Saturday, February 28, 2009

have dinner with your family

The most serious and dangerous challenge for Christians today is not precisely the loss of faith and religious practice among the fallen away, but a more material, basic human threat—namely, the lack among believers of a human cultural foundation capable of disposing them and their offspring to persevere in the Faith. I mean here not a lack of cultural Hoch­formen, but a lack of culture in its everyday, domestic, and social sense. This deficit produces among devout Christians a “mere” religiosity, a reduction of Christian life to explicit devotion and moral uprightness, and the sense that these things suffice, and that culture is at best an accidental thing, harmful if secular and amoral, helpful to the extent that it is or can be made explicitly religious.

In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there will never be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.
--Frederick Buechner


Alright, you got me. As an alert reader pointed out, no moratorium was placed on photos of other members of the Jessica Simpson family, so here you have, for the record, her father and mother, Jesse and Jasmine Simpson, followed by the earliest known portrait of the entire Simpson family. I hope you're all just real happy.

attention readers:

behind the scenes there has been just an unbelievable amount of sniping about Jessica Simpson. Although I'm sure Bethany meant well, she has opened up a real can of worms here, so new policy: until further notice, these will be our last Jessica Simpson photos. You'll just have to get your fill. I'm sorry but we are having some serious quality control issues here. Ed.

Now this is the truth

Now this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless-so good for nothing. We are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God's love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that he has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given his angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes, and even in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are children of God and He has actually given his angels charge concerning us and they watch over us and have us in their keeping. George Q. Cannon(Gospel Truth, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, 1:2.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

treat yourself: want to hear the perfect marriage of music & text?

We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.

...It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds' hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt: a loud auto: a quiet auto: people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard, and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squaring with clowns in hueless amber. A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping; belling and starting, stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter; fainting, lifting, lifts, faints foregone: forgotten. Now is the night one blue dew.

Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.

Low in the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes...

Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.

The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.

On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there.…They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine,...with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.

now, listen here:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

advice from C. Chute

Carolyn Chute and husband

For thousands of years we grew our own food. In two or three generations those skills have been stripped from us. Schooling had done this. And we condoned it...this reverence for the white shirt, the desk, the clean hands, the books, the computers, the bucks, the conveniences, the 'good job' somewhere else! How many survival skills do your children have? How many kids today can provide for themselves food, tools, clothing, warmth...? Please, please, please, in the name of God, pass along any skills you have...any of the old skills...teach your sons and daughters...whisper your secrets to your neighbor's child!

I would like to tell you a story.

In 1969, just after my conversion, Our Lord through an uncanny chain of events led me to work in an institution for the mentally handicapped in Ontario. There were five thousand patients and literally miles of wards.

One day the supervisor said to me, "How would you like to work on a ward where we seldom get volunteers?" I said, "Sure! I'm willing. What kind of people are there?" He replied, "Well, I'll let you see for yourself."

We went down to a distant annex of the labyrinth, and he took me into a small ward which contained about a dozen stainless steel cribs. Like everywhere else in the building, it was a cold and barren place, devoid of beauty or cheer. There were no pictures, no toys, nothing on the walls. A nurse pointed to a crib and said, "Why don't you meet Jimmy? He never has visitors."

When I looked inside this steel cage, I saw there what I thought was a little boy. Flat on his back with arms spread wide he resembled the corpus on a crucifix. He was hydrocephalic. For those of you who don't know the term, in the old days before the development of medical technology for draining water off the brain, certain children suffered from greatly expanded craniums. As water built on the brain, their skulls would expand and expand, the bone structure growing to enormous proportions to compensate for the internal pressure. In this ward there were about a dozen such children with extraordinarily large heads, some of them with very small bodies. They had never been able to move, or play, or even pull themselves upright like other children.

"He's spent all his life in that crib," said the nurse."How old is he?" I asked, thinking that he was about six or seven years old, and mentally handicapped as well."He's twenty-one years old," said the nurse and went away.

Here was this small person staring back at me out of his little universe. It was a great shock for me, because it was my first experience of seeing a severely deformed human being. I recovered quickly, but it threw my senses into disarray for a moment. And yet, within a second or two, I saw his eyes. When you bracketed the face, blocking out the deformities, it was a very beautiful face. I am not talking about appearance but about something more elusive.

I saw a soul looking back through those eyes. A person was looking through those eyes at me, and I found myself to be a person looking through my own eyes at him—looking not as examination but as mutual presence to each other. Two souls regarding each other with full attention in a moment of silence, two persons between whom there was no common language. And yet the language of the heart is, as I was to discover, the most powerful language of all.

As we gazed at each other there were no social conventions to make it uncomfortable. For me it was heartbreaking but moving. His body was the size of a two or three year old's, and his head twice as large as it should be, and yet joy was shining out of these eyes. And I who had everything, all the powers of man, was in anguish, confusion, darkness. It seemed to me that here in this prisoner was mankind itself, a human person reduced to fundamental poverty. And joy was shining from his eyes!

Something came out of those eyes with the joy that was a powerful .... Words fail me utterly to describe what it was. I will have to use a crude term for it. It was like a beam of love, a force of love. And I saw that he who had nothing, he who was utterly poor, was rich!

