Monday, January 31, 2011


Good line

In the 2009 Sherlocke Holmes, Inspector LeStrade springs Holmes from jail, where he is distracting the surly rabble.

Holmes:   You came just in time, LeStrade. I was running out of jokes.
Lestrade: In another life, Holmes, you'd have made an excellent criminal.
Holmes:   And you, an excellent policeman.

It pleases me

that the 26 states suing to have Obamacare undone (and there are 2 others with independent suits) have been successful in their latest plea. Judge declared unconstitutional the requirement that each individual buy health insurance. And declared the whole act invalid because the Government itself declared that this requirement is its essential element.

It's not over, but it's nice.

The Supremes will have the final say.

PS. Pretty funny. A bill in the SD legislature requiring every adult to buy a gun so they can provide for their self defense! 

Law and out of order

I rarely watch Law and Order anymore. Got formulaic. And its political bias was all too clear. Tonight I catch a few minutes. A Chinese woman is being asked to look at a set of pix of white men to identify them...I don't know why. She looks at them and then says to S Epatha Merkesson...or whatever that name is..."I can't say. They all look alike." No rolling of eyes. No embarrassed silence. No response at all. Just thanked and allowed to go.

Of course, if a white said that about a group of Asian pix, there'd be response. Moral condemnation. But when the multiculti rules are in play, non-whites can do no wrong.


Hell cools a little

Tonight Bill O'Reilly had his conservative and liberal respondents on, talking about Egypt. Asking them to grade Obama on his response.

The conservative white woman gave him a C but couldn't say what he should have done to get a higher grade. The liberal black man gave him a D- because he should have done the right thing from the beginning. As he said, You can't invade foreign countries for the sake of setting up democracies and then make nice with dictators.

O'Reilly gave O a B because...what the hell is the guy supposed to do? Mubarak is a bad guy, sure, but he keeps peace with Israel and helps us. Remember the popular demonstrations in Iran years ago against the Shah? What came after? It's a tough situation.

Here's the hell cooling part. I agree with O'Reilly. O could get up on his pulpit, as he so often does, and give a high minded speech. But what will follow Mubarak? When was the last time a Middle Eastern dictator was deposed then replaced by somebody better?

(Tunisia is too soon to tell.) 

Sometimes you have to deal with the devil and there's no choice.

Even when we were the active single superpower, we could not control all of history.

A missed (or Ms.'ed) opportunity

Notice of a retreat last year, given by Sisters for their sistahs. I feel so excluded.

Topic: Nurturing What’s Coming to Life Within

A very special time for women, this retreat will be filled with sharing, silence and honoring our own and other women’s processes and stories as sacred and holy. Through prayer, simple body experiences, scripture, rituals, laughter (perhaps a tear), and much encouragement, we will risk recognizing and celebrating what new life is struggling to be born. There will be daily liturgy and opportunities for spiritual direction.

Bring a journal and a willingness to let go of hurt, fear, shame and whatever is no longer serving you to embrace peace, passion, purpose and play. Topics will include: revisioning holiness; midwifing the future; weaving the tapestry of our lives; gathering the fragments; and crossing new thresholds.

Just reading that made my testosterone level plummet.

Ecumenical BS

In the 60's, the Second Vatican Council altered the Roman Catholic attitude toward other religions. They went from being heretics and schismatics (if Christian), stiffnecked Jews, or pagans to becoming "separated brethren" (if Christian), the beloved people of Israel, and members of other respected world religions.

The low point of this was the 1986 Assisi Conference, where the Pope made believe he was just one of the boys. Someone put a statue of Buddha on top of the tabernacle. Later on, he kissed a Koran.

So now, in the period of post 60's Enlightenment, we make believe that the natural and default position of religions and religious leaders is to be friendly, even if we, regretfully, differ on some minor religious matters. An exquisitely polite superstructure developed out of this.

I have always thought, well, at least since my 30s, that the only reason the "ecumenical movement" could have arisen was that religion was not important anymore, at least in the West.

The sundering of Church and State, Church and society, and especially Church and power, made it ok to be friendly with your former mortal enemies because there was no longer anything serious at stake. Religion rarely got you status and it rarely stymied you in society.

In typically anocranial style, Enlightenment Westerners made believe that their awakening naturally included the whole world. So religions like Islam...from Day 1 the mortal enemy of Christendom...suddenly became alternative forms of moral monotheism.
But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, 
in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: these profess to hold 
the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, 
mankind's judge on the last day. 
Thing was, someone forgot to tell the Muslims, for whom religion is still something surpassingly real.

Egyptian freedom

What the outcome of the current demonstrations and clashes in Egypt will be, no one know for sure, of course. The miraculous establishment of a Western style liberal democracy seems to this old guy unlikely.

It is one of the nostrums of the West that the desire for freedom is universal. George Bush and Michael Novak fall into that chant. I never believed it. After all, one of the consciously constructed mechanisms of our free society is a separation of powers designed precisely to thwart what the Founding Fathers knew as man's inherent and ineradicable drive for dominance. What was Franklin's phrase? "A republic, madam. If you can keep it."

When people say they want to be free, what they usually mean is that they themselves want to be free, free to live the kind of life they think best. The big problem with Western freedom is that it implies and demands that the freedom you take also be granted to others, who want to live lives differently. And every society has to limit that. What else is government if not constraint?

It is a rare and historically odd and delicate position to actually want the freedom of others who are different. Most of us want freedom to have the world reflect ourselves.

Arabs --and even if you grant that Egyptians are different, though deeply Arabized in language and religion-- and Muslims in general...where do they find the ground in their history and culture for the kind of government that the West sometimes achieves? Frankly, it seems alien to me. Their success rate so far is, to put it kindly, unimpressive.

I was wondering

One of the three longtime bloggers at Powerline abruptly signed off last week, with no explanation. I wondered what the story was. More multicultural BS.  HT via FiveFeetOfFury.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tempus fugit

Handsome actor Michael Warren, who played Officer Bobby Hill, on Hill Street Blues.

I just saw him as part of an Ameritrade retirement funds commercial. Dude is older than me!

And it turns out that Hill Street Blues ran entirely in the 80's: 81 to 87. I would swear it had been the 70's.

Fox foxes

I watch Fox News sometimes. No surprise.

One of their reporters did something that many reporters do, tell you what you are seeing when it is in conflict with what you are seeing. Describing a group of a couple hundred Egyptians on a street corner in LA, supporting the upheavals in Cairo, the guy said that the bad weather in the city had not prevented "this massive demonstration."


And really, what's with the women on this channel? Over made up, mostly blonde, coiffed and smoothed so that they look like they're made of enamel and lipstick. Yikes.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

More nun sense

I knew these girls back in the 80's, part of a disastrous attempt
to create a single male-female community.
The Mother General was one tough dude.

