September 30, 2010

Overcome with Fremdschämen

As a relief to the women wearing pants controversy, here's the great drindle controversy:
MUNICH—Surrounded by the bratwurst stands and beer wagons of Oktoberfest, Alexandra Coroian, a 24-year-old Romanian in pigtails, pulls at the ruffle of her short scarlet dirndl, exposing a black lace petticoat underneath.

"I really like these costumes," she says, demonstrating how she hacked off the bottom half of the traditional dress. "I think I'll wear it many more times. It looks so nice."

Long the preserve of fräuleins and Alpine cultural enthusiasts, dirndls and lederhosen have become an international fashion trend in recent years, inspiring ever bolder iterations that purists say are transforming their proud heritage into a vulgar caricature.

The front line of this battle runs through the Wiesn, the 100-acre fairgrounds in the center of Munich that is home to Oktoberfest, the city's 17-day fete of beer, wurst and schnapps that is marking its 200th anniversary this year.

Critics say the Wiesn has warped from a quaint Volksfest into a cultural wasteland: women in lederhosen, the occasional man in a dirndl, and celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton flaunting designer renditions that cost thousands of dollars.

"It's become like Mardi Gras—it's appalling," says Ursula Fröhmer, a Munich tailor who specializes in the authentic Germanic folk costumes known as tracht...

Standing amid racks of dirndls and bolts of cloth in the shop she inherited from her father, Ms. Fröhmer sums up her frustration at the spectacle Oktoberfest has become with a singular German word: fremdschämen, a term that evokes a feeling of cringing embarrassment for the actions of others.

"I'm overcome with fremdschämen, and I'm ashamed that I'm from Bavaria when I see things like that," Ms. Fröhmer says.

The Weather, as Analyzed by Stock Analyst

October's weather is an area of opportunity. Third quarter results show lackluster daily sun and decreasing average temp. Fourth quarter forecast calls for decreased sun activity and further deterioration of temps. Analysts at Goldperson Sax have downgraded the weather from "hold" to "sell". Technical analysis shows temperatures have fallen beneath their 150-day moving average, a sure sign of a bear market. Southern hemisphere weather futures, a contrary indicator for the Northern, have been spiking.

(Seriously, it was beautiful here yesterday.)

September 28, 2010

It's.....drumroll...


National Drink Beer day!

Parody blog...

...updated with word that Obama is practicing for a 9 o'clock time slot on MSNBC in 2012.

Joseph Pearce on Chesterton...

He writes in Wisdom and Innocence:

Christopher Hollis believed that Chesterton had forged a unique synthesis between the 'sentimentalism' of the Franciscans and the 'rationalism' of the Thomists...Chesterton also appeared, in microcosm, to embody these same two spirits. He had become an incarnation of the ideas he espoused: a synthesis of the Franciscan and the Thomist. No less than the Church of which he was a member, Chesterton was the fruit of the mystical marriage between St Francis the Romantic and St Thomas the Rationalist.

September 27, 2010

Tis the Season




In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus:
Eins, zwei, g'suffa ...
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus:
Eins, zwei, g'suffa ...
Da hat so mancher brave Mann:
Eins, zwei, g'suffa ...
Gezeigt was er so vertragen kann
Schon früh am Morgen fing er an
Und spät am Abend kam er heraus
So schön ist's im Hofbräuhaus.


1. Da, wo die grüne Isar fließt,
Wo man mit "Grüß Gott" dich grüßt,
Liegt meine schöne Münch'ner Stadt,
Die ihresgleichen nicht hat.
Wasser ist billig, rein und gut,
Nur verdünnt es unser Blut,
Schöner sind Tropfen gold'nen Wein's,
Aber am schönsten ist eins:


In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus ...


2. Da trinkt man Bier nicht aus dem Glas,
Da gibt's nur "die große Maß!"
Und wenn der erste Maßkrug leer,
Bringt dir die Reserl bald mehr.
Oft kriegt zu Haus die Frau 'nen Schreck,
Bleibt der Mann mal länger weg.
Aber die braven Nachbarsleut',
Die wissen besser Bescheid!


In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus ...


3. Wenn auch so manche schöne Stadt
Sehenswürdigkeiten hat,
Eins gibt es nirgendwo wie hier:
Das ist das Münchener Bier.
Wer dieses kleine Lied erdacht
Hat so manche lange Nacht
Über dem Münchener Bier studiert
Und hat es gründlich probiert.


In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus ...

Beware Amazon's Coming Monopoly

A commenter on Steven Riddle's blog and nails a larger trend:
This seems to be the general trend among US companies today. Instead of looking for ways of delivering a better product more efficiently or for other ways reducing costs, companies, banks, etc. are now looking for new fees to charge customers.

I see it as a penalty for doing business with them. Consequently, I try to avoid doing business with them.

September 25, 2010

Voices Carry

Feel gratitude this morning for the simple delights of cereal upon waking, conversation with my wife, coffee freshly brewed, and the not-so-simple delight of having RSS feeds on my iPod.

Where I used to enjoy organizing my books, now I enjoy organizing my iPod, putting the apps in most-used order, putting my RSS feeds from within that app in most-read order. On a sunny if slightly cool Saturday morning I can read vicariously and enviously of Heather King's trip to Manhattan, I can enjoy the now all-too-rare Amy Welborn post, I can read about the Amish in Betty Duffy's blog. In my pocket, so many voices! How inconceivable such a thing a few years ago. And how handsome and impressive their posts look on the shiny Apple interface and attractive feeds app. Even Twitter, the media that I thought was represented by the William Hurt character in "Broadcast News", the app that I thought was all that was wrong with the world, turned out to be a pleasant news gathering vehicle and quote generator (I follow Archbishop Sheen, Curt Jester & Chesterton among others). Now I mostly save quotes to my iPod instead of in "Spanning the Globe".

