Thursday, December 30, 2010

Give 'Em The Pickle!



Starbucks is doing its job "giving the pickle" tonight. The guy ahead of me in line got a tall cappuccino with a cup of whipped cream on the side. Then when he got his drink he asked for whipped cream on top. They didn't charge him extra for any of it.

Mmmm... pickles and whipped cream.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Overheard

Earlier this week, when we had gotten the first snow of the year that "stuck," I heard a teen girl say to her friend, "I hate snow. It's so boring." Well, here in New York, where most people don't drive, it's probably true that the visual effect is more heightened and the excitement of trying to stay on the road is less critical.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Scene: a Deli in Jamaica, N.Y.


Interior, Night
Sam: Do you have toothbrushes.
Counterman: Yes.
puts hot pink toothbrush on counter
Sam: Do you perhaps have a different color
Counterman: Sure, how's this one.
puts yellow toothbrush on counter
Sam: Thanks, that's slightly more manly.
fade out

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why You Can't Wear Dress Boots

From Esquire:
Could you recommend some winter dress boots that are stylish and waterproof?

No, Jeremy, I will not recommend you a dress boot. Because you are not Errol Flynn and this is not the Spanish Main. What you need is a practical pair of rubber Wellingtons, which allow you to march to work through slush ponds without so much as breaking stride.
However, if you are friends with Errol Flynn, you can wear a monocle and roll your r's while singing Garry Owen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Actually, They're Not In the Opera

The New York Times article on the opening night at La Scala featured this terrific picture of Italian police officers.  No, they're not in the opera, they're "[a] horse patrol facing hundreds of protesters in front of La Scala on Tuesday, opening night."  The cops over there certainly know how to dress. There were other officers on hand with more practical riot gear.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A Very New York Conversation

Buying pseudoephedrine at the drug store, the clerk asks not "Can I see your driver's license?" like they do most places, but "Can I see your state ID or driver's license?"

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Different Spin on "Keeping Christ in 'Christmas'"

The Christmas season is a great time to think about those who do not have Christ. As I've been decorating my tree and listening to Christmas music, I think of what a colossal letdown Christmas must be for those who don't have Christ as the center of their celebration.

I mean, how long can you sustain excitement about shopping, food, decorations, gifts and parties? Come January, all those things are gone, and in their place are bills, trash, gift receipts and a 5-10 pound weight gain.
Lisa Anderson writing in the Boundless Update from Focus on the Family

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Distrahit animum librorum multitudo." --Seneca

"I had nearly five thousand volumes in my library at Rome; but after reading them over many times, I found out that with one hundred and fifty well-chosen books a man possesses, if not a complete summary of all human knowledge, at least all that a man need really know. I devoted three years of my life to reading and studying these one hundred and fifty volumes, till I knew them nearly by heart; so that since I have been in prison, a very slight effort of memory has enabled me to recall their contents as readily as though the pages were open before me. I could recite you the whole of Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Titus Livius, Tacitus, Strada, Jornandes, Dante, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Spinoza, Machiavelli, and Bossuet. I name only the most important."
The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas, père

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gilson: Latin Liturgy and Philosophical Education

From Etienne Gilson's The Philosopher and Theology, published 1962:
Latin is the language of the Church. The sorry degradation of the liturgical texts by their translation into a gradually deteriorating vernacular emphasizes the need for the preservation of a sacred language whose very immutability protects the liturgy against the decay of taste. As his education is thus proceeding in keeping with the spirit of his own tradition, the young Christian imperceptibly becomes familiar with a Latin philosophical terminology (almost entirely Greek in its origin) embedded in the formulas of Christian dogmas. Liturgy itself forces this terminology upon his attention and fixes it in his memory, since he not only hears this language but also speaks it and sings it. Liturgical music permeates the meaning of the words so thoroughly that, thirty-odd years later, he will only have to sing the Preface to himself in order to recall the words: Non in unius singularitate personae, sed in unius Trinitate subsstantiae . . . et in personis proprietas, et in essentia unitas. . . . No mind can ascribe a meaning to such formulas without assimilating something of the philosophical notions they convey. In the liturgy itself, such words as substance, essence, singularity, propriety, person, point out directly and primarily only the mysterious truths contained in Christian dogma. The sentences that these words constitute are not philosophical propositions. Still, even though they do not bind it to any particular philosophy, a mind that has become familiar with them early enough in life will never be able to accept a doctrine that would consider them meaningless. The Church invincibly opposes any philosophical change that would oblige her to modify the received formulation of dogma. And in this the Church is right, for any change in words would entail a change in meaning, and propositions that have for centuries stood the test of councils cannot be altered without religious truth itself being put in jeopardy.
     Thus, long before he begins studying philosophy proper, the Christian imbibes definite metaphysical notions.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More Horseradish!

Headed to dinner at Wolfgang's Steakhouse.
"There is even a 'Wolfgang’s Steakhouse Old-Fashioned Sauce,' which is a near-exact facsimile of the famous Luger’s Steak Sauce, only it’s slightly sweeter, and contains a touch more horseradish." NY Magazine
Well that settles the question of whether I'll have steak. Remember the Great Horseradish Famine and eat it while you can!

Friday, November 12, 2010

40 years on...

Folks continue to promote the Bayside Apparitions, more than 40 years after the "seer", Veronica Lueken, claimed they began and 15 years after her death. Recently "Our Lady's revelation" that Teilhard de Chardin is in Hell has been trotted out on FaceBook. Let's listen again (via EWTN) to what the Bishop of Brooklyn declared about these apparitions in 1986.
I, the undersigned Diocesan Bishop of Brooklyn, in my role as the legitimate shepherd of this particular Church, wish to confirm the constant position of the Diocese of Brooklyn that a thorough investigation revealed that the alleged "visions of Bayside" completely lacked authenticity.

Moreover, in view of the confusion created by published reports of messages and other literature by this "Movement," I consider it my obligation to offer Christ's faithful pastoral guidance, lest their faith be endangered by "messages" and "teachings" relayed by "visionaries," which are contrary to the Faith of our Catholic Church.

Therefore, in consultation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I hereby declare that:

1. No credibility can be given to the so-called "apparitions" reported by Veronica Lueken and her followers.

2. The "messages" and other related propaganda contain statements which, among other things, are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, undermine the legitimate authority of bishops and councils and instill doubts in the minds of the faithful, for example, by claiming that, for years, an "imposter (sic) Pope" governed the Catholic Church in place of Paul VI.

3. Those who persistently maintain that "no ecclesiastical permission is required for the publication or dissemination" of information concerning "revelations, visions or miracles," are erroneously interpreting the directives of the Holy See when they attempt to justify the publication of the propaganda literature on the "Bayside Messages."

...those publishing or disseminating this propaganda literature are acting against the judgment of legitimate Church authority.

