Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

My family is fortunate. As far as I know, none of my relatives have died in war since the Civil War. Other families have not been so lucky. But we have all been fortunate to have those men who were willing to fight and die on our behalf.

Michelle Malkin has a good collection of Memorial Day links:

Hard Viewing

Friday, May 27, 2005

Madden and Kingdom of Heaven

Thomas F. Madden has an article about Kingdom of Heaven up at NRO. It looks at how the film stands up as history (take a guess at the answer) and points out a problem or two of plot logic.

Something to Look Forward To

Seeing yet another headline about Baby Boomers recently, it dawned on me that we Gen Xers have something to look forward to when we become old: all the Baby Boomers will have died off, so we finally--finally!--won't have to hear about them anymore.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Around the Web

"On Human Life", a pastoral letter from Archbishop Chaput on the 30th anniversary of Humanae Vitae

"The Real History of the Crusades", by Thomas F. Madden, a really good article on the Crusades from Crisis magazine

Painted Churches, a collection of pictures of medieval wall paintings in English churches. I've only just started looking at this site and so haven't seen everything, but it's interesting so far.

The Art Renewal Center, a site filled with beautiful pictures. It's another site I've only explored a little, but that's because there's so much there.

Also, I note with sadness that Father Bryce Sibley has decided to end his blog, A Saintly Salmagundi. I figured I would like Fr. Sibley the moment I saw his Mary, Exterminatrix of Heresies picture--plenty of people see Our Lady as speaking softly, not many picture her carrying a big stick! I wish Fr. Sibley good luck with his new projects.

A Question From the Lizard Queen, and Book-hunger

The Lizard Queen posed this question a few days back:

What books that you read as a kid changed your life such that you
wouldn't be *you* today if it weren't for those books and, in fact, you can
still read them today and still feel what you felt back then and maybe more

For me, the most important book here is Little Women. My Easter basket when I was in second grade included several children's abridged books, one of which was Little Women. Although I'd been reading for a while and although I'd enjoyed being read to before that, Little Women was the first book I fell in love with. I read my children's abridged copy over and over again, then got an unabridged copy and read that again and again. Whenever I've winnowed my collection of books, a copy of Little Women has always made the cut. I've not read it much since adulthood, but when I have, it's been with pleasure.

Alcott had me with the first scene. Even the first sentence: Jo grousing about Christmas not being Christmas without any presents. A complaining girl. And, as we see later in that scene, a girl who's not comfortable with all the frills and frippery that society wants to force on girls. A nonconformist, then, and a girl who writes and acts in plays. A girl with spirit. A girl whose family accepts her, odd though she may seem to some. What girl wouldn't like to be Jo, hidden away in her attic, writing on an overturned pan for a desk while a pet rat watches? Especially when there's a loving family downstairs?

Little Women showed me that it was normal for girls to have ambitions, and that imperfect girls could still be the heroines of their stories. It also showed me a world in which people think about right and wrong, rather than just assuming that whatever the majority around them think is good is so. My affection for Little Women led me to read whatever biographical material about Alcott I could, and that led me to read more about or by other of the New Englanders around her, such as Thoreau. It contributed to my affection for 19th century literature. Most important, though, is that, because of the simple fact of this being the first book I fell in love with, it cemented by love of books and reading.

Another book that changed my life--that helped me become me--was an old high school English literature book. I don't know the name, or how it came to be around my home. It had a picture of waves breaking on the cover, and I think it was published in the 1960s; I once saw a copy in a flea market and recognized it immediately and with pleasure, although I avoided the temptation to buy it. I used to play with this book before I really read it. I would look at all the many pictures of English monarchs and writers through the ages. I began to read a bit here and there, whether I understood much of it or not; I remember being much struck by Frank O'Conner's story "Christmas Morning" at age nine or ten, though I couldn't have told you squat about the Irish situation or what the Latin hymns the father sings meant. I ignored it for a couple of years and then in early adolescence, I went through and read pretty much all of it again.

I think I may owe my Anglophilia to this book and part of my love of English literature. Many writers that I later came to love I first encountered there--Ted Hughes, for example. It has colored my mind to some extent; for example, whenever I think of Somerset Maugham I see the drawing of him in that book.

Another book--or rather set of books--was an old set of red-backed books called, I believe, The Children's Hour. Each volume had different things. I loved the one with the biographical stories best. I pored over that many times. I learned a bit of history that way, and I think that's where I picked up my liking for biography.