Did he have suffering? Yes, perhaps crushing suffering, but he was rich. And I who had everything, I discovered at that moment, was the poor man.It was an awesome dawning of awareness, to feel for the first time the almost tangible power of the soul. Love is a power not only of the heart and the emotions, or the intellect or the will. It is a power of the soul—a power that gives life. And this abandoned "child", useless according to the mind of the world, was bestowing on me a gift that no one can ever purchase. He was simply loving me.

After a few more moments of simply gazing into each other's eyes, he opened his mouth, smiled at me, took my hand in his own and in a child's voice spoke the three radioactive words, "I love you." And I have never been the same since.Here in this radically reduced life is the value of the human soul broken open for us to see. Reduced, in human terms, to its essential greatness. Michael O’Brien

In his essay, “The Exact Location of the Soul,” Dr. Selzer invites us into the operating room where he is to operate upon a young diabetic woman. Though treating his patient for many years, he was unable to trim away enough swollen blue leather, that is her putrid diseased flesh. The doctor writes:

At last we gave up, she and I. We could no longer run ahead of the gangrene. We had not the legs for it. There must be an amputation in order that she might live--and I as well. It was to heal us both that I must take up knife and saw, and cut the leg off. And when I could feel it drop from her body to the table, see the blessed space appear between her and that leg, I too would be well.

On the day of the operation, the surgeon who is no longer afraid to connect--to feel the pain of his patient--watches as drugs are administered and “the tense familiar body relaxes into narcosis.” He uncovers the leg and sees an unexpected sight:

There upon her kneecap, she has drawn, blindly, upside down for me to see, a face; just a circle with two ears, two eyes, a nose, and a smiling upturned mouth. Under it she has printed SMILE, DOCTOR. Minutes later I listen to the sound of the saw, until a little crack at the end tells me it is done.

other sheep have I

This week featuring: COLUMBIA

Friday, February 20, 2009

Give up all hope ye satirists

When Americans were asked whom they admired enough to call their No. 1 hero, the majority of respondents answered "President Obama."

In the new online Harris poll, citizens chose Jesus Christ as No. 2, followed by Martin Luther King.

Others in the top ten, in descending order, were Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger and Mother Teresa, according to Harris Interactive.

The 2,634 respondents were not provided a list of names. Americans named their heroes spontaneously.

confidence contestants!

"I have confidence that spring will come again"
--Fraulein Von Trapp-Andrews

(the award money is still in my account)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is U.S. broke?

The earthquake will come via a collapse in the market for U.S. government bonds as domestic and foreign investors realize that the only way Uncle Sam can meet his future spending obligations is to print massive quantities of money. The result will be sky-high inflation and interest rates and, most surely, a prolonged reduction in output and employment. This could happen today. It could happen tomorrow. But it will happen here just as it has happened in every other country that tried to spend far beyond its ability to pay.

the new book burning

Book burning in Opera Square, Berlin, May 10, 1933.

It’s hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children’s products, the federal government has now advised that children’s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing—at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse.

The problem is the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), passed by Congress last summer after the panic over lead paint on toys from China. Among its other provisions, CPSIA imposed tough new limits on lead in any products intended for use by children aged 12 or under, and made those limits retroactive: that is, goods manufactured before the law passed cannot be sold on the used market (even in garage sales or on eBay) if they don’t conform. The law has hit thrift stores particularly hard, since many children’s products have long included lead-containing (if harmless) components: zippers, snaps, and clasps on garments and backpacks; skateboards, bicycles, and countless other products containing metal alloy; rhinestones and beads in decorations; and so forth. Combine this measure with a new ban (also retroactive) on playthings and child-care articles that contain plastic-softening chemicals known as phthalates, and suddenly tens of millions of commonly encountered children’s items have become unlawful to resell, presumably destined for landfills when their owners discard them. Penalties under the law are strict and can include $100,000 fines and prison time, regardless of whether any child is harmed.

No one seems to have been able to produce a single instance in which an American child has been made ill by the lead in old book illustrations—not surprisingly, since unlike poorly maintained wall paint, book pigments do not tend to flake off in large lead-laden chips for toddlers to put into their mouths.

At any rate, CPSIA’s major provisions went into effect on February 10. Since the law became effective the very next day, there was no time to waste in putting this advice into practice.

A further question is what to do about public libraries, which daily expose children under 12 to pre-1985 editions of Anne of Green Gables, Beatrix Potter, Baden-Powell’s scouting guides, and other deadly hazards.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I meant, Wow. Ms. Richards' interesting and fact-filled report wasn't up on the blog for 10 minutes before I starting being deluged with catty emails and blog comments. I have tried to delete them to spare her (Ms. Richards') feelings, but they won't stop. Seems like many of our readers think Jessica has matured rapidly in the last weeks. Help me out here, guys. Like, hot button issue and all, but let's agree to fight fair, OK? Gimme little feedback.

American collectivism, traveling under the banners of liberalism and feminism, has been less audacious (and, fortunately, less powerful) than the Soviet brand, but it has shared the ambition of “transforming” society rather than supporting traditional institutions. It has progressively legitimated divorce, adultery, fornication, contraception, homosexuality, and abortion; moreover, it has exalted them as “rights,” condemning ancient objections to them as benighted and, in fact, immoral. The “New Morality” isn’t an option; it increasingly has the compulsory force of law behind it. At bottom, it’s a campaign to destroy Christian culture.

