Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fancy-Schmancy School Projects

This is the video my little brother made as part of his project on the Vietnam War. I think it's pretty good and, compliments of my little sister's YouTube account, here it is:

song credit: "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay

Is anyone else nostalgic for the days of poster boards and crayolas?

We're going to start filming for our parents' anniversary video too, maybe I'll put some of those up as well...

Monday, March 29, 2010

"The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education of children."

While doing research for my thesis, I have the pleasure of reading documents like papal encyclicals. Today I read Pope Pius XI's "Casti Connubii" (delivered in Rome on December 31, 1930) on Christian marriage, which followed the 1930 Lambeth Conference (Anglicans), which loosened the Protestant objections to birth control and, consequently, the binding of a true marriage. I enjoyed reading it immensely and it certainly made me think about many things, including the will of God over the will of Man. There was a passage or two which made the Libertarian in me flair up a little, but there was a comfort in it as well, knowing that one accepts things not because it's easy to understand the whats and whys, but rather because one must, and that understanding and grace to accept and be content will come, because there is God who loves us. He never promised an easy path to Heaven, but He still provided a way to get there.

I feel like life is currently a constant juxtaposition of my closely held beliefs and the actions of people I encounter in day-to-day life. Yesterday, my family attended an engagement shower where most of the couples there were cohabitating and didn't think twice about it. I talked to my parents about it in relation to my thesis (I know, it'll never leave my mind), in relation to Christianity, in relation to Catholicism and in relation to the health of society. It really ruffled me and partly because that kind of knowledge leads me to not be very excited about the wedding, which I know might seem rude, but I don't see this union as the noble institution that marriage is meant to be. One should be excited for marriages but I can't seem to give two figs about it.

Too much emphasis is put today on weddings being perfect. I don't like the term "the bride's day." Uh, I'm pretty sure there's a groom involved too, and two families coming together. With the divorce rate at about 50% too, I think weddings would be more exciting if people prepared more for the actual marriage, which isn't going to be all lovey-dovey. It's going to be Love, yes, wholly Loving the other person for exactly who they are and, from that, creating little souls to play with and educate and Love more than humanly possible, but it's going to be hard and it's going to be work and it's going to be the best part of life, if one lets it to be.

I love the way marriage is seen in the Book of Tobit. In Tobit 8:4-8, right after Tobiah and Sarah are married: "When the girl's parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, "My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance." She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. He began with these words: "Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.' Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age." They said together, "Amen, amen," and went to bed."

Instead, yesterday, the engagement shower seemed more like a thing to do, a time to get gifts, the next stage in the board game. It bothered me knowing they've already had sex, which isn't a novelty these days. I'm not completely naive, even I have been sheltered; I might prefer not to talk about things, but I know most of my friends from home have done it and I know most people I'll work with and meet after college will have already done it as well before marriage. I feel more prepared, however, then I did four years ago. I'm definitely more sure and set in my foundation, having truly grown in my faith; and tripped in my faith, and tried in my faith, and literally pushed to my knees because of my faith, which seemed so much simpler in my childhood catechism days.

I love that C.S. Lewis said “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.... A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.” (Nicely said, Lewis.)

I know everyone's faced the good, the bad, and the ugly, and it is in this way that I look forward to leaving my Hillsdale bubble and being counter-cultural (like a salmon perhaps); part of being Catholic is living in the world without being of the world, and I'm almost ready to embark. I think. Almost. Okay, not yet, but I know God will provide me with the fortitude when the time comes.

Anyways, I've also been reading speeches by LBJ and company, but I don't feel like sharing his words of wisdom. They are motivated from quite a different source than where the Pope drew his inspiration. I hope you like and read more--it really is a beautiful open letter.

Casti Connubii excerpts:

"We have decided therefore to speak to you, Venerable Brethren, and through you to the whole Church of Christ and indeed to the whole human race, on the nature and dignity of Christian marriage, on the advantages and benefits which accrue from it to the family and to human society itself, on the errors contrary to this most important point of the Gospel teaching, on the vices opposed to conjugal union, and lastly on the principal remedies to be applied. ...We hereby confirm and make Our own, and while We wish to expound more fully certain points called for by the circumstances of our times, nevertheless We declare that, far from being obsolete, it retains its full force at the present day."

"This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love."


"These, then, are the elements which compose the blessing of conjugal faith: unity, chastity, charity, honorable noble obedience, which are at the same time an enumeration of the benefits which are bestowed on husband and wife in their married state, benefits by which the peace, the dignity and the happiness of matrimony are securely preserved and fostered. Wherefore it is not surprising that this conjugal faith has always been counted amongst the most priceless and special blessings of matrimony."