Various thoughts: Heather King's humility is personally humbling. Betty Duffy said that she desires not only unconditional safety for her children but unconditional community (it always seems to me that the closer the community, the more conditional it tends to be). Amy talks frankly about blogging and Steven Riddle writes poems cathartic to read (let alone write). Much to reflect on!

September 24, 2010

Poetry of the Sidebar, or "Who Said What?"

Longtime readers will recall that occasionally I like to combine the first sentence from each of the most recent posts from the links on my left sidebar in order to see what happenstance may happen. In this case we'll make a game where you can guess who said what.

First here are the first lines in the exact order they appeared:

As Dan says, the testimony given by Coates
via Happy Catholic *Nightlife of the Gods*
It's amazing what one thin line can convey.
A new children's cartoon in Ireland
Well, I have been so busy lately
I'm starting to get back into a reading habit again,
author libraries: Conor Friedersdorf sends me
The motto of contemporary Catholic Pharisees
I sewed 40 yarmulkes for my cousin's wedding!

I'm just sorry I couldn't use Aliens in This World's, "Apparently, for adults, the doctors have decided it’s better to get the blood moving again." Or, for that matter, Anecdotal Evidence's "When it comes to architecture I’m with the third of the Three Little Pigs: brick is best." But I felt something about "yarmulke" says fini.

Now, the lines above were said by the following blogs, in no particular order:

Back Bay View, Catholic Media Review, The Corner, Pansy and Peony, A Momentary Taste of Being, Kindle Helpdesk, more than 95 theses, Disputations, a musing.

More Chesterton...

I realize that a Catlick blogger admiring Chesterton is the ultimate cliche but it is what it is. I realize why I'm so fond of Chesterton. In a word: hope.

In the most recent Nancy Brown Uncommon Sense podcast, she says how Chesterton gives her a "vision of hope". And a recent link on one of the Catholic blogs said that the Russians called Chesterton "the teacher of hope." The poet Paul Claudell said of him, "he keeps always bringing us back to that infallible promise of Christ -- And I will refresh you. Et ego reficiam vos."

Of democracy G.K. said, "the difficulty of believing in democracy is that it is so hard to believe - like God and most other good things. The he difficulty of disbelieving in democracy is that there is nothing else to believe in. I mean there is nothing else on earth or in earthly politics."

He writes in a similar hopeful vein that "There is at the back of all our lives an abyss of light, more blinding and unfathomable than any abyss of darkness, and it is the abyss of actuality, of existence, of the fact that things truly are, and that we ourselves are incredibly and sometimes almost incredulously real."

Finally, as a postscript, a quote from Albert Einstein sounds positively Chestertonian: "There are two kinds of people in this world: those to whom everything is a miracle, and those to whom nothing is a miracle."

On the Decline of Education

Was listening to a little of MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning and it dawned on me how the teaching profession has experienced a "perfect storm" over the past few decades.

First, as Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out, forty or fifty years ago women didn't have a lot of options in the workplace. So instead of becoming lawyers or physicians you'd have these ridiculously overqualified teachers. Second, on the parochial front you had all these dedicated nuns teaching. Third, there was the breakdown of the family resulting in kids not having parental pressure to do their homework. Fourth you had the unionization of teachers in the '40s and '50s, which were designed to look after themselves and not the children.

Put all those together and voila, it's no wonder we're in the fix we're in today.

September 21, 2010

Thomas Merton Puts the Smack Down

...on Louisville:
"I renew my respect for the beauty and character of Cincinnati, its wide river, its hills, its misty views, its sudden corners. It is a good and real city, not a shadow of a city like Louisville."
--Thomas Merton, Turning Toward the World: The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume Four, 1960-1963 (HarperCollins, 1997), p. 61, entry for October 28, 1960

Oktoberfest in the South

Hey, who knew you didn't have to go to Oktoberfest in Munich to experience Oktoberfest? Well, it may not be the same thing but it looks cool nonetheless.

Thomas Hardy, Chesterton & the Cleveland Browns

Been consuming a lot of Chestertonia, like his essay on Thomas Hardy which was found quite serendipitously. My interest in old familiar Chesterton has grown keen. Who was this man? Joseph Pearce has written biographies of Belloc, Lewis, Chesterton and Tolkien and I've read half of them but think I might've chosen the wrong half. If I can relate more easily to Belloc, it's Chesterton whom I think I most need to emulate and learn from.

So I picked up the Pearce biography and randomly turned to the pages on Chesterton's essays "Generally Speaking", which I'd serendipitously found on the shelves of a bookstore in Cincinnati. And in it Pearce suggests reading the essay on Thomas Hardy, which I did. Chesterton opines that Hardy's world view stemmed from industrialization's killing off of the rural ideal and by a pessimism brought about by a too Calvinistic vision that suggested a lack of belief in free will ("the most Christian thing in all of Christian theology."). Hardy blamed every negative event on God, which Chesterton memorably calls a "demonic Monism". He said the author had charity towards others though not towards God.

On the drive to church Sunday I saw a car with a Cleveland Brows flag flying from a window and thought "isn't that ridiculous? The Browns suck." But then I immediately realized that wasn't the lesson of Chesterton. I've always justified my greater interest in the Reds this season as an "appreciation for excellence," much as I'd support the Columbus Symphony more if they were known as an excellent orchestra. But that's not the approach of Chesterton towards life or country. To be a patriot is to be love a thing out of loyalty rather than for any intrinsic merit. Even to love America for her Constitution, her ideals, is to introduce a tainting utility. Patriotism has to have an irrational streak, and as a youth I prided myself on my "realism", "practicality" and "rationality". But those aren't the traits that God necessarily desires.

