Monthly Archives: August 2010

Compare and Contrast

I’m having trouble sleeping tonight, so I’ve been watching Mystery Diagnosis. It’s a show all about various horrifying rare diseases and conditions, and the trouble that real life people had with them before some doctor finally figured out what they had.

One of the stories tonight was about a baby girl with an extremely rare blood disease that made clotting extremely difficult. (Much worse than the royal families one.) There are therapies but no cure for it. This particular disease is so bad that the girl (11 at the time of filming) knows that she can never safely go through pregnancy. In fact, she can’t afford to menstruate even once, and will be taking huge amounts of hormones every day of her life to prevent this. She commented on her sadness about this, and her hope to become an adoptive mother someday.

And then, in the next hour, there was a commercial for that no-menstruation birth control pill, with the actresses on the ad exulting that they will never have to have a period ever again, and being all happy clappy about it. Honestly, I’d be surprised if nobody in that household has killed a TV over it. It must be hard to need a much stronger product so badly for reasons of pure survival, and then be forced to see a playlet about how happy you should be — happy to get rid of something that you yourself would love to have a chance to have!

We live in a very strange, sad world.

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Sheep Paperbacks

From Got Medieval, a very clear explanation of why page sizes are what they are. Don’t let people pull the wool over your eyes; read it!

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Georgette Heyer Had a Word for It

A romance book website put together an “interview” with Georgette Heyer, out of quotes from Jane Aiken Hodge’s biography of her.

Heyer often complained about some publishers putting off her readers with “cheap and nasty” covers that tried to be suggestive. There was also the truly infamous movie adaptation of The Reluctant Widow, which tries to make a novel about a sensible heroine and a nearly Vulcan or Stoic sensible hero defeating Napoleonic spies with lots of humor, into something ribald. (You can see it on YouTube. Pretty sad stuff.)

But here’s the memorable bit — she also complained about bodice rippers, specifically medieval ones. (Since she wanted to write medieval novels, really.) And I think it’s still true for the most part that “….when American publishers say that they want books about the Middle Ages they have in mind a welter of flesh, blood, sadism and general violence. Breast-sellers, in fact.”

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That Bollywood Lady with the High Voice. You Know. Her.

That singer. The one who’s always getting her music played in the Indian restaurant.

Yeah, her. You know who I mean.

Well, it turns out that the Rough Guide music people took pity upon the world, and produced an entire album of nothing but her greatest historical hits. And it turns out that it’s on sale at Amazon, as an mp3 album, for only 5 bucks until the end of August.

The downside is that you don’t get any liner notes or lyrics or translations or funky photos (if any), whereas with a physical CD, you do.

The other downside is that the commenters at Amazon say a lot of these songs are shortened in this series of albums. Instead of being five or six minutes long, they fade out after two or three minutes.

They have other historical Bollywood albums from Rough Guide also, which also sound Pretty Darned Familiar from the Indian restaurant hit parade. Or you can just get Bollywood albums from India through various sources, because amazingly enough, their industry is perfectly okay with selling us mp3s. :

Anyway, big sale at Amazon if you want mp3s.

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Interesting Architecture Article about Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish

I just found this when writing the other post, and thought I’d post it here so it wouldn’t be lost.

From the Architectural Record magazine’s January 1919 issue, “The Holy Rosary Church, Dayton, Ohio, W.L. Jaekle, Architect”, as reviewed by one Leon V. Solon. Includes photos. The same photos and a few more are available in Volume 115 of American Architect and Architecture, from their March 1919 issue.

Jaekle also designed St. John’s Church in Middletown, which was started in 1925 and finished in 1927.

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Holy Family Parish, Dayton OH

Dayton’s Latin Mass/Extraordinary Form community, and the FSSP (Fraternity of St. Peter) priests who have mostly said Mass for it, have been based in various different parishes over the years. It’s a history I know little about but which is surely worth somebody’s chronicling. Early this summer, however, Archbishop Schnurr gave Holy Family Church (which had been glommed into a joint parish with St. Mary’s) to the FSSP for their very own.

I’ve been meaning to go over there all summer, and see how things are going and what people are doing. But it’s been a bit hard to find the time and the energy while working around my cantoring duties at my own parish — not to mention finding weather that didn’t seem likely to kill me. (Sorry, no A/C in most of Dayton’s big old churches. Too pricey.) But I finally got over there today. I won’t be doing it very often, because the bus schedule is difficult on Sundays (for me, anyway). But for a big feast like the Assumption, it was nice to go. The weather was horrendously sticky, yet not as hot as most of the summer has been.

