Thursday, June 26, 2008


I've been slacking off on blogging. That's partly because I've been working on another internet project: entering all my books into LibraryThing.

Check out my library here.

In my current stable library there are 805 books. That's actually fewer than I thought. If you'd given me over/under on 1,000 I'd probably have picked ovmer.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Seraphic Single had the same thought I did when hearing Germany and Turkey were playing in the Euro 2008 semi-finals:
Oh Dear

Germany is to play Turkey in the Semi-Finals. And this means that one way or the other there will be riots in Germany afterwards.
Photo courtesy StewieD under a Creative Commons License.

Fountain Pen Info

This is a nice site with FAQs on fountain pen ink and other pen topics.

It's got a nice breezy style about it too:
If you think that fountain pen geeks are anal about their pens, just wait until you hear them babble on about their inks!

To hear most enthusiasts talk, you'd think that ink was some magic substance rained from heaven to be captured in little crystal bottles; like some idol that must be appeased, it loves some pens and disdains others, and in extreme cases can eat through an unsatisfactory pen like that icky green blood stuff in the movie Alien.

Some folks feel they must treat their ink like prescription drugs, throwing them out after a year lest they perform some sort of Jekyll-to-Hyde transformation in the bottle (or in the pen). Still others interpret the brand name as a sort of "blood type," and fear to use Brand A ink in a Brand B pen.

And yet, as a friend of mine (and frequent ink seller) sometimes confesses in unguarded moments, fountain pen ink is basically colored water, perhaps with some detergent or thickener thrown in. If you understand a bit of what inks are made of and how they work, you'll find them less mystifying and more trouble-free and enjoyable to use.
Fountain pen image courtesy of Bismac under a Creative Commons license.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Last Crusade: Spain 1936

One of the things I want to do with this blog is record some brief thoughts about books I read, movies, I see etc. I do this as much for myself as for anyone else.

This book by Warren Carroll* of Christendom College is a great short history of the Spanish Civil War from a Catholic perspective. The stories of the martyrs of Spain contained within are incredible. Dr. Carroll's perspective is slightly less critical at times than I'd like to see. He does acknowledge the failings of the Nationalist side, but at times goes a bit far to excuse them.

*Interestingly, Dr. Carroll also went to Bates College.

Sign of Insanity?

"He was talking very excitedly to me," said the Vicar, "about some apparatus for warming a church in Worthing and about the Apostolic Claims of the Church in Abyssinia. I confess I could not follow him clearly. He seems deeply interested in Church matters. Are you quite sure he is right in the head? I have noticed again and again since I have been in the Church that lay interest in ecclesiastical matters is often a prelude to insanity."
Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (1928).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Zombies and Monks

Netflix says since I liked Into Great Silence I might like Fido:
Fido is a typical movie about the boy next door and his pet -- except in this case the loyal "pet" is a lumbering zombie named Fido (Billy Connolly). Problems arise when he breaks loose and noshes on the next-door neighbor, forcing owner Timmy Robinson (K'Sun Ray) into damage-control mode while he tries to persuade his parents (Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker) to keep Fido in director Andrew Currie's imaginative horror-comedy.
I think Fallen Sparrow's tastes are skewing the rankings.

Monday, June 09, 2008


From Fr. Mark, O.Cist.:
Many years ago, as I was standing in the rain in front of the grotto at Lourdes on a cold February morning, a saintly old priest, the Chanoine Croset, told me that it was time for me to pass from having hopes to having hope.

Also, St. Thomas on the object of Hope:
...we should hope from Him for nothing less than Himself, since His goodness, whereby He imparts good things to His creature, is no less than His Essence. Therefore the proper and principal object of hope is eternal happiness.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Maybe It's Obvious to Liberals...

but not to me. Salamishah Tillet writes on the Washington Post Company's The Root:
Then NARAL endorsed Obama over Clinton, highlighting the divide between older feminists and a younger generation of "post-feminist" women.
But is that really true? Is NARAL's PAC really the voice of younger post-feminists? Here's one of the key paragraph's from Nancy Keenan in the statement endorsing Obama:
Sen. Obama has been a leader on this issue in the United States Senate. ...

We are confident that Barack Obama is the candidate of the future. Americans are tired of the divisive politics of the last eight years, and will unite behind Obama in the fall. We look forward to working with a pro-choice Obama White House in January.
Here's a picture of Nancy Keenan. With all due respect, she's no spring chicken. This strikes me not as the authentic "voice of the youth" but just as much the desire of older folks to feel young, "relevant", and to be perceived as avant-garde.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Not at Home in Hollywood... That's Bad?