Chesterton writes "we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them." In that Chesterton succinctly points to the source of our goods, to have gratitude to him, and to thank him by being balanced.

I read Orthodoxy about ten years ago, out of duty to general Catlick opinion, but I didn't get out of it what I am this time:
The assumption of it is that a man criticises this world as if he were house-hunting, as if he were being shown over a new suite of apartments....But no man is in that position. A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration.

...it seemed and still seems to me that our attitude towards life can be better expressed in terms of a kind of military loyalty than in terms of criticism and approval. My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it is more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. All optimistic thoughts about England and all pessimistic thoughts about her are alike reasons for the English patriot. Similarly, optimism and pessimism are alike arguments for the cosmic patriot.

...This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

September 17, 2010

Cellphone Pics

Came across an old Orthodox church today. Doors were locked, another concession to the barbarians:


September 16, 2010

Animals and Kids

Our six-month old grandson is transfixed by our dog. I knew 2 and 3 yr olds loved animals but infants too?! Must be that animal magnetism.

Women and Pants

In the course of human events it becomes self-evident that women are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Pantsuits.

(There, now this blog will get more search hits.)

This & That

Surprised to learn that Dominican priest I know is going to go to East Africa and become a missionary. Surprising on the one hand but not the other since I always thought his assignment to a backwater Kentucky parish wasn't the best use of his talents. He has too much spiritual ambition for that and that's a bit too much hiding his light under a bushel basket. God had other plans for the near term - he busted his knee and will have to spend several months here convalescing.
____

Regarding the proposed perils of sugar and carbs: I see the ducks on Mirror Lake and despite the junk food given to them by students they seem calm and peaceful in the duck kind of way.
____

Kelly, a gal from my high school class, wants me to go to the 30th reunion. God willing, we'll all be reunited in Heaven, and with less baggage, spiritual and physical. 
____

Big government rears its ugly head again by outlawing the sale of incandescent bulbs in 2012. Only florescent now. Note to self: stock up on incandescent bulbs! 
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Adam and Eve wanted to be as gods, wanting to be have been put in a more accommodating situation, one less wrought with physical and spiritual risk. Christ accepted the tree less climbed, not grasping at the attractive fruit of the tree of divinity, but accepting the tree of the cross and its bitter fruit. The humility of Jesus makes our own pride look silly. So much of religion comes down to the recognition of reality: that we are not as gods!  
____

Am pondering poll questions for the blog. Yesterday's was "Should Betty Duffy blog more?" and received a 50-50 split.  More potentials: Should Pope Benedict visit Columbus, Ohio? Have childhood organized sports gone too far? E-readers: yes or no? Beer or Wine or Neither? Alcohol, Nightly,  Weekend only, Other. Are Jesuits Catholic?  Enbrethiliel: More Punk Catholic posts or fewer? Favorite Catholic Writer,  Merton, O'Connor, Percy, Chesterton, Other.  Favorite Steven Riddle Blog...
____

From "History of the city of Columbus, capital of Ohio, Volume 2"
By Alfred Emory Lee (1892)

Dedicated to the Darwins, who are moving to Columbus!
____

Chesterton quote: "Life was an ecstasy because it was an an adventure; it was an adventure because it was an opportunity. The goodness of the fairy tale was not affected by the fact that there might be more dragons than princesses; it was good to be in a fairy tale. The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom."

September 15, 2010

On Sentiment

Been reading Chesterton's collection of essays titled "Generally Speaking" and he attempts to get at a definition of sentimentality:
It is sentimentalism to use words in order to confuse and weaken, when they ought to define and decide. It is not sentimental to deal with things of sentiment such as tone or melody or minor graces of life. It is not false to be sentimental about these things that are avowedly things of sentiment. The evil comes in when we waver about weighty matters; not when we allow gossamer and thistledown to follow their own nature, which is to waver...

I have always felt it in the conventionalized laxity of fashionable divorce; where people want to change their partners as rapidly as at a dance, and yet want again and again to thrill at the heroic finality of the sacramental vow, which like the sound of the trumpet. They want to eat their wedding cake and have it.

September 14, 2010

Telling the Old Story in a New Way

From an Eastern Africa mission newsletter:
In today’s society, what matters is an image; a musk one can put on; the crowd a politician can gather using false promises of building castles in the sky for each of his electorate. So too do the preachers; the miracles one can perform; the money one can extort from the faithful. The quality of a product does not matter these days as long as manufacturer has shrewd advertisers and marketers. This is the world we are in; the world that greedy economy and distorted media industry are dominating and shaping the society.

A lingering question to the minds of those who have risen above a normal dust market person is; what should be done! If one has asked such a question, it means that the person has recognized the impact of unfavorable and inaccurate depiction of media images. Possibly that person, might have realized the role of media images in influencing public ideas and attitude in shaping behavior.

Dominicans are called to preach the Gospel in the midst of modern crisis. At the foundation of the Order in the 13thc, the church was in crisis too. The faithful were almost without pastoral care and preaching. We were founded furnished with the view to meeting the various needs of the society at the time. In the midst of
modern crisis, Dominicans are challenged to move assertively toward new ways of telling the same old story which we have loved so much, “the Gospel.” The media industry is using new communication technology which God has made available to advance their material benefits, and they are doing it so well, so committed and so
creative. Shouldn’t we be committed; creative and zealous not only assiduously studying the impact of media in behavior change, in the hope of reversing the course of action if not building immunity to the faithful, but also using the same communication technology to telling our beloved Old Story?