If you do go, I should probably mention first that they apparently have a BIG POTLUCK BREAKFAST after the 10:30 Mass. The heck with just donuts — these people feed you! Also, they seem very friendly, and there’s a good spread of ages (though it’s heavily young families with kids, as you’d expect in an EF group). OTOH, part of the reason they feed you is that Holy Family isn’t in one of the super bestest parts of town. I’m not saying it’s dangerous in daylight (it better not be, since I took the bus there and back!), but it’s pretty poor. You’d definitely have to drive all the way out of the neighborhood and into another part of town to find a place big enough for all those parish people to eat.

(UPDATE: The potluck brunch is only once a month, per the comments, and the donuts and coffee Sunday is also only once a month. So the other two or three Sundays, you gotta fend for yourself.)

Anyway, the church itself is really really nice. It dates from the early 1920’s, and was designed by Murphy and Olmsted from Washington DC, along with W.L. Jaekle from Dayton. (Mr. Jaekle also did Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, the previous home of the Dayton Latin Mass community.) The outside has that late medieval Italian look, with the campanile and the red tile roof.

If you don’t like barren stretches of white as decor in a church, this is the parish for you! If it’s not painted or made of stained glass, it’s colored tile or a statue. Let us count the ways:

The narthex/vestibule has the Dayton-standard three entrance doors at the top of a flight of steps, with grilled-in baptistery to the left (no longer used) and door to the stairway up to the organ loft on the right. (There are also entrances doors up front in the church to the left and right; the right hand door by the parking lot is handicap-accessible by a very nice ramp.) In the vestibule, the ceiling is a barrel vault painted with blue and gold suns and stars in a 20’s modern type of pattern. The suns have within them an encircled blue and white Chi-Ro, with an alpha on one side and an omega on the other. There is also a band of patristic art-looking painted sheep, and then the walls are painted a sort of red/purple/pink speckled color. (Which works with the other stuff, oddly enough.) There’s also a small recent statue of St. Julie Billiart, pictures of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, an original architectural drawing of the building, bulletin boards, holy water dispenser, etc.

The floor, both in the vestibule and the main church, is covered with what looks like linoleum to me, but spiffed up with bands of black and white checked material. Whatever it is, it’s in good repair everywhere, as far as I can tell. (In contrast to many of Dayton’s older churches, where the floors are solid but the tiling or wood is often getting pretty worn or cracked.)

I’m not good at getting good church pictures, and anyway, the church was being kept dark today because of the heat. So I’ll just point you toward some pictures previously posted on NLM and the parish website.

Inside the three doors leading from the vestibule into the nave, on the back wall, there are two confessionals, a large oil painting of Mary and toddler Jesus, statues of St. Jude and of St. Joseph holding baby Jesus, and the familiar Dayton Latin Mass Community library cart, still used for holding hymnals, lending missals and lending chapel veils. All the pews in this church are wood, very solid and with plenty of room to sit, stand, kneel, and walk; and they’re arranged in a standard way, not all cattycornered everywhere.

If you look up, you’ll see the choir/organ loft. Big pipe organ, decent-sized loft (though not huge). There’s a rose window behind and above the pipe organ.

The ceiling is painted in various abstract square designs to give the look of being coffered. (I think the designs are all different kinds of crosses, and I think they’re all primarily dark green and gold. But the lights weren’t on, and my eyes aren’t great.) The top of the wall has a line of various Christological symbols and clerestory windows, and then a band of designs, and then there’s an arcade of arches, and then big long stained glass windows. These windowns have 2 symbols, 2 pictures drawn from the Gospel or the lives of Mary and Joseph, then two more symbols, and then 2 more story pictures. From there to the floor, it’s more wall painted in stucco-y colors. In between many of the windows, there are large mosaic-tile Stations of the Cross built into the wall.

On the left side, there are some extra supports (probably for the tower). Where the next window could have been, there’s a statue of St. Anthony of Padua. There’s some kind of unused confessionals on both sides up front.

The left and right doors have rose windows over them, then a sort of mini clerestory of ten small stained glass windows of saints under that. Then there’s a painted picture of an angel under that, and then the doors. The left door leads to a double stairway, which can lead you to the huge sacristy and tiny restroom, the outside door, or the basement (which includes another restroom, a large eating and kitchen area, and at least one other large room). The right door has a tiny vestibule suitable for reading materials, and then a door to the outside which leads to the ramp, the parking lot stairs, and the old school. (There was a covered arcade between the school and church, which was original to the architectural design and mighty thoughtful of the architects.)

