Sunday, October 30, 2011

Quakers might have something

Sitting around not-talking as a way of worship sounds good when you read some of the things God has to listen to.  With the re-translation of the Catholic Mass, a local American text for the American Thanksgiving Day actually got re-written. The old one really was a religious celebration of Manifest Destiny, quite strange for a project riddled with political correctness. The new one is more generic, but includes what must be a cut and paste job from some bloviating pontifical commission's document on "justice and peace" or whatever sanctified political twaddle they pump out these days.

The text of the Preface, the part that leads up the the climactic Consecration, now says:

You have entrusted to us
the great gift of freedom,
a gift that calls forth
responsibility and commitment
to the truth that all have a fundamental dignity before you.

Poor God.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Can u read this?


Jesus ween

Some Evangelical Christians who find Halloween a Satanic event have a website proposing a competing "Jesus" ween. I thinks that's just silly. But then I think that cloth-of-gold decked priests worshipping God in Latin is normal.

Halloween is a big deal in San Francisco, of course, and it does get pretty Satanic. Not because people dress up bizarrely but because local gangs, Latino and Black, use it as an excuse to get violent. But it's not as if they're only bad on October 31st. Can't blame the day for that.

Coming out of the subway at Castro Street this afternoon, I was met with a Halloween event. There's a local eccentric who makes at least part of his living tailoring religious garments. He's been around for years. This year he built a shrine to the Virgin Mary, complete with ikon, and vested authentically as an Orthodox priest, was busy incensing it. Unlike the blasphemous Hunky Jesus contest put on every Easter by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, he is, though an impersonator, not at all mocking in his little scenario. Just eccentric.

The smell, to me, is very evocative. But hardly Satanic. Although some would suggest that I am not a primo judge of that.


Open spaces


Sacred space, unobstructed by masses of pews. Ancient and modern, spare and warm, Eastern and Western...


Church of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, Tabgha, Israel.




4th century mosaic flooring of the event

The war of the sexes: once more into the breach

In my intimate life, being of the minority persuasion, I have never had to engage in the war between the sexes. In secondary places like work, etc. I have seen it. I sometimes wonder if the seeds of my conservatism were planted in part by some of the crappy and dishonorable things so-called enlightened feminists were up to when I worked in the HIV non/profit sector and the post-Vatican II church. But as a man, I feel the winds of the battle all around me in the larger world.

My frequent complaint about the humiliating images of (white) men in media is part of that. Men are in such trouble that they now need their own "men's rights" movements and foundations for male studies outside the feminist dogma of the academe. The change in the status of women in the West is the most breathtaking change in society I know of, in one lifetime, far more than changes in actual status in race.

This deep difference is one of the reasons I cannot be a liberal, since liberalism takes as dogma the conflicting beliefs that men and women are "equal", that men are inferior Neanderthals and women are superior victims, that gender is both a mere social construct and one of the defining issues of history, and that when it is beneficial to women, women and men are interchangeable.

I was thinking recently about an incident where a young collegiate wrestler was supposed to have a match with a female. He refused to take her on. I think he cited religious reasons. But it revealed a structural vulnerability in men's psyches that women certainly have learned to exploit to the max. And it indicates why, once women gain a foothold as "equals" in previously all-male turf, men will become aliens in what was their own land, with no clue how to regain it.

No accident that the woman is also brown-skinned.

The vulnerability is this: outside of an intimate relationship, if a man and woman are allowed to engage in direct, open, public and aggressive competition --that is, male-style agonic competition-- the man will always lose. Why? Because if he beats the woman, there is no honor in it for him. No more, perhaps even less, than if he had won a contest with a child. Just the experience of having had to engage a female like that is deeply disturbing to a man. And if he loses to her, his shame is catastrophic. He is unmanned.

Men and women can compete against each other in hedonic ways, but when the conflict turns agonic, different rules apply. The hedonic mode (from the Greek for pleasure) is competition through attraction; the Greek for a conflict of physical skill and strength, agon, gives us competition through intimidation. Men, when they find themselves in agonic competition with women --intimacies excepted-- become diffident and confused. And more often than not, they simply withdraw. To take on the female in the agonic mode is a no-win for him, no matter the outcome: to defeat her brings him no honor, to lose to her shames him utterly.*




I hold the opinion, once universal and as apparent as sunshine and, in the last ten minutes, now gross heresy, that men and women are truly opposite sexes to each other. Not just different, but opposite. And hence, not interchangeable. Even if there are realms of activity they both can do --and there are, of course, many and always have been-- there are essential realms where they exclude each other, where the specificity of their sexual, aka gender, identity defines them. And to define is to exclude. To be this and not that. This is why feminism loathes and fears fixed gender identity, because definition always excludes.

Perhaps not despite but because of my minority eros, this is apparent to me. A man cannot be a mother. A woman cannot be a father. Just for starters. And in my own thinking about the definition of a man, three things he is not are a. a boy, b. God, or c. a women.

I think there is a psychological compensation that a man can make when he is forced into agon-style competition with a woman, say, in business. He lets himself believe that she is his equal by masculinizing her in his imagination, making her an honorary male. This makes an intolerable situation tolerable. He may even indulge in reaction formation and celebrate the contest. But I don't believe it.

When women are admitted into field previously all-male or male-dominated, two things tend to happen: if the women get to dominate, then men flee the scene and the turf is virtually feminized, making male return highly unlikely, and if they remain in a minority or non-dominant position, they whine about discrimination --glass ceilings, old boys clubs, etc.--, using the potent victimization trope to try to force the field to give them what they cannot earn. And I also hold that, over time, either of these scenarios must include harm to men because while legions of females demand entry to male-only fields, few men want to go where women have anciently staked their turf.

Regardless of surface theology, it is dynamics like this which would make, for instance, the acceptance of women into the priestly castes of the Catholic or Orthodox churches suicidal for those bodies.


*A goodly chunk of gay males will not respond this way because their sense of male identity and male vs female belonging is thinner. I have opined elsewhere (I here, II here and III here) that the real problem with (male) homosexuality is that it too often provides a fifth column of support to feminists who want to bring down the male sex.

PS. I have some unformed thoughts about how, in matters of race, for example, similar complexities arise. Principally, that when formerly subordinate races or ethnicities begin to show up in positions of power formerly the province of the dominant group, many members of the dominant group --either through reaction formation, compensation or conversion-- grant to the new power-holders a kind of honorary membership in the dominant group in order to make their own new experience of being under the power of the subordinates bearable. A visit to most any city or state office in San Francisco will provide the material for this situation. The DMV or Parking & Traffic or MUNI are the most likely. The TSA screening process also comes to mind.


ps. a day or two later, famous Game meister Roissy, under a new name, takes on Catholic conservative Bill Bennett's advice to young men to "man up." The article bluntly and directly places the causal problem with today's men with today's women. 