Delaware's Race

The Delaware primary race is interesting to me because it's potentially a tough call. Should a conservative vote for a RINO likely to win, or a genuine conservative likely to lose? All the while keeping in mind that in this case control of the Senate is in play, however remote that possibility be.

This particular RINO candidate is pro-abortion rights, which cooks his goose. But what if he was pro-life, or mostly so in the John McCain sort of way?

I think the old William F. Buckley standard was to vote for the right-most candidate with a viable chance of winning. If O'Donnell has no chance of winning, and is an Alan Keyes sort of candidate, then using the WFB theorem you'd go with the RINO.

On the other hand, by that standard Goldwater wouldn't have been nominated in '64 and without Goldwater's ascension in the party there would've been no Reagan.

Semper helpful, here is an algebraic formula that produces the correct vote:

(Square root of a) * b + c - d
where...

a = Percent Chance of Republicans taking over Senate
b = Percent Chance of Republicans repealing health care bill
c = Percent chance of O'Donnell winning the general
d = Amount of harm said RINO will do.

If result is between x and y, then vote O'Donnell, x & y to be determined.

(Just a joke, the formula means nothing.)

Personally, I'm not a fan of officeholders like Mr. RINO who whine about outside money impacting their local race because it's a way of tacitly saying that money, not message, matters in politics. In the end it's voters who vote, not contributors.

UPDATE: I didn't realize O'Donnell was such a flake--Just read Rich Lowrey's piece on her.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant of Variety of Posts


It is said that the study of metaphysics is dying because people no longer want to study things that cannot be changed. One sees this in the popularity of the Serenity Prayer, in which the thing most feared is not, as with the Lord’s Prayer, the temptation to sin, but rather the inability to control one’s circumstances: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” - Dawn Eden

What is needed from the supporters of this very confident faith [Islam] is more self-criticism and less self-pity and self-righteousness. - Chris Hitchens

The sun was sinking fast, and a laundry line full of cirrus clouds stretched along the western sky like boas of white linen. - Pat Conroy from "South of Broad"

His reflex after attraction was to look for the biological meaning in the attraction, encoded but only temporarily mysterious. Some canny evolutionist could explain... - Arthur Philip's "A Song is You"

Refrain from indiscreet zeal [fanaticism], which may do us great harm. - St. Therese of Avila via Janice Connell in "Secrets of Mary"

I also added to my store of knowledge about the Commander’s attitude to gin, which was a relatively devout one. Alcohol for me has been an aspect of my optimism: the mood caught by Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited when he discourses on aspects of the Bacchic and the Dionysian and claims that he at least chooses to drink “in the love of the moment, and the wish to prolong and enhance it.” - Christopher Hitchens in "Hitch-22"

Me hath such strong enhancement overcome,
When I have held a volume in my hand,
Poor earthly casket of immortal verse,
Shakespeare, or Milton, labourers divine!
- William Wordsworth "Prelude"

September 13, 2010

Obligatory Lament about Staycation's End

And so this vacation has gone by silly-fast, Confederate-currency fast. The weather was golden, literally. The grass has turned yellowish from the drought, as have a few of the maple leaves. I felt like a farmer in his field out there on the expansive lake on Friday. The lake was flat of course, like farmland, and there was that similar combination of perfect privacy, a vista, and ripples like crop furrows. I sowed the furrows with the hull of my sea-worthy craft, hie-ing to and fro about the watery acreage.

Later back at the house sat on the dappled bench under the partial shade of the pine tree in back. It's a semi-hidden space, hidden by the Great Fence of '08 and a wall of flowers and pine trunk. Around me are long shrouds of pine branches, glistening in the sun as though wet. The weather is preternaturally beautiful, as is not unexpected for mid-September: coolish, sunny-ish with occasional clouds to make you grow with longing for the sun's return.

At the Byzantine church Sunday I soaked in the medieval atmosphere, the icon of Christ holding a tablet containing the Greek characters alpha and omega. In my mind's eye I saw the icon in back, the one of the Blessed Mother holding the infant Jesus who holds the world. There can be no greater comfort than that image. The painting of the angel in the back of the sanctuary made it look so real that it was as if it could come to life at any moment, and I pictured my own guardian angel. Fr. Terry gave a homily about how two separate Muslims he met, when told he was studying to be a Catholic priest, fixated on the question of suffering. One said, "How can you believe in a God who suffers?" and the other said, "How can you believe in a God who let his son suffer?" I was surprised, because I've been traditionally of the attitude towards Muslims "how can you believe in a God who hasn't suffered?", in other words in a God with no experience or compassion for the suffering. (Leaving aside the theological musings that God can't suffer in his divine nature of course.) I always thought that God's great selling point, what makes him lovable, is that he suffered and died for us. And so the same event is viewed with such different and opposite lenses.

In fact, on the subject I found this quote many years ago and found it compelling (don't know who said it but saved it):
"I do not understand suffering - but I know it is real. But a God who is in any way responsible for this terror of our lives, such a God must be terrible, a Molech consuming the children we love in contempt for any individual's striving and selfhood. But that is not the God revealed in the history of Israel and in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a man whose life is written to echo the history of his people. Our God shows that he is with us - Emmanuel - in the slime of life, in the pain of life, in the joys of life, and in our death. I still do not know why people should die meaningless deaths, but because God is with us, he can look me in the face and I will not turn away in disgust. This story is so powerful that its symbols grip me absolutely. If all the details are wrong or ahistorical, the story itself remains true. Perhaps it is a dream, although I think not, but the story of Christmas is that life has meaning, humanity is worthwhile, and ultimately 'all will be well, and all will be well, and all things will be well'."
Read some of Hitchen's absorbing and well-written "Hitch-22". Unfortunately his shots at religion come frequently enough to have the savor of evangelistic fervor. He's an indefatigable preacher of false news.