The front has a big half-dome apse for the main altar, and two little altars to left and right. The left altar has a statue of Mary and an inscription about Our Lady of the Rosary; the right altar has a statue of St. Joseph holding a book instead of his standard attributes, and an inscription about St. Joseph as Patron of the Dying. Both Mary and Joseph are done in pale colors and in a fairly fluid modern style. Next to the Joseph side altar are: the font that used to be in the baptistery (a big green thing that matches the built-in ambo on the left), a little statue of the Holy Family up high, a little statue of Jesus as the Infant of Prague down low, and a picture of Jesus as King showing the Sacred Heart. The side altars and the main altar are all enclosed in a big sanctuary rail, which I believe is original, and there’s a big original gate with some very pretty metalwork.

Painted above the apse are St. Peter on the left and St. Paul on the right. The half-dome is covered with an amazing painting of the Jesse Tree and the Holy Family, with Jesse reclining at the bottom. Then there’s another band of painting, a band of ten small stained glass windows of angels with another modern fluid statue of Mary (this one golden colored) in the middle showing Jesus in her womb, and then a band of five diamonds of Christological symbols. The high altar has a beautiful large crucifix attached to it in the middle, and the tabernacle is part of the high altar wall.

Like I say, there’s a lot to look at.

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Now I Remember Why I Don’t Visit Marvel’s Website.

They’ve got all kinds of stuff up, at the Marvel Comics website, advertising comics and TV adaptations and all that sort of thing. Fine. So I saw a funny video some staffer had put together, in the tradition of “What The-?” comics, with Marvel action figures… sorta like Robot Chicken, but apparently cleaner. And they’re spoofing the Winter Olympics. So I’m thinking, this will be good.

No. Totally wrong there.

They had Cannonball as an athlete, and he was explaining (while standing next to Captain America and Captain Britain) that he came from “the country of Kentucky”. He claimed he was not from the United States. He didn’t claim to be from the Confederacy; he didn’t even claim to be from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Nooooo, “the country of Kentucky”.

Now, Marvel’s Southern characters have always been a bit of a sore subject with many, because stereotypes have been known to crop up, and the characters often are not understood by their writers. (Though at least they have some.) But this was ridiculous, even in a comedy. If Cannonball had been excessively patriotic, that would have been funny. He and Captain America could have competed to be the most patriotic one. Or if Marvel wanted to be edgy, they could have given Cannonball some kind of Lost Cause spiel and braved the resulting criticism or support. But this was just pointless.

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Depressing Literary Observation

St. Clare’s Day was yesterday, and St. Clare is what we call her in the English-speaking world. But her legal name was Chiara Offredducio.

From which, it becomes readily apparent, is derived the name of the heroine…no, not really — protagonist?… no, she doesn’t really move the plot… okay, the ‘annoying viewpoint character you keep hoping will die and take all the other characters with her’ of The Handmaid’s Tale.

And that is just one more reason to despise that book, although “typical Seventies feminist sf/f which didn’t come out until 1985″ is sufficient. Why on earth would you pick on one of the most feminist characters in the Middle Ages and turn her name into a slave name? I don’t get it at all. It’s not funny. It’s not insightful. It has nothing to do with the plot or the personality of the character. But then, the dystopia depicted had nothing to do with what fundamentalists are like, either.

(I’ve never understood why people like that book. Why is it regarded as a hit book against Protestant fundamentalism and the religious right, when it doesn’t actually hit on any of those groups’ weaknesses and salient characteristics? Do the real names of the characters strike you as even vaguely likely, when considered as a group? Who believed that an oppressed woman could conceal the extensive use of cassette tapes and tape recorder, especially when cassettes made such loud clacking noises when you carry them around? Why would a book about Protestant fundamentalism draw so heavily on Catholicism as a source for imagery? Why would a Canadian spend all her time creating an American dystopia, when it’s Canada that would be her legitimate satirical target? Is the woman such a coward that she can’t attack her targets openly, or was it just an attempt to create a two-minute hate by propping up all the potential targets hated by those she sought to impress? Why is she such a weasel that she can’t even admit she wrote science fiction? But then, this is a woman who doesn’t think we went to the Moon, either, so looking clearly at the world is obviously not her priority.)

