Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stop the pr— No, don't stop the presses!

I had to get this typed out and posted as quickly as possible, before MSNBC realizes their mistake and pulls this video footage down:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Yes, folks, what you're seeing is footage captured by an authentic bastion of the librul MSM that: 1) tacitly admits a pro-life march took place in Washington DC yesterday and 2) gives some impression of its real size (well over last year's 400,000 according to some estimates, though as FOXNews reported the National Parks Service itself no longer attempts estimates — perhaps they ran out of fingers and toes?).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Now available for your edification: CATHOLIC STAND!

Catholic Stand is a brand-new e-zine, brought to you by the marvelous trio of Tito Edwards (who hath given us Big Pulpit), the ever-amazing Dr. Stacy Trasancos and the totally awesome Chelsea Zimmerman.  What does CS bring to the party?

Here at Catholic Stand, we know [preaching the Gospel] is not always easy. We recognize that we live in a time when most nations are not nations that turn to God. We recognize that many of us may experience persecution in some form right now for living the truths the Church teaches. We are here to offer our stories, our encouragement, when we can, our instruction, our love, and our communion. If you desire to live the truths the Church teaches boldly, but are unsure sometimes what to do or say, we hope this website provides what you need; and if it doesn’t, let us know. We are Catholic citizens just like you, of all ages, various professions, and different places in the world, all in this together, people of prayer, hope, faith, and destiny.

 "Catholic Stand provides perspectives and education on topics that matter to citizens living the truths the Church teaches."  That's as simple a mission statement as you could want, but it's a broad enough base to cover a lot of topics: history, law, science, medicine, education, parenting ... just about any place where Catholic beliefs intersect with life.  Because, when you get right down to it, religion isn't something that can be conveniently boxed into one hour of one day every week (or month, or holiday of your choice); if it's not pervading every aspect of your life and relationships with other people, it isn't really a religion in any meaningful sense.

The leadership have invited me to be a regular contributor, where my semiliterate ramblings will be overshadowed by greater talents such as Donald R. McClarey, LarryD, Leila Miller, Marcus Allen Steele (OOH-RAH!) and Patti Maguire Armstrong, to name a handful.  Boy, I'm getting around, aren't I?  Right now I'm working on a deal where, when you fall asleep at night, my posts appear on the insides of your eyelids.

I'm really stoked to be a part of this project, because I get to talk about God, Christ, faith and the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church in another venue right alongside of other people who love to talk about the same things.  My first post will appear Feb. 18, but don't let that stop you from checking the other fine writers out: Stacy starts us out along with Debi Vinnedge, John Darrouzet, Edmund Mitchell and Marcus Allen Steele.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Who's really winning the abortion debate?

The timing couldn't have been better ... at least for the pro-abort side.

As hundreds of thousands of young people prepare to arrive in Washington for the annual March for Life parade, NBC News in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal released a poll showing that, "for the first time ever" (Really? Perhaps you mean "the first time ever this year"), the majority of Americans favor legality for abortion under most circumstances, and that 70% don't want Roe v. Wade overturned.  The Conventional Wisdom concerning these disturbing numbers is that the election-year struggles over contraception have allowed further education on the subject, shifting many people off center and into more solidly pro-abortion positions.

You'll pardon me if I don't bust a gut laughing.  The only education that took place came from the opponents of contraception and abortion.  The only contribution the pro-death side made to the national discussion was the creation of a new meme: the "war on women", the paranoid fantasy that hordes of "misogynists" are massing to strip women of all their hard-won victories and shove them back into domestic slavery and forced birth.  As analysis or as argument, it was as patently absurd as the Mayan Apocalypse ... or even the Zombie Apocalypse.  But that was the only side we were allowed to hear from the MSM, who repeated it breathlessly as the Gospel According to Sandra Flake.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The road to bad writing

... is paved with Experienced Writers' rules.

1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
If you're going to alliterate that badly, by all means, refrain.  Starting three successive words with the same letter is bad alliteration.  However, Anglo-Saxon poetry was highly alliterative, and Shakespeare was a master of distributing alliterative sounds.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
This is the sort of absolute rule up with which no one should put.

3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
Okay, I'll give him this one.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Let's see, what's in the news today?

Poor little rich girl Zong Fuli.

Help wanted: One boyfriend for billionaire Chinese heiress

"Zong Fuli, 30,  the daughter of beverage magnate Zong Qinghou (net worth around $12 billion), tells the Chinese edition of Marie Claire that she is rich and boyfriendless. She says she can't find a regular nice guy, and that men simply want her for her money."
You mean she's rich, too?  I'd be happy to take her out ... if she'd settle for Applebee's and a movie.