--Joe Sobran
This may be how God prefers to speak to us, not with spectacular public signs whose meaning nobody can miss or deny, but with an ambiguity that demands our faith.

Thank you, Bep

We are happy to announce that Irene's Mustache was one of the lucky beneficiaries of the recently-passed "Don't Call It a Bail-Out" Bill. This has eased our tenuous cash situation immensely and enabled us to add to our staff a crackerjack team of field reporters. This is correspondent Bethany Richards' first. We hope to hear a lot more from her! You "go," girl.

Did Carrie Underwood call Jessica Simpson fat?

OK! Magazine has a headline story online that reads “Carrie calls Jessica Fat!” and features a flattering photo of super thin Underwood. The accompanying story doesn’t have a lot of evidence that it’s true, though, and is just based on an insider quote. It has something moderately snarky that sounds like what we’d hear out of Carrie’s mouth. It’s not just “she’s fat,” but she’s “fatter”:

While Tony, 28, may be pleased with Jessica and her declarations of love, his ex, Carrie, has quite a different point of view.

“She finds Jessica’s love of putting her life on display pretty desperate,” a pal of the “Before He Cheats” singer tells OK!. “She laughed at the People cover, because it’s the same one Jess did about John Mayer — same smile, same look, except she’s a little fatter.”

Applications for stringer positions are now being taken. Please send bios & pics to:

"Bring Back Dubya" Foundation
c/o I. Papas, Secretary
General Delivery
Molalla, OR 97038

important public notice

What follows is the complete Wikipedia entry for the song, "Wolverton Mountain," surely one of the high points of Western cultural achievement. The piece is frankly an embarassment, considering the grandeur of the subject. It is my plan to update the article in the near future. Why don't they mention, e.g., that this song was covered by the Tabernacle Choir, under Jerold Ottley, on its "Climb Every Mountain" LP, immediately before his sudden retirement? The whole truth about this rousing anthem to raw lust has been kept from the public far too long. I invite all to submit additional information, inspirational anecdotes, favorite added verses, etc. for possible inclusion in the revised article.

I am attaching a recent photo of the actual Wolverton Mountain, one-half of the "Two [Unmarried] Sisters" in central Arkansas. (The other peak is named "Velveta Mountain," after Wolverton Clowers' younger sister.) As you can see, these natural wonders are in immediate danger of falling prey to despoilation or worse by Big Strip Business Miners who care nothing about cultural heritage, only the immediate buck! Fortunately, I have established a foundation to preserve this scenic and historic place. Particularly if you are one who would like to think globally while acting out locally, this is your cause, too. Names of donors will be published on this blog for all to see. Also the names of non-donors (the source of the notorious "freedom rider" problem in economics). Please send cash or your credit card info, etc. to:

"Bring Back Dubya" Foundation
c/o I. Papas, Secretary
General Delivery
Molalla, OR 97038

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
“Wolverton Mountain”

Song by Claude King
Released 1962
Writer Claude King & Merle Kilgore
"Wolverton Mountain" was the hit that launched Claude King's career in the US in 1962. The song was written together with Merle Kilgore, and was based on a real character who lived on Woolverton Mountain in Arkansas. The song spent 9 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in the US in 1962. In addition, it was a giant crossover hit, reaching #6 pop and #3 easy listening.

This article does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unverifiable material may be challenged and removed. (August 2007)

This 1960s song-related article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it."

(left to right) Velveta and Wolverton Mountains, Arkansas, USA

the secret meaning of "deseret"

"I heard that every night he conducted something called a beehive, and I loved the sound of this beehive, so a night or two before we were supposed to go off to the country, I grabbed him by the collar and I said: "Listen, about this beehive: you know, I'd kind of like to participate in one. Just instinctively I feel it would be something interesting." And he said: "Well, certainly. In fact, why don't you with your group lead the beehive instead of participating." Well, you know, Wally, I got very nervous, you know, and I said: "Well, what is a beehive?" He said: "Well, a beehive is at eight o'clock a hundred strangers come into a room." And I said: "Yes?" And he said: "Yes, and whatever happens is a beehive." And I said: "Yes, but what am I supposed to do?" He said: "That's up to you." I said: "No, no! I really don't want to do this. I'll just participate." And he said: "No, no. You lead the beehive!" Well, I was terrified, Wally. I mean, in a way I felt on stage. I did it anyway."
Andre Gregory (My Dinner With Andre)(movie--1981)

we CAN put an end to war someday

"I didn't get to use the bathroom, though. I was fixing to... but right out in them pines I heard one gobble....

Boy, that's the best diarrhea medicine in the world. You hear a turkey gobble, you forget all about diarrhea and everything. Headaches, everything. That'd cure anything."
- Anonymous hunter

Vernon, Florida (movie), Errol Morris, director (1982)
See it here:

keep off the lawn

According to Thorstein Vebelen, a lawn is merely status symbol, a display of conspicuous expenditure meant to demonstrate that its owner can afford to waste in mere display what might be used to produce wheat or vegetables. Alternately, a lawn can also demonstrate that beauty may be its own excuse for being.