"All of these things, Venerable Brethren, you must consider carefully and ponder over with a lively faith if you would see in their true light the extraordinary benefits on matrimony - offspring, conjugal faith, and the sacrament. No one can fail to admire the divine Wisdom, Holiness and Goodness which, while respecting the dignity and happiness of husband and wife, has provided so bountifully for the conservation and propagation of the human race by a single chaste and sacred fellowship of nuptial union."


"All of which agrees with the stern words of the Bishop of Hippo in denouncing those wicked parents who seek to remain childless, and failing in this, are not ashamed to put their offspring to death: 'Sometimes this lustful cruelty or cruel lust goes so far as to seek to procure a baneful sterility, and if this fails the fetus conceived in the womb is in one way or another smothered or evacuated, in the desire to destroy the offspring before it has life, or if it already lives in the womb, to kill it before it is born. If both man and woman are party to such practices they are not spouses at all; and if from the first they have carried on thus they have come together not for honest wedlock, but for impure gratification; if both are not party to these deeds, I make bold to say that either the one makes herself a mistress of the husband, or the other simply the paramour of his wife.'"


"Evil is not to be done that good may come of it."


"Those who hold the reins of government should not forget that it is the duty of public authority by appropriate laws and sanctions to defend the lives of the innocent, and this all the more so since those whose lives are endangered and assailed cannot defend themselves. Among whom we must mention in the first place infants hidden in the mother's womb. And if the public magistrates not only do not defend them, but by their laws and ordinances betray them to death at the hands of doctors or of others, let them remember that God is the Judge and Avenger of innocent blood which cried from earth to Heaven."


"This, however, is not the true emancipation of woman, nor that rational and exalted liberty which belongs to the noble office of a Christian woman and wife; it is rather the debasing of the womanly character and the dignity of motherhood, and indeed of the whole family, as a result of which the husband suffers the loss of his wife, the children of their mother, and the home and the whole family of an ever watchful guardian. More than this, this false liberty and unnatural equality with the husband is to the detriment of the woman herself, for if the woman descends from her truly regal throne to which she has been raised within the walls of the home by means of the Gospel, she will soon be reduced to the old state of slavery (if not in appearance, certainly in reality) and become as amongst the pagans the mere instrument of man."


"To conclude with the important words of Leo XIII, since the destruction of family life 'and the loss of national wealth is brought about more by the corruption of morals than by anything else, it is easily seen that divorce, which is born of the perverted morals of a people, and leads, as experiment shows, to vicious habits in public and private life, is particularly opposed to the well-being of the family and of the State. The serious nature of these evils will be the more clearly recognized, when we remember that, once divorce has been allowed, there will be no sufficient means of keeping it in check within any definite bounds. Great is the force of example, greater still that of lust; and with such incitements it cannot but happen that divorce and its consequent setting loose of the passions should spread daily and attack the souls of many like a contagious disease or a river bursting its banks and flooding the land.'"


"But not only in regard to temporal goods, Venerable Brethren, is it the concern of the public authority to make proper provision for matrimony and the family, but also in other things which concern the good of souls. Just laws must be made for the protection of chastity, for reciprocal conjugal aid, and for similar purposes, and these must be faithfully enforced, because, as history testifies, the prosperity of the State and the temporal happiness of its citizens cannot remain safe and sound where the foundation on which they are established, which is the moral order, is weakened and where the very fountainhead from which the State draws its life, namely, wedlock and the family, is obstructed by the vices of its citizens."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Elusiveness in Eliot, Middlemarch Madness and Thesis Thursday

My Dad sent this to me near the end of my freshman year with a fresh box of tea to keep me going during finals. That was obviously before I started drinking coffee my sophomore/ junior year. I love post-it notes. They are so multi-purposeful! Heather and I, for example, have a quote wall where we write funny things we say or hear people say on post-it notes. People like to come in our room and read them, even when we're not there. We also prank people with them (usually the inhabitants of KKG 10), write to-do lists and leave little encouragements around the room for each other. The are like mini-epistolary communications!

Monday I had a precis due for my Southern Lit class on my research paper, Tuesday I had a paper due for my journalism class and Friday my thesis is due. It is easy to say I have been a busy and highly caffeinated little bee lately! Last night was the Trace Buncy concert, which was awesome and then Taylor, Zach and I had a thesis writing party into the wee hours of the morning (say, 5 a.m.? That made my 8 a.m. interesting, to say the least), with guest appearances by Mitch, Trevor and Henry, the Delts' mascot. I've made really good progress and am feeling good about it. I started my entire thesis over because I decided to re-organize the information. This is easily my 8th draft/ version to better follow the format of the Moynihan Report. We'll see how far I get today.