4. Because of my concern for their spiritual welfare, members of Christ's faithful are hereby directed to refrain from participating in the "vigils" and from disseminating any propaganda related to the "Bayside apparitions." They are also discouraged from reading any such literature.

5. Anyone promoting this devotion in any way, be it by participating in the "vigils," organizing pilgrimages, publishing or disseminating the literature related to it, is contributing to the confusion which is being created in the faith of God's people, as well as encouraging them to act against the determinations made by the legitimate pastor of this particular Church (c.212, para. 1).

It remains my constant hope that all the faithful spend their time and energies in promoting devotion to our Blessed Lady, in the many forms which have been approved by the Catholic Church.

+Bishop Francis Mugavero
Bishop of Brooklyn

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Right Honourable The Earl Russell, OM, FRS

a.k.a. Bertrand Russell, descendant of Thor.

Frank Swinnerton in The Georgian Scene:
Bertrand Russell belongs to one of the oldest aristocratic families in England, which I learn has been traced back as far as the God Thor. His grandfather, the first Earl Russell, was third son of the sixth Duke of Bedford, and Bertrand Russell himself, although it would be unbecoming in him, as a Communist, to use the title, is the third Earl.
Here's the general article on the Earls.  The image at left is of Mårten Eskil Winge's painting Thor's Battle Against the Ettins.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

L'Osservatore Romano on the Simpsons

Homer e Bart sono cattolici


di Luca M. Possati

Pochi lo sanno, e lui fa di tutto per nasconderlo. Ma è vero: Homer J. Simpson è cattolico. E se non fu vocazione - complice un'ammaliante pinta di "Duff" - ci mancò davvero poco. Tanto che oggi il re della ciambella fritta di Springfield non esita a esclamare che "il cattolicesimo è mitico". Salvo poi ricredersi in un catartico "D'oh!".

La battuta - tratta dall'episodio "Padre, Figlio e Spirito Pratico", in cui Homer e Bart si convertono grazie all'incontro con il simpatico padre Sean - è lo spunto dell'interessante articolo I Simpson e la religione di padre Francesco Occhetta comparso nell'ultimo numero di "La Civiltà Cattolica". L'autorevole rivista dei gesuiti italiani traccia una raffinata analisi antropologica ed etica del cartoon cogliendo al contempo l'occasione - questo l'aspetto più notevole - di dare qualche consiglio pratico a genitori e figli.

È fuori discussione che la serie creata da Matt Groening ha portato nel mondo del cartone animato una rivoluzione linguistica e narrativa senza precedenti. Abbandonata la tranquillizzante distinzione tra bene e male tipica delle produzioni "a lieto fine" della Disney, Homer&Company hanno aperto un vaso di Pandora. Ne è uscita comicità surreale, satira pungente, sarcasmo sui peggiori tabù dell'American way of life e un'icona deformante delle idiosincrasie occidentali. Ma attenzione, ci sono anche altri livelli di lettura. "Ogni episodio - scrive Occhetta - dietro la satira e alle tante battute che fanno sorridere, apre temi antropologici legati al senso e alla qualità della vita" (p. 144). Temi come l'incapacità di comunicare e di riconciliarsi, l'educazione e il sistema scolastico, il matrimonio e la famiglia. E non manca la politica.

Pomo della discordia, la religione. Che dire al cospetto delle sonore ronfate di Homer durante le prediche del reverendo Lovejoy? E che dire delle perenni umiliazioni inflitte al patetico Neddy Flanders, l'evangelico ortodosso? Sottile critica o blasfemia ingiustificabile? "I Simpson - sostiene Occhetta - rimangono tra i pochi programmi tv per ragazzi in cui la fede cristiana, la religione e la domanda su Dio sono temi ricorrenti" (p. 145). La famiglia "recita le preghiere prima dei pasti e, a suo modo, crede nell'al di là" ed è lei il mezzo attraverso cui la fede viene trasmessa. La satira, invece, "più che coinvolgere le varie confessioni cristiane travolge le testimonianze e la credibilità di alcuni uomini di chiesa".

Sia chiaro, i pericoli esistono, perché "il lassismo e il disinteresse che emergono rischiano di educare ancora di più i giovani a un rapporto privatistico con Dio" (p. 146). Ma cum grano salis occorre separare l'erba buona dalla zizzania. I genitori non debbono temere di far guardare ai loro figli le avventure degli ometti in giallo. Anzi, il realismo dei testi e degli episodi "potrebbe essere l'occasione per vedere alcune puntate insieme, e per coglierne gli spunti per dialogare sulla vita familiare, scolastica, di coppia, sociale e politica" (p. 148). Nelle storie dei Simpson prevale il realismo scettico, così "le giovani generazioni di telespettatori vengono educate a non illudersi" (p. 148). La morale? Nessuna. Ma si sa, un mondo privo di facili illusioni è un mondo più umano e, forse, più cristiano.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

File under: Preferential Option for the Awesome

A series of coincidences led to my taking another look at the Chabad-run site Askmoses.com. A couple of friends of mine are getting married this fall and, partly as a result, this question and answer by Rabbi Moshe Miller caught my eye. The questioner asked, "Why do people throw sweets at the groom [at the synagogue] on the Shabbat [Sabbath] before his wedding?
The candy throwing ritual is known as an "Aufruf."

It is customary to call up (aufruf = the Yiddish word which means to call up) the groom to the Torah on the Shabbat before the wedding. After his portion is read and he has recited the blessing after reading the Torah it is customary to sing and rejoice together with him. The congregation then throws nuts and candies at the groom as a blessing that the couple should be fruitful and have a sweet life together. (The candies are soft so no one will be injured).

I've heard it said that they pelt the young man with bags of nuts and candies so that any hard knocks due to him are already fulfilled by those who love and respect him, and even those have a sweet ending!

According to the Zohar, the blessings for the entire week emanate from the Shabbat beforehand. Furthermore, since Torah is the root of all blessings, we call up the groom to the Torah on the Shabbat before his wedding, to shower Torah-blessings on the auspicious upcoming week.

The entire ancient custom seems to be related to the statement in the Talmud [Berachot 6b] that everyone who brings joy to a groom is worthy of Torah (and this is why it is done when he is called up to the Torah).

After the services, it is customary for the family of the groom to sponsor a sumptuous Kiddush in honor of the soon-to-be-married couple.

The bride does not join the groom’s festivities because the bride and groom do not see each other for an entire week before the wedding. Instead, it is customary for the bride to have a festive gathering for her friends on this same Shabbat. This event is known as the “Shabbat Kallah,” or in Yiddish it is known as a fahrshpil.

Sephardic Jews generally do not observe the aufruf custom.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Before Cable News

I ran across the following in the 1900 Union League Club annual report. The section of the report related to the Committee on Library and Publications reminded me that this was written during the Philippine-American War and the Second Anglo-Boer War. So what did they do before cable news? Books, serials and maps.
...your Committee unanimously resolved to return to ... expending in the purchase of new books, as distinguished from serial literature of any description, a reasonable proportion of the funds... especial reference has, of course, been had to timely publications, like books on the Philippine Islands and South Africa.