Seriously — if she were a salesperson at Kohl's or a restaurant hostess, most of the men I've known would still be pleased to esquire her around just to make other guys envious, even if she were a whining shrew.  We're men; we're shallow and egotistical; that's how we roll.  The money is a plus; you really have to be mercenary to look at that elegant face and see only a fat payday.

Connecticut's alleged cross-dressing meth priest reportedly liked sex in rectory

The Catholic priest indicted by a federal grand jury in an alleged nationwide methamphetamine ring was reportedly suspended after Connecticut church officials discovered he was a cross-dresser who was having sex in the rectory at Bridgeport’s St. Augustine Cathedral.

The article doesn't print the source of these allegations, nor of the report that Msgr. Kevin Wallin bought an "adult specialty and video store"  (it's not professional to write "porn shop", y'know) after his resignation as pastor of St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport while still on the diocesan payroll.
Still, this story just saddens me.  The priesthood is no place to escape one's personal demons.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

With allies like these guys, who needs enemas?

John Corapi once gave a basic explanation of good politics: “If I’m a king, and you want me to grant you something — a piece of land, some money, whatever — the last thing you want to do is insult my mama! Likewise, if you seek a political alliance with a larger, much more established group, it’s not smart to say anything like, “You're all evil and damned to Hell, but we’re willing to sully our hands with your acquaintance in order to achieve our mutual goal.”

As did Toby of Abolish Human Abortion, an Evangelical Christian organization:

Needless to say, this got around, and AHA’s webpage very quickly got bombed by irate Catholics, who shared the screenshot along with a note to have nothing to do with the anti-Catholic so-and-sos.  Not long after, the page admin put this up:

Monday, January 14, 2013

The smart person and the idiot; or, Semper Gumby

It's also phrased "Improvise, Adapt, Overcome".
Over on Scholium is an excerpt from an October 1, 2010 article in Vanity Fair, "Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds" by Michael Lewis.  The blogmaster pulled this excerpt because Lewis, who is an atheist, spent some time with the Orthodox monks at Mt. Athos; the blogmaster is an Eastern Orthodox convert from the Anglican communion.  Now I'm going to do a little further extraction, from Lewis' conversation with Fr. Arsenios, whom he describes as "Mr. Inside, the consummate number two, the C.F.O., the real brains of the operation.  'If they put Arsenios in charge of the government real-estate portfolio,' a prominent Greek real-estate agent said to me, “this country would be Dubai.  Before the crisis.'"

... Like a lot of people who come to Vatopaidi, I suppose, I was less than perfectly sure what I was after.  I wanted to see if it felt like a front for a commercial empire (it doesn’t) and if the monks seemed insincere (hardly).  But I also wondered how a bunch of odd-looking guys who had walked away from the material world had such a knack for getting their way in it: how on earth do monks, of all people, wind up as Greece’s best shot at a Harvard Business School case study?
After about two hours I work up the nerve to ask him.  To my surprise he takes me seriously.  He points to a sign he has tacked up on one of his cabinets, and translates it from the Greek: THE SMART PERSON ACCEPTS. THE IDIOT INSISTS.
He got it, he says, on one of his business trips to the Ministry of Tourism.  “This is the secret of success for anywhere in the world, not just the monastery,” he says, and then goes on to describe pretty much word for word the first rule of improvisational comedy, or for that matter any successful collaborative enterprise.  Take whatever is thrown at you and build upon it.  “Yes … and” rather than “No … but.”  “The idiot is bound by his pride,” he says.  “It always has to be his way.  This is also true of the person who is deceptive or doing things wrong: he always tries to justify himself.  A person who is bright in regard to his spiritual life is humble. He accepts what others tell him — criticism, ideas — and he works with them.”

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The lost art of frugality

“As a newly-graduated person, someone coming straight out of college, I don’t like the idea of having less money coming to me due to the selfish interests of people in Congress who don’t have any interest in reducing our financial problems,” [Gabriella] Hoffman told [some of us who have been around the block a couple of times ain't too wild about it either, kiddo].  “This is an impediment for future economic growth. It’s going to make it harder for young people like myself to get married, find a better job, you name it. ... 
“Although it’s a small quantity on a monthly basis, just having less money going into my paycheck will prevent me from doing things and force me to be more frugal,” she said [Oh no, not frugality!  O the inhumanity!].  “I’ll be more cautious with my spending.”

