Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chwismas Family Robison

My uncle gave me a book of modern poets and a disk recording of them reciting their poetry, so my Poem of the Week fire just had gasoline squirted on it. Here's a 20th century poem (and poet!) that wasn't in the book, but should have been:

"I Sit and Think" by J.R.R. Tolkien

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall never see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Virginia, Your Little Friends Are Wrong

'Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the blog, not a creature was reading, except for the dog... Okay, fine, Heidi can't read, but if she could, she would. Here is the 5th volume and seven of my favorite things connected to Christmas.


Favorite Christmas movie: A Muppet Christmas Carol

I realize this is a bold statement to say, seeing as there are so many fantastic Christmas movies out there, but it's true. Yes, we watch it on VHS too, while we churn butter and sew our own clothes:

("Our assets are frozen!")

Thursday, December 23, 2010

People, Look East! The Time is Near!

"The Burning Babe" by Robert Southwell, a 16th century English Jesuit priest

As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;
And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright did in the air appear;
Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;
The fuel justice layeth on, and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought are men's defilëd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.
With this he vanished out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.

and another of his wonderful poems, on the Nativity of Christ:

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Blissful Burden of Proof

The summer I spent in Washington, D.C. was a huge learning experience for me, especially outside my internship. I went to Philly for a conference and met a guy who also happened to be in D.C. for the summer. When we got back, he invited me out to dinner with a couple of his friends. I remember God coming up in the conversation, for some really random reason. They went around the table: Agnostic, Atheist, Agnostic. Then came me: Roman Catholic! I mostly listened, making a few comments when appropriate, but felt out of my element. All three did not grow up with any type of formal religion (unlike my own very structured upbringing), but, knowing that did help me better understand their thought processes.

At my internship, religion would just come up. I didn't even need to bring it up-- people would ask me what I thought, which is one of the highest compliments one can bestow on another. My cold little office had frequent visitors who liked to chat with me about politics, government, their day, music, growing-up and "the good old days" and yes, even religion. People knew I was Roman Catholic through general conversation, and thus confided in me: my editor was Jewish; the letters editor minored in Religion in college but aligned his beliefs closer to Christopher Hitchens'; the managing editor was a traditional Catholic; one of the editorial writers was Episcopalian but married to a Catholic; even the (now former) VP of editorial once felt the need to explain himself to me- he used to former Catholic- how he wanted to get married- how he wanted to have kids- how, yes he was dating someone, but had never met the One.

I'll never, however, concede to the notion that there is no proof for the existence of God.

This post was inspired by an article in yesterday's WSJ, "A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I Am An Atheist" by British Comedian Ricky Gervais. It was shared via two friends of mine, both Atheists, and "liked" over 32,000 times, which I admit troubles me deeply.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"You're like a breath of April air, sir," he cried. " You're ozone after that fellow."

From the end of Chapter II of G.K. Chesterton's "The Ball and the Cross":

"Well, sir," said the editor of The Atheist, "where is the fight to be? Name the field, sir."

Evan stood thunderstruck. He stammered out something, he knew not what; he only guessed it by the answer of the other.

"Do I want to fight? Do I want to fight?" cried the furious Free-thinker. "Why, you moonstruck scarecrow of superstition, do you think your dirty saints are the only people who can die? Haven't you hung atheists, and burned them, and boiled them, and did they ever deny their faith? Do you think we don't want to fight? Night and day I have prayed—I have longed— for an atheist revolution—I have longed to see your blood and ours in the streets. Let it be yours or mine?"

"But you said ..." began MacIan.

"I know," said Turnbull, scornfully. "And what did you say? You damned fool, you said things that might have got us locked up for a year, and shadowed by the coppers for half a decade. If you wanted to fight, why did you tell that ass you wanted to? I got you out, to fight if you want to. Now, fight if you dare."

"I swear to you, then," said MacIan, after a pause. "I swear to you that nothing shall come between us. I swear to you that nothing shall be in my heart or in my head till our swords clash together. I swear it by the God you have denied, by the Blessed Lady you have blasphemed; I swear it by the seven swords in her heart. I swear it by the Holy Island where my fathers are, by the honour of my mother, by the secret of my people, and by the chalice of the Blood of God."

The atheist drew up his head. "And I," he said, "give my word."

