'Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking...'

Monday, December 15, 2014

a small rant...

     I love it when some tendentious comparison is made between the US and some European country or another, usually to the effect that all would be well and all manner of thing would be well were the US to adopt whatever pet policy is on offer. It is often some dreary Scandinavian country with a tiny, homogenous population, a correspondingly minuscule budget, and no international relations of any kind. Norway seems to be rather popular for this at the moment, but Finland (which is not, technically, Scandinavian, but o well whatevs) has its share of devout followers. Yes, I suppose we could all be taciturn troll-hunters if so moved, but only if we lived in a small, mostly uninhabitable northern wasteland where the hobbies are burning churches, raising taxes, and suicide. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

on the other hand...

     In all candor, show me another polity that would allow itself to be so wracked (!) over the use of torture by its agents. There are a few I'm sure, but not that many. How often does China go into public paroxysms of doubt and moral self-excoriation over its labor camps and summary executions? Think there's a lot of *public* soul-searching in the halls of the Kremlin for all the world to see? Do we still await that very public report on the appalling condition of prisons in France, set within a system that demands the accused prove his innocence against a presumption of guilt, and where the judge is empowered to determine if the accused can even mount a case? But yes, Brutus is an honorable man etcetera. (Again, this isn't about particular souls in their private cells contemplating their culpability in the light of eternity.) There's something unique about a place where, yes, it takes forever to get at the truth, and yes, there are always those who offer public apologies for the worst offenses, but where, yes, people rise up and put their very polity and its laws to the test in light of its worst failures. I do much wonder what more we can expect this side of the Second Coming.

just an observation...

     I confess that it sometimes seems to me that many who live here would just as soon US society finally collapse. It's as if these people can't wait for the next financial crisis, or a massive oil spill, or some geophysical calamity created by a confluence of widespread fracking and the reactivation of long-forgotten fault-lines. We just can't punish ourselves enough you see for all the evil we have unleashed. If only we had remained aloof and neutral, this idyllic world would have advanced to ever greater tolerance and peace, but no, we had to go and wreak havoc with our imperial ambitions and our obsession with oil. For this, and many other failures, our doom is certain, and certainly at hand. It cannot come swiftly enough for these confident yet casual observers, for all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well when all Americans wear hair shirts and eke out livings as latter day Hobbits (nasty little bastards with their blood and soil *sense of place*). Then, once we have purged ourselves of the guilt of having existed in a terrible history which we did not create, we can rest easy in the New Kingdom. It's a nightmare whose consummation is devoutly desired by many.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

46 years ago Thomas Merton died, so here's a poem...

A Dream

     Dante and Li Po wandered along a lakeshore.  Li Po wished to dive in after the moon’s reflection.  Dante held him back. 
     Later, they drank wine, exchanged verses.  Dante offered, ‘As a cunning man cures ills with his secret knowledge, so will our occult friendship heal these wounds of exile.’  Li Po responded, ‘I’ll return to my porch, drink some hot wine, and think of you always while watching the stars.’ 
     Li Po sadly kept vigil, for the moon’s reflection faded as the sun rose.  After exchanging gifts with Li Po and taking his leave, Dante dove in seeking a stone long come to rest on the bottom.  Li Po was too drunk to stop him. 
     After waiting a while, Li Po gathered his cup, his wine, his walking stick, and wandered away through the mist.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

a little whine with breakfast...

     It's five in the morning. I've been up since about three.
     That's it. Nothing more profound to report, just that I've already been up and moving about for two hours and it's not even properly o'dark-thirty. O, and I have to work today.
     This is going to be the best day ever.

Monday, December 1, 2014

while I have your attention...

     So, you people know it's just a trailer, right? And that the original movies weren't that good, right?
     Hello? Is there anybody out there?

too many books!

     It is time once again for a book purge. This one will not be as extensive as the last one, but it will no doubt inflict some pain. Already two boxes of books destined from before the foundation of the universe for perdition stand by the back door, manifesting the glory of my terrible justice. As always, you cannot say why one books stays while another goes. It is only the decree of my inscrutable will that determines how the judgment will fall. Some books I love, some books I no longer love - it was but a temporary state of grace you see - while some books I neither love nor hate. With that, I return to my task. Peace out.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

faithless in little things...