September 10, 2010

McGrew on Scruton

From FB:
Lydia McGrew : Back when Roger Scruton--that non-Christian "conservative" so beloved of the Crunchy Cons--was first invited to blog at Right Reason, he was interviewed by the blog's editor. The editor asked him, "If there were one thing you could talk to ...President Bush about, what would it be?" (Words to that effect.) You know what Scruton answered? "Urban sprawl." Notice the complete disregard of subsidiarity, aka federalism. The _President_ should be addressing "urban sprawl." Ergo, of course, the _federal Congress_ should be addressing the issue, too. And this, of course, is the kind of thing we get when Congress does so. I was thought to be a nut for questioning Scruton's conservative credentials for saying that, by the way. Oh, and of course there's the whole question of why _that_ would be the most burning issue he would want to talk to the President about--as opposed to, I dunno, embryonic stem-cell research or something having to do with murdering human beings.

Life Among the Cattails: Tales of the Turtle Quick


A kayak /canoe is the best invention known to man. (Is that a hyperbole?) It's like having use of a yacht, only far less expensive. All sorts of natural details otherwise missed present themselves on a such an adventure, like dragonflies with two sets of bodies and wings, sort of like a bicycle built for two. Then there's the shiny turtle, the size of a half-dollar, sunning itself on shore. As I move in closer he makes a beeline for the water. Who said turtles were slow?

As I drift along I think of the title of a prospective book: "Life Among the Cattails" and wonder if it's already taken. A quick Google suggests it hasn't.

The sky is September 11 blue, just like 9 years ago tomorrow. I still remember going to Confession that afternoon, which seems somehow selfish in retrospect. Asking for forgiveness of my sins when so many others had not the chance.

On this, my last day off, I rested at a lagoon and read the Pope on Mozart's Requiem, how Mozart reconciled seeming opposites (which seems a divine trait). I listened to some of that great composition on my iPod, wanting to hear what the Pope hears, though of course it's more important to see what he sees, spiritually.  Later I read snippets of St. Theresa's God-given wisdom. It is chastising and, at the same time encouraging, a sort of reconciliation of opposites again.

September 03, 2010

Staycation...sing to Go-gos Tune

Back in the clean-smelling digs of the Grand Reading Room at OSU. This is the likely the last chance I’ll get before the kids start coming back en-masse. The quiet and calm communal atmosphere reminds of the library at St. Therese’s Retreat House. The smell does too.

Still tempted by a two-day, one-night trip to NYC. Does anybody try such a thing? Want to Google that and see if anyone else is fool enough to try a micro-trip.

Been reading more of Larry McMurtry’s three slim volumes of memoirs. Talked about how he tried to start a pen-pal relationship with John Updike but the latter “politely stopped sending letters after just two.” Love that sort of writely in-house gossip.

Moved on to the West Atrium. As fine as the Grand Reading Room is, I still like window with a view. The west atrium and the 11th floor reading rooms are the cat’s meow. It becomes evident around this time why they close the curtains - this view faces due west, and by a certain hour the sun shines directly in. Here at 1:50pm, the shield is taken down a few feet. At 2:50 presumably it’ll come down all the way.

Yesterday watched an hour or so of the Clipper’s game. The crowd was sparse, to put it mildly, but the weather divine albeit in that westerly fall way. The game was rather boring with 8 runs scored by the Clips over 4 innings. There was nothing on the line, no pennant and no players I’d ever heard of before. I nursed a 32-ounce beer, the Columbus summer ale instead of the riskier but surely better IPA. Baseball seems a game so entwined with mid-summer in my mind.
____

Nothing shows the artifice of contemporary culture than seeing a clear, transparent little package full of a saline or silicon, breast implant material. And so the man who’s eye is tricked by someone who is artificially big-breasted is merely looking, in part, at a silicon pack.
____

I’m looking at a curious cloud above me. It a long thin thing, like a large jet exhaust stream only it’s not expanding in that tell-tale jet way. It looks like a spinal column.

Glorious to be off work today. Feel much more in the vacation groove today than yesterday, for whatever reason, although can taste the panic akin to vacations that have ebbed away too quickly. I have a gargantuan appetite to read but the day is so beautiful that I went and took the kayak to the lake.

Met with Brendan of “Darwin Catholic” fame last night. In town for an interview, good to see him again in a small group (last time we had a Knights of the Round Table feel due to the larger crowd). We talked a lot about Betty Duffy. All good of course. Nice to be in the familiar surroundings of the hometown pub though I’m afraid it wasn’t the most convenient place for Brendan due to construction. They just cut off a vital bit of road.
___

Happened to catch was WFB's longtime employee Linda Bridges on C-Span. She was asked a question about what she thought of Christopher Buckley's "Losing Mum & Pop" and she said that she thought it was his right to write it but that she didn't think it was worth it because the agonies of WFB's last days weren't unique. That his life had exceeded his strength is nothing unusual. I was reminded of a line in Wordsworth's "Prelude": "And of old men who have survived their joys."
____

A trip to Cincy & back were painless. I listened to Nancy Brown’s Chesterton conference pod casts and wondered why a love of Chesterton wasn’t more prevalent. My uncle Mark, among many others, find the idea not quite his idea of fun. How esoteric a vacation spent hearing lectures about Chesterton must be! At least to those unused to the idea of learning vacations.

I also listened to part of Bill Simmons’s sports podcast with Al Michaels. Pure gold, although I squandered too much time on Simmons’s other podcast concerning 90210, a show I’ve watched exactly zero times. In between Chesterton & Simmons I heard Clayton Morris and Karl Rove’s book podcast. They recommended something titled “Memorial Day” by a Tom Clancy-like author whose name escapes me but whose book seems like fine escapism. I was disappointed their book club didn’t choose Michael Chabon’s “Manhood for Amateurs” but it didn’t win the fan voting.

