Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part VII

After today, I'm off until January 3.

Thus, I won't have a lunch break until January 3.

Thus, I won't be blogging until at least January 3.

So, I'll have to include not only today's installment of the Chesterton Advent Calendar (explanation here) but also those for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well.

23 December

Fortunately, however, being happy is not so important as having a jolly time. Philosophers are happy; saints have a jolly time. The important thing in life is not to keep a steady system of pleasure and composure (which can be done quite well by hardening one's heart or thickening one's head), but to keep alive in oneself the immortal power of astonishment and laughter, and a kind of young reverence. This is why religion always insists on special days like Christmas, while philosophy always tends to despise them. Religion is interested not in whether a man is happy, but whether he is still alive, whether he can still react in a normal way to new things, whether he blinks in a blinding light or laughs when he is tickled. That is the best of Christmas, that it is a startling and disturbing happiness; it is an uncomfortable comfort. The Christmas customs destroy the human habits. And while customs are generally unselfish, habits are nearly always selfish. The object of the religious festival is, as I have said, to find out if a happy man is still alive. A man can smile when he is dead. Composure, resignation, and the most exquisite goo dmanners are, so to speak, the strong points of corpses. There is only one way in which you can test his real vitality, and that is by a special festival. Explode cracker in his ear, and see if he jumps. Prick him with holly, and see if he feels it. If not, he is dead, or, as he would put it, is "living the higher life." —Illustrated London News, 1908

24 December

Almighty God to all mankind on Christmas Day said He:
"I rent you from the old red hills and, rending made you free.
There was charter, there was challenge; in a blast of breath I gave;
You can be all things other; you cannot be a slave.
You shall be tired and tolerant of fancies as they fade,
But if men doubt the Charter, ye shall call on the Crusade –
Trumpet and torch and catapult, cannon and bow and blade,
Because it was My challenge to all the things I made." —A Christmas Song for Three Guilds

25 December

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down —A Christmas Carol

Season's greetings! Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part VI

Explanation here.

22 December

Religion has had to provide that longest and strangest telescope - the telescope through which we could see the star upon which we dwelt. For the mind and eyes of the average man this world is as lost as Eden and as sunken as Atlantis. —The Defendant

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part V

Explanation here.

21 December

Christ commanded us to have love for all men, but even if we had equal love for all men, to speak of having the same love for all men is merely bewildering nonsense. If we love a man at all, the impression he produces on us must be vitally different to the impression produced by another man whom we love. To speak of having the same kind of regard for both is about as sensible as asking a man whether he prefers chrysanthemums or billiards. Christ did not love humanity; He never said He loved humanity: He loved men. Neither He nor anyone else can love humanity; it is like loving a gigantic centipede. —Twelve Types

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part IV

Explanation here.

20 December

Meanwhile, it remains true that I shall eat a great deal of turkey this Christmas; and it is not in the least true (as the vegetarians say) that I shall do it because I do not realise what I am doing, or because I do what I know is wrong, or that I do it with shame or doubt or a fundamental unrest of conscience. In one sense I know quite well what I am doing; in another sense I know quite well that I know not what I do. Scrooge and the Cratchits and I are, as I have said, all in one boat; the turkey and I are, to say the most of it, ships that pass in the night, and greet each other in passing. I wish him well; but it is really practically impossible to discover whether I treat him well. I can avoid, and I do avoid with horror, all special and artificial tormenting of him, sticking pins in him for fun or sticking knives in him for scientific investigation. But whether by feeding him slowly and killing him quickly for the needs of my brethren, I have improved in his own solemn eyes his own strange and separate destiny, whether I have made him in the sight of God a slave or a martyr, or one whom the gods love and who die young—that is far more removed from my possibilities of knowledge than the most abstruse intricacies of mysticism or theology. A turkey is more occult and awful than all the angels and archangels. In so far as God has partly revealed to us an angelic world, he has partly told us what an angel means. But God has never told us what a turkey means. And if you go and stare at a live turkey for an hour or two, you will find by the end of it that the enigma has rather increased than diminished. —All Things Considered

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part III

Explanation here.

17 December

Damn it, I sometimes think the only English thing left in England is cherry brandy. —The Quick One

18 December

When, in "[A] Christmas Carol," Scrooge refers to the surplus population, the Spirit tells him, very justly, not to speak till he knows what the surplus is and where it is. The implication is severe but sound. When a group of superciliously benevolent economists look down into the abyss for the surplus population, assuredly there is only one answer that should be given to them; and that is to say, "If there is a surplus, you are a surplus." And if anyone were ever cut off, they would be. —Charles Dickens

19 December

The writer writes these words before Christmas; some readers will read them after Christmas: an awful thought. For I always dimly and dumbly think of life after Christmas as of life after death. I hasten to add that I believe that both will occur. I also add that, as becomes any healthy man, I fear death, but do not fear Christmas—no, not even if it result in death. But I do unconsciously count them both as the end of something and all days beyond them as comparatively vague and visionary. Whenever the year is ending I feel that the world is ending, and I desire to make a good end. I think the best end ever made by mortal man—better than Nelson shot through his stars or Douglas hurling the heart of Bruce—was the death of Faber, who confessed and received all the sacraments of his Church, and on being told he had an hour to live, said: "Then I can hear the last number of 'Pickwick,'" and died hearing it. —Illustrated London News, 11 January, 1913

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Chesterton Advent Calendar, Part II

Explanation here.

16 December

Comfort, especially this vision of Christmas comfort, is the reverse of a gross or material thing. It is far more poetical, properly speaking, than the Garden of Epicurus. It is far more artistic than the Palace of Art. It is more artistic because it is based upon a contrast, a contrast between the fire and wine within the house and the winter and the roaring rains without. It is far more poetical, because there is in it a note of defence, almost of war; a note of being besieged by the snow and hail; of making merry in the belly of a fort. —Charles Dickens

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Chesterton Advent Calendar

Yesterday I mentioned two friends of mine, the late Frank and Ann Petta, whom I knew through the Chicago Area G. K. Chesterton Society.

Every year in the mailing advertising the group's annual Christmas Party, Frank would always send along "A Chesterton Advent Calendar", a sheet containing excerpts from Chesterton's writings — one for each of the ten days leading up to Christmas, and for Christmas Day itself. Some of the quotations are directly related to Christmas; others not so much.

Why, you may ask, didn't he include a Chesterton quotation for each day of Advent?

Beats me. That's just the kind of sui generis fellow Frank was.

For the next few days, I'll be including these quotations herein.

15 December

Here am I, Father Christmas; well you know it,
Though critics say it fades, my Christmas Tree,
Yet was it Dickens who became my poet
And who the Dickens may the critics be? —The Turkey and the Turk

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Catherine Doherty, Servant of God

Today is the 25th anniversary of the death of Catherine Doherty:

Servant of God Catherine Doherty (August 15, 1896–December 14, 1985) was a social activist and foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate. A pioneer of social justice and a renowned national speaker, Catherine was also a prolific writer of hundreds of articles, best-selling author of dozens of books, and a dedicated wife and mother. Her cause for canonization as a saint is under consideration by the Catholic Church.