For an extra read, here is my latest TIC post: "The Grotesque Iconography of Lady Gaga"

Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent-- Veni, Veni, Emmanuel!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Deck the Halls with Booze and Holly

Volume Four, folks:


My friends are the coolest: Anna, upon receiving her first speeding ticket - "You can't possibly hear the last movement of Beethoven's Seventh and go slow."


So I walk by the cabinets in my kitchen where my mom puts all the invitations, schedules, pictures of my little cousins, etc. and I see the invitation for my mom's side's annual Christmas party. Talk about a good time! I love the family Christmas party, My mom's side is huge. I'm talking extended family of the extended family comes to this party. We used to have it at a yacht club by the river, but it was moved to various relatives' houses when I was in college. Everyone comes and eats and drinks and tells stories and laughs and drinks some more...

Then I see this: Where? Steve and Gigi's house!

Steve and Gigi are my parents. The Christmas party is at our house this year. All I can say is... seriously? We just had Thanksgiving at our house. The 30+ people then will look like a small get-together compared to this family gala. Holy Bloody Mary, Mom!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What I Imagine Life is Like in the Bright Lights, Big City

"Preludes" by T.S. Eliot


The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimneypots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.


The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.

With the other masquerades
That times resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.


You tossed a blanket from the bed
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed's edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.


His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o'clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ADVENTure is out there!

Let me begin by saying my car is old. Let me follow this fact by saying how much I love my car. My father bought it many years ago with the intention of letting me drive it when I got my license at age 16 and, thus, buying himself a chauffeur to carpool his five younger children around.

I drove it for two years in high school and then left it at home for college, taking it back with me only two of my eight semesters. Once when my sister was driving it, a little gravel flew up and hit the windshield while she and my brother were leaving the boat house after practice. The front window now has a nice scar across the lower part of the window. I think it gives it character. When I graduated college, my parents gave it to me as a graduation gift since I was not living at home at the time and would need transportation for my reporting job.

Today is Day 2 of my car being completely frozen shut. Not only am I not amused, but I am sad. I miss my car. I have to drive to work with my Dad, which I don't mind, but on Thursday he is going to Illinois for business and then I will need my car to open sesame or else ...I may not be able to get myself to work! I don't mind snow or cold but ice is a whole nother monster. I had to salt the back steps last night after work because I didn't want my mother coming home from work at the hospital only to return as a patient. (Or anyone, for that matter!)

Today is the feast day of St. John of the Cross, a mystic and Doctor of the Church, who came from poverty and suffering, learning to love God through hardship, and thus finding beauty and knowledge. His most famous book is Dark Night of the Soul, is a Christian classic for good reason. It is the treatise he wrote based on a poem he also wrote, of the same title, about faith in God when one is feeling loneliness, despair and spiritual dryness. St. John of the Cross argues that it is the very hardships one experiences that brings one closer to God and helps one grow in spiritual maturity. In it, he wrote, "Spiritual persons suffer great trials from the fear of being lost on the road and that God has abandoned them… Their soul was taking pleasure in being in that quietness and ease, instead of working with its faculties."

Well, I can relate. I am not going through a "dark night of the soul" by any means, but it is the third week of Advent and I am feeling a lull. Perhaps it is because I am always cold. Perhaps it is because I now have a cold. Or perhaps this is what it feels like no longer living like I am trying to do all my work in a 24 hour period.

Either way, I am learning more and more in these post-college days not to rely on only myself and my abilities. I come from a family who values independence and I've lately been worried I find more certitude in me than God. St. Augustine said to "pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you." I've struggled to trust God these past few weeks. I'm leaning more towards him now, but perhaps too eagerly, trying to discern his will. I am still puzzled at the clues. And that's okay. I don't really want to know, it's more a curiosity. I like praying for all possibility to delight me. Like learning a foreign language, patience and persistence is key with prayer.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Good Grief!

Firstly, to all who read via some sort of feed: you might have received a notification for a post that does not yet exist. I titled  a post, meant to click "Save Now" and clicked "Publish Post" instead. Well, now you know an idea forming in my head! Stay tuned; actual post to come later.

Happy third week of Advent! Here's Linus explaining what Christmas is all about to Charlie Brown:


and where I learned all my super cool dance moves:

Did you know Starbucks is selling the Peanuts' Christmas songs cd? I don't know how I feel about that, but I might buy it anyways!

