policraticus: (policraticus)
I never post. Who even reads this anymore? Who will notice? But I do want to make a record of my thoughts today, Inauguration Day 2017.

I did not vote for Donald Trump. Neither did I vote for Hillary Clinton. I stood aloof this cycle, unwilling to lend my endorsement to any candidate. I could not lend my support to such a despicable pair. God help us.

That being said, because I am a Republican of a libertarian-ish bent, there was something not unpleasant in watching House Clinton come up short in November. I confess the Schadenfreude was strong. Few cliques of smug, self-righteous, preening snobs have deserved their come-uppence more justly. And that they received it from the very hands of voters they have taken for granted for a generation made it even more delicious. Despite my dismay at Donald Trump's vulgarity, ignorance and braggadocio, I have to admit I began to really root for his success. Partially because our country desperately needs effective leadership, but also because having a successful Trump presidency will really but the boot in those who have presented themselves for so long as our moral and intellectual superiors. Watching the condescending faces of the MSNBC and CNN reporters fall into confusion and sadness on election night is something that needs to happen again, and again, and again. I'm not sure those emotions are entirely creditable on my part. But there it is.

So far, I am guardedly hopeful. His cabinet appointments have been not terrible. They are evidence of an Administration that is seeking real substantial change, if not radical change. Since that is the very platform on which Trump ran, I think this is refreshing. It looks like he wants to keep his promises. Will it work? Well, about that I am not very optimistic, since bureaucracies and the beneficiaries of bureaucracy are deeply entrenched and will howl mightily with every attempted change and doggedly obstruct even the most modest alteration of the status quo. Will Trump be able to be a steady, forceful hand? Or will he descend into Trumpian caricature? Before the transition I would have thought, "you can't treat the government like a game show, he is going to tweet himself into irrelevancy." Now? Its anybody's guess. I have been so comprehensively and uniformly wrong about Trump from the moment he rode down the golden escalator into our lives till 11:30 PM on November 8th, I now feel that he is as likely to be another Washington as he is to be chosen form of Gozer the Gozarian.

I do know this: We have fetishized the Office of the President for too long in this country. For my whole life, and long before, we have been heaping more and more power and authority on the person of the President and giving a wink and a nod to behavior that would have sent men like Washington, Jefferson and Madison to the barricades with pitchforks and torches in hand. A lot of folks on my Facebook and elsewhere are acting as if we have truly elected Gozer. That what is at stake is the fundamental survival of our republic. I think this is overblown hooey. However, if you do believe this, does it change, even a little, your former support for the way we weaponized the Executive Branch of our government to do the heavy lifting that was to be handled by our Legislature? President Obama famously quipped that if the Congress was going to be "obstructionist" he had "a phone and a pen" and could legislate by regulation from his desk in the Oval Office. And he did. Many of my liberal friends cheered this when it should have raised the hackles of any person who loves this country. Why? Because now Trump will do the same. Only the opposite. I love this country. And I adore our Constitution, warts and all. Let me say that the separation of powers and the equal nature of each branch of government is not one of the warts. With the 1st Amendment it is the bedrock that has allowed our country to stay free. If the President can't get the votes to pass his agenda, that is a feature, not a bug. That is our system of government working exactly as it is designed to work. He must work with the Congress as an equal, not rule by diktat. The President is not a king. Maybe, just maybe, we can start remembering this as a society. Maybe the calls for deference to a president's agenda and the will of the people who elected him will be muted. Maybe the press will start doing its job again. Maybe we will start to remember that federalism isn't always a bad thing and that if people in California want to do thing differently than folks in Texas, maybe that is OK. Maybe we will decide that vesting so much power and authority in the Federal government isn't always in our best interests.

If Donald Trump can do this, then I think he will have done our country a great service, even if he didn't mean to do it.

God help us. God bless us.
policraticus: (policraticus)
Can it really be thirteen years? How is that possible? That time can slip past us, all the time noticed, marked, remembered, honored and yet... invisible.

I haven't posted to this journal for eight years.