Your Committee feels that mention should here be made of the very beautiful and cartographically accurate maps of the Philippine Islands and of South Africa now posted in the Club-house, which were prepared by the War Department and sent to the Club by the courtesy of the Secretary of War; and also of the map of South African territory procured by the Committee from London. By placing a number of small flags upon these maps to indicate the location of the various troops, and by changing them from day to day, as advances or retreats are made, it has been found that the interest of club members in the different campaigns has been stimulated. This method of illustrating the progress of a war is quite general in the London clubs, but has never before to our knowledge, been used in any New York club.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Nelson: Priests, Popes, and Plate

The English hero [Lord Nelson] was thoroughly devoted to the established church of his nation and was a Protestant by both inclination and practice. ... He appreciated the Neapolitans' Catholicism and certainly never let religious differences interfere with his zealous diplomatic efforts to keep Naples on Britain's side in the war. He was always respectful to Catholic dignitaries and went to great lengths to ensure that they knew he would defend their Church and its role in Catholic nations. He also demonstrated tolerance in a number of small-scale ways. For instance, he willingly acceded to a request from the queen of Naples for the discharge of one of Capt. Thomas Masterman Hardy's marines, who was a Catholic priest by training, so that he could serve in her kingdom. And when in 1804 he gave gifts to the Catholic residents of the Maddalena Islands to repay their hospitality, he chose church plate (a silver crucifix and candlesticks) for the local parish, a gesture that prompted the startled parish priest to cut short a trip elsewhere so that he could thank Nelson personally. The priest even promised, in a gushy letter, ever after to offer daily vows for Nelson's long life, prosperity, and glory.

Nelson also bemoaned that the frail and unwell Pope Pius VI, whom he had often hoped would join the war against atheistic France, had been deported to Valence (where he later died). It "makes my heart bleed," Nelson lamented. When the new pope, Pius VII, returned to Rome in 1800, Nelson wrote him a congratulatory letter. He explained that he himself played a part in making the Catholic Italian states safe for the pope's return. "Holy Father," he added, "I presume to offer my most sincere congratulations on this occasion; and with most fervent wishes and prayers that your residence may be blessed with health, and every comfort this world can afford." This was no mere polite letter to a distinguished personage to praise him for good fortune. The letter had a curious religious purpose; the admiral felt compelled to tell the pope that in 1798 a priest had predicted Nelson would, by providing naval assistance, play a key role in Rome's recapture from the French. This had "turned out so exactly," Nelson said, that he felt the pope should know about the "extraordinary" consonance between the prediction and the outcome.

That return to Rome was the one that inspired the Feast and Month of the Precious Blood, as was discussed in a previous post.

Hayward was also caught up in a lengthy debate about his Master's thesis and holocaust denial. See his old web site here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Crying to Heaven for Vengeance

The New York Times runs a story today, "Most Ironbound Day Laborers Report Being Cheated", based on research from Seton Hall University:
Nearly all day laborers who gather for work in the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark have had employers who have either paid them less than promised or not paid them at all ... The report found that 96 percent of the workers reported that they had experienced at least one case of wage theft. Some 88 percent reported that employers had failed to pay them overtime wages, as required by state and federal laws; 77 percent had been victims of underpayment of regular-hour wages; and 62 percent had employers who refused to pay them on at least one occasion.
These employers might want to remember that defrauding laborers of their wages is one of the four "sins that cry to heaven for vengeance":
Behold the hire of the labourers, who have reaped down your fields, which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth: and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. (James 5:4)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"I resolved to rise and take a turn in the garden..."

The Fellows' Garden, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
Philonous. Good morrow, Hylas: I did not expect to find you abroad so early.

Hylas. It is indeed something unusual; but my thoughts were so taken up with a subject I was discoursing of last night, that finding I could not sleep, I resolved to rise and take a turn in the garden.

Phil. It happened well, to let you see what innocent and agreeable pleasures you lose every morning. Can there be a pleasanter time of the day, or a more delightful season of the year? That purple sky, those wild but sweet notes of birds, the fragrant bloom upon the trees and flowers, the gentle influence of the rising sun, these and a thousand nameless beauties of nature inspire the soul with secret transports; its faculties too being at this time fresh and lively, are fit for those meditations, which the solitude of a garden and tranquillity of the morning naturally dispose us to. But I am afraid I interrupt your thoughts: for you seemed very intent on something.

Hyl. It is true, I was, and shall be obliged to you if you will permit me to go on in the same vein; not that I would by any means deprive myself of your company, for my thoughts always flow more easily in conversation with a friend, than when I am alone: but my request is, that you would suffer me to impart my reflexions to you.

Phil. With all my heart, it is what I should have requested myself if you had not prevented me.

Hyl. I was considering the odd fate of those men who have in all ages, through an affectation of being distinguished from the vulgar, or some unaccountable turn of thought, pretended either to believe nothing at all, or to believe the most extravagant things in the world. This however might be borne, if their paradoxes and scepticism did not draw after them some consequences of general disadvantage to mankind. But the mischief lieth here; that when men of less leisure see them who are supposed to have spent their whole time in the pursuits of knowledge professing an entire ignorance of all things, or advancing such notions as are repugnant to plain and commonly received principles, they will be tempted to entertain suspicions concerning the most important truths, which they had hitherto held sacred and unquestionable.

Phil. I entirely agree with you, as to the ill tendency of the affected doubts of some philosophers, and fantastical conceits of others. I am even so far gone of late in this way of thinking, that I have quitted several of the sublime notions I had got in their schools for vulgar opinions. And I give it you on my word; since this revolt from metaphysical notions to the plain dictates of nature and common sense, I find my understanding strangely enlightened, so that I can now easily comprehend a great many things which before were all mystery and riddle.

Hyl. I am glad to find there was nothing in the accounts I heard of you.

Phil. Pray, what were those?

Hyl. You were represented, in last night’s conversation, as one who maintained the most extravagant opinion that ever entered into the mind of man, to wit, that there is no such thing as material substance in the world.

Phil. That there is no such thing as what philosophers call material substance, I am seriously persuaded: but, if I were made to see anything absurd or sceptical in this, I should then have the same reason to renounce this that I imagine I have now to reject the contrary opinion.

Hyl. What I can anything be more fantastical, more repugnant to Common Sense, or a more manifest piece of Scepticism, than to believe there is no such thing as matter?

Phil. Softly, good Hylas. What if it should prove that you, who hold there is, are, by virtue of that opinion, a greater sceptic, and maintain more paradoxes and repugnances to Common Sense, than I who believe no such thing?