We Dominican
Preachers of Adrian
impelled by the Gospel
and outraged by the injustices
of our day
seek truth;
make peace;
reverence life.
Stirred by the Wisdom of God
and rooted in our
contemplative prayer,
communal study and life in community,
we challenge heresies of local and global
domination, exploitation, and greed
that privilege some, dehumanize others,
and ravage Earth.
We confront our racist attitudes
and root out racist practices
in our lives and systems.
We confront systems
where women are denied freedom,
equality, and full personhood.
We walk in solidarity with people
who are poor
and challenge structures
that impoverish them.
We practice non-violent peacemaking.
We promote lay leadership
and shared decision-making
for a renewed Church.
We live right relationships with
Earth community.
We claim the communal authority
and responsibility of our
Dominican heritage.
We commit ourselves
to live this vision.

Our vision continues
to impel us
as contemplative
ecclesial women,
global citizens,
and humans in God’s
unfolding universe:
We commit to live simply and sustainably
for the sake of the whole
Earth community.
We commit to study worldviews
and emerging theologies
informed by science
and our suffering world.
We commit to open our hearts to the other
and deepen our understanding
of diverse cultures and beliefs.
We commit to claim our moral authority
to speak truth in Church and society
in the spirit of Catherine of Siena.
We call one another
to mutual accountability
and transformation.

Aside from memory and personal history, I remain interested in things like this as part of my reading of how liberalism shows itself in religion. You can read the multiculturalism, feminism, redistributionism, environmentalism, pacifism and transnationalism very easy*. Secularism not so obvious because this is a group of religious people, but my guess is that the center of gravity lies outside the religious sphere and that various forms of spirituality and liberation would trump any actual denominational identity.

*Oops. Shoulda been an adverb. From an 1893 California State textbook for children 11-14:

Lesson 146
Rules for the Use of Adverbs, and Cautions.
1. Do not use adjectives for adverbs, nor adverbs
when quality, not manner, is meant.
2. Do not repeat or exaggerate the idea.
3. The rules under adjectives, relating to the use of
comparatives and superlatives, apply also to adverbs.
4. Be careful to place adverbs where they will make
the meaning clear and the sentence smooth.

And if you can stand it, more of this on a national level. Notice Whose Name is missing from this opening ceremony?

Political waters

Large parts of California are like Israel, irrigated desert. Water here is a big issue. It was only after I lived in SF a while that I discovered that rainfall in San Francisco had very little impact on our water supply. We could be flooded here and still run out of water. We get 85% of it from Yosemite National Park, 165 miles away, from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir there, water coming from the Tuolomne River (it's pronounce Twolomy; like the second c in Connecticut, the n is silent) and, importantly, the snow melt. As in Rome and Constantinople, gravity drives the water down to us from the 3000 foot high Sierras to us, through aqueducts and tunnels, all of which cross the Hayward fault...

Friday, January 28, 2011

A moral thought

Yes, from me.

Usually I think of something as moral or ethical because it's close to home. Grand moral themes, especially about things like "the global community"...these I am tone-deaf to, by and large.

But in light of my friend's response the other day to my attempt to associate him with Thomas Jefferson (He only saw him as a slave-owner)...this thought.

Europeans who brought vast numbers of slaves from Africa to the Western Hemisphere over a couple of centuries...where did they get them? How did those millions of people get to the western coast?  Did Europeans constantl invade the interior of West Africa and do it? Nope. All the evidence shows that the Europeans usually remained quite close to the coast and mostly bought Africans from other Africans. They were the ones who had captured them for sale.

Now if there is some kind of "debt" owed to the descendants of slaves by "America" ...what about the debt, in guilt and shame at least, of all the Africans descended from the Africans who sold their own people to aliens? Century after century after century. That strikes me as a particularly ugly truth.

I wonder, too, how many of those who found themselves on slave ships were once themselves in the business of raiding other tribes for that purpose and got caught up by back luck or a shift in local balances of power.

I mentioned this a friend --himself a man not allured by moral issues--- and he reminded me that the Africans who did this were usually selling  people outside their own tribe or clan and that they did not consider them "their own people." A reminder that racial solidarity usually only arises in the presence of another race. But here, no sense of Black solidarity stopped these many people --for centuries--from feeding the European desire for slave labor.

Letting the nun out of the bag

Part of the "religion" interest of Ex Cathedra is in how supposedly mainstream Catholic sisters, in North America especially have, in many cases, moved well beyond Catholicism into some kind of ecofeminist social justice spirituality. If you look at their websites, you don't find much Catholic, or even Christian, in the forefront. Small wonder they are dying. Small wonder that the Vatican is investigating them.

I stumbled on to the 2007 keynote address to the national organization that many of them belong to. Remembrance of jargons past. But the most astonishing thing was the honesty with which Laurie Brink, OP recognized the same situation. She points out that many communities of nuns are dying and refuse to face it gracefully. And as part, and only part, of her lengthy speech, this:
"The dynamic option for Religious Life, which I am calling, Sojourning, is much more difficult to discuss, since it involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus. A sojourning congregation is no longer ecclesiastical. It has grown beyond the bounds of institutional religion. Its search for the Holy may have begun rooted in Jesus as the Christ, but deep reflection, study and prayer have opened it up to the spirit of the Holy in all of creation. Religious titles, institutional limitations, ecclesiastical authorities no longer fit this congregation, which in most respects is Post-Christian."

When religious communities embraced the spirit of renewal in the 1970s, they took seriously that the world was no longer the enemy, that a sense of ecumenism required encountering the holy “other,” and that the God of Jesus might well be the God of Moses and the God of Mohammed. The works of Thomas Merton encouraged an exploration of the nexus between Eastern and Western religious practices. The emergence of the women’s movement with is concomitant critique of religion invited women everywhere to use a hermeneutical lens of suspicion when reading the androcentric Scriptures and the texts of the Tradition. With a new lens, women also began to see the divine within nature, the value and importance of the cosmos, and that the emerging new cosmology encouraged their spirituality and fed their souls.

As one sister described it, “I was rooted in the story of Jesus, and it remains at my core, but I’ve also moved beyond Jesus.” The Jesus narrative is not the only or the most important narrative for these women. They still hold up and reverence the values of the Gospel, but they also recognize that these same values are not solely the property of Christianity. Buddhism, Native American spirituality, Judaism, Islam and others hold similar tenets for right behavior within the community, right relationship with the earth and right relationship with the Divine. With these insights come a shattering or freeing realization—depending on where you stand. Jesus is not the only son of God. Salvation is not limited to Christians. Wisdom is found in the traditions of the Church as well as beyond it.