Talk about war between the sexes. His point is that if today's young men, especially, are unimpressive, it is largely because the revolution in culture, work, law, education and morals produced by feminism gives them no real incentive to be otherwise. There is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by becoming real men. He bluntly advocates what traditional societies have always done: control and contain female sexuality. Could have been written in part by St. Augustine.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Rites and wrongs

Anthony Hopkins managed to make The Rite somewhat interesting. A skeptical young seminarian from Ohio is sent to a Roman program on the renewed rite of exorcism...to strengthen his faith. He gets involved with Hopkins, who has been exorcising demons for thirty years. Mayhem ensues.

It was typical of Catholic/exorcist movies in one way and not in others. Typically, it showed little respect for the details of Catholicism: a scene which was clearly an ordination to the diaconate --a big deal-- was treated as a moment prior to "first vows". Apples, oranges and wrong. At least the vestments were right.




(They did manage to deck out Ciaran Hinds as a Dominican correctly --above--, though giving him the Jesuit name "Xavier" is unlikely.)

But in a couple of ways it was unusual. Although the unsure young man does meet an attractive woman, she never tries to seduce him and they remain just friends, even allies, but no romance. And the priests in the movie are all both intelligent and humane, even if, or because, flawed, not the clergy cartoons frequently seen:

a. heartless orthodox organization men bent on political power
b. the misunderstood (usually lefty) victims of the above men
c. tortured but hot semi-believers having an affair
d. doddering clueless old capons with all the testosterone of Barney the Dinosaur
e. nutcase exorcists or apocalyptic conspiracy freaks

The exorcists here were, of course, unusual men, but not nutcases.

Plus, the ending of the film is surprisingly untypical, along with its seriously countenancing the reality of The Evil One in a way not reducible to the psyche.

Hopkins did a good job, although he sometimes slips into Hannibal Lecter mode. And the young man, though handsome, was soulless and dull throughout. Something which made his climactic scene more unbelievable. The Italian journalist who befriends him, she has a lot of life, intelligence, sympathy and courage. And shows no feminist vengeance streak.

Most religions have demons in them. But it's Christianity, as any Jungian will tell you, which has raised the opposition between the diabolical and the divine to the highest pitch. Although mainstream Western Christians no longer like to emphasize it, Jesus was quite the exorcist, as well as a faith healer. One of the embarassing results of the Christianization of Black Africa is that when these folks read the New Testament, that jumps out at them. Their native churches focus strongly both on healing and exorcism rather than social justice, something the post-Enlightenment Euro missionaries wished they wouldn't. But there it is.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adverbially yours

I am a high-end user of adverbs. I use adverbs...frequently. My impression from a lifetime of such a habit is that most people don't often hear these modifiers. Words like "often" "sometimes" "occasionally" "generally" "commonly" "usually" all indicate a modification in my declarative sentence. Most people hear "always" or "never".  Or appreciate the difference between a generalization and a universal. Part of the noble pain of being a Five.

I felt a brief pang for the President this morning. He is in SF for a fundraiser, trying to get money from the 1% so he can tax them. A headline said that former worshippers of O now scorn him. A crowd of several hundred protesters stood outside his hotel. A list of their demands and dissatisfactions followed. One of them required him to address the issue of "global compassion." Who could win that one? Poor guy. OK, now I can go back to waiting for the day he leaves the office to which he was so unfortunately elected.

I was directed (HT to RCI) to a story in the NY Daily News where Chaz Bono complained about people commenting on his weight, saying fat men were judged more harshly than fat women like Kirstie Allie. Still whines like a girl.

Got a nice appreciative smile from a handsome young (40's) fella on the way to the office this morning. Never hurts.

Some days I look back on my life and wonder, "What was I thinking?" 

Although I like to be right, there are a lot of things I hope I am wrong about.

Been watching old Father Brown Mysteries on Netflix via Roku. Roku was a good purchase. I have to say that Chesterton's clerical sleuth, at least as portrayed on film, is not as interesting or engaging as Miss Marple or Sherlock Holmes. But it's an enjoyable re-creation of England in the 20's.

That working class men's outfit of the time, jacket and pants, vest, collarless shirt and cap...very handsome.

PS>  The Blogger spam program correctly derailed this spam comment, but I am putting it here for reasons which will likely be evident to fans of the adverb.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Adverbially yours":

You pretty much said what i could not effectively communicate. +1

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Sigh

I tried to watch what was promised as a light gay comedy film last night. Within the first ten minutes, a woman in flagrante delicto said, "I haven't been this wet since Reagan was shot."

End of movie.

Global reach

This morning during breakfast I noticed that people were reading parts of my blog --or looking at the pictures-- in South Carolina, Belgium and Kuwait.

My great-grandfather thought that the wireless radio was the devil's invention because it would allow everyone to know what everyone else had and the world would drown in envy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Uh, no I wasn't

The old "Jesus as hippie" meme.
Sometimes the cartoon/poster/bumpersticker thought-world is stupid beyond depressing, as well as dishonest.

I hate to be obvious
(ok ok)
but what makes a socialist a socialist
is enlisting the power of the State
to enforce sharing of material goods,
by law and by force.

Just a small difference.

Even with the medieval droit du seigneur,*
he only took her for one night.



*Like the angels dancing on the head of a pin, btw, a complete historical fiction.

The shriek of Araby


Mark Steyn describes the misnamed "Arab Spring" pretty well, as the death of the Western powers' shaping of the Arab world after WWI. And notes that not since before the Turks completed their imperialist project have the Arabs been in a position to create anything like their own self-determined societies, not only aside from but against the West. And what they produce, indigenous Islamic societies, we will not like.


The likely new boss of Tunisia makes the destruction of Israel a priority of the new Arab world. One thing the "new Egypt" seems to agree on is that Israel is the devil, and that the Copts need to be further humiliated, or worse. Post-Gaddaffi Libya will turn into Switzerland? Not likely. And then, of course, we have the edifying spectacle of Hamasdom, aka the Palestinians.

John Adams said that the American Constitution set up a government that was uniquely suited to a very particular people, the dominant group of late 18th century America, and that it would not work for anyone else. If you institute any kind of "popular" regime, it will naturally reflect the people. Why does anyone think that the governmental structure of the US Republic would work universally? Even we have found it a challenge. Why anyone thinks that Western liberal democracies or republics are "natural" to the rest of the world is beyond me. Arab Muslims, even with decades of Western influence, will create structures that match their own cultures, which are very often tribal and Islamic.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Structures and resemblances


A face a bit like Dan Futterman, the rest like a superhero.
Not a bad combo.

Pontification

The Vatican wants a World Bank.

The proposal came from the "Justice and Peace" office, with the usual bloviating language.


Shut up.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Uh, yeah.

This pic from a website of a group which describes itself as "intentionally multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial and multigenerational."


Howzat werkin owt forya, guyz?

(Any group infected with that kind of jargon, you know it's a bunch of Foolish White People.)

Direct from the Dark Ages


An historical epic about the disintegration of Rome into the warring barbarians' playground? Nope.
The burning of a Travelers' encampment in England. Great shot. Matt Dunham, AP.