Hyl. You may as soon persuade me, the part is greater than the whole, as that, in order to avoid absurdity and Scepticism, I should ever be obliged to give up my opinion in this point.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Pick Your Battles

Writing on National Review Online, Abigail Thernstrom dissents from the general fury at the Justice Department over their handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case.
...it is very small potatoes. Perhaps the Panthers should have been prosecuted under section 11 (b) of the Voting Rights Act for their actions of November 2008, but the legal standards that must be met to prove voter intimidation — the charge — are very high.

In the 45 years since the act was passed, there have been a total of three successful prosecutions. The incident involved only two Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far — after months of hearings, testimony and investigation — no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots. Too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case.

A number of conservatives have charged that the Philadelphia Black Panther decision demonstrates that attorneys in the Civil Rights Division have racial double standards. How many attorneys in what positions? A pervasive culture that affected the handling of this case? No direct quotations or other evidence substantiate the charge.

Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, makes a perfectly plausible argument: Different lawyers read this barely litigated statutory provision differently. It happens all the time, especially when administrations change in the middle of litigation. Democrats and Republicans seldom agree on how best to enforce civil-rights statutes; this is not the first instance of a war between Left and Right within the Civil Rights Division.

...

A disaffected former Justice Department attorney has written: “We had indications that polling-place thugs were deployed elsewhere.” “Indications”? Again, evidence has yet to be offered.

Get a grip, folks. The New Black Panther Party is a lunatic fringe group that is clearly into racial theater of minor importance. It may dream of a large-scale effort to suppress voting — like the Socialist Workers Party dreams of a national campaign to demonstrate its position as the vanguard of the proletariat. But the Panthers have not realized their dream even on a small scale. This case is a one-off.

There are plenty of grounds on which to sharply criticize the attorney general — his handling of terrorism questions, just for starters — but this particular overblown attack threatens to undermine the credibility of his conservative critics. Those who are concerned about Justice Department enforcement of the Voting Rights Act should turn their attention to quite another matter, where the attorney general has been up to much more important mischief: his interpretation of the act’s core provisions.
Read the whole article at NRO.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Video and Audio from the Met Museum

The inanity of Youtube comments is legendary, but this one is pretty high up there:
i went to see this this past weekend.. was prob the most interesting part of the whole museum..
The "this" in question? The current Picasso exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's a comment on Thomas Campbell and Gary Tinterow's video tour of the exhibit. There's so much at the Met. This is not the most interesting thing going on there! It's not even that special as an exhibition of Picasso's work, being a show just of works already in the Museum's collection.

On a recent visit, I found Side by Side: Oberlin’s Masterworks at the Met to be particularly fascinating. More on that in a future post, I hope.

But first, here's a bit of media from the Met's web site that I did really like. In an MP3 podcast, curator James Draper discusses Michaelangelo's "Young Archer": how it was rediscovered and how it ended up on display at the Met.

Somewhat Surprised He Stuck Around

Wow. Bill Buckley tears into Norman Mailer in his introduction to their interview in this episode of Firing Line.



This Youtube playlist has all six parts.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Why July?

Why is July 1st the Feast of the Precious Blood?

"Fr. Hunwike's Liturgical Notes" has the answer, which I had forgotten, if I ever knew it:
...surely one of the most crass examples of the Hermeneutic of Rupture incarnated in the Bugnini 'reforms' [was] ... when, with immense cynicism, the 'reformers' reduced July 1 to a feria on the flippant grounds that the Precious Blood would get a perfectly adequate 'covering' by being merely added to the title of Corpus Christi. Thus a nice piece of Pius IX liturgy disappeared: the memorial he placed on the calendar to commemorate his return to the City after the Roman Revolution of 1848. There is nothing vulgar, incidentally, about doing that sort of thing to the calendar, or, if there is, it is simply the vulgarity of an incarnational religion.
Pius IX assigned the feast to the first Sunday in July, Pius X moved it to July 1 as part of his effort to put back into use Sunday Masses of the Roman Missal that were frequent impeded.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I love that Armond White...

...just doesn't care what other people think about him.  Or maybe he does.  But he certainly doesn't care a lot about what the Masses think about him.  I don't agree with everything in his review of Toy Story 3 (which movie I rate O.K., not good, and certainly not great.)

Of course, he makes me love him right off the top by referencing a Whit Stillman film:
Pixar has now made three movies explicitly about toys, yet the best movie depiction of how toys express human experience remains Whit Stillman’s 1990 Metropolitan. As class-conscious Tom Townsend (Edward Clements) tries fitting in with East Side debutantes, he discovers his toy cowboy pistol in his estranged father’s trash. Without specifying the model, Stillman evokes past childhood, lost innocence and Townsend’s longing for even imagined potency.

Here's some more:
Look at the Barbie and Ken sequence where the sexually dubious male doll struts a chick-flick fashion show. Since it serves the same time-keeping purpose as a chick-flick digression, it’s not satirical. We’re meant to enjoy our susceptibility, not question it, as in Joe Dante’s more challenging Small Soldiers. Have shill-critics forgotten that movie? Do they mistake Toy Story 3’s opening day for 4th of July patriotism?

When Toy Story 3 emulates the suspense of prison break and horror films, it becomes fitfully amusing (more than can be said for Wall-E or Up) but this humor depends on the recognition of worn-out toys which is no different from those lousy Shrek gags. Only Big Baby, with one Keane eye and one lazy eye, and Mr. Potato Head’s deconstruction into Dali’s slip-sliding “Persistence of Memory” are worthy of mature delectation. But these references don’t meaningfully expand even when the story gets weepy. The Toy Story franchise isn’t for children and adults, it’s for non-thinking children and adults. When a movie is this formulaic, it’s no longer a toy because it does all the work for you. It’s a sap’s story.
Just go read it already.

So where we started this post--that Armond White just doesn't care what other people think--is reflected in the comments on Rotten Tomatoes on his review, all 800 of them. The negative ones are just vicious. People are trying to petition Rotten Tomatoes to not include White in their aggregation.

Oh, and for some more Whit Stillman, check out this 2009 interview with Stillman on WNYC when The Last Days of Disco was released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection. I made a special trip to Barnes and Noble to buy it the day I heard this interview on the radio.

The trailer is terrible and gives almost no true sense of the film, so instead here's a clip from the film that is more representative:



In addition, you should read--who else's?--Armond White's review, though this copy is laden with typos, some of which I've corrected in this sample:
These are Stillman's fullest, most daring characters yet. Alice and Josh's first private talk ("I take no for an answer," he tells her when she teases) contains bold, humanist risk. Describing himself as a loon, Josh recites a hymn, then makes the sound of a bird, swaying off balance as he walks down the street, "You think I'm wacko?" he asks, taking Alice inside his loneliness, and her sad look communicates a shared confidence. Contemporary movies rarely get as intimate as that and Stillman goes further. English actress Kate Beckinsale achieves a striking American bitch transformation: Sleek, haughty and precipitate, her churning insecurities are protected by an impeccable, inherited facade. Beckinsale's Charlotte constantly abrades and one-ups her initial infatuations, yet Stillman shows a side of her character--she sings--that takes the entire comedy of manners into unexpected territory, revealing a suppressed cultural background that explains these urbane pilgrims at both their best and worst.