     A string broke on my classical guitar. Around these parts, that's a big deal. Couldn't find any strings in any of the places you'd normally find 'em, which shows how negligent I have been in this vital spiritual matter. Until tomorrow, she will remain mute and practically entombed in her case.
     Advent is a season of repentance, and I see now that I have much to do in a short time.

This terrifies me.

you guys sure are weird...

     I'm ever so fond of my friends near and far, but for the life of me it sometimes feels like we come from different worlds. I suppose that's the Way it's meant to be, and it doesn't bother me in the least (well, sometimes it does, but that's life in the Big City you know). 
     Still, my friends, you'll lose me - in the sense that I won't understand you - if you make references to, inter alia: Doctor Who at too great a level of detail (which Doctor is which, how they dressed, who the Bad Guys were and are, what's happened in the last three years, etc); Star Wars as though it's still a Thing; Tolkien, because he's overrated and most of us are not in high school anymore; any of C S Lewis's fiction, and almost all of his nonfiction (his criticism is, oddly, rarely mentioned though it's quite good); Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, mostly because I think they suck; comic books; video games after 1989; most anything intended strictly 'for children' (this goes all the way back to when I was a child); Gilbert & Sullivan (I only know a couple of lines because they're in other movies or television shows); etc. Any mention of Chesterton is likely to make me want to strangle a puppy, especially if it's a clever quote meant to Explain Something Important.
     None of that is evil (well, Chesterton...), it's just from another world. So I love y'all, my friends, but I really don't know what the hell you're talking about half the time.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

why not post a low quality photo of myself?

Your humble chef and factotum. I look like an escaped convict who broke into the house and decided to do some cooking.

Um, sorry for the mess. I made eggnog.

an interim report...

     Last night we completed Phase 1 of Thanksgiving Cookingpalooza 2014 by making stew and biscuits. I also confected The Nog and prepped for Phase 2, a Thanksgiving breakfast of french toast served with The Nog after it has chilled several hours. I am pleased to report that Phase 2 was a smashing success. The Nog goes well with french toast, o yes it does. 
     We've already begun Phase 3. I sautéed onions, celery, mushrooms, etc, for the dressing. I also made a wine/brandy/stock mixture for said dressing. Now Lea Ann has taken over the kitchen to prepare The Bird. Later I will make my Insanely Good Mashed Potatoes. O, and there is still plenty of The Nog in the refrigerator.
     Here endeth the interim report on Thanksgiving Cookingpalooza 2014. I'll leave you with these words from the Reverend MacLean in A River Runs Through It: 'I'd say the Lord has blessed us all today. It's just that he's been particularly good to me' 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

a couple of things in the news...

     Somehow I've never thought of cricket. 
     Seriously, cricket never crosses my mind, or at least it didn't until this morning. Now that I have thought of cricket, the sport doesn't look that violent to me. Yet there's this guy named Phillip Hughes you see, and he's on death's door, felled during a cricket match of all things. 
     O, and they've thrown a proper riot in Ferguson, which will no doubt make things all better. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

help out a writer with too many books and not enough time...

     I seek a patron, one reasonably indifferent to what I do as long as the requisite sonnets and epithalamia appear at the appointed times. If you know anyone who would like to set me up with $3k a week, let me know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

the gospel according to Beckett...

     As always, Sam’s wisdom is apt to the day: ‘All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’ 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

so you know...

I've been up since 2:30am. That's all. Suffering needs no embellishment. 

pre-flight whining...

Why do people insist on bringing bags bigger than Cadillacs onto the plane? They're wedging the damn things into the overhead compartments with crowbars and frontloaders. This is why it takes fifteen hours for everyone to find their seats.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

South Park Tells About the Foundation of Mormonism and Joseph Smith

This about sums it up.

only God and the Marines are up that early...

     I must rise at o'dark-thirty in the morning to catch my flight to Jacksonville. That's 3am in human time, which is about when I like to fall asleep. So, it should be a doddle, a cinch, a lark, a piece of cake, a walk in the park...

my very own modest proposal...