Original in the SF Chronicle. HT to RCI.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

First Amendment


Rummaging through my photo files, I found this piece of Americana from my trip to the eastern Sierras this past July:

Scattered symptoms

An Inspector Lewis mystery. His female boss is unhappy that he questioned someone of high local standing, so to give Lewis a different perspective on the man, and to provide herself with an escort in the absence of her husband, she requires him to accompany her, in formal dress, to a chamber music concert. His response, "Yes, ma'am."


Can you imagine the reverse? Male captain requires female cop to go with him to a social function and tells her to dress formal? Apocalypse.


PS. Turns out "Ma'am" was wrong. "Someone of high local standing" was indeed a criminal.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Separate and unequal

I am in favor of white privilege. And male privilege. And heterosexual privilege.

Those who care about these things are almost always against them. The very language is a negative judgment, like xenophobia or Islamophobia or homophobia.  Privilege, in this context, is by definition unjust: it is a social benefit earned not by an individual's merits, but by mere belonging to a group. This is supposed to be bad. And it is usually cartooned into seeing them as but one step away from black slavery, female debasement and gay-bashing. But it is inevitable and necessary.

It is especially ironic that the folks who banter about privilege are almost always the same ones who see people primarily as groups. Another irony is that the theory, groundwork and the actualization of the anti-privilege movement, whose primary target is white heterosexual males, comes entirely from cultures created by white heterosexual males.

The assumption is that privilege is bad and that it should be dismantled so that everyone can be equal.

Which never happens, has happened or will happen.  What the dismantling of these privileges means is their replacement by another group's privilege. People of color privilege. Female privilege. LGBT privilege.

Has there ever been a society past the stage of the small hunter-gatherer groups where it was not composed of a complex of group identities in more or less hierarchical relation to one another? Has there ever been a society without a center, or centers, and a margin, or margins? Without definition and assumption you cannot have a viable culture.



If you want to expand this notion of unearned and oppressive privilege past the standard one of race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, you can travel quite far afield: there is privilege connected with being an adult, speaking the national language, being able to walk, see and hear, being naturally either male or female*, knowing how to read and write, being healthy and goodlooking, being tall, etc. And horrifyingly, being a natural born citizen of a country gives you an unearned privilege over immigrants...And if you talk to an animal rights activist, there is the speciesist privilege of being human. It goes on and on. A revolt against reality.

The classless society was a catastrophic illusion which produced the deaths and the soul murder of many many millions in a mere seventy years...and never produced a classless society. The Marxist engineers of the movement became the new privileged and ruling class. I am much disinclined to believe that a society can become truly egalitarian about sex or race, either. The effort will produce a lot of dislocation and damage (Harrison Bergeron) and in the end, social hierarchies will reproduce themselves.

Our recent societal obsession with and fetishization of equality as the primary and perhaps only value, the heart of contemporary Western liberalism, is a symptom of something wrong. 

The anti-privilege industry is a prime example of liberalism: the use of social control and state power to raise the status, wealth and power of traditionally less successful groups (victims) at the expense of the status, wealth and power of traditionally more successful groups (oppressors). Anyone who thinks that equality is the goal, that the effort will cease when balance is struck, is deluding himself.

So if you are going to have a society with a set of centers, of groups who will be dominant or assumed to be the norm, I would much prefer one where white heterosexual males were that group.



*Transexual activists have created a Newspeak: if they are trans-gendered, then people whose gendered bodies and psyches match are called cis-gendered, from the Latin, on this side. And so there is cisgender privilege...a result of the oppressive binary gender regime.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I like

James Roday/Shawn Spencer on Psych. He makes me smile, and laugh. He reminds me a little of someone else I like.

(The middle top photo is not him, though. The blond in the middle lower photo is his girlfriend of 5 years, also on the show.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Opposites attract...and repel

From the opening section of Psych, Season 1. Shawn tries to sneak past his dad so he won't see...

video

Child abuse!

A comment after an article about parenting mistakes. Sounds about right.
Just tonight my 6yr old son said to me,”Mommy, I don’t think I will like this green bean.” I said without thinking “You’re right, and you won’t like the spanking you’ll get if you don’t eat it.” He ate it.

Disingenu Islam

A nice Muslim guy wants everyone to know that the Iranian pastor, a convert from Islam, should not be put to death because that's not in the Quran.

Which is true. The Quran does not prescribe a penalty for apostasy.

But the guy is being disingenuous.

Since we live in a post-Protestant culture in the US, where the default assumption is that religion is based on The Book Alone, this kind of stuff can fly. But sola scriptura is a funny deviation which arose in northwestern Europe a few centuries ago. The vast majority of Christians, both in historical time and numbers, did and do not hold this narrow and obsessive point of view. The Jews had their Torah-alone movement, the Karaites*, and the Muslims, too, had their scripture-only moments, but they did not make it to the major leagues.


So what the Quran says is not enough. Even the Five Daily Prayers, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, are not in the Quran.

Ninety percent of the world's Muslims are Sunni. This means that they follow the Sunna, the way, of the Prophet as recorded in the accepted collections of his sayings and doings, the hadith. And in addition, Muslim theology is really Muslim judiciary. So we have sharia, over a thousand years of what is a kind of Muslim Talmud. That, as a whole, is what runs Islam. And in real Islam, apostasy is a crime. The only disagreement is what kind of punishment it deserves.

So, Mr Liberal Muslim, your attitudes are praiseworthy, not wanting to kill the apostate, but please don't try this whitewashing by omission. A sin of omission is still a sin.

I wrote a similar comment on his site, where comments are moderated. So far, mine has not appeared.


*The only Karaite synagogue in America is located just a few miles south of SF.

Hitting the sexual jackpot in Berlin

Sorta. A funny piece about an American woman in a Berlin sex museum with live inanimate people (sic) to practice finding the g-spot on. Boyfriend activates the female mannequin's quickly; Miss America, inexperienced, tries the male:

While the female mannequin appeared multi orgasmic at the hands of my boyfriend, I could not find the male mannequin’s g-spot. It was just a smooth piece of plastic and the ins and outs of anything’s asshole, including my own, remain thankfully mysterious. But I finally found it. Boy, did I find it. The female mannequin was subdued in comparison, this thing went off like a land mine.

“OH YEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!” it echoed across the quiet floor, causing everyone in earshot to whirl around and find me knuckle deep in a mannequin’s asshole. For a moment they all just stared and my previous lax attitude vanished. I could see it now; dumb American girl gives mannequin ball-shattering orgasm, gets kicked out of Europe.

Or so I thought until everyone in the place started cheering, including my boyfriend.
A group of British guys came over to congratulate me on my apparent sexual prowess, giving me high fives and patting me on the back as they did. One dude jokingly held his hand up to his ear and whispered, “Call me.”
HT to the eternally vexed and irritable Canuckess, Kathy Shaidle, who titles the link: "Confirmed. We didn't kill enough Germans." She occasionally opines similarly about Japanese and atomic bombs. And in detail about southern Italians. And people think I'm a curmudgeon. And she's young(is). And female. And Catholic. And Canadian! From Ontario!