Happy feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Today is one of the most culturally recognizable images of Our Lady. She appeared to a peasant, St. Juan Diego (whose feast day was this past Thursday, the day she appeared to him - December 9, 1531). When Juan Diegeo told the Bishop, the Bishop asked for a sign. Our Lady gave him roses, but when Juan Diego opened up his cloak to reveal the roses, this image was there instead. The Bishop had prayed for help converting the Aztecs, and this miraculous image and the story of Our Lady helped convert millions of Aztecs from their pagan religion to Christianity.

And from OLG's Wikipedia entry:

"The iconography of the Virgin is impeccably Catholic: Miguel Sanchez, the author of the 1648 tract Imagen de la Virgen María, described her as the Woman of the Apocalypse from the New Testament's Revelation 12:1, "clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars," and she is also described as a representation of the Immaculate Conception. Yet despite this orthodoxy the image also had a hidden layer of coded messages for the indigenous people of Mexico which goes a considerable way towards explaining her popularity. Her blue-green mantle was the color reserved for the divine couple Ometecuhtli and Omecihuatl; her belt is interpreted as a sign of pregnancy; and a cross-shaped image symbolizing the cosmos and called nahui-ollin is inscribed beneath the image's sash. She was called "mother of maguey," the source of the sacred beverage pulque, "the milk of the Virgin", and the rays of light surrounding her doubled as maguey spines."

Pax tecum!

Friday, December 10, 2010

PBR and Other Pleasantries

My Third Installment of the series, so get excited...


From the Donnybrook blog- an anecdote was worth sharing from my friend James:

"I got a new job back on Capitol Hill. After a brief stint of unemployment (survived only by winning a liquor store’s promotional PBR camping equipment giveaway), I landed on my feet with a job that paid bills. Now, I pay the bills by doing something that I’m pretty excited about."

Congrats on the job James... but you paid bills in D.C. via a PBR giveaway? I think that deserves a gold star for resourcefulness! And major hipster street cred.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Walk This Way

From my lovely burnt orange book, bought in Mecosta:

"The Scholars" by W.B. Yeats

Bald heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing in their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Cattulus walk that way?

In honor of the end of Hillsdale Hell Week and for general exams kicks and giggles:

H/T Andrew

And for the Dogwoodians et al.:

I've gotten a few entries, with promises of a few more, so here's the challenge again: if you were to give a toast (wedding or otherwise) in the voice of a literary character, whom would you imitate and what would you say? (See the bottom of yesterday's post for more details and inspiration!)

Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ave, Maria!

Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! This feast day is a holy day of obligation for the Catholic Church. It is the solemnity celebrating the conception of Mary (not Jesus in Mary) because she, by the grace of God, was born without original sin so that she would be worthy of hold Jesus in her womb.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us!
Just so we're on the same page: Roman Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate her and seek her as an intercessor. Per Jesum ad Mariam-- to Jesus through Mary. She is worthy of our praise (not worship, she is not divine) because she is the Mother of God the Son. This is not to say that we cannot go to Jesus directly ourselves, but it is just another way of getting to know him. When you are getting to know a guy (or really, any person), don't you want to meet his family?

This is a really great video explaining the importance of Mary through Scripture:

Today is also the 30th anniversary of John Lennon getting shot and killed. I am not a huge fan of him or Yoko Ono, but The American Conservative ran an article on him today called "Stop Imagining" which is quite good.

First batch of Christmas cards were sent Monday, but the next batch will have to wait: 1031 position paper due asap, article due next Monday, the galley proofs for The Key's winter issue just arrived in my inbox and I am helping my cousin pack up her apartment this weekend. I'm also seeing Narnia with a group Saturday and taking a good friend out for a belated birthday dinner. Is it seriously the middle of the week? (The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things...!)

Oh, and James Taranto e-mailed me back. If you do not know who he is, he runs a section of the WSJ and is fantastic (he writes the best headlines too!). I enjoyed yesterday's "Birther of the Nation" so much that I sent him an e-mail telling him so, because I am a big believer in giving feedback. He e-mailed me back today. BLISS.

A final thought: My friend Joy asked in a FB status what Beowulf would say in a toast. I wrote: Beowulf's wedding toast, as translated by Julie Robison: "May your fate be better than Grendel's, and your bride a better temperment than Grendel's mother's; may your mead always be abundant and your mead hall always merry; and may you have no fear when time demands it, and courage when others need it. Here, here!"