No matter what happens tonight though, I'll be home tomorrow, and that's what's pushing me through. Spring Break is coming very late this year. It normally happens around my birthday, which is nice, because then A) I'm home to celebrate my birthday with my family and B) Dad and I could have gone out to the pub for a beer on St. Pat's Day, like we did last year. That would have been really great. Oh country roads, take me home! This SB10, I'll be writing two papers, two articles and catching up on reading, etc. so it won't be a relaxing break per se, but I will be home with my family, dog and friends, and what will be wonderful. :)

Thursday poem: "Macavity: The Mystery Cat" by T.S. Eliot

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air--
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square--
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair--
Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!

And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair--
But it's useless of investigate--Macavity's not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
"It must have been Macavity!"--but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macacity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibit, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place--MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

First Things is hosting a Tournament of Novels! (Middlemarch Madness, shall we say?) Definitely vote, it's good fun. Warning: there are lots of good books, you may be forced with near moral dilemmas picking between them.

Here's some music to soothe y'all through Thursday and into Friday...

Johnny Flynn's "The Wrote and the Writ"

Regina Spektor's "Laughing With"

The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"

and this was good to hear since we're entering into the specialization of science epoch in History of Science and Christianity:

Happy Thursday! One week till Holy Week officially begins!

"Lent is a time when we relive the passion of Christ. Let it not be just a time when our feelings are roused, but let it be a change that comes through cooperation with God's grace in real sacrifices of self. Sacrifice, to be real, must cost; it must hurt; it must empty us of self. Let us go through the passion of Christ day by day."
--Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Thursday, March 18, 2010

post-midterm poem

"Southern Literature" by Andrew Hudgins

She hunched in the backseat and fired
one Lucky off the one before.
She talked about her good friend Bill.
No one wrote like Bill anymore.

When the silence grew uncomfortable,
she's count out my six crumpled ones
and ask, noblesse oblige, "How ah
your literary lubrications

progressing?" "Not good," I'd snarl. My poems
were going no where, like me--raw,
twenty-eight, and having, she said,
a worm's eye view of life. And awe--

I had no sense of awe. But once
I lied, "Terrific! The Atlantic
accepted five." She smiled benignly,
composed and gaily fatalistic,

as I hammered to Winn-Dixie, revving
the slant six till it bucked and sputtered.
She smoothed her blue unwrinkled dress.
"Bill won the Nobel Prize," she purred.

If I laid rubber to the interstate,
and started speeding, how long, I wondered,
how long would she scream before she prayed?
Would she sing before I murdered her?

Would we make Memphis or New Orleans?
The world is gorgeous now, and bigger.
I reached for the gun I didn't own.
I chambered awe. I pulled the trigger.

Dr. Somerville read us this poem on the first day of class and I love it. We had our midterm yesterday and it was quite difficult, but I feel decent about it. I know I switched one of the IDs (the quote's speaker was Ran MacLain, but I said it was Eugene MacLain, his twin brother-- wah-wah). I do know, through class survey, that I am the only one who got the Caroline Barr question right. Caroline Barr, since you're so curious, was William Faulkner's black mammy whom he dedicated 'Go Down, Moses' to.

I am currently in the Chemistry lounge in Strosacker with Vivian, working on the thesis. If the science people know I'm not one of them, they're not calling me out. I like it here because I can usually get away with working past 3 a.m., even though most buildings on campus close down earlier (library at 1, classroom buildings at 2) because once I'm back at Kappa, my mind starts to shut down for the night or I start talking to Heather. Pure will is going to make me stay here to push through a couple more thesis pages, because I am exhausted and it's barely 10:30 p.m. It is crunch time, though. No excuses or justifications at this point, only results.

In other news, LBJ may be my new most disliked president, but the Mumford and Sons station on Pandora is pretty great.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day!

We shall come back, no doubt, to walk down the Row and watch young people on the tennis courts by the clump of mimosas and walk down the beach by the bay, where the diving floats gently in the sun, and out to the pine grove, where the needles thick on the ground will deaden the footfall so that we shall move among the trees as soundlessly as smoke. But that will be a long time from now, and soon now we shall go out of the house and go into the convulsion of the world, and out of history into history and the awful responsibility of Time.
--Robert Penn Warren, 'All the King's Men'

My first post as a 22 year old, so I think the quote appropriate. I've had two people tell me know how bland 22 is, and though I only into my 22nd year by 2 days, I respectfully disagree. People who say life is dull or say that they are bored are missing out. There is so much to know, so much to learn, so much to experience in this finite lifetime and 22 is exactly the kind of year that is going to prove fantastic, if not also hard and trying. Every year is a new kind of adventure: when I was 10, I entered the double-digits and my responsibilities began to double. I was the oldest of 5 kids by the time I turned 10. Over the next 8 years, I would become a second mother to my little siblings. That also didn't mean life stopped for me: it meant more people to take along for the ride.