An amazing life story, hers.

Born in Russia, she and her family were nearly killed during the Russian Revolution. A website dedicated to her cause for canonization explains its impact on her:

The Revolution marked Catherine for life. She saw it as the tragic consequence of a Christian society’s failure to incarnate its faith. All her life she cried out against the hypocrisy of those who professed to follow Christ, while failing to serve him in others.

After fleeing Russia, Catherine went first to England, and then to Canada. In the early 1930s, she founded Friendship House in Toronto, the major goals of which were service to the poor and working for interracial justice.

As the movement spread, new Friendship Houses opened in Canada (in Ottawa and Hamilton), and others in the US: in New York (Harlem), Chicago, Washington DC, Portland, OR, and Shreveport, LA.

A couple friends of ours, the late Frank and Ann Petta — whom I met through the Chicago Area G.K. Chesterton Society — lived at the Chicago Friendship House during its early years, and knew Catherine personally. They often talked about how logical of a step it was for them to go from being active in the struggle for interracial justice and the civil rights movement to being involved in the pro-life movement.

Although I never had the privilege of meeting Catherine Doherty myself, I suppose having friends who personally knew her is the next best thing.

We owe her a debt of gratitude for all that she did to spread the love of Jesus Christ to others.

  • A list of Catherine Doherty's writings and talks is available here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Have I Done Lately?

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Lucy, patron saint of — among others — the blind.

While looking at the calendar a few days ago and taking note of this feast day, I was prompted to recall an encounter I had ten years ago.

After graduating college, I got a job teaching Religion at Good Counsel High School, a girls’ school on the Northwest Side of Chicago run by the Felicians Sisters.

After one of the teacher in-services at the beginning of the school year, Sister Mary Justilla Podgorski, who ran the attendance office, invited me to visit the Felicians’ Chicago Province Motherhouse (where she lived) next door to the school, where she introduced me to many of the other sisters in her community.

One of the sisters I met that day — whose name, I regret, escapes me — had been blind for ten years. After Sister Justilla and I talked to her for a few minutes (and listened to her play a song on her electric piano), we moved on. Sister Justilla then whispered to me that this sister offers up all of her suffering related to her blindness for those addicted to pornography.

I remember thinking at that moment that I felt like The Great Slacker of the World.

I’ve just met a saintly woman who hasn’t been able to see for ten years, and all this time she’s been offering up to God all of the pain, frustration, and suffering her blindness has caused her on behalf of porn addicts. And what have I done lately?

Penance and mortification are key aspects to a healthy spiritual life. And so it’s important for us to consider from time to time, especially during this penitential season of Advent: What have I offered up lately for my family? My friends? My co-workers? The guy down the street who’s out of work? The woman on the Hooters billboard I saw on the way to work this morning?


What have I done lately?

[Cross-posted at Catholic Dads]

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Without Stain"

In honor of today's solemnity, it never hurts to remind ourselves what Holy Mother Church teaches (and what she does not teach) about the Immaculate Conception:

It’s important to understand what the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is and what it is not. Some people think the term refers to Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb without the intervention of a human father; but that is the Virgin Birth. Others think the Immaculate Conception means Mary was conceived "by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the way Jesus was, but that, too, is incorrect. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, whose conception was brought about the normal way, was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what "immaculate" means: without stain.

It's interesting to note that the Church places greater importance on this day, when she commemorates the conception of Mary in the womb of St. Anne, than on the day she commemorates Mary's birth — celebrated, appropriately enough, nine months from today, on September 8.

In honor of the celebration of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception, I've included below what is, in my opinion, the most cogent paragraph ever written on Marian devotion.

It's from The Everlasting Man, my favorite work of G. K. Chesterton.

Given that we're in the midst of Advent, it's also rather timely:

If the world wanted what is called a non-controversial aspect of Christianity, it would probably select Christmas. Yet it is obviously bound up with what is supposed to be a controversial aspect (I could never at any stage of my opinions imagine why); the respect paid to the Blessed Virgin. When I was a boy a more Puritan generation objected to a statue upon my parish church representing the Virgin and Child. After much controversy, they compromised by taking away the Child. One would think that this was even more corrupted with Mariolatry, unless the mother was counted less dangerous when deprived of a sort of weapon. But the practical difficulty is also a parable. You cannot chip away the statue of a mother from all round that of a newborn child. You cannot suspend the new-born child in mid-air; indeed you cannot really have a statue of a newborn child at all. Similarly, you cannot suspend the idea of a newborn child in the void or think of him without thinking of his mother. You cannot visit the child without visiting the mother; you cannot in common human life approach the child except through the mother. If we are to think of Christ in this aspect at all, the other idea follows as it is followed in history. We must either leave Christ out of Christmas, or Christmas out of Christ, or we must admit, if only as we admit it in an old picture, that those holy heads are too near together for the haloes not to mingle and cross.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Joe and Ann Scheidler's Home Vandalized

In the early morning hours yesterday, the home of Joe and Ann Scheidler (my bosses) was vandalized. Asphalt chunks were thrown through two of their windows, and a strange note was attached to one of them.

You can read Ann Scheidler's account of the vandalism to their home on the Pro-Life Action League's site.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

This Is Why Black Friday Shopping Holds Exactly No Interest for Me

9 Shocking Examples of Black Friday Violence

Here's video of one:

Not only do I find the prospect of getting up insanely early to buy Stuff Made in China not very appealing, but I also prefer, whenever possible, to minimize the likelihood that I'll get trampled, or stabbed, or something.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"Campion, the Seditious Jesuit"

"In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England -- the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter."

Thus spake St. Edmund Campion upon being sentenced to death as a traitor.

He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on this day in 1581.

Apropos of this, I can't help but call to mind a quip by Oscar Wilde (whose death — and, far more importantly, deathbed conversion to Catholicism — 110 years ago) was commemorated yesterday.

The Catholic Church, Wilde remarked, is "for saints and sinners alone — for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do."

St. Edmund Campion, ora pro nobis.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


What with tomorrow being Thanksgiving, I decided last week on a rather unoriginal idea: to write a list of things I'm thankful for.

That said, I am thankful for:

1. Teresa, our almost 8-year old daughter, who told me a couple weeks ago, “Daddy, today I learned the difference between perfect and imperfect contrition” – and then proceeded to explain said difference in a way that would surely have satisfied even St. Thomas Aquinas.

2. Cecilia, our 6-year old daughter, who already has way, way more artistic talent than I have, allowing her to create neat pictures like this:

3. Lucy, our 5-year old daughter, who loves to sing along as loudly as she possibly can to the soundtrack of Annie.

4. Joe, our 3-year old son, who always seems happy and who seems to make everybody else he sees happy too.

5. Anthony/A.J., our 19-month old son, whose willingness to climb most anything causes me to think he’s destined for many fearless pursuits throughout life.