Modern mainstream literature by the supposed intelligentsia aims to be oppressive and offensive, so this slur doesn’t surprise me much. It just confirms me in my decision never to read another book by Atwood, ever again, for any reason, even if I’m trapped in a Canadian cabin with nothing to read. It would be better to turn her novels upside down and write new novels between the lines than subject myself to this kind of reader abuse. If people want to read bad Seventies sf/f about horribly oppressed women, at least don’t make it assigned reading in school. (Although… that does seem to have killed off the subgenre pretty quickly.)

Meanwhile, St. Clare’s blonde hair is still around, brighter than the glass and silver reliquary it’s sitting in. So is her worn and patched habit, her mighty order of Poor Clares and all those orders descended from it, and the example of her life lived in harmony with her Lord and thus often gently opposed to even her family and friends. She built a new world of possibilities and thought for women. That will remain when this slur, and the work it’s contained in, have become forgotten by everyone but bored Canadian grad students.

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A Cautionary Tale

This is how your powers of German-American Catholicism can be used against you:

Meader had found an effective, and ultimately devastating, tool for motivating Desch — his guilt.

“Joe told me privately after the war that Meader said he was going to be responsible for the deaths of a lot of American boys if he didn’t get the job done — that was a tremendous amount of pressure for anyone, but especially for Joe,” said Carl Rench, 79, a former NCR engineer and vice president who became Desch’s closest friend soon after joining the company in 1946. “Let me put it this way, he was a very religious man.”

Anderson said her father told her long after the war that he had felt so much anguish over the sailors who were drowning in the Atlantic that he believed his very soul was in jeopardy. “This was the Catholic in him — he felt like he was in a constant state of mortal sin, so he stopped going to church.”

The race to perfect the NCR Bombe, in many ways, was a race against Desch’s own mounting burden of guilt.

In November 1944:

Joe Desch knew as he handed the decoded message to Esther Hottenstein, the WAVE in charge of sending secret dispatches to Washington, that its contents would mean the deaths of thousands of defenseless men. The Nov. 14 intercept requested an air escort for two convoys transporting the Japanese 23rd Infantry Division from Manchuria to Luzon. It gave their precise location.

U.S. Navy submarines, seeking revenge for the savage kamikaze attacks in the Battle of Leyte Gulf just weeks before, would be lying in ambush, ready to send the troop ships and their escorts to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

The gentlemanly rules of engagement Desch had learned so well as a young ROTC cadet at the University of Dayton had lost their meaning during the war. Surprise and vengeance had been the name of the game since Pearl Harbor. It seemed to Desch the madness and cruelty would never end.

He snapped. After long months of 14-hour days and impossible production deadlines, he handed the deciphered intercept to Hottenstein, told her to send it by secure telegraph line to Washington, then walked out of NCR’s Building 26 determined never to come back.

Tailed by his security “shadows,” Desch drove to a friend’s farm outside Xenia, where he set himself to a simple, thought-numbing task: splitting wood.

“He knew it was war, and he had a sense of duty, but I think he had been on the edge for quite a while from all the stress of his work,” Debbie Anderson said of her father. She said he talked to her only a few times about his breakdown, once after her mother had died of throat cancer in 1971 and again after Anderson, who lives in Kettering, had become a mother herself. “It was very hard to get him to talk about anything related to the war,” she said.

For the next six weeks, Desch drove out nearly every day to the farm and chopped wood — until a Navy intelligence official from Washington approached him there and pleaded with him to return. He told Desch that his country desperately needed him. Only Desch had the expertise to tackle some problems that had arisen in cracking Japanese codes. He had to come back.

Desch complied, but on the condition that his hours would be limited. And he insisted that Lt. Cmdr. Ralph Meader — the officer placed by the Navy in Desch’s own home, to keep a security eye on his activities — be sent to live someplace else.

But on that, the Navy wouldn’t budge. Meader would stay in Desch’s cottage until early 1946, well after the war had ended, and he would leave his beat-up Nash Rambler in the driveway for Desch to dispose of on his own.

Desch recovered enough from his breakdown to finish the Japanese codebreaking work, but his assistant, Bob Mumma, was put in charge of the U.S. Naval Machine Computing Laboratory for the remainder of the war.

In May 1958:

In the color home movie, Debbie Anderson, then a second-grader at St. Albert the Great, is decked out in her First Communion dress and seated between her mother and father on the living room sofa. Her father, a proud smile on his face, leafs through her Communion prayer book.

Later, in the same movie, Desch, his mother and his two sisters dine in celebration around the dining room table, the estrangement of the war years long forgotten.