The three little kids particularly still talk about the summer between junior and senior year, the summer of Queen and Bob Dylan sing-alongs and trips to the parks and aquarium. That was also the summer after a difficult school year. My junior year, my mother had a herniated disk and was bed-ridden, so I had to buy the groceries and pack the lunches, hold hands, give kisses, and trust that everything would be okay; it was also the year my lacrosse team won our division; the year I took AP US from Mr. Elliott (the first teacher to push me to think critically-- the reason I am an American Studies major); it was the year I began to seriously run long-distance; the year found out who my true friends in high school were. Yet that was my 17th year, the year everyone said would be boring because it was the year after I got my license but before I became legal. That certainly wasn't a boring year for me.

My sister and I were talking about that on my birthday, what it means to be old. She called me up and teased me about how that day was a special day, that March 12th; she just couldn't put her finger on why. What is old? An age or a mindset? There is, of course, the old one sees in grandparents, a growing frailty of body. Then there is the old of mind, a sage wisdom one acquires with study and experience. There is, of course, maturity and there is cultivated taste, but I think the old most people recognize is age, that tangible mark where one's years on earth are counted and celebrated. Age is a ticking of a clock (biological or otherwise), and an awful responsibility, joy and hope time brings with it. Every year older in one year closer to Christ, and one year closer to the Resurrection. It's our job now to be worthy of such an honor.

Speaking of time, back to typing furiously.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

though we do not speak often/ still I write you letters by the thousands in my mind

"Elegy for the Personal Letter" by Allison Joseph

I miss the rumpled corners of correspondence,
the ink blots and crossouts that show
someone lives on the other end, a person
whose hands make errors, leave traces.
I miss fine stationary, its raised elegant
lettering prominent on creamy shades of ivory
or pearl grey. I even miss hasty notes
dashed off on notebook paper, edges
ragged as their scribbled messages—
can't much write now—thinking of you.
When letters come now, they are formatted
by some distant computer, addressed
to Occupant or To the family living at—
meager greetings at best,
salutations made by committee.
Among the glossy catalogs
and one time only offers
the bills and invoices,
letters arrive so rarely now that I drop
all other mail to the floor when
an envelope arrives and the handwriting
is actual handwriting, the return address
somewhere I can locate on any map.
So seldom is it that letters come
That I stop everything else
to identify the scrawl that has come this far—
the twist and the whirl of the letters,
the loops of the numerals. I open
those envelopes first, forgetting
the claim of any other mail,
hoping for news I could not read
in any other way but this.

Monday, March 8, 2010

We Cincinnatians speak Chipotle fluently

Rachel, here's reading for your Tuesday afternoon: the column I wrote for my Mark Steyn journalism seminar. (He is awesome, by the way. I had lunch with him and a few Collegian people today and had a fantastic time talking to him. He wears great ties!)

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Hablo Ingles

In George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, linguist Professor Henry Higgins playfully pokes fun at America, saying it hadn’t spoken English in years. In 1921, critic H.L. Mencken wrote The American Language. The book authenticates the type of English spoken in the United States, found by Mencken to be more vibrant than its counterparts. In turn, the 2004 movie Spanglish brought a new word into mainstream vocabulary, characterizing a language spoken in the U.S. by both Latinos and chic Anglo-Americans eating in Mexican restaurants. Spanglish is part-Spanish, part-English; a bridge between two previously irreconcilable languages in a country that is currently composed of almost 16% Hispanic- and Latin-Americans, the second-largest ethnic group in America.

30 states have laws upholding English as the official language, with Oklahoma voting this coming November 2nd on a similar referendum. The movement has picked up momentum in recent years as a response to public-school classes in Spanish instead of English, bilingual billboards and the necessity for hospitals to have translators on staff. The ACLU and other opponents of this type of legislation argue that it is an attempt to discourage people from immigrating to the United States.

Immigration is not the predicament, however; the various means of immigration have proven problematic. Those not officially naturalized as American citizens may be just as patriotic as their counterparts, but the important difference lies in a spoken oath, the Pledge of Allegiance. Illegal immigrants have not sworn loyalty to their new residence, nor do they participate in citizenry acts like paying taxes or voting. People who immigrate to countries for better lives pursue a noble goal, but undermine their very ends by not abiding by the new country’s laws while still using its resources.