If we have any doubts an experiment might be worthwhile. Lie down upon your lawn to see what happens. And while I would not advise that all lawns be surrendered to dandelions, I would suggest that you ask yourself, when one of these gay little miracles raises its flower toward the sun, whether you reach for the weed killer without first remembering Whitman's tribute:

"Simple and fresh and fair from winter's clothes emerging
As if no artifice of fashion, business, politics, had ever been,
Forth from its sunny nook of sheltered grass--innocent, golden, calm as the dawn,
The spring's first dandelion shows its trustful face."

-Joseph Wood Krutch

Saturday, February 14, 2009


A child said, "what is the grass?" fetching it to me with full hands;
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord.
A scented gift that Remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name some where in the corners,
That we may see and remark, and say, "whose?"
--Walt Whitman

View from the top

The happiness of the great consists only in thinking how happy others must suppose them to be.
--Francis Bacon

amish way

Under a truly free order, the economic incentives bind the generations of a family tightly together. Each generation has a vested interested in the success of those going before, and those coming after. This takes form in the communal nature of family wealth, in security centered on family relations, and in retention by the family of the talents of progeny.

The modernist responds that such principles are no longer possible, given the complexities and demands of the contemporary economy.

To which I always reply with my favorite counter-cultural example: the old order Amish in America.

Amish society violates every modern rule. Relative to the industrial economy, they use true horsepower rather than tractors in the fields. They rely on horse and buggy for transport, rather than auto and truck. They make their own clothes, furniture, and candles. They avoid credit. They resist most uses of electricity and electronic devices. And they build and sell products using hand labor, dedicated to craftsmanship.

Relative to the state, the Amish are, at their request, exempt from Social Security and Medicare. They refuse welfare, relying instead on help from their neighbors and relatives in time of crisis. They keep their children out of state schools, operating their own schools through the eighth grade, after which children are to learn trades from their parents or neighbors. Indeed, the Amish shamelessly exploit child labor from age three on, and they maintain harshly segregated gender roles in all aspects of labor and life.

Living by such rules in 20th century America, the Amish should have disappeared long ago. Instead the Amish population has grown from 5,000 in 1900, found only in nearby Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to 150,000 today, found in colonies in a dozen American states. To place this growth in context, it is important to remember that the overall U.S. farm population fell from 35 million to 2.5 million over these same years. Using even the modernist measure of mathematical success, I ask: Who succeeded here? and who failed?

Someone, though, will surely ask in shocked tones: Do you mean to imply that we should all become Amish?

Well, I can imagine worse fates for the world but that is not my message.

This is the lesson I draw from the Amish example: --we do not have to live as we do, in a regime of mounting family and social disorder. The modern economy and the modern state do not make inevitable only one pattern of life. Human beings can use the power of culture to build and maintain barriers that protect their families (and their family or household economies) from functional ruin, and still participate with success in the larger economy. It has happened on a broad scale in the recent America past; it is happening now among communities such as the Amish; and it can happen in the future.
--Allan Carlson

Friday, February 13, 2009

behold the man

--Vermeer, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, ca. 1655

[Frank] Sheed is far from the first to point out that four amateur writers couldn't have invented the most original character in all the world's literature. Not even a Shakespeare could have imagined Jesus, as he imagined such marvelous figures as Hamlet and Cleopatra. Jesus' words have a power no other human words have ever had. They ring with wisdom, authority, and mystery. They have the stamp of a definite personality, totally unlike any other ever known.

Replying to Freudian critics who have tried to portray Jesus as hysterical or otherwise abnormal, the French historian Henri Daniel-Rops, in JESUS AND HIS TIMES, observes "the perfect balance of his character," its wholeness and integration. He is consistent, yet unpredictable; he can be serene, tender, tearful, piteous, stern, indignant, even furious, as the moment warrants, but he is always "master of the event." And he is marvelously quick-witted: When his enemies try to trap him, he is never at a loss but, on the contrary, always has an unexpected and decisive answer. Jesus' words, Daniel-Rops remarks, have "the unmistakable accents of a man who has only to speak to be obeyed." He has, supremely, the gift of reaching people's hearts in earthy language. He sizes people up, judges their motives, and says exactly what they need to hear, with a complete lack of the self-absorption and confusion that usually impede human communication. He combines spiritual authority with the keenest alertness to the situation and the person he is facing at the moment. He can win a disciple with the slightest personal attention -- as when he astounds Nathanael with the simple words, "I saw you under the fig tree." Only Nathanael knows what this refers to; but it's enough for him. He believes.
Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew, ca. 1599