Then that got me thinking-- if you were to give a toast (wedding or otherwise) in the voice of a literary character, whom would you imitate and what would you say? (And if you give me a good one, I'll post it in tomorrow's poem of the week post!)

Happy Wednesday! Stay warm folks!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy St. Nick's Day!

A brief post on this chilly Monday... I am leaving work in a bit to help the Little Sisters of the Poor put up Christmas lights before RCIA with Kelsey tonight, and then celebrating St. Nick's Day with the family! I am still tired from the weekend (wedding, house guests, lots of writing), but it has been a good, challenging and busy day. It is definitely time to start wearing heavier layers; yay for cozy Sperry rain boots and navy blue ruffled cardigans!

I really liked the reading and reflection today:

from the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 5:17-26

One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set (him) in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven."

Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins''--he said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home." He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today."

and from Saint Peter Chrysologus (c.406-450), Bishop of Ravenna, Doctor of the Church

"What are you thinking in your hearts?"

Thanks to the faith of others the cripple's soul would be cured before his body. "Seeing their faith," the gospel says. Note here, my brethren, that God is not interested in what foolish people want and doesn't expect to find faith among the ignorant..., among those who conduct themselves badly. On the other hand he doesn't refuse to come to the help of others' faith. Such faith is a gift of grace, at one with God's will... In his divine goodness Christ the physician strives to draw to salvation, even in spite of themselves, those affected by sickness of soul, those whom the burden of their sins and offenses overwhelms even to delirium. Yet they don't want to submit.

O my brethren, if only we wanted to, if only we all wanted to perceive our soul's paralysis in all its depth! Then we would see that it is lying on a stretcher of sins, deprived of strength. Christ's action within us would be a source of light and we would understand that each day he sees our lack of faith, harmful as it is, that he draws us towards healing remedies and sharply presses our rebellious wills. "My son" he says, "your sins are forgiven you." (from Sermon 50)

Also, the Aggie Catholic blog has a fabulous piece on St. Nicholas and his intolerance of heretics. Definitely worth a read.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Nuff Said

For those who love to laugh:

And from the Robictionary:

Irish Diplomacy: The art of telling a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to making the trip.

I hope you are all having a wonderful Sunday!

"We all must understand that our whole life should be an 'Advent' in vigilant expectation of Christ's final coming." --Pope John Paul II

Friday, December 3, 2010

What Google Ad Preferences Taught Me About Myself

I am obviously not dedicated to the cause, seeing as I skipped last week, but here is me making up for my delinquency:

(Take Two!)


From my book shelf: Fr. James V. Schall's 'The Unseriousness of Human Affairs' (which is utterly fantastic):

"If we lack truth, especially if we deny truth is possible--the relativist position that dominates almost every university faculty today--nothing else that we lack will really matter much."

"It is a crime against humanity to make the materially poor also spiritually poor, to given them hope of only bread rather than every word that comes from God."

"The great source of public immorality is always private immorality, or to put it differently, there is no such thing as a sin that does not have public consequences, no such thing as a sin that does not require repentance and hence acknowledgment of the intrinsic disorder it puts into the world. Intellectual poverty is rooted in, and tends to, moral poverty, to an unwillingness to know the truth in action, to recognize the distinction of right and wrong and, more importantly, to live it."

"I consider utopians of every sort, therefore, to be intellectually poor, however sophisticated their systems. They are modern Pelagians who do not see any need of grace, who do not see any need of an independent truth by which they might correct their ideas about what the would should be like. And behind all these lofty theories is almost always a sinful, deviant heart bent on rejecting that conversion of soul from which all social reforms ultimately derives."



Last week and this week were major letter mailing weeks. I have been very bad about mailing letters these past few months to people whom I did not specifically promise one too, but the implied that I would, which is almost as bad. The Catholic guilt finally got to me and letters have been sent to places likes Happydale, Maryland, Santa Barbara, Clemson, Georgia and even to France, to my Little studying-abroad. It was fantastic!  Mail is like sending a little present, if one considers thought a gift.

