July 31, 2011

Poem in National Review





Fordham, Get Thee Behind Me

How secular is the Jesuit institution Fordham? Enough to not even deign to capitalize "God" in an article about a Catholic saint. Sad. And, of course more willing to give migraines than "god" any credit whatsoever for her writings and creativity. Link here.

Fallible Thoughts on the Debt Crisis

I'm puzzled by why devout Catholics who are wont to quote Richard Rohr expect their brethren to see forced charity via government auspices as the obvious way to go. Is the issue at least not controversial? I see the force of their argument, but I also see the wisdom of conservatism.

I think the reason we're in this crisis is that America sees itself not only as Christian, but as ruggedly individualistic. And there's the rub, the lens through which everything makes sense: the large defense budget, the startling generosity of Americans when giving to charity, and the resistance to a more progressive tax code. There's a wariness of fostering a dependency or giving inefficiently (we are the land of efficiency, after all). Many rich Christians give heavily to the poor through private charities and yet will fight to the death against a small tax increase. It's the principle of it, the American loathing of waste, fraud and abuse and the Western thirst for justice, that paralyzing thought that someone, somewhere is getting a free ride. We've become "powerful" as a nation partially due to that desire for justice - it's the system of law and order that has given us advantages over, say, Mexico with its corrupt police and government - but the downside is apparent as well.

Government-sponsored welfare tends to relieve the individual of charitable effort which, you'd think, Christian liberals would be against. It's us selfish people who should be of the liberal persuastion.

On the bright side, no one is going to miss their social security checks due to the debt crisis. There would be other problems, like federal employees missing checks if the crisis isn't solved - but you can bet the old (i.e. "those who vote in droves") WILL be taken care of.


July 29, 2011

Judge Not Steinbeck on The Red Pony


Podcast in which Julie Davis admits she has to eat crow concerning John Steinbeck's East of Eden.

Dante to Shakespeare to Goethe

Interesting lines from the Chesterton biography by William Oddie. I didn't realize he GKC wrote of the difference between Dante and Milton:
"It was the intense reality in their [medieval] religion which marks, for instance, the hell and heaven of the great mediaeval poet, filled with his own Florentine neighbors, as opposed to the vague renaissance mythology of the great poem of Milton. It was a religion dark, narrow, sometimes savagely ascetic, but it was not a sham religion: it was felt as real by those who professed it."
Interesting that Chesterton thought Dante's vision was "dark, narrow and sometimes savagely ascetic." He goes on to say that there were "three ages of ethical poetry in Europe": from Dante, as representing the dark but vivid medieval religion, to Shakespeare, in whom the human interest was extended more liberally to the whole human race, and then to Goethe, representing the modern, ethical, skeptical school.

July 28, 2011

Borders Employee Bingo

What's in a Cover?

As you can see at right, they settled on a cover for the upcoming Heather King book, "A Shirt of Flame". The only flame I see is the flaming red hair of the observer in the foreground. A very modern book cover; youth is served (since the woman gazing at the wall looks young) and coffee as well, a drink that merely by its presence connotes the sort of warm feelings you get when you drop by a coffee-cum-book shop. The young lady also seems to have two shirts on for some reason. Maybe it's cool in the room.

It seems a highly marketable cover, and I suppose that's what counts since you want to get the message out. One might've wished for something a bit more edgy, though. It's attractive but looks a bit chic-flicky.

Poetry & Poetical Inspirations Found Here & There

From a Trappist blog, quoting the Spiritual Canticle of Saint John of the Cross:
O woods and thickets
planted by the hand of my Beloved!
O green meadow,
coated, bright, with flowers,
tell me, has he passed by you?

Pouring out a thousand graces,
he passed these groves in haste;
and having looked at them,
with his image alone,
clothed them in beauty.
And a quote...
The world is the gift of God. We must know how to perceive the giver through the gift. More precisely, since the time of the incarnation, the Passion and Easter, we can see the earth as an immense memorial, the tomb/womb in which Christ was buried and to which he gave resurrected power through the power of his own resurrection ... The Word both hides and reveals himself in visible forms as much as in the words of Scripture.

- Olivier Clement
Some early GK Chesterton, on the medieval era:
O dead worlds of valour and faith, O brave hearts that strove hard to be pure,
O wonderful longing of man, the old taint of his being to cure...

Man's soul that was high shall be higher, man's heart that God cleansed shall be clean....

Therefore, breathe I a prayer for a moment, at this, the lone shrine of the past,
Whose face was the sun of the ages, whose soul shall be light to the last;
For man's hope of high things never faileth, though visions and worship may fail,
O Mary, thou blessed among women, great pureness and motherhood hail!

July 27, 2011

This & That

Call-in show on The Catholic Guy show posed the question: if you were drafting non-Catholics into the Church, who would be your first pick? The objective seemed to be to pick someone who would bring the most folks into the Church. The responses I heard were: James Earl Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Prince William and Harry Potter. I was thinking along the lines of Barak Obama and Billy Graham. Who else? Lady Gaga? (The fact that I know who Lady Gaga is probably doesn't bode well for her longterm popularity; she's likely already passé in a certain crowd.) Bill Clinton could be big, given his world rock star status. The Dali Lama would be gigantic, I think. The New York Times publisher. Iran's president, or China's. Yes, ideally a leader who could garner a small percentage of Muslim or Chinese Catholics would be amazing, given the numbers of Muslims and Chinese.

*

Started a Miami U. history blog yesterday, inspired by the recent historical treasure hunt for the genesis of the small stone pier. Turns out it used to be covered by a building, something my imagination didn't imagine. Looking at old pictures one sees how little continuity there is with a campus like Miami. Buildings come and go, trees get large and cut down. Seems like only the slant walk has stayed in the same place, and a mere path is thin historical gruel. Broadway, the street of dreams in Manhattan, was once an Indian path.