It's striking how many of Jesus' sayings are quick responses to his immediate circumstances. The Gospels constantly show him in lively interaction with others. He is always ready, never remote. It's easy to overlook his sheer sociability, shown in his preference for humble and even disreputable companions. We shouldn't forget that such people accepted his company too, as they would hardly have done if his manner had been aloof, priggish, or pontificating. Evidently the holy Son of God wasn't holier-than-thou.
--Joseph Sobran
Valentin de Boulogne, Christ and the Adulteress, ca. 1620

little miracles

Gioacchino Assereto, Christ Healing a Blind Man, ca. 1640

Even in his miracles Jesus falls short of both pagan and Hebrew models of heroism. His wonders are mostly "little" ones -- healings and exorcisms, nothing like spectacular physical feats of killing monsters or parting seas. If the Gospels were fictions, wouldn't they have given us something on a more epic scale than curing sick people? Imagine Hercules healing lepers! Any mythmaker would have outdone the evangelists in mere scale; but Jesus' miracles are of a piece with his teachings about showing mercy to everyone, however humble. And instead of glorying in his deeds, he tells their subjects, "Your own faith has cured you," charging them to tell nobody.
--Joe Sobran

Talking World War III Blues

Bob Dylan See:

Some time ago a crazy dream came to me,
I dreamt I was walkin' into World War Three,
I went to the doctor the very next day
To see what kinda words he could say.
He said it was a bad dream.
I wouldn't worry 'bout it none, though,
They were my own dreams and they're only in my head.

I said, "Hold it, Doc, a World War passed through my brain."
He said, "Nurse, get your pad, this boy's insane,"
He grabbed my arm, I said "Ouch!"
As I landed on the psychiatric couch,
He said, "Tell me about it. Dreamwise."

Well, the whole thing started at 3 o'clock fast,
It was all over by quarter past.
I was down in the sewer with some little lover
When I peeked out from a manhole cover
Wondering who turned the lights on.

Well, I got up and walked around
And up and down the lonesome town.
I stood a-wondering which way to go,
I lit a cigarette on a parking meter
And walked on down the road.
It was a normal day.

Well, I rung the fallout shelter bell
And I leaned my head and I gave a yell,
"Give me a string bean, I'm a hungry man."
A shotgun fired and away I ran.
I don't blame them too much though,
I know I look funny.

Down at the corner by a hot-dog stand
I seen a man, I said, "Howdy friend,
I guess there's just us two."
He screamed a bit and away he flew.
Thought I was a Communist.

Well, I spied a girl and before she could leave,
"Let's go and play Adam and Eve."
I took her by the hand and my heart it was thumpin'
When she said, "Hey man, you crazy or sumpin',
You see what happened last time they started."

Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown
And there was nobody aroun',
I got into the driver's seat
And I drove down 42nd Street
In my Cadillac.
Good car to drive after a war.

Well, I remember seein' some ad,
So I turned on my Conelrad.
But I didn't pay my Con Ed bill,
So the radio didn't work so well.
Turned on my record player
It was Rock-A-Day, Johnny singin',
"Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa,
Our Loves Are Gonna Grow Ooh-wah, Ooh-wah."

I was feelin' kinda lonesome and blue,
I needed somebody to talk to.
So I called up the operator of time
Just to hear a voice of some kind.
"When you hear the beep
It will be three o'clock,"
She said that for over an hour
And I hung it up.

Well, the doctor interrupted me just about then,
Sayin, "Hey I've been havin' the same old dreams,
But mine was a little different you see.
I dreamt that the only person left after the war was me.
I didn't see you around."

Well, now time passed and now it seems
Everybody's having them dreams.
Everybody sees themselves walkin' around with no one else.
Half of the people can be part right all of the time,
Some of the people can be all right part of the time.
But all of the people cant be right all of the time.
I think Abraham Lincoln said that.
"I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours,"
I said that.

reputedly oldest Jewish joke

The story concerns Eleazar, a Jew in Roman times, 100 B.C.E., who finds himself before the gates of heaven, ready to meet his maker, when he is stopped by the patriarch Abraham, who tells him that to meet the Lord he must be worthy of the honor and must recount an instance of bravery.

Eleazar relates that once he found himself before the Roman emperor, and to his face he told him he was a camel's behind, an oppressor of the Jews of Jerusalem and spat in his face.

Abraham is impressed: "When did that occur?" he asks.

Eleazar responds: "About 10 seconds ago."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

dead horse, Arizona, 1940

Lines from the Antigone

The wonders of this world are numberless,
but none of them more wonderful than man
who broke the spirit of the mountain bull,
yoking its lathered shoulders to his plough.
He saddled the wild stallion, windy-maned,
and rode the ocean with his plunging prow.
All creatures of the sea and earth he named,
taming them with the nets cast by his mind,
and yet-against the forces of one wind,
the last tempest of death, he cannot stand.

--Timothy Murphy

Eliot Porter

Lord, before I commit a sin, it seems to me so shallow that I may wade through it dry-shod from any guiltiness; but when I have committed it, it often seems so deep that I cannot escape without drowning.
.. Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)

Nation Shocked By Pre-Natal Shooting

I may have shared this with some of you before. It still shocks. Sometimes I can't even believe this is the same country I grew up in. Exhibit 1:

ALBUQUERQUE, NM–Investigators are trying to determine what led an unborn child to fatally shoot his twin with a .38-caliber revolver during an altercation in their shared Albuquerque womb Monday.

An Albuquerque Police Department ultrasound depicting the fetal fatality.

According to police, the twins' mother, Evelyn Alpert, 34, was awakened at 4 a.m. by the sensation of a scuffle in her uterus, which she dismissed as "routine kicking." Approximately 30 minutes later, Alpert heard and felt three pistol shots.
A subsequent forensic ultrasound revealed that the unborn gunman–identified as a five-inch-tall male Caucasian of slight build with no eyes or hair–shot his brother twice in what eventually would have become his heart.