     While we're killing children for convenience and profit, we might as well use the opportunity to see who really means what they say. So, I propose we decree that those who declare themselves 'Pro Choice,' either by explicit statement or by the votes they cast and their common associations, must register to kill an unborn child before they will be allowed once again to vote, hold office, serve on a jury, drive a car, register for a firearm, or legally work in the US. What's more, each of the killings must be of a child at four months development or later. 
     The use of proxies for these killings would be forbidden. Under the supervision of licensed professionals, those who are 'Pro Choice' must themselves deliver the chemicals to burn the child to death, or they must dismember the child. If need be, they must partially deliver the child, insert the scissors, and suck out the child's complex brain so as to make the skull collapse. No one who is 'Pro Choice' would be exempt for any reason. 
     (Those who have openly declared themselves 'Pro Life,' but who exhibit all the proclivities of those who are 'Pro Choice,' will be required to participate in this program.)
     Those who complete the killing of an unborn child will be given a tattoo signifying their willingness to kill a helpless human person who is completely vulnerable and at their mercy. After being given their special tattoo insignia, they will also be given the remains of the unborn child they killed as a reminder of their special day. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I've wandered into a Stephen King novel. 
Did you ever have the feeling that something was fighting you, something you couldn't see? 

Yeah, you're right, that's crazy talk.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

just noodling about...

     Won't do a job that requires neckties. The damn things should only be worn at funerals to signify the absurdity of death. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Denys Turner on Julian of Norwich...

     Turner spins an argument that I find challenging, since for years I have been on the 'Scotist' side of that great divide about the 'necessity' of the Incarnation. In short, so the question goes, would the Second Person of the Trinity have become incarnate had Humanity not sinned? Mine has been a kind of 'soft Scotist' answer to that question, inasmuch as on the one hand I find it a bit pointless given that Humanity did in fact sin, while on the other hand I would never confess that the Fall took God by surprise. He had no need for an emergency remedy, yet the Incarnation is a remedy indeed.
     So, to Turner we go.
     'And the reason why Julian would appear to have less need of this Scotist distinction is that she has less trouble with seeing the Fall as behovely, because for her the divine end of self-disclosure in glorified humanity is most fully achieved precisely through the single complex event of the Fall and its remedy. Creation, Fall, and Redemption are all of a piece with one another, embodying in their conjunction the primary and only motive of the Incarnation.
     '...Within that providential act the Fall is indeed a crucial element, but not as if standing outside it and as if necessitating it causally. That, of course, was the principal burden of the example of the Lord and the Servant: Adam's fall and the falling of the divine Word into Mary's womb are one and the same falling. Hence Julian, unlike Scotus, has no need to distinguish between what God would have willed absolutely had human beings not in fact fallen, and a secondary motivation arising out of the fact that human beings did in fact do so. From all eternity "sin is behovely." That is all we can know as governing the Incarnation's necessity, because all you need to know by way of answering Anselm's question is that "it is a joy, a blisse, and endlesse liking to me that ever I sufferd passion for the[e]."'

bears repeating...

     '...it is never unequivocally clear who God is. The one for whom we live and die, whom we love or hate, who possesses us in our inmost being, yields the evidence. If this is so, then Christianity is not merely akin to conviction, even less a mere religious doctrine, or conversely a particular morality within a limited social sphere. Rather it is worldwide service in the discipleship of Jesus and in resistance to superstition. What is determinative is the tie to the Lord, who was crucified on Golgotha, ' Ernst Kasemann.

Friday, October 17, 2014

flee the madness while there's time!

     So, one sign that I should flee the Proper Job came in the form of an email to 'all employees', in which we were informed of an important update to company policies. Seems that twenty years is sufficient to earn four weeks of vacation. That's right, after twenty years, you can have your four weeks, but wait - don't try to take 'em all at once.
     What the hell? First you tell me I have to work on Sundays - which, mind you, contradicts what they told me at the interview - and now this? I mean, the hideous break room with the blaring television and the sea of dead eyes I can endure, sort of, but this manhandling of my time is beyond the pale. 

     Y'all fight so hard for these jahbs. Why? I'm happily returning to the world of independent contractors. Join me. It's harder at times, yes, and there is no job security to speak of, but you set your own hours, pay your own way to earning as much as you want (it's running a business you see), no one can legally bark orders at you, and you can take as much time off as you please. Walk toward the light, my friends, walk toward the light. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

something from Dame Julian...