Hey, who said the decline and fall of a civilization lacked moments of humor?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Paternity verified


Now Charlie Sheen is clarified.

The individual and the group

I am not "against" groups --pointless-- but I am rarely comfortable in them. My basic reaction to them is suspicious. INTP.



Two recent moments bring to mind the complex dance between the one and the many for me.

Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the San Francisco wedding of my friend J and his partner Bob. Readers of this blog may recall that I am not a fan of gay marriage, but there I was, at their request, standing as their legal witness at City Hall. The political issue was not as important as the honor of being asked and my own instinct to honor two good men who have been partners now for more than a decade. Since I was the witness...best man, I guess...I felt it behooved me to note the date, so I sent them a bottle of Zinfandel, which I discovered they both like. They were very happy with it. Went with the lasagna they'd prepared for dinner.

On Facebook, I got a notice that a former patient of mine was recommending that I do an "I Like" of his business. I don't know how he found me. This is the second time a patient has apparently discovered me on Facebook. This time it unsettled me. Why? Because this fellow, whom I worked with for a couple of years, is a very liberal guy and if he found my Facebook posts, he'd discover that I am not and that this might be unsettling to him. Now I realize that FB has a privacy screen and, if it works, he would not be able to see anything of my postings. But FB connects me often with people I have had no FB connection with at all and so I am assuming there is some kind of monster algorithm privacy-busting program working the background.

In both cases, my friend and my former patient are connected with positions and actions of which I am not a big supporter. But it is simply a fact of my character that while I am well aware of an individual's "membership" in various kinds of groups --some of which I definitely do not like-- I cannot get myself to relate to that individual --if I make a personal connection-- in a way dominated by his group(s). I grew up in a NY 1950's world where we all knew each other's differences in ethnicity or religion, for example, and made robust fun of each other but still were friends and neighbors. Bracketing, the foundation of a free society.

When it comes to politics and the couch, for instance, pretty well all my patients are very liberal Democrats. And it is not uncommon for me to hear them speak to me on the assumption that --because I am gay-- I am on the same page. Very rarely do I respond, and only if their attitude in this field connects with an attitude in the rest of their life that is part of our work together. Otherwise I let it go by. It's not relevant.

And when I was asked to be the wedding witness, I wondered if it was wrong of me to agree, since I don't think that matrimony and male/male couples are a match. As much as I put energy into my beliefs about all kinds of things, I have a background awareness that beliefs can change --I am exhibit A in this-- and so I am much more likely to place friendship first.

Unless there is some severe question of conscience...which, being a 5, I rarely have :).  My question is not "Is it right?" --That's for the insufferable 1's-- but "Does it make sense?". One of the upsides of my natural emotional distance is that I can make room for things in people that the more feeling and intimacy driven types can't abide. Really, as long as I know I'm right and you are not going to impose your position on me, I don't much need to convince you to change your erroneous mind, especially if I like you.


The conscience of a conservative?

Self control and a pleasanter day

I saw a line on Drudge that said "Texas students forced to sing Mexican national anthem and recite Mexican pledge of allegiance".

I did not open the link. I was having breakfast and neither wanted to have to clean up expelled food or broken items. Or have to write nasty hateful things like, "The teachers who did this would, in a country with a healthy national identity, be lynched."

Close call.

Pretty well says it for me


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Is it just me

or is it a little funny to have this book downloaded to your Kindle?

For those who think manhood is code for Neanderthal, the table of contents lists important masculine roles: Survivor, Provider, Athlete, Hero, Gentleman, and Philosopher.

Social suicide

at least for the next 12 hours or so...

For lunch I sat on my sunny back porch overlooking the lemon tree and had a sandwich with sardines in olive oil, mayonnaise, red onions, pepper and salt, and anchovies...

Now I have a yen for a Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye.

Makes me remember my Norwegian-Danish grandfather.

And a wonderful afternoon I spent with B, drinking beer on the back porch a couple of summers ago.

Caption contest


Care to speculate?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Horae diurnae

These early autumn days have been perfect: sunshine, blue skies, temperate. San Francisco at its most attractive.

Strange dreams last night. Me going to confession but telling the priest the things I was sorry for and the things I wasn't sorry for.  Not really possible to half-confess and be half-forgiven. Talk about imperfect contrition.

Like an immigrant who still thinks of the old country, my interest in the doings of the Dominican friars remains, and of late has become even stronger. The internet makes it easy to keep up with things, at least on the public surface. But like many immigrants, you think of the old country, you tend to shave off the tough edges, and you probably couldn't live there again. Part of me remembers that life clearly, but part of me looks at him now and can't quite recognize him as me. Nothing wrong with fond memories, though, be they accurate or not.

 Caption suggestions?


Despite the fact that the current half-African President and his tribe of czars are still in power, feckless but capable of continuing their reign of damage, I am looking forward to the rest of the day.

My life in general, however, feels like treading water.
.
Watched a Dutch film from 1992, For A Lost Soldier. Based on the autobiography of a man who was on the verge of adolescence in 1945 and who has a romantic fling with a charming Canadian soldier in a recently-liberated rural village. Though the soldier is a handsome, happy, regular guy, his infatuation with this boy is beyond my capacity to appreciate. Made me think that part of him was missing and that, even more than with the usual illusions of adult eros, he was imagining someone who was not there. I wonder if that is how gays look to ungays?

I fear I may be losing my capacity for nuance. Yes, it's true. While at the gym, I saw "Rev"* Al Sharpton as one of the regular commentators on CNN. Any agency which hires this race-baiting scumbag loses all legitimacy for me.  And I saw a link to an article entitled "Michelle Bachmann's Christian Law Petri Dish". Its authoress is Jewish and writing for the NY Times. I assume immediately that it will be a snide hit piece. In both cases I make generalizations based on particulars. I do not care. Happy to make my contribution to the polarization of America.

*As I have noted before, when White preachers get involved in public affairs, their clergy status is front and center, and we have the usual hand-wringing about "separation of church and state". People apparently assume that they take their various theologies seriously and that it will impact their policy positions. But when the preachers are Black, the issue never comes up. Why? I think it's because mostly everyone knows that these guys just get reverended as a step toward social and group and political power. The Black preachers who have serious religion stay in their churches. For the likes of Sharpton or Jackson, religion is just a thin cover for Democrat politics. (In that respect, they're akin to liberal American nuns.) And being Black, they get "license and deference." They're like dark little micro-versions of Cardinal Richelieu. His status as a priest seemed to have no more effect on him than the clothing he had to wear.




Wow

is what I said out loud on reading this article. Christian Bible translators wondering if they should use the phrase "Son of God" because ... Muslims don't like it.

Wow.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

L

L is 50 in Roman numerals.

Dylan McDermott, now 50, is looking terrific in a new horror series.

Another hot Hibernian.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

I plead guilty to not knowing the source of the original story, but to having seen the Disney cartoon version as a boy. How different can they be? It's not rocket science. Or is it?