I can't help quoting the opening of her talk. It tells you most of what you need to know.
Perhaps the title of this year’s LCWR assembly, “The Next Frontier: Religious
Life at the Edge of Tomorrow,” is a bit imperialistic. It conjures up images of
conquered Indians and stalwart white pioneers. The underlying philosophy for “frontier”
is “manifest destiny.” It is our destiny to extend our grasp, to reach beyond what is
currently “ours” and to take from the other. The theological justification in the 1800s was
the salvation of heathen souls—a theology that we no longer hold.
Rather, what would it sound like if instead of “frontier,” we used “margin,” which
Webster defines as “the outside limit and adjoining surface of something.” “The Next
Margin: Religious Life at the Edge of Tomorrow.” I agree.

In James Burnham's words: "Liberalism, the ideology of Western suicide. "

Tech pros and cons

Got myself the Kindle app for my laptop and my iPhone. Downloaded an old book I liked from years ago, to see how it stands the test of time: He: Understanding Masculine Psychology. So far, a pro.

The con: I watched Avatar. (Why? I lost a bet.)

Too true, 2

From my good friend L, this quote from "Friedman" --not sure which one, but it's spot on.

One of the most extraordinary examples of adaptation to immaturity in contemporary American society today is how the word "abusive" has replaced the words "nasty" or "objectionable". (1999)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Half truths

I remember, with some bitterness, the popularity of a New Age maven.... I forget her name now, but it will come back to me....back in the 80's and 90's, especially among men with AIDS. The shock of those years produced, as it always does, desperate searches for some kind of meaning.  The medical narrative was simple enough: you caught a virus and it is going to kill you. If you believed in God, you could wonder if he was punishing you. If you didn't, it was just your bad luck. 

Louise Hay. That was her name.

For a number of men, they bought into this woman's idea that they had brought this disease on themselves through lack of self-love and that by learning to love themselves, they could heal themselves. To me, this was not really different from God punishing you, except that you played the role of God, and were unconscious of it. What drew the men was the sense of agency, but the narrative behind it was the same as any angry Baptist's: It's your own damn fault.
Well, there was some truth in that. People got HIV --as they get all kinds of pathogens-- from actions  they chose to perform. Of course, initially, no one knew HIV was there. But once it was, people continued --and continue-- to take big risks or be ignorant.

What I resist is the implication of omnipotence. Although I plead totally guilty to being hemmed in by ignorance and passion as much as the next man, I continue to hold that we can make choices, that we have "free will." Yet, our choices are human choices, always finite and limited. Unlike God who simply said, Let there be light, and there was light...we can't create reality by an idea or a wish. Believe me, if we could...

One of the besetting sins our age, IMHO, is to take small truths and turn them into The Answer. 

As an admirer of CG Jung, I find much wisdom in his use of Heraclitus' dictum: Ethos anthropo daimon, Man's character is (his) fate. How much of our lives are the results of our particular ways of perceiving, valuing, emphasizing and excluding, ignoring and obsessing over, interpreting, etc.? Namely, our characters, or our personalities. For most of us, if  you change our situation, we will recreate it. Yet we do not make these things out of whole cloth, or like God, ex nihilo. Responsible we are, but not omnipotent.

Sometimes we are victims of circumstance --sometimes we are its beneficiaries. But we always operate within circumstances. The trick is to discover how, no matter what the circumstances, we operate repetitively. One of the tasks of therapy is to make this discovery, to realize to what extent --and the extent of the extent varies!-- we are the co-authors of our situation.

Unfortunately, since our postlapsarian (or demiurgic, for you Gnostics) condition is not simply a darkened intellect but a weakened will, knowing this does not automatically lead to doing anything about it! That takes work and grace. And character.

It is a particular point of mine to try to take responsibility for my life. By that I mean that I rarely blame anyone for my situation. I may assign them a portion of the responsibility for the situation, but I always try to remember that since I am free, white and well over 21, I have had a huge hand in it as well. It's how I understood my relationships with Thom and with B. The freer we are, the more that is the case. And very often even our unfreedom is partly woven by our own hands.

And that's the truth.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Totally believable

From a column listing weird things overheard at Mass:

Whispered by a father in the pew behind me to his children who were being a little noisy: “When we get to the car I’m testing all of you on what the gospel was. And if you get it wrong you’re dead.”
Little girl talking to her younger sister just after Communion in the pew in front of us: “Ha ha. I get Communion but you’re too little.” This was accompanied by a little celebratory dance.

Totally believable.

Saints behaving politically

Cardinal Newman, recently beatified, was a member of the Oratorian religious order, founded in the 16th century by the Italian, St Philip Neri.
Much as he mingled with society, and with persons of importance in church and state, Neri's single action in regard to political matters was in 1593, when his persuasions induced Pope Clement VIII to withdraw the excommunication and anathema of Henry IV of France, and the refusal to receive his ambassador, even though the king had formally abjured Calvinism. Neri saw that the pope's attitude was more than likely to drive Henry to a relapse, and probably to rekindle the civil war in France, and directed Baronius, an Oratorian, then the pope's confessor, to refuse him absolution, and to resign his office of confessor, unless he would withdraw the anathema. Clement yielded at once, though the whole college of cardinals had supported his policy; and Henry, who did not learn the facts till several years afterwards, testified lively gratitude for the timely and politic intervention.

Choose your compulsion

The Enneagram typology system is based on a primary compulsion each type of person has. Fives, like me, are driven to understand. Three, to perform and achieve. Nines, to make peace. Fours, to be special and tragic.

Most of my friends are Twos, driven to care for others (whether they want it or not!), with a wing type of One, the moralist who wants to be good, and wants others to be good, too.  By exception, B --remember him?-- is a Seven, whose compulsion is to have a good time.

If I had to choose a number for myself, I'd be a Seven or a maybe a Three. What I'd never choose is a One. Exhausting. And boring.

One of my friends who is a Two/One --big doses of both-- is in angry One mode because someone he cares about it being hard done by by someone unworthy and he can't fix it. We fell into a discussion of religion and he allowed as how he was a big fan of Jesus, but not of His Father. (We've been over this many times before.) He said he'd try to live like Jesus even if there was no God, or Jesus never rose from the dead or even existed.

To this Five, that makes absolutely no sense whatever. But since he was distressed, I thought I'd calm him by referencing one of the Founding Fathers, who edited the Gospels into a non-miraculous ethical tome called The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. So I said, "Well, I guess that makes you a Thomas Jefferson kind of Christian." Undeterred in his roll of righteous wrath, he answered, "No. I would never own slaves."

At that point I went to the bathroom.

Sevens are elusive and tricky, but they're a lot more fun.