“I remember it was always really hard for Dad’s family to relax with us — except for that day,” Anderson said. “Everything went right and everybody was in a good mood.”

Anderson would learn later it was also the day that her father had received the Blessed Sacrament for the first time since 1943, when, in the midst of his guilt and frustration over not being to perfect the Bombe, he had quit going to church.

Desch reconciled with his faith just days before Anderson’s First Communion, after he had given his confession to Father George Steinkamp, who had been his religious mentor at Emmanuel Elementary School.

Steinkamp, in his 70s and in poor health by the late 1950s, was the only priest with whom Desch felt close enough to unburden his soul.

“Dad called him up personally and asked him if they would make a special arrangement for Dad to go to confession,” Anderson said. “Father Steinkamp was so frail at this time he couldn’t walk from the rectory down into the church. So Dad picked him up and carried him into the church and set him in the confessional. Remember, this was the 1950s. You had to use a confessional.”

Carl Rench, 79, a former NCR engineer and Desch’s closest friend after the war, said that, by the late 1950s, Desch had found a measure of peace within himself, as well as a deep religious conviction. Often in those days, he and Desch would debate each other’s interpretations of the New Testament.

“He was a Catholic and I was a Protestant, and we had a lot of fun doing that,” Rench said. “We went through everything Mark, Luke and John ever wrote about. We even compared some of the stories, I remember.”

Rench said there was no question that Desch was a different man in 1958 than he was in 1946, when Rench first began to work for him. “We were both trying to behave the way Jesus would want us to behave,” he said. “Joe was very satisfied with his feelings about the church and the Bible. And I got the sense that he was very proud of what he had been able to accomplish, finally, during the war.”

On the bright side, some stuff doesn’t just happen on Phineas and Ferb:

As a teenager, Desch taught himself how to blow glass to create vacuum tubes. He would order so many unusual chemicals for experiments that one day, a chemical company representative showed up on his parents’ doorstep looking for the chemist ‘Mr. Desch’. His parents directed the man to the boy in his basement lab.

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You Might Just Be a German-American Catholic If:

There’s still a large number of American Catholics who aren’t really represented by EWTN, the blogosphere, et al. They often feel very awkward on the modern Catholic scene, because all the basic cultural assumptions that they were brought up with are “Apollonian”, and even most EF diehards that speak publicly seem “Dionysian” to them by contrast. They’re the ones who show up for Adoration all the time, but don’t really feel comfortable with most apostolates. They like to act in groups or as a parish; as individuals it’s better to act in total secret.

They are misread as “cold”, “indifferent”, “mechanical”, or “afraid to act Catholic” by many, whereas they are actually passionately following a totally different sort of spirituality and aesthetic than what is celebrated by most other modern Catholics, traditional or no. This breeds a lot of resentment; but their culture forbids them to talk in public about being unhappy with stuff like this. Often, this lurks behind some messy, messy blog flamewars, but is never openly mentioned.

I think it’s time to break the rules and talk about our sort of Catholicism. I’m calling this “German-American” for convenience only; there are different brands of German cultures. Also, I’m sure this sort of spirituality is also followed by folks of many other ethnicities; but this is how I know it, so it’s the only one I can talk about. Just by being able to talk about it, I show that I’m a naughty, unrepentant representative of the class. :)

—————

You might just be a German-American Catholic if:

What other Catholic ethnic groups and rites do is their problem. Your concern is what you and your family were raised to do. You reserve the right to be snarky and critical about people not raised in your traditions, but mostly are glad not to have to worry about them. Criticism is better directed at your family and those raised like you. (And yes, this means your mother feels able to criticize this pope, whereas she would never have thought of criticizing a Holy Father who was an Italian or a Pole.) Heck, criticism is family. Criticism is love.

You came across passages from certain early Church Fathers saying no Christian should ever be too happy or too sad, because getting emotional is unworthy of our position as God’s children, and you thought, “Mom would love this.”

Much of your religious instruction was received tactilely — i.e., some member of your family poked you with a finger or an elbow when something relevant was said at Mass.

You wonder why feminists get upset about St. Paul saying women shouldn’t be heard in church, because you were taught that men and children shouldn’t be heard in church, either. Unless you’re a priest, of course.

Everybody knows what everybody else is thinking and feeling and why, so the only reason to talk about it is to affirm it, or to argue about it. Very seldom do someone’s reactions surprise you, because inside the family you live on top of each other and know everything about each other. When people go away and come back a bit different, it’s deeply unnerving.