How much have I forgotten about that day? How much have I remembered that I had once forgotten? Memory is a fragile, transient thing. The pancakes I ate today at our local diner taste the same as they did then. Our friends still meet there, mostly on happy occasions now. Our faces are all older. Our hair grey, or thinner, or gone. Did we really go to the beach after? Was the sky so very blue? Yes. Yes. Were my brother and sister-in-law really in the dark? No. They had heard about the first plane, but didn't get to see how bad it really was, didn't know the full story. My niece, appearing in my memory as a diaper clad toddler, is a junior in high school, a field hockey star, beautiful as any 16 year old, tall and lithe and full of all the hope and optimism that comes with youth, health, opportunity. Yet she isn't innocent like she was then. She knows. Everyone knows what can happen. No one talks about it. No one wants to acknowledge it. Like that slightly irregular mole on your shoulder, or the new lump under your armpit, or the occasional tingling in your left hand... best not to look too closely. Best not to think about it. Surely all will be well. Surely. If we just leave it alone, shut it away, close our eyes, surely all will be well.


I didn't think I'd be this bitter. This disappointed.

5 years

Sep. 12th, 2006 12:28 am
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Wrote this for a [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]. It seems worthwhile to put it here, seems like it is something a more dedicated journalist would post.

I was upstairs, putzing around on the interwebs. I may have even been on LJ. Anyway, I pottered downstairs and asked the wife if she wanted to go out and get breakfast. The summer season was pretty much over, the restaurant was only open weekends and I was in a celebratory mood that called for pancakes. I will never forget the look on her face. She was watching Good Morning America. Her face, the one I love beyond all others, was a picture of shock and grief. "A..a..a plane hit the WTC. They said it was a commuter plane, or something. But another plane just hit it again. Another plane just hit the WTC. It just flew into it. It just blew up" It was 9:04 AM and she was crying now. I, on the other hand was totally confused. I think my reaction was akin to "Whaaa..???" My mind was still contemplating on pancakes. I went over, sat next to her and tried to figure it out. She explained how it had been breaking news. A freak accident. But it looked really bad. Tragic. Then, the other plane. No one knew what was going on. It took me about two minutes and three viewings of the now ubiquitous images to see that we were under attack, that this was terrorism's finest hour. I didn't need Katie Couric to tell me so, it was self evident. "What does this mean??" "It means we are at war." We sat there together and watched, and watched. The rumors. Bin Laden, a name vaguely recalled. Afghanistan. Then, the Pentagon, more rumors, was it a helicopter crash? A bomb? No, another jetliner. More rumors, conjecture, punditry. We watched it all, time seemed strangely suspended. The endless repetition of those poor people's final seconds. Then, the first tower collapsed. She was distraught, I was completely incredulous. "How many people?" "I don't know," I said, but my heart said, "10K, or more." "Is is going to stop??" "I don't know," I said, but my heart said, "No." Then the second tower collapsed. We couldn't watch anymore. It was time to get out of the house.

We decided to go see her sister, who lives just a few blocks away. Unbelievably, she and my brother-in-law had no clue that anything was amiss. They had been forced by my three year-old niece to watch Teletubbies all morning. Disbelief, explanations, shock, opinions. More tears. My niece's confusion and sadness at our grief...touching but also heartbreaking, her world was changed and she would never remember any different one.

We went to breakfast. I got my pancakes and ate them mechanically. Everyone was subdued, the conversation, which included nearly all the staff and diners, was serious. Everyone knew someone in the city. We began to worry about our friends. It dawned on us that we needed to start making phone calls. We totaled up 17 people who were close to us, who we knew well, who either worked or lived in NYC. Three actually worked in the WTC or WFC. One family lived in Chelsea. Several were employees at college at NYU, Fordam, or Columbia. Others commuted into the city, landing at Chelsea piers and walking to work. It was agonizing, leaving messages, waiting for calls back. It took till 10PM that night for the last person to check in, but we were lucky, everyone on our list was OK. Their stories, some amusing, some quite shockingly horrible, I won't go into.

We wound up at home again. I don't think we turned on the TV for quite a while. We went up to the beach, and looked at the clear, blue beautiful day. A perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky, except for a dull smudge of smoke along the northern horizon. Not an airplane in the sky now either, except for the occasional fighter jet flying north toward the smoke.
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Wending my way from [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]'s [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com] post on literature,


I encountered this meme, which struck my fancy. Some are ridiculously easy, some will probably puzzle. This is not by design.