It is easy to be sympathetic towards immigrants: nearly all Americans were immigrants at one point in their family tree. Sympathy, nevertheless, is not the same as selection. There are currently 12-20 million illegal immigrants in the United States, with only a rough million being naturalized each year. Mexicans have the lowest percentage of naturalized citizens, being only a fourth of the total, but accounting for 32% of all foreign-born U.S. residents. Jeffery S. Passel, a Senior Research Associate of the Pew Hispanic Center, found that people are more likely to become naturalized if they speak English well, have a job and have a high income. The problem thus arising is the formation of a Hispanic underclass, which is radically transforming the country’s laws and attitudes.

Many Hispanic immigrants cannot speak, read or write basic English, not even after the required 5 years of continuous living the U.S., which is another requirement for naturalization. Many American cities, therefore, have integrated more Spanish into public places, like on transportation and street signs. In the past 5 years, there has been an active discussion of Spanish becoming America’s second language. Yet when people illegally immigrate into a country and are then accommodated, not assimilated, sympathies for them as human beings tends to diminish their lawless behavior in the eyes of citizens. The focus thus becomes human rights, not human action.

The overabundant presence of illegal immigrants in the country cannot be doubted, nor can it be ignored. After Prohibition was passed by the 18th amendment, for example, normally law-abiding ordinary citizens learned the reward of breaking the law and looking the other way, essentially allowing organized crime to gain a foothold all over the country. It would have been more effective to abide by the law and democratically work towards overturning the constitutional amendment, as they eventually did in 1933 by the 21st amendment. Similarly, current immigration policies need to reflect the law. If America chooses to assimilate all illegal immigrants, then programs need to be implemented for immigrants to learn English and take civic classes. But if the only national action taken is to accommodate people who are not willing or able to become citizens due to fiscal reasons, fear of being deported or a growing complacency, then the government needs to work actively towards returning them to their country of origin.

In an age of international terrorism, it is a potential security threat to have illegal immigrants floating around like free radicals in the body. While most immigrants are harmless families willing to work hard in an effort to make a better life, there are still those willing to break American law while not being subject it. The danger of illegal immigration is that it puts sand beneath the foundation of the country, undermining laws and, worse, the common citizen’s approach towards the law. If laws are not maintained, then the country cannot expect to continue without eventual anarchy.

Immigration is an inevitable issue for countries, but it is a process, not a right. Assimilation into a country should be considered inevitable for immigrants. When entering another country, for example, one would use the proper monetary currency. No one would suppose Mexican pesos to be generally accepted in Great Britain. The same goes for language. Language is a type of currency between people. They exchange information and an understanding using words. The language spoken in America is English, which is not a federal mandate, but it is a requirement for citizenship. A proficiency in English is necessary to actively participate in U.S. culture, but does not lessen the importance of knowing other languages, particularly Spanish.

A commonly-held language is necessary for a unified nation’s proper functioning. It is not impractical to ask people intending to reside in a country to adapt to their environment, nor is it intolerant to assert a dominant language. The high number of illegal immigrants in the U.S., as well as the sizeable amount of citizens naturalized each year, begs further attention be paid to the subject matter. Without clear immigration laws or expectations, American society leans towards the increasing divide prompted by the semantics of Spanglish.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


"To this I must add that he was already to some extent a youth of our times - in other words, naturally honest, insisting on truth, seeking it and believing in it, and, once believing, demanding instant commitment to it with all the strength of his soul and wanting to rush off and perform great deeds, sacrificing all, if necessary life itself. Although unfortunately these youths do not understand that the sacrifice of life is in most cases perhaps the easiest of all sacrifices, and that to dedicate, for example, five or six years of their exuberant youth to hard, painstaking study and the acquisition of knowledge for the sole purpose of enhancing tenfold their inherent capacity to serve just that cherished truth, that great work which they are committed to accomplish - such a sacrifice as this remains almost completely beyond the capabilities of many of them."
-Fyodor Dostoevsky, "The Brothers Karamazov"

Friday, March 5, 2010

Winnie the Pooh Bear Wisdom

I just realized I forgot to post the Thursday poem of the week. Compliments of B.P.

"Teddy Bear" by A. A. Milne

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at;
He gets what exercise he can
By falling off the ottoman,
But generally seems to lack
The energy to clamber back.

Now tubbiness is just the thing
Which gets a fellow wondering;
And Teddy worried lots about
The fact that he was rather stout.
He thought: "If only I were thin!
But how does anyone begin?"
He thought: "It really isn't fair
To grudge one exercise and air."

For many weeks he pressed in vain
His nose against the window-pane,
And envied those who walked about
Reducing their unwanted stout.
None of the people he could see
"Is quite" (he said) "as fat as me!"
Then, with a still more moving sigh,
"I mean" (he said) "as fat as I!

One night it happened that he took
A peep at an old picture-book,
Wherein he came across by chance
The picture of a King of France
(A stoutish man) and, down below,
These words: "King Louis So and So,
Nicknamed 'The Handsome!'" There he sat,
And (think of it!) the man was fat!

Our bear rejoiced like anything
To read about this famous King,
Nicknamed "The Handsome." There he sat,
And certainly the man was fat.
Nicknamed "The Handsome." Not a doubt
The man was definitely stout.
Why then, a bear (for all his tub)
Might yet be named "The Handsome Cub!"

"Might yet be named." Or did he mean
That years ago he "might have been"?
For now he felt a slight misgiving:
"Is Louis So and So still living?
Fashions in beauty have a way
Of altering from day to day.
Is 'Handsome Louis' with us yet?
Unfortunately I forget."

Next morning (nose to window-pane)
The doubt occurred to him again.
One question hammered in his head:
"Is he alive or is he dead?"
Thus, nose to pane, he pondered; but
The lattice window, loosely shut,
Swung open. With one startled "Oh!"
Our Teddy disappeared below.

There happened to be passing by
A plump man with a twinkling eye,
Who, seeing Teddy in the street,
Raised him politely to his feet,
And murmured kindly in his ear
Soft words of comfort and of cheer:
"Well, well!" "Allow me!" "Not at all."
"Tut-tut! A very nasty fall."

Our Teddy answered not a word;
It's doubtful if he even heard.
Our bear could only look and look:
The stout man in the picture-book!
That 'handsome' King - could this be he,
This man of adiposity?
"Impossible," he thought. "But still,
No harm in asking. Yes I will!"

"Are you," he said,"by any chance
His Majesty the King of France?"
The other answered, "I am that,"
Bowed stiffly, and removed his hat;
Then said, "Excuse me," with an air,
"But is it Mr Edward Bear?"
And Teddy, bending very low,
Replied politely, "Even so!"

They stood beneath the window there,
The King and Mr Edward Bear,
And, handsome, if a trifle fat,
Talked carelessly of this and that....
Then said His Majesty, "Well, well,
I must get on," and rang the bell.
"Your bear, I think," he smiled. "Good-day!"
And turned, and went upon his way.

A bear, however hard he tries,
Grows tubby without exercise.
Our Teddy Bear is short and fat,
Which is not to be wondered at.
But do you think it worries him
To know that he is far from slim?
No, just the other way about -
He's proud of being short and stout.

My friend Will took this sweet picture of an icicle formation. He showed it to me last week when we were working down in the Lane Lab; it is seriously awesome!

Senior Profile, Dogwood-style

Dakota, junior DPN-er, e-mailed the American Studies majors (all four of us) because the American Studies major is being changed (a good change) and they are reviving old traditions and customs, including the newsletter. Dakota's e-mail began:

"I really hate to do this to you, I do. But Sundahl has spoken, and by some mystic power of Lutheran persuasion I have taken up his command. There shall be a newsletter sent out to our most illustrious [and hopefully successful] alumni, and in keeping with the beautiful newsletters published by Dr. Jordan in 2002/2003, which Matt has generously furnished me with as source material, we will be including...senior profiles. This means you."

I love that. Dakota kills me. He really does. He also makes incredible paper airplanes.

Here are my answers:

What is your thesis topic? Title/adviser if applicable. How did you choose a topic? Any special research or interviews that helped you in your writing?
Loosely stated: the degradation of the family with the expansion of government, focusing on the 1965 Moynihan Report and the black American family. My thesis adviser is Dr. Allan C. Carlson. I chose my thesis topic because of my interest in race relations, government social engineering, and life in a post-Christian nation with fundamental Christian roots. I did research at the Library of Congress and spoke to a few specialists on the phone.

What are you future plans? What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
My future plans involve being fruitfully employed; two years ago, I was at a Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians game with my cousins, and those guys who smooth out the dirt on the baseball diamond came out. I asked my cousin's husband who they were, and he replied, "American Studies majors." My exact future occupation is yet to be decided, but I do know that I would like to continue writing (namely book reviews, articles, essays, short stories and the like) and work towards re-creating a Christian Republic of Letters. If I am being called towards the vocation of marriage, in the next 10 years, I'll be married and re-populating the world with more Roman Catholics; but if not, I'd like to serve the Lord as a missionary overseas.

What aspect of the American Studies program have you most enjoyed over the last four years?
I knew none of the other American Studies majors very well the first two years in the program, and now, four years later, I am very close friends with a few of them, on good terms with all of them. I have loved my teachers and my classes, especially American Order and Disorder with Dr. Birzer, the Robert Frost seminar with Dr. Sundahl and Dr. Willson, and the Conservative-Libertarian Debate with Dr. Schlueter and Dr. Wenzel. I love the interdisciplinary aspect of the major, because I learn more not only in the actual class, but through my surrounding classes, whether it be context or connecting ideas.

Tell me about your best Delta Pi Nu moment or memory. The worst moment or memory is also acceptable and even encouraged.
My favorite Delta Pi Nu memory was the summer between junior and senior year, when Matt Stone, Emily Thiessen, Dakota Fuller and I were all in Washington, D.C. for the summer and Katherine Correll came up to visit. We went out to lunch, briefly discussed amending the DPN constitution and then went to the National Gallery, where we found major figures in history we had read in Dr. Gamble's History of the American Identity class. We got our picture with the portrait of George Berkeley, who said "Westward the course of empire takes its way." So, in a bad memory sort of way, we Dogwoodians mocked the art museum for their lack of proper understanding of historiography in their mini-bios by the art. Nonetheless, for better or for worse, I/ we the class can never read historical texts the same way again. Dr. Gamble, you've ruined us!

Honorable mention to Founding Fridays, a definite highlight of my college experience. I am continually grateful, humbled, and edified by these friendships and conversations, and the chance to enjoy their fellowship over beer.

Any parting wisdom or advice for coming American Studies majors?
Read, read, read: books, essays, speeches, newspaper articles, magazine features, poems and short stories. Take an active interest to know current events as well as the history, political philosophy and literature. Acknowledge that ideas have consequences and prepare accordingly to defend the responsibility of holding thoughts. Do not only seek truth, but intend on finding it; additionally, it will not be enough to know it--one must study it, understand it, and energetically promote it.

Furthermore, American Studies is not a major for the easily intimidated. Take the best teachers and expect to work hard. What a student gets out of the major is contingent of the work one puts in, as well as having an insatiable curiosity and a disposition to be happy in small ways. Dress up often, because it will encourage an air of seriousness towards your studies, but especially after pulling an all-nighter (what I fondly call "the graveyard shift"). Smile on test days. Never cease from exploration. Find your passion. Don't be afraid to discuss ideas with people who hold differing views. And never, ever underestimate people who wear penny loafers.

Give a parting author, book or quote that you are fond of in the context of Hillsdale/American Studies/DPN.

“Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged.”
--Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance

Also, an incomplete list of favorite reads: George Nash's "The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945," John Courtney Murray, S.J.'s "We Hold These Truths," Robert Frost's poetry and lectures, Flannery O'Connor's "Mystery and Manners," Willa Cather's "Death Comes For the Archbishop," Whittaker Chamber's "Letter to my Children," F.A. Hayek's "Constitution of Liberty," Russell Kirk's essays, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Zora Neale Hurston's "How It Feels To Be Colored Me," T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets," William F. Buckley's "The Trojan Horse of American Education?" and Paul Elmer More's "Pages from an Oxford Diary."

And for 10 bonus points, what is the true, the good and the beautiful?
It is not what, but rather--who: "I AM" (Exodus 3:14). The Incarnation of our Lord gives meaning to the past, understanding to the present, and hope to the future, reflecting truth (Gospel of John, chapter 1), goodness (Romans 2:4), and beauty (Psalm 104), for "it touched heaven, but it stood upon the earth" (Wisdom 18:16).

Second bonus question: what is the most American beer? In other words: "What would George Washington drink?"
Shiner Bock, hands down.

Tonight starts my last Initiation weekend ever... can't believe it.
"Kappas are dedicated to living by the ultimate Greek ideals of goodness, truth, and beauty. Kappa at its core is about these qualities: leadership, scholarship, and friendship."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Off to see my own Marianne!

Stories of pious children tend to be false. This may be because they are told by adults, who see virtue where their subjects would see only a practical course of action; or maybe because such stories are written to edify and what is written to edify usually ends by amusing. For my part, I have never cared to read about little boys who build alters and play they are priests, or about little girls who dress up as nuns, or about those pious Protestant children who lack this equipment but brighten the corners where they are.” –Flannery O’Connor, beginning of Introduction to A Memoir of Mary Ann

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writing takes the taste out of Peanut Butter

The Guardian did a symposium on Ten Rules for Writing Fiction. Here was my favorite:

AL Kennedy

1 Have humility. Older/more ­experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. ­Consider what they say. However, don't automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.

2 Have more humility. Remember you don't know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.

3 Defend others. You can, of course, steal stories and attributes from family and friends, fill in filecards after lovemaking and so forth. It might be better to celebrate those you love – and love itself – by writing in such a way that everyone keeps their privacy and dignity intact.

4 Defend your work. Organisations, institutions and individuals will often think they know best about your work – especially if they are paying you. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away. Run away. The money doesn't matter that much.

5 Defend yourself. Find out what keeps you happy, motivated and creative.

6 Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.

7 Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and ­irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won't need to take notes.

8 Be without fear. This is impossible, but let the small fears drive your rewriting and set aside the large ones ­until they behave – then use them, maybe even write them. Too much fear and all you'll get is silence.

9 Remember you love writing. It wouldn't be worth it if you didn't. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.

10 Remember writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on.

There were lots of good entries, many of them quite funny, others quite insightful, so I recommend it whole-heartedly for those parties interested.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Always a Perfect Day for Bananafish

The first issue of The Hillsdale Forum is came out last week, but I've been so busy, I hadn't thought to post my article. I wrote an article on gays in the military and how it is not the same thing or concept as the same-sex marriage debate but have decided to hold it over for the next issue or keep it for the talk I am giving in March or April to the Fairfield Society.

Instead, I wrote up a piece on J.D. Salinger's recent demise after reading too many half-baked articles about the man and his works. I'll spare you my recent qualms with The New Yorker et al., but I am pleased with the final product and am thus sharing with the class. And a very happy March 1st. Let the madness begin!

"Cornish, NH Revisited: Reflecting on the death of a misunderstood American misanthrope"

By Julie Robison, Editor in Chief

There are two kinds of people: those who love J. D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and those who fling the book against the wall.

I first heard of Salinger in junior high when my teacher mentioned “Catcher” as a book we shouldn’t read until we were older. That summer, I found it in the local bookstore while on vacation in northern Michigan. I bought it, read it, and loved it. In high school, I read “Nine Stories,” a collection of superb short stories, half of which involve the Glass family (who are as dysfunctional as the Caulfields, only better developed). From there I devoured “Raise High the Roof-Beam, Carpenters,” “Seymour, an Introduction,” “Franny and Zooey” and any other writing I could find by or about him.

J.D. Salinger died on January 27, 2010. It should not have been surprising, considering the man was 91 years old. Out came the Salingerites, spewing their adoration into reflective essays and obituaries. Most of the time, they completely missed the point of his stories; the writers seemed to like the feelings Salinger's stories aroused in them more than liking his actual words, dismissing or misinterpreting at their own discretion. If I am mistaken in this assessment, then Salinger was the beginning of the teen angst genre. And I refuse to call J.D. Salinger the inspiration for Meg Cabot novels or the Twilight series.

America has long been infatuated with Salinger, a recluse with the inability to bullshit. Salinger didn’t want the limelight; he wanted to write. Those who looked for Salinger were oftentimes justly disappointed that their disrespect for his privacy did not reap a fruitful chance meeting with the esteemed writer.

Furthermore, Salinger’s writing was not merely whining about shallow situations, feelings or “phonies.” His major themes draw upon the differences between being a child and being an adult. He explored American culture: the loss of innocence and a pressure to grow-up faster; an inability to handle trauma or suffering; religion and spirituality.

Adam Gopnik’s assertion in The New Yorker that “writing, real writing, is done not from some seat of fussy moral judgment but with the eye and ear and heart” is a prime example of missing the point: Salinger’s stories do make moral judgments. His stories allude to moral codes, and while "judging" today has negative connotations, that does not diminish its presence in his plots. Whether the reader wants to see it or not is another issue.

Seymour Glass, for instance, had a nice life, but killed himself while on vacation with his beautiful wife. Holden Caulfield did not leave his prep school and then slum around New York City as a mere act of rebellion: he’s having a nervous breakdown. Teddy voluntarily submits to death; Franny is having a religious awakening and her boyfriend only cares about having sex; Esme spells out words because her little brother can’t handle the fact that the war has made them orphans. Failure to recognize the seriousness of his characters’ conditions is a failure to understand the essence of Salinger.

Salinger produced literature. He did not provide psychiatric help or analysis for hundreds of thousands of teenagers. It is an oversimplification to say Salinger’s works were only a reflection of a post-WW II America, but it would be a literary fallacy to say “Catcher” is mediocre pulp fiction not worth reading. The key is to read beyond “Catcher,” into his short stories and novellas, to better understand the moral void in American youth he was attempting to address.

If Salinger is only to be remembered for one book, then “The Catcher in the Rye” is theoretically not a bad choice. His death is a reminder of his significance to America (although the irony of paying public tribute to such a private person should not be overlooked) and his merit goes beyond his writing: he compelled generations of people to read and think, if only to wonder where the ducks at Central Park go during the winter.