You can also check out this previous Whit Stillman post from March 2009. I also name checked Last Days in discussing Shattered Glass in 2004.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jesuitica in Goethe

I've just started reading Goethe's Italian Journey.  My copy is the Penguin edition of W.H. Auden and Elizabeth Mayer's translation.  The translation is noteworthy, because of the topic of this post, Jesuitica in Goethe, and because of this note in the translators' introduction:
One previous translator, an Anglican clergyman, omitted all favourable references made by Goethe to the Roman Catholic Church; we have confined ourselves to stylistic matters.(pg. 18)
And grateful we to Auden and Mayer we should be, for we find this pearl in the first chapter (though in fairness, it is in at least one earlier translation too):
The first thing I did [in Regensburg, Germany] was to visit the Jesuit College, where the students were performing their annual play. I saw the end of an opera and the beginning of a tragedy. The acting was no worse than any other group of inexperienced amateurs, and their costumes were beautiful indeed, almost too magnificent. Their performance reminded me once again of then worldly wisdom of the Jesuits. They rejected nothing which might produce and effect and they knew how to use it with love and care. Their wisdom was no coldly impersonal calculation; they did everything with a gusto, a sympathy and personal pleasure in teh doing, such as living itself gives. This great order had organ-builders, wood carvers and gilders among its members, so it must also have included some who, by temperament and talent, devoted themselves to the theatre. Just as they knew how to build churches of imposing splendour, these wise men made use of the world of the sense to create a respectable drama. (pg. 24)
I know Jesuits and I know organ-builders. Sadly I don't know any Jesuit organ-builders. I do know a Jesuit actor and theater technician though, which adds to the awesomeness of discovering this passage.

A paragraph further on he returns to the topic of the Jesuits:
I keep thinking about the character and the activities of the Jesuits. The grandeur and perfect design of their churches and other buildings command universal awe and admiration. For ornament, they used gold, silver, and jewels in profusion to dazzle beggars of all ranks, with, now and then, a touch of vulgarity to attract the masses. Roman Catholicism has always shown this genius, but I have never seen it done with such intelligence, skill and consistency as by the Jesuits. Unlike the other religious orders, they broke away from the old conventions of worship and, in compliance with the spirit of the times, refreshed it with pomp and splendour.
Ooh, we were with you right up until the last sentence, sir! It presents some difficulties.

The painting is J. H. W. Tischbein's Goethe in the Roman Campagna, 1787.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Unusual Privilege

An unusual privilege for missionary priests in China, permission to wear the biretta at the altar while celebrating Mass:

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Clergy in the Corpus Christi Procession

Post updated to provide context for anyone not coming here from the NLM comment thread.

In response to a post on the New Liturgical Movement a commentator asked this question:
I just saw some pictures from a Corpus Christi procession at an FSSP apostolate in France. There were three additional priests in attendance. They were all wearing chasubles over surplices (not albs). I can't recall ever having seen this done, and I was wondering if anyone here can offer an explanation. Could it be because they lacked a sufficient number of white copes, and if that's why, is there a rubrical provision to allow chasubles in place of copes where copes are not available?
Gregor points out:
Under the rubrics of the usus antiquior, the canons of a cathedral chapte wear for the Corpus Christi procession the vestments corresponding to their rank in the chapter (the so called canonici parati, much like there are Cardinal deacons, priests and bishops, who used to wear the corresponding vestments for certain papal functions).
Having just looked at this question (and many, many others) in preparation for the Corpus Christi procession at Holy Innocents, I could point right away to the citation on pg. 388 of the 15th edition of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite:
"If the cathedral chapter assists, the canons out to wear vestments of their three orders; that is, subdeacons in tunicles, deacons in dalmatics, priests in chasubles; dignitaries in copes.(31) These are put on after the communion of the Mass and should be worn immediately over the rochet and an amice, without stole or maniple, as when the Ordinary sings solemn mass. The colour of the vestments is white. If the cathedral chapter is not present the clergy may be divided into groups wearing these vestments. (32)" [My emphasis]

Footnote 31: C.E., II, xxxiii, 5.
Footnote 32: Cf. S.R.C. 2362 Section 1.
That second footnote also seems to drive the wearing of albs instead of surplices as one might expect in place of the rochet. S.R.C. 2362 is now easily available via Google Books. Here's the relevant excerpt from the Decreta authentica.


Click the link to see the decree in the context of the book via Google Books.

This is just wrong...

...For Love of the Game dubbed in French:



I hadn't realized that the movie is based on a novel by Michael Shaara, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Corpus Christi Notes

Two notes about Corpus Christi, for which we finished today three exhausting liturgies, first a Solemn Mass an outdoor procession on Thursday, then today the External Solemnity in the old rite and the Feast in the new rite (with a reception into full communion, confirmations and first Communions thrown in for good measure.)

First, in preparing for Thursday's Mass I came across this story on the web site Thesaurus Precum Latinarum:
The rhythm of the Pange Lingua is said to have come down from a marching song of Caesar's Legions: "Ecce, Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias."
As they say on Wikipedia, "citation needed", but interesting idea. If I were a liturgy scholar, I'd be interested in exploring the idea of to what extent Roman ideas of processions arise from the processions of classical Rome, either organically, from the time of the Empire or through later classicizing influence on the liturgy.

Second, I dug into, for what was for some reason the first time, the whole of the Corpus Christi sequence. There's a lot of theological meat there, in a way that reminds me of the Quicumque. Here's the Sequence, called "Lauda Sion" after its first two words in Latin, in English translation from Hymns of the Breviary and Missal (Britt, 1922) (with some light editing I did for our service leaflet this morning):
Lauda Sion: The Corpus Christi Sequence

Praise, O Sion, thy Saviour, praise thy Leader and thy Shepherd in hymns and canticles.

As much as thou canst, so much darest thou, for He is above all praise, nor art thou able to praise Him enough.

Today there is given us a special theme of praise, the Bread both living and life-giving.

Which, it is not to be doubted, was given to the assembly of the brethren, twelve in number, at the table of the holy Supper.

Let our praise be full and sounding; let the jubilations of the soul be joyous and becoming.

For that solemn day is now being celebrated, on which is commemorated the first institution of this table.

At this table of the new King, the new Pasch of the New Law puts an end to the ancient Pasch.

The new supplants the old, truth puts to flight the shadow, day banishes night.

What Christ did at that Supper, the same He commanded to be done in remembrance of Him.

Taught by His sacred precepts, we consecrate bread and wine into the Victim of salvation.

This is the dogma given to Christians, that bread is changed into Flesh and wine into Blood.