1) Select 5-10 (or so) favourite books.

2) Post the first line from them.

3) Don't mention the title or author. That's for everyone else to figure out.

4) After someone correctly identifies the book, update the original entry to reflect that fact.

1.) Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy.
The Odyessy, Homer. Spotted by [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]

2.) The music room in the Governor's House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli's C major quartet.
Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian. Spotted by YOSSARIAN.

3.) Midway in our life's journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood.
The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri. Spotted by [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]

4.) Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Wolfe. Spotted by [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]

5.) Two men were sitting in the bar-parlour of the Angler's Rest as I entered it; and one of them, I gathered from his low excited voice and wide gestures, was telling the other a story.

6.) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Gospel of St. John. Spotted by [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]

7.) So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
Beowulf, Anon. Spotted by [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]

8.) Theoretically a good cook should be able to preform under any circumstances, but cooking is much easier, pleasanter, and more efficient if you have the right tools.

9.) Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendered is the flour.
The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer. Spotted by [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]

10.) There were four of us-- George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency.
Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K. Jerome. Spotted by [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]
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In response to a radically changed world situation since the Islamist attacks of 9/11, the United States under George W. Bush has adopted a broad new approach to national security. The Bush Doctrine, as this policy has come to be known, emphasizes the need for preemption in order to “confront the worst threats before they emerge.” It also stresses the need to transform the cultures that breed hatred and fanaticism by—in a historically stunning move—actively
I pretty shamelessly ganked this from Commentary Magazine )
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So, I was struck by lightning.

Dramatic pause.

Well, to be honest it wasn't me so much as [Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com]. At the beginning of August we had some wicked weather (no offense NOLA/Galveston) and the upshot was that pretty much every piece of technology in the house was in some way shorted out, fused, melted or otherwise rendered into so much scrap. Check this out: every light bulb was burned out. Fridge light included. Even my beloved, triple surge protected IMac G5 had its modem turned into slag. And that is the story of where I've been for two months, waiting for an opportunity to haul my butt to the Apple Store and get a new modem. Now, modem installed and restaurant nearly closed, I will be free again to wander the internets and lurk about LJ.

Am I better off? I wonder.
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From my point of view, God created the world, and the way it works. Therefore plate tectonics, subduction, earthquakes and tsunamis and the physics behind it all are his work. In fact things like tectonics, the water cycle which produces storms, vulcanism are actually necessary for life to exist on Earth. However, why do these natural forces produce evil like we've seen in South Asia? Well, as with most things in the faith, it has to do with a humanity that has been endowed with a will and a mind. Man is able to understand the forces of nature and to understand where it is safe, or failing that, the warning signs of approaching calamity. In fact, an entire tribe of sea nomads in Thailand were saved because they had a tradition of watching for the tsunami tide and running very fast up hill when they observed it. But, due to our sinful, disobedient and prideful natures we are often unwilling to learn these lessons or obey them when we do. Thai and Indian officials had ample warning of the tsunami and many years to prepare for the event. They chose to ignore it. If people fail to respect natural forces such as tsunamis or remain willfully ignorant of the danger, it seems that the responsibility lies with them, not God. Much like people who remain in places like San Francisco or Los Angeles, or people who continue to build on barrier islands in the paths of hurricanes or live in trailers in the Oklahoma panhandle. Sin, brought into the world by man's rebellion, has created a disharmony between us and God and us and Nature. This unbalance causes evil in the natural world the same way it causes evil within the hearts of men.