After a tense four-hour standoff, the unborn gunman threw out his weapon when police threatened to induce labor. Police spokesmen have denied that the use of tear gas or forced C-section was ever considered. Alpert was unharmed in the shooting, with two of the bullets lodging themselves in the victim and the third passing harmlessly through the birth canal.

The shooter has yet to emerge from the crime scene, but a court-appointed lawyer has said that the fetus will surrender himself peacefully upon his post-partum separation from Alpert sometime in early October.

"This whole tragic chain of events is hard to comprehend," Albuquerque mayor Jim Baca said. "Where did we as a community fail these unborn boys? Could their parents have done a better job of conceiving, carrying, and pre-natally educating them? And how did the fetus get access to firearms?"

The scene of the crime.

Police officials say the shooter used a revolver registered to his father, Lee Alpert, who may have left the firearm within reach of his wife's womb. No charges have been filed against the man at press time.

According to Albuquerque D.A. Eugene Billups, though the assailant is legally recognized as a fetus, he will be tried as an infant. Pretrial hearings begin next week, and ultrasound technicians will not be allowed in the courtroom.
"This is hard to take," Billups told reporters. "These kids were no more than babies."

Offering the Alpert family "my deepest sympathy and support in this difficult time," President Obama said he is redoubling his efforts to pass tougher obstetric gun-control legislation. "I call upon Congress to require trigger locks on handguns and to place metal detectors at the entrance of every womb," the president said at a White House press conference. "Such laws may well have saved the life of that unborn child. I now ask Congress to do the right thing and pass that legislation, as well as a measure extending the waiting period for firearms beyond nine months. We must keep handguns out of the unformed hands of our nation's fetuses."

The fetus, following the advice of his attorney, has offered no comment on the shooting.

my unfunny valentine

I thought my readers would be interested to know that good ole' Irene still has not found it in her heart to forgive or forget (to her, the f------ and f----- words, respectively). I just received for Valentine's Day a photo of her highness (see below) cuddling happily with her new "fiancee" (her term), "Stefano" (almost certainly not his real name, probably some guy she just met at the flea market). Frankly, the timing, the whole "Valentines Day" format strike me as extremely vicious. However, I am not going to dignify her (failed-ha!) attempt to hurt me by responding in any way, and I request that none of you attempts to make contact with Ms. Papas without first speaking to me.

("Stefano" indeed! What a creep the guy probably is! How I loathe him!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

state of the union

Let us make no mistake: we live in a totalitarianism. The Bill of Rights notwithstanding, no area of your life is safe from the encroachments of the state. Consider the most invasive, the most tyrannical state in the history of the world prior to the 20th century. Insofar as the daily texture and the minutiæ of your life are concerned, the United States claims a wider authority and exercises a wider power than the one you selected. Politically prudential considerations aside, there is no limit to the amount of your property it can take from you by taxation, inflation, prosecution, civil "forfeiture," or eminent domain, provided only that it follows certain procedures — which it may alter in its legislatures, courts, or regulatory agencies. There is no limit to the amount of time it may require you to "serve" your country — whether by military conscription, the proposed civilian conscription called "national service," criminal sentence, or even the "community service" required for graduation from some government schools — except such limits as may be found in the very statutes that created the enslaving legislation in the first place. If your time and property are at the pleasure of the state, there is nothing left to be controlled. To the extent that they are at the pleasure of the state, you are its slave. That some areas of your life are not currently of interest to the regime is the random precipitate of statism's accelerating spin.
Old African saying: "The death of an old person is like the burning of a library."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

younger brother makes good

In his home country of Denmark, actor Mads Mikkelsen repeatedly has been named "the sexiest man alive."

For such a gifted, serious actor, it is a dubious honour. But showing his dexterity for handling publicity, the square-jawed, 40-year-old Mikkelsen has jokingly said he prefers that to winning "the ugliest man in Denmark" prize.

At the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, female admirers -- including a slew of Toronto publicists handling interviews at the Hotel InterContinental -- have been cooing and calling Mikkelsen "the new Viggo," in reference to Viggo Mortensen. The two share a Scandinavian heritage and a manly-man quality layered with sensitivity

When you meet Mikkelsen, he turns out to be modest, but also the real deal. He has already been seen in Ole Christian Madsen's Danish film Prague in the filmfest. And he is ready now to see how Toronto responds tonight at Roy Thomson Hall when his other entry, Susanne Bier's drama After The Wedding, plays as a gala.

Mikkelsen will soon turn 41, already a bona fide superstar in Denmark. Now his career could go international because his birthday coincides with the world release of Casino Royale, the new James Bond film with Mikkelsen as the villain.

"Then we'll see what happens," he says of a possible and sudden career shift to international celebrity (something that did not happen with his support role in King Arthur). "But I will always want to do Danish films, serious films like After The Wedding."