Fair and balanced over at Amazon

In response to some of my reviews there, I have my fans

It's hard for me to call this a "review," as it's one of the most poignant and moving things I've ever read. Please write a book -- the world needs it.
This was a most moving review. Like poetry, it spoke of what I feel but cannot express. Thank you.

and my un-fans:
This is one of the most annoying reviews I've ever read. There is nothing worse than a person who reviews something using a bunch of obscure language and references, leaving it without proper context, and often arguing some precise point that is wasted on virtually anyone other than the book's author, perhaps, who doesn't even care about Lay Joe's opinion.  So why do we even need to read this review?

Two pix I keep coming back to

Like most men who are on the Net, I am not unfamiliar with pornography. There are two pictures I have posted on my blog, however, which, while not pornographic --at least to me-- are ones I find myself returning to. Because they are beautiful and they exhibit something particularly beautiful about men.

Both of these are pictures posted by the men themselves, on websites. The older is in his late 50's, the younger is 47. Both have an abundance of what I long ago decided was characteristic of masculine beauty: solidity, strength and grace.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Not that I care

About the State of the Union Speech. I'm with Justice Scalia about it being an undignified and juvenile spectacle. And a waste of time media event. (That was true even when GWB was in office.) The Constitution only requires a communication "from time to time". From Jefferson to Taft, it was a written report. Good idea. Wouldn't you know it was Professor Wilson who started up the joint address to Congress that we now endure. One more of his many blessings.

But I just read in the Christian Science Monitor,
The president, Obama advisers have said, will describe five “pillars” for “winning the future” – education, infrastructure, innovation, deficit reduction, and reform of government.
Please don't tell me that the speech will talk about Five Pillars.
Guess what else has Five Pillars?

Post SOTU. No pillars. Praise Jesus.

I can't help myself

Just returned from wandering through the site of The National Catholic Reporter, the premier mouthpiece of American liberal Catholicism, where it's always 1968. Very funny stuff.

Fragment from an old seminar on Luther I attended in graduate school: The one kind of heretic that he, himself a heretic!, could not stand were what he called schwaermer, enthusiasts or fanatics. Plenty of them over there at NCR, on staff and in the comments.

Comments on the internet are rarely anything but chilling (Ex Cathedra's fine commentors excepted!). The NCR comments threads are no exception, however. Such a lot of deeply opinionated and stupid, half-read people. 

Half of them should become Episcopalians, the other half Unitarians.

The sign of Jonah

It's pretty common, I think, to hate your neighbors more than a distant foe. I have often remarked how denizens of San Francisco will gush forth a volcano of bile for Bush and Palin and the Republicans, etc. but, if they mention the issue at all, merely regret Osama bin Laden and the whole Islamic jihad. Apparently it would be unseemly for liberals to froth about them. Unfortunate as that whole hijacking of Islam movement is, it is certainly misunderstood by Western prejudice against Islam and very likely provoked by Western imperialism and colonialism.

These folks have ancestors.

The city of Damascus was long a part of the Byzantine Empire, the Romans of the East. Six hundred years. The official religion was the Christianity of the council of Chalcedon, held in 325. The Chalcedonian definition was that Christ was one divine Person, the Word of God, in two natures (dyo physeis),  fully human and fully divine. The definition held to by many Christians in Egypt and the near East spoke of Christ as one nature (monos physis). These "monophysites" were subject to penalties from their fellow Christians and there was no love lost.

So when the conquering, invading, foreign, imperialist and colonialist armies of the Religion of Peace showed up at the gates of Damascus and, unprovoked, laid siege in 632, a mere two years after Muhammad's death, it was a monophysite bishop named Jonah --who hated his neighbors more than a distant foe-- who gave the Arabs information about how best to take down the city. Which they did. Unsurprisingly, Jonah converted to Islam.

I believe similar situations eventuated elsewhere, including Egypt, which was heavily Monophysite. And the Copts are still paying the price.

So those folks who want us to "understand" the suicide-bombing beheading jihadis' religion, but simply identify Dick Cheyney with the anti-Christ (isn't it obvious?) have a long tradition of traitorous patron saints they can rely on for help.

Strong and/or beautiful

Paleomasculine writer Jack Donovan put up some videos of himself working out at his gym, lifting heavy objects. Not heavy barbells, but heavy objects. In this case, a beer keg. When I commented that he'd be a great resource if trapped under earthquake debris, he replied, "That's why it's called 'functional strength'."

Following up on my previous post, I think this is a clue to why certain kinds of men and certain kinds of male strength or physique get the responses they do.

At my gym, they often show tapes of bodybuilding contests. Now bodybuilders have a kind of marginal status as men: despite their massive musculature, they can be dismissed as narcissists or clocked as gay. But this kind of negative is never directed at weightlifters, the kind of guys who win World's Strongest Man contests. Why? Bodybuilder strength is ornamental, weightlifter strength is functional. For men, a beautiful physique, if it is to be solidly valued, must signify functional strength, must mean that all that muscle can do something useful (including something dangerous). Otherwise, it is ornamental, like the beautiful bodies of women.

Women are not considered beautiful by men primarily because they look strong, but because the classic female physique signifies fertility. It is about children. For men, a strong and beautiful body must be the sign of functional strength and skill. If it is just for watching, then it feels somehow feminine.

Men who display their bodies, unless it is assumed that these bodies' function flows from that displayed strength, are read somewhat like women, who display their bodies to attract men. Obviously bodybuilders have functional strength: even with steroid, you have to work hard and lift and pull a lot of weight to look like that. But the point is to look like that. You get judged not by how much weight you life but how you look because of it. This makes for the ambiguity.

Weightlifters are rarely built like Greek gods and do not need to be. The point is to be functionally strong, not visually attractive. And no one considers weightlifters anything less than masculine.

When men take on clothing or ornament, if it is connected to functional strength, it enhances their masculinity. Soldiers are the great example. Fastidious and even fussy clothing is a sign of having earned belonging in a male band of killers. If a man dresses well and it only shows that he has taste, not power, he is open to critique or contempt. Mere ornament.

Two cases in point: a lot of gay men have excellent physiques, but this does not cash out into masculine status in the larger world. Like bodybuilders, they are seen as creating an attractive image. Does anyone assume that a muscular gay man can fight? Or even fix a car? The body is there to be sexually attractive, for display...and so you have the taint of femininity.

Black performers, actors or singers, can act like strippers and not lose masculine status. Why? It is assumed that their physiques signify both heterosexual sexual prowess and capacity for violence. Their beautiful muscularity is assumed to be fully functional in the classic masculine tracks. And since Black men --unless they present as queens-- are always assumed to have primitive sex and violence, any Black man who dresses fastidiously will lose no masculine points for that.

Two kinds of male beauty: functional strength vs ornamental muscle.

Hippies and homeboys: manhood in Black and White

There are different rules for men of different colors.

