Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I Guess I'm Hopelessly Catholic

I saw a bit of Sonny Montgomery's funeral on TV, and as nice as I suppose it is to have important people come to your funeral, a lot of politicians standing up and making speeches doesn't seem very funeral-like to me. Even if they keep their remarks on the deceased (unlike what we've seen at some--if not political, then politicized--funerals recently.) I can imagine no greater honor for my own funeral (or anyone else's) than the celebration of mass. No greater presence--not even a former President--than the Eucharist.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Derbyshire-Chesterton Coincidence

Today's NRO had an article by John Derbyshire on Lolita, which hardened my years-long intention to read that book into a--well, into a firmer intention. I then, while searching for something entirely unrelated by Chesterton, happened across this essay in Chesterton's All Things Considered. Both Derbyshire and Chesterton were writing near a literary anniversary (the 50-year anniversary of Lolita, the 200th birthday of Fielding) , both talk about a book called immoral by many of its readers and non- or partial readers, and both talk about the increasing tendency of wimpy moderns not to want to confront the truth of human nature. In the Lolita essay, this mostly comes down to the politically incorrect fact that men continue find young, pubescent or post-pubescent women attractive. In the Fielding essay, it's the inconvenient fact of the complete human--that is, the way a man (or woman) may be a bewildering mess of virtues and vices and may commit quite a lot of sins and stupid mistakes along with some good while aspiring to do much better. Both essays are worth the few minutes it takes to read them, even if, like me, you only know Lolita through the movie and Tom Jones through a radio dramatization.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Maybe It Was the Violent Video Games--Er, Cave Paintings?--That Caused It

Here's something from the BBC News (link via The Corner):

Early Neolithic Britons had a one in 20 chance of suffering a skull
fracture at the hands of someone else and a one in 50 chance of dying from their
injuries. ...Blunt instruments such as clubs were responsible for most of the
trauma. ...

Rick Schulting of Queen's University Belfast and Michael Wysocki from
the University of Central Lancashire looked at 350 skulls spanning the period
from 4000 BC to 3200 BC.
"We generally think of Neolithic people as living
peaceful lives - they were busy looking after cereal crops and rearing
livestock," Mr Wysocki told the BBC News website.

Well, I guess that's what they get for turning to agriculture and sky god religions. Just a few thousands of years before, when everyone hunted & gathered and worshipped the Great Goddess (which worship is proven by their having scratched chevrons into rocks), human nature was completely different and no one hit people in the head with clubs at all.

Polonius May Not Have Been Perfect, But At Least Laertes Had a Father

At a recent library book sale, I picked up some old magazines, including an Oxford American that listed "Drunk on Shakespeare: A Family Drama" on its cover. This personal essay by an Eric Ormsby turned out to be a not-very-interesting account of how his dysfunctional household communicated (or not) by hurling quotes at each other. But there was one bit that struck me. At ten or eleven the author was taken to see his first performance of Hamlet and found himself fascinated, not just by the familiar words put into action on stage, but by the actor playing Hamlet. "Coming as I did from a house dominated by women, I had a frank curiosity about men," he says, and he found himself wanting to imitate everything about--in fact, to become--that man. He says,

"A boy without a father is supremely vulnerable. He has
inexhaustible resources of love and loyalty and devotion. And he aches to bestow
these on some man who shows him what he might, if he is lucky, become. The heart
of such a boy hangs on the smallest of tokens and is to be had for the slightest
expression of regard; is to be had, I mean, passionately, irrevocably, and for
life. And for what? For a glance of interest, a question, an autograph on a

I don't care for the way the writer expresses this, but I think he's telling the truth here. Boys need fathers. Boys without fathers are vulnerable, because they are looking for any man who will give them some attention, some evidence of concern. Grown women can say children don't need fathers as much as they want, but the boys themselves are apt to feel differently. If I were a single woman with a son, I'd be asking myself what kind of men my son is being exposed to, both in real life and in the media, and if I'd want him to grow up imitating any of them.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I Need to Edit My Profile

Our little family unit is down one (auxiliary) member. A few days ago, Auntie Suzanne and Uncle Pookie's elderly cat died during the night. She was with me for twelve years, and the people I got her from said they'd had her five years, so she had a good run. Moreover, she'd become increasingly decrepit, so her death was a relief in a way; we'd have had her euthanised already if we hadn't sentimentally not wanted her last hour or two alive to be filled with terror (she didn't like strangers, animal or human, and riding in the car absolutely terrified her.) But oddly enough, once she was dead, in our minds she went from what she'd been these last months back to what she was when she was before she became unhealthy, and we miss her.

