February 28, 2011

Pittsburgh Art Museum Cellphone Pics















Gregory Wolfe Quotes

From Intruding on the Timeless:
[There has been] a hunger, on the part of both secularist and believer, for a deeper understanding of mystery, that borderland where reason fails and only faith and imagination can go. These two faculties reach out beyond rigid and divisive ideological categories into paradox and ambiguity. In the end, the mystery of mysteries may be that only in paradox and ambiguity can truth be glimpsed...

Religion and art need each other...When we lack the kind of attention which only the imagination can provide, we make it more difficult to live the life of faith. And art, when it sees no creation to celebrate and no soul in need of saving, loses its respect for truth.

24 Hours in Pittsburgh, PA

At the fine hour of 10 in the morning, I clambered into the old jalopy and headed north by northeast towards my destination of Pittsburgh and thus breaking my otherwise ironclad rule never to travel north of I-270 in the winter. Highway signs noted the way to Wheeling, WV which put me in mind of the old Glen Campbell song, "By the Time I Get to Wheeling". Or something like that. Somehow Wheeling doesn't sound as romantic as Phoenix, but maybe Phoenix didn't at the time the song came out.

The sun smiled, so I opened the sun roof and despite the 40 degree temps felt comfortable. The anticipation was keen enough that I delayed any and all entertainment for the first hour. Just silence and sun and the rustle of the wind above my head.

Arriving just after 2, I parked and walked away from the destination, the Carnegie art museum, without knowing it. My sense of direction was befuddled but I half-wanted to walk anyway, to see some of the ‘burgh. The University of Pittsburgh dominated the scenery, which lends it a bit of a fake tableau. Colleges are a bit too faux, too much artificial constructs. Transients (in the form of 4 and 5-year and 6-year students) predominate, and they are too homogeneous in terms of age and cultural interests.

Finally I arrived at the Carnegie museum complex and soon found myself diving into beautiful and meaningful art. I’d begun in the European middle ages, when art was art and knights were knights. The slow soaking in the beauty made the hours slide. I was taken by a transplanted Russian artist who painted a wondrous Eastern icon of the Theotokos. A wall quote says that we should look at the art of Russia to know its soul. Interestingly, it seems he was openly homosexual, which led me to wonder how he dealt with that in relation to his devout Russian Orthodox faith.

The modern art section, or anti-art section, featured one eye-catching tableau: a '70s-era television that was loop-playing a two-second scene from the old television show "The Secrets of Isis". In it, the actor playing Isis twirled around and then FLASH!. No Isis, just the flash and then the return to the twirling pre-Isis character.

* * *

How civilized to be able to walk out the front door, two blocks, and be in Heaven on earth, also known as the Mass? And St. Paul's Cathedral reminded me of the perfections awaiting us in heaven since the singer was extraordinary, the organ magnificent, the architecture wondrous and the homilist excellent.

Two artworks that especially hit me yesterday showed God embracing man. In one case, it was a sculpture of the Prodigal Son, the other a statue of the hand of God doing the embrace. And there seemed a personal touch in the lyrics to the song, "God is Our Strength", about God "holding" us.

Then too the homily struck a chord, which was based on the gospel message of Jesus not to worry. And I thought about how that is necessary if anyone is going to GIVE anything. If we worry, we will hold on to things. The only thing that lasts = love. Of course what I tend to worry about is my status with God, which isn't money but isn't exactly helpful either. But St. Paul, in the second reading, says he doesn't even judge himself, so why judge? "There must be no passing of premature judgment. Leave that until the Lord comes; he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God." How positive St. Paul is in that last clause! Funny that on universalis.com the rendering more shadowed, "Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God." I suspect New American Bible funkiness, but God bless them since the Church exists to give us hope. [Update: turns out the NRSV puts it positively, so can't blame it on the NAB felt-banner crew.]

The sermon dealt with how we must begin with the true premise that everything we have belongs to God, including our very selves. Hence I don't have to worry, not only about financial stability in the future or what I'm going to wear or what I'm going to eat but the more seemingly likely things, like whether I will suffer greatly in the end. Because our minds are not our own! Our bodies are not our own! It is all passing. "This too shall pass." How freeing that is, and that's exactly what Jesus came for. To give us freedom, not guilt or insecurity.