Yeshi Donden

On the bulletin board in the front hall of the hospital where I work, there appeared an announcement. “Yeshi Dhonden,” it read, “will make rounds at six o’clock on the morning of June 10th” The particulars were then given, followed by a notation: “Yeshi Donden is personal physician to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

I join the clutch of whitecoats waiting in the small conference room adjacent to the ward selected for the rounds. Yeshi Dhonden, we are told, will examine a patient selected by a member of the staff. The diagnosis is unknown to Yeshi Dhonden as it is to us. We are further informed that for the past two hours Yeshi Dhonden has purified himself by bathing, by fasting, and prayer. I, having breakfasted well, performed only the most desultory of ablutions, and given no thought at all to my soul, glance furtively at my fellows. Suddenly we seem a soiled, uncouth lot.

The patient had been awakened early and told that she was to be examined by a foreign doctor, and had been asked to produce a fresh specimen of urine, so when we enter her room, the woman shows no surprise. She has long ago taken on that mixture of compliance and resignation that is the facies of chronic illness. This was to be yet another in the endless series of tests and examinations.

Yeshi Dhonden steps to the bedside while the rest of us stand apart, watching. For a long time he gazes at the woman, favoring no part of her body with his eyes, but seeming to fix his glance at a place just above her supine form. I, too, study her. No physical sign or obvious symptom gives a clue to the nature of her disease.

At last he takes her hand, raising it in both of his own. Now he bends over the bed in kind of a crouching stance, his head drawn down into the collar of his robe. His eyes are closed as he feels for her pulse. In a moment he has found the spot, and for the next half hour he remains thus, suspended above the patient like some exotic bird with folded wings, holding the pulse of the woman beneath his fingers, cradling her hand in his. All the power of the man seems to have been drawn down into this one purpose. It is palpitation of the pulse raised to the state of ritual. From the foot of the bed, where I stand, it is as though he and the patient have entered a special place of isolation, of aprtness, about which a vacacny hovers, and across which no violation is possible. After a moment the woman rests back upon her pillow. From time to time she raises her head to look at the strange figure above her, then sinks back once more.

I cannot see their hands joined in a correspondence that is exclusive, intimate, his fingertips receiving the voice of her sick body through the rhythm and throb she offers at her wrist. All at once I am envious-not of him, not of Yeshi Donden for his gift of beauty and holiness, but of her. I want to be held like that, touched so, received. And I know that I, who have palpated a hundred thousand pulses, have not felt a single one.

At last Yeshi Dhonden straightens, gently places the woman's hand upon the bed, and steps back. The interpreter produces a small wooden bowl and two sticks. Yeshi Dhonden pours a potion of the urine specimen into the bowl and proceeds to whip the liquid with two sticks. This he does for several minutes until a foam is raised. Then, bowing above the bowl, he inhales the odor three times. He sets down the bowl and turns to leave. All this while he has not uttered a word.

As he nears the door, the woman raises her head and calls out to him in a voice at once urgent and serene. "Thank you doctor," she says, and touches with her other hand the place he had held on her wrist, as though to recapture something that had visted there. Yeshi Dhonden turns back for a moment to gaze at her, then steps into the corridor. Rounds are at an end.

We are seated once more in the conference room. Yeshi Dhonden speaks now for the first time, in soft Tibetan sounds that I have never heard before. He has barely begun when the young interpreter begins to translate, the two voice continuing in tandem-a bilingual fugue, the one chasing the other. It is like the chanting of monks. He speaks of winds coursing through the body of the woman, currents that break against barriers, eddying. These vortices are in her blood, he says. The last spendings of an imperfect heart. Between the chambers of her heart, long long before she was born, a wind had come and blown open a deep gate that must never be opened. Through it charge the full waters of her river, as the mountain stream cascades in the springtime, battering, knocking loose the land, and flooding her breath. Thus he speaks and is silent.

“May we know the diagnosis?” a professor asks.

The host of these rounds, the only man who knows, answers.

"Congenital heart disease,” he says, “interventricular septal defect, with resultant heart failure."

A gateway in the heart, I think, that must not be opened. Through it charge the full waters of flood her breath. So! Here is the doctor listening to the sounds of the body to which the rest of us are deaf. He is more than doctor. He is priest.

Now and then it happens, as I make my own rounds, that I hear the sounds of his voice, like an ancient Buddhist prayer, its meaning long forgotten, only the music remaining. Then a jubilation possesses me, and I feel myself touched by something divine.

--Richard Selzer

reflections on faith

The call to faith is a summons to engage the heart, to attune it to resonate in sympathy with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope are true, and to have reasonable but not certain grounds for believing them to be true.

I am convinced that there must be grounds for doubt as well as belief in order to render the choice more truly a choice-and, therefore, the more deliberate and laden with personal vulnerability and investment. The option to believe must appear on our personal horizon like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of demands held in dynamic tension. One is, it would seem, always provided with sufficient materials out of which to fashion a life of credible conviction or dismissive denial. We are acted upon, in other words, by appeals to our personal values, our yearnings, our fears, our appetites, and our egos. What we choose to embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and what we love. That is why faith, the choice to believe, is, in the final analysis, an action that is positively laden with moral significance.

