Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another Lament...

A Lament for Our Lady's Shrine at Walsingham

"In the wrackes of Walsingam
Whom should I chuse
But the Queene of Walsingam
To be guide to my muse?

Then thou Prince of Walsingam
Grant me to frame
Bitter plaintes to rewe thy wronge
Bitter wo for thy name.

Bitter was it oh to see
The seely sheepe
Murdered by the raveninge wolves
While the sheephards did sleep.

Bitter was it oh to vewe
The sacred vyne
While the gardiners plaied all close
Rooted up by the swine.

Bitter, bitter oh to behould
The grasse to growe
Where the walls of Walsingam
So stately did shewe.

Such were the works of Walsingam
While shee did stand
Such are the wrackes as now do shewe
Of that so holy land.

Levell levell with the ground
The towres doe lye
Which with their golden, glitteringe tops
Pearsed once to the skye.

Where weare gates no gates are nowe,
The waies unknowen,
Where the press of peares did passe
While her fame far was blowen.

Oules do scrike where the sweetest himnes
Lately weer songe,
Toades and serpents hold their dennes
Wher the palmers did thronge.

Weepe, weepe O Walsingam,
Whose dayes are nightes,
Blessings turned to blasphemies,
Holy deeds to dispites.

Sinne is wher our Ladie sate,
Heaven turned is to hell,
Satham sittes wher our Lord did swaye,
Walsingam, oh farewell ! "

-Anon. 16th Century Recusant

This poem was published in Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars, an excellent account of the English Reformation

Sensitivity Vigilante objects to 'Philistine'

The End of Satire is at hand. A blog commentor at Matthew Lickona's Godsbody objects to 'philistine', claiming it is a racial slur. See the comments.

A Lamentation for Constantinople

The Last Mass in Hagia Sophia

Anonymous Song of Lamentation
for the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
Translated by Richard Stoneman

God rings the bells, earth rings the bells, the sky itself is ringing,
The Holy Wisdom, the great church, is ringing out the message,
Four hundred sounding boards sound out, and two and sixty bells,
For every bell there is a priest, for every priest a deacon.
To the left the emperor is singing, to the right the patriarch,
And all the columns tremble with the thunder of the chant.
And as the emperor began the hymns to the Cherubim,
A voice came down to them from the sky, from the archangel’s mouth:
Cease the Cherubic hymn, and let the sacred objects bow;
Priests, take the holy things away, extinguish all the candles:
God’s Will has made our city now into a Turkish city.
But send a message to the West, and let them send three ships:
The first to take the cross, the second to remove the Gospel,
The third, the finest shall rescue for us our holy altar.
Lest it all to those dogs, and they defile it and dishonour it.
The Holy Virgin was distressed, the very icons wept.
Be calm, beloved lady, be calm and do not weep for them.
Though years, though centuries shall pass, they shall be yours again.

via Basia Me, Catholica Sum

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Quomodo Sola Sedet Civitas

Two of the people in my favorite links, Askel5 and Romulus, are residents of New Orleans, and I would be remiss were I to neglect recording their own comments on their home city's woeful situation.

women are in short supply in the city

Especially the right kind of woman. Had a tense conversation yesterday with one of the wrong kind. She was touring my neighborhood yesterday as part of an out of town fire department team, surveying homes "to see when people can be allowed back". That pissed me off, and these state-funded jobsworths had to listen politely while I informed them that at least someone is on to the use of this disaster to engineer a massive state power grab, and how sorry I am that they lend themselves to these abuses cloaked as helping people, that all we need is for the power to come on, and that in a free country people are allowed to assess danger for themselves


To continue the power-grab riff: the state is peddling hysteria every chance it gets. I stopped by Baptist Hospital also, to see if I could locate my father's cardiologist. The entire multi-block region was cordoned off. The blue-clad rent-a-cop (festooned with cool cop gear, including embroidered patch with the word "International" on it. "Huh?") was of course creepily friendly and polite, but selling his story that the area was so dangerous that "we shouldn't even be out here talking". He was all set up with trailer (generator humming away), sun shaded area, crates of Gatorade and canned food, and the Offlical Line: the air inside the medical office building is so toxic even Federal Professionals don't dare enter (being sold on the story themselves, I don't doubt it), because Mold Kills, you know; that we're surrounded by Deadly Sewer Water (Ed Norton I guess flirted with dangers Ralph and Alice Cramden never suspected), and the entire zone is a toxic biohazard. "You don't really believe that, do you?" was my response; I do believe I actually scored a hit with that, as he admitted that if he feared for his life he probably wouldn't be there either. As I drove off, my last words to him were: "I hope you get to go home real soon."