After Mass I walked around the church and marinated in the stained glass windows awhile. I then did a mini-church tour, taking in a nearby Lutheran church and what looked to be a non-denominational church called "Church of the Ascension". I took a picture because never have I seen a more dreary, black, Victorian church than that of Ascension church. I almost laughed at the juxtaposition, thinking it might better be called, "Church of the Cross".

I also entered the imposing St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, where at the door I was greeted with questioning glances and polite hellos. I was underdressed, natch, but boldly went in and noted the frank scent of incense. The priest was just getting started, the altar open for Sunday business. It was a rather plain church compared to our Byzantine one, and the cantors were chanting what I assume to be Greek. Isn't it funny, I thought, how so many churches have this need to use a set-apart (original meaning of 'holy') tongue? American Jews go with Hebrew, Roman Catholicism has its Latin and my Byzantine church does its Church Slavonic.

Soon after I headed home listening to the classical music stations before the rest of NBA's David Stern on the Bill Simmons show. Then the terribly sad Christopher Hitchens interview with Brian Lamb. Hitchens was witty as ever, his voice hoarse. "We have little time left," said Lamb at the end, and Hitchens jokingly said, "don't say that!" Lamb ended the interview on the perfect note by saying that he hopes to interview him again in a couple years.

Heather King's Latest

The great Heather King has a new post concerning the Catholic "right" and "left".

Steven Riddle provides the pluperfect adjective for the post: sensible. Personally, the whole "Catholic wars" thing seems so '00s to me now. It feels too politic-y; it feels like the right and left are Confederates who never learned the war is over, that the battle is within.

My only concern is that she may be getting side-tracked - presumably via the social media - into the Catholic blog wars which as I've implied are pretty much a dead end imho. What she has to add, like Tom of Disputations, is something more than just saying the obvious and the sensible, and I think part of her charm is that she's been sheltered from the tainting of politics.

I think this is her second or third post on the subject and posting, even quite sweetly as she does, on this issue seems a futile endeavor even for the likes of HK. In preaching to those receptive, like a Steven Riddle, she's preaching to the converted.

I could be all wet, and I recognize my own hypocrisy here, but even talking about church politics seems to me to just gin up more distraction and faux controversy. (That's not to say she doesn't have a few killer lines in the post about self-sacrifice, which certainly speak to the core of the battle within. Part of what I appreciate about her, and Betty Duffy, is a similar focus on the interior battle.)

February 25, 2011

Old Picture Happened Across...

Extroverting the Work Place

Workplace fads are like fashions - wait long enough and your '70s-style wood-paneled den will be hip again. (Or so I hope.)

Perhaps it's just that I'm getting more introverted as I age (which reminds me of a line from a novel I'm reading: “I imagine you are [a shit]. But that’s normal, isn’t it? One becomes more of a shit as one gets older"), but it seems like the opportunities to mingle have increased exponentially lately. Especially for ops to meet and greet der Fuhrers in the organization.

Call it "management by over-communication". For example, there's the development of the "skip-level meeting". This used to be bug, not a feature, as in, "you mean you went over the head of your boss?" Now I have quarterly meetings with my bosses' boss, bi-annual meetings with his boss and annual meetings with his boss. And what about that bosses' boss? Yes, he's coming around next week to visit us, to walk through the aisles of cubicles and see if we're sufficiently perky and 'engaged'. Oh and also to see if we have posted our personal mission statements.

Another recent development is to have groups that represent groups to upper management. Termed "advisory boards", they consist of employees chosen to represent others and to funnel any complaints, suggestions or comments to management. There was a board for our VP, and now it's come down to AVP level. What's next? Will my boss, currently with three employees under him, have an advisory board? Will we each be our own advisory boards and advise and complain to ourselves?

Quite the Title

Happened across a business book at the library titled, "Bury My Heart at Conference Room B."

Botticelli's Annunciation

Random Observations

Started an iPod game and a hour later I finally separated myself from it. Surreal how addictive Bubble Pro is. Sort of reminds me of basketball in the way you toss the ball up and try to make it through passageways to the goal. It's a game that doesn't teach Pelegianism; I've reached a level where it takes some luck or grace to survive. Help arrives when you least expect it in the form of a "bomb" that clears the way free of obstacles, so one can never despair. But it also takes a high degree of human effort and will. It's a paradox in that everything depends on you, while at the same time nothing does.