In a funny segment of the film In and Out, Kevin Kline attempts to contain his gay desire to dance because the Manliness Tape tells him that real men don't dance. Well, if you're white. Black men suffer no loss of masculinity by dancing. On the contrary, it is a powerful performance of virility, of the sexual kind, specifically.

It is amusing to me that mostly in Black venues now do we have the traditional pairing and language of "ladies" and "fellas". Gender differentiation between male and female is --in visual presentation-- highly emphasized. No unisex fooling around there; Black men and women are very much opposite sexes. But given the disastrous state of male-female relationships among Blacks (the 70% illegitimacy rate, the disproportionate abortion rate, homes without fathers, etc.), calling the "females" --another speech oddity of Black men-- "ladies" seems ironic.

A thought: White masculinity has been so damaged by feminism that the traditional pride, aggression, status-seeking, etc,. of men is now migrated and intensified to the point of parody in the young Black hiphop male. In terms of "archetype", the dickless peace-loving white Hippie has been supplanted by the phallic black thuggish Homeboy.

Another thing Black men can do, performers especially, is basically do a striptease and not lose status. Can you imagine a white romantic singer taking off his shirt like this and not being seen as somehow undignified or even foolish? Wassup wit dat?

A sociology text I ran across several years ago described an adolescent boy who was interested in music and dance, was picky about the style and cleanliness and presentation of his clothes and his hair and footwear and wore scent to school. If the kid was white, people clocked him as gay; if black, very cool. The difference is clear right there: same behavior in different race reads oppositely.

Speculation: in America, Blacks have always played the role of both the primitive animals and the naturally spiritual and wise, the feral thug and the universal mammy. (Sort of like the peasants in Tsarist Russia). That creepy combination of license and deference that Shelby Steele zeroed in on.

For example, Blacks can talk about God all day and it is considered natural for them --even if they are dressed like hookers, thanking Him for an award for a dirty song--, like Indians invoking the Great Spirit. Whites talking about God immediately provokes a nervous desire to situate them in a particular tradition, so we know whether to tolerate them, ignore them and be alarmed.  Same with Black sexuality: its primitivity is what makes it solid, so a Black man can do things that would have a White man's masculinity called into question and instead have it solidify his male qualities.

A short thesis: in our culture, Blacks are their bodies and their souls; Whites are people who have bodies and minds.


Ruins in an American city.

From its peak population of 1.8 million in 1950, to half that today.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A favorite view

of the male, one that you don't see photographed enough.

Why not?

In an FB posting about Israel and the Arabs, jpm suggested that "the Thirteen Colonies should withdraw to at least their 1776 borders, with a right of return for all Loyalists."

That would be a small beginning toward justice, without which there is no peace.

Once that were accomplished, we could start repatriating the Indians.

Don't the Israelis "get" it?

A view of the world

Based on Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis, which asserts that in the post-ideological world after the Cold War, most major conflicts will be based, as traditionally, on culture and religion, immemorial sources of group identity.

Makes sense to me.

From a distance, seems to me that China is driven not by Marxist ideology but by nationalism. Chinese pianist Lang Lang's insulting choice of music at the White House was about being Chinese; had nothing to do with ideology. (If an American had done that in China, it would not be about "nationalism"; it would be called "racism".)

Doesn't mean, of course, that conflicts within these regions won't happen --humans are usually just as enthusiastic in murdering their kinfolk as their neighbors or distant aliens. Just for one example, Muslim Arabs and Muslim Iranians do not like each other. Are the French and Americans really allies? The Vietnamese, the Chinese, the Koreans...hardly pals. But these are more micro-conflicts and they multiply easily.

The two yellow "lone" nations are Black/French Haiti and African/Orthodox Ethiopia...and I guess, in this map, Israel.

Welcome to planet earth

Sadly wise commentary on the History Channel about the D Day invasion of Normandy:
"Operation Overlord (the code name for the attack) was the most completely planned military undertaking in history and yet everything that could go wrong did go wrong."

What the Dickens?

I awoke in the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep, so I turned on the TV and found myself watching a BBC documentary on the only recently discovered story of Charles Dickens' 13-year affair with a young actress, Ellen Ternan. Although his obsession with her broke up his marriage and family, this hugely popular Victorian man --in terms of fame a male combo of JK Rowling and Princess Di-- managed to keep it a secret from everyone but a very few intimates, who kept it to themselves. His treatment of his wife, who bore him 9 children, was abominable.

After he died, Ms. Ternan later married, also keeping secret her long affair from her new husband and their child, who did not discover it until after her death. Amazing.

The power of eros. Never to be underestimated. As much as Dickens' particular behavior appears like a kind of frenzied madness...well, that's what the god induces. As I said the other day, at the best of times our free will is limited by our postlapsarian ignorance and passion. When that kind of love enters in...well, they don't call it falling for nothing.

I read that in a book.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thought for the week

Equality or reality. Choose.

Winter in SF :)

I did take the N-Judah streetcar out to the beach this bright Sunday afternoon. If you'll pardon a moment of rhetorical excess, the long sets of breakers looked like great rows of giant white-maned lions. So warm I had to make it just jeans and tank top. Nice.


Today in SF it's sunny and in the 60's. I may take the N-Judah train out to the ocean. Despite the decline of the West and my fortunes, something to be grateful for. Unlike winter in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories of Canada.

An alternative view

Since we here at Ex Cathedra aim to be fair and balanced....oh, wait. Not me. That's Fox.

Anyhow, a fascinating look at how life expectancy and wealth have changed, globally, in the last 200 years. Pretty amazing stuff.  HT to Iron Shrink on FB.

Four minutes.

Yet again

Another History Channel series on, guess what, Hitler and the Nazis. Sometimes you'd think it was the only thing that ever happened in modern times.

Its difference is that it is largely composed of personal films, so these are different images from the ones we have seen over and over.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Alas and a lack

Keith Olbermann is leaving or has been let go by, MSNBC, "the Left's answer to Fox News", which has about three times the viewership.

Not everyone is buying his self-described "anti-establishment" position. When you make $7 million a year, it's tough to be a credible rebel. Even Steven Colbert found him unhinged. But I am sure he'll surface somewhere else. 

One of those days

Because a hopeful future is kinda hard to imagine of late, memories of happy times have proven more melancholy than comforting. A little bit like being in a darkened room and running into a bright light.
Hurts your eyes.

Uncultured despisers

One of the great figures in liberal religion was Friedrich Schliermacher, whose work at the cusp of the 19th century was On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. It is more the title than the substance of his work that I am thinking of.

I read a report of a movement on the Titanic, I mean, in the Church of England, to yet again revise its baptismal liturgy because the uncultured and secularized Brits don't get it. The reverends want to make the service "more accessible and interesting" to them when they show up for the magical rite. Apparently references to Moses and the Red Sea baffle them.