If the Lizard Queen had asked about our favorite books as a child, I would answer differently, though Little Women would still head the list. Like many little girls, I LOVED Nancy Drew. I saved my money to go to the bookstore on our occasional trips to the mall in another town (I lived somewhere with no bookstore and no public library) and those carefully saved dollars usually went to buy a new Nancy Drew. Nancy is crap, I'm afraid, but I still get nostalgic when I see those covers--my era covers, not the ones before or, God help us, the awful ones since--and if they'd only make fabric printed with the scenes that used to be in the endcovers, I'd buy it. Another favorite was Harriet the Spy. The Little House on the Prairie books were read and reread (all except Farmer Boy, which I never bothered to buy.) There were a lot of other books I enjoyed, but this is a pretty good list of childhood--and by that I mean pre-adolescence, not pre-adult--favorites.

Really though, I read whatever I could find. Because of having no public library, having limited access to the school library even during the school year (yeah, they were wild about reading and learning at my school), and having no local bookstore to spend my few dollars, my childhood was marked by book-hunger. I could never find enough to read. I read women's magazines and the National Enquirer, just to have something to read as a child. (The way I learned about sex as a child was reading those "How to Talk to Your Children about Sex" articles in magazines like Woman's Day; because they assumed basic knowledge of the subject, I was left with some weird gaps in my knowledge until I decided to pursue the subject further after puberty hit.) Some of my teachers participated in the Weekly Reader book club program (children could order relatively inexpensive books from a selected list and have them delivered to the classroom), and that helped a lot, but it wasn't there all the time. I loved it when in my early adolescence my mother discovered garage sales; books were and are always the first thing I noticed in any garage sale.

Book-hunger as a child affects the person as an adult. When I married and moved in with my husband, I had access to a good public library for the first time in my life; I felt I was being given treasure for free every time I walked to the library desk with my armful of books. I was thirty or close to it before I began to feel less gluttonous in bookstores--less of a need to check every book I saw, afraid I might never have the opportunity to buy that book again, more comfortable in my ability to buy pretty much what I want (space limitations aside), and so on.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Can't I Love Somebody Else's Neighbors?

I love today's Pearls Before Swine. It's funny and deep. I'm Rat (though slightly less than I used to be.)

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Are English People Who No Longer Applaud The English Kicking France's Butt Really Still English?

What can I say about this, other than I suspect the people behind this are the same kind of people who think it's racist for the British national anthem to declare that Britain's people shall never be slaves:

Organisers of a re-enactment to mark the bicentenary of the
battle next month have decided it should be between “a Red Fleet and a Blue
Fleet” not British and French/Spanish forces....[The official
literature] describes the re-enactment not as the battle of Trafalgar but
simply as “an early 19th-century sea battle”.

Read the rest here:,,2087-1622627,00.html

Maybe the BBC (yeah, right) needs to run a marathon of Olivier's 1944 Henry V to boost spirits. I'm a patriotic, native American, and when I watch or read Henry V, even I'm willing to cry, "God for Harry, England, and St. George!"


Here's a piece on John Francis, a man whose response to the 1971 San Francisco Bay oil spill was to give up motorized vehicles :
(Via Riding Sun)

For 22 years, Francis walked pretty much everywhere. (There was also a 17 years-long vow of silence in the middle.) Apparently he still walks quite a bit; according to the planetwalk website he's off on a 7-year walk.

I suspect our opinions would diverge on a number of issues, but I respect Francis' committment to the environment. So many people are unwilling to stand up for their beliefs in any way that might make them seem odd to their more mainstream countrymen. So we get Catholics who rush to assure people that "of course they don't accept all that sex stuff", Jews with Christmas trees in their living rooms, and environmentalists driving gas guzzlers. Nice to see someone who's willing to put the shoe on the road for his beliefs.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Misc. Tidbits

Is This Parish Faithful?
Father Shane Tharp at Catholic Ragemonkey posts a list of 23 ways to identify a faithful Catholic parish. Seems a good list to me.

The Meaning of Their Motherhood
WSJ has an interesting article about unmarried and poor mothers--or, more specifically, about a book called Promises I Can Keep, which is about poor, unmarried women. What having unmarried parents does to a child's well-being needs to be talked about far more than it is, but I've seen articles that discuss it more fully than this one. What is most interesting to me here is the discussion of why unmarried women of lower economic status have children out of wedlock.

"Far more than their middle-class counterparts, low-income women
are likely to see abortion as wrong and childlessness as a tragedy. It's not a
fabulous career or sexual and romantic adventure that endows life with purpose;
it's having a baby."

That's expanded on in the article, but basically, the idea is that poor, unmarried women have children because they want children. That's hard to fault, however much I believe that making children outside of wedlock is a terrible idea or dislike taxpayers being expected to support this behavior. The article is worth reading because it suggests reasons other than a welfare check for poor women find having babies good, but marriage less so.

Quote of the Day
From an interview with Michael Novak

"In a world of nihilism, or even relativism, comfort and
convenience are as significant as liberty. To most people, they may be even more
attractive. In Europe, it seems as if they are."