* * *

Found a fellow bibliophile at librarything.com, a prof at Franciscan U who is a retired psychologist, is a fellow runner, and very much liked "The Song is You" by Arthur Philips. That novel was so good, which is rare to find, that I thought maybe he might be a shortcut to other good novels. We'll see. I'm afraid taste is so idiosyncratic that it may not avail, but he gave me a lead on my next one via his reviews.

* * *

The promised sunny day had a haze of clouds, which lent too much of the Victorian atmosphere, the kind I rather liked on Sunday. I read a rich broth but not enough Chesterton, who proffers hope and wonder (related?). I gazed up at the trees during a hike and saw the intricate web-like strands far above me. I saw trees older than me who will likely also survive me. I saw trees reaching heaven-ward and thought how they'd be less than toothpicks to God. If there's one thing the universe has taught us, it's that size doesn't matter. God takes note of the intricate cells and protoplasm as well as galaxies. DNA seems to me the universe in miniature.

* * *

Missed Mass Wednesday morning due to temporal laziness, and said morning prayers just after noontime. It was the remembrance of St. Polycarp, a name odd enough to draw me in to research him. He was a very early martyr, dying by way of fire. His courage, like that of so many other martyrs, is other-worldly (literally). I thought briefly of how Jesus said that his disciples would do greater things than Him, and I wondered if this was a greater thing, in how Polycarp went to his death with such joy. He considered it a gift of God, to be able to drink of the cup of Christ. St. Polycarp is reputed to have said that he wouldn't recant Jesus because "eighty-six years I have served Him and he hath done me no wrong. How can I speak ill of the King who saved me?"
Catholics versus Gov. Walker?

February 24, 2011

Interesting poem from latest First Things...

Referencing this poem:
Dear Juan De La Cruz

I gave my class your "dark night" poem to read,
not telling them who wrote it. They were quick
to name adultery as the midnight deed
the female speaker runs to, in a thick
burqa of darkness. And the poor thing gets
her just deserts, being wounded in the neck
by a vampire lover. My best student bets
her husband locks her out. I tried to check
these thoughts by pointing to her night of bliss
under the cypress trees, but they were cold
to ecstasy -- young puritans who kiss
in condoms nowadays. And when I told
them who you were, it didn't change their minds.
They don't know darkness comes in different kinds.

--Gail White

February 22, 2011

The Second Sunday of Triodion - The Prodigal Son


"[The Parable of the Prodigal Son] has been called, and justly so, the Gospel of the Gospels, and it was a wise man who said that even if the Gospels were to be lost, and only the parable of the prodigal son were to remain, that alone would suffice to reveal God's infinite love for man."
(Fr. Antonopoulos: Return: Repentance and confession, Return to God and to His Church)

(Found here.)
* * *

He must increase, but I must decrease…Lent made easy?????

This & That

Feeling a bit like a turkey vulture, I headed over to the dying Borders bookstore on Saturday to see what sort of discounting was going on. Twenty percent off everything, which triggered massive lines that wound along the inside of half the store. I looked around and wondered if any of these folks ever heard of the Internet. If they're that price-conscious, then they can get better deals on amazon.com. 20% doesn't cut the mustard, from that perspective. I also wondered if Borders, which still makes a profit on 20% off, felt any chagrin for being so stingy with discounts.

Perhaps it was just sentiment, the paying of tribute to ye olde Brick & Mortar. As a business consultant recently told us, people buy things for reasons other than price and that rationality is overrated. He mentioned how he recommended that companies under-promise and over-deliver. One such case was a spa that routinely gave an hour massage for what was labeled as a 45-minute massage. Of course the price was based on an hour massage, but people were thrilled to get the extra fifteen minutes.

* * *

I want the blog public to know that none of my vacations are faked. All trip logs come with a seal of authenticity.

* * *

Received a form-generated thank you from a charity that went:
Thank you for the generous donation you made of $30.00 on 02/16/2011.
And it made me want to give $1 or .50 to see if, at any point, the word "generous" is lost, even though of course the widow's mite is generous as pointed out in the gospel.