You know in your bones that eating everything on your plate is a matter of faith and morals. As a child, you were made to sit at the table for hours after supper staring at the vegetables you refused to eat, only to get them for breakfast in the morning — and this was only right and logical.

Of course families eat together. And of course you can’t come home without being fed.

Behaving with perfect decorum, and making all the gestures and movements correctly and simply, is a very meritorious form of prayer and recollection.

You’re allowed to read any prayerbook during any part of Mass, especially during the homily. Making eye contact with the priest when he’s talking to you is just not right. If you’re being lectured about something, it’s insolent to make eye contact unless specifically directed. (And your parents or superiors have to be pretty angry at you to demand that.)

Mental prayer and meditation is preferred to vocal at all times, but especially at Mass. Very young children are old enough to learn some mental prayer. You don’t have many nitpicky stories about bad Mass celebration or people dressing badly, because prayer often means having your eyes closed a lot of the time.

Of course all boys become servers, unless there’s something wrong and they physically can’t help out at Mass. You can’t understand why male Irish Catholic politicians are always boasting that they used to be altarboys, because all that says is that they haven’t changed religion or sex.

You always pick up a church bulletin because they’re interesting to read, but also because it reassures your mom that you get up on Sunday and go.

Breaking your arm a block away from church during an icestorm was just sufficient excuse for not getting to Sunday Mass, but you did have a serious discussion with your family about whether you could make it to evening Mass downtown. (Before your mother pointed out that you were on drugs and ordered to stay in bed, and made sure you slept through that time. And then she got your brother to take her to Mass while you were safely out of it.) So you understood the guy online who said you should confess allowing yourself to slip, because that meant insufficient effort to get to Mass — even though you didn’t agree.

Failing to make springerle at Christmastime is a sign of the breakdown of family life (though everybody else’s family recipe is subtly wrong). You seriously worried about the Pope’s Christmas provisions and whether they were feeding him enough in Italy, until you found out that he has a friend who brings all the trimmings over the mountains from Germany, including five kinds of Christmas cookies from a friendly convent of nuns. Then you actually went looking to make sure that springerle were included.

The most important point of the Pope’s encyclical on hope was the part when he told people to “offer it up”.

Praying out loud is something only to be done as a group, or in the presence of God alone with nobody else around to hear you. Devotions should never be done where anybody can see you, unless it’s a group devotion. If you tell people you’re doing it, you’re probably a prideful hypocrite. (Again, this doesn’t affect your opinion of other Catholic ethnic groups who do otherwise; but for you to do it would be awkward.)

If you’re not a priest, a teacher, or a parent instructing your kids, you really shouldn’t be talking about God, Catholicism, or any religious topic. If you talk about it in a low voice, you might be allowed to get away with it. (Your mother prefers to think that you only blog about politics, and is sure that the only religious blogs worth reading are ones by priests and religious. It’s just as well she doesn’t get on the Internet.)

Making yourself conspicuous is probably a sin, but it’s certainly grounds to get poked at.

If you sing at Mass loud enough to be audible in the next pew, your parents poke at you until you stop. But if you join choir, that gives you the credentials to be audible.

Any non-church adult hobby activity is a waste of time, unless it makes you money.

Spending too much time at church or giving too much away is a bad thing. Charity begins at home, so you should be dedicating yourself more to your family instead.

Moderation is the best thing in all things, including virtue.

On the other hand, if there’s a way to do it perfectly, that’s the moderate way to do it. Good enough is a failure.

Nobody outside your family should be told anything much about what goes on inside your family — good, bad, or indifferent. Family is supposed to be deeply private. When in doubt about telling younger family members things about previous happenings or the reasons certain family members do things, it’s more socially acceptable to keep quiet.

You know in your heart that if Catholic women got ordained, your mother would not only be a bishop, but would reinstitute the Inquisition in her diocese. So you support men’s ordination. Oh, yes.

St. Nicholas left all your candy in your stocking on December 6th, so that was the morning you really got up early. But you could get up as early as you liked as a kid, as long as you didn’t make any noise at all. Bedtimes were absolute.

Yelling during playtime was not permitted, unless you were far enough away from the house that your parents couldn’t hear you.

What other people call a clean and tidy house is what your mother calls hopelessly dirty and messy. Having someone over for a party requires a week’s preparation and mental anguish.

As a kid, you are instructed that you never, ever invite anyone into the house, unless it’s a dire emergency. If you do invite someone in, you have to offer them something to drink. Right away. Anything potable in the house. If they are there more than half an hour, you have to bring snack food, whether people will eat it or not.