Had breakfast at a little Mom & Pop shop; liked the eclectic décor which included such disparate furnishings as a portrait of a horse, a colorful sunset, a wood carving of Christ, and the Latonia race track and the Last Supper. The Bob Evans’ and Frisches’ of the world can’t compete personality-wise. And just about all the coffee you can drink.

Afterwards a visit to an antiquarian bookstore, where a family member was loathe to enter because of potential bedbugs. The pest can hide in books, and she wanted no part of that. Can't live your life afraid of bedbugs, even though admittedly Ohio is the bedbug capital.
_____

Now playing: Albert King’s “Answer to the Laundromat Blues”: “Every time you go to the laundry mat baby, I want you to know, I want you to know I’ll be there too.”

The S.A.D. Blues: a blues song written by a middle-aged white computer programmer

You call me & I'm grumpin’ at the store,
Waitin’ to buy that daily beer,
You say, “Did you remember Lysol?”
And I say, “Baaa-beee, I got the seasonal affective disorder blues.”

Ref: ‘Round ‘bout September,
Sun starts banker’s hours,
‘I say ‘round about September,
That mean old sun has banker’s hours,
And I say, “why can’t I be a bear,
And sleep the winter dours?”

____

The day sun’d brightly, bare of puns but cool to the touch like Coor’s with the “cold activation window”, a little dohickie that saves you the trouble of touching the beer to tell if it’s cold. Modern technology at its finest.

We headed to the plains and rumply rises of P. Oaks park. Buddy, the nation’s most popular name for dogs though not our first choice, checked his pee-mail while I made tracks around the brilliant lapping lake. The sky was a stellar hue of blue with clouds there for decorative purposes only. It reminded me of those rides under the solstice sun in Hilton Head, the pungency of pine needles lingering in my nostrils like a muscle memory.

Beginning of Tony Blair Memoir

The very first words in Tony Blair's memoir speak of America. I got the first chapter free on Kindle; here's an excerpt:
America's burden is that it wants to be loved, but knows it can't be. Love is given to nations with which we sympathise; nations that are victims of tragedy, oppression or even poor governance. Powerful nations aren't loved. They can be admired by their friends, respected by neutrals; they have to be feared by their enemies.

This is especially so of a nation like America that is not only powerful, but aspires to lead. The leadership will be resented, sometimes actively opposed. It will also, however, be expected.

Kenneth Rexroth Poetry and Some Thoughts on the Midterms

Herring

The herring is prolific.
There are plenty of herrings.
Some herrings are eaten raw.
Many are dried and pickled.
Most are used for manure.
See if you can apply this
To your history lessons.

Horse

It is fun to ride the horse.
If you give him some sugar
He will love you. But even
The best horses kick sometimes.
A rag blowing in the wind
Can cause him to kill you. These
Characteristics he shares
With the body politic.
I'm semi-hypnotized by how apparently the Repubs are going to crush the Dems in the upcoming election, after they themselves were crushed just four years ago. What brings these crazy pendulum swings? Partially the economy and the war, for sure, though conservatives will vote Republican and liberals will vote Democratic pretty much regardless of economy or war. So the Independent voters brings us these swings, which suggests that they are either badly misinformed (i.e. voting for Obama and thinking he would be a moderate when, as I fully expected, he governed as the liberal) or want divided government (voting for Dems in '06 as a check on Bush, and Repubs in '10 as a check on Obama).

September 02, 2010

The Miracle of History

John Zmirak writes:
It's a miracle -- a literal one, eclipsing all the cast-off crutches at Lourdes and the dancing sun at Fatima -- that the Church has stayed "on message" and fought off the heresies that surged in every age, corrupting or quashing every merely human institution. To the Pharisees, she preached the Incarnation; to the pagans, the one true God; to the Gnostics, the goodness of Creation; to the Stoics, the sacraments; to the neo-Platonists, God's freedom and transcendence; to the Muslims, the Trinity; to the Albigensians, the holiness of matter and of marriage; to the Latin Averroists, the unity of Truth; to the Nominalists, the crucial "analogy" between God's goodness and our own; to the Humanists, the role of Christ in raising man above the animals; to the Protestants, the incoherence of scripture without Tradition; to the Philosophes, the toxic futility of reason stripped of faith; to the Socialists, the evil of compelling the Corporal Works of Mercy; to the eugenicists, the sanctity of every flawed and helpless human life; to the racists, the unity of the human race; to the feminists, the supremacy of the family over the individual.

I could go on -- and history will go on, firing flaming bags of dog waste at the Faith like shots from a tennis-ball machine possessed by a poltergeist. It is only with mysterious aid from the Holy Spirit that our popes will continue to whack them away, standing unstained in their white mantle of simplicity and truth. Their success is a witness to the truthfulness of the Faith second only to the Resurrection itself. Fail either of these, and we are the greatest of fools.
 
This staggering, incalculable consistency is the central miracle that makes the Church worth believing in, and the only one that you and I can test out for ourselves -- by studying history. We can't go back and meet the risen Christ. As my high school religion teacher sneered, biochemists can't verify transubstantiation. (Since modern science only looks at accidents, not substance, the correct response to this was, "Duh!") But we can look at the stunning fact of a single, once-simple gospel exfoliating through history like a many-foiled flower, rising to the Sun of truth and growing from the seed Christ planted 20 centuries ago. Through hailstorms, herbicides, and against all the forces of hell, it still grows straight and true.