That being said, what could be God's purpose in designing a world where this was even a possibility? Well I don't think I am making much news here when I say that I don't know. The answers I've given you, natural processes coming into conflict with faulty human judgment, are somewhat unsatisfactory. We know that God is all powerful, all knowing and supremely benevolent. We know he has endowed mankind with a capacity for choice. We know that evil, painful things occur that can be easily understood, and there are other evil, painful things that seem totally incomprehensible. What I would say, as a Christian, is that God is as sovereign over the things we cannot understand as he is sovereign over those we can. His actions in this world are done to accomplish his will and are done with the full knowledge of eternity behind them. We, as limited, mortal creatures lack the ability to know, or in some cases even the capacity to discern the reasons behind events in this life. All I can say, ultimately, is that God loves us, and wants us to be happy and that this disaster, as with all pain and evil in this world that we cannot understand, is working within that plan and toward that goal. That doesn't mean we cannot be angry, nor does it mean we should not mourn and weep for the many who have lost all, and even more. It certainly does not mean we should not question and look for understanding in this tragedy. Your Aunt may consider herself very religious, but she has made a grave error in ascribing to God a motive that may well be false. It is presumptuous to say that God is somehow "angry" with these people, and has wrought this destruction as punishment. God is indeed angry with man, as man is in rebellion against God, it could hardly be otherwise. But the reaction that I as a Christian would point to is not plagues and disasters but to the life and reconciliation that God offered to us through his son, Jesus. God is not a God who is only filled with wrath and vengeance, he is a God who loves mercy and offers it freely.
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Seven Stanzas at Easter
John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissoultion did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the
amino acids rekindle, the Church wil fall.

It was not as flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that--pierced--died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
makeing of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages;
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen,
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
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Christmas is, hands down, my favorite holiday and that is due, I think, to my Father.

When he was a small boy he was convinced he saw Santa Claus very early in the morning on Christmas Day,1936. My father awoke and felt the urgent call of nature. He went across the hall to the bathroom. Since it had started to snow that evening, he stood on tiptoes to see the progress of the fall. There, to his utter shock, was Saint Nick, just a few feet from his nose. It was very clear, he reported, and the sleigh, beard, suit and reindeer were all in evidence. It looked like Santa was adjusting the harness, preparing to depart. Now far from being happy, my Father described his reaction as terror. He had been warned many times by my Grandfather that, should he get up too early, sneak downstairs, and catch Santa, his toys would be taken back by the Saint as a punishment. He ducked, hissed an urgent call to his brothers to come and see. After all, if he lost his toys the others would, too. But when my uncles finally arrived Santa had vanished. Everyone in the house was soon awake and the story was quickly dismissed by the adults as either a trick of the light, or a half remembered dream. My father, terrified he had ruined Christmas wanted to go downstairs to the tree post haste. My Grandmother, sensing a trick, herded the four of them back to bed. Christmas would not come early. Oh! how my father must have suffered those few hours of waiting in the dark. How he must have bewailed his fate. To have seen Santa! And now perhaps to have lost his toys! And then not to be believed! It was as unjust a situation as any 7 year old could conjure. The next day dawned brightly and everyone but my father ran to the tree with joy. My grandmother came back upstairs and reported to him that his stocking was full, and beneath the tree were packages directed to him. What relief! But puzzlement too. He insisted he had seen Santa Claus. My Grandfather, using his clearest logic, explained that if he had caught Santa, the toys should be gone. So, by any standard, with presents in hand, my father must have been mistaken. This did little to satisfy my father. So, up to the second floor they all went to review the scene of the sighting. No sleigh tracks, pointed out my Grandfather, no hoof prints noticed my Grandmother. Then my fathers older brother said "What's that?" There, on the roof, in the snow, was found a small china doll, a girls gift, broken as if it had been dropped from a height. As if, the boys quickly reasoned, it had fallen from the sleigh itself. This event made a big impression on the boys, who have all remain firm believers to this day.
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Excerpt of an interview with Justin Sane, lead singer of Anti-Flag, who is also an authority on international relations. Found posted on the _radaware_ forum.


"JS: Well, I think a military action can be justified when it’s actually a unilateral thing, when it’s unilaterally agreed that major human rights have been taken away from someone, or someone is being hurt. Or, possibly a military action could be justified with some kind of third-world disaster or something like that. But, the George Bush war was not unilaterally agreed upon. Many nations didn’t support it and much of the public of many nations, including the United States didn’t support it. So, a coalition of the willing is not a coalition of the world."