But, on the other hand, that somehow makes Broadway and the pillar even more figures of wonder. The stone was cut and erected in 1840, a score of years before the Civil War. Then it became the object of graffiti artists and they are long dead now, so even the "vandals" (as one article called them) have the veneer of history about them. Flannery O'Connor wrote in one of her stories that there's nothing poorer than being dead, but there's also nothing more inaccessible, at least to the living. Dead people are the great "other", not only for their inaccessibility but for embarking on a journey we can scarcely imagine. Dead people are charismatic, a lost tribe in a place so remote we have to die to get there.

*

The recent combination of rain and heat have made the backyard corner nearly tropical: pine needles hang down like Spanish moss and the bushes rise up to meet them. There's a cornucopia of textures and colors next to the sublime hammock, which serves as much as eye candy as for utilitarian purposes. I like the byzantine, baroque look of our over-the-top back yard with its twenty hanging flower baskets and numerous trees and bushes. It was my aim on my blog to keep adding trinkets ("gadgets" blogger calls it) to the side bar in order to present a blog flourishing with data and links. The equivalent of a summer blog.

July 26, 2011

Price is Right...

Amazon having a special with tons of books at $2.99 and I found three I liked:
A Friday Night Lights Companion - by Leah Wilson, Will Leitch, Jen Chaney and Jacob Clifton

The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith by Peter Hitchens

Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster by T. J. English

The Inimitable Bouguereau

Birth Control Article

Perhaps I'm so sensitive to media bias that now it gets triggered even in innocuous instances. Or perhaps I should not be surprised but expect it, since the Church is not supposed to be of this world, unlike the newspaper.

So when the Columbus Dispatch mentioned federal funding of birth control I was ready to be underwhelmed.

I thought it would've been helpful if the article pointed out that all Christians - every denomination - opposed birth control until the Anglicans in 1930. So Christian acceptance of contraception is a relatively recent phenomenon in Christian history.

Second, the article admits that birth control pills only "usually" prevent ovulation; I personally know of some evangelical Protestant Christians who reject the pill for this reason.

I don't like is how newspapers get to choose who represents a religion or group. Thus Jesse Jackson is the go-to-guy for African American issues. And for Catholics, dissident theologians are considered co-equals with the bishops. The church isn't shepherded by theologians - the self-definition of the Church is apostolic - so Dan Maguire's comments are irrelevant except towards the pushing of an agenda.

There seems an unfortunate tendency in the media to quote dissident Catholic theologians if the reporter disapproves of the bishops' side of the issue. Perhaps that is not true in this particular case, but how often do you see mentions of those opposed to the Pope John Paul II's stand on the death penalty, for example?

July 25, 2011

Interesting...

Heather King at Shirt of Flame opines:
I think the deeply vitriolic tone of so much of contemporary Catholic "discourse" is the surest possible sign that we are NOT "on to" Christ. Because if you're on to him at all, in my experience, you're simply way too INTERESTED to bother too much about what other people are doing or believing or saying.

Of course you notice, of course you have an opinion, of course doctrine is important, but above, beyond, and first, first, first, we have to know that we are loved. Otherwise the dogma becomes nothing more than a rigid set of rules, lived out of fear, and generating judgment and condemnation of ourselves and others....

With all his genius and intellect, to me the greatest "achievement" of St. Thomas Aquinas was when Christ appeared to him in a vision and said (I'm paraphrasing), Good job, my beloved son! What would you wish in return? What would you have? And St. Thomas replied, "Nothing but Thee"...
I've often thought the greatest achievement of St. Thomas Aquinas was his humility (in part demonstrated by his acceptance of the sobriquet "The Dumb Ox") but this "Nothing but Thee" is much better, although obviously the two are linked.

Happened across...

The following from another blogorhythm:
Interesting artwork from the Oblate of St Francis de Sales, Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath.  It depicts, I believe, Eugene O'Neill reciting Francis Thompson's poem "The Hound of Heaven" to Dorothy Day.  This recitation took place in a Greenwich Village bar, but Dorothy Day remembered it as being an incident that foreshadowed her conversion:


You can see the opening lines of the poem in the smoke coming from O'Neill's cigarette!

The Magdalene's Pining

Mass last Friday was the great feast of Mary Magdalene and I appreciated anew how she was given the privilege of being the first to see the Risen Christ. It's interesting he would go to her first, as if rewarding her for her great love. I felt a tinge of envy since I wished I loved Him like that! I was also moved by the first reading, from the Song of Songs, even though it was an alternate reading not chosen and so I read it on my own. The great Fr. C was there, as he'd been all week (I could do with having heard more of his sermons). He spoke today about how she was the apostle to the apostles and how we all want to experience God in a completely scientific way when we really have to have a participatory knowledge of God. Faith first.

How well the Song of Songs (3:1-4) passage applies to Mary Magdalene and how even the alternative first reading could be seen to apply (from 2 Cor): "even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer." Stop clinging to me, Jesus said, wanting her to know Christ not just in the flesh but in his new creation. A previous pastor once said that you could read "flesh" in St. Paul's writings as "the culture" and so I wonder if sometimes I likewise try to read Jesus according to the flesh, either my culture or his, when he and we are now a new creation.

But how beautiful that Song of Songs passage about leaving her room to look for him, finding a watchman instead and then immediately finding Him. How like that it is to Mary Magdalene's story of leaving to look for him, finding a gardener instead and then seeing Him. Seems like the Byzantines lack this very clever structure coupling of OT/NT readings.

On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves-
I sought him but I did not find him.

I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.

The watchmen came upon me
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?