* * *

Have mixed emotions on unions. I was just telling my sister on Friday night that unions seem to help preserve wages/benefits in non-union shops (she was complaining about how FedEx isn't unionized while UPS is). It used to be, in the olden days, that those in the public sector made less $$/benefits than those in the private sector BUT had the compensation of much greater job security. Nowadays most public sector employees not only make as much as private sector but have better benefits, while retaining impressive job security. So definitely things have changed! I know several folks who have left the private sector to work for the State of Ohio and boast of how much $$/benefits and less pressure they have now.
* * *

(to tune of 'Roll Out the Barrel'):
Hosni Mubarak, he left Cairo on the run,
Hosni Mubarak, dominated the news cycle fun,
Zing boom tararrel, Hosni was the US's friend,
But now's the time to roll out ol' Hosni, cause he just will not bend!

* * *

Had fun playing with grandson Sam Saturday. He can climb steps now, and delighted in going up them and then heading into bookroom. He played with books, which I suppose is a good first way to enjoy them. Enjoy them physically before mentally. He's at a particularly fun stage right now, getting exuberant over the smallest things, like when we cough under our breath, or clap our hands. Am getting full enjoyment out of these little tricks while they last. His delight is infectious.

* * *

Hiked around a local park and wondered at a pond with a sign "Deep Water" and wondered at how it didn't appear to be big enough to be very deep. Wondered the park folks considered "deep". Reveled in the gray day, since it sort of matched my inward mood of inwardness. The garish sun would come at the cost of privacy on the hikes, and also makes the inside (and thus reading) so appetizing.
* * *

Came across an interesting snippet from later reading: "Nostrums containing the sedative bromide were used so widely that by the early 20th century the word 'bromide' had come to be used figuratively to denote a dull and tiresome person, as popularized in Gelett Burgess's 1906 book, 'Are You a Bromide?'"

February 18, 2011

Animal Actor Visits Home & Hearth

Last night, as my wife was opening the back door, I heard a shriek. I thought Deedle-cat might've gotten out, or there was a mouse on the patio gifted to us by Deedle. Instead it turned out to be a full-sized opossum, big as life, only it looked to be dead. It was on its back with its mouth open, the long grill of teeth and gum exposed, eyes unblinking. Of course it turned out to be playing opossum. Steph waited five or ten minutes before he ambled off to go about his business, no worse for the wear than the NBA stars who flop on command and cry, "Foul!".

Apparently not having had enough of the pickings in our yard, he was out there again today and Buddy the dog gathered him up in his mouth and carried him to the middle of the yard where he tried to play with him, only to find the opossum playing opossum again. As a survival strategy it seems effective even if Buddy was overtly suspicious. He kept checking on the "dead" possum, and when it rose from the dead Buddy again went after it. I think Buddy was just thrilled to find a squirrel he could catch.

Today's Buzzword

"DECK", as in "here's the deck for the upcoming meeting."

February 17, 2011

Quotable

From Larry McMurtry's Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen:
As for the novel, the form to which I have devoted some forty years of my life, it was first pronounced dead some eighty years before I was born. Even as I began my writing career the death sentence was intoned regularly, many more times. In this case it was a foolish death sentence: there was never any reason why the novel was likely to die, not unless the middle class, which brought it into being and still sustains it, dies first; and there's mall likelihood of that happening.

February 15, 2011

Excerpts from Recent Reads

From The Quotable Chesterton:

THE TRUE RELIGION is not that which has no difficulties. We have to swallow mysteries with it. But we have to swallow the same mysteries without it.

*
...a man who wrote and spoke in the tradition of the Middle Ages, the most thoroughly and even painfully logical period that the world has ever seen.



*

Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.


From Shteyngart's Russian Debutante Handbook:
...the hopeful grandeur of municipal buildings built at a time when the transport of hogs and heifers promised the city a commercial elegance that had expired along with the animals . . . But, somehow, this city has persevered against the unkind seasons and the storms that gather speed over Lake Erie. Somehow, Cleveland has survived, with her gray banner unfurled—the banner of Archangelsk and Detroit, of Kharkov and Liverpool—the banner of men and women who would settle the most ignominious parts of the earth...