     'The blewhed of the clothyng betokenyth his stedfastnesse. The brownhed of his feyer face with the semely blackhede of the eyen was most accordyng to shew his holy sobyrnesse. The largnesse of his clothyng, whych was feyer, flammyng about, betokenyth that he hath beclosyd in hym all hevyns and all endlesse joy and blysse. And this was shewed in a touch, wher I saw that my understandyng was led in to the lorde, in whych I saw hym heyly enjoye for the worschypfull restoryng that he wyll and shall bryng hys servanunt to by hys plentuous grace,' Shewings XIV.51. 
     I now have a sign on the wall by the desk in my home office that reads DON'T BE PRUDENT. 
     Wisdom, let us attend.

things to do, people to annoy...

     Tomorrow morning I have a few things to do. First, I quit my job. Then, it's time for a lovely omelette at a diner that has the best iced tea as well. Perhaps I'll have the fried potatoes as well with some salt and pepper. That'll hit the spot. 

a concise definition of 'the Church thing'...

     You know, the weirder workings of the deus absconditus, and the hard to parse distinction between a simply and stupidly heretical coven, and the catholica hidden sub contrario, can drive a man to his wit's end. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

a proposal for Indigenous Peoples Day...

     Now, you might imagine that Indigenous Peoples Day is just another condescending project for bien pensant middling folk everywhere, a way for such middlers to find yet another use for people they know little about and care about even less. But you would be wrong. It is a chance for us to call to memory the forgotten history that has shaped our present just as assuredly as the Master Narrative cobbled by the victors. 
     On this auspicious Indigenous Peoples Day, let us celebrate the Aztec Empire. More specifically, let us celebrate the fall of the Aztec Empire. Seriously, two expansionist empires collided, and one fell as a result. What's more, the one that fell was based on slavery and human sacrifice. The larger empire that resulted was, it's true, based on slavery, but there was no human sacrifice. Quetzalcoatl was banished, and believe me, that was a good thing.

Want to be an Aztec? Behold your god.

     See? This is a fitting tribute on this Indigenous Peoples Day, one that will in no way fill any of us with a feeling of smug satisfaction at our own moral superiority. Go forth, dear reader, and hold high festival this year, remembering the fall of one of the most brutally omnivorous empires in the history of the world. 

television is good for you...

     So, yes, I indulged in some Classic Television, and for the first time in many a year spent a few hours watching Star Trek The Next Generation, and no, I did not come upon the lost episode where Wesley Crusher is tossed out an airlock. I did, however, watch quite a few episodes that featured the whimsical Q. I like Q. He's gleefully amoral, a kind of Dionysus manqué, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to run into such a being Out There. He's certainly more fun than the Captain, who, to my surprise, grates on me with his monotone moralism. None of this changes the fact that TNG is generally bad, mind you, and it reminds me that once upon a time I was baffled that no one ever made a movie centered on Q. O well, it's all history as they say. Tomorrow I go to my Proper Job, and will no longer have time to indulge in such ridiculous pursuits. That's sad. 

Columbus Day is really just a day off for most people, but whatever...

     On this fraught Columbus Day, let us speak of the ways we invest Columbus with symbolic significance, either as a hero or a villain, a significance he did not have in his own day. (The refashioning of Columbus as an Italian-American Hero, for instance, is both touching and pathetic.) Let's also take a cold, hard look at the ways we have transformed the Arawaks et al into Indigenous Peoples, of a uniform innocence and purity opposed to the grasping, violent Western Conquerers.   
     [Hypothesis: At some point the specter of Rousseau would appear, casting his shadow over all that came before him. Just a thought.]
     None of this is to suggest that Columbus was a particularly pleasant fellow, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was at once barely competent and ridiculously violent in the administration, so to speak, of his domain. But it's annoying all the same that there can be no dispassionate assessment of a rather complicated history. 
     For my part, this yearly masochistic thrashing of the guilty dead has bored me from the first time I encountered it at the university twenty-three years ago. Imagine a yearly fit of hand-wringing over the sacking of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths, or the conquest of North Africa by the Vandals. Our Columbus Festival, wherein we excoriate his memory to purge ourselves of the guilt of having been born on this side of history, is just as stupid. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

why is it so dark in here?