I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

Diaristic Wanderings

Jazz fest Friday: first, a four-piece band at the outer limits of a new Arena District waterfront park. Then I found another act right on the Scioto and I listened to the long-form tunes while watching a train crawl across the tracks over the river. The old stone pillars holding up the bridge were black on the north side, which puzzled me. Was there a fire? I figured it was maybe just years of soot and coal dust falling from the tracks. I could also see the lower bricks were lighter in color, which likely showed the high water level.

The day was overcast, for which I was grateful given serious heat wave. An old black man sits at the bench nearby, taking in the music and the scene. He reminds me of Morgan Freeman, thin, dressed nicely, and has a handsome cane to help him get around. He seems the very personification of a jazz listener; I wonder if he was around in the '40s for height of that era. There are some impressive devotees here; many put up tents and chairs and seem to plan on staying for hours in the grueling heat.

*

Home: The sky is a rhyming blue, a backdrop for the auburn-bricked chimney, which stands squat and square in the suburban heat. A constellation of sickly pine tree branches hang nearby, the sickness a result of old age or a drought a few years back.

Later: So now the dramatic rains fall, a thunderstorm which has the decency - as summer storms usually do - of being brief. My kind of rain although I'm not sure the tomatoes got enough to be happy. I'm glad it held off long enough to enjoy those brief, shining moments in the jazz fields of downtown Columbus where I gathered the musical pollen of talented musicians.

I love the smell of rain in the air, and it's warm enough that I could go out and exhilarate in it, run in it, like a child. Who doesn't love that famous scene in "Singin' in the Rain"?

According to the radar, the jazz fest is missing this storm. Now, jazz fest is MY kind of camping. Easy access to beer and food, great musical entertainment, and in this case a beautiful vast lawn accentuated with black wrought-iron benches. Trees line the perimeter of the park and people cling to the sides leaving the vast lawn wide open. The music was loud enough that I, sitting way back, could still enjoy it. Presumably can't stay overnight, but still.

*

Saturday: alma mater. The soul of Miami is, of course, the main library, aptly named "King" in this case. I set up camp not far from it, in the ancient quad beside Bishop Hall which was named for Miami's first president and which often fills me with a sense of promise squandered.

But more important than career achievement is to lay up treasure where neither moth nor fire can destroy. Which is problematic as well... I tire far too easily, for example, of appeals sent through snail-mail or email asking for funds for Sudan or promoting a pro-life cause or for food for the poor. I could wish that when I saw some appeal in the mail I would welcome it as I would welcome someone attempting to bring Christ to me.

It's funny but during my four years of college and all the trips since I've never seen the square stone stub, sticking up like a tombstone in the middle of the central quad. It's hard to read the script but says something like "DESIGNED BY T. KELLY 1806... NO ERECTED 1808". I wish I'd had a Miami historian handy to ask the purpose of the monument. It reminds me of Ireland's serendipitous findings of old ruins.



UPDATE:
The beauty of a google search gives this entertaining 1903 account:



Leveraging that find, more can be found:
Three years later, in 1838, a small science laboratory, no larger than a classroom, was built for $1,250. It stood southwest of the Center Building, near the present Bishop Hall, being kept at that distance for fear of fire. This building "Old Egypt" as generations of students called it , finally burned in 1898. By 1838 there were the Center Building, with its west wing, two residence halls, and the science laboratory; these comprised the campus buildings throughout the five decades of Old Miami, until the college closed in 1873.

There was, however, one other structure, the remains of which persist on the campus now and occasion surprisingly little wonder. A hundred feet from the front door of Bishop Hall is a sandstone pier, three feet high and two feet square. A close look, which few have taken in the past half century, shows it scored with initials of students long gone from Miami and fading inscription:

Designed in 1834
and erected in 1838
by John Locke, M.D.


This is the remnant of the second astronomical observatory in the United States.

American astronomy began in 1830 when a scientist at Yale carried a five inch telescope to a college steeple and observed Halley's Comet before word of it came from observatories in Europe. The first observatory in the United States was built at Williams College in 1836, and the next effort came in Ohio. In 1836 John Locke, an ingenious professor in the Cincinnati College of Medicine, designed a stone pier for the mounting of a small transit telescope. This primitive observatory he sold to Miami before the year was over, and Professor Scott set it up on the treeless south campus. The old stone pier still shows on of the iron fastenings which supported the transit.

In the spring of 1838 a small frame house was built of the stone pier, but it didn't last. On winter nights when a student's fire was sinking that shed began to go. It was all gone by 1840, and the transit was moves into Old Egypt nearby. However, in Loomis' Practical Astronomy, published in 1855, the Miami Observatory is listed at Lat. 39 ¡30'N., Long. 84¡ 46' W.--along with the other observatories of the world.


The Case of the Enigmatic Erratic (lower right corner)



Black dot = approximate area of find



I arrive just in time for the rain so have to move to the sheltered porch of Bishop, overlooking Alumni hall and the quad. I read of a more famous Oxford: "Crossing it on a moonlit winter’s night lifted the heart, though that was often the trouble with Oxford – the architecture out-soared one’s feelings, the sublime not always easy to match."

And later: "it was possible if one was so inclined to get to study in the much more exclusive and architecturally splendid surroundings of the Codrington, and a few undergraduates did so. They tended, though, to set less store on what they were writing than on where they were writing it and I, with my narrow sympathies but who was just as foolish, despised them for it."

*

Now the sun shines but I cling to shade given the severe heat. Alumni Hall stands with its pleasing architecture. It once was the main library on campus and still has that lingering spirit about it. It's red brick with additional touches, like the copper top on the rotunda and the black iron decorative on the side:



*

Read a bit of yet another interview with Heather King and she said that L.A. is sort of a natural city for her because of how it is so isolating...She said she's always been something of a loner so it fits. Plus it has the heat which she obviously likes (she said she loves being born in her favorite month, a warm one for chilly New Hampshire). Someday I want to fly to Phoenix and drive out west and see Taos, NM. What an exotic name -"Taos, New Mexico" compared to "Columbus, Ohio"! Viva le difference. One has to go a long way to experience something different, and we have so much variation (in landscape at minimum) within the continental U.S.