I believe that we are-as reflective, thinking, pondering seekers-much like the proverbial ass of Buridan. If you remember, the beast starved to death because he was faced with two equally desirable and equally accessible piles of hay. Having no determinative reason to choose one over the other, he perished in indecision. In the case of us mortals, men and women are confronted with a world in which there are appealing arguments for God as a childish projection, for modern prophets as scheming or deluded imposters, and for modern scriptures as so much fabulous fiction. But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious divinity presides over the cosmos, that God calls and anoints prophets, and that His word and will are made manifest through a sacred canon that is never definitively closed. There is, as with the ass of Buridan, nothing to compel an individual's preference for one over the other. But in the case of us mortals, there is something to tip the scale. There is something to predispose us to a life of faith or a life of unbelief. There is a heart that in these conditions of equilibrium and balance-and only in these conditions of equilibrium and balance, equally "enticed by the one or the other" (2 Nephi 2:16)-is truly free to choose belief or cynicism, faith or faithlessness.

Why, then, is there more merit-given this perfect balance-in believing in the Christ (and His gospel and prophets) than believing in a false deity or in nothing at all? Perhaps because there is nothing in the universe-or in any possible universe-more perfectly good, absolutely beautiful, and worthy of adoration and emulation than this Christ. A gesture of belief in that direction, a will manifesting itself as a desire to acknowledge His virtues as the paramount qualities of a divided universe, is a response to the best in us, the best and noblest of which the human soul is capable. For we do indeed create gods after our own image-or potential image. And that is an activity endowed with incalculable moral significance.
* * * [Joseph Smith's] message...flamed forth because millions of men and women have freely chosen to believe. They assayed the opinions of doubters, and they gave a hearing to the critics. Like Brigham Young, they knew Joseph was human and subject to err, but they sampled his words and agreed they tasted like honey. They weighed the beauty of a god and of human origins and a human future unlike anything before imagined. They found reason to doubt, and they found reason to believe. They chose to believe.
--Terryl Givens

Saturday, February 7, 2009

the reformer

Chesterton: "It is futile to discuss reform," he says, "without reference to form." He complains of "the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal."

We can paraphrase Chesterton's remark about reforming without reference to form by saying it is futile to criticize without first appreciating. The conservative is bewildered by the comprehensive dissatisfaction of people who are always heedlong about "reform" (as they conceive it) or are even eager to "build a new society." What, exactly, is wrong with society as it is already? This isn't just a defiant rhetorical question; it needs an answer. We don't have the power to change everything, and it may not be such a bright idea to try; there are plenty of things that deserve the effort (and it is an effort) of preserving, and the undistinguishing mania for "change" doesn't do them justice--isn't even concerned with doing them justice. What we really ought to ask the liberal, before we even begin addressing his agenda, is this: In what kind of society would he be a conservative?

motab needs a new signature

Blasphemy in Song

By some mistake no one could explain, there snuck into the green hymn book a wee bit of blasphemy. We speak, of course, of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. We all know the words. I hear it is the Tabernacle Choir's most requested number. Just say no!

The tune was from what became the Union marching song, "John Brown’s Body" (begins by repeating three times: "John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave")

"I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on."

It is a disgrace that the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" even appears in a Christian hymnbook alongside of "Our Savior's Love." The author was not Christian and wrote the words as Unionist Civil War propaganda. It is no more a Christian hymn than "White Christmas."

The third verse, blessedly omitted from most hynmals, gives something of the true flavor or the work:

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel[i.e. Union cannon barrels]:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."

The very idea that the coming of the Union Army was akin to the coming of the Lord is blasphemous in the extreme.

In 1901, in the wake of American imperialism in the Spanish and Philippine Wars, Mark Twain penned a parody of the "Battle Hymn," which is more to the point. Verses include:

"We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom-and for others' goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich –
Our god is marching on."

Vote "No" on TBHOTR!

Thanks to Laurence M. Vance

P.S. Ms. Howe, eventually horrified by what the War wrought, later repented and wrote another anthem, including:

"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

"From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God"

Friday, February 6, 2009

and you thought you knew it all

O Cheese:

In the pantry the dear dense cheeses, Cheddars and harsh
Lancashires; Gorgonzola with its magnanimous manner;
the clipped speech of Roquefort; and a head of Stilton
that speaks in a sensuous riddling tongue like Druids.

O cheeses of gravity, cheeses of wistfulness, cheeses
that weep continually because they know they will die.
O cheeses of victory, cheeses wise in defeat, cheeses
fat as a cushion, lolling in bed until noon.

Liederkranz ebullient, jumping like a small dog, noisy;
Pont l'Eveque intellectual, and quite well informed; Emmentaler
decent and loyal, a little deaf in the right ear;
and Brie the revealing experience, instantaneous and profound.

O cheeses that dance in the moonlight, cheeses
that mingle with sausages, cheeses of Stonehenge.
O cheeses that are shy, that linger in the doorway,
eyes looking down, cheeses spectacular as fireworks.

Reblochon openly sexual; Caerphilly like pine trees, small
at the timberline; Port du Salut in love; Caprice des Dieux
eloquent, tactful, like a thousand-year-old hostess;
and Dolcelatte, always generous to a fault.

O village of cheeses, I make you this poem of cheeses,
O family of cheeses, living together in pantries,
O cheeses that keep to your own nature, like a lucky couple,
this solitude, this energy, these bodies slowly dying.

--Donald Hall