This is America, where the morning paper lands on the doorstep at precisely 7:30 A.M.—not the woolly dominion Vladimir once ruled... And what of [his] child? Will he live the way his father once did: foolishly, imperially, ecstatically? . . . No, thinks Vladimir. For he can see the child now. A boy. Growing up adrift in a private world of electronic goblins and quiet sexual urges. Properly insulated from the elements by stucco and storm windows. Serious and a bit dull, but beset by no illness, free of the fear and madness of Vladimir’s Eastern lands.

Diaristic Wanderings

...because blogs (and dogs) abhor a vacuum.
(Note: The pictures in this post bear little relation to the "story" within.)

A bright-lit Sunday only now (5:55pm) giving way to inevitability. Today's weather felt of a qualitative springish variety. Only six or seven weeks of cold weather remain. Tried to get in a lyrical mood with some of the Acquaintance of the Night book, and Donald Hall, but time feels fractured. I respond with a cold one or two - call it "induced lyricism". (Chesterton calls the virtue of temperance finding the limit to a given indulgence and adhering to it; I think I've found my sweet spot. GK also says that the difference between garden-variety virtues and the theological ones is one of perceived reasonableness. It's reasonable to be prudent or temperate while charity means to pardon the unpardonable, hope means the hoping when things are desperate and faith means believing the incredible. Sounds close to fideism but I digress...).

* * *
Speaking of fideism...
Global warming this I know
Because Al Gore tells me so.
Care not what the mercury says,
Shiverin' as I wear my Fez
.
How I savor those four golden days down at the beach, full of reading! How cool was it to have that time in the sweet spot of the day! I felt sharp as I read Hitchens and wanted to gallop-read his essays even as I was reading his memoir. In many ways he's really "other" to me: atheist, British prep-school educated, and not provincial (far more interested in the happenings around the globe than me).

Saturday morning woke up to the daily elixir of coffee and after a decent interval Saturday's McD's breakfast. I gloried in the bacon, egg & cheese, I swooned over the cinnamon melt, I gobbled the wild berry smoothie. Of course having eaten just over half of the day's calories in one early meal makes the rest of the day a bit restive. Lunch will have to be skimped on, lest I see gain lbs before dinner. So instead of lunch had an early dinner of Outback and later a fun pay-per-view flick: Tom Cruise in "Knight and Day". A good call, it turned out, since the other potential choice, Clooney's "The American" was dark and semi-pornographic.

Didn't feel the desire to read much, although a taste of the hope-besotted Chesterton is ever appreciated. Went to Confession and it came to mind the Chesterton quote about how we must ever start anew, a new creation, much as newborns. Somewhere there was a leftover lilting note of his that spoke of the miracle of existence at all, at base, at minimum. How oft I forget that!

* * *

There's nothing finer (besides being a 49'er) in the morning than having gone to bed at the princely hour of 9:30pm the night before, and thus having leisure to lard pre- and post- sleep with the tumbling froth of books. And so I did, with an interlude of interesting dreams. I woke up an hour early, a gift of time that I spent reading one of Larry McMurtry's half-dozen memoirs while drinking the pleasingly burnt-taste of Emerill's Extra Bold. My only regret was not having read any Chesterton poetry, which is a personal favorite of rare early awakenings.

I felt sufficiently lean (without scale-proof) to add a morning donut to the otherwise perfunctory breakfast. It shone like a gem, sitting there on my desk, for the short time it went unconsumed. I'd figured it was somebody's feast day although a subsequent check shows I'm a day late to Sts Cyril and Methodius, evangels of the East.