Consumer credit as a percentage of GDP, 1/1/73 – 11/1/12
Judging from some people's reactions, you'd think we never paid 6.2% Social Security tax before. Of course, many of those people were making up to twice as much more seven years ago, long before the Obamination was in office let alone suggesting a temporary reduction in SSI taxes.  (Not me — $2/hr more but fewer benefits.)  But at the same time, many of these same people probably shrugged in indifference while FoxNews was foaming at the mouth about raising the top withholding bracket back to the Clinton-era 39.6%.

I can't put very much weight in such grumbling.  All but the most improvident people will take care of the necessities first and cut back on the extra comforts (I can't in good conscience call them luxuries): one night out less per month; pork chops instead of steaks; Wal-Mart instead of Kroger's, Von Maur or IKEA.  They might even find that happiness, good times and love are still possible on $40 a month less.

The fact of the matter is, thirty years of credit-driven prosperity have pretty much ruined our culture's ability to be thrifty (frugality as a virtue rather than a necessity).  Any squirrel will tell you that the time to stuff away the nuts is in summer, when the nuts are plentiful, so you can live off your storage when the winter comes.  Winter comes every year; eventually, no matter how hard the government works to prevent it, recessions follow growth.  In economics and finance, the line between inductive reasoning and a hot hand fallacy is slender indeed.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What would Juvenal have said?

Decimus Junius Juvenalis (fl. 100-120)
LORD POLONIUS:  What do you read, my lord? 
HAMLET:  Words, words, words. 
LORD POLONIUS:  What is the matter, my lord? 
HAMLET:  Between who? 
LORD POLONIUS:  I mean, the matter that you read, my lord. 
HAMLET:  Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams: all which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward.
—Shakespeare, Hamlet II:ii

So thirty-three or so years after first devouring these lines, I finally started reading the "satirical rogue" — the Satires of Juvenal.  At some places, Juvenal is hard to read, probably because the underlying text suffered from quite a bit of corruption over its long existence.  And a lot of his humor would simply pass over the heads of someone who, like me, has only a smattering of education in the classics and Greco-Roman mythology.  One line, though, caught me by surprise: in the middle of a passage about homosexuals, Juvenal sneers, "Gracchus has presented to a cornet player — or perhaps it was a player on the straight horn — a dowry of four hundred thousand sesterces" (Satire 2).  Plus ça change, plus ça même chose: I suppose as long as there are wind instruments people will use them for witty references to fellatio.

Just a little further we read this:

"I have a ceremony to attend," quoth one, "at dawn to-morrow, in the Quirinal valley."  "What is the occasion?"  "No need to ask: a friend is taking to himself a husband; quite a small affair."  Yes, and if we only live long enough, we shall see these things done openly: people will wish to see them reported among the news of the day.  Meanwhile these would-be brides have one great trouble: they can bear no children wherewith to keep the affection of their husbands; well has nature done in granting to their desires no power over their bodies.  They die infertile; naught avails them the medicine-chest of the bloated Lyde, or to hold out their hands to the blows of the swift-footed Luperci!
Again, the more things change ....  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ask Tony: Why would Catholics celebrate Jesus' circumcision?

Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516), Circumcision of Jesus
Today, January 1, is the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church.  But on older calendars, since it falls on the eighth day of Jesus' life (according to traditional Jewish and Roman reckoning), it was — and still is, by traditional and Eastern Catholics, as well as some Lutherans — celebrated as the Feast of the Circumcision.

Now, if you focus on the fact of the circumcision itself, you can get kinda creeped out; just to add to the creepiness, the story goes that at one time there were so many people claiming to possess as a relic the Holy Prepuce that one pope forbade further mention of it on pain of excommunication.  (That's the story, at least.  The reports and claims of faked relics have themselves suffered from inflation and exaggeration over the years; while forged first- and second-class relics were a problem for a long time, serious scholars of the medieval period doubt they were ever so abundant as has been alleged.)

Part of the problem is semantic, even cultural.  "Celebrate" has taken on implications of joyous fun that, when the rite emerged, weren't necessarily present in its Latin roots.  The noun celebratio and the verb celebro, celebrare in their primary uses referred simply to the act of gathering or thronging, especially for a ritual, and only secondarily to commemorating a special occasion; the Eucharistic meal as a feast can hardly be called festive.  Think of "holiday", and how it began life as a contraction of "holy day": holidays became vacations because holy days entail rest from labor.