Is this why no one takes these protesters seriously, or is it the giant puppets?
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It is rare that I am blown away by a restaurant, but Il Buco on Bond Street in NYC succeeded. Its a smallish place filled with rustic wood tables and a particularly homey feel for a NY eatery. The cuisine is rustic Mediterranean with more nods to Spain than any other tradition. The servers, despite the cramped conditions and overabundance of big coats, were friendly and gracious. They offer a wide selection of appetizers, like tapas, and a few composed entrees and soups of the day. Our little group decided to have just a selection of appetizers and they arrived in a never ending stream from the kitchen, each a little gem, with only a couple of missteps. Standouts were the empanadas, the wild boar with lardo (a cured pork fat the literally explodes on your palate), and the quail. The glass eels were fantastic, but I think $24 was a little much. Sure, they were imported, but this country produces excellent eels (right in my back yard in fact) and in the spring you can seine as many as you want and make more money selling them for $12. The only thing I did not care for was the baked crab. The oh so trendy dancing bonito was too cool for school, but the aggressive flavor out did the crab and gave it a unpleasant coppery after taste. I won't say it wasn't fresh, but I won't say it was right off the boat either. The strangest thing about so cozy and home like restaurant was the highly ideological nature of the menu which went into manifesto like detail on the importance of just the right ingredients and the lengths the chef was willing to go to get them. Very interesting for a article in Art Culinaire, but something of target if the food hadn't lived up to the rhetoric. They had a troubling wine list. It was hard to choose only a couple of bottles! I restrained myself and stuck to two bottles of barolo. Very smooth for barolo.

Read more... )
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Catwoman980 sent me a very kind e-mail directing me to where I could engage on the justice of my banishment from _Debate_. I e-mailed her back and basically said thanks, but no thanks. I am very content in my mind that my post was sensible, and even if it wasn't deletion would have been a better response then banning me. Getting into a pharisaical debate with _theis _ on the parsing of "meme" serves no purpose to my mind. I will just satisfy myself with _politics forum_, _theologica_ and _real philosophy_, though none of those can be considered laugh riots. And I will try to update here more often.

So, in that vein....

Let no man say there, “ Virtue's flinty wall
Shall lock vice in me, I'll do none, but know all.”
Men are sponges, which, to pour out, receive ;
Who know false play, rather than lose, deceive.
For in best understandings sin began,
Angels sinn'd first, then devils, and then man.
Only perchance beasts sin not ; wretched we
Are beasts in all but white integrity.
I think if men, which in these place live,
Durst look in themselves, and themselves retrieve,
They would like strangers greet themselves, seeing then
Utopian youth grown old Italian

John Donne, letter to Sir Henry Wooten.
policraticus: (Default)
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 00:02:24 +0100 (CET)
To: "dacat sydney" <sydneydacat@yahoo.com>
Subject: Re: A debate question for you.
From: "thies arndt" <thies@anduin.net>  Add to Address Book

No memes such as, but not limited to, quiz results; no spam. Penalty:
Member will be permanently banned without warning



So, that's that. I think they are well rid of a quiz proposer like myself. Yes the tone of _Debate_ will certainly be raised without something stupid like the Political Compass to get in the way of all the furry/dragon/troll/meta-debates.

The final final word, at least so far. ; )

My very dear theis,

Thank you for your careful thought about my situation and your prompt reply to my inquiry. You have exeeded my expectations for the fairness, subtlety and nuance which the LJ world has come to expect from the _Debate_ moderators.

Yours very truly,

policraticus: (Default)

It looks like I have been banned!

At least it won't let me post anymore or comment on posts.

One post is all it took for me to wear out my welcome. I must say with the way I have been treated on the comments side I am a little surprised. I thought I had a bit of a reputation as a prig and a pendant, rather than some wide eyed maniac attempting to destroy _Debate_ with my unauthorized posts. Haven't received any explanation, but I don't particularly expect one. That they would ban me for a politely dull post on politics, while allowing the incomprehensible ramblings of someone who thinks they have the spirit of an extraterrestrial transgendered dragon, is pretty telling.

And so I join the ranks of _ikilled007_, _hellfudge_ and _adamyoshida_ as mad, bad and dangerous to know!