Reading McMurtry & Dylan made me want to write some fiction or at a bare minimum describe my surroundings. I work in an office humming with either the noise of the heating and air conditioning unit or, perhaps, white noise. Either way it's risibly insufficient towards blocking the hearing of conversations that abut my cubicle. The lights are all florescent, which are the lighting equivalent of fake breasts: all the illusion of allure with none of the charm. But the out of doors has turned a corner of sorts; spring, for the first time, is in the air. There's a quality of light that's different. A bit more Floridian. Even the architecture of the clouds differs.
* * *
Global warming this I know
Because Al Gore tells me so.
Frostbite, schmostbite - oh fu fa
Just wait till next year oh la la.
The day began on a splendid note: got that early fifteen minutes in the bookroom just post-sleep, coffee sending pleasing electricity to my brain while I imbibed a bit of Chesterton and Acquaintance of the Night. I was especially pleased that that night book looks so promising; it put me in a good mood, which only got better after my 9:30am meeting was over. Mass at lunch after a reading from the lit of the hours: "All of this was made by my hand / and all this is mine. It is the LORD that speaks. But my eyes are drawn to the man of humbled and contrite spirit, who trembles at my word." I thought how elusive it is to feel that way and yet, at the same time, how possible it is. I mean, God's not asking for great strength or sinless perfection but for someone who is contrite and trembles at his word. It gave me hope even though I have need of more contrition and trembling.

Did a hard, "burnt-leg" twenty minutes around the track followed by the sweet pain of weight-lifting. Been going through basketball spectator withdrawal. Football just doesn't do it for me, for reasons I'm not sure of. So I'll be hitting the Cavs if they play tonight, although admittedly the auto-loss feature makes all the games anti-climactic. Have been missing OSU bball games too lately.

February 10, 2011

Bookstore Tour Redux

Another blogger, who sports a spiffy webpage, does bookstore tours...

Snippets

From Chesterton's dedication of "The Man Who Was Thursday":
Weak if we were and foolish, not thus we failed, not thus;
When that black Baal blocked the heavens he had no hymns from us.
Children we were - our forts of sand were even weak as we,
High as they went we piled them up to break that bitter sea.
Fools as we were in motley, all jangling and absurd,
When all church bells were silent our cap and bells were heard.

Not all unhelped we held the fort, our tiny flags unfurled;
Some giants laboured in that cloud to lift it from the world.
I find again the book we found, I feel the hour that flings
Far out of fish-shaped Paumanok some cry of cleaner things;
And the Green Carnation withered, as in forest fires that pass,
Roared in the wind of all the world ten million leaves of grass;
Or sane and sweet and sudden as a bird sings in the rain--
Truth out of Tusitala spoke and pleasure out of pain.
Chesterton to Dorothy Collins in 1927:
Here you watch the Bard's Career,
Month by month and year by year,
Writing, writing, writing verse,
Worse and worse and worse and worse.
From "Acquainted with the Night: Excursions Through the World After Dark" by Christopher Dewdney:
I love night, some of my earliest memories are of magical summer evenings, the excitement I felt at night's arrival, its dark splendor. Later, when I was eleven, there were hot summer nights, especially if the moon was bright, when I felt irresistibly drawn outside...After quietly shutting the bad door behind me, I was free, deliciously alone in the warm night air. A bolt of pure electric joy would rush through me as I stepped into the bright stillness of the moonlit yard.

We lived at the edge of a forest, so I'd hop the rail fence and blend into the trees. Even without moonlight my night vision was good enough to avoid stepping on twigs and dry leaves. Imagining I was a puma or a leopard, I'd walk silently through the forest, a creature free in the North American night. Although I didn't know it at the time, by exercising my night vision I was proving Victor Hugo's maxim "Strange to say, the luminous world is the invisible world; the luminous world is that which we do not see. Our eyes of flesh see only nigh."

* * *
...while Australian poet Frank S. Williamson, in a sort of reverse personification, described his lover as if she were the night:
She comes as comes the summer night,
Violet, perfumed, clad with stars,
To heal the eyes hurt by the light
Flung by Day's brandish'd scimitars.

February 09, 2011

Perusing Librarything.com...

Been reading the sites of the leaders in terms of number of books cataloged on Library Thing. I rank something like 2,600th or so among the most books.

Some interesting bios, this from a member calling himself "AsYouKnow_Bob", who boasts the 11th most number of books at 15,024:
I'm a minor civil servant. My partner in this book madness is my wife [MaggieO] (who has a major library of her own); and we have three kids. Our house is now officially Full of books.

(People who visit us are at first staggered by the number of books. Then they usually manage to remark politely, "Welll...errm...I guess you can't HAVE too many books." Uh, no, sorry: we are living proof that you CAN in fact have too many books....)