Reminds me of one Sunday after the high Mass when an irate Dutch woman, with her two school age boys in tow, scolded me for our using incense in the liturgy "because the children don't understand it." "Oh," said I, unsympathetically, "so they understand everything else? Anything else I need to get rid of for them?"

Trying to please people who despise you, cultured or uncultured, does nothing but make them despise you more.


Talked with someone today who has an impossible teen/child. Sad for them.

A friend of a friend is stuck in a relationship with an addict. Predictable grief.

Another friend, who, unlike me, is clear-eyed and decisive in romantic matters,
is sometimes unaccountably soft-hearted and forgiving when it comes
to clearly unworthy and irreformable friends.

We can make choices. But when the heart gets engaged, free will,
not unencumbered to begin with by passion and ignorance, is further reduced.
I know that because I read it in a book...

Chump change

Commercials and social change.

Pay attention to commercials where there is a male-female interaction.
Or where there are white men and people of color.
Check to see who's the chump.

There's an AT&T commercial where the chump turned out to be a black guy.
I was amazed.
But the alpha in the piece was also a black male.
The supporting chump was a white guy.


Thom and I spent part of our evening describing the three wishes we'd each want if a geni appeared...out of the packet of Equal I was pouring into my coffee. Don't ask.

It's a revealing little exercise about what you value.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Funny and true

Had dinner last night with a good friend, another therapist I've known for more than a dozen years, who works entirely with the "offender" population. And likes it. She's always had a soft spot for criminals.

We were talking about the new DSM-V, the diagnostic manual which shapes and defines mental illness in American culture. It's a powerful book, because it tells clinicians what to look for. And as the founder of modern medicine, Dr Osler, said, "You usually only find what you are looking for."

The previous editions

A person with a childhood religious background, but not religious herself, she surprised me by saying that it might be a good idea to add a whole new set of pathologies based on The Seven Capital Sins.

A lot of what we have turned into therapeutic issues is just plain old human vice, IMHO. If you want a way to diagram the day's news, any day's, here you have it.

Let's see if I can run off the list from memory...

(this one I had to look up; repression?)

Although most kids probably were not paying attention, I remain impressed at the detail and the balance with which I was taught about most (not all) moral issues when I was in Catholic school. Even in grade school. Priests and nuns may have ranted on about this or that but me, being a Five, paid attention to the book, the various editions of the Baltimore Catechism, which reflected Aquinas' usually common sense approach to virtue and vice.  For example, it was clear that anger was not sinful in itself; if it was justified and within bounds, it was natural and ok. Enjoying food and drink was not gluttony: it was when this natural need became immoderate or irrational. (Aquinas' own big girth must have been a glandular problem...).

Just for the hell of it: 
this is not a Muslim treaty; it's Aquinas' own handwriting. 
Apparently he never learned the Palmer method.

Lust, well, there was not so much apparent balance there. Or maybe I was tone deaf to the subtleties, but it seemed that in the end there were only two kinds of people: married people who could be sexual, and unmarried people who were in constant danger of falling into mortal sin through deed, word and thought.

Maybe the fact that I was taught Catholicism in a largely New York Irish context explains some of this: the Irish really had no problem with anger (or fighting) and eating...and drinking! (Or smoking or cursing or gambling or dancing). But sex made them pretty nervous.

Even though Catholicism is supposedly Roman, it does indeed take on national and ethnic shapes. When I went to live in Italy, I certainly discovered a quite different flavor of my ancestral faith. Honesty and sincerity, I discovered, were largely AngloSaxon concerns at which even Italian nuns rather snickered. Despite their high demands on propriety and respect in the public forum, I found them deeply unshocked and forgiving about human nature in private.

I am certainly familiar with all seven of these capital, head or root, sins. The one I regret the most is sloth. But on the other hand, my natural laziness and underachievement means that my practice of the other vices is less intense. I'm too lazy to be that bad.

What more could ya ask?

A 6 foot 200 lb Torontonia guy, aged 56. Add some fur...and there you are.

An even vaster wasteland

TV described:
"When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.
But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.
You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you'll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it."

This was in 1961. The head of the FCC opining.

Entertainment Weekly offers well, weekly, recaps of the following masterpieces...50 years later.

Declinism, anyone?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Well, it just keeps getting better in Port au Prince.

First, Baby Doc Duvalier comes home.
Now Father Aristide wants to come back.
Maybe, in the end, it doesn't make much difference.

Haiti, the Titanic of the Western Hemisphere.

Just a part of the story


A small part of the answer to her:

Amos 4.1

Just caught four minutes of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

I'd rather watch Schindler's List. Twice.

Carryings over

Trans/lations are "carryings over" in Latin. Some things carry over better than others. When my Canadian friend was in town, I got to fall back into my old world and we had some discussions about translating sacred Latin texts into English. After having had to endure the kindergarten collectivism in a lot of the 1970 text, I was in favor of the update. Or backdate, as the case may be.

But some things are really hard to carry over. The introductory lines before the Lordsprayer are ancient.

Oremus: praeceptis salutaribus moniti et divina institutione formati audemus dicere: Pater noster...

This is formal stuff. And in Latin it is both formal, elegant and flowing, especially when sung.

Let us pray: reminded/warned by saving commands and formed by the divine education we dare to say: Our Father

Does not carry over well in the literal!

The 1970 version is just a riff: Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words our Savior gave us.  But it flows well, even if it avoids any notion of command, formation or daring. Loses the sense of the Latin "audemus" "we dare" --which reflects something unique in Jesus' prayer-- that it is cheeky to call God your Father.

There was one version I remember but can't find in print and it works pretty well: Taught by our Savior's command and formed by the Word of God, we dare to say:

The new one, well, not so great:  

At the Savior's command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say: Our Father...

Unilateral disarmament

Last week or so, a white man in the DC subway station, totally minding his own business, was set upon and beaten by a mob of teenage black girls. No one around, black or white, tried to help him. There was a lot videotaping, though, with cell phones. Including by the perpetrators, who laughed a lot throughout.

I posted it on Facebook. One of the commentors, himself a white man, allowed as how he had spent ten minutes looking for something to say that was not "racist, sexist, elitist, or mean."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Before bed

Really hungry tonight for some reason.

Dinner: sliced pork tenderloin, applesauce, tomatoes.

Later: grilled cheese on English muffins

Later still: pancakes with butter and syrup!

Two shots of brandy.

Even now, I could eat more.

What the hell is this about?

And Glenn Beck did the favor of replaying CNN's John King apologizing for a guest's use of
"crosshairs". I swear, I'd rather have my nieces get a respectable job like prostitution rather
than become one of these journalists. Rich fools. Orwell's nightmare, with a smile.