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Well, I have been slowly getting back into LJ after a summer of stress. It has been interesting. Tonight I decided I would post to the main board of _Debate_. A couple of threads had been discussing quizzes that tested your political leanings and I thought a specific site had some relevence to the general discussion. To wit, I posted this:

"john of salisbury (policraticus) wrote in debate,
@ 2003-11-17 22:51:00
A better political quiz (No offence, Kylebee)

_kylebee_ and _foobiwan_'s latest debates have prompted me to post this link to the main board. It is my first official main board post. I will accept either congratulations, condemnations or sympathy as you deem appropriate.


It is a nuanced and thoughtful site and I would be interested to see not only where you all stand, but whether you agree with the position the quiz gives you and whether you are surprised by the placement of others in the Debate community.

RESOLVED: The Political Compass's assessment of _policraticus_ as Economic +3.25/Social -1.38 is fair.

I will take the affirmative stance. I'm a fairly moderate guy on social issues and lean to the right on economics. Not quite Milton Friedman, but no Nelson Mandela either.

(Oh great and mighty MODS, if this inappropriate, delete away.)"

Now, granted this was my first try, but I thought it yielded some interesting debate, especially around the actual debate, ie whether the Compass itself was fair. _whip lash_ and _crackmonkeyjr_ had a respectful and thoughtful discussion of libertarian philosophy. I did a little defense of the Political Compass's design and supposed slant. Various people chimed in with their results and opinions. Nothing worthy of LJdrama, nothing that would make it into _debateclassics_, but not a ZRP by any means. There were about 18 entries in about an hour, whatever that means.

Imagine my surprise when it was deleted without warning. I guess the moderators took my little aside at face value and deleted away. LOL.

I can't help but wonder what I did wrong, though. The debate was phrased properly, to my mind, and the responses were to the point, for the most part. ::shrugs::

Its a den of hungry lions.
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Martin Feeney is dead. He died quietly in his sleep two nights ago. For over 20 years he was my good friend. That the world has lost one of its great characters is at best an understatement. Over the last year his friends watched him lose wieght and struggle with a persistent cough. When questioned he always blamed the weather or allergies, a cold, a tickle. Now we all realize it was probably lung cancer or congestive heart failure. Martin didn't want us to worry, and he was enough of a realist, or perhaps a fatalist, to not struggle needlessly. Most of us are not surprised he handled his exit from this life with such matter of fact common sense and non chalance, just that it came so soon. Still, it is all very much like Martin to just slip away. He was famous for ordering a big round of drinks, then moseying out unseen, sticking us with the tab. More on that later.

Read more... )

I think I will need some time to even begin to understand this.
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Now that I have been reading around in LJ for almost a year I have come to the conclusion that my writing style is from a different era.

Most people let their thoughts flow onto the screen without much editing today. The computer is almost like a tape recorder, mediated by a keyboard. This is a journal form, a blog forum, so that is more than fair. I offer no criticism at all. For me, though, typing was always a prelude to being graded, so composition, grammar and spelling is necessary or I toss and turn all night. Also, this stuff is "out there where people can see it," and I am vain enough to try to hide as much of my bad writing habits as possible. In the old days, long ago, when computers were segregated into "labs," all of my free flowing random thoughts were deposited onto yellow legal pads via a #2 pencil. There the thoughts were hacked and scribbled on and rearranged until they were no longer free flowing and could be given to a long suffering girlfriend (sorry, I'm trying to be honest here) for deciphering and conversion, via a typewriter no less, into a finished composition. I made it to my senior year in college, second semester, before I used a word processor to type up a paper. Then, as the dot matrix printer ground out my paper, I thought, "This looks like crap, maybe I'll have it typed after all." Unfortunately for me the girlfriend/secretary had fled by that time and faced with a looming deadline, I balked and handed in the slightly blurry text on the low quality grayscale paper with the edges marked by the printer feeder strips. I didn't actually compose on a computer until I was in graduate school. Only recently have I come to an uneasy peace with the process. Gold stars and kudos to any one who can guess my age given what clues I have left above. ; )

There is a connection, I think, between how someone writes in a physical sense and how they read when finished. Brian Lamb of CSPAN fame understands this and is famous for asking authors "how do you write?" meaning, "where do you sit, what time of day, what medium, what tools, for how long?" Many medieval authors, for example, wrote via dictation. They spoke to scribes who wrote on short hand on wax covered boards. Then they would reread and correct the text before it went off to other scribes, usually professionals, to be converted into book form. Thomas Aquinas, a prodigy if ever there was one, would dictate up to four books at the same time. He would walk around a circle of scribes and dictate a passage to one then move on to the next as the first scribbled away, and so on around the room. Woe to the scribe who was not finished by the time he completed his circuit. A study done on Aquinas found that some chapters in his Summa Theologica fit neatly onto two wax tablets. How much of the Angelic Doctors prose was affected by him watching with one eye as the next scribe nervously come to the end of a tablet?