What thou dost not understand, what thou dost not see, a lively faith confirms in a supernatural manner.

Under different species in externals only, and not in reality, wondrous substances lie hidden.

Flesh is food, Blood is drink: nevertheless Christ remains entire under each species.

By the recipient the whole (Christ) is received; He is neither cut, broken, nor divided.

One receives Him; a thousand receive Him: as much as the thousand receive, so much does the one receive; though eaten He is not diminished.

The good receive Him, the bad receive Him, but with what unequal consequences of life or death.

It is death to the unworthy, life to the worthy: behold then of a like reception, how unlike may be the result!

When the Sacrament is broken, doubt not, but remember, that there is just as much hidden in a fragment, as there is in the whole.

There is no division of the substance, only a breaking of the species takes place, by which neither the state nor stature of the substance signified is diminished.

Lo, the Bread of Angels is made the food of earthly pilgrims: truly it is the Bread of children, let it not be cast to dogs.

It was prefigured in types,—when Isaac was immolated, when the Paschal Lamb was sacrificed, when Manna was given to the fathers.

O Good Shepherd, True Bread, 0 Jesus, have mercy on us: feed us and protect us: make us see good things in the land of the living.

Thou who knowest all things and canst do all things, who here feedest us mortals, make us there be Thy guests, the co-heirs, and companions of the heavenly citizens.
You can find the full text of the book here via the Church Music Association of America, which also has additional commentary on this sequence and on many other hymns.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

EF, TLM, or what?

There's been a lot of talk over the years about what to call Mass and sacraments celebrated according to the 1962 Missal and the former version of the Roman Ritual. Here's one usage from a surprising source:
Then there was also the old rite in which the power to forgive sins was conferred at a separate moment. It began when the Bishop, pronouncing the Lord's words, said: "No longer do I call you servants... but... friends". And I knew we knew that this is not only a quotation from John 15 but a timely word that the Lord is addressing to me now. He accepts me as a friend; I am in this friendly relationship; he has given me his trust and I can work within this friendship and make others friends of Christ.
Yep, that's Pope Benedict XVI calling it "the old rite".

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blunt Talk

Who knew? Commencement addresses are good for something. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), speaking at Southwest Baptist University:
For more than three decades Congress has continuously renewed the Hyde Amendment, which keeps federal Medicaid funds from paying for elective abortions. The new health-care law gets around that ban by creating new funding streams to which the amendment does not apply, and new policies now use our tax dollars abroad to fund groups who promote abortion.

It is time to make the late Henry Hyde’s amendment permanent law and apply it to all operations of the federal government. It is the bare minimum that we should do to protect both unborn life and the conscience of American citizens who don’t want to be forced to facilitate the ending of a life.
Makes sense to me.

Nota Bene: Roy Blunt is not to be confused (as I did once) with Roy Blount, Jr., the humorist I know best from his regular appearances on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, but who I also bizarrely saw quoted on the menu at Pizzeria Uno tonight. More on that dinner tomorrow.

(via The Corner)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crowned a Winner in King's Cuts

There has been a lot of concern about the restructuring and job cuts at King's College in London in the Philosophy world as well as among paleographers.

But one at least one victor has emerged. The final report is out, which notes:
Classics will work closely with the new Centre for Hellenic Studies and will house one of the joint appointments. As the largest and most diverse UK Classics department outside Oxford and Cambridge, it will retain its full range of specialisms, including its current complement in Classical Archaeology and Art. It will benefit from the appointment of a new lecturer in Latin language and literature to respond to strong (and growing) student demand in this area.
So there's at least a glimmer of hope for Western civilization.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just what the world needs...

...a nice pocket edition of George Berkeley's Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous:


I love this book, but even I could have told them it wasn't a publishing winner. It is, as one might expect on the remainder tables at the Strand.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ascension Thursday

Fr. Z has published his annual rant about the practice of moving the observation of the Feast of the Ascension from Thursday to Sunday.  This is silly he argues (correctly), since the feast was fixed for 40 days after Easter (a Thursday) from the late 4th century, reflecting that Christ appeared for 40 days after the Resurrection (Acts 1:2).  Pentecost, as implied by its name is celebrated 50 days after Easter on Sunday.

Thankfully here in the Ecclesiastical Province of New York, we've kept the traditional day, as have some other northeastern provinces and the Province of Omaha.

Fr. Z. misses, however, I believe, one part of why this change was sold so easily to much of the United States.

Before the calendar reforms of 1955, Ascension was celebrated with an octave. This meant that the Sunday following the Feast of the Ascension was a continued part of the celebration of the Ascension.  This celebration carried through all the way to the next Thursday.  Then you had two penitential days of preparation, a Friday and the Vigil of Pentecost, before the celebration of the Great Feast of Pentecost.  But with the "Sunday after Ascension" being just another Easter Sunday (of which we've already had a great many), the end of the Easter season is left rather shapeless.

Now, I don't advocate for moving the Feast of the Ascension to Sunday, but I can sort of understand why they do it.  There's something missing in those last weeks of Easter and shifting Ascension helps fill the emptiness.  You can guess what my solution would be...

Now for some appropriate music by Messiaen to accompany this post:





More Mike (Masonry)

I wanted to add one humorous aside to yesterday's commentary on Mike Potemra's post about predestination on The Corner.  He writes about author John Salza:
Just how conservative a Catholic is Mr. Salza? This should give some indication: Among his earlier books are Why Catholics Cannot Be Masons and The Biblical Basis for Purgatory.
While I'd hope explaining the biblical basis for purgatory isn't a particularly conservative concern, the Freemasonry thing does continue to be amusing. 

When Baronius brought out a book on Freemasonry a while back, we joked that you're not really a traditionalist publishing house until you have a book on your list about the evils of Freemasonry. This despite Masonic plots not being high on the list of things most people, even traditionalists, worry about these days.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Potemra on Predestination