You never, ever go inside anybody else’s house unless you’re invited. If you do go inside their house, you should always refuse food or drink until you know them really well. (Unless a Southern family moves next door, in which case your mother eventually gives you an indult out of cultural sensitivity.)

In public, it’s rude to point, stare, or get visibly interested in… well, anything.

If people outside your family and close friends can tell what you’re thinking from your face, you’re doing it wrong.

Your house should always contain a crucifix, a statue of Our Lady, a picture of the Sacred Heart, and palm branches from last Palm Sunday. But only the crucifix and the palm branches should be immediately visible when walking through the house; they’re not hidden, but they are placed discreetly. Having religious things visible from the front door is probably an act of pride and hypocrisy. (Though again, one doesn’t expect Catholics from other ethnic groups, or non-Catholics, to behave this way.)

You’re allowed to have as many holy cards as you can stuff into your Missal, Bible, or dresser drawers.

You would never call it a tithe, but you give plenty of money to support your parish and to good causes. Because you’re thrifty, you have plenty of money to give. You never ever talk about this, except with your spouse. (This matter of fact generosity is another way I don’t measure up to the older German generation.)

Read the obituary section every day. If you go on vacation, catch up on those as soon as you get back. If you know somebody who died, or you know somebody who knows somebody, or if you have any connection at all, you should go to the funeral or the viewing. Never let anybody see you taking too much interest in the cards on the flowers or the attendance, but always know all about it afterwards. You will be questioned about it by your relatives, even if they don’t know anyone involved.

You’ve been taught to be highly suspicious of non-German innovations like mantillas. Catholic women wear hats or scarves if they wear anything on their heads for Mass. And even though your mother despises hats and gloves and purses, she can’t help adjusting your hat — and angling for you to find a matched set of gloves and handbag, to go with your hat.

It’s almost as wrong to “dress like an old woman” as it is to dress like a floozy.

If something really bad is happening, you don’t mention it to anyone because you don’t want them to worry. Conspicuous cheerfulness and affection is a sign that something is wrong.

If EWTN had been founded by a German nun instead of an Italian one, you’re fairly sure that silence would reign for large parts of the broadcast day, and nobody would ever openly ask for money. OTOH, the entire fishing and game industry would probably have been taken over by the German Mother Angelica’s fishing lure business, and we’d probably have Jaegernuns with Guns as an EWTN show.

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The Bones of St. Edmund

One of the fun things to do, when you read an old book that talks about artwork or landmarks, is to check and see if the stuff mentioned in it is still where the author saw it. The Internet makes this a lot easier.

So while searching for something else, I found a review of an old book about the English king St. Edmund, and it mentioned that his body in the late Middle Ages ended up getting taken out of England for safety, and was placed in the abbey basilica of Saint-Sernin, in Toulouse, on one of the main pilgrim routes to Compostela.

So I went looking. And first, may I say that this is one freaky deaky Romanesque barrel vault church. Huge. And it has a freaky back, and a freaky bell tower.

But down in the crypt, behind the door that proclaims, “These are the guards of the city”, they still have the bones of St. Edmund, possibly still in the silver reliquary that they vowed to him when his prayers stopped the plague in Toulouse, on August 12, 1631. Scroll down and click on “Edmond”.

Toulouse is also where St. Thomas Aquinas’ tomb is; it’s under the altar of the Dominican church, Les Jacobins. The clergy of Toulouse hid his remains down in St.-Sernin’s crypt during the French Revolution, though, and they stayed there until moved to Les Jacobins in 1974.

And just for the record — no, I wasn’t looking for historical stuff that happened in August.

Some nice pictures of art and architecture in the basilica.

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Baudelaire and the Movie Inception?

Given a French character named Mal, I kept thinking that maybe there was some reference to Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal in the movie Inception. So I went and looked it up, French lit not being something I’ve read much.

(I admit to coming up with this idea mostly because Cordwainer Smith wrote “Drunkboat”, an ftl sf story based on a poem by Rimbaud. Possibly some of these visual symbols and situations come up in the movie just because it’s heavy on the archetypes; but it does seem a bit much for coincidence.)

So thanks to a site dedicated to Les Fleurs du Mal and English translations of it, here’s a bunch of lines that brought scenes from the movie Inception to mind.

From “Benediction”:

His wife goes about the market-places
Crying: “Since he finds me fair enough to adore,
I shall imitate the idols of old,

To see if laughingly I can usurp
In an admiring heart the homage due to God!