*

Still thinking about a Jen Pierce post about art's purpose being to heal and how in order to heal we have to address the wound. For me, art seems less about healing than about simply appreciating words. Perhaps that's too superficial, the mere enjoyment of beauty rather than Aristotle's definition of art as cathartic. I do suspect I need less surface beauty, less delight in words, and more catharsis. I wonder sometimes if I've merely covered my wounds in pretty crepe. But then it seems much easier to find lyricism than a healing cathartic work, unless I'm missing something obvious. Surely the classics are classic because they address our common wounds, so perhaps I've no farther to look than my own shelves.

*

Relish I, relish I this time of year when I hurry home so I can full-bake in the sun's distillery, when 6pm, 7pm is as midday! It's midsummer eve madness, this acreage of backyard sun still extant during the late afternoon hours of a workweek.

And all too rare it's been this year. I can't recall a colder June, one more lacking in consecutive days of heat. June, my favorite month, was a let-down. June's main virtue seems to be that it's still the earliest summer, but when it doesn't act like summer that virtue seems mostly theoretical. July is far more dependable than June, but the days are shortening so tack on a couple demerits.

So much of a officeworker's summer is simply that little stretch of time between 6pm and 9pm, a stretch that is darkness for most of the year but right now is alight and aright. Warmth continues unabated unto dusk in a way that feels foreign to fair-air'd June. There is sun, and long days, in June but she lacks that fervid intensity of heat that July brought palpably and almost immediately. June lacks the killer instinct, the slam-dunk of July.

July 22, 2011

Gratitudinal Difference

It's feels odd to be at this point where the weather's too hot for me.

Being too cold is omni-present during the winter months and not infrequent during spring and fall.

But a rare experience is this being too hot. I like temps in the mid-to-high '80s with some humidity, but a temp of 92 or more with real humidity is a bit hot to handle. There are probably six days a year when it's too hot for me, and fifty when it's too cold.

But what is interesting to me is how I perceive the heating or cooling effects of the indoors. When I came indoors last night I felt a palpable sense of relief and gratitude for air conditioning. Do I feel that when I come in from the cold? I'm not sure. I think I take it for granted, as if the indoors is the default and well it should be warm indoors. What's the big deal? But in summer I look at the default as being outdoors and when I come in and am welcomed with the cool I feel more grateful.

Perhaps it's simply in the frequency. When fifty days are cold, you get at least fifty agreeable times of coming in to warmth a year. You become numb to it since it's so frequent. But when six days are hot, you feel more gratitude for a/c because you notice it less frequently.

Excerpt

From Derek Walcott's "Omeros":
The great headstones lifted like the keels of curraghs
from Ireland's groundswell and spray foamed on the walls
of the broken abbey. That silver was the lake's,

a salver held by a tonsured hill. The old well's
silence increased as gravel was crunched by pilgrims
following the monks' footpath. Silence was in flower.

It widened the furrows like a gap between hymns,
if that pause were protracted hour after hour
by century-ringed oaks, by a square Celtic cross...

....

no pebbled language to drink from like a calm horse
or pilgrim lapping up soul-watering places;
the grass was brighter with envy, then my remorse

was a clouding sun. The sorrel swaying its whisk,
the panes of blue sky in the abbey were all set
in a past as old as Glen-da-Lough's obelisk.

July 20, 2011

Interesting Chesterton Excerpt

From Heretics:
The two typical men of genius whom I have mentioned here, [G.B. Shaw & Kipling] and with whose names I have begun this book, are very symbolic, if only because they have shown that the fiercest dogmatists can make the best artists. In the fin de siecle atmosphere every one was crying out that literature should be free from all causes and all ethical creeds. Art was to produce only exquisite workmanship, and it was especially the note of those days to demand brilliant plays and brilliant short stories. And when they got them, they got them from a couple of moralists. The best short stories were written by a man trying to preach Imperialism. The best plays were written by a man trying to preach Socialism. All the art of all the artists looked tiny and tedious beside the art which was a byproduct of propaganda.

The reason, indeed, is very simple. A man cannot be wise enough to be a great artist without being wise enough to wish to be a philosopher. A man cannot have the energy to produce good art without having the energy to wish to pass beyond it. A small artist is content with art; a great artist is content with nothing except everything. So we find that when real forces, good or bad, like Kipling and G. B. S., enter our arena, they bring with them not only startling and arresting art, but very startling and arresting dogmas. And they care even more, and desire us to care even more, about their startling and arresting dogmas than about their startling and arresting art. Mr. Shaw is a good dramatist, but what he desires more than anything else to be is a good politician...

But the most striking instance of all, more striking, I think, even than either of these, is the instance of Mr. H. G. Wells. He began in a sort of insane infancy of pure art. He began by making a new heaven and a new earth, with the same irresponsible instinct by which men buy a new necktie or button-hole. He began by trifling with the stars and systems in order to make ephemeral anecdotes; he killed the universe for a joke. He has since become more and more serious, and has become, as men inevitably do when they become more and more serious, more and more parochial. He was frivolous about the twilight of the gods; but he is serious about the London omnibus. He was careless in "The Time Machine," for that dealt only with the destiny of all things; but he is careful, and even cautious, in "Mankind in the Making," for that deals with the day after to-morrow. He began with the end of the world, and that was easy. Now he has gone on to the beginning of the world, and that is difficult. But the main result of all this is the same as in the other cases. The men who have really been the bold artists, the realistic artists, the uncompromising artists, are the men who have turned out, after all, to be writing "with a purpose."