I'm glad to see that Mike Potemra bringing up the forgotten doctrine of predestination in a post over at National Review Online. He's posting about a new book from TANThe Mystery of Predestination According to Scripture, The Church, and St. Thomas Aquinas, by John Salza. However, his conclusion doesn't seem to be true at all.  Poterma writes:
[T]hat a Catholic writer is not afraid to deal so forthrightly with the central Reformation emphasis — that man is not loved by God because of any merit of which man himself is the source and author — is another indication that the ecumenical spirit is bearing rich fruit in our times.
Catholic writers have been dealing forthrightly with predestination all along.  Here are some modern guideposts:
This isn't really the fruit of ecumenism, it's just the continued handing on of the tradition.  In fact, Most and Akin's work (and perhaps to a degree Ott's) are part of an apologetic project that is in some ways opposed to much of what passes for ecumenism these days. Anyways, it's not as if we've suddenly started paying attention to John Piper and Marc Driscoll and rediscovered a biblical doctrine we'd forgetten about.  While I don't think that's what Potemra intended, it's not an entirely implausible way to read what he wrote.
I don't want to miss linking to these useful pre-Reformation texts:
Addressing one of Potemra's other points:
But — unlike some other doctrines that are baffling to the intellect, such as the Trinity — this doctrine is rarely mentioned in Catholic pulpits and publications. (It has fallen into desuetude even among Protestants. I was, for almost three years, a member of a Presbyterian congregation — in the denomination gently mocked as “God’s frozen chosen” for its past emphasis on predestination — and, in three years of Sundays, it was mentioned in exactly one sermon. ...
Fr. Al Kimel (whose ordination I attended back in 2006) ran a series of articles on predestination on his blog Pontifications.  In part III, he tackles the difficulties of preaching the doctrine of predestination.  And its importance:
James Daane has explored the unpreachability of predestination in his book The Freedom of God: A Study of Election and Pulpit (1973). “Sermons on election are so rare,” Daane writes, “that even a regular churchgoer may never hear one…. And the rare occasion when a minister does venture to preach on election is more likely to be an apologetic lecture defending a particular form of the doctrine than a sermon proposing election as something in which the hearer should place his faith and ground his trust” (p. 14). This last sentence is important. In the New Testament predestination is not so much a doctrine to be taught as good news to be proclaimed. When the Apostle Paul writes that “those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son … And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Rom 8:29-30) he was not engaging in a bit of abstract theological speculation; he was proclaiming gospel to the believers in Rome and offering a powerful word of hope and encouragement. God has predestined you to glory! Therefore, you need not fear “trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” (Rom 8:35). The biblical language of predestination is first- and second-person discourse. It is a way of speaking the gospel to those who have died with Christ in Baptism and been raised to new life in the Church.
Fr. Kimel has more interesting stuff (though I'm not sure I agree with all of it) in part IV, about bringing back preaching about predestination.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

More and different links...

I've updated the sidebar!

Some More Catholic History

This undated (but apparently pre-1969) photo comes from a Flickr set of a Catholic wedding held at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kansas City Missouri (good pictures of the interior as it is today).


It's an interesting piece of liturgical history.  First, this convert, who frequently sits way up front, is amused by the typical Catholic pattern of almost everyone sitting way, way back, even at a wedding.  The headwear of the women in the congregation is worth noting too.  Many of the women wear hats and the veils worn are small, not like the ones we usually see today among Catholic veil-wearers.

Some other liturgical notes:

There are six candles lit, suggesting this is perhaps a simple Missa Cantata.  Something I've never seen photos of before as far as I can remember.  Interestingly, there are no chairs or stools for members of the wedding party, suggesting they stood or knelt for the whole Mass.  At this wedding, the members of the wedding party   are all seated in the sanctuary. It would be interesting to look at a bunch of old photos to see what the various practices were over time and in different locations.

As far as customs go, the photos show that the priest wore a surplice for the wedding itself with no cope.

The dress of the servers in white albs or cassocks with white surplices is interesting, one I don't think I've ever seen before. This was (and is) as I understand it a Jesuit church (relevant because of, for instance, the Domincan parishes where servers were dressed as mini-Dominicans or mini-Dominican prelates.).  Was this a Jesuit thing?  Just an idiosyncratic  local thing?

In 1987, according to Wikipedia, the Church, designed by Barry Byrne in 1949-50, won a retrospective award from the American Institute of Architects.  More about the architecture can be found here.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Big Band Strikes Back

An exciting report from the Village Voice on Bobby Sanabria and his Afro-Cuban Jazz big band:
This band also requires knowledgeable and gifted musicians, including at least two university professors, some half-dozen of their current and former students, and several veterans of what Sanabria calls "the salsa and jazz wars." Percussionist Obanilu Allende's power and agility, especially on the baril de bomba, stand out, as does trumpeter Shareef Clayton's pithy, bebop-inflected solos. These musicians' formidable gifts range widely, as do their ages: In March, 19-year-old Christian Sands sat in ably on piano, while Hiram "El Pavo" Remon, 79, handled the maracas with devastating sensitivity.

Before the previous week's gig, the band worked its way through "Worstward Ho," a composition by band member Chris Washburne based on a Samuel Beckett story. ("Disintegrate into nothingness," read one of the chart's marks.) Later, the group performed another of his tunes, "Pink," which punctuates a Cuban son montuno with brass hits worthy of Parliament. "This band is the best workshop I can imagine for my tunes," says the trombonist, a tenured Columbia University professor who has played on the New York scene for nearly 20 years. "Bobby is a torch-bearer in this tradition, but he's not a historicist. I can write stuff for this band that pushes the limits."
The FB Lounge is on East 106th between Lex and 3rd. Anyone Up for a Trip to East Harlem?

Another article about the same group from the New York Times

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Lacey Baroque

There's lots of research to be done in the history of vestments or at least lots of popularizing of that research if it's sitting on a shelf somewhere.

Two Sundays ago, I spotted this painting, "The Vocation of Saint Aloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga", by Guercino at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It's dated circa 1650, squarely within the baroque period. (You can click here for a better view and more details about the painting at the Metropolitan Museum's web site.)

St. Aloysius Gonzaga, S.J. died in 1591 at the age of twenty-three.

Look at his surplice.  In both shape and decoration,  I'm inclined to believe it's not what most of us would think of if someone wrote "baroque surplice".  While it's possible that it's a consciously antique style, the late 1500's are not very far before the baroque.  More likely (though further research would be necessary to be sure) this is simply what surplices looked like in the painter's day.

This isn't to attack lace on surplices. Folks should be guided by the customs and rules of the place they live and the sensibilities of those they serve.  But it throws at least a little light on the customs of counter-reformation Italy, light of a different shade than we might expect.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Signs of Summer

If the weather of the last week hasn't persuaded you, here's a definite sign of summer's return.  The hot dog cart (yes, he's got a grill, but he seems to sell more dogs than anything else) has come back to the park near my house.

It makes me think of one of my first roommates, Pedro, who I lived with when I first moved to New York City.  He used to go back to the Dominican Republic every year during the winter and come back in the late spring.  His return was a sure sign it was time to put the air conditioner back in the window, which I did yesterday.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ad Orientem... In Miniature


For reasons unknown to me, we have a small ceramic model of the Cathedral of St. Paul in the office of the Church of Our Saviour here in New York City.  This week, as I was leaving the Church, I noticed that our model has the front of the Cathedral pointed at the wall (above), hiding the facade.  So I turned it around, exposing the more interesting (to my eye) facade:



This side even has a pleasing Latin motto: "EVNTES ERGO DOCETE OMNES GENTES". It's a partial quote of Matthew 28:19: "Going therefore, teach ye all nations...".


I was pleased and thought I'd leave it that way.  But T. pointed out to me that with the door facing the wall, the architectural east end faced geographical east.  Advocate of ad orientem worship that I am, I turned it back around.