Romulus records his adventures in evading patrolling helicopters here. He has also resolved that come the next checkpoint, upon being asked if he has any weapons he will reply: "Why, do you think I need one?"

Friday, September 23, 2005

This Guy Deserves a Blog Post

...not to mention a little justice.

The trial of Zhang Shengqi and two other members of the clandestine Catholic Church opened on 16 March 2004 behind closed doors. All three are accused of "divulging state secrets".

Liu Fenggang is accused of carrying out research for a report exposing Chinese government repression of the clandestine Catholic Church. Xu Yonghai is on trial for having printed the report and Zhang Shengqi for undertaking to post it on the Internet and to send it electronically to organisations abroad.

Reporters Without Borders

Monday, September 19, 2005

LifeTeen under Attack

The Rocky, in an article soon to be lost to its unarchived memory hole, discusses a controversy about the Life Teen program for Catholic youth at Light of the World parish.

The article "Doubts aired about Life Teen program" concentrates on concerns about the sexual abuse allegation that has been leveled at the program's Phoenix-based founder, and the money apparently paid to LifeTeen, Inc. for the dubious privilege of running the program.

The article contains something that's news to me:

Life Teen listed $8.4 million in assets in 2003, the most recent year for which records were available.

That's a lot of money.

I despise LifeTeen for its uncritical and blatant pandering to youth culture and the program's insipid rock "Praise" music, the performance of which almost always overshadows the liturgy.

Though aware of the charge against its creator, I hadn't made much of it. I don't know if the concerns about the program's creator are stand-ins for objections to the LifeTeen program itself.

An Anthropological Oddity

The idea of God isn't a supernatural idea. If the idea of God were supernatural, then religion would be true. The idea of God, the idea, the representation of something supernatural is not itself supernatural. If it were, then we [anthropologists] would be out of business.

Dan Sperber

This guy seems to have become stuck while jumping between his fishbowl of human experience and the "outside" scientific perspective. Or, rather, something has stayed stuck to him.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Factchecker in Chapter 9, Please

Apparently Kurt Vonnegut has a new best-selling book out, "A Man without a Country." Looking through the book on Amazon, I find it repeats the same error pointed out here before, where Vonnegut attributes Jesus' words to Confucius, explicitly denying Jesus said them.

To repeat myself: Now thanks to Mr. Vonnegut we have yet another error half-educated people will repeat as Gospel truth.

And then there is California...

Making legislative sausage - the arm-twisting, compromising, backroom-deal-making, back-stabbing - is not for the faint of heart. A particularly nasty incident has been reported in the Sacramento Bee. Earlier this month the state Senate's dictatorial Appropriations Committee chairwoman, Democrat Carole Migden of San Francisco, marched over to the Assembly floor to watch a vote on her bill to add new regulatory requirements for cosmetic manufacturers.

With the bill one vote shy of passage, she went to Republican Guy Houston's desk and pushed the "yes" button so that a vote would be electronically recorded. The normally mild-mannered Assemblyman Bob Huff, the Diamond Bar Republican who sits next to Houston, saw this and had to push Migden's arm away, then undo the vote. Huff told me that Migden's excuse - that she thought the desk was a Democrat's - is bogus. She has a reputation for doing this, he said, and even if it had been a Democrat's desk, a senator has no right to cast a vote in the Assembly chambers.

The ugly truth about Sacramento

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tommy Aquinas on Chance, as applied to Darwinism

I've long been noting the existential despair lurking behind certain proponents of neo-Darwinism. I had one anthropology professor who was inclined to share his despair with the whole lecture hall. He would basically repeat a less poetic version of MacBeth's lament: tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, etc.

Curiously enough, the hard Darwinian commitment to random mutation doesn't translate into a willingness to consider a irrationalist epistemology that adapts by means of random ideas. I once tried to glean Daniel Dennett's opinion on the matter when he lectured on meme theory. Meme theory, with its almost pathological language of infection, dispersion, and so forth, seems to me to be most amenable to irrationalism, but Dennett simply gave the gruff, curt reply that such application was an abuse of the theory.

Anyway, somebody has put together a nice little Thomistic treatise on chance and design in evolutionary philosophy and the philosophy of its major opponents. See A Designer Universe: Chance, Design, and Cosmic Order

Against Education

The Japery has a roundup of some articles reflecting on the ideology of Education. Good old Ivan "Deschooling Society" Illich makes a showing, of course.