Who's Really to Blame
However dishonest and prejudiced the MSM are in always assuming the worst of the United States and its military, Andrew C. McCarthy is correct in laying blame for the Newsweek riots on militant Islam.

Historical Lunatic

Which Historical Lunatic Are You?

I am William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, the Fifth Duke of Portland! I'm so proud.

Friday, May 13, 2005

One Catholic Woman

The Cafeteria is Closed posts an amazing story about a Catholic woman who rescued 2,500 Jewish babies and children from a Nazi-controlled Polish ghetto:

She was arrested, beaten, and narrowly escaped execution for her trouble.

44,000,000 Pennies

Last Saturday, while doing the dishes, I found myself wondering what 44,000,000 pennies looked like. (No, I'm not quite sure what brought that on.) Forty-four million is the supposed number of legal abortions in the USA since Roe v. Wade was handed down from our robed masters. It occurred to me that if people collected 44,000,000 pennies, not only would I and anyone else who's ever wondered it know what 44 million pennies look like, but it would be a good fund-raiser for a pro-life group. (44,000,000 cents = $440,000)

Of course it took only another moment or two to realize that this is hugely impractical. Most groups could never raise that kind of money, and even if they could, they'd rather have nice paper currency than a huge bunch of heavy, unwieldy pennies.

But I still like the idea. I think it could work on a smaller scale. A small pro-life group trying to collect the number of legal abortions per day in the US in pennies would be doable. That's somewhere between $300 and $400, I think; that doesn't sound like an impossible amount to collect or to roll afterward. In between collecting and rolling for deposit, there could be a themed display--"each penny represents a baby aborted today" or something like that. I don't know, maybe people wouldn't like the idea, but it might be an attention-getting fundraiser; most people have spare pennies lying around.

More Young, Faithful Catholics

Here's a good website I found recently:

Especially worth visiting for the stuff on the Underground Church in China. Makes you feel really wimpy for things like, say, groaning to yourself about how hard it is to kneel for "long" periods of time on padded kneelers. (Not that I've ever done such a thing, no, I'm a paragon of asceticism, me.)

No Ammo Please, We're British

Back in the winter I watched the rather good Hitchcock film, The Lady Vanishes, which has a scene with guns.
The bad guys are threatening and our hero and heroine gather together the other English train passengers, explain the trouble, and ask for help. Not only are they able to get help from their fellow Brits just because they're Brits, but when the bad guys start shooting, the English pick up the gun or two that is available to them and start shooting back. I immediately felt a sort of nostalgic pleasure, thinking to myself that, what with the stringent gun-control laws now ravaging Britain, you wouldn't be able nowadays to depend on the English passengers to know how to use the gun--or willing to use it, if they knew! (Actually in the film there was one Englishman in favor of appeasement; he got himself shot.) Sherlock Holmes and Watson may have carried revolvers when the game was afoot and Chesterton's Innocent Smith may have carried a gun to shoot at people who needed waking up, but it seems that nowadays the only Brits who dare have guns are criminals.

If this post John Derbyshire made in the Corner yesterday is to be believed, it's a wonder the British military is still allowed (unloaded) guns:

Say it ain't so: The British are now so gun-shy, even their MILITARY is gun-shy. A reader forwarded this, headed: "On British and Australian individual weapon procedure, from a friend in Country": "Our British and Australian colleagues immediately unload all guns (rifles and pistols) upon coming back through the wire, even though we live in a uninterrupted combat zone. Since we have to depend on them, I habitually ask, 'Are all your guns loaded?' Imagine my surprise when I first discovered that, in British military jargon, 'loaded' translates to 'transport mode.' [loaded magazine, but empty chamber]

"They are so afraid of actually putting a live round in the chamber of any rifle or pistol, most even carry outside the wire with an empty chamber. When they do load, they instantly unload every chance they get, even when it is conspicuously unwise to do so.

"Loaded guns are treated as if they carried some contagious disease!

"Don't get me wrong. Brits and Aussies are good soldiers, but they have been philosophically castrated by their respective nanny-states. In their national confusion, fear of guns has become a ubiquitous, domestic obsessionn, and it has spilled over, even into the military.

"These two nations will indeed be lucky to survive this current period of world history."

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

(And, yes, I know the examples I gave of happy English gun-users in the past are fictional characters.)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Evil, eee-vuull!