Two technological inventions* seem to have produced effects that the story describes: the Pill and the Sonogram.

Because woman can control the number of children they have, or whether they have any at all**, feminism became possible; and in its wake, the collapse of the replacement birth rate in many countries. Europe and Russia and Japan are prime examples, but not the sole ones. Birth rates are declining practically everywhere it seems. And the sonogram, revealing the sex of an unborn child, has led to the mass abortion of females in Third World cultures. The result is growing numbers of men who will never be able to marry, precisely in those cultures where marriage and family are central.


The irony of these two technologies and their very various results is that both of them seem to be unraveling the very groups that use them to make their lives better.


*Every advance in technology, in the broadest sense, produces unforeseen and uncontrollable outcomes of all kinds. I am no Luddite. Hell, I am blogging into cyberspace on a laptop!

**The Pill has saved at least one life, though;  no child, especially no boychild, will ever have to say, "Maureen Dowd is my mother."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Brits and Britesses

The Inspector Lynley Mysteries star Lynley, a member of the aristocracy who became a cop, an even-tempered and amazingly patient guy, and his sidekick and work partner, Barbara, a bitter, homely,  class-obsessed, alternately controlling bitch and dependent victim, unpleasant mousy harridan who hates men and hates/envies people with money and shows it. (The face of modern Britain?). Other than her, it's not a bad series.

A hundred eighty degrees. Working my way through a 4 DVD set on King Edward VII, Victoria's son. The Prince Charles of his day, he didn't ascend the throne til he was past 60. Much costume drama, family dynamics, glimpses of a bygone world. The eventual fate of all worlds.

iPeter

The late Mr Jobs meets St. iPeter at ThePearlyGates.com

HT to Gay Patriot


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Too true


_______________

Herman & Rick & Mitt


I try not to get too attached to the idea of any particular opponent for the Nov 2012 elections. These things are unpredictable.

And I try to remember Jonah Goldberg's warning that for conservatives, politics is not redemptive. It's a matter of practical wisdom. But the way things are, I'd like someone really wise and really practical. Who reads Newt Gingrich's policy papers. And Paul Ryan's budget.

And btw, nothing I have experienced in the last few weeks has made me think that Universal Suffrage is a good idea.


Them and Ours



I think it was the British historian MacAuley (a later link here, with correct spelling) who noted the Roman Church's solution for keeping schism and heresy to a mimimum. Since it is usually the super-religious rather than the impious who split the Church, Rome has developed Religious Orders for dangerously charismatic individuals and their followers to indulge their special passions and unique enthusiasms while not only remaining within the Fold, but serving it.

Religious Orders therefore have judgments and assessments about other religious orders. From the memoirs of a former Jesuit, who belonged to that Society --one whose charms have always completely eluded me---in the halcyon days before the Vatican Council, this frank appraisal.
Their rules refer to the Jesuits as "this least Society," an expression almost paralyzed with irony. If there is a "least Society" in the bosom of Mother Church, it was assuredly not, on the Jesuits own reckoning, the Society of Jesus. It must be some other confraternity pursuing its own imperfect vision of the religious life. Some were fitfully admired by Ours* in the manner of a connoisseur smiling upon a picturesque ruin, once glorious things like the Benedictines or Dominicans that had fallen into decay. The more remote the ruin, the greater the pretended respect: Carthusians, whom no one had ever seen, were thought to be obscurely worthwhile, but the Franciscans, whatever their imagined service to the Church in the past, were by now unspeakable. Others were mere cartoons: the dimly single-minded like the Passionists; shamelessly self-promoting entrepreneurs like the Maryknollers; the unnumbered hordes of helot brutes posing as Brothers, Christian, Irish Christian, Marist, or whatever; and your parish priest who at least owned up to his inferior status and so won from Ours the same grudging respect that the physician grants to the dentist but withholds from the insolent chiropractor.
*Jesuit jargon for "Jesuits".

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day



My annual note and protest about a day whose meaning has been marginalized and kidnapped by the forces of civilizational dismantling.

I had dinner with a family last night whose now adult children were educated in the Berkeley school system. So today is "Indigenous People's Day". The other days they celebrated were MLK, Malcolm X, Earth Day...the whole sorry panoply.

As I mention each year, it is a sign of decline indeed when the day which used to celebrate the beginning of the civilization of which you are a part now is either passed over in uneasy silence or reversed into an atonement day to the people "we" conquered.
But of course, there is very little "we" left, unravelled in the course of a single generation.
Mine.

A Jewish blogger whom I read has a relative who refuses to celebrate Passover. Because it would mean validating the divine plagues against The Egyptian People, etc. Celebrating his Jewish existence would mean condoning the events which made him possible. And he is so ethical that he will not do that. I wonder if he refuses his birthday because of the pain he caused his mother in childbirth.

There is a stock character we have all seen on TV and in the movies. The Prophet of Doom who announces the destruction of the world because of its sins. And he is gleeful about it. His self-importance and joy come from publishing the downfall of his neighbors at the hands of a Just God who has, of course, chosen him as his spokesman.

As in so many post-modern Western phenomena, I see in the people who avoid Columbus Day or who refused to mark Passover the same kind of split: personal ethical inflation gained by devaluing the collective to which one belongs. And the collectives, themselves without confidence, tolerate or even reward these dismantlers rather than thrashing them soundly and casting them out.

The occasional mad preacher was one thing, but now we have a culture full of self-congratulatory sophisticates who are, in effect, saying Amen --pardon the Christian reference-- to their own erasure.

The problem with these folks, the bien-pensants of the declining West, is that they are too good for this world. Paradoxically, their secular humanism has produced a cohort of angels too pure to remain embedded in the world which shapes them.



Sunday, October 09, 2011

Dreams

What do you think this might be?



A Syrian church in ruins? A mosque in Samarkand? Some royal assembly hall? A dreamer's vision?

I took the liberty of altering the photo just a bit. Here's the original.



It's the Fish Market in Venice...a contemporary photograph by Charles Christopher.

Genealogy of mortals

Play-texting with a travelling friend this morning, asking him where he intends to go to Mass. "St. Starbucks" was the answer. When queried where Ex Cathedra was going, I replied that after 20 years of Mass every day, I had a free pass for the rest of my life. A quick calculation shows that 20 years of daily Mass equals about 140 years of Sundays. So I guess I'll be going to hell for other reasons...

Speaking of religion.

David Solway's review of Salim Mansur's take-down of multiculturalism, Delectable Lie, passes along (Muslim liberal) Mansur's theory of why the West is destroying itself from within. What are the internal dynamics that fuel the Untergang of the Abendland?

Oedipus and Hamlet.
Both are royal leaders, one a king and the other a prince in succession to the throne. Both wish to purge their kingdoms of corruption, sickness, and the scourge of illegitimacy. Both are driven to find and expose a buried truth so that the realm may be healed and purified.