This week I have also been working on Christmas cards. My mom sends out lots of Christmas cards to family and family friends every year and I decided I would send out Christmas cards this year too! I started looking around for local cards (to support the small businesses), but was generally dissatisfied with the selection out there. My oldest friend Bi started her own company called Prippie earlier this year and one day, while perusing her site, I saw she was doing stationary! Well, that settled it. She designed a card for me and I placed my order! I am crossing my fingers I can get them sent out by early next week... my hand keeps cramping up. I know; I can be a total pansy.

Me and Bi are like peas and carrots

Last week, Jill, a friend from college, posted a link for Gmail users and, upon clicking on it, I was vaguely amused by the list of general topics I am interested in according to Google analytics; topics like Law and Government, News, Campaigns and Elections, Humanities and Philosophy. All very interesting topics, yes? Then I read this: Demographics - Gender - Male.

Oh no, no, no. Google, you are mistaken. I am definitely a female.

A little indignant and wanting answers of why Google would say my gender is a male (my Gmail does start with "julie"- which is not an androgynous name), I clicked on the question mark, which told me, "Based on the websites you've visited, we think you're interested in topics that mostly interest men."

Not sure whether to be infuriated or laugh over the mishap of gender recognition, I gchatted another college friend, ZS, and told him what Google told me; I told him I was not sure how to take it. He replied "I don't imagine you google hollywood relationships enough." Always the insightful one, ZS.

Still not satisfied, I gchatted Jill herself, and she apparently had the same results. Then she said what I was thinking: "Kind of sexist, in a way."

The worse part is, however, that I am not even sure how to make Google Ad Preferences think I am a female. How many hours of internet searches would convince Google I am a girl? And what kind of searches? It begs the question that, even in the age of physical female liberation, are we still considered silly creatures mentally? Women want equal pay and reproductive rights, but they can't think seriously about life. And if a person can't think seriously, how could they be expected to act so? 

This makes me think of one of my favorite lines from Jane Austen, at the end of 'Pride and Prejudice,' when Mr. Bennett forbids Kitty from leaving the house unless she can prove she has spent 10 minutes in a rational manner! Always the pragmatist, Mr. Bennett.


A very happy Advent to all of you! I know, this should have been first in my list. OSV posted a wonderful list of "Ten Ways to Make Advent more Meaningful":

Reflect on Advent as a time of waiting. The idea of waiting is not popular in our culture of instant gratification, but it creates in us a new kind of self-discipline that helps us to appreciate the present moment and look to the future with peaceful anticipation.

Turn your breathing into a prayer. Take a few deep breaths throughout the day and imagine that God's love is flowing through you to every part of your body. As you exhale, let go of tension, worry and anything else that is not of God.

Long for the Lord. Make it a habit of silently praying, "Come, Lord Jesus."

Unite with Mary. Set aside time once a day to join Our Lady in praying the Canticle of Mary (see Lk 1:46-55).

Do something nice for someone every day. It might be an encouraging word, a phone call, a note of appreciation or a little act of kindness.

Get rid of grudges. Use Advent as an opportunity to let go of any anger or resentment that you might be holding onto.

Pray for patience. If you find yourself becoming anxious or upset, ask the Lord for the gift of patience. Then make a conscious effort to be a more patient person.

Offer up something painful or difficult in your life. The best way to transform trials and tensions is to turn them into a prayer.

Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Attend your parish penance service and take advantage of the opportunity to cleanse your soul in preparation for the coming of Jesus.

Think about the special gifts and talents God has given you. How are you using these gifts?


I saw Harry Potter 7 1/2 with my family last weekend. I liked most of it, except for one unnecessarily graphic scene and Dobby's death. No, I did not cry when he died. Apparently I am in the minority when I say it was overdone and I was unmoved. I did shed a tear when Hermione wiped her parents' memories; I was not expecting that scene in the first two minutes of the movie. I like how true the movie's script stayed to the book. I spent half the movie squeezing my sister's hand though because I was so scared. Yes, scared. Yes, I've read all the books.

Nevertheless, I am way more excited for the new Narnia movie: yay 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader'!


Not a huge fan of the title of this video ("The Advent Conspiracy" -- it is too hip for my lingo!), but the Advent message here is clear and meaningful to the spirit of the liturgical season. 


If you do not read The New Criterion, I suggest you pick up a copy. Even perusing through it will make your soul soar with its fine prose, wit and insight. Here is a Notes & Comments piece from the November issue, called "Speaking of multicultualism... On Chancellor Merkel's recent comments."