Supposedly Auntie Suzanne is

Well, I suppose it's better than being un-creatively evil. (Link via Catholic Ragemonkey.)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Roads to Serfdom

VE Day is a good time to look back, and Theodore Dalrymple has an essay on the path Britain has taken since the war. If you've wondered how the British went from being a tough, independent people who stood alone against Hitler to being a welfare state, filled with people who expect government to solve all problems, start reading here:

Dalrymple manages to work George Orwell, F. A. Hayek, Hilaire Belloc, and even Oscar Wilde into his essay.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Eat What's On the Table Kids

There's a great new blog called The Cafeteria Is Closed . I'd heard of it already, but I didn't visit until I saw it linked by The Curt Jester. Well worth a visit. It's great to see young, orthodox Catholics. (I don't mind admitting that I like the fact he's politically conservative too.) I am sorry to see anyone leave the Church, whether out of apathy or out of anger that the Church doesn't conform to the world, but with faithful, enthusiastic converts coming in to replace the discontent, will we really miss them?

Friday, May 06, 2005

The 65% Solution

No, it's not a Sherlock Holmes story in which Holmes' drug use has gotten way out of hand. It's an idea for giving schools more of what they need (more teachers and/or more classroom supplies such as computers & laboratory equipment) without raising taxes. George Will, in his April 11th column, said

"[Patrick Byrne's] idea — call it The 65 Percent Solution — is politically delicious because it unites parents, taxpayers and teachers while, he hopes, sowing dissension in the ranks of the teachers unions..."

The plan is to get every state to pass a law that says each school district must spend 65% of its educational operating budget on classroom instruction--i.e. teachers' salaries and educational supplies, instead of bureacrat's salaries. Sounds good to me. More money in the classroom may not solve problems such as low expectations, teachers who know more about educational theory than the subject they're teaching, the self-esteem culture, or the kind of relativism that says "all answers are equally valid so why teach good spelling/grammar/whatever"; but it would at least mean that more of our tax dollars made it into the classrooms, where it has a chance of doing some good, rather than into administrative pockets, where it won't.

First Class Education has more, including a graphic that will tell you how much your state stands to gain in classroom funds, should it adopt a 65% rule. (Four states already meet the 65% goal.)

Chesterton, 2 Diets, and Some Exercise

The Curt Jester links to The Chesterton Diet.
I'm all in favor of a daily diet of Chesterton, and the Chesterton Diet sounds pretty good too.

I still think the No-S diet guy is on to something, though. Even if he does recommend something I have trouble picturing Chesterton doing: Shovelglove. On the other hand, Chesterton might like the metaphor--or way of imagining--Reinhard Engels comes up with for the other physical activity he recommends. (Chesterton would supplement that activity with hansom cab rides, of course.)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Dog Soldiers

I wonder if military service dogs are ever spit upon.

I'm Moving to Texas

You know Texas must be a great place to live, because its state legislators have so little to do they have to invent busy work for themselves.

Apparently one of the most pressing issues in Texas is revealing cheerleader outfits and smutty cheerleader dance routines. I mean, come on.

Look, I'm no fan of the mainstreaming of pornography. I think schoolgirls performing for crowds dance moves that would look more at home in a topless bar is a bad idea, not to mention vulgar, tacky, and immodest. Teen girls--post-pubescent girls--being encouraged to act slutty doesn't disturb me the way children being encouraged to act slutty does, of course, but this is something that, once upon a time, the average American parent wouldn't have wanted their daughters doing.

But why should this mean the government must get involved? That's big government intrusion into the public. And it's not even necessary to solve the problem of smutty cheerleading. If people who dislike being exposed to a bump-and-grind show when all they wanted to do was watch a football game started going to their local principals or school boards and say, "Look, I've been paying to come to these football games for a while, but now I'm thinking about not coming anymore because your cheerleaders' behavior is so vulgar." It wouldn't take many complaints like that for your average school to tell the cheerleading coach to tone it down. A few local newspaper editorials or letters to the editor wouldn't hurt either. Local problems, local solutions. We don't have to run to the state (much less the federal) government every time we have a problem.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Reality Brit-TV in Monastery

Here's an article I read this weekend:

Five non-Catholic men are sent to live with Benedictine monks for forty days. They work and pray with the monks and have sessions with assigned spiritual mentors. At the end all are positively changed by their stay. I was particularly struck by the account of one man.

"By the end, the atheist, Tony Burke, 29, became a believer and
gave up his job producing trailers for a sex chat line after having what he
described as a "religious experience"....Mr Burke, his voicing breaking with
emotion, confessed his feelings in a video-diary entry. "I didn't want this to
happen," he said."

Boy, can I sympathize with that! I must have been one of the most reluctant Christians ever.

Uncle Orson Treads on Dangerous Ground,0,6007802.story

Hear that sound? It's thousands of Trekkies hissing Orson Scott Card. Let's just hope he can still go to cons without being spit on. Harlan Ellison said the first Star Trek movie was bad--something more than a few fans would agree with--and went home to find his door defaced.

Of course, as a nobody I can say this with impunity: Although I generally enjoyed the shows and liked the even-numbered ST movies, what Card says about ST is pretty accurate.