Suppose that any cool and cynical art-critic, any art-critic fully impressed with the conviction that artists were greatest when they were most purely artistic, suppose that a man who professed ably a humane aestheticism, as did Mr. Max Beerbohm, or a cruel aestheticism, as did Mr. W. E. Henley, had cast his eye over the whole fictional literature which was recent in the year 1895, and had been asked to select the three most vigorous and promising and original artists and artistic works, he would, I think, most certainly have said that for a fine artistic audacity, for a real artistic delicacy, or for a whiff of true novelty in art, the things that stood first were "Soldiers Three," by a Mr. Rudyard Kipling; "Arms and the Man," by a Mr. Bernard Shaw; and "The Time Machine," by a man called Wells. And all these men have shown themselves ingrainedly didactic. You may express the matter if you will by saying that if we want doctrines we go to the great artists. But it is clear from the psychology of the matter that this is not the true statement; the true statement is that when we want any art tolerably brisk and bold we have to go to the doctrinaires.

July 19, 2011

Nice...

Thanks to putting all my expenses on my Chase amazon.com rewards card, I get a certain percentage back as an amazon.com gift certificate. Over the past two months I've ordered these books free:
Catherine De Hueck Doherty "I Live on an Island"

Joseph F. Schmidt "Everything Is Grace: The Life and Way of Therese of Lisieux"

Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D. "The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World"

Phil Cousineau "Wordcatcher: An Odyssey into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words"

David McCullough "The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris"

Bryan Ward-Perkins "The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization"
Have also been greedily reading a biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt titled "The First Tycoon".

Realtime Summer

Masterfully hot. Forget-me-not hot. Unintelligibly hot. The sort of day, yesterday, that defines a level of hot you barely thought Central Ohio could fashion by her lonesome during these days of global cooling.

So the day here is blessedly hot and humid, unrestrained summer. The flowers exult in a symphony of color - now is the climax, the orgasmic climax of flowerdom at our house. I sing with Heather King about gladness of being born in the summer.

*

Browsing the web yesterday I came across this line from V.S. Naipaul: "It is as if we all carry in our makeup the effects of accidents that have befallen our ancestors, as if we are in many ways programmed before we are born, our lives half outlined for us."

*

Interesting post happened across:
We tend to see art and culture as passive expressions of a state of affairs, and they do reflect cultural and social circumstances. The key to understanding cultural expressions, however, is to realize that they have a primary social function.

They are healing--this is the meaning of Aristotle's use of the term "katharsis." Ever the biologist, the overlap with medicine this particular term had in Aristotle's day could not have been unintentional. The cause of art--or one might say its purpose or ontology--is to heal its audience.

Artists like to talk about their own work as a form of therapy but it shouldn't be very surprising that we heal others through our own healing, that healing has a contagion that spreads.

At a certain point--and it was very long ago--we began to fear art because we feared that those who consume it would emulate it. I think it is equally so but perhaps not fully conscious that we fear art because of what it reveals about us.

Most wounds, however, have to be opened in order to heal.

In medicine there is a practice called homeopathy in which the disease is administered to the patient as the cure. It comes from the ancient Greek for "like suffering."

The irony of our current crop of pop icons escapes most people, perhaps even the performers themselves, though in the case of several of them I doubt it. The empowerment messages often contrast with the images of the performers themselves, as you can see in the above, with all the suggestions of sado-masochism and objectified sexuality.

We see the live virus in their homeopathic remedy but fail to realize that the motivation is healing.

July 18, 2011

Debt Ceiling Ending With Whimper, Not Bang

Echoes of Casey Stengel reverberate: "can't anybody here play this game?" Seems in the wink of an eye the risible Republican party has collapsed before Barack "Don't Call My Bluff" Obama's star turn as the voice of reason.

As Ross Douthat pointed out, "In the negotiations over the debt ceiling, the Republican Party had everything mapped out except the endgame."

Which is sort of hilarious in that the endgame is pretty much the only game that counts. We're not talking horseshoes here, after all.

It's sort of a metaphor for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where getting in is much easier than getting out, though getting out in this case was seemingly as easy as allowing the President the fig leaf of removing a few tax loopholes, something that seems pretty small potatoes if married to a real cut in spending. The American people wanted cuts and the "optics" as the insiders say, were such that the mere mention of "raising our debt ceiling" was politically unpopular.

How is it possible that Republicans can so often have public opinion with them on an issue and still find a way to lose, such as with the health care bill and now the debt?

But now Obama, not universally known for his negotiating/poker skills (look at how well he's done with dictators he was going to sit down and reason with), suddenly looks like Marvin Miller. It amazes me that politicians, supposedly very shrewd at, teehee, politics, could play their hand so badly. Republican pols blunder around like blunderbusses, like bulls in a china shop, with strategic skills rivaling that of a 4th grade RISK player.

Meanwhile no one has ever done a better acting job as the off-Broadway star Obama, who has been ham-handedly playing the role of the voice of reason on debt and deficit.

I'd thought earlier that many House members were free men and women because they weren't beholden to the establishment and weren't afraid to lose their jobs. But that may've been a stretch. It may be that they were too afraid to lose their jobs by doing something politically unpopular with their base: that of closing tax loopholes.

In the end, this all seems faintly reminiscent of what was given for the fall of Rome: neither the status quo nor the cure were endurable so they drifted into the inevitable.

My solution? I propose a mandatory college course for all Republican members of Congress on negotiating, politics and endgames.

July 17, 2011

Michael Medved Tweet

"Crisis in Italy: gov't passes emergency austerity package to cope with disastrous debt. Their deficit=4.6% of GDP. For US, we're above 9%!"