(PS, HT to my FB friend Charles Winecoff: Guess the name of the long-running CNN (!) political talk show...."Crossfire!" Will CNN apologize and make reparations for their deep-rooted contribution to our climate of hate speech?)

And now an ad for John Kennedy University..."Authentic engagement...and higher awareness...are within reach."


"Total bullshit....and worthless crapola....are within reach."

Definitely time for lights out.

Gnostic evidence

Two indications that the world was created through a catastrophic accident issuing from a fall within the primordial Godhead --the Gnostic myth:

Wire hangers find ways of coupling and interlacing; trying taking just one off the rack.

Likewise, electrical wires --supposedly inert and non-organic-- wrap themselves together like snakes in a mating ball...

It's obvious that this is the work of archons.


Having now driven two hybrid cars and become part of the Saviors of Wounded and Dying Overheated Gaia our Mother...I have been trying out the garbage recycling thing. It's a law in SF and they are starting to enforce it in 2011, with fines, etc.

I consulted the website which details these secular kosher laws and decided I could handle separating out the compostables --basically anything organic or wet that would rot and decompose--- for the green bin and the recyclables: dry paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and metal for the blue bin. The third category, landfill for the black bin, I have little of.

Interesting result so far. In terms of bulk or volume, recyclables constitute most of my garbage. The compostables, though more dense, are pretty small. If I continue this, I'll be using the big green garbage can for the dry paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal and may buy a smaller one for the wet stuff.

Hey, this is not entirely new. For my birthday in 2009, B treated me to a tour of the San Francisco water treatment plant and there I learned how evil it was to flush dental floss down the toilet. Ever since, right in the waste basket. And it belongs in the black bin!

UPDATE JAN 22ND.  My ex, Thom, and his partner came over this afternoon with a gift: an official San Francisco composter. A small plastic oblong container with a handle that allows one to dump one's composting refuse right into it.  His partner said, "Wow. You're becoming a San Franciscan."


I visited the gift shop at the Oakland Cathedral last week with my Canadian friend and came across this very odd statue of the Christ Child. I know it's him because of the upraised hand and the cross in the halo. But...well, he has no legs; four supports instead, holding his torso over a kind of cloud. And the top of his head is painted dark, like an upturned bowl. It kinda looks like the top of his skull has been removed and you are seeing his brain.

I know Latinos have some vivid religious images, but this was mucho weirdo.


A little too lean,
and needs a bit of fur, but otherwise
the frame is just fine.

Sexual means

A professional conversation today led me to realize that when it comes to sex where there is a clear dynamic of domination and submission, including bondage, S&M, etc. :*

A. Between males, I get it. I may not want to actually do it, but I get it. And depending on the participants, in porn, it can range from very erotic to eye-rollingly silly or worse. A lot of it is "plotted" on an age-grade, but two mature males, physically equal, entering that territory can be pretty compelling. When the men and their energies are right, it's hot stuff.

B. With a dominant female and a submissive male, I don't really get it. I don't find it stimulating. The kind of theatricality involved is outside my sexual grammar. (Although one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen on "film" was in the very untender care of two rather frumpy broads. So mysterious, sex.) And it seems to me that the level of apparent roughness of the dominatrix with the sub male is much higher than in male-male interactions. Are the women overcompensating? Is this the war between the sexes acted out?

C. With a dominant male and a submissive female, it makes me very uncomfortable. There's no reason why a female sub cannot enjoy her role as much as a male can, but I guess it's cultural conditioning that makes it hard for me to see it as anything but abusive. I find it almost impossible to watch.

*A civil servant employed by City College of SF pointed out the fragmentary nature of this section in an earlier edition and I corrected it by the addition of the full colon. Our CA State tax dollars at work.

Various and sundry

I read Five Feet of Fury, by a very choleric Canadian broad who links to items in the Great White North that that miserably PC country's press would hide. She's more than blunt, but sometimes I wish she'd think before she writes. Yes, me! I think that! Today she responded to the news that SF city parking employees may lose their free parking perks by headlining something about welcoming back Dan White. Presumably because city employees were in need of chastisement. But damn, lady, he assassinated the Mayor and a supervisor in cold blood. And not because of principle. Over the line, Missy. Over the line.

Kinda sore in the haunches from the hike on Monday. But it was a very good day. Worth it. Out in the woods and fields and beach and hills in companionable company and good food. Nice.

Excellent program on the Roman Empire the other night, from Augustus til the 5th century. Focus on Trajan and Hadrian (first half of the second century AD) as the military and cultural high points respectively, with the still-fascinating process of collapse played out over the next couple of centuries. One of the profs they interviewed, almost all Brits, clearly felt that the Romans were more like Nazis and Mafiosi than a "civilization". I wondered if Constantine's founding of an Eastern capital hastened the fall of the West or if it was a stroke of genius that allowed Roman civilization, in its morphed Greco-Christian form, to survive for another thousand years.

Noises being made to allow women into combat units. Bad idea, methinks.  Aside from the limits that gay culture places on men of the homosexual persuasion, the one thing that seems societally very iffy about male homosexuality is that it contributes to the feminist-driven war on manhood. If DADT makes it likely that women will be fighting beside men on the front line, then I regret its repeal.

Has there ever been a successful society which did not provide significant --and I mean significant--- all-male spaces and institutions? Women will always have all-female spaces because men are utterly uninterested in entering them. Women, feminist women anyway, find any all-male space inherently offensive, scandalous and oppressive*. My impression is that if you abolish significant all-male spaces, aka male-only spaces, what you're trying to do is abolish men.
*Can you believe that we have actually had serious societal discussions about abolishing gender-exclusive bathrooms?! Remember that popular and pathological TV show Ally McBeal? Yikes.

A truly and fully egalitarian society would not only mean the establishment of a hyper-regulatory police state, --already underway, alas-- but, even if achieved, would fall under the weight of its own unnaturalness. If a classless society is impossible, as the gruesome Marxist experiment showed, why should we imagine one in which sex and tribe --more deeply ingrained than class-- do not correlate with power and resources? Secular utopias are eventually not one whit better than religious ones.

In a very unfair and historically sloppy way, philosopher Eric Vogelin nailed "Gnosticism" as the great disease and, to me, astoundingly, named it as an ideology of "immanentizing the eschaton". In plainer English, of trying to establish heaven on earth. No matter what you call that, it always leads to various kinds of hell. A very conservative attitude (but with very bad historical reading in this case.)

