bring forward another amnesty bill like this."

    2007: "Now it is time for action. 2007 is the year we must fix our broken system."
    Don't you wish more politicians would just say, "To be honest, I don't much care about securing the border." How refreshing that would be! Same with politicians who hate, abhor, loathe, and can't stand abortion and yet vote pro-abort every chance they get.
    * * *


    Life as improv - a co-worker writes:
    I am taking a very fun class on improv basics. The fundamental principle of improv is "yes/and"; which means you take exactly what you are given and affirm it--negative responses or questions tend to roadblock or derail the story--then propel the scenario with your own contribution. And then unconditionally relinquish your hold on the narrative as you hand it off to someone else. On a good night the group will click and the story forms itself organically, often to a very funny or dramatic effect. My instinct sometimes is to either project an outcome and then feel vaguely disappointed in the next person for not following my "script", or to respond to something that was done or said minutes or segments ago, instead of to what is right in front of me.
    * * *


    It shouldn't be surprising but yet it is somehow, because I always have a failure of imagination with respect to the Clintons and the audactiy of their shamelessness. I'm referring to Blessed Mother Teresa being used in a campaign ad (HT: Curt Jester).

    * * *

    Parody is Therapy blog updated!

    * * *

    It seems to me that the apparent military cover-up of the Pat Tillman story, which, on the face of it, is not shameful (the fog of war means that it's not if friendly fire deaths will occur but when), is however a perfect symbol of the whole way the war was fought in that it was a PR war in which the Administration was going to win hearts and minds of both Iraqis and Americans. And, as often happens when you try to make everyone happy, you end up making nobody happy.

    * * *

    On a happier and far more nourishing note, Liturgy conference coming to the Josephinum in Columbus.

    * * *

    Tom has a wonderful post about a priest preaching on the Eucharist. Part of what is beautiful to me about the Eucharist, besides Who it is, is that it manifests both God's power and His love. The power, in bread becoming God, and the love, in our being allowed to receive Him.

    Jesus could've instituted, after all, something like Eucharistic Adoration. And that would've been a great and wonderful gift - his presence which also manifested His power. But to also be allowed to receive puts power & love together. This strikes me as crucial because power & love, in our earthly experience, rarely go together.
    Chesterton on Dickens & Religion

    The tone of Dickens towards religion, though like that of most of his contemporaries, philosophically disturbed and rather historically ignorant, had an element that was very characteristic of himself. He had all the prejudices of his time. He had, for instance, that dislike of defined dogmas, which really means a preference for unexamined dogmas. He had the usual vague notion that the whole of our human past was packed with nothing but insane Tories. He had, in a word, all the old Radical ignorances which went along with the old Radical acuteness and courage and public spirit. But this spirit tended, in almost all the others who held it, to a specific dislike of the Church of England; and a disposition to set the other sects against it, as truer types of inquiry, or of individualism. Dickens had a definite tenderness for the Church of England. He might have even called it a weakness for the Church of England, but he had it. Something in those placid services, something in that reticent and humane liturgy pleased him against all the tendencies of his time; pleased him in the best part of himself, his virile love of charity and peace.
    __

    I have mentioned his religious preference merely as an instance of this interior moderation. To say, as some have done, that he attacked Nonconformity is quite a false way of putting it. It is clean across the whole trend of the man and his time to suppose that he could have felt bitterness against any theological body as a theological body; but anything like religious extravagance, whether Protestant or Catholic, moved him to an extravagance of satire. And he flung himself into the drunken energy of Stiggins, he piled up to the stars the "verbose flights of stairs"
    of Mr. Chadband, exactly because his own conception of religion was the quiet and impersonal Morning Prayer.

    --Charles Dickens by GK Chesterton
    Ale Friday: Chesterton on Dickens on Drinking

    Many modern people, chiefly women, have been heard to object to the Bacchic element in the books of Dickens, that celebration of social drinking as a supreme symbol of social living, which those books share with almost all the great literature of mankind, including the New Testament. Undoubtedly there is an abnormal amount of drinking in a page of Dickens, as there is an abnormal amount of fighting, say, in a page of Dumas. If you reckon up the beers and brandies of Mr. Bob Sawyer, with the care of an arithmetician and the deductions of a pathologist, they rise alarmingly like a rising tide at sea. Dickens did defend drink clamorously, praised it with passion, and described whole orgies of it with enormous gusto. Yet it is wonderfully typical of his prompt and impatient nature that he himself drank comparatively little. He was the type of man who could be so eager in praising the cup that he left the cup untasted. It was a part of his active and feverish temperament that he did not drink wine very much. But it was a part of his humane philosophy, of his religion, that he did drink wine. To healthy European philosophy wine is a symbol; to European religion it is a sacrament. Dickens approved it because it was a great human institution, one of the rites of civilisation, and this it certainly is. The teetotaller who stands outside it may have perfectly clear ethical reasons of his own, as a man may have who stands outside education or nationality, who refuses to go to a University...But he is neglecting one of the great social things that man has added to nature.

    --Charles Dickens by GK Chesterton