About my library: No, I have NOT read everything here. (I've read more of it than you might think, though.) I custom-built a couple hundred feet of bookshelves for our family room. Yes, we have now officially run out of shelves (we've been forced to resort to the barbarity of double-shelving (*Gasp!* The horror!), and - until the kids leave the nest - we've just about run out of wallspace to put bookshelves. Consequently, some of the older/rattier/less-referred-to stuff has Gone to Storage.)

We are gradually coming around to the strategy of building a library put forth by Samuel Pepys: "For every book that comes into the house, a book will have to leave the house."
* * *

Alaska Book woman comes in with over 11,000 books and my first thought was of course that what else can you do in Alaska during the winter when it's light for three hours a day? (Slight exaggeration.) The pictures are cheery despite the weather:

 

* * *

"spicere" has a healthy 14,429 books cataloged, and favored us with a fun photo for the canine-philiac set:

February 08, 2011

The Catholic Vote

...is mentioned on the Corner. I suppose it's not surprising that the Catholic vote is catholic in its variety. As Yeats said, "here comes everybody."

Map Your Surname

Found on Steven Riddle's site awhile ago: Map Your Surname...

Link & Quote

The Seven Deadly Sins according to St. John Vianney...

...and a quote from C.S. Lewis: "Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues."

February 07, 2011

Superbowl Ads

I'm likely not the target demographic, but of the Superbowl ads here were my favorites:
  • Audi Escape from "old luxury" prison 60 1 6.93
  • CarMax Kid in a candy store, other good feelings 30 2 6.16
  • Bridgestone Mistaken "reply all" leads to panic 30 1 7.39
  • Budweiser Bud gives Old West Elton John feeling 60 2 7.21
  • Bud Light Kitchen redone with Bud Light 30 1 7.28
  • Let's Play...

    ...why's my bookbag or e-reader equivalent so d*mn heavy?

    From The Quotable Chesterton:
    THE OBJECT OF a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
    From Christopher Hitchens memoir:

    He once soberingly told me, concerning the American presence in Afghanistan: “We’re blondes out there, man. Dumb and innocent as the day is long”).

    * * *

    [Alcohol] is the professional deformation of many writers, and has ruined not a few. (I remember Kingsley Amis, himself no slouch, saying that he could tell on what page of the novel Paul Scott had reached for the bottle and thrown caution to the winds.)

    * * *

    Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing.

    * * *

    Don’t drink on an empty stomach: the main point of the refreshment is the enhancement of food. Don’t drink if you have the blues: it’s a junk cure. Drink when you are in a good mood. Cheap booze is a false economy.

    Notes & Asides

    I couldn't believe a writer on National Catholic Reporter "came out", as in came out against Hell. She simply did not believe in it and wrote shamelessly about its nonexistence. Oh how seductive be that baseless belief! It's amazing to me that she can render the words of Christ about Hell so meaningless, but then there's always the desire to make God in our image. (How does she know really Christ, if she doesn't know Him via the Scripture?) Jeff Miller fisked her and a commenter recommended everyone read C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" in order to understand better how a good God can have a hell. This was the second recommendation for that book; a priest likewise did. I didn't read it, in part because I simply didn't see how a book could make me "feel better" about the existence of hell. But perhaps I should've/should. I got the first chapter free on the Kindle and almost got through the preface.

    * * *

    It occurred to me how important location is for good reading and writing; on the beach I found my muse engaged and alert. There's nothing quite like the sun glint-gladding off the side of my face, the peaceful Gulf before me to inspire some wordmmithin'. It's been just ten days or so but it seems like a generation ago. One thing's for sure, I'm going to sign me up for every year they go down there. It's a fine, cheap supplement to the main winter vacation in early December, and I had a grand old time. How memorable that painful, nails-on-chalkboard play!

    * * *

    Pleased by the new surroundings in the spare bedroom. Not quite as comfortable as the desk, that wood ship, but like the frisson of the new. Overlook a landscape of rich-titled books, and the sharp little phone in its holder looks so businessy; the combined effect is that of the well-appointed captain's cabin on an ocean-liner. A little statuette of a turtle reading a book stands by the phone, and on the wall hangs a print of "The Bookworm".