The precise attraction of Gnosticism for me --as well as its point of irritation!-- was that it made the creation of the world and the fall of creation the very same event. In Gnostic mythology, the world we know is an irredeemably flawed one. In orthodox thought, it was once pristine and then came unglued through the will of creatures, both angelic and human. Hence, you can get yourself to think that if it were perfect once, it could be again. Not so for Gnostics, for Gnostics it is essentially, inherently and inescapably broken. It was made broken, by a broken God. So how you could think that Gnosticism was about building heaven on earth is beyond me. I cannot think of a less utopian vision.

Like utopians, I have a streak of perfectionism in me, which I regret. It is an ally of my procrastination. Part of growing up has been to do what I can to lessen it. Because I have that radar to begin with, I notice "imperfections" easily. But I have come a very long way in noticing without being upset. And I have learned to try distinguishing between a real defect and a simple difference which I happen to find uncomfortable or incongruent. Even real defect is no bar to respect, admiration, friendship, even love. It better not be, or there'd be no human relations at all.

And there are a lot of differences which I like and value, even envy. (In that non-vicious way which we seem to have no name for: admiring something so that you wish you had it, but not wishing to deprive the possessor. Something I'd like to have too, not instead of.)

Okay. Now I'm even boring myself a little. Time to sign off.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dimming lights

A friend told me of an aged woman next door to him --who gives away thousands of dollars to neighbors--who asked about the lights on the hills at midnight, put there by "the Jews"...

NCIS has Bob Newhart as an aged and retired pathologist losing his mind from Alzheimer's.

I remember my Dad, how the strokes took away his mind and eventually his life.

Our minds seem to have no body to them. When we think, there's no feeling with it. Not like looking, with the move of an eye. Our senses. The very thing that makes our senses make sense has no sense to go along with it. So it seems magical, angelic, godlike. So fast, seemingly unburdened by time or space.

Though I have my gaps and my limits, my mind can still be very fast. I made a decision the other day which took far longer to explain than to make. The processor can do several calculations very rapidly.

But it's utterly anchored in the body, the brain: flesh and blood. And with age, like the rest of our body...the eyes that have floaters, that need lenses to read text...our minds are our brains.

So vulnerable. To injury, to disease, to simple age. And we can leave before we die.

Last one to leave, turn out the lights

Just saw a PSA on network primetime.

Smoothly handsome man around 30 speaks to us:

Wanna give your woman something special for Valentine's Day?
Have yourself checked out for testicular cancer.
Why give her diamonds
when you can give her the family jewels?

CBS cares.

San Francisco

Another small peaen to my adopted city.

Hiking yesterday on the Steep Ravine Trail on Mt Tamalpais down to Stinson Beach...and an unexpected return via the Panoramic Highway. The sun was out most of the time and we were above the fog line, which covered the ocean. Forest, stream, field, moderate temperatures. The way the fog plays with the coastline, like thick fingers.

Out to the VA with Bill and Molly today. We took the long way back to the truck, along the cliffs over the south wall of the Bay entrance. Pounding surf, sun and cloud, the winter ocean calm until it reaches the beach, then deep walls of waves. You know that this water has been doing this long before men came to live here.

Blue, green, white....beautiful place. And it's mid January.

Stop it!

Monday, January 17, 2011


Lots of piety today.

I think Martin Luther King Jr was an ambiguous character. Who isn't? Like the other assassinated movers of the Sixties, the two Kennedys and Malcolm X, his life was cut short and that kind of death gave a martyr's shape to his life. Had he, and the others, lived longer, I think we would be seeing all of them in quite different lights. We forgive martyrs much.

One of MLK's achievements was to enshrine American Blacks in the victim position forever and to provoke in American liberals the compulsive reaction of guilty perpetrators. We are all Bull Connors, they are all the Birmingham schoolgirls. It was primarily through racial guilt, I suspect, that the whole poison of PC entered American life and has brought us in many ways to the mess that we are in.

The current incompetent incumbent would never have been elected were he not half-Black, --the white part of his family that actually took care of and did not abandon him, quite forgotten--benefitting from the dynamic the MLK and his guilty worshippers ensured for us.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More pontificating

As with my sense that Catholic economic theory is unhinged from reality, now this: both the Vatican and the craven and functionally traitorous US Catholic Bishops Conference tell us that civilians ought not be able to own guns. To Your Graces, I disrespecfully say, FU.

Why the hell don't they stick to talking about stuff they have some actual knowledge about?

But then, they are the ones who gave us the verb "pontificate":

Saturday, January 15, 2011


The Mighty Quinn

I got dragged into watching one of the SyFy channel's execrable productions (usually chockablock with hyper-phallic bitches) because the very watchable and listenable-to Ed Quinn is the star.

Mr Quinn's favorite poet is Constantine Cavafy. :)

I'm shallow. Sue me.

(Or blame B. Til I met him, I was deep.)

Too bad there isn't capital punishment for bad script writers...

*An amusing character. The Cigarette Smoking Man from X-Files, the epitome of venality and evil, plays a misunderstood old good guy in this flick.

Triumph of the will

From my odd and protected post of informed non-practice, I have said that Catholic dogma presents little problem for me --aside from little annoyances like The Problem of Evil--, but Catholic morals are an obstacle. Not just the sex stuff --which I understand but can't buy into--, but all the "social justice" stuff, which I not only do not buy into but do not understand.

I ran across a paper which expressed some of my hesitations well. I am no economist, but I know that. I have the distinct impression that all the social justice talk in Catholicism, so much of it warmed over lefty moralism, comes from people who are also not economists.

Thomas Woods writes:
The primary difficulty with much of what has fallen under the heading of Catholic social teaching since Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (1891) is that it assumes without argument that the force of human will suffices to resolve economic questions, and that reason and the conclusions of economic law can be safely neglected, even scorned.

In fact, as with the German Historical School that Ludwig von Mises opposed, proponents of Catholic social teaching effectively deny the very existence of economic law. Their position therefore neglects altogether the role that reason must play in assessing the consequences of seemingly “progressive” economic policies, as well as in apprehending the order and harmony that can exist within complex (in this case market) phenomena. This attitude runs directly counter to the entire Catholic intellectual tradition, according to which man is to conform his actions to reality, rather than embarking on the hopeless and foolish task of forcing the world to conform to him and to his desires. This corpus of thought wishes to force reality into outcomes that cannot be realized by will alone.

Like so much progressive thinking, Catholic social doctrine strikes me as wishful thinking. Is there such a thing as the unnaturalistic fallacy*: when what ought to be is derived from what ought to be, despite what is?

*Actually, I discovered, there is. It's call the moralistic fallacy, which attempts to define what is on the basis of what (the thinker thinks) ought to be. All men and women of all race ought to be equal, so therefore, (regardless of things like evidence to the contrary) they are!

One of the smoking guns?

This explains so much: the Dunning Kruger effect.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes.The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than it actually is, while the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority. This leads to the situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence. Competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others."
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