For myself today, I compose any extended comments or posts on the Note Pad function of my IMac. I usually edit randomly as I go, then when I near a finish, I correct it, edit some more, then read it out loud, or mutter it if in company, at least once to "see how it sounds." It is rare that a sentence remains unchanged from beginning to end. [Generally, it is rare that a sentence goes unchanged and unedited from the first draft to the last.] Finally I spell check it twice. My spelling is atrocious. (28 questionable words!) I know this all sounds pretty anal, but believe me when I say that I am much more expressive than I am retentive. One look at this room would allay any doubt. Which leads us to web cams, and a whole other kettle of fish.
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Dear Aunt,

Thanks for your e-mails. I had a whole other note finished for you, but decided to rewrite it after Dad called with the news of Grandmom's death. I spent yesterday with Mom at her bedside. She seemed comfortably asleep, breathing slowly, but without great effort. We were great friends, she and I. I am glad there was nothing left to be said or done. I hope tonight she is baking Uncle N. a hot milk cake and remembering for the first time in a dozen years to add the baking powder.

I remember when we buried Pop, how Grandmom didn't really cry. She may have cried in private, or maybe she was sneaky about it, but to my 12 year old eyes, she seemed rather unconcerned for someone who had just lost her love of 50 years. Much later, when I was in college maybe?, I asked her why. She told me, "People just die. Everyone has to die. If they didn't, where would we put all the people?" That summed up Grandmom's philosophy and is a good example of what Dad means when he says she was uncomplicated. Grandmom didn't sweat the little stuff and had the big stuff placed firmly into perspective. People often use the term "simple" as a pejorative, but it is not. She was simple the way the arch is simple, the way a lever is simple, the way Shaker furniture is simple. Simplicity is the hallmark of the best in creation. Balance, moderation, focus, humor and strength directed towards a purpose. That was Grandmom.

I have been thinking about a Scripture passage and would like your opinion on a few. My first inclination was to use a passage more often used at weddings, Corinthians 13:1-13. Paul's description of love in verses 4-7 seem to me to mirror Grandmom's character quite well. Patient, kind, humble, selfless, generous, honest, but also determined and strong, enduring. Its funny in a way. She was not an overly expressive person, not your typical cheek pinching grandmother, but considering how well Paul's description fits her it was love that clearly motivated her, it was the touchstone of her life, it is the thing I will always remember. It also seems to me that her life is a good example of what Christ was talking about in Matthew 6:1-6. Her life was not lived to impress anyone, there was no pretenses with her. What she did, she did because it was the right thing to do and that's that. The passage in Proverbs 31 is indeed a good description of her crafty Scottish disposition and mania for thrift. Few could grow two pennies where one was before like Grandmom. Indeed I am sitting in the lasting monument to her economy as I write this. I have also been reading 1 Peter 1: 3-9. If ever there was a person who passed through a trial into life it was Grandmom in these last years. But I think this is more of a comfort for me than a testimony to her life.

About the poem. I must admit that I have very little patience with Lord Byron. Perhaps I have never gotten over my 9th grade encounter with "Childe Harold." Nevertheless "She Walks in Beauty" hits the nail on the head. "The smiles that win, the tints that glow,/ But tell of days in goodness spent,/A mind at peace with all below,/A heart whose love is innocent." I have been rereading John Donne recently and so Holy Sonnet 10, "Death be not proud" is in my mind. "One short sleep past, we wake eternally/And death shall be no more; Death thou shalt die." Sadder and more beautiful is Shakespeare's Sonnet 60. "Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,/ So do our minutes hasten to their end;/....And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,/Praising thy worth, despite his [Time's] cruel hand."