This, for me, is the reason to believe. If I could not even imagine the plant mutated or dead, I could not be stunned with gratitude at its holiness and health. St. Paul allowed himself to wonder what it would mean if Christ had not been raised from the dead; we likewise must ponder what we would make of a faith that trimmed its creed with every diktat from the zeitgeist. To save time, of course, we could simply consult the history of the Anglicans, a church that has pursued with admirable consistency its founding mission: to kneel before the world.
Few other faiths even make claims that can be confirmed or refuted by events. Imagine, if you will, an empirical test for the truth of Buddhism. Is there anything that could happen, any argument one could offer, to dissuade someone who believed the entire universe a morbid illusion? How about Hinduism? Do Hindus even believe, in the same sense we do in Christ, in the divinity of elephant god Ganesh? Or is their paganism of the sort that G. K. Chesterton depicted in his timeless The Everlasting Man: a flight of fancy that toys with, more than it stakes, metaphysical claims? The Scientologists, for their part, do assert that we humans once lived on the planet Teegeeack and were kidnapped from our home by the evil overlord Xenu . . . so it's theoretically possible that a space probe could find the truth -- if only the Scientologists would give us the coordinates for Teegeeack. And the Mormons . . . well, bless their hearts! I'll leave their assertions about Israelites in North America to the tender mercies of anthropologists.
 
There are three, and only three, historical faiths that make claims worth taking seriously, and it would need a wiser, more learned man with the time to write thousands of pages to lay out the competing arguments of these faiths.
Put briefly and brutally: Jews claim that they are chosen, blessed and burdened as the sole witnesses of the one true God, granted a certain protection, and waiting for the Messiah. The consistency of their witness stands as starkly impressive as our own and points to the fact that the Jewish people still serve as a mystical "sign" of God's operation in history. As Walker Percy famously asked, "Where are the Hittites?" Why did so many larger, more powerful peoples simply vanish with all their gods, while a tiny tribe of sinful and persecuted nebbishes still clings to its ancient faith?

The Nazis, Percy said, saw the Jews as a divine fingerprint they wished to wipe away, the better to divinize Man. Christian anti-Judaists argued that, by rejecting Christ, the Jews had forfeited all their claims, becoming in essence Samaritans -- while the "saving remnant" of truly faithful Jews accepted Christ and disappeared into the Church. There's a logic there, but how do we explain the still-miraculous survival of those who insist that they are the saving remnant -- except by saying they have a role to play, however mysterious, in the drama of salvation?

Few Jews will ever convert, but those who do add a leaven to us poor gentiles for which we should be grateful. And even the vast majority who cling to their single Testament deserve our thanks; without these people, we Celts and Slavs would still be worshipping trees. Whenever I see an identifiably pious Jew, I feel a surge of affection and mutter a simple prayer for his well-being in this world and the next. We prodigal sons will tussle with our older brothers over the meaning of the Old Testament until the consummation of the world -- when the Messiah comes (or comes again) to prove which of us was right. You don't get much more historical, or empirical, than that.

Islam is a subject too large for me to handle here, though it does display a consistency similar to our own. It has no central authority, and it makes no claim to infallible authority on the part of a single institution, so the only way that history could disconfirm its central claim would be for the religion to disappear. It is true that Islam promises to dominate the world, so the era of its decline and subjugation to European powers provoked for many a crisis of faith. Its current resurgence, fueled solely by fertility and petroleum, will not outlast the rise of alternative fuels and the decline of Islamic birthrates. One hopes.
The potential deal-killer for Islam comes not in some prospective heresy but in the central claim it makes: that Mohammed, as the prophet of God, is the perfect human being -- the model for all human behavior in every culture and country to come. Studying his life, and meditating on how plausible is that claim, is something every thinking Westerner ought to undertake nowadays. Islam asserts that an angel came to Mohammed and guided him throughout his prophetic career. Let's take him at his word, and wonder: Which angel was it?

Variety in an Age of Branding

Ol' Eric Scheske has a decent solution to how to have discipline/branding with an eclectic blog: beer post on Fridays, conomics on Saturdays, and a spiritual thought on Sundays.

App for my Archives

Little app that gives you better right-click mouse options such as "copy path to clipboard" which is nice for documentation, email, etc.

September 01, 2010

OSU, for Steven Riddle...

Sitting in the west atrium of Thompson library in a comfortable, ‘70s-colored orange chair. Overlooking a hoary old building with a rustic roof of bulbous tiles. The quad in front of me is appropriately leafy and bough-y, and in the background is a glimmer of the Horseshoe. A female runner goes by, thin but ungainly in style. All-in-all, the pleasant associations of campus without hassles of the drive to alma mater or the flight to Cambridge.

This 2nd floor perch has the association of a “balcony of one’s own”, to paraphrase a famous novel, and in that sense is certainly a cheap vacation idea. All that’s missing is the hot cup of coffee or the cold fount of beer.

....And just like that the powers that be lower the curtains, presumably to keep the building cooler. Some temperature set-point must’ve been reached and my view now obscured. I’m a hog for natural light that even this, this superlative embodiment of interior light, seems lacking, if only due to all the hours I spent outdoors this summer.

So now I move to the grand reading room of this fine library, a library full of small proofs that we still can produce - even in the early 21st century - decent architecture. Oaken bookshelves surround the hall standing on green marble pediments. Crowns festoon the eight-foot tall shelves, and a winged statue holds court in a hall that reminds me of some of the old Congregationalist buildings in Boston: white, dignified, dotted with private 2nd floor balconies. Over the bookshelves a handsome steel bar, thin and seemingly functional as a rest for a stepladder, is actually a light, in this particular case, looking left, lighting up the black Hasidic-looking volumes marked “Encyclopedia Judaica”. Everything is clean and neat and smells new, like a fine hotel lobby.