Mixed Motivations

Helpful homily on today's gospel from Fr. Charles via Twitter.

Heather King Cracks Me Up

She put a picture of a plant, obviously phallic in nature, to illustrate her post on the sower of seed here
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TV Show

Amazed by how much I like the "tree-shaker" show. It's actually called "Swamp People" and it's sort of inveigled itself under our skin. It's the best show on TV and we both watch religiously and like it equally as much. I like the view of a boat coursing through the water and the proud jaw of Troy, the master alligator hunter who superstitiously wears the same -patterned blue shirt every episode. Then too there's the soap opera of Joe and Tommy, the classic story of the generations: the hard-working man and the young up and comer rebel with lazier ways. A sign either of civilizational decline or the traditional carpings of every older generation against the younger.

Beer 'n Yard Talk

Oh the lyricism of a Columbus Brewing IPA! After the workmanlike Sam Adams Summer, it's like a breath of fresh air. It sings with hoppiness - who'd have thunk I'd become a hophead after being so long so resistant to the clarion call of the bitter ale? But sing it does on this night, after a day.

I've still not of a mind to read, but instead to play with this word processor and maybe listen to a few tunes to the medley of an IPA. (Fascinating fact: German beer steins were invented with lids to keep out the vagaries of the natural world, like bird doo-doo, since they usually drank in beer gartens in the great outdoors.)

So the yard looks great, the tomato vines getting fuller and the weeds more or less dominated. Hopefully from now nature will take its course and I can enjoy some large sweet tomatoes in a few weeks. The tomato plants started so small and were so threatened by enveloping, threatening weeds that it took almost an act of faith to believe they'd survive and thrive. But now they stand like pinions, nice three to four feet fellows that are beginning to fill their cages. To their left, looking south, stands the grape arbor, which lends a gentrified air to the festivities.

No Arab Love

We hired BHO and all we got was a ton of debt.

Sundry and various

I'm a sucker for the island songs of Jimmy Buffet if purely by association. I associate them, having heard them so many times while on vacation, with vacation. It's the ultimate branding - it's no wonder he's a millionaire or billionaire. People want escape, and he's the Escape brand, (patent pending). And so I'm naturally thrilled that there's a Buffet satellite radio station now although admittedly I'm breaking the association - I'm listening to him while NOT on vacation. A perishable commodity, this branding thing, and subject to breakage.
*
I'm so impressed by the simple faith of that Native American saint whose name I can't pronounce or spell, Bl Katerie. She was beatified on a special day to me, my birthday. She died at the age of 24 and two sources checked couldn't tell me what she died of. Probably of sanctity, since it seems the good tend to die young. Sometimes I think of it as a subconscious desire to get to Heaven sooner, or maybe it's like a rookie in single A ball who's so good they skip double and triple A and send them right to the majors, i.e. Heaven. Her secret was intense prayer and self-denial, which seems not an unusual strategy.
*
So I'm sitting here staring at my iPad. Help, my name is Tom and I'm a netoholic. Can't. pick. up. a. book. I listen to music stations while the words to that John Denver song come to mind: "I'd play Sally Gooden all day if I could / But the Lord and my wife wouldn't take it very good / So I fiddle when I can, work when I should....".

Bookstores

http://flavorwire.com/194844/10-unconventional-bookstores-for-your-browsing-pleasure

Beating a dead horse but...

From the Columbus Dispatch comes a cogent letter written to the editor which I thought interesting concerning the case that launched a thousand blogposts:
Just to clarify a few misconceptions surrounding the Casey Anthony trial (“Evidence wasn’t there in Anthony trial,” Forum column, Tuesday), the prosecution in a murder case does not have to prove the when, where, why or how. Helpful as these things may be, quite often, the murderer takes steps to preclude their discovery. People have been convicted of murder in cases where the body has never been found.

The fact that the baby's remains yielded no cause of death is not relevant, nor surprising. Had the corpse never been located and the kidnapping story debunked as it was, murder charges still could have been filed. The defendant's lawyers merely confused a malleable jury who appear to have been either short on intellect or unable to follow their instructions, or both.

Additionally, something else needs to be cleared up: All major television networks and The New York Times have stated the mother waited 31 days to report her child missing. It was the grandmother who made the 911 call that forced the issue. I submit, and it should be beyond any reasonable doubt (not to be confused with doubt beyond all reason), that the mother never would have reported the child missing, and that was her aim all along.

To hear people say that this is our justice system working properly is a tough pill to swallow. After reading columnist Clarence Page's piece, I see that he, too, would have been a suitable juror for the defense team. What was lacking was leadership in the jurors’ room.

JOE BRENNAN

Delaware



July 14, 2011

Quick Poem

     I ate while driving to the Apple store
To request an iPad replacement;
     My eyes bespotted by Easton lore,
Of fountains and architecture high-rent.
              I was soon was there
              in the hipster's lair:
full of blue-t'd youth with hair bent.

     They buzzed like bees and took my name
talking inside their blueteeth;
     They had me stand and loiter same,
like the others I hung like a wreath.
              My third contact
              did confirm intact:
a fresh iPad with no scratches 'neath!

July 13, 2011

Negotiations in D.C.

I be hyp-mo-tized by the game of chicken played by the political parties in Washington of late concerning the issue of raising of the debt ceiling.

It reminds me of the passage of Obamacare in that you have some segment of the House who are free men, free women, willing to fall on their swords and die a political death, such as my own former Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy who was cast out after casting her vote.

Free men and women such as these scare the powers that be since few in power can understand someone who puts something ahead of politics. These free agents, by virtue of their courage, are perceived as very powerful and thus the Republicans think they have the whip hand. The Republican leaders can point to their base, with much credibility, and say they can't raise taxes.