Uncle Pookie most of all, perhaps, as Kitty had become his official (constant, anyway) lapwarmer and computer companion. But he's had to be away a lot this week, and it occured to me one night that in our whole marriage, I've never been completely alone in the house, Kitty was always there. (One overnight post-op stay at the vet excepted.) It's odd her not being here. What am I supposed to do with dropped ice cubes or cereal bowl dregs now?

It's also weird not having a pet. I've sworn for years that, when Kitty went, I'd never have another cat. She was a reserved, grouchy cat who suited us very well, as well as being the prettiest cat in every neighborhood we've lived in, having very soft, pettable fur, having no bad habits, and (until she became old and decrepit) being really clean and not being susceptible to fleas; I have no confidence in our lucking out like that again, and besides which, I'm tired of cleaning the cat box. But I don't feel up to housetraining a dog right now, so I guess we're going to be petless for a long time. Having a husband to lavish affection on, a pet doesn't mean as much to me as it did when I was a child or teenager. But you do get used to having them around, don't you? I can't quite imagine never having a pet again. It's weird enough not having one now.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Quote of the Day

In truth, there is often more independence of mind to be found among those who care most for tradition and have conservative views about society, than among professional progressives adhering to their 'line'. (A. L. Rowse, William Shakespeare: A Biography)

Random Thoughts, Snarkiness, Whatever


Uncle Pookie hooked up an inexpensive antenna a couple of months ago, so we have TV again after a little over two years absence. As I suspected, we weren't missing much.


Being brave in a single, really bad moment is easier than being brave over years of a more ordinary level of bad times.


I don't actually care what people's personal aesthethic preferences are, but I think it is a little odd that, in today's hyper-PC world, so many people think nothing of talking about the supposed horror of having white skin showing in summer or recommending ways to fix this "problem".


It's just occurred to me John Goodman could play Falstaff without padding. He's a good actor and I have sometimes thought it's a shame his size and shape limit (I assume) the roles he gets. But now I can't decide if he could play Falstaff or not. That's a BIG role. We're talking, to reverse Eddie Izzard, Scooby & Shaggy level big. I'd be willing to watch him try, though. God knows he could do no worse than Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania.


I think Genesis may be the most exciting book of the Bible. Aside from a few short begats bits, it's mostly stories of sibling rivalry (including sexual jealousy), betrayal, love and sex, father-in-laws screwing over sons-in-law, etc. Those kind of things make good reading.


Do TV people not listen to what they write? I caught a promo for an upcoming program about Hurricane Katrina making the people of Louisiana "despair"? If they've all despaired, why is there all this talk of rebuilding? Then again, maybe I've not been paying close enough attention, maybe it's only Mississippi--the state that was actually hit by the hurricane--that is talking of rebuilding better than before, while Louisiana sits huddled in a corner, despairing.

Or maybe the TV ad writers are postmodernists and have decided words don't mean anything, in which case, it's just as well I didn't want to see the show, because I wouldn't be able to trust that "Saturday at 6PM" (or whatever) meant what it said.


Petty annoyance number--oh, who am I kidding, I can't count that high: Microsoft's "Warning: Page has Expired" thing that tells you you have to click the Refresh button to view the page you want--well, I'm fine with that, but then it pops up with an annoying, triumphant-sounding beep and tells you it can't refresh without resending the information and do you want to retry or not. Note to Microsoft: I think I speak for most of your users when I say, IF I DIDN'T WANT THE COMPUTER TO RESEND THE INFORMATION I WOULDN'T HAVE CLICKED 'REFRESH' TO START WITH.


Apropos of nothing, I fully expect to turn into Victor Meldrew when I get a few more years on me.


I wish there were some way to lay bets that most of the young girls who now firmly declare that they don't wear pants that come up to the waist and who recoil at the sight of shoulder pads will, when fashion changes, happily wear those things.


It's rude to let yourself sound bored when you're talking to people, and I don't think it stops being rude just because you're an adult talking to a child.


This time every year for years now I've found myself thinking, "I wish I could go to the New Orleans Jazz Fest, it looks like such fun!" This year, reading about Bruce Springsteen's lame anti-Bush shtick, it was, "Too bad I wasn't there, it could have been fun to boo." And I'm not even feeling friendly to Bush right now.


I'm tired of writing "iced tea" when just about everyone where I come from says "ice tea". (Well, that's when we bother to say it at all, mostly we just say "tea" or "sweet tea"; tea is automatically assumed to be iced here, so we serve tea and hot tea, not tea and iced tea.) I may start spelling it without the d. Why not, when I already refuse to write "crayfish".


I saw a commercial for some sort of PDA or something, and it enthused about how wonderful it is that, with that product, a park bench can become an office, a telephone booth, a movie theater, a gaming station. Yes, God forbid anyone should have to sit on a park bench and look at a tree or make eye contact with another human.