Herein lies the problem and the paradox, for in seeking to disinter what is hidden or suppressed, both Oedipus and Hamlet in their diverse ways bring disaster upon themselves, one as a result of a relentless pursuit and the other owing to relentless reflection. One acts and the other fails to act, but the consequences are no less destructive: blindness and death.
Critical thought...including self-critical thought...becomes a kind of cancer, cells consuming its own body.

Using Occam's razor --dreadfully Eurocentric of me-- I have been very impressed with the explanatory power of James Burnham's view that the Western liberal is "morally disarmed in the presence of anyone he deems less fortunate than himself." Once the Western liberal judges someone or some group to be a victim, --and he usually assumes that he, the liberal, is the responsible or at least complicit oppressor--he loses all defense against him. And when the victim eventually shows himself to be developing into a tyrant himself, --the usual outcome--the liberal cannot notice, caught up as he is in a masturbatory ecstasy of ethical righteousness. When the less fortunate victim disembowels him, he refuses to protest. After all, did he not deserve it? Atonement by suicide.

But why was liberalism so able to infect us? My amateur guess is that the alliance between Athens and Jerusalem --which made the West after 476-- was, as are all alliances, unstable. That mix could give it dynamism. And it could compensate each side for the excesses and blindnesses of the other. Liberals will be happy to paint the days when Jerusalem dominated as dark times of oppression and superstition. But what happens to the civilization of Socrates, Oedipus, Hamlet when the triumph of the Enlightenment plays itself out --including deconstructing itself-- without Faith to counter it? First, national and ideological totalitarianism; then chaotic post-modernism: the will to power shaped by nihilist egalitarianism and fueled by a psychotic mix of utopianism and self-hatred.

Burdened by a Christian conscience but bereft of the God and religion that somehow made that conscience bearable, the modern Westerner must be both God and sinner at once: ultimately responsible and irredeemably flawed. Still infected with the disease of Christ's impossible ethics, he rejects the vaccine of the Church. Like his unconscious model, the only way out is to let himself be crucified. But then there is no longer any God to receive his sacrificed life. He offers his life not to an appeasable God but to an unappeasable mob.

Pope Benedict, both in his (in)famous Regensburg speech and since, repeats a very deeply Western (and Catholic) theme, the representative of Jerusalem speaking for Athens: Jerusalem needed, still needs, Athens. But the reverse is also true. Faith without reason leads to superstition. Reason without faith, to relativism. Reason, limited but crucial, offers a necessary corrective to the secular dictatorships of post-modern liberalism and the religious dictatorship of Islam. To the voluntarist* totalitarians of Islam, he asserts the priority of logos over even Divine will. To the egalitarian collectivists of Europe, he asserts the power of reason to reach the real, beyond the fashionably skeptical angst of humanist statism and hedonism.


Anyone who knew me in the 80's would be astonished, as I am, to find me supporting Papa Ratzinger in this. But as I have written elsewhere,  
“I'd rather go to the ramparts with the irascible folks who want to save our town from the invading barbarians than stay at home with the charming pacifist intellectuals who argue about re-designing the bedroom.”

______________________
*The Catholic settlement about faith and reason --which will always be a matter of dispute about individual cases as history moves along-- is that God is the Truth, Logos, and so faith and reason, both from God, cannot contradict each other. Faith goes beyond reason but may not go against reason.  Lutheran fideism in the West (which led to Kant?) separates the two entirely. In Islam, the rationalists (mutazili) lost the battle to the (Asherites) theologians by 1000 AD.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

A queen

Quentin Crisp is not a hero of mine, no oracle or role model. My chief remembrance of him is his description of The Great Dark Man, the impossible masculine ideal whose pursuit, he held, made homosexuals incapable of happiness. Of himself he said:
If I were to find my Great Dark Man, he would not love someone like me.
And if he were to love someone like me, then he could not be my Great Dark Man.
The Great Dark Man is the Real Man. And by his definition, the Real Man would never fall in love with someone of his own sex. So said Quisp.

I think this is called aporia, or in plain English, a dead end.

An Englishman in New York dramatizes The Naked Civil Servant's last years, in America. Much of it unfolded around the newborn plague of AIDS. I like to forget what a horror that was, the hospital rooms, the funerals. The film made clear his missteps about reading the epidemic, dismissing it as "a fad" and suffering the rejection of the subculture that had come to lionize him.

I found myself watching John Hurt's portrayal of Quisp as if I were listening to a patient. That made him less offputting. In the film, his combination of exhausted solipsistic nihilism and witty patter, by themselves very quickly wearing, were made bearable by his inconsistency, which showed itself in  kindness. (I have been told that inconsistency is also what makes me bearable.) And if he was brave, it was the courage of those who have no hope.

I was surprised, though, by how much I was taken with and moved by the character of Patrick Angus, the doomed young painter who'd already given up hope of being loved.

 

Perhaps it was the actor, Jonathan Tucker, I was taken with...

There were the usual predictable political assumptions, but the film was also very unromantic about the flaws of the newly-born gay culture. Liberation brought neither virtue nor happiness.

Roku wrongo in Black and White

 Gus and Shawn with cinnamon Monkey Bread

Via Roku, I can watch all 79 episodes of Psych.  I chose Dual Spires, the quirky take-off on Twin Peaks where the boys investigate a suspicious death during the Cinnamon Festival in a town so small its name on the map is in parentheses.

A small moment indicates some of what is wrong with our current social contract. Gus tells Shawn that he wants to get out of the little rural burg because "it has no cell phone service and it's all fulla white people."

This is supposed to be amusing and we are supposed to sympathize with Gus and feel a little bad about such a retrograde whitebread place. But imagine a switch, where Shawn* wants to leave somewhere because "it's all fulla black people."  Now we'd have An Important Moral Issue on our hands. And Shawn would suddenly be a reprobate.

Hey, I can't help it. I'm a shrink; we notice small things.

In this case it's "Black Privilege", the ability of any Black --from your local homeless drug addict to Oprah and Obama--to take the position of a victimized minority, for any reason, at which point the job of Whites is to feel embarrassed and sympathetic and, above all, not be critical.


Reminded me of a vacation with my ex years ago, spoiled partly because he freaked out that Portland, Oregon was so white. No one was anything but polite to him. Just that demographic fact seemed to give him some kind of justification for judging and acting out. If I had responded similarly in Harlem or Bayview-Hunters Point in SF, there'd have been all hell to pay.

As I've said before, the real basis of the multicultural myth is that Caucasians must never be left alone in groups; Whites in a group by themselves are intrinsically pathological**. And what is so distressing is that Whites play along with this and enforce it on one another, when the evidence suggests something quite the contrary.

As Shelby Steele pointed out, the current creepy agreement between Whites and Blacks is that Whites can rent some racial innocence if they grant Blacks a lot of licence and deference. Which, however, Blacks can rescind at any time. It's a weird and unreal social and moral reversal. Very unhealthy.

But the rest of the episode was funny.

*The pilot episode was in 2006. James Roday, who is still sexy, has gotten a big chunky since then. Back in 06 he was even moreso. Sexy, that is.