    The small case of unread books allure me; none more so than David Lipsky's lengthily-titled "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace". Then too there's "Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment" looks like an entertaining morsel. I like that even in future hours of boredom and dullness, which I so fear, I have that book to assure me that at the very least I'm not alone.

    Other books include "Money Ball" by Michael Lewis. Anything by Lewis seems interesting, no doubt asserted by his sales figures. Then too there's good ol' Michael Chabon.

    February 04, 2011

    Yes...

    Mrs. Darwin writes on Betty Duffy's blog:
    The thing that nags at me is that I really ought to live a life of greater discipline against the day when discipline is a necessity, not a luxury.
    Eggsactly. The problem with discipline seems to be that its effects are so evanscent!

    February 03, 2011

    Moynihan's Letters

    I'm reading the letters of Daniel P. Moynihan and it's fascinating to read the unvarnished opinions of the late Senator. He always seems just on the cusp of reasonableness, such as his understanding of the devastating effect of dissolving of the black family, and yet still, amazingly, capable of puzzling positions.

    Take, for example, his pride in Social Security. "Never a day late or a dollar short," he says. (I cynically might suggest that's because old people vote, and it's easy to get a program to work when the recipients are few, the taxed many.) And yet here's a tax that has gone from less than 1% to 15% (a large drag on the cost of employees) and still is paid for on the backs of current workers, not those who've "invested" in it. "Invest" is a silly word given that the rate of return on your social security dollar is something close to nil. Now it's true the average lifespan has dramatically increased, but to be proud of Social Security means to ignore the fact that workers are getting next to nothing on their investment. Yet this is the "crown jewel" of government in his eyes. I frankly don't get it. Even Ponzi schemes work for awhile.

    Another issue is Desert Storm. He was against it, but Moynihan's "answer", to use sanctions, now seems comical. We all know the impact of sanctions on Saddam Hussein. It seems he spent some of his credibility capital on that. But his overriding concern was that we'd never get out of the desert, and that does seem to be coming true.

    He also is also quite frank about failures of big government:
    The liberal project began to fail when it began to lie. That was the mid sixties when a range of social science appeared - Think Coleman (i.e. the 1966 report by James Coleman on the equality of education] - which said it was going to be a bitch. The response was that said social scientists and their craven lackeys were objective right wing deviationists.
    On our over-spending, from way back in 1981:
    We have been eating our seed corn. You cannot do that for long... [this] was reinforced by the maturing of the industrial economy. By this I mean nothing more complicated than that railroads and the steel mills and the assembly lines finally all got built. Until then saving - the forgoing of consumption - was absolutely necessary in order to make those investments. Now, the investments have been made, they could only return a profit if people commenced to consume their products. The advertising business began in earnest. Someone invented the installment plan. The Federal government began to guarantee home mortgages. The logic of our economy, as of our reigning economies, also decreed: overspend...

    Remembrance of Medicines Past


    Oh the joy,
    when slightly sick (or not)
    I remember the elixirs:
    Vick's VapoRub,
    Pepto Bismol,
    Smith Brother's cough drops,
    Noxzema
    for sunburn,
    Alka Seltzer,
    Retinol
    for cuts,
    AYDS diet candies,
    Flintstones vitamins.

    Coffee, Tea or Alcohol?

    From Jonah Goldberg's newsletter:
    I have a weird theory. Maybe one of the reasons -- aside from the illiteracy, shame culture, anti-Semitism, authoritarianism, etc. -- that Arabs are both so conspiratorial and so complex in their political machinations is the lack of alcohol in their cultures. Maybe there's so much intrigue and duplicity in the Middle East because that's exactly the sort of thing you'd expect in a society where men sit around all night consuming stimulants like nicotine and caffeine. In, say, Russia -- another hotbed of paranoia -- people stay up late into the night, but they get drunker and more simplistic the later it gets. In hookah bars, you stay up later and later, totally sober and increasingly wired, like a college sophomore on a sleep-deprivation vision quest who, at 3:00 in the morning, suddenly realizes he should write his term paper on how Kierkegaard predicted Jersey Shore. Of course, this could be entirely wrong.

    February 02, 2011

    Parody blog updated...

    ...with news that Mubarak will promise to step down after he uses the bathroom.