6. That all of our children’s godparents are exemplary role models who pray for them every day.

7. Our new baby, due in April.

8. That all of us are in relatively good health.

9. Jocelyn, who is, well, just an awesome wife.

10. Jocelyn, who is, well, just an awesome mom.

11. A job I absolutely love.

12. A modest home in a decent neighborhood.

13. Two motorcars that are paid for, one of which, given to us by one of my brothers 10 years ago, still runs just fine.

14. The speech therapists I met with (after being picked up by the short bus) a few times a week from kindergarten through second grade who helped me overcome a significant stuttering habit.

15. The many great teachers I’ve had throughout my life.

16. The time I spent teaching from 2000-2004.

17. A family and extended family (on both my side and Jocelyn’s) in which – more or less – everybody gets along.

18. Chicago-style pizza.

19. The writings of G.K. Chesterton.

20. Countless good friends.

21. Loving and supportive parents.

22. Having had the chance to study in Rome for four months in 1997.

23. Having grown up in a home in which neither money nor food was wasted, which very much helped me to learn the proverbial “value of a dollar.”

24. Having grown up in Minnesota, as a result of which I know that the proper way to play the game is “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck” – not the silly, ridiculous apology known as “Duck, Duck, Goose”.

25. Our local parish – St. Odilo – a mere four blocks from our house, where the Tridentine Mass is offered every Sunday.

26. St. John Cantius, our “other” parish – where, on any given Sunday, three or four priests hear confessions before (and during) Mass, so that wretched, habitual sinners like me are able, as often as we need, to bare our souls to someone who really and truly does have the power to forgive them.

27. Far more than I could possibly hope to include in a list like this.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tom Morrison is a Mensch

He's forgoing his pension:

Newly elected state Rep. Tom Morrison raised some eyebrows Tuesday during freshmen legislators’ orientation in Springfield when presented with paperwork to join the General Assembly’s lucrative pension system.

That’s because he opted out -- a move officials can recall happening just once before.

“Are you sure you want to do that?” one administrator asked him.

The 35-year-old Palatine Republican, who succeeds six-term state Rep. Suzie Bassi in the 54th House District, realizes that forgoing his pension won’t make a dent in the state’s $13 billion deficit or $80 billion unfunded pension liability.

But Morrison says he’s a proponent of self-sacrifice and leadership by example, and he wasn’t willing to become a financial burden on a system he wants to overhaul.

The district Tom represents is the one in which Jocelyn grew up (and where her parents still live). I know him personally, and he's a heckuva guy.

Oh, and if you're wondering how the State of Illinois came to be saddled with an $80 billion unfunded pension liability, the article goes on to provide some clue:

After four years in office -- the amount of time it takes to become vested -- a current legislator becomes eligible to receive a pension of 12 percent of his salary, along with 3 percent increases if retiring after age 60.

That pension payout spikes to 27 percent of salary after eight years of in office, 45 percent after 12 years of service and finally the maximum 85 percent after 20 years.

Can you say "unsustainable"?

Another clue is here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"They Scribbling Eels and Guilder Floor"

Periodically, I receive e-mails written in Dutch.

I presume these messages are the result of a data entrant somewhere in the Netherlands mistyping the e-mail address of someone else named Jansen, with the result being that this other Jansen's e-mails are coming to me instead.

I can usually make out a handful of words in each message. (For instance, I'm guessing that "Geachte heer Jansen" means "Dear [Greetings?] Mr. Jansen".) But that's about it.

Out of curiosity, I pasted the text of one of these e-mails into the Dutch to English Yahoo Babel Fish translator.

Being the Yahoo Babel Fish translator, it's almost entirely worthless. But I did have to chuckle at the syntax in the translated message.

Here's the original e-mail:

Geachte heer Jansen,

Hierbij per mail de bevestiging van uw aanmelding als lid van de Vereniging van Vrienden van Sonsbeek, Zijpendaal en Gulden Bodem. U bent nu ook één van de ca. 600 leden die de parken in Arnhem Noord een goed hart toedragen en daarmee bijdragen aan het behoud en verfraaiing van deze parken. Leuk dat u naast lid van de Vereniging Vrienden van HGO Vriend van de parken bent geworden!

Ik heb uw naam en adres etc. genoteerd op de ledenlijst. Hartelijk dank voor de door u reeds betaalde contributie! U kunt daarom gratis het boekje over de IJskelder in park Sonsbeek bij het Bezoekercentrum Sonsbeek afhalen! Of bent u daartoe niet in de gelegenheid? In dat geval wil ik het u wel toezenden.

Met vriendelijke groet,
J.Theo Bussink

Here's how the Yahoo Babel Fish translator rendered it:

Dear lord Jansen,

By mail the affirmative of your application such as member of the association of friends of Sonsbeek, they scribbling eels and guilder floor. YOU are now also one of the approx. 600 members who the parks in Arnhem North a good bears heart and with that contributes to the conservation and decorating of these parks. Nicely that you have become beside member of the association friends of HGO friend of the parks!

I have noted your name and address etc. on the member list. Thank you very much the contribution already for by you paid! For this reason YOU can take away for free the notebook concerning the IJskelder in park Sonsbeek at the visitor centre Sonsbeek! Or aren't you to this end in the occasion? In that case I want transmit it you, however.

Kind regards,
J.Theo Bussink

Friday, October 29, 2010

Do Your Part to Help Stop Pornography

I just got an e-mail from a friend of mine who works for Christian Brothers Investment Services about the firm's latest initiative to try to stop the distribution of pornography.

It's summarized in the essay "Pornography and Socially Responsible Investing", which appeared yesterday on Public Discourse:

Recently, Dan Nielsen, the Director of Socially Responsible Investing at Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) released an “Action Alert” encouraging people to sign a letter to media companies asking these companies to stop distributing pornography. CBIS is an investment management firm with approximately $3.6 billion in assets under management for more than 1,000 Catholic institutions worldwide. In the letter, Mr. Nielsen cites the Witherspoon Institute’s study on “The Social Costs of Pornography.” Nielsen asks companies such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DIRECTV, Dish Network, and Cablevision to “1) Stop distributing pornographic programs, and 2) Improve public disclosure of potential business risks and revenues earned from distributing pornography.” This letter serves as a warning to these media companies about the growing legal and reputational risk that pornography production and distribution will face as the information in the Witherspoon report becomes more widely known. Not everyone may have the money or time to have an impact through socially responsible investing, but signing onto the letter represents an excellent opportunity to bolster CBIS’s efforts to encourage publicly-traded media companies to stop distributing pornography.

I just signed on to the letter, and you should too. But don't wait — the deadline to sign on is today, Friday, October 29.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Isn't It Ironic

...that a city named for St. Francis of Assisi would officially pass a resolution condemning the teachings of the Catholic Church?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm Glad

...that our kids have Jocelyn's knack for crafting:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Thing about Dark Humor that for it to work, it has to be, you know, humorous. When it isn't, it's merely dark.

Like this (**Warning: graphic violence...don't watch this if kids are around**):

The 10:10 campaign has since pulled the video from its website

But what sort of groupthink went into the making of it in the first place such that no one realized the whole idea was absolutely barking mad?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Three Takes on a Common Theme

The first, from the ever cogent Mike Flynn, writing in response to this:

A physicist named Victor Stenger seems willing to contribute to the mounting pile of evidence that those trained in the metrical properties of physical bodies can't do metaphysics for dog barf. We will try to accommodate him.