Do you suppose Angela Merkel, the trenchant German Chancellor, reads The New Criterion? We ask because she seems to share our antipathy toward “multiculturalism,” that spurious doctrine, born in the hothouse of Western universities, that proclaims the glories of “diversity” and egalitarianism but is really a blind for anti-Western, and especially anti-American, animus. “All cultures are equal,” chant the multiculturalists, like characters out of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, “but some are more equal than others.” It is one of the great rhetorical ironies of the age that what travels under the name of “multiculturalism” is really a form of mono-cultural animus directed against the dominant culture—our culture, the culture of the West. In essence, as Samuel Huntington noted in his book Who Are We?, multiculturalism is “anti-European civilization. . . .

It is basically an anti-Western ideology.” Multiculturalists claim to be fostering a progressive cultural cosmopolitanism distinguished by superior sensitivity to the downtrodden and dispossessed. In fact, they encourage an orgy of self-flagellating liberal guilt as impotent as it is insatiable. The “sensitivity” of the multiculturalist is an index not of moral refinement but of moral vacuousness. As the French essayist Pascal Bruckner observed, “An overblown conscience is an empty conscience”:

Compassion ceases if there is nothing but compassion, and revulsion turns to insensitivity. Our “soft pity,” as Stefan Zweig calls it, is stimulated, because guilt is a convenient substitute for action where action is impossible. Without the power to do anything, sensitivity becomes our main aim. The aim is not so much to do anything, as to be judged. Salvation lies in the verdict that declares us to be wrong.
Multiculturalism is a moral intoxicant; its thrill centers around the emotion of superior virtue; its hangover subsists on a diet of ignorance and blighted “good intentions.”

Wherever the imperatives of multiculturalism have touched the curriculum, they have left broad swaths of anti-Western attitudinizing competing for attention with quite astonishing historical blindness. Courses on minorities, women’s issues, and the Third World proliferate; the teaching of mainstream history slides into oblivion. “The mood,” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. wrote in The Disuniting of America, his excellent book on the depredations of multiculturalism, “is one of divesting Americans of the sinful European inheritance and seeking redemptive infusions from non-Western cultures.”

But multiculturalism is not only an academic phenomenon. The attitudes it fosters have profound social as well as intellectual consequences. One consequence has been a sharp rise in the phenomenon of immigration without—or with only partial—assimilation: a dangerous demographic trend that threatens the identity of host countries, in Europe as well as the United States, in the most basic way.

These various agents of dissolution are also elements in a wider culture war: the contest to define how we live and what counts as “the good” in the good life. Anti-Americanism and the charge of being “Eurocentric” occupy such prominent places on the agenda of the culture wars precisely because the traditional values of Western identity are deeply at odds with the radical, de-civilizing tenets of the multiculturalist enterprise. This is something that seems to have been vividly borne in upon Ms. Merkel. The attempts to build a “multicultural” society in Germany, she recently acknowledged, have “failed, utterly failed.” Immigrants, she said, in a speech that stunned the bien pensants, need to do more, much more, to integrate into German society, including learning German.

Kudos to Ms. Merkel for having the courage to articulate this home truth: that immigration is fine, but that there should be no immigration without assimilation. We suspect other European leaders are coming to the same realization, though whether they can muster Ms. Merkel’s forthrightness remains to be seen. Given the dour demographic realities in Europe, it may be a recognition that is too little too late. But it is nonetheless heartening to see this blunt political reality publicly acknowledged for what it is.

In other news, I've spent the week explaining to my dog that this is NOT Take Heidi to Work Week just because my sisters keeps telling her it is. Tonight, I have another Kappa sister's wedding and tomorrow a Happydale friend and his date will be attending a wedding here in my hometown and staying at my casa. That combined with summoning the endurance to keep writing should provide me with a fun and interesting weekend! I hope y'all have the same! Check out Conversion Diary for more and Happy Friday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Patientia, -ae

Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means "coming." For those of us who are learning the art of sitting still, I thought this poem by one of my favorite contemporary poets would fit nicely for the first week of Advent.