The Democrats also think they have the whip hand, and that's why this is such a gothically intense scenario. Democrats, not without reason, think that Republicans will be blamed for any shutdown since Republicans are perceived as the fiscal discipline party and the Dems as the party for "letting it all hang out". People will hear of a shutdown and think the party for letting it all hang out couldn't be responsible for this.

Michelle Bachmann fascinates in part because she says she wouldn't vote for the debt ceiling increase under any scenario, which is tantamount to something like an immediate 40% cut in federal spending. It's fascinating to see someone that reckless with an "R" next to their name. Having seen so many RINOS in my day, Bachmann is sort of like an exotic zoo animal that you didn't even know existed.

Perhaps you need extremes in order to alter the location of the political center. One of the most powerful lobbies in Washington is the National Rifle Association. And what's interesting is how the NRA positions are extreme, presumably in order to protect against creeping gun control. They are masters at protecting against that slippery slope, of adhering to principle over pragmatism. Similarly NARAL is very powerful, and they are extreme in protecting the right to kill children. It does seem as though the mark of a good lobbying organization is extremism. Bachmann and others like her seem like their own lobbying organization.

Tea partiers understand that this feels like a moment, a now-or-never moment, since we've learned that the only time the budget gets cut is with divided gov't, and it's pretty divided right now. 2012 might be too late, since we may have a Republican president and congress, which experience teaches is a negative.

A Remarkable Faith

From Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha:
I am not my own; I have given myself to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that may befall me if I do not marry does not frighten me. All I need is a little food and a few pieces of clothing. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary and what is left over I'll give to my relatives and to the poor. If I should become sick and unable to work, then I shall be like the Lord on the cross. He will have mercy on me and help me, I am sure.

July 12, 2011

Crankin' the Chainsaw



This effect of a summer storm will keep me busy tonight...and tomorrow...and

July 11, 2011

Cellphone Photography on a Bikeride

Note: All pictures come with a certificate of authentication.


Ohio is the Canadian Geese capital of the world, er, except for maybe Canada.



Frank Lloyd Wright designed this electrical poll. Or not.



Snake!



Reminiscent of the river Seine, only in miniature...

Why's My Bookbag (or e-reader equvialent) So Heavy?

From Fr. Benedict Groeschel:
Poetry is often the best medium to express the highest religious sentiments without becoming maudlin, and we see examples of this with Francis of Assisi, John of the Cross, John Milton, and Thérèse of Lisieux.
From Genesis by R.R. Reno:
We can contemplate creation and see its fittingness for consummation, but no natural theology can formulate an account of the beginning in which and for which God creates. When we say in the eucharistic liturgy "heaven and earth are full of your glory;" we are not giving pious expression to the argument from design. Instead, the Sanctus points to the full role of creation in the future of God's plan.
From The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Philips:
If I were you, I think I’d be wondering if I’d still be a writer the morning I become a millionaire. Even Shakespeare retired when he made his bundle. And Dr. Johnson has a great line: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

One faces these terrible whys, frustrating in their nearness yet total impenetrability, like strippers behind glass.

A Buddhist critic wrote that Shakespeare helped ruin Western civilization by giving such eloquence to resisting change, to analyzing emotions, to the despair over passing time, to exerting one’s will: in short, to enunciating so stirringly the opposite of a Buddhist world-view.

That smug certainty of modern science’s all-seeing eye, that conviction that there is no human ingenuity still to come: this gives me some faith in the falseness of the otherwise disorienting forensics report.

But we all seem to pray at this cult of our own originality. This accounts for our flood of dull memoirs, which tend to be, ironically, quite similar: everyone feels they are unique and the story of themselves will be unique, too.

I denied myself that balm and found it cheap, because if she felt for him (who deserved none of her fine feeling), then her feelings were indiscriminate and therefore worthless.
The Heart of Haiku from Jane Hirschfield:
[Bansho] found in every life and object an equal potential for insight and expansion. A good subject for haiku, he suggested, is a crow picking mud-snails from between a rice paddy’s plants. Seen truly, he taught, there is nothing that does not become a flower, a moon. “But unless things are seen with fresh eyes,” he added, “nothing’s worth writing down.”

July 10, 2011

Staring Down the Barrel of a Monday

There's no way to outdrink a sunny Sunday afternoon,
Seeing how it's so tinged
With potential and perishability
since we all know there is no tomorrow,
Whether or not the weather.

But I try anyway, drinking beers like
The heroes in old westerns quaffed whiskies
Hoping against hope
That the twelve gunmen don't show up
And I can outdrink the sheriff
Hiding under his desk.

July 06, 2011

Defining "Reasonable"

From Marcia Clark:
Jury instructions are so numerous and complex, it’s a wonder jurors ever wade through them. And so it should come as no surprise that they can sometimes get stuck along the way. The instruction on circumstantial evidence is confusing even to lawyers. And reasonable doubt? That’s the hardest, most elusive one of all. And I think it’s where even the most fair-minded jurors can get derailed.

How? By confusing reasonable doubt with a reason to doubt. Some believe that thinking was in play in the Simpson case. After the verdict was read in the Simpson case, as the jury was leaving, one of them, I was later told, said: “We think he probably did it. We just didn’t think they proved it beyond a reasonable doubt.” In every case, a defense attorney will do his or her best to give the jury a reason to doubt. "Some other dude did it," or "some other dude threatened him." But those reasons don’t necessarily equate with a reasonable doubt. A reason does not equal reasonable. Sometimes, that distinction can get lost.

Comfort Beer

First reference I've seen to the term "comfort beer", which seems an apt turn of phrase. Found here, from The Brewologist.