Yes, it's the auld God-does-not-exist-and-I-can-prove-it foolishness through *Science!*

Believe it or don't believe it, sez I; but don't believe you don't have to believe it.

Like many narrowly trained, he extends his own tool kit into domains of discourse for which it is not suited, much like a plumber who comes to counsel your teenager on his anxieties. In particular, terms are always to be understood in the casual ways in which he understands them. Dr. Stenger would not tolerate this sort of thing if the subject were physics. "Dark Matter? Well, dark means it's not lit up, so if we shine a light on it, we should see it." This would induce a similar eye-rolling to some of the usages in the essay.

But in any case, said essay provides a number of tasty tidbits for our intellectual noshing.

A. Absence.

Lets start with his title: Absence of Evidence Is Evidence of Absence. Apparently, he believes that believers believe this as an explanation for "why there is no scientific evidence of God." (Hey. It couldn't possibly be because God is not a physical body and his existence is not a metrical property. Could it?)

Later, Flynn writes:

The notion that the God supposed by the Christians wrote his "plan" down as a set of instructions, rolled them up and stuck them inside the ur-block, that these instructions must be physical, and so that there is no "room" for "God's Plan" in the initial universe simply misses the point. The God of the Christians is not "in" the universe any more than Shakespeare is "in" Hamlet.

The second, from a new blog called BadCatholic:

The most laughable statement I've heard from atheists - and that includes their origin-of-the-universe theories - is that religion is an opiate, a crutch, a delusion created by a bunch of saps looking for something to hope for, a celestial pie-in-the-sky. To this idiocy I can only offer a short transcript that, for good reasons, was never found by anyone, ever.

Caveman 1: Bro, these mammoths are frightening, and I don't know why it rains.
Caveman 2: Yeah, sounds like we need some supernatural explanation for natural phenomena for which we are not yet advanced enough to understand.
Caveman 1: Right. So we'll need a god...
Caveman 2: Nice.
Caveman 1: And let's have no adultery with beautiful women...
Caveman 2: Uh-
Caveman 1: And in with the concept of eternal, unimaginable torment-
Caveman 2: Slow down-
Caveman 1: And moral obligations, and no more of this survival of the fittest. We'll not be able to lie, or steal, or cheat, or masturbate-
Caveman 2: Are you sure you-
Caveman 1: Or eat too much, or drink too much, or be lazy, or be prideful...

And the third:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Why I Can't Make Mom Friends"

As someone with strong opinions on parenting — and knowing some folks with comparatively much stronger opinions on parenting — I found this way funny.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Life Imitating Art


...reminds me of this (from around 5:03 to 5:38).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Protest the Pope" = Epic Fail

The Daily Telegraph's Damian Thompson:

Consider the failure of the “Protest the Pope” stunt yesterday. On a sunny afternoon, in a city of 10 million people, a crowd of fewer than 10,000 protestors followed the anti-Catholic bandwagon. Richard Dawkins, Johann Hari, Stephen Fry et al may regard that as a good result, but if (at most) one Londoner in a thousand takes to the streets to register disapproval at the use of their taxes to host the Pope, then I’d say the secularists have misjudged the public mood, wouldn’t you? And look at what a thin demographic sliver of the population they represented: mostly white, middle-class, metropolitan. (Needless to say, none of them could be bothered to make the trek up to Birmingham: the Pope may be the atheists’ Antichrist, but you mustn’t let your principles get in the way of a lazy Sunday morning cappuccino.)

Compare the protestors to the Catholics in Hyde Park: old Polish ladies, tweedy gents from the shires, African hospital cleaners, self-consciously cool teenagers, Filipino checkout assistants and, as one of my friends put it, “some rather tarty-looking traveller women who’d obviously had a glass or two”. They don’t call it the Catholic Church for nothing: if not a universal cross-section of humanity, it was a damn sight closer to it than the humanist smugfest.

Reading this, I couldn't help but recall Oscar Wilde's quip that the Catholic Church is "for saints and sinners alone — for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do."

Monday, September 20, 2010


If you are not yet a friend of mine on Facebook — or, if you are, but happened to miss the announcement last week — then you probably haven't yet heard:

Jocelyn and I are expecting our sixth child in April!

Prayers, as always, are much appreciated.

Monday, September 13, 2010

You Can Help the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, Part II

I mentioned last month that my beloved wife Jocelyn was training for a half marathon and was seeking pledges on behalf of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Black Canyon, Arizona.

I'm proud to say that Jocelyn finished the race with a time of 2:14:29. But more importantly, she raised over $800 in pledges!

Thanks to all of you who donated!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Pope, St. Hildegard, and Authentic Supernatural Gifts

Starting last week, and continuing this week, Pope Benedict XVI focused in his Wednesday audience on what he referred to as the "Exemplary Ministry of Authority" of the ever fascinating St. Hildegard of Bingen (whose story, like that of so many others, really throws a spanner in the works of the tired old narrative that the medieval Catholic Church was oppressive to women or something).

Anyhow, what particularly caught my attention were these words from the Pope's address last week:

The sign of an authentic experience of the Holy Spirit, the source of all charisms, is that the individual possessing supernatural gifts never boasts of them, never shows them off and, above all, demonstrates complete obedience to ecclesiastical authority. All gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit are, in fact, intended for the edification of the Church and it is the Church, through her pastors, who recognises their authenticity.

The converse, of course, is also true. Namely: if an individual who supposedly possesses supernatural gifts does boast of them, or shows them off, or, above all, fails to demonstrate complete obedience to ecclesiastical authority, then sure as shootin', he's a fraud.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm Not Exactly Sure How This Is Supposed to Inspire Kids to Want to Learn

I posted earlier this year about a message I was rather fond of that appeared on the sign in front of the grade school down the street from Haus Jansen.

But notice what's there's now:

A bit Orwellian, don't you think?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Oh. So. True.

I couldn't of have said it better myself.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Basic Math Fail

If you happen to know any Lilliputians in the market for office space, this place in Glenview has exactly 11 feet available:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some All Too Often Ignored Points about Church History

...from Mark Shea:

What simple-minded believers in this simple minded “Evil Empire Clerics vs. Plucky Rebel Alliance Laity” myth never seem to understand is that it was just as often the laity who were eagerly tanking up on the Blood Libel and chucking Jews down wells for the supposed crime of drinking the blood of Christian children while it was the clerics who were telling everybody to cool off and stop believing urban legends.

So, for instance, the simple tale of slavery turns out to be fraught with complexity, not least because it was not all laypeople opposing it (lots of laity got stinking rich off it) and it was not all clerics supporting it.  Slavery, it turns out, was an immemorial institution throughout all of human civilization and the way in which the Church engaged it simply cannot be boiled down to laity good/cleric bad.  Lots and lots and lots of laity had as little patience for the Church’s nuanced arguments for the dignity of the slave as readers like the one above have for the Church’s nuanced arguments for the distinction between the dignity of the homosexual person and the sin of homosexual intercourse.