Visitors come in and gaze about, while one young Asian-looking man stands up to take a break from studies wearing a shirt that says “Gotcha Int. More Surf Hand…always riding the edge…” Being so far removed from youth culture these days it feels like a foreign country.

I get out my iPod and notice that Heather King tosses off deep, profound blog posts like they were pebbles on a creek bed. One in particular reminds me that the big problem with our time seems to be that we don’t love life. Certainly a million dead babies every year attests to that, as does the growing acceptance in some quarters of euthanasia. I have a kind of envy for author Ray Bradbury, who has the love of life in spades. That kind of love is important if only because the sacrifice to Christ of that which we love gives more glory to God than the sacrifice of that which we do not hold dear.

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and praise.” Of that we can be assured, and that worthiness is due to the upside-down nature of the greatest becoming the least, of the world-beating humility. In the spiritual world humility is king, and the King of Humility is the God who became man and died for our sins.

The Beck Phenomenon

Read this puzzling piece by Russell Moore, contra Glenn Beck. Methinks the prof doth protest too much. The slight but noticeable hyperventilation gives away the game, that of bias. Can't be a good sign when you write an article without backing up your assertion with quotes from the devil himself (in this case Beck), unless it's meant to be self-evident. I guess I don't know enough about Beck for it to be evident to me.

Anyway, 'twould be hard for me to work up outrage over a rally that purports to restore honor, listen to the Founding Fathers and return to God, unless you’re a partisan, closet or otherwise. And yet Moore calls it a “scandal”. That’s one of those times you make a mental note, fairly or unfairly, to take future articles by that person with a large grain of salt.

From My Reading Surplus

Reading the first chapter of Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky, a pro-Internet/social media book that mentions the gin craze of the early 1700s in London and how that was related to the overwhelming (and negative) effects of sudden industrialization resulting in densely packed urban environments. Reminds me of a similar mention of the Mother Gin in the book Drink by Ian Gately.

The devastation wrought by that liquor lasted nearly fifty years, and the two accounts differ slightly as to the why it abated. In Drink, the explanation seems to be a hybrid of Wesley's preaching, less stringent anti-gin laws (the draconian ones only made the poor drink more by flouting the rich law-makers) and the emergence of a middle class. In Shirky's book, the laws passed were trying to tackle the symptom and not the cause and (to borrow someone else's notes), that "gin drinking only subsided as new institutions, etc, arose in response to wider changes."

It said that we are now going through a similar transformative process in the move from urban to suburban alienation. The author said that the "gin" replacement in our time is television, as a substitute for declining social interactions. He says that the reason many young people are now watching less television is they want a more participatory rather than passive (television) experience, such as the Internet and social media.

Spanning the Globe
to Bring You the Constant of Variety of Posts

Our culture [has] lost a sense of tragic vision in regards to nature -- we naturally assume that unless some active force comes along and makes things bad, that they will be good. This could not be farther from a traditional view of nature. While neo-pagans are sure that being "in tune" with nature would be a blissful and pleasant state, real pagans of the ancient world saw the natural forces that were bound up with their gods as capricious, sometimes cruel, and almost always unconcerned with the impact of their actions upon mortals. We as Christians see nature as having been created by God and being something that He saw as good. Yet in a fallen world, I don't think we'd be far off in taking a fairly tragic vision, similar to the ancients, of how we relate to nature and what "nature's way" is. This also comes up in the current debate over same sex marriage, where I've on a number of occasions had people tell me that if attraction towards members of one's own sex is "not a choice" but instead something "natural", then obviously same sex marriage must be a good thing and what God intended. It would be cruel, it is argued, if God allowed some people to have such an inclination but did not allow it to be fulfilled through marriage...A tragic vision seems an essential means of coping with the world as we find it. More Greeks and Norse, please. - Darwin Catholic

Love that is less than sacrificial love is only sentimentality.
- Janice Connell

Should the whole frame of earth by inward throes / Be wrenched, or fire come down from far to scorch / Her pleasant habitations, and dry up Old Ocean, in his bed left singed and bare, / Yet would the living Presence still subsist Victorious, and composure would ensue, / And kindlings like the morning--presage sure / Of day returning and of life revived. - From The Poetical Works of William Wordsworth

They saw in that moment when reality burst through the artifice and irrelevance of every day and everything. The remains of Charles Gábor have no time to plead, to maneuver for position.. - Arthur Philips in the novel "Prague"

Budapest was in what her mother used to call “the impatient time,” when children demanded winter’s end, and they hated the dark spaces between buildings that protected the last of the last season’s snow, stubborn and horrible little leftovers precisely the shape of their patron-shadows. - Arthur Philips, "Prague"

The eye of the historian detected in Paul VI some similarities to Clement XIV. - Rev. George Rutler, "Cloud of Witnesses"

From the citizen’s point of view, the disbursements from Social Security, Medicare, etc., are entitlements because they fulfill promises the government has made to the people. These promises were not conditional commitments, ones where the government said, “We’ll help you . . . if we can, and to the extent we can.” Congress cannot, therefore, appropriate a fixed amount for food stamps and hope that the eligible beneficiaries don’t run through that allotment before the end of the fiscal year. The people’s insistence that the government fulfill its promises to the dollar is not, of course, unrelated to the fact that the promises are beneficial to the individuals who receive what the entitlement programs. - From "Never Enough" by William Voegeli

Surrealism, to me, is like coffee. (Get ready to STG this!) I can't be drinking coffee all the time, but I do need something most mornings to wake me up. Surrealism does that. - Dylan of "Reluctant Draggard"