"Patience" by Kay Ryan

Patience is
wider than one
once envisioned,
with ribbons
of rivers
and distant
ranges and
tasks undertaken
and finished
with modest
relish by
natives in their
native dress.
Who would
have guessed
it possible
that waiting
is sustainable—
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
time's fullness
the diamonds
of patience
couldn't be
from the genuine
in brilliance
or hardness.

I love these, especially the "Hallelujah" ones:

I have my first tele-conference today for a freelancing assignment, which means new research will be revealed press conference-style, then open questions. Should be a good time.

For those who see patience as a virtue and to those who see it as the virtue of the bored (ahem, Oscar Wilde), have a very happy Thursday!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What is Real? asked the Rabbit

I've been reading a lot of children's literature lately, in addition to my Big Kid books. I'm peeking into my Little House on the Prairie series; I just bought a book on the adventures of King Arthur and I am so excited to read it. I've decided it will be a present to myself when I finish this big, important paper I am currently working on at my day job.

Market research is not for the creative. It is straight up fact, analytical and constant diligence. I talk to people on the phone who are interested in money and time, as any good business person should be if they intend to stay in business. I re-write more for structure than style. I keep a running list of article ideas completely unrelated to work; I find it takes tremendous will power not to spend my days developing ideas instead of focusing on clamouring topics like exchanging assets. (And yes, I obviously still write on my blog, but the time I spend on a blog post and the time I spend on an article is night and day.)

Remaining creative is important to me. Not only because of freelancing, but because I need it for my real job-job. Creativity keeps me innovative about "boring" topics that should interest more people, especially in this economy. I like to think creativity gives me perspective, helps me say, "If we don't like this marketing idea, if it's not working for us, that's okay! Let's think of another one. Let's roll." Too many people get caught on one good idea and then stick with it, till it dies, bleating for want of effectiveness.  

For example, I heard on NPR this morning that the Baby Boomers will be able to start filing for Medicare soon, but how many are not even thinking about it because it is an "old person" program, and many people do not consider themselves old at 65. Medicare takes up TWELVE PERCENT of our entire country's budget. Lack of fiscal responsibility aside, I think there have to be a lot more creative, effective and efficient ways to provide health care to the masses without the government micromanaging and then taking a slice of the profit.

The problem with the government and its workers is that they lack creativity. They cannot see anything happening without government intervention. They want to help we the common people, but not trust us to take care of ourselves. They are like the mom who sits outside the grade school all day, waiting for her children to hop in the car and go home. There is no room for boo-boos, no room for scrapped knees. And they are so serious!

In "My Fair Lady" (the musical starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, based off Shaw's play 'Pygmilion'), there is a great song Eliza sings to Professor Higgins called "Without You." She is essentially telling him off, saying if England will be there without him, if there will be crumpets and tea without him, if Spring will come without him, then so she too can do without him. Of course, Prof. Higgins gets insulted and then takes complete credit for her magnificence. It is a very funny scene:

The thing about the government is that there is a reason they give themselves airs and elite importance: they need people to pay attention to them. They, like all humans, want purpose. This does not justify their government programs or excuse higher taxes and their fiddling around with definitions of society's core foundations, but it does give one pause. They, like the Rabbit, want to be Real, wanted, needed.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

(from Margery Williams' 'The Velveteen Rabbit')

Alas! You cannot hold the government, or hug it. A government agency cannot provide happiness or contentedness or change. These all come from a conversion of the heart, which comes from God and is encouraged by one's relationships with other people. I had a nice conversation last night with a friend about joy: where it comes from, what causes it, and what holds it there. There is no better way to find joy than through the eyes of children; their delight in the world is a wondrous thing to behold. All the analysis and data proving such-and-such is nothing to surprise snow flurries, butterflies, hugs, coloring and vroom-vrooming a car around the room. 

There is a lot to take truly seriously in this world, but the government is not included on that list. I like to treat the government in the same vein as St. Thomas More's attitude toward Satan: "The devil... that proud spirit... cannot endure to be mocked." Life is serious in the sense that it matters; people matter. But what better way to thumb one's nose at being an adult than to pay one's taxes and then earnestly avoid interaction with those false prophets, who claim salvation through their legislation and executive orders? Now children's literature, on the other hand, is worth seriously reading and considering. Because if Winnie the Pooh can't help respecting anyone who can spell "Tuesday," imagine what other possibilities the world holds!

Happy first of December! May your day be cozy and your view full of snow, like mine is in the North country.