Indeed, one of the ironies of the Church’s history is that, for most of it, the main charge brought against the Church is not that it is too conservative, but that it is too liberal.  It is the laity that, again and again, rushes off all agog for some form of extremist rigorism.  Had the Church listened to the “opinions and wisdom of the rest of the body of Christ” during the Donatist enthusiasm, we would have excommunicated large portions of the Body of Christ because they did not measure up to the hyper-rigorism of the Donatists, who held that any priest who did not measure up under persecution could not validly consecrate the Eucharist and any bishop who did not measure up could not validly ordain.  We would have caved in to Lollards who insisted that anybody not in a state of grace could not function as an agent of the state and need not be obeyed by citizens of that state.  Asking whether the cop who is arresting a mugger is in a state of grace may seem spiritual to some of our more ethereal members of the Body of Christ, but for most of us it is, as Chesterton noted, “wanting in actuality.”  Most Catholic heresies down through the ages have been attempts to keep as many people away from the grace of God as possible, urging the faithful to stay away from the Eucharist, shut up, and give up the hope of salvation.  The “wisdom” of the first antipope in history was that the Pope was a wuss who welcomed people back to communion far too easily, when what they needed was merciless rejection by the pure.

Indeed, the reason for the Church’s creation of a system of Inquisitions was precisely that laypeople were, in their profound wisdom that needed no guidance from celibate old men, already running around doing it on their own as vigilantes and lynch mobs.  Turns out the Church thought that having a system whereby the facts were obtained and evaluated in an orderly way was better than something like this.

Of course, most people get their history from Monty Python and therefore could not tell you five intelligent words from a primary source about what actually took place in an Inquisition (and yeah, there were more than one and they weren’t all in Spain).  Similarly, most people don’t seem to know that though God does indeed sometimes raise up “ordinary pwople to challenge the istitutional church of the time”, He also raises up clergy to challenge the easy assumptions of fat, dumb, and happy ordinary people, who are quite certain that, whatever Gregory X says, Jews are drinking the blood of Christian children; or that whatever out-of-touch Dominicans may say, Indians are natural slaves; or that whatever pantywaists like the pope and bishops say, the nuclear murder of thousands of Japanese or the torture of prisoners in the War on Terror is the glorious work of God; or that whatever the Church says about the value of human life, abortion is a beautiful right and the sole core value of the Democratic party.  Looking around at our violent, selfish and sex-besotted culture, I’m not immediately persuaded that we glorious laity are a civilization of St. Catherines who are prevented from flourishing in sanctity by the evil machinations of Benedict XVI.  This optimistic self-assessment, while quite in keeping with the enormously high self-regard of the Baby Boomers, fails to premise itself on much resembling “reality”.  One forms, rather, the impression that Benedict is a thoughtful, gentle, and holy man who is doing his best to speak the Church’s beautiful teaching to a braying horde of crazies compact of talk radio lackeys, cokeheads, horndogs, warmongers, sex maniacs and addicts of therapeutic moralistic deism who let Oprah or FoxNews do all their thinking for them.  That he maintains his gentle and thoughtful composure in the midst of such a TV-addled culture with the attention span of fruit flies is astounding to me.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bishop Olmsted, Judge Walker, James Lileks, Gay Marriage, and Hang-Ups

In response to this editorial in the Arizona Republic applauding Judge Vaughan Walker's decision to declare Prop 8 unconstitutional, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has a smashingly good column entitled "Marriage: a 'Hang Up' or God's Plan"?

It's well worth a read.

Reading it also brought to mind James Lileks' spot-on discourse on the subject of hang-ups:

“Hang-ups,” for you younguns, was one of those pop-psych terms used to describe people whose vestigial molecules of morality keeps them from personally participating in a barnyard orgy, even though they may decline from judging those who do. “Hang-ups” were the watery Freudian version of “problems,” which were called “neuroses” by people too old to smoke pot. There was nothing worse than having a hang-up in those days. Squares had hang-ups. It didn’t matter what you had a hang-up about; the point was getting over your hang-up, because its very existence implied that you were not a free person open to experience.

I have no idea how this actually worked in the real world, but I suspect the term was used sarcastically as much as it was employed with conviction. Depended on your age. If Young Angry Hip directors made some cheapo groovy movie for American International, the heroine would accuse the hero of having a hang-up, and she’d mean it. If it was a big-studio movie meant to capitalize on the counterculture and explain it for the squares in a nonthreatening way, well, you’d find some middle-aged fellow at a Love-In stammering fractured hip-talk at some blessed-out blonde in a flower-printed miniskirt; she was usually too stoned to notice he was an old dude who was wearing this ruffled shirt entirely by accident, amusing chain of events don’t you know, honestly I’m a respectable married man with a career who has been drawn into your intoxicating demimonde, and she would run a finger down his sternum and coo something about her guru; he’d realize she was bonkers, and utter a riposte that told the audience he was too clever and decent to have sex with her, and then he’d leave. Some mutton-chopped guy with red sunglasses would sidle up and ask the blonde why the guy split the scene, and she’d say “he had hang-ups.” The audience would know what that meant: chick’s an idiot.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You Can Help the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration

Since today is the feast of St. Clare, it's a fitting day to announce that my beloved wife Jocelyn is currently seeking donations to raise money for the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Black Canyon City, Arizona.

To this end, she is asking for pledges for a half marathon she's running on September 6.

Jocelyn has been motivated to get herself running and exercising after hearing about a Nun Run the Poor Clares had earlier this year, in which she and several friends participated as shadow runners in support of these wonderful sisters' efforts to build a new chapel at their Our Lady of Solitude Monastery. Currently they are raising money to help construct new stained glass windows for the chapel.

The Poor Clares have left the world in order to spend all their time with Our Lord, adoring Him, and praying for us and the Church. I would very much appreciate your support as Jocelyn trains for and runs this half marathon on their behalf on September 6.

The easiest way to make a donation is by clicking the PayPal button at the bottom of the sisters' home page.

You can also send a check payable to Our Lady of Solitude, Inc. to:

Our Lady of Solitude Monastery
P.O. Box 92
Black Canyon City, AZ 85324

Either way you choose to give, please indicate that your donation is a "Pledge for Jocelyn Jansen's half marathon".

Please keep Jocelyn in your prayers as she prepares for this race, that her efforts may be fruitful and be done for the greater glory of Our Lord.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Experts, Shmexperts, Part II

In response to my post earlier this week ("Experts, Shmexperts"), The Dutchman commented thusly:

And the alternative to experts is what? Savants? Psychics? Amateurs?

Maybe doctors aren't AS expert as we would wish, but life expectancy has about doubled since 1800.

Back in the nineteen sixties there was a lot of talk about "pointy headed experts" and it was pretty obvious back then that this was just an appeal to prejudice. So now, when I hear broadsides against "experts" I am deeply suspicious of what the real agenda of such an attack is.