Recent Reading Excerpts

Genesis by R. R. Reno:
We need to avoid the vain illusion that our spiritually crippled age can apply historical methods to recover the so-called real Bible. Each and every aspect of our inherited tradition is not always correct, and a great deal of traditional doctrine and theology has become entirely disconnected from a living exegetical practice. For this reason, traditional views need to be constantly tested, and reinvested with scriptural content...

However, our inherited traditions are themselves strikingly sophisticated and textually sensitive projects. They were developed to answer the single most difficult and central exegetical question of all: how can the Bible be read as a document that can be affirmed as true? Because we face the very same question today, we ignore our dogmatic, ecclesiastical, liturgical, and spiritual traditions at our peril.

From the novel South of Broad by Pat Conroy:
“It is the martini’s job to bring me closer to God,” the monsignor says, then sips with satisfaction. “It brings me halfway to God, then I must rely on the awesome power of prayer to take me to the summit.” “Then you must teach me how to pray in the proper manner, Monsignor.” A man’s voice comes from the doorway, and I look up to see Chad Rutledge putting his briefcase on a bench. “The Anglicans teach that drinking is the fastest way to approach God. Charlestonians think it’s the only way. What’s wrong with our theology?”

July 05, 2011

Morning Radio

Heard Scott Hahn on the local Catholic radio station today on the way to work. Fascinating tidbit on his meeting with a Muslim apologist. What happened was a friend of him begged Scott to go to this conference to debate a Muslim scholar on the Trinity, the Muslim taking the con side, of course and Scott taking the pro. Scott reluctantly agreed, but some weeks before the event he was staying at his friend's house and his friend set up a breakfast with the Muslim - an informal pre-debate debate.

The breakfast went poorly, to put it mildly. Hahn mentioned in passing about God's fatherhood and the Muslim pounded the table and said, "I am warning you not to blaspheme Allah again." Hahn said "how did I do that?" and the Muslim answered that God is not a father but master and we are slaves, not children. Later Scott mentioned the phrase "son of God" in referring to Jesus and again the Muslim pounded the table and said that if he blasphemes Allah again, he will leave. Well a bit later Scott slipped again, although he knows not how, and the muslim walked out before they even ordered food. He then cancelled the debate with Hahn, saying that Hahn was not abstract enough in his thinking, too "popular" rather than scholarly. Scott thought he was just being scriptural.

Hahn said that he thinks it's not enough to think of God as creator and redeemer but that we need to reflect more on who God is - father, "Abba", - than what He's done.

July 01, 2011

Tidbits from Readlets

From a article on Newt Gingrich in the NY Times, written by a writer for the conservative Weekly Standard (the Times is, of course, ever willing to give ink to conservatives if they are criticizing other conservatives):
Gingrich wrote about university leftism with all the bitterness of an ex-academic: “Most successful [alumni] get an annual letter saying, in effect, ‘Please give us money so we can hire someone who despises your occupation and will teach your children to have contempt for you.’ What is amazing is the overwhelming meekness of the alumni in accepting this hijacking of their alma mater.”

This is sharp and funny and nearly true, but it’s not a formulation designed to coax the undecided into agreement.
Makes me feel a bit smug that I don't donate to my college (little as those donations would be given the money I make).

Also a fascinating link about the Greece situation and the assignation of blame:
From the worm’s-eye perspective which most of us inhabit, the general feeling about this new turn in the economic crisis is one of bewilderment... People feel they have very little economic or political agency, very little control over their own lives; during the boom times, nobody told them this was an unsustainable bubble until it was already too late. The Greek people are furious to be told by their deputy prime minister that ‘we ate the money together’; they just don’t agree with that analysis. In the world of money, people are privately outraged by the general unwillingness of electorates to accept the blame for the state they are in. But the general public, it turns out, had very little understanding of the economic mechanisms which were, without their knowing it, ruling their lives. They didn’t vote for the system, and no one explained the system to them, and in any case the rule is that while things are on their way up, no one votes for Cassandra, so no one in public life plays the Cassandra role. Greece has 800,000 civil servants, of whom 150,000 are on course to lose their jobs. The very existence of those jobs may well be a symptom of the three c’s, ‘corruption, cronyism, clientelism’, but that’s not how it feels to the person in the job, who was supposed to do what? Turn down the job offer, in the absence of alternative employment, because it was somehow bad for Greece to have so many public sector workers earning an OK living?

*

he downmarket German press has been asking why Germans should work until 69 to fund the retirement of Greek public sector workers who knock off at 55. That’s a loaded way of putting the question, but it is a good question even so, and one to which Angela Merkel is manifestly sympathetic. She has spoken more than once about the need for the private bond-holders who own Greek and other debt to take losses from their holdings and for the entire burden not to fall on ever more reluctant taxpayers. (The markets hate it when she does that, and immediately begin to panic about Eurozone defaults.)

God's Use of Flawed Instruments

I was moved by the reflection below, in part because my faith grew after confronting the arguments of an anti-Catholic influencing my then-finance, now wife. Fr. Corapi was also mentioned in this, published in the bulletin by the pastor of a downtown Columbus parish I frequent:

Who did the Lord use to impart the gift of faith to you? This is a great question to ponder...Some of the people He uses may have even been the ones trying to dissuade us from the faith!

That last point always fascinates me. For example, my faith grew tremendously by having to defend my faith in the midst of a Catholic college. A more striking example is that of a young priest who was influential in my discernment but ended up leaving the priesthood.

When a faith-filled person who has influenced our spiritual growth urns away from the faith, it can be devastating. (I give this example because of how some people feel about the unfolding situation surrounding Fr. Corapi.) The aforementioned priest was an inspiration to me. I clearly remember advice he gave me which was certainly grace-filled. Those realities were not diminished when he left the priesthood in a scandalous manner, but made real to me the truth of Who it was that had really spoken to me. God can use anyone, especially His priests, but He always respects our free will even if it manifests itself in sin.