Particularly striking is one comment from this piece stating:

Comenius is the patron Saint of those who would transform creation into a classroom and humanity into students. Comenius legacy is the dis-enchantment of the world. The path of Comenius leads us, as Illich has pointed out, to the terrors of a world understood as a yet another device for the use of education and not as a good creation of a creators imaginative and windy engagement with chaos. Creation as a technique or method or as raw material to be used to manufacture the new humanity is the alchemical black magic of such noxious views as Skinnerian behaviourism or the re-education camps of the cultural revolution or even more insidious the liberal Christian view that salvation is won through proper schooling.

Secularization is possibly at work even in the putatively most backward arena of biology, "Creation Science."

An interesting passage from an interview with Illich:
I remember on my next trip to New York going to Princeton to see Jacques Maritain, the philosopher, who was then living there. We had met up in Rome in a seminar and he had become a dear friend and advisor. His imaginative Thomism meant a lot to me. He was then an old man with a face, as Ann Freemantle once said, cut from a stained glass window in Chartres. In 1957, I was now sitting there with him again. He had a teacup in his hand and was shaking when I talked to him about the question which bothered me, that in all his philosophy I didn't find any access to the concept of planning. He asked me if this was an English word for accounting, and I told him no ... if it was for engineering, and I said no ... and then at a certain moment he said to me, "Ah! Je comprends, mon cher ami, maintenant je comprends." Now I finally understand. "C'est une nouvelle espèce du pêche de presomption." Planning is a new variety of the sin of pride.

These pieces also bring to mind a short critique of John Henry Cardinal Newman's philosophy of education, Knowledge for the Sake of Knowledge

Friday, September 09, 2005

The New Edition of The New Pantagruel is out.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927

The flood brought another clever political manipulator to office: legendary Louisiana Gov. Huey Long. Long's populist mandate arose in great measure as a reaction to a huge fissure that the flood created in New Orleans society. As the flood waters started approaching New Orleans, the close-knit cabal of New Orleans bankers who ran Louisiana from their exclusive krewes and clubs decided they were going to save their own skins by dynamiting a levee about 10 miles from the city. They were powerful enough that they didn't even need to do it under the cover of night -- they got the governor to sign an order making the operation legal.

James Carville, Swamp Fever, April 7, 1997

I hadn't heard about this until the catastrophe last week. The exposure of the failures of a system based on plutocratic self-interest, and the rise of a populist politics, all precipitated by a great disaster. Will be on the lookout for any signs of historical recapitulation.

One possible correction to the essay: Carville seems to indicate that Shelby Foote was actually a relative of Walker Percy. I don't think this was the case. As far as I know, he was just a semi-adopted family friend

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Yuppies in the Sky

Sung to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky

One night as I was walking down Columbus Avenue
The sushi bars were shuttered, and the dark cantina too
I stood there in the darkness as an empty cab rolled by
When all at once I heard the sound of yuppies in the sky

The herd came down Columbus for as far as I could see
The men were wearing polo and the women wore esprit
Each yuppie had a Walkman, and as each one passed me by
I saw their sad expressions and I heard their mournful cry

Condos for sale, Condos to buy, Oh Yuppies in the sky
Condos for sale, Condos to buy, Oh Yuppies in the sky

Written by Tom Paxton

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Storm had a Say, Too.

Mere Comments voices a necessary note against that bad old technotriumphalism in light of the Katrina blame game:

What I find interesting, though, has been the instant, reflexive resort to the belief, and accusation, that SOMEONE IS TO BLAME for this. Someone can and must be held accountable for this vast calamity. This, it seems to me, is a powerful confirmation of something that I have argued in the pages of Touchstone before: that the increase in our mastery over the physical terms of our existence will not make us happier or more content, and may even lead to chronic political and social instability and unease, precisely because of the unsatisfiable expectations it generates.

Friday, September 02, 2005

"It is Sad to Contemplate How Few Politicians are Hanged."

Via Crooks and Liars, a journalist doing his job confronts a Louisiana Senator who is on Public Speaking autopilot--speaking as though she hadn't just lost a few thousand of her people and was simply on another campaign stop:

LANDRIEU: Thank President Clinton and former President Bush for their strong statements of support and comfort today. I thank all the leaders that are coming to Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. We are grateful for the military assets that are being brought to bear. I want to thank Senator Frist and Senator Reid for their extraordinary efforts--Anderson, tonight, I don't know if you've heard -- maybe you all have announced it -- but Congress is going to an unprecedented session to pass a $10 billion supplemental bill tonight to keep FEMA and the Red Cross up and operating.

COOPER: Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting. I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated.

And when they hear politicians slap -- you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to take her up.