In response to The Dutchman's question — which, to my mind, is a straw man — I should clarify something I implied but apparently didn't convey clearly in my earlier post:

By all means, yes, we should value the advice of experts. But only if they really are experts, and not merely people walking around who think of themselves as experts.

IOW: let's trust experts, but not so-called experts.

Of course, that begs prompts the question:

What makes someone an expert?

Garsh, I don't have time to get into the technical requirements, but let me just illustrate my point this way:

Imagine you're a new parent and you're looking for some advice on raising your kids. You read the latest book on child rearing by some guy who doesn't have children of his own, but has a Ph.D. in Child Psychology.

Then you talk to a middle aged woman at your church who you've known for a few years. She's a college graduate who worked for a years before she got married and started having kids, and since then, she's been a stay-at-home mom. She and her husband now have six kids, all of whom are of exemplary character.

All other things being equal, which of the two is the real expert on parenting, and which is the poser expert? Whose advice are you more likely to take to heart? And therefore, whose advice are you more likely to take?

As Chesterton once said, "By experts in poverty I do not mean sociologists, but poor men."

Different field, but same idea.

I'll save my thoughts on expertise as it relates to the medical field for another post.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The extraordinary stupidity behind the University of Illinois' decision to fire Professor Kenneth Howell ought to make all of us sit up and take notice of the very real danger inherent in the "'Shut Up,' He Explained" ethos that so permeates the higher education establishment.

What happened to Professor Howell is grossly unjust, and not at all funny.

But this mockery of the whole situation sure is:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Experts, Shmexperts

If you've ever thought that the word "expert" is bandied about way too much, and that many of the people who are commonly regarded as experts are, uh, well, not experts, you're right:

To read the factoids David Freedman rattles off in his book Wrong is terrifying. He begins by writing that about two-thirds of the findings published in the top medical journals are refuted within a few years. It gets worse. As much as 90% of physicians' medical knowledge has been found to be substantially or completely wrong. In fact, there is a 1 in 12 chance that a doctor's diagnosis will be so wrong that it causes the patient significant harm. And it's not just medicine. Economists have found that all studies published in economics journals are likely to be wrong. Professionally prepared tax returns are more likely to contain significant errors than self-prepared returns. Half of all newspaper articles contain at least one factual error. So why, then, do we blindly follow experts?

Because that's what a Herd of Independent Thinkers does.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Patriotism Fail

I realize the intent is to show love of one's country and all, but doesn't it seem odd to put Old Glory on something that is (a) not a little prone to rust and (b) whose very purpose is to collect garbage?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Vacation, Part II

I mentioned earlier this week that I'd be including more about our recent vacation/3,000 mile road trip. Hence, this post.

We had originally planned only to go to Vail, Colorado (why there? Because we won a raffle), but then we found out about a 90th birthday to be celebrated in Dallas, Texas for my late grandmother's last surviving sibling.

Not wanting to miss that, we decided we wanted to go both places, although we weren't exactly keen on the idea of traveling with the seven of us in our minivan over that great of a distance.

Then my parents proposed a solution: they'd go with us, and we would rent a 12-passenger van.

That turned out to be a great idea, as the extra space made traveling easy and relatively comfortable.

For purposes of this entry on this here weblog, I couldn't possibly (and nor would I want to) include the sort of details I would include if I were writing a "What I did on my summer vacation" sort of account. But in lieu of these, here are some observations (in no particular order) of things I (we) saw/experienced/learned:

I enjoy nothing more than spending time with Jocelyn and our kids.

We spent a lot of most enjoyable time in Texas with many second and third cousins that I had never previously met. All of them are great people — warm, welcoming, generous, etc. — the kind of folks you're glad to be related to.

This is the third time I've been in Texas this year. The weather in Texas is hot. I mean, really, really hot.

Throughout the trip generally, and along U.S. highways particularly, we saw countless numbers of shuttered businesses — most notably gas stations. Some had "For Sale" signs, but many others that didn't looked as if they'd been abandoned for years. Kind of reminded me of Radiator Springs.

Although Metropolis Coffee is brewed only a few blocks from where I used to live, I first tried it 1,100 miles away in Vail. And, as Agent Cooper would say, it is indeed "damn good coffee."

The air in Colorado really did seem a lot cleaner.

Most of the people we encountered in Colorado seemed remarkably friendly.

We barely scratched the surface of the hiking trails in Vail, but what's there is phenomenal.

We saw dozens, maybe hundreds, of wind turbines during the course of the trip. I haven't decided what I think about wind energy (is it a boon? or a boondoggle?), but I will say this: wind turbines look really creepy.

In the corn uber-producing state of Iowa, we found that the 89 octane gas is actually cheaper than 87 octane, because the former has a higher ethanol content.

The cinnamon bread and pumpkin butter (made in the Amana Colonies) that we bought in Iowa are mighty tasty.

And now for a few pictures:

Monday, June 28, 2010

You Don't See That Every Day

On Thursday, June 17, the inhabitants of Haus Jansen set out on our vacation/3,000 mile road trip, which wrapped up this past Saturday. I'm hoping to post more details some time this week, but for now I wanted to post my favorite picture from the trip, which was taken at a rest stop in north Texas:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Sui Generis Eve Tushnet profiled in The New York Times.

My guess is that Eve is one of those people that a wide range of many other people try to pigeonhole, and, in so doing, fail miserably.

Her blog is here, and her blogger profile is here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Just in Time for Summer

Step right up and get your baloney sammiches!

I still can't decide if Homestar Runner is more funny than it is bizarre or more bizarre than it is funny.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Catholic Church Persecuted Copernicus, Doncha Know

Oh. Wait.

Now, a smart reporter would note that getting buried under a cathedral is not exactly regarded as a sign of heresy or dishonor in medieval Poland. But an MSM reporter just regurgitates a Dan Brownian meme without thinking about it too much.

And speaking of Church history fails [HT: Theology Fail Blog]:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hawkeytown Indifference

So the Stanley Cup finals start tomorrow night, and I'm wondering if I may be the only person in Chicagoland who couldn't care less what happens to the Blackhawks.

Hailing, as I do, from Minnesota, and (1) remaining bitter that Norm Green moved the North Stars to Dallas in 1993, and (2) refusing, on principle, to root for any team whose name is a collective noun, for years, I've been a man without an NHL team.

All I'm hoping is that the series is a sweep (regardless of who sweeps who), because I'm growing tired of all the extra pre-emptings of Milt Rosenberg on WGN.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What "Comprehensive" Sex Ed Is Really All About

The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health is at it again.

In 2006, ICAH held its annual fundraiser at Playboy's executive offices.

That event—view the invitation here [PDF]—included a VIP reception with Playboy CEO Christie Hefner, the daughter of Hugh Hefner, who founded the magazine in 1953. Several years ago, Christie decided that the company could make more money by producing increasingly harder-core pornography—something that even her father was reluctant to do for a long time.

The next year, their annual fundraiser featured a stripper.

At this year's event on June 15, ICAH will be honoring sex advice columnist Dan Savage with the group's "Sexuality Activist Award."