**Like all male groups, etc. Without the redeeming presence of wymyn, they are patriarchal old boy clubs. Even the locker rooms of men's sports teams must be open to female reporters.

Surplices in a knot

Ordinary people sometimes get their knickers in a knot. The very serious liberal liturgists at PrayTell --yes, I relapsed and read a page-- have their surplices in a knot. Which they always do, but this time it is over two phrases in retranslated liturgy.

In one of the Eucharistic Prayers, the phrase a solis ortu usque ad occasum occurs. Literally, from the rising of the sun unto its setting. It's a quote from the prophet Malachi 1.11 about sacrifice. The phrase can also be interpreted as from east to west, which is what the lame-duck text says. The vast majority of Bibles in English and other languages choose the temporal rather than spatial interpretation. The PrayTell crowd are expending a lot of energy on the change. They sound like conservatives who hate change because it's, well, change.

And in the common prayers before communion, the Latin says Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea. Literally, Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. It's quote from the Gospels, when a Roman centurion humbly declines Jesus' offer to go to the man's house to heal his sick servant. The soon to be replaced 1973 translation extracted the metaphor and simply said, Lord I am not worthy to receive you... The experts are afraid that "the people" --whom they want to empower but evidently also deem to be idiots-- will think it means the roof of their mouth.

Supposed the 1973 version had kept the biblical quote intact and the new one wanted to simplify it to "receive you"? Can't you hear the very same people yelling that Rome was suppressing the scriptural voice? Babies.

Yom Kippur Confiteor


Isidore Kaufmann, c. 1900
Today is the Jewish Day of Atonement, total fasting and day-long prayer to ask forgiveness of the past year's sins.

Recreation of the rite by the Temple Institute in Jerusalem

When the Jerusalem Temple existed, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies only on this day, with sacrificial blood, and spoke the four-letter Divine Name out loud, which was forbidden everywhere else and to everyone else.


It's a rich and strange word, atonement. We hear it first now in English as "reparation", as making up for some wrong. The English word itself does appear to mean "at-one" ment, unification. Making up for some wrong in order to create communion.

In Christianity, The Atonement --Christ's death on the cross as a sacrifice to God for mankind's sins--is the most humanly resonant archetype in the library but for Enlightened Westerners, the most scandalous and embarrassing. The Epistle to the Hebrews connects the High Priest's ritual with Jesus' crucifixion.
 This Slovak crucifixion ikon shows Christ's blood descending on the skull of Adam,
whom legend says was buried beneath Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.

Like most of our basic emotions and moods, guilt eludes our attempts to domesticate it. I have found it very ironic that the liberal culture which mocks the primitivity of "Original Sin" triumphantly grants me liberation from guilt about my sexual life then wants me to feel eternally guilty for societal wrongs done to strangers long before I was born.

A deceased Unitarian friend once told me the difference between the different kinds of Western guilt:
Catholics feel guilty for what they do, Jews feel guilty for what they don't do, and Protestants feel guilty just for not being nice enough.

The Confiteor ("I confess") is a part of the preparatory prayers of the Mass. I remember having to learn the Roman version in Latin as a boy; very complex because the case endings on the twice-spoken saints' name list there --blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul-- changed from first to second recitiation, from dative to accusative. Quite a mouthful of nuance. And the threefold striking of the breast with the words, "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa".


Here's the Dominican Order's version. Fewer saints and culpa's but more detail in the sins: thought, speech, deed and omission.


As you would expect from an introverted thinking type, most of the sins of which I feel are in thought and omission. Omission especially. As the recent English translation of "opere et omissione" makes clear: "...what I have done and what I have failed to do."

To my Jewish friends today, "an easy fast".

Friday, October 07, 2011

Screaming angels

The Blue Angels, that is. It's Fleet Week again in San Francisco.  The noise of the low-flying jets over the city makes dogs and liberals crazy, but I think they're beautiful.



(The jets, not the liberals.)

My dad was a Navy pilot who stayed in the Reserve after the war. One Saturday while he was away on active duty, my mom made us kids stand out in the backyard and look up at the sky. A single jet flew over and dipped its wings. It was Dad.

Country sniffles

This song gets me every time. Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss.

Whiskey Lullabye

She put him out like the burnin' end of a midnight cigarette
She broke his heart he spent his whole life tryin' to forget
We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time
But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind
Until the night

He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away her memory
Life is short but this time it was bigger
Than the strength he had to get up off his knees
We found him with his face down in the pillow
With a note that said I'll love her till I die
And when we buried him beneath the willow
The angels sang a whiskey lullaby

The rumors flew but nobody knew how much she blamed herself
For years and years she tried to hide the whiskey on her breath
She finally drank her pain away a little at a time
But she never could get drunk enough to get him off her mind
Until the night

She put that bottle to her head and pulled the trigger
And finally drank away his memory
Life is short but this time it was bigger
Than the strength she had to get up off her knees
We found her with her face down in the pillow
Clinging to his picture for dear life
We laid her next to him beneath the willow
While the angels sang a whiskey lullaby

Tru dat

Listening to a podcast with Lee Harris and Ayan Hirsi Ali on his book The Suicide of Reason. He makes it clear that Islam confuses Westerners, Americans because we have fundamentally different assumptions about what "religion" is.

Islam is a religiously-based all encompassing social and political and legal order which makes little if not distinction between public and private life.

It is a continual astonishment to me that leftliberals in America can imagine a Christian theocracy here but seem determined to remain deaf and blind to the inherently theocratic nature of Islam. 

But there is an interesting overlap between the lefty mantra that "the personal is political" and Muslim belief that "the personal is religious."


A Fall morning

It may be that the date on the calendar makes me expect it, but there's a bit of a chill in the air this morning. Funny thing about San Francisco weather. In the summer, the mornings are temperate and it gets cold later in the day. In the fall and winter, the mornings are chilly, but things warm up later. I do like autumn mornings.

Re-read Lee Harris' review of Brokeback Mountain, which both as short story and film I love. Well, maybe love is not the right word. Reading the story and watching the film left me transfixed.

I miss Harris' writing; a very thoughtful and articulate right of center man who shares his life with another man. Since his last book on the Tea Party, The New American Civil War, I have not found much of him on line. Harris makes the point that the characters in the so-called gay cowboy romance were not gay. (Lesbian righty Tammy Bruce also made the unaccountably bitchy point, over and over, that they were not cowboys either, but merely sheep herders.) Although their lifelong love affair began in the pre-Stonewall era, Jack and Innis would certainly have been aware of the appearance of the gay culture. And they never made a move toward it. He argues that their rejection of being "queer", quickly but definitely announced, came from their identity as men. To become either queer or gay would have made them unrecognizable as men in their own eyes. And imploded the story.


Androphilia made the same point about gay identity and manhood. Years ago I was impatient with my AIDS organization's outreach to MSMs, Men who have Sex with Men but who did not identify as gay or with the gay community. I was at the stage in my coming out where my attachment to the gay community with practically tribal. In those primitive years, the coalition was just "gay and lesbian". The sexual Frankenstein of LGBT,etc. had not yet been assembled in the lab. And I still assumed (I think) that at the heart of it all was men loving men. But over the years, as always, I found myself working myself toward the margins. Nowadays I'd really rather be one of those MSMs.