And when I tire of these impious jokes,
I shall lay upon him my strong, my dainty hand;
And my nails, like harpies’ talons,
Will cut a path straight to his heart.

From “La muse malade” (The Sick Muse):

My poor Muse, alas! what ails you today?
Your hollow eyes are full of nocturnal visions;
I see in turn reflected on your face
Horror and madness, cold and taciturn.

Have the green succubus, the rosy elf,
Poured out for you love and fear from their urns?
Has the hand of Nightmare, cruel and despotic,
Plunged you to the bottom of some weird Minturnae?

I would that your bosom, fragrant with health,
Were constantly the dwelling place of noble thoughts….

From “The Bad Monk”:

Cloisters in former times portrayed on their high walls
The truths of Holy Writ with fitting pictures
Which gladdened pious hearts and lessened the coldness,
The austere appearance, of those monasteries.

In those days the sowing of Christ’s Gospel flourished,
And more than one famed monk, seldom quoted today,
Taking his inspiration from the graveyard,
Glorified Death with naive simplicity.

My soul is a tomb where, bad cenobite,
I wander and dwell eternally;
Nothing adorns the walls of that loathsome cloister.

O lazy monk! When shall I learn to make
Of the living spectacle of my bleak misery
The labor of my hands and the love of my eyes?

From “The Life Before”:

For a long time I dwelt under vast porticos
Which the ocean suns lit with a thousand colors,
The pillars of which, tall, straight, and majestic,
Made them, in the evening, like basaltic grottos
.

It was there that I lived in voluptuous calm,
In splendor, between the azure and the sea,

And I was attended by slaves, naked, perfumed,

Who fanned my brow with fronds of palms
And whose sole task it was to fathom
The dolorous secret that made me pine away.

From “Man and the Sea”:

Free man, you will always cherish the sea!
The sea is your mirror; you contemplate your soul
In the infinite unrolling of its billows;
Your mind is an abyss that is no less bitter.

You like to plunge into the bosom of your image;
You embrace it with eyes and arms, and your heart
Is distracted at times from its own clamoring
By the sound of this plaint, wild and untamable.

Both of you are gloomy and reticent:
Man, no one has sounded the depths of your being;
O Sea, no person knows your most hidden riches,
So zealously do you keep your secrets!

From “Don Juan in Hell”:

Shuddering in her grief, Elvira, chaste and thin,
Near her treacherous spouse who was once her lover,
Seemed to implore of him a final, parting smile
That would shine with the sweetness of his first promises

But the hero unmoved, leaning on his rapier,
Kept gazing at the wake and deigned not look aside.

From “The Poison”:

and opium widens all that has no bourn
in its unbounded sea;
moments grow hours, pleasures cease to be
in souls that, overworn,
drown in its black abyss of lethargy.

dread poisons, but more dread the poisoned well
of thy green eyes accurst;
tarns where I watch my trembling soul, reversed
my dreams innumerable
throng to those bitter gulfs to slake their thirst.

From “Cloudy Sky”:

One would say that your gaze was veiled with mist;
Your mysterious eyes (are they blue, gray or green?)
Alternately tender, dreamy, cruel,
Reflect the indolence and pallor of the sky.

When, shaken by a mysterious, wracking pain,
The nerves, too wide-awake, jeer at the sleeping mind.

You resemble at times those gorgeous horizons
That the sun sets ablaze in the seasons of mist…
How resplendent you are, landscape drenched with rain,
Aflame with rays that fall from a cloudy sky!

O dangerous woman, O alluring climates!
Will I also adore your snow and your hoar-frost,
And can I draw from your implacable winter

Pleasures keener than iron or ice?

From “Invitation to the Voyage”:

….
Think of the rapture
Of living together there!
Of loving at will,
Of loving till death,

In the land that is like you!
The misty sunlight
Of those cloudy skies
Has for my spirit the charms,
So mysterious,
Of your treacherous eyes,
Shining brightly through their tears.

There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, peace, and pleasure.

From “The Irreparable”:

Can we stifle the old, the lingering Remorse,
That lives, quivers and writhes,
And feeds on us like the worm on the dead,
Like the grub on the oak?
Can we stifle implacable Remorse?

From “To a Madonna: Votive Offering in the Spanish Style”:

I want to build for you, Madonna, my mistress,
An underground altar in the depths of my grief….

From “Spleen”:

I have more memories than if I’d lived a thousand years.
A heavy chest of drawers cluttered with balance-sheets,
Processes, love-letters, