Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Not everyone grows to be old, but everyone has been younger than he is now."

The spooky poem of the week is compliments of one of the great English poets, John Donne!

"The Apparition" by John Donne

When by thy scorn, O murd’reuses, I am dead
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink;
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I’had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.

Today is my favorite author's birthday. One of his pithy lines is being used to title this post. Evelyn Waugh was a British satirical writer whose prose is wicked good. I am a particular fan of Scoop, The Loved One, Vile Bodies and Brideshead Revisited. He converted to Catholicism in 1930 and it caused a big hullabaloo in England.

Joseph Pearce wrote in "Evelyn Waugh: Ultramodern to Ultramontane":

The paradox was both perplexing and provocative, prompting the Express to publish two leading articles on the significance of Waugh's decision. Finally, three weeks after Waugh's controversial conversion, Waugh's own contribution to the debate, entitled "Converted to Rome: Why It Has Happened to Me," was published. It was given a full-page spread, boldly headlined.

Waugh's article was so lucid in its exposition that it belied any suggestion that he had taken his momentous step lightly, or out of ignorance. He dismissed the very suggestion that he had been "captivated by the ritual" of the Church, or that he wanted to have his mind made up for him. Instead, he insisted that the "essential issue" that had led to his conversion was a belief that the modern world was facing a choice between "Christianity and Chaos":

"Today we can see it on all sides as the active negation of all that Western culture has stood for. Civilization — and by this I do not mean talking cinemas and tinned food, nor even surgery and hygienic houses, but the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe — has not in itself the power of survival. It came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance. The loss of faith in Christianity and the consequential lack of confidence in moral and social standards have become embodied in the ideal of a materialistic, mechanized state . . . It is no longer possible . . . to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis upon which it rests."

Waugh concluded by stating his belief that Catholicism was the "most complete and vital form" of Christianity.

The debate continued in the next day's edition of the Express with the publication of an article by a Protestant member of Parliament, which was followed, a day later, with an article by the Jesuit Fr. Woodlock entitled "Is Britain Turning to Rome?" Three days later an entire page was devoted to the ensuing letters. Seldom has a religious conversion prompted such a blaze of national publicity.

I really love the posed choice of picking between Christianity and chaos. Fr. Fulton Sheen used the same comparison a year later, in 1931, when he wrote, "America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance-it is not. It is suffering from tolerance. Tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos."

I also enjoy this excerpt from one of Waugh's letters to his future wife Laura. He is trying to convince her to marry him. He wrote, 

"I can't advise you in my favour because I think it would be beastly for you, but think how nice it would be for me. I am restless; moody; misanthropic; lazy and have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve. In fact it's a lousy proposition. On the other hand, I think I could do a Grant and reform; become quite strict about not getting drunk and I am pretty sure I should be faithful. Also there is always a fair chance that there will be another bigger economic crash in which case if you had married a nobleman with a great house you might find yourself starving, while I am very clever and could probably earn a living of some sort somewhere."

This weekend is UC's Homecoming! Saturday will be a long day of getting up early to beat the traffic to Clifton, breakfast at the Theta house (sister's sorority), popping by Theta Phi (mom's sorority), then hanging out at the SAE house (my brother's/ dad's/ cousins'/ uncles' fraternity) during the parade, which is conveniently located next door to Theta and in the heart of campus. The parade starts at 9 a.m. My parents were Homecoming Chairs together at UC during their undergrad years, which is one of the many reasons our family goes every year. Then the football game against Syracuse kicks off at noon! Dad got tickets, so I am excited. After that, my parents' friends and their families will be coming over to our house. Sunday is Halloween and is my yongest brother's birthday. He's having his first girl-boy party. So much is ado about the Robster casa!

Have a wonderful weekend and end of October!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Molto Bene!

This is being passed around by Hillsdale English majors and I like the questions, so I decided to answer them here for fun. 

1. Favorite childhood book?
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

2. What are you reading right now?
On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing by Fr. James V. Schall.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None. I have not been to the library since I moved back.

4. Bad book habit?
Reading too many books at once. It makes it harder to finish in a timely manner.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
This is a poorly constructed interrogative question which I already answered above: 1) None and 2) the preposition should be “from”, not “at”.

6. Do you have an e-reader?

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Several, but I would really prefer to read faster while retaining a good comprehension.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Twitterature by two numbskulls from the University of Chicago; I reviewed it for The Collegian. The book idea had potential, but the authors were overly aware of their snarky hilarity and battered the classic books to have the voice of two immature 19 year olds—including Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Seriously?! She’s a 6 year old girl from the South!

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy or Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Quite often, if comfort zone is defined as reading things I agree with, more or less. I like reading different viewpoints and see how people persuasively argue or defend their position to better defend my own point of view. I also enjoy learning, so different sources of information provide more resources I would not have previously known about and can thus dig deeper.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Anything not blatantly offensive or disturbing.

13. Can you read on the bus/car?
Yes. I can also read in a house with a mouse, as well as with a fox in a box.

14. Favorite place to read?
On a wide window ledge or on the couches.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Usually open to it, unless the person is inconsiderate of others’ belongings. My family likes to borrow without asking, so my policy is null and void in most circumstances. Besides, if a person will read it, I will lend it. Books should be read, not gather dust.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
If I do not have any other way of marking pages, but not typically.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

18. Not even with text books?
Especially in text books.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
American and all other variations of English.

20. What makes you love a book?
Style, then story.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I have to really like it, then think another person will like it; I do admit to being hesitant to recommending books to people whom I am not completely sure if they will appreciate it.

If people “don’t get it” immediately, they oftentimes push the book aside without even giving it a proper chance. That’s a shame, because it is oftentimes the build-up that makes the ending so fantastic. Examples: Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, Willa Cather’s Death Comes For the Archbishop—I got to the end of these books and couldn’t speak except to say WOW. All four began a little slower, but I re-read them over and over again and still feel the same amazement. They are not “happy” endings—they’re all a bit like reading Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” in a longer form—but you never want change the ending either.

22. Favorite genre?
Essays and literature

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Epic novels (i.e. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)

24. Favorite biography?
The Life of Pico, translated by Sir Thomas More

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Yes; grammar and writing books

26. Favorite cookbook?
I suppose The Joy of Cooking, but really any cookbook that helps me make a successful dish is okay by my standards. An emphasis on pies helps too.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Thy Will Be Done: Letters to Persons in the World by St. Francis de Sales

28. Favorite reading snack?

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Murray Rothbard's writings were supremely disappointing.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
It depends on the book.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Don Quixote by Cervantes

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo- not nervous, per se, as much as knowing I don’t have the time to give the massive volume

35. Favorite Poet?
If I have to pick one... Tennyson is sublime.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Is “a lot” a good enough answer? In college, I wrote about 7-10 papers a semester, so I always had library books stacked around my desk. I think the most I had checked out during my last few weeks of senior year was between 50-70.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
None to very few. I usually checked books out for papers, so they were all read in some capacity.

38. Favorite fictional character?

39. Favorite fictional villain?
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie has a pretty bad one, but I can’t say who because it will spoil the plot.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Anything that strikes my fancy. I took Michael O’Brien and Flannery O’Connor with me this past summer.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading?

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Native Son by Richard Wright; strongly and passionately dislike that book.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
The 1992 version of James Fennimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans is pretty BA.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The 2008 version of Brideshead Revisited was poorly done; not sure if they misunderstood the point of the book or just decided to use the basic plot and premise as a way to make their own point in the movie adaptation. I shall also plug the BBC mini-series one as phenomenal because it actually follows the book and doesn’t try to make insinuations.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
If Amazon counts as a bookstore, I’m pleading the fifth. I used to buy books like some people buy shoes or clothes. I’m better now.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Fairly regularly

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
It has to be pretty bad; if I start a book, I usually finish it. The real question is why I start reading a book, outside academic reasons.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? Keep them, unless I intensely dislike them or consider them a waste of book shelf space.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
I avoid most poorly-written garbage on principle.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I will never forgive Jo for turning down Laurie or Laurie for marrying Amy. I’m still mad about it. I don’t think I’ll ever let it go. It completely ruined the otherwise excellent book for me.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; it was like pulling teeth to read that book. It didn’t pick up till the end, and by that time, the fact that I was required to read it was the only thing that was keeping me going. Also, Herman Melville’s Billy Budd.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Anything by Flannery O’Connor.

What's your favorite book to read and/ or recommend? How would you answer these questions?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

By the pricking of my thumbs,/ Something wicked this way comes!

Nothing eerier than these three lovely ladies:

And one of Shakespeare’s most famous scenes, "The Song of the Witches" (Macbeth, Act 4, scene i):

[A Cavern. In the middle, a boiling Cauldron.]

[Thunder. Enter the three Witches.]

First Witch
Thrice the brinded Cat hath mew'd.

Second Witch
Thrice and once the Hedge-Pig whined.

Third Witch
Harpier cries: 'Tis time, 'tis time.

First Witch
Round about the Cauldron go;
In the poison'd Entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and Nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd Venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and Cauldron bubble.

Second Witch
Fillet of a Fenny Snake,
In the Cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of Newt, and Toe of Frogge,
Wool of Bat, and Tongue of Dogge,
Adder's Fork, and Blind-worm's Sting,
Lizard's leg, and Howlet's wing,
For a Charm of powerful trouble
Like a Hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and Cauldron bubble.

Third Witch
Scale of Dragon, Tooth of Wolf,
Witches' Mummy, Maw and Gulf
Of the ravin'd salt Sea shark,
Root of Hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of Blaspheming Jew,
Gall of Goat, and Slips of Yew
Silver'd in the Moon's Eclipse,
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips,
Finger of Birth-strangled Babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a Drab,
Make the Gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a Tiger's Chaudron,
For the Ingredients of our Cauldron.

Double, double, toil and trouble
Fire burn and Cauldron bubble.

Second Witch
Cool it with a Baboon's blood,
Then the Charm is firm and good.

[Enter Hecate.]

O! well done! I commend your pains,
And every one shall share i' the gains.
And now about the Cauldron sing,
Like Elves and Fairies in a Ring,
Enchanting all that you put in.

[Music, and a song, 'Black Spirits,' and company.]

Black spirits and white, red spirits and gray;
Mingle, mingle, mingle, you that mingle may.

[Exit Hecate.]

Second Witch
By the pricking of my Thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, Locks,
Whoever knocks.

[Enter Macbeth.]

How now, you secret, black, and midnight Hags?
What is't you do?

A deed without a name.

"The Shakespeare Code" (season 3, episode 2 of Doctor Who) provides sufficient "inspiration" for this scene:

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Toe Be or Not Toe Be

This past Monday, I was talking to my mom about getting ready for my sister’s birthday in the family room when I thought I heard someone coming (i.e. my sister) and swung around really fast, banging my foot hard into the door. Mom heard the collision and asked me if I was okay. All I could say was “Ow, ow, ow!” and limped away to the kitchen to finish preparing for dinner.

My foot did not look too badly that night, even though it hurt a lot, but the next day, the little toe was swollen and darkly bruised. My mom had already left for the hospital by the time I was up, so I got dressed, gingerly put on my ballet flats and went to work.

Thus began the worst day. I was in so much pain and, worse than that, I felt incredibly lame for even being in pain. I’ve always considered myself to have a high pain tolerance. I also run into stationary objects on a fairly regular basis (not on purpose, more absent-mindedly), so I didn't immediately think much of the run-in, but this was different. This one wasn’t getting better. This one wouldn’t be walked off. When I told my dad it felt like the pain was increasing, he half-jokingly told me to "Stop whining, take a thousand ibuprofen, whack your foot against a wall and get back to work."

(And this is another reason why children need female mothers. Most males, God bless their little X and Y chromosomes, are as maternal as rocks.)

I saw Mom around 7 p.m., when she and I arrived home within minutes of each other. I called her over, where she inspected my swollen and darkly bruised toe-of-another-color. She said it would have to be x-rayed to see if it was broken, but it looked broken, and all the hospital would do is put it in a splint. She then volunteered to do so, and she did, making a splint out of toothpicks, medical tape and gauze. Have I ever told y’all how amazing my mother is? Today my toe feels 250 percent better!

And, of course, lessons have been learned. Firstly, I need to avoid physical contact with doors and door frames. They always win.

Secondly, I heartily ashamed of my injury; I can’t think of a more pathetic one. I don’t like telling people that I ran into a door. I wish I had hurt my toe by playing soccer without shoes/ falling out of a tree/ playing hide and seek/ not being accident-prone. The physical embodiment of my klutziness is now found in my little two-toe splint. I’ve never broken anything (IF this baby toe is even broken) and I think it is grossly unfair to have my first break (again, “if” is a big word in this sentiment) be my little toe.

Thirdly, I appreciate my little toe more. It’s humbling to be in so much pain from such a small digit. I looked it up on Wikipedia though, and apparently the little toe is a big deal. Check it out:

The fifth toe (sometime little toe, baby toe or pinky toe) is the smallest toe of the foot.

It is considered to be the most important toe for strength of balance, whereas the first toe, or hallux, is the most important toe for strength in walking.

It is associated with many medical conditions, largely due to the use of shoes.

It consists of the fifth metatarsal bone and its associated phalanges.

The muscles that serve the fifth toe are:
• Abductor digiti minimi muscle (foot)
• Flexor digiti minimi brevis muscle (foot)

Some parallels can be drawn with these muscles and those of the hypothenar eminence serving the little finger.

So I will not be cutting off my little toe (more medical advice from Dad) and continue to rejoice in the little things, like walking without limping (that was yesterday) and toothpicks used for wee splints.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Flannery on Feelings and Faith

This is an excerpt from a letter written by Flannery O’Connor to Dr. T.R. Spivey on August 19th, 1959. After a recent exchange with dear old DF and a comment by Ben, I remembered her wise words on the said subjects and thought I might thus share her response:

I’ll try to answer your questions but as they are not doctrinal questions, you must remember that this is just my opinion about these things.

The good Catholic acts upon the beliefs (assumptions if you want to call them that) that he receives from the Church and he does this in accordance with his degree of intelligence, his knowledge of what the Church teaches, and the grace, natural & supernatural, that he’s been given. You seem to have met nothing but sorry or dissatisfied Catholics and abrupt priests with no understanding of what you want to find out. Any Catholic or Protestant either is defenseless before those who judge his religion by how well its members live up to it or are able to explain it. These things depend on too much entirely human elements. If you want to know what Catholic belief is you will have to study what the Church teaches in matters of faith and morals. And I feel that if you do, you will find that the doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants are a great deal more important than you think they are. I am not so na├»ve as to think such an investigation would make a Catholic of you; it might even make you a better Protestant; but as you say, whatever way God leads you will be good. You speak of the Eucharist as if it were not important, as if it could wait until you are better able to practice the two great commandments. God gave us the sacraments in order that we might better keep the two great commandments. You will learn about Catholic belief by studying the sacramental life of the Church. The center of this is the Eucharist

Pope Benedict XVI saying Mass

To get back to all the sorry Catholics. Sin is sin whether it is committed by Pope, bishops, priests, or lay people. The Pope goes to confession like the rest of us. I think of the Protestant churches as being composed of people who are good, and I don’t mean this ironically. Most of the Protestants I know are good, if narrow sometimes. But the Catholic Church is composed of those who accept what she teaches, whether they are good or bad, and these is a constant struggle through the help of the sacraments to be good. For instance when we commit sin, we receive the sacrament of penance (there is an obligation to receive it once a year but the recommendation is every three weeks). This doesn’t make it any easier to commit sin as some Protestants think; it makes it harder. The things we are obliged to do, such as hear Mass on Sunday, fast and abstain on the days appointed, etc. can become mechanical and merely habit. But it is better to be held to the Church by habit than not to be held at all. The Church is mighty realistic about human nature. Further it is not at all possible to tell what’s going on inside the person who appears to be going about his obligations mechanically. We don’t believe that grace is something you have to feel. The Catholic always distrusts his emotional reaction to the sacraments. Your friend is very far afield if she presumes to judge that most of the Catholics she knows go about their religion mechanically. That is something only God knows.

O'Connor and two of her peacocks

I hope this also clarifies the preferred terms of "practicing" verses "non-practicing" Catholics, as opposed to "orthodox" verses "cafeteria" Catholics. And many, many thanks to all my many, many Protestant friends for asking questions. I appreciate the dialogue. Deo gratias!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Play's the Thing

“Superstitious” by Shel Silverstein
If you are superstitious you'll never step on cracks.
When you see a ladder you will never walk beneath it.
And if you ever spill some salt you'll thrown some 'cross your back,
And carry' round a rabbit's foot just in case you need it.
You'll pick up any pin that you find lying on the ground,
And never, never, ever throw your hat upon the bed,
Or open an umbrella when you are in the house.
You'll bite your tongue each time you say
A thing you shouldn't have said.
You'll hold your breath and cross your fingers
Walkin' by a graveyard,
And number thirteen's never gonna do you any good.
Black cats will all look vicious, if you're superstitious,
But I'm not superstitious (knock on wood).

Here’s a funny superstition, from the British show “Blackadder” (and a little foreshadowing for next week!):

Today is the birthday of E.E. Cummings, one of my favorite 20th Century poets.  Here are two of his best poems, which are very dear to me:

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea


since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

And yes, I know the title comes from Hamlet, not Macbeth, but it fits nicely with the sketch...!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oh, It's Love

I heard Train's "If It's Love" on the radio yesterday while driving home from work and have since decided that this is the most realistically pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-real love song currently in mainstream music. Don't believe me? Listen to it!

And here's a few favorite stanzas, just for kicks:

"I confess you are the best thing in my life/ But I'm afraid when I hear stories/ About a husband and wife/ There's no happy endings/ No Henry Lee/ But you are the greatest thing about me"

Chorus: "If it's love/ And we decide that it's forever/ No one else could do it better/ If it's love/ And we're two birds of a feather/ Then the rest is just whenever/ And if I'm addicted to loving you/ And you're addicted to my love too/ We can be them two birds of a feather/ That flock together/ Love, love/ Got to have something to keep us together/ Love, Love/ That's enough for me"

"We can travel to Spain where the rain falls/ Mainly on the plain side and sing/ sounds insane 'cause it is/ we can laugh, we can sing/ Have ten kids and give them everything"

Living with my family again makes me appreciate realistic and traditional relationships like my parents' (who celebrated their 25th anniversary this past summer) in these times when people attempt to re-define marriage without any regard to gender and the role it plays in society or consequences of actions. 

Life has not been rainbows and bunnies, but it has been the good life. My dad does his utmost best for my mom and us kids. My mom turned down med school on her own volition because she wanted to raise a lot of kids (she still works, still has the white lab coat- just an alternate role). My parents are very different people, but they have a solid working relationship, keep the faith, and put their kids first. I'm definitely lucky; there is a comfort in knowing my parents will never separate, even when issues arise, and that has taught me a lot.

My family in Michigan, Summer 2007
People who do not have many kids are really missing out. I mean that. Having a big family is hard, fun, challenging and provides more unconditional love than I know what to do with. My siblings and I joke about how we can always tell when people are only children. They might as well have a neon sign over their head, because their interrelating skills makes them a prime example of why people having more kids really would make this world a better place.*

My big family (nuclear and extended) makes me think about others and focus my energy on giving to them as they give to me. Relationships are a lot about compromise and so is love. Not compromising values, but priorities- I'd rather read a book than empty the dishwasher, for example, or sleep in than take a sibling to school early in the morning, but the latters help the family and the formers help me.

A lot of my friends have moved out of town and are having adventures elsewhere. They don't know if they'll come back. My college friends are dispersing too. But, like my mom, I made a choice too. I've moved back to my hometown. Life is a series of choices and consequences. I was offered a fellowship in DC for post-college employment, but when I got the phone call, I saw my future life flash before my eyes: I would work all the time. I would be paid to write about politics. Life would seriously be the bomb-diggity. I wouldn't know how to leave.

That's when it hit me. I didn't want that life. My former boss told a co-worker and I once that we shouldn't have kids until much later in life because our life would stop. All we'd do is take care of the kids. We wouldn't be able to travel or have any fun anymore, essentially. 

I completely disagree. People who don't think kids are fun are bores. Kids will put their little bodies in sleeping bags and propel themselves down steep steps. Kids can color for hours. Kids make intricate plots involving the same Barbies/ Play mobiles/ Legos and use different voices for different characters to boot. Kids are little sponges and actually want to learn and grow into little humans. At least, that's what my experience has been, and was my childhood.

Your mother probably warned you about us.
Today is an exciting day! First off, today is Founders Day for my sorority, which was founded 140 years ago today. Secondly, it is Margaret Thatcher's 85th birthday. Finally and most importantly, it is my sister's 21st birthday! Yes, she is still this cool:

Have a great day!

*Trent posted an article from the Weekly Standard entitled "America's One-Child Policy" that is worth a read.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I Want the World to Know, Got to Let it Show

Oh, c’mon, admit it: you love that today is National Coming Out Day. I discovered this fact yesterday, when I was at an event at my sister’s university and there were rainbow signs with silhouettes of people dancing on it tacked up all over.

Today is also Columbus Day. According to sources, however, it is way too un-PC to be celebrated any more. A lady in my dad's office said that when she first came to America (from the Philippines), it was widely celebrated. Now if you celebrate Columbus Day, you are obviously disrespectful of the feelings of Native Americans. My former grade school obviously did not get the message, though, because my two youngest siblings are off and so are at the office today, reading and shredding dead files.

Today in the Huffington Post, there was a lovely article entitled “Homophobia in the Church: What Catholics Are Doing About It, and What Still Needs to Be Done.” Homophobia is a fear or dislike of homosexuals. As a Catholic, I adamantly disagree with this inaccurate labeling of the Church. She is certainly not homophobic. The Church teaches her members to have an Augustinian attitude: love the sinner, not the sin. I have gay friends and they know where I stand, as I do them. My relationship with them has given me more compassion for the cross they have to bear in this life, but it has not changed my belief or deterred me from following the Church's teaching, which includes treating them with the utmost respect.*

In Rome Sweet Home, Kimberly and Scott Hahn (converts to Catholicism from PC USA) say that what most people hate about the Catholic Church are actually misconceptions about Catholicism. In my experience, that statement could not be more true, and this article was flaming proof of that. The author begins the article by setting the scene: a Catholic baptism. She says, “I didn't have to explain that it was no ordinary baptism we were witnessing. [My daughter] knew it was extraordinary, because I had taught her.

In the next few lines, she introduces the protagonists as “two gay dads asking a church governed by bullies to bless their child.

And then: “My daughter later asked how it was that gay people could have their children baptized in Catholic churches but not be married in them. Good question. I broke it down for her. I told her a far greater percentage of Catholics support gay marriage than support the Vatican. I characterized the failure of my church to offer gay Catholics marriage in the church as just that -- "a failure." And a sin.”

I’m not going to pretend the arguments presented in this article do not bother me. A sin**, really? Because the Church doesn’t ask its members for their opinion to determine doctrine? Because the Church abides by a higher law? Actually follows the teachings of the Bible? Furthermore, I would like to know what concrete data could have pointed her to say that “Catholics of all stripes agree that many of our finest priests are gay.”

Don't worry: I am not going to break down this article and refute every twist and lie this writer insists upon sharing with her audience. I will admit I almost enjoy reading self-proclaimed Catholics bashing the Church in the media. Not because I want it to happen, but more because it strengthens my resolution that a failure to catechize kids leads to a depreciation of the value of truth. These type of self-deprecating articles are logically weak because they rely on their own strength, not Church teaching. I recently read a speech one of the creators of Glee gave at the Blah-Blah American Catholic Media Blah Awards. He was raised Catholic but says the Catholic Church is not a set of beliefs but a culture, much like Judaism.

I kid you not. He said this about a church defined by its dogmatism. I imagine many orthodox Jews would be rightly offended to have their faith categorized only as a culture. 

So, as a way of celebrating National Coming Out Day, today's post is me coming out against the intolerance Christianity faces against "the tolerant" who cannot imagine a world where people would willingly follow a power higher than their own opinion and impulses. People are more than their sexuality, just like they are more than the color of their skin, more than their culture, more than their bank account, more than their education and more than their very being. People are made for more than this world, and that is what the Church actually teaches.

"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began, but now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:7-10).

On a lighter note, I attended my cousin's housewarming party on Saturday and felt like I was missing a very big piece of the puzzle. I hardly knew any of the people there and my family was greeting everyone like old friends. When I asked my sister how she knew everyone, she replied "the Christmas party."

THE Christmas Party is the proper terminology. My aunt and uncle have thrown a huge Christmas party every year for [at least] the past 10 years. A couple years ago, when I was at college, they began inviting all the kids too since my aunt was so sick. Of course, as luck would have it, the party always happened during my winter exams. Thus, I have never attended, only heard the stories.

Mere moments after my sister explained this to me, a woman came up to us and enthusiastically greeted Kato before turning to me and saying, "And you must be the fictitious Julie!"

In the flesh, madam.

"Oh, I've heard so many stories about you," she bubbled to me, "but have never met you- I was beginning to doubt your existence!"

After confirming my identity once again, along with my sister's blessing, she says to me, "Isn't it wonderful having such a fantastic writer in the family?" She touches my sister's arm and smiles. "I mean, you have a real writer in the family!"

Now, I can be really bad at hiding what I am thinking/ feeling around my family members. Insert me snorting a little bit as an attempt not to laugh. Kato is a decent writer, but I would not call her a real writer. I admit: I'm a writing snob. Sue me. I've worked hard to be a "real" writer.

"No, really!" She said, a bit more forcefully. "Your sister is very talented!"

"I agree," I said. "I enjoy reading her stories immensely. There's a few writers in the family, actually. Muffy and Bobby like to write too."

"Yes, but she's the real writer!"

I gave her a smile and tried to hide the small snort of amusement.

My sister knew why I was laughing and attempted to explain: "Julie's actually a published writer, you know," she tells the lady.

"Oh, what have you written?"

"I'm actually a journalist--"


"Well, I recently--"

"What do you write?"

"She writes about politics," says my sister. Not exactly, I think, but let it go and smile at the lady, who smiles back, asks no more questions and goes back to praising Kato.

Oh well. Everyone's a critic!

Yesterday, I am proud to say, I pulled off throwing my sister a surprise birthday party, even though she refused to leave the house. She was supposed to take Heidi to the dog park but said she had to clean her room and read economics instead. Thus began two hours of us attempting to be as nonchalant as possible as we cleaned and decorated, made large quantities of food (which actually isn't atypical, in defense of her obliviousness), had relatives drop by and hid her friends in the basement. It was a lot of improvise, but it was fun and we actually surprised her, so I am quite pleased.

I am still cleaning and organizing my room (read: making a really big mess), but it's been therapeutic to throw garbage bags full of old papers and stale memories away, re-reading blue book exams, research papers, post-it notes and letters from friends. I've also been reading my brother's copy of The Adventures of Frog and Toad, which is delightful.

Have a happy Monday!

Defining my terms:

*The Catechism says in paragraphs 2358-2359, "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection." 

**A sin, according to the Catechism, is an offense against God (part 1850). Paragraph1849 says, "Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.""

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cruel to be Kind

This makes me laugh! Hat tip to Mary P., who hat tips Dr. Whalen. I dedicate the following poem to Bess, Ariel and Wendy and the many, many love poems submitted to us as The Tower Light Editors senior year.

"No, Thank You John" by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

I never said I loved you, John:
Why will you tease me day by day,
And wax a weariness to think upon
With always "do" and "pray"?

You Know I never loved you, John;
No fault of mine made me your toast:
Why will you haunt me with a face as wan
As shows an hour-old ghost?

I dare say Meg or Moll would take
Pity upon you, if you'd ask:
And pray don't remain single for my sake
Who can't perform the task.

I have no heart?-Perhaps I have not;
But then you're mad to take offence
That don't give you what I have not got:
Use your common sense.

Let bygones be bygones:
Don't call me false, who owed not to be true:
I'd rather answer "No" to fifty Johns
Than answer "Yes" to you.

Let's mar our pleasant days no more,
Song-birds of passage, days of youth:
Catch at today, forget the days before:
I'll wink at your untruth.

Let us strike hands as hearty friends;
No more, no less; and friendship's good:
Only don't keep in view ulterior ends, 
And points not understood

In open treaty. Rise above
Quibbles and shuffling off and on:
Here's friendship for you if you like; but love,-
No, thank you, John

Did y'all know, by the way, that the phrase "cruel to be kind" comes from Shakespeare? Hamlet says it. 'Tis true!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

“The Haunted Palace” by Edgar Allen Poe

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace -
Radiant palace - reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion -
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This - all this - was in the olden
Time long ago,)
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace-door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn! - for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home, the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh - but smile no more.

This is going to be a quirky post, so firstly, this month's poems are going to be spooky and ghoulish in themes, motifs and/ or subject matter. I hope you enjoy them!

Secondly, I must admit how thoroughly ashamed I am of myself for missing the anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus' premier on October 5, 1969.

Here is one of my favorite Monty Python sketches, "The Philosophers' World Cup" - Germany v. Greece, to make amends:

"If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And if I can persuade you to laugh at the particular point I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge its truth." –John Cleese

Thirdly, this morning I took Heidi to the vet and while she was in the back getting her nails clipped, I went to find a sink to dump out my coffee because it tasted like soap. As I walked out of the lobby's bathroom, I hear, "Julie! Julie, come here! Julie, now!" You can imagine how perplexed I was, and turned around to face the voice. The voice belonged to a nurse and she was talking to a 3-legged dog, whose name is also Julie. My name is awesome.

Have a great day! As they say in the best children's film ever, Adventure is out there!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

[Not] Sorry for Supporting

"Nobody thinks anymore," Mr. Jerger complained.
--from Flanney O’Connor’s short story "A Stroke of Good Fortune"

This November 2, five of the eight members of my family will be voting as registered Republicans. Ohio, a major swing state, has the potential for a huge turn-over, since, except for half of the 33-person Senate, every single major seat is up for election. President Obama and former President Clinton came a few times to support the Democratic candidates and Gingrich has shown his support for Kasich and Taylor, the Republican candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor.

Kasich is leading by double-digits in the polls, so the Republicans are crossing their fingers and the Democrats are making snide comments until silly season is over.

Muffy, one of the three members of the family not yet eligible to vote, has been volunteering for Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt’s campaign as part of a school requirement. She has enjoyed it thus far and even got to meet her yesterday, when Rep. Schmidt came into the office to get a couple signs!

Muff is a sophomore at a very liberal high school. When people in her class heard whose campaign she was working for, they referred to the candidate as “Jean Shit.” Muffy has a good sense of humor, though, which helps. Unfortunately, showing that kind of attitude is not a compelling argument to join the other side. It only makes her more defiantly proud to be conservative.

It is interesting to me to see how diversity shows itself. People like to tease me about attending a conservative college, but my mind was opened more by the diversity-of-ideas there than at my own diversity-by-appearance high school. And while my college was non-denominational, my Christian faith grew and was fostered there. Muff’s school has a majority of Jews, as well as Muslims and non-religious. She is in the minority as a Catholic-Christian.

I like the story of when Muffy let it slip that she is pro-life to one of her friends. None of her friends are. The other girl was quick to say she does not believe that life starts until after the baby leaves the womb. Please take note of the word “believe” and the girl’s usage of it.

When Muff was preparing to be confirmed into the Church earlier this year, I asked a few friends and family members to write her a note explaining what being Catholic means to them. Since she is attending public school (unlike her older siblings, who all attended parochial), I thought it would be nice for her to have the perspective of “older” members of the Church as a backboard. I loved all of the responses, even though they were not for me. One friend’s struck me particularly when he expounded on the Nicene Creed’s beginning, where we say “We believe” and not “We know.”

I love that. My family is Christian because we believe Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World and Roman Catholic because we know it is the most Biblically-based religion in the world; our lineage started at Peter, the first Pope, and has been sustained over 2,000 years. We believe Catholicism to be the fullest understanding of Christianity intellectually, historically and spiritually. Not all agree with that assessment, but that is our rationale.

It is two different things to believe and to know. Belief in something implies a subjective assessment. Knowledge usually requires a specific fact to support it. In June, Joy Behar, a former Catholic and one of the hosts of ‘The View,’ ruffled my feathers by saying she didn’t like prayer because it replaces logical thinking. Talk about an illogical statement.

So when Muffy’s friend says she doesn’t believe babies in the womb are not people until outside the womb, she’s admitting this is a subjective belief and not based on fact. Science proves a life begins at conception. If it did not, there would be no need to abort. If it was just a bunch of cells, the body would take care of them, and women wouldn't need to take prenatal pills, have regular doctor visits or want to watch "it" on an ultrasound. Legally, when a person kills a pregnant woman, that person is charged with double murder. Historically, when a third of a generation disappears, people usually call that genocide. And if that's pro-choice, then I'm pro-consequences. But it's not hip to think people are more than their carnal urges. It's backwards to save sex for marriage. It's close-minded to think of babies worth protecting and not consider the mother's life in this miraculous age of technology and great medical advances.

But I disgress. Emotional rationalization can and will make complete sense, and serve as fact to boot!

Thinking and intellect requires the ability to see both sides while only holding one. To feel compassion for someone is not the same action required for decision making. And yet, the carnival continues! The art of discorse is quickly going down the tube in America, I am afraid, and is the symptom of a bigger issue: ignorance and elitism.

The American education system is redonkulous. The basics are being skipped over, even in good schools. Basic memorization, people, is important. Sure, boring initially, but we sit through commercials, don't we? There's a bigger picture to consider. How many people can name off the Bill of Rights? The multiplication tables? The Latin conjugations are nothing to be trifled with, you know.

All my sister's government professor does, for example, is rant. He gave the class a "Are You Smart Enough to Vote?" quiz the first day and rants that most people aren't; he regularly humiliates students and rants about that; he blames Reagan and Bush for the country's issues and rants against Republicans, the bane of this country; in short, he fails to teach. Kato wants to learn the material, study for the test and take something away from the course for an educated citizenry. Alas, that may be too much to ask from the man who proudly tells his students that he is the reason Obama ran for president. My sister now uses scare quotes when referring to her education in that class, which makes me even more grateful for my own college experience.

It is not someone's liberalism that faults them; one of my all time favorite teachers was my AP US History teacher in high school was a liberal. But he was also a teacher. He presented the material and we were expected to learn it and form thoughts and conclusions from it. This isn't only a liberal problem either; I know plenty of conservatives who don't want to hear the other side speak. I say, bring it all into the light. Talk about it, discuss it. That doesn't mean acceptance will follow. I've been pretty consistent in what I believe throughout my life, but my reasoning has changed tremendously. There is always more to know, discover and understand.

This election season will come and pass. Politics is as sturdy as the wind. The government should be on its knees, begging us for money, opposed to the other way around. There is a liberal economic conference at the Newseum in D.C. today and, surprise! surprise! They collectively think the middle-class should be taxed more. Really? Is that the only solution to our fiscal problems? This country is suffering from a serious lack of imagination.

At least, that's what I think.

Monday, October 4, 2010

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church

When Pope Benedict XVI was asked by a reporter of what he could do to make Catholicism appear more “attractive” and “credible” to secularists and atheists in Britain, he brilliantly said,

"One might say that a church which seeks above all to be attractive would already be on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for itself, does not work to increase its numbers so as to have more power. The Church is at the service of Another; it does not serve itself, seeking to be a strong body, but it strives to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths, the great powers of love and of reconciliation that appeared in this figure and that come always from the presence of Jesus Christ. In this sense, the Church does not seek to be attractive, but rather to make herself transparent for Jesus Christ. And in the measure in which the Church is not for herself, as a strong and powerful body in the world, that wishes to have power, but simply is herself the voice of Another, she becomes truly transparent to the great figure of Jesus Christ and the great truths that he has brought to humanity…

If Anglicans and Catholics see that both are not there for themselves, but are rather instruments of Christ, “friends of the Bridegroom,” as Saint John says; if both follow together the priority of Christ and not themselves, they draw closer together, because the priority of Christ brings them together, they are no longer in competition, each one seeking greater numbers, but are united in commitment to the truth of Christ who comes into this world, and so they find themselves also placed reciprocally in a true and fruitful ecumenism.
--from George Neumayr's editorial, "The Battle of Britain"

This post was inspired by Ben's recent post on the Church. Thanks, Ben!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Welcome to the Dork Side

My siblings and I are pretty nerdy, which isn't particularly surprising considering our parents are too.

What exactly does that mean? Well, just as Doctor Who's timey-whimey detector goes ding! when there's stuff, we too get really excited about... stuff (like anything British or snarky, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, quoting Disney movies, etc.).

More recently, my sister Kato introduced the family to the Vlog Brothers, two brothers who communicate through video blog posts, and we have been laughing our way through their videos all week. The Vlog brothers are YouTube sensations John and Hank Green. They have been doing this for three years now; their followers are the "NerdFighters" and their goal is "to fight world suck." They are from "NerdFighteria." I think that is also their catch-phrase (from what I can tell), which was also just featured on the movie 'Dispicable Me,' which is pretty awesomely nerdy. In real life, John is actually a published author who wins fancy book awards, etc. and, from what I can tell, lives in Indiana. He also has a super adorable son named Henry. No one is really sure what Hank does, besides wear funny t-shirts.

Since I am overly enthusiastic about correct grammar, spelling, etc., here are my four favorite vlogs concerning such errors. Even if you are not as enthusiastic about The Element of Style-esque problemos most people commit (or not enthusiastic in the least, which is sad, because you really should care more about the quality of language), these videos are solidly hilarious.

#1- Hank's post, "Stop Embarrassing Yourself," is all about common mistakes English teachers everywhere should have fixed/ made clear; I love the comment about Frankenstein best.

#2- John's Response, "My Friend Chester," is equally hilarious and because he mentions The Avett Brothers, he received 1,042 Julie points.

#3- Hank's "I Hung out with Snookie... Accidentally" vlog is classic pop culture clash example; also, his guitar makes an appearance. Check out the hilarious writing on the body.

#4- John's response, "Grammar School with Snooki," is possibly my favorite vlog. I know there's a lot to choose from, but it made me laugh the hardest and good points are made.

Last night, my cousin and I saw a sneak preview of the film 'Life As We Know It,' which I thought was going to be a typical, wah-wah chick flick, but this film surprised me with decent character development, quirky side characters, believability and the number of times I laughed out loud. It comes out in a week, and I would not be opposed to seeing it again. That was my first early showing of a movie, which is neat. A manager came out beforehand to give a spiel about the film, including telling us there would be a free showing of 'The Legend of the Guardians' afterwards. But anyone who thinks I am going to sit through a movie whose protagonists are owls is sadly, sadly mistaken.  

To close, I really don't think this nerdy post would be complete without a couple Pinky and the Brain quotes. In every episode, Brain asks Pinky the question "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" Pinky's various responses include:
--"Wuh, I think so, Brain, but burlap chafes me so."
--"I think so, Brain, but culottes have a tendency to ride up so."
--"I think so, Brain, but if we covered the world in salad dressing, wouldn't the aspargus feel left out?"
--"I think so, Brain, but if they called them 'Sad Meals', kids wouldn't buy them!"
--"I think so, Brain, but this time you put the trousers on the chimp."
--"I think so, Brain, but isn't that why they invented tube socks?"
--"Well, I think so Brain, but what if we stick to the seat covers?"
--"I think so Brain, but if you replace the 'P' with an 'O', my name would be Oinky, wouldn't it?"

Happy Sunday! Spending the next few hours celebrating my grandparents' anniversary with my mom's side...