Harris has been called "the philosopher of 9/11". He understands Islam. BTW, Muslims in Spain are demanding that dogs be excluded from public spaces and are poisoning them. And in Switzerland, they want the cross taken off the flag. The West needs no more Muslims. Not one more. On the contrary.

Reflecting on the various twists and turns of my life, I suggest an epitaph for my tombstone: "What was he thinking?!"

Struck me funny. On the website of conservative Jewish commentator Dennis Prager, whom I often like, this offering of an mp3 download
"Why Is It So Hard To Be Good?" We all want to be good -- better than we are. Then, why is it so hard? Dennis identifies the key challenges that hold us back. And offers practical solutions.

So American. And if he weren't a Jew, Pelagian. Key challenges and practical solutions!  :)

Reading up on shame, occasioned by some clinical work. If you think guilt is rough, try shame. And yet it is an integral part of the human psyche, serving its purposes. We would not, I think, be homo sapiens without it. Right there in Genesis. It's one of the strengths of Jung's psychology that he recognizes even the most difficult and dark regions of our soul as natural parts of our soul rather than alien pathologies. He supports a far less grand version of Aquinas' saying that "grace does not remove nature but perfects it." Individuation does not remove nature but becomes conscious of it. I got from reading him --a grandly imperfect man--what I never really got from the Gospels: permission to be human.



Thursday, October 06, 2011

True equality


One of the reasons I like the Brit dramas set in the pre-1914 era is that they are so egalitarian. Of course the dominant narrative is the "Upstairs Downstairs" model of social and economic disparity: the upstairs Family and the downstairs Servants.

What could be more unequal?


What I like about them is that both ups and downs are really moral equals, merely in different situations of power. In our current bleeding-heart culture the simple fact of inequality casts those upstairs as hypocritical oppressors and those downstairs as morally upright victims. But because the Brits --whose faults do not include sentimentality-- make good drama, the flawed humanity of both sets is more than readily apparent.

In America in the last several decades, for example, the mere fact of having black skin, once a mark of inferiority, now carries the automatic cache of moral rectitude. And by inane contrast, white skin, a mark of privilege, now implies some kind of ethical flaw. Which is bullshit. Just because someone treats you badly doesn't make you good. Merely badly treated. Both nice people and scoundrels can be upstairs and down.

If can remember back to the old "Upstairs Downstairs" --which holds up very well after forty years-- ask what the world would be like if the Family and the Servants switched places. Might not only not be better, but even worse. Who'd you like to be charge: Miss Elizabeth or Sarah?


Sarah, poor and uneducated, forced by that condition to live by her wits, is a narcissistic and histrionically manipulative sociopath, a compulsive liar living by resentment and illusion, without any loyalty. If you're looking for class solidarity, don't look at her.

Her upstairs "sister in spirit" is Miss Elizabeth who combines self-congratulatory social conscience about women's rights and the plight of the poor with an impenetrable snobbery and spitefully arrogant sense of superiority. She is quite capable of chiding her cad of a brother for leaving things around for the servants to clean up and then dressing down a housemaid for dressing up above her station, utterly deaf and blind to the conflict.

Conservative though I be, I am not pleading for a return to Edwardian London. Just noting that human nature triumphs over every political and social structure meant either to contain it or, even more, improve it.

Paradise

is always lost.

Watching a story of two souls in impossible love in Edwardian London. As soon as he says, "How can this small room be Paradise?"...






...Well, my boy be prepared to pack your bags. Once you think you've arrived in Paradise, you won't be staying long.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Gratitude

Two friends comforted me today.

One is a soulful and empathetic fellow, familiar and at home with the ups and downs of feeling, is happy to hear my story, my concerns, --even thanks me for telling him-- who was supportive and kind and warm.

The other practically shudders at the word "soulful" and when I am feeling bad  --unless I am mourning a death-- prefers not to get into the details. In fact, he offers distraction, humor, including humor directed at me and my mood. But he doesn't leave me alone. Frequently contacts me in fact...to not talk about what's bothering me. In his own way, though, he is just as kind.

Both these men are friends. Both of them comforted me today.

Cho dependent

Margaret Cho was funny once. Then whiny. Then bitter. Then a PC trainwreck. Here's a sample of her brilliance: "It is tragic that people who are incarcerated are unable to vote. They are probably the most important voices to listen to because they can tell us what we need to change."

What a waste.

Rhythms, seasonal

Well, summer in SF has been given notice.

The rains have arrived. And the morning has a chill on it that in summer we don't get until the afternoon. October begins the rainy season and the strange paradox of this place: it will get chillier, but wetter, and therefore at its greenest.

But no snow. No ice. The trees and flowers, rather than dying off, thrive. Winter here feels like a wet chilly autumn and looks like spring. One of the city's many fine qualities. Now that I have lived here 20 years, I appreciate it no less than my first autumn.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Nice rhythms


Forgotten trivia


 religious politics 
 political sex 
 sexual religion 
 religious sex 
 sexual politics 
 political religion  


There's a figure of speech, or a literary structure, 
horse-shoe or arch shaped, 
like the above,
relating
1 and 6
2 and 5
3 and 4
usually with an oddnumber'd capstone,
and for the life of me
I cannot remember the name...

Ah. Ah. Wait....


The Jerry Brown Paradox

Perhaps a first. A positive posting, about Democrat CA Governor Jerry Brown, using a story from leftwing Brit "news" service Reuters.

Governor Brown signed a bill prohibiting governments in California from banning male circumcision. Zealots in SF and Santa Monica had ballot measures up to do that.  A "human rights" and "children's rights" issue. And with no exception for religion, of course. Would criminalize a central Jewish (and even Muslim) rite.

In short, Mr. Brown used the power of the State to prohibit the State from exercising power where it has no right to in the first place.

I am calling this The Jerry Brown Paradox and (naively) hoping for its wide application to many other laws, regulations and policies.

When America lost its mind in one of its period fits of utopianism and it constitutionalized Prohibition, it at least left a clear exception for religions. Without wine, Catholicism cannot function. No wine, no Mass. No Mass, no Catholicism. Contemporary liberal utopians are less flexible than the fundamentalist Womens Christian Temperance League was. If our contemporary do-gooders were up to re-enacting prohibition now (though they have substituted tobacco for alcohol) , they'd just tell the Christians to stop trying to escape equality. Which is, as we know, the virtue of virtues.

The Obama administration wants to force health services at Catholic colleges to provide birth control and abortion counseling; States with gay adoption force the closure of religious agencies who won't do it, and in Canada, no parent can be informed or ask for an exemption when grade school kids are educated in the evils of heterosexism and homophobia and encouraged to question gender roles.

When the victim becomes the tyrant. Such an old story.

‎"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. Their very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

—C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock





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