Sunday, May 02, 2010

I Don't Oppose Technology, Really!

After yesterday's Luddite post about the evils of television, I wanted to followup so as not to lose my momentum with any emerging neo-Luddite readership.  (Would there be anything more ridiculous than a blog targeting the neo-Luddite readership? Probably.)

So, yesterday televisions, today telephones.  Gawker recently created a typology of text-messagers (huh, should that be "text-messengers"?). One of which is the following:
There are some people who love to text so much that the phone part of their cell phone has become completely obsolete. ...they are scared of a wonderful and time-honored mode of communication. We'd much rather text most of the time too, but sometimes a call is necessary. The general rule should be if there are more than three questions or the problem can not be solved in three messages, then just pick up the phone and have a short conversation rather than waiting for the back and forth of texting. Also, if someone calls, don't respond with a text unless the text says, "Can't talk now. I'll call later." If one party thought the conversation was best had on the phone, just have it on the phone and save everyone a headache. After all, without phones there would be no texting, so do the old gods a favor and give them a sacrifice now and again.
Rick Webb responds:
I am one of those people. But let me explain something to you. The telephone was an aberation in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting. it was never okay. It’s less okay now. Telephone calls are rude. They are interruptive. Technology has solved this brief aberration in human behavior. We have a thing now called THE TEXT MESSAGE. It is magical, non-intrusive, optional, and, just like human speech originally was meant to be, is turn based and two way. You talk. I talk next. Then you talk. And we do it when it’s convenient for both of us.
They've both got some fair points. (Does this break the rules of blogging? Often it seems like you have to be like a potential Skull and Bones member: "Accept or Reject‽")

The most important point here, I believe, is in the second excerpt. It's something often forgotten when arguing about politics or society or culture. As much as we talk about "the new normal", the last 100 years is a flash in the pan in the scope of human history. You can't really make conclusive judgments about human institution or social convention in such a small time frame, given how hard it is to really change human nature. Less than 100 years after the coast-to-coast telephone call, we can't really say a lot about how we'll choose to use this technology over the long term.

(via First Things)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Smash Your Television


Blogger Adam Minter is writing a lot about the U.S. pavilion (left) at Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

One recent post discusses the presentations at the pavilion, which mainly seem to involve lots of watching of movies.  Minter quips:
Rather than experience a USA pavilion that exhibits American ingenuity, creativity, and accomplishment, I saw a pavilion that represents an America that spends too much time watching TV.
This is a key to cultural renewal in the United States and Europe. British essayist and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple writes in today's Wall Street Journal:
It is hardly surprising that those who do not experience family or social meals early in life exhibit the lack of self-control that underlies so much modern social pathology in the midst of plenty.

These social, or antisocial, developments have taken place precisely at a time when electronic means of entertainment have become available to all. For the uneducated, the world is an intolerably dull and slow-moving place by comparison with the excitement available at the press of a button or the flick of a switch. Why, then, move off your couch and risk the ennui of the real world? You can satisfy your appetite and occupy the vacuum of your mind at the same time, at most wriggling like a maggot in sawdust.
John Senior discussed this in 1983, though I'm not sure I'd go quite as far as he did... He wrote in his book The Restoration of Christian Culture:
[Y]ou cannot be serious about the restoration of the Church and the nation if you haven't the common sense to smash the television set. ... Its two principal defects are its readical passivity, physical and imaginative, and its distortion of reality. Watching it, we fail to exercise the eye, selecting and focusing on detail—what poets call "noticing" things; neither do we exercise imagination as you must in reading metaphor where you actively leap to the "third ending" in juxtaposed images, picking out similarities and differences, skill which Aristotle says is a chief sign of intelligence.

I sometimes take advantage of televisions in public places. But just as often, I find them annoying. Tonight, I was out to dinner with friends and since I was sitting facing the television, I found my eyes drawn to the motion and light of it, even when I didn't want them to be. Television demands attention, even when you'd rather focus somewhere else.

CC licensed picture of a television from videocrab via flickr. Also check out this great surrealist photo-composite by ξωαŋ ThΦt.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Since I May Not Be "Up Long Before the Day-o"

Here are the Waterson's singing the May Day song "Hal-an-tow":


Don't forget, it's also the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1955.


Among other things, he's patron of the Catholic Worker.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Under 800... and above it again...




Briefly this week, I got the book count on my LibraryThing account down under 800 after pitching some books.  But, I also found some that I hadn't yet added to the catalog, so the count is above 800 again.

Most of those are in my bedroom here in Queens.  A few are still back in Virginia, but the one box worth not listed—because they're currently for sale on Amazon or slated to be given away to friends—bring the in the room count back up close to that on the LibraryThing account.

The photo with this post shows you some of the books that are on the shelves that sit on the left side of my desk.  It'll tell you a lot of what I've got "part read" and my current interests, obsessions, and aspirations, though I'm not sure what Numbers: Rational and Irrational by Ivan Niven is doing there.  Click here or on the photo for a larger version.

At brunch on Sunday we were talking about how many books we own... one friend claimed to own a lot of books, but admitted that it wasn't as many as I've got.  Mwhahah!  Our friend David, won the prize for the person there with the fewest books owned, since he of course owns none.  (If there was an actual prize, not just a theoretical one, someone might have disputed this conclusion.)

This reflection was prompted by these recollections.  And also by rediscovering a fun 2008 article from the New York Times Book Review in the pile of stuff I'm trying to clean off my desk.  Here's a taste:


In order to have the walls of my diminutive apartment scraped and repainted, I recently had to heap all of my possessions in the center of the room. The biggest obstacle was my library. ...it had begun to metastasize quietly in corners, with volumes squeezed on top of the taller cabinets and in the horizontal crannies left above the spines of books that had been properly shelved. It was time to cull. ...

Nevertheless, things had gotten out of hand. The renovations forced me to pull every copy off every shelf and ask: Do I really want this? I filled four or five cartons with volumes destined for libraries, used-book stores and the recycling bin, and as I did so, certain criteria emerged.

There are two general schools of thought on which books to keep, as I learned once I began swapping stories with friends and acquaintances. The first views the bookshelf as a self-portrait, a reflection of the owner’s intellect, imagination, taste and accomplishments. “I’ve read ‘The Magic Mountain,’ ” it says, and “I love Alice Munro.” ...

The other approach views a book collection less as a testimony to the past than as a repository for the future; it’s where you put the books you intend to read. “I like to keep something on my shelf for every mood that might strike,” said Marisa Bowe, a nonprofit consultant and an editor of “Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs.”

I lean towards the second method, I get rid of most things I've already read, but I've got lots of books I intend to read, lots.

Coming attractions: I've got some stuff about a Ukranian sculpture show I saw last weekend to post (including pictures), but it'll take some time to put together. Also a post on the Oxford Movement and liturgical changes at Smokey Mary's here in New York City.  If you're interested, leave me a comment on which one you'd rather see first.