The fact that Savage is being honored tells us everything we need to know about ICAH's values and the advice they believe should be given to kids.

On his website, Savage recommends things like group sex and encourages his readers to enter amateur porn contests. For the sake of propriety, most of the advice he gives I won't even mention obliquely.

He also ridicules a support group for pornography addicts by claiming "porn addiction is bulls***."

This despite reams of evidence showing how devastatingly harmful and addictive porn really is. (For but one example, witness pop singer John Mayer's candid admission that he would rather watch porn than form a new relationship with a real woman.)

In its press statement [PDF] announcing this year's event, ICAH blames "harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage messages that have proven inaccurate and ineffective" for the alarmingly high rates of pregnancy and STDs among teens.

Yet the evidence for successful abstinence education programs continues to mount, and meanwhile, it's increasingly clearer that the message of Condoms, Condoms, More Condoms, And Even More Condoms doesn't, you know, work.

So let's review:

For 3 of the last 5 years, the honored guests at ICAH functions have included the CEO of Playboy, a stripper, and a lurid sex columnist.

And they expect the people of Illinois to believe they have our children's best interests at heart when they push for so-called "comprehensive" sex education.

How stupid do they think we are?

Related Coverage on the Generations for Life Blog

[Cross-posted at Pro-Life Action League and Generations for Life]

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"Clarity on Torture"

Sean Dailey has an editorial currently up on the website of Gilbert Magazine that's titled, appropriately enough, "Clarity on Torture".

Here's an excerpt:

Do we really need to get into the nuts and bolts of what constitutes torture?

Yes, we do. Most will agree that taking a power drill to a man’s shoulder or pulling out his fingernails with pliers for punishment or to extract information is torture. But when the subject is waterboarding, clarity vanishes again. Some consider waterboarding to be mere psychological torture — which, as we’ve already established, is morally indistinguishable from physical torture.

But waterboarding is not a harmless dunk in the tub, as former Vice President Dick Cheney once likened it, and it is not psychological torture. In waterboarding, a subject is strapped to a gurney. His feet are elevated slightly above his head. A cloth is draped over his face. And water is poured on his face so that it enters his nose and mouth and flows into his lungs. CIA interrogators are instructed to pour the water immediately after a detainee exhales, to ensure he inhales water, not air. They use their hands to “dam the flow” of excess water from a detainee’s mouth. And detainees who are scheduled for waterboarding are put on a liquid diet, to minimize the risk of death should they inhale their own vomit.

This procedure became official American policy in our so-called War on Terror, but it was not always so. Waterboarding has been condemned by the United States government since at least 1898, when American soldiers were court marshaled for waterboarding prisoners during our occupation of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. In World War II, we hanged Japanese war criminals for waterboarding American and Allied troops. In the 1980s in Texas, a sheriff and three of his deputies were convicted by the Justice Department for waterboarding prisoners to extract confessions.

And yet, there are those exceptions: American security is at stake. If waterboarding saves even one life, isn’t it worth it?

If torturing a terrorist suspect saved a city from destruction, or if it saved even one life, it would still be a barbaric, savage act, unworthy of a civilized society. If expediency were enough to justify an immoral act, then abortion would be justifiable.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Don't See That Every Day

Like many schools, the grade school down the street from Haus Jansen has a sign in front on which are displayed various messages — most often, school announcements: "Spring Break: March 29 - April 2" or "Congratulations Mr. Brown on 32 years of teaching", or platitudes: "Knowledge is power", etc.

But notice the message that's there now:

Of course, our local school district isn't alone:

I wish every entity that the State of Illinois owes money to would likewise shout it from the rooftops. It might just help wake people up to how mind-bogglingly corrupt and financially mismanaged this place is.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Best. Spoof. Ever.

Not only that, it won the Papyrus Font Award!

Mark Shea comments thusly:

The layers of post-modern irony and metanarrative are thick as leaves in a Vermont forest in October, but dayum is this funny and spot on.

Cradle Catholics and Emergents have an almost impenetrably different understanding of what "worship" means. For Emergents (following their Evangelical parents) worship is profoundly bound up with music (the most disincarnational of the arts, unless you happen to be the one playing it). Evangelicalism, being leery of the Incarnation whenever you encounter it today tends to focus a lot on the verbal and auditory as distinct from the physical and tangible. So the Eucharist is "magic" but worship in which the believer moves himself into a "state of worship" is, well, worship.

Inevitably, it results in the sort of thing spoofed here.

I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with him about music's being disincarnational, but I can't argue with him about Evangelical Protestantism's inherent leeriness about the Incarnation as it is encountered today through various means, including, but by no means limited to, the Sacraments.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Books Do You Own?

JivinJ links to a WaPo profile of Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List in which Jason Horowitz writes:

Dannenfelser, wearing a striped beige jacket and a necklace of silver spheres, came out of her small office, where books about the importance of women in the life of Pope John Paul II ("Wojtyla's Women") and an anti-Democratic screed ("The Party of Death") sat in a short bookcase.

I do not wish to discuss here the merits of either book mentioned (in part because I haven't read them).

But it seems odd that this detail even warrants a mention. What's the implication? Is it that if someone has a book in her bookcase, that she therefore presumably agrees with all (or at least most) of the arguments its author makes therein?

Personally, I think that when someone owns a book, it means that person owns a book, and any further extrapolation by someone else is made at his own peril.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

An Interesting Take

Among the various retrospectives I've come across in recent days marking the Pill's introduction 50 years ago this month, probably the most unique I've seen thus far is a First Things piece titled "Beyond the Pill: Looking for the Origins of the Sexual Revolution" from military historian Stuart Koehl.

Therein he offers some observations that are sure to prompt some garment-renting and teeth-gnashing among those who go in for the notion that The 40s And 50s Were Great But The 60s Ruined Everything:

Because of its scope and intensity, World War II shattered an existing moral consensus, creating a socially unstable situation in which “ordinary” morality was jettisoned. People lived very intensely and with the knowledge that everything, including life itself, was transient. The typical American serviceman in World War II had four sex partners, not counting prostitutes. Venereal disease rates for U.S. servicemen in Europe and Australia reached epidemic proportions that eventually required the military to license and regulate brothels. As Kipling wrote, “Single men in barracks don’t grow into plaster saints”.

While soldiers were fornicating their way across Europe and women on the home front were in contact with men on the war assembly lines, the number of “Dear John” letters received at the front and in the POW cages constituted a real threat to morale. One received in 1944 by a POW in Stalag Luft VII read: “Dear John, I hope you are open-minded, because I just had a baby. His father is a wonderful guy, and he has enclosed some cigars for you”. Of course, most men and women were not promiscuous during the war—just as most men and women today are not—but enough were to have a lasting impact.

After the war, everything was supposed to return to normal, but of course, it did not, and many trends conspired to ensure that they would not, including unprecedented prosperity, social and physical mobility—which broke down traditional ties of family and community, a burning resentment of authority among servicemen and a more relaxed attitude toward sex, growing out of the wartime experience.