I've been hanging on to this review of Jack Valenti's posthumous memoir for almost a year. This part is what caught my eye:
The Hollywood portion of his book is strangely without sizzle. The anecdotes are duds (“Not recognizing her was a first-class blunder, but I hadn’t expected Reese Witherspoon to be carrying a small child”), and the author’s insights into stardom don’t rise much above his overall assessment of the Academy Awards: it’s an honor just to be nominated. For all the decades he spent in the movie business, his memoir never really makes him look at home there.
Is that a bad thing? Especially, since he was a regulator of sorts (albeit an industry paid one), it seems appropriate that Jack Valenti wasn't at home in Hollywood.

Great Federalist Society Events

I've renewed my Federalist Society membership, largely because I've been impressed by the notices of events I've been getting lately.

Like this one:
Publisher and Creator Rights in the Digital Age

New York City Chapter

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 5:45 PM

The Cornell Club
6 East 44th Street
New York, New York


* Dean Kenneth W. Starr, Pepperdine University School of Law
* William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel, Google
* The Hon. Dennis Jacobs, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit (moderator)

Reception 5:45 P.M. Debate 6:30 P.M.
Refreshments will be served.

The event is free of charge and open to the public. No reservations are required.

For more information, telephone Mark Schuman at (212) 578-9043 or e-mail

The Reason Why (They Were Asked To Memorize)

On the 40th anniversary of the gunshots that ended Robert F. Kennedy's life, the New York Times published remembrances by his children: Kerry Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy, II and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

This part from Kerry Kennedy was puzzling:
There was no quality my father admired more than courage, save perhaps love. I remember when one night after dinner he picked up the battered poetry book that was always somewhere at his side and read aloud Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.” [link not in New York Times story --JRB] We listened aghast to the story of the soldiers whose commander orders them to ride into an ambush. They know they will be slaughtered, but they obey the command anyway. My father then explained that he and my mother were going on a trip and challenged us to memorize the poem while they were away. I did not win that contest, but one famous stanza has remained with me:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of death
Rode the six hundred.

You may wonder why a father would ask his expanding brood of what would become 11 children to memorize a poem about slaughter and war. I think there were three reasons. He wanted us to share his love of literature and he wanted us to embrace challenges that appear daunting. But most of all, he believed it imperative to question authority, and those who failed that lesson did so at their peril.
But couldn't the reason he had them learn this poem be the idea cited first:
There was no quality my father admired more than courage, save perhaps love.
And the family's history would suggest a fairly literal reading as at least one of the reasons this poem was important to Robert F. Kennedy. Kerry Kennedy was born in 1959. Presumably, she wasn't memorizing Tennyson before she was five years old so figure 1964 at the earliest. At that point both of Robert Kennedy's older brothers had been killed in the service of the U.S. government. Joseph as a Navy pilot during in World War II. John of course as president. His Brother-in-Law the Marquess of Harrington was killed by a sniper during World War II. To me, at least, it suggests at least one possible additional reason the poem resonated.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Catholic Blogosphere Boswell

It's under-appreciated that Matthew of the Holy Whapping is well on his way to becoming the James Boswell of the Catholic blogosphere (without the illegitimate children, whoring, venereal disease, excessive drinking &c., but with the secret conversion to the Church).

For examples, try this from today. Or this from 2004.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Everything Old Is New Again

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports:
At a time when many high schools try to put laptops or notebook computers into every student's backpack, Purcell Marian is focusing on desktop computers.

The co-ed Catholic high school will be ripping out its old desktop PCs this summer and replacing them with a system of "thin client" computers - essentially monitors and keyboards that lack hard drives but are linked to a few central servers.
Well it is in Information Technology as it is in Ecclesiastes:
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, KJV)
When I first toured my high school in 1993 or '94 they were operating on a server-based computer system. By the time I arrived there in 1996 they had gone to a PC based system (with the exception of applications such as e-mail, which of course still ran off of central servers.) Now it appears schools are going back in that old direction.

(Hat tip to Rich Leonardi at Ten Reasons).

Hopefully my more computer savvy readers will forgive (and correct in the comments) any errors in this post.

Boundless on the Liturgy of the Hours

Boundless is published by Focus on the Family and has lots of great stuff in it, though often from a Protestant perspective, in accord with the organization's Statement of Faith.

Recently they published an article extolling the Liturgy of the Hours!

Be careful with those historic and traditional forms of Christian prayer. They'll lead you away from your Protestantism.

Making the article personally interesting to me, the author, the Rev. Jim Tonkowich has a degree in philosophy from Bates College, which is what I studied, and where I almost studied it. He's also President of the Institute on Relgion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. When I lived in Washington, the guy who was briefly my roommate worked there.

Die Soldaten

After reading this article in the New York Sun about Die Soldaten, due to be perfomed here in New York City next month, I was thinking about getting a ticket.

Despite my nervousness over 12-tone music, there's a dare in music which "is nearly impossible to perform."

Some clips are available on Youtube (the second seems to have the audio and video badly out of sync.) But looking at that second clip, I wonder if it's also music nearly impossible to endure.

Now We're Cooking with Gas

There's no cooking and no gas involved, but posting should be much more regular now that I've got reliable internet at home.