     So here I am, looking around the ER offices. Seems the electricity has been cut off, so I need a flashlight to see all the cobwebs and the dust, the scattered papers and loose ceiling tiles. Looks like a pipe burst over there on the far wall. That'll cost me. O well, here I am, back to work, after quite a while away doing God only knows what.
     Really, a lot has happened since last your humble narrator saw fit to come to the office. My life has taken many turns, some for the better, some for the worst, some whose consequences remain to be seen. I have left one job and taken another. I have taken steps to return to graduate school, after many long dull boring years of talking about it, although it's nothing like any of us imagined. (For one thing, I'm not studying theology in grad school, not yet anyway.) More momentous to no one in particular is the simple fact that I have resolved the Church Thing, by not resolving it. Not to put too fine a point on it, I remain the strange Luthodox humbug you've known and loved since 2004, and the wife and I will be attending a Luderan parish.
     To the last, I refuse to be anyone's convert.
     O, and I've taken to reading Robert Jenson once again. It feels like the time to do so. I suspect the disagreements will remain. I just feel the need for something bracing and brilliant.
     Speaking of bracing and brilliant, Maximus the Confessor has taken up residence at Chez Hall, and I am quite enjoying the new edition of his Ambigua. I remain a heretic in despite of Luther's dismissal of Denys the Areopagite, and really don't see what the problem is. Also on deck is Edmund Schlink and Herman Broch, the later if I recall being no friend to the Reformation. So sad - he has important things to say about art and the limits thereof, things I need to revisit. I'm also reading Eksteins and Fussell. As what I predict will be a cold, damp Autumn winds down, I should have a look at the new book by Richard Hays, along with a few other things. Suffice it to say, we'll have a few things to write about in the coming months. 

     For now, though, I need to have someone clean this place up. It's a mess. 
     Peace out.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

let's all grow up, what do you say?

     If you believe that Capitalism exists, and that it is evil, then I have some fairly rigorous criteria that will determine whether or not I take you seriously. I might listen to you, but first you have to tell me, truthfully and without hesitation, that you can watch with your own eyes as people starve to death during the transition whatever New Order seems best to you. I'm not talking about the kind of injustice we have now, which is bad enough, but the deliberate death by starvation of millions, possibly billions, of people worldwide, starting with your own family. You also have to accept, and endure, the deaths of still more untold millions from disease and the warfare that will wrack the planet as chaos spreads. If you can't handle that, then you have to tell me how to pay for the complete subjugation of all people under martial law. Tell me who goes up against the wall, who you are willing to co-opt as useful idiots, and who makes the cut as the inevitable elect. If you tell me there would be no elect, then I know you're lying because the very fact that you can advocate something so nebulous and yet so destructive as the uprooting of an entire social order tells me that you imagine yourself among that elect
     If none of the above applies to you, then stop talking to me about the Evils Of Capitalism. You're not serious. You like it all just fine, and have a more or less interesting, if not comfortable niche within the Order Of Things, but you fancy yourself a Radical in some way. You're not. (If you drive a hybrid or an electric car, then you're even more deluded.) So let's dial it down, and start talking about how we can raise up those who are cast down without immiserating the rest. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

lazy cross-platform post...

     I'm always surprised for some reason when I learn that others are more cynical than I am. Perhaps I never had any grand expectations to be dashed against experience, but it's true, I'm not really a cynic. I never looked for grandeur from Rome, or any other City of Man, and so I could enjoy the ambiguous beauty of Virgil's poetry, just to take one example. He surely thought the founding of the Imperium, after decades, even centuries, of civil war and political purges, to be a gift of tranquilitas. He also knew what was lost, and lamented that loss, and at times you can hear him wondering if it was all worth it. (Amazing how many people fail to read all of Virgil, but that's for another day.) 
     Then, too, we can read Tacitus and Sallust, Polybius, even from time to time Livy and Cicero, to learn just how far from the Republican Ideal Rome fell even during the Republic. They were searching for something - or rather, for Someone - and kept chasing darkness while running from the light. In this way, they were like The Greeks, who were really the Athenians, the Spartans, the Corinthians. Reread Thucydides alongside the tragedians who remain alive - notice anything? Thucydides writes the Tragedy of the Fall of Athens, and Plato finds the fallen City a Cave fit only for slaves, not citizens. 
     That others erected their utopias on an illusion of Rome and Greece is interesting at times, but not as beautiful, sad, or real as the Greeks and Romans themselves.