For a generation that grew up in uniform, hypocrisy was not seen as something necessary for the smooth running of society. If the boomers grew up rebels, it’s because their parents encouraged rebellion even while outwardly conforming to social norms themselves. Everybody liked sex, and many broke sexual barriers, though still exercising discretion and obedience to form. But, looking at the divorce rates between the late forties to the mid-sixties, one can already see the incipient breakdown of marriage owing, in part, to hasty wartime marriages combined with the stress of servicemen reintegrating into civilian society. ... One prominent feature of many marriages then was the pressure on men to marry women whom they impregnated, resulting in shotgun weddings and “premature” births. Fortunately, it was at a time when a man just out of high school could get a high-paying, semi-skilled job with union protection. It would be safe to wager, though, that many of those marriages collapsed once their children were grown.

Many of the behaviors predisposed by the pill were already common, albeit covert, features of American life once the pill became available. The pill added fuel to a smoldering fire; it didn't start the blaze, but it certainly accelerated it and ensured its spread. The greatest damage done by the pill has been to women. It shifted the onus for avoiding pregnancy to women, absolving men of responsibility for unwanted pregnancies, which, in essence, made sex into a casual activity. Men no longer had to marry the women they impregnated, which, in turn, made legalized abortion inevitable, again leaving women to bear the psychological and moral consequences. So as we mark the anniversary of the pill, we should spend more time trying to understand the social forces that caused us to react to the pill as we did, allowing us to discard a long-standing moral consensus, leaving only sexual chaos and uncertainty.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Third Secret - Did The Pope Lie?

Asks Pat Archbold in the NCR.

The answer:

Um, no.

I have exactly no patience for those who believe that Pope John Paul II was part of some nefarious cover-up of what was supposedly really contained in the Third Secret of Fatima given to Sr. Lucia.

If you're going to cantankerously oppose what the Vatican says regarding Marian apparitions, you'd probably be better off paying no attention to them at all.

[HT: Creative Minority Report]

Abuse of Power?

Note that this guy was not some Fred Phelps devotee going around saying "God hates fags" or something similarly doltish.

Rather, he was publicly proclaiming his belief that same-sex acts are sinful.

And for that, he was arrested.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Render Unto Daley?

Let me begin by saying that I think bottled water is by and large a stupid idea.

Call me old-fashioned if you must, but I still cling to the antediluvian view that it's just fine to drink water out of, you know, the tap.

That said, I recognize that there are times when having bottled water on hand is convenient.

So while I never have, and never will, buy bottled water for consumption within the confines of Haus Jansen, there is an occasional need to buy it for work-related events.

Knowing that we'd need some in the near future, I saw that 24-packs of half-liter bottles were on sale for Jewel for $2.50. And despite the limit of 4, that's still a deal I couldn't pass up.

So I picked up 4 cases on the way to work yesterday morning.

As the cashier was ringing me up, I thought my total sounded high, but it was getting on toward 9:00, and I needed to get to work, so I didn't think much more of it.

But when I got to work, I glanced at the receipt and noticed that there was a "Chicago bottled water tax" of $1.20 tax per case ($.05/bottle).


I then vaguely recalled having heard something a bottled water tax a while back, but I'd never hitherto bought bottled water in the city of Chicago, so I'd forgotten all about it.

I then had to consider my options: keep it, because of the hassle of returning 4 cases of water back to the store. This would mean, of course, having to live with myself knowing that I coughed up nearly 50% [!] of the price of the water in taxes — which utterly kills the deal's couldn't-pass-up-ability.

Or, of course, I could take it back, and then get 4 more cases at another Jewel outside the city limits, where there is no such infernal bottled water tax.

If you know me at all, you'll know which option I chose.

I took it back this morning, and I'll get 4 more cases on the Jewel in Oak Park tonight — a mere block off my normal route home.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Some might argue that this is offensive inasmuch as it makes light of an important Catholic dogma. Indeed, The Onion does go too far at times — but I don't think this is one of them. As is typical of my reaction to most of the content therein, I couldn't help but laugh.

Regardless, it illustrates the widespread popular misunderstanding of what the Church really teaches about papal infallibility.

The American Papist comments, "Of course, no one besides Catholics ever seems to understand what infallibility really means when it is applied to the pope."

I disagree. While it is, of course, very common for non-Catholics to misunderstand of the doctrine of papal infallibility, I would say that many Catholics themselves — due primarily to poor catechesis, and to no fault of their own — don't understand it either.

For them that don't know, here's a concise explanation of what it means (and what it doesn't mean).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Prediction Fail

When the predictions of "experts" are confounded...'ve gotta wonder: what other predictions that so-called experts are making now, or have made in the recent past, will likewise be proven horribly wrong in 20 or 30 years?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

Only Three More Days

Until outdoor baseball returns to Minnesota.

Being 400 miles away, I'm not sure when I'll see the new stadium in person, but I'm glad to see the old logo -- which they never should have gotten rid of -- figures prominently therein:

For them that don't know, here's the backstory on the logo:

The name "Twins" was derived from the popular name of the region, the Twin Cities. The NBA's Minneapolis Lakers had re-located to Los Angeles in 1960 due to poor attendance which was believed to have been caused in part by the reluctance of fans in St. Paul to support the team. [Team owner Calvin] Griffith was determined not to alienate fans in either city by naming the team after one city or the other, so the team became known as the Minnesota Twins. However, the original "Twin Cities Twins" TC logo was kept, and the team logo showed two men, one in a Minneapolis Millers uniform and one in a St. Paul Saints uniform, shaking hands across the Mississippi River. This remained the team's primary logo until 1987, when the team felt it was established enough to put an "M" on its cap without having St. Paul fans think it stood for Minneapolis.

And here's the backstory's backstory on the bitter, longstanding Millers-Saints rivalry:

“EVEN DURING THE DEPRESSION we could always count on a good crowd when the Saints and Millers played each other," recalled Oscar Roettger, a pitcher and first baseman for St. Paul during the 1920s and 1930s. "Pay days - that's what those games were."

The diamond rivalry between Minneapolis and St. Paul was in its golden years during Roettger's playing days, but its roots were part of the post-Civil War baseball boom in America. Minnesota veterans returning home from Bull Run, Shiloh and Gettysburg began waging their own War Between the Cities, a battle fought with less lethal weapons - bats and balls - but one that lacked a cease-fire for nearly a hundred years.

From the town teams of the 1860s and 1870s, the professional nines of the latter 1800s and finally the great Saints and Millers clubs of the twentieth century, they fought - player vs. player, fan vs. fan, sometimes player vs. fan.

The newspapers even fired their artillery at enemy camps across the river. In the 1890s, when both cities were represented in the Western League, the Minneapolis Tribune leveled a charge of "dirty ball" against its neighbors to the east, then owned and managed by Charles Comiskey. "Manager Comiskey," reported the Tribune, "will be served with a formal notice that the Minneapolis club will not play today's game unless guaranteed that there will be no spiking of Minneapolis players, no interference on the part of the crowd, no throwing of rocks, no throwing of dust and dirt in the eyes of the Minneapolis players, and a few other tricks which the game yesterday was featurized by."

Read the whole thing.