Well, for all this I don't really know what I want to do yet. You have had by now plenty of experience and I defer to your wisdom. But I do know this: tomorrow I will be baking a hot milk cake and eating it with a cup of hot tea made with a used tea bag.

It is the very least I can do.


Your Nephew
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A good site I have recently enjoyed and highly recommend...

Arts and Letters Daily


Its a clearing house for interesting articles, reviews and editorials culled from around the world.
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So, for a while I was pulling out my tattered copy of the Federalist Papers to hurl at _debate_ posters. Now I seem to just want to burst the bubbles about human nature and its "perfectibility." I really think no man has done more damage to Western political philosophy than Jean Jacques Rousseau. But his spirit is found all to often among those who search for ways to bring justice and equality to our world. In any case, it is remarkable that they are still look for ways to create a utopia or make changes to the fundamental nature of man after all we have witnessed in the past century. Such heartfelt goals, such aspirations for a society without prejudice or coercion. Too bad they have ever lead to large numbers of people getting lined up and shot. "The noble savage"...bah! "The essential goodness of man"...phooey. The man sent his own bastards to be raised in an orphanage rather than attempt the many benevolent reforms he prated about. This is not up snuff, I admit, but I'm drooping with sleep and want to put something up. Maybe I will edit this and better organize these snippets into a coherent post. Maybe not.


Just like to put my 2¢ in about humanity's survival and evolution. I think it likely humanity will survive with or without the West, but the idea that human nature is evolving is, in my opinion at least, a joke. Love poetry from 2000 years ago can touch our hearts today. Adventures dreamed by a Sumerian priest, a blind poet in Greece, a monk in Medieval Europe, and a Renaissance Spaniard still thrill and inspire us. Hate, lust, greed, revenge, charity, mercy, friendship these qualities have been acknowledged throughout history and failures concerning them will be a struggle for our descendants as well. Human nature is static. Look at the cave paintings in France, done in the dim past by a people with a culture we can scarcely imagine, yet those paintings are as human as anything in a SoHo gallery. Civilizations adapt and evolve, that is clear, but human nature does not. Or at least has not, up till now.


In broad strokes, yes, human nature is pretty much the same as it has ever been. It is why we can still read the Epic of Gilgamesh and be moved. As different as our cultures and world views may be from ancient Sumerians, that life is fleeting and bittersweet, that love can offer both great joy and sadness, that we want to discover a meaning to this existence, these basics remain constant. Unfortunately, our greed and hate, our lust and foolishness, our proclivity for evil, our ability to fuck up a free lunch, these are also constants. Utopias have always assumed that if we just could learn to be better the problems of society would resolve themselves. But we cannot learn to be better. "Man's heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?." (Jeremiah 7:16) We are who we are, warts and all. It is better to acknowledge that we are flawed and work to build a society that can ameliorate suffering and provide some justice and equality under the law. If we think we can recast ourselves in an imaginary likeness of who we want to be it will inevitably lead to the very worse excesses, those born of idealists.


But human nature does not want to share equally at any time. Not even among the early Christians. Equal sharing a la communism has never been demonstrated, even among the Saints.

"But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him."

Acts 5: 1-6

If you'll notice Ananias was not compelled to contribute to the Church's communal purse. Peter says quite clearly, "Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?" That means it was his own private property, hardly an hallmark of communism. The sin here lies not in the holding back of the money from the community, but lying about it. Had Ananias simply said,"Here's X% of the price of my land." he would have lived. But even so, the failure of the early church to retain this utopian spirit speaks volumes for the impossibility of utopia in this life. Remember the church was in awe of both the very recent coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the rapid growth of the faith and the miracles preformed by Peter and company.

"Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were of one mind, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people."

Acts 2: 41-46

These people were highly motivated and had first hand knowledge of things Christians today must take on faith, like the Resurrection, and still could not maintain a voluntary, lasting communal system. What does it say for mankind that a utopia cannot be sustained even as the lame are made to walk, the blind see and the deaf hear? Human nature is corrupt and unequal to the challenge of a truly egalitarian, communal system. It is to the credit of the Church that it did not coerce the people into such a system, but allowed them the liberty of conscience. The faith demands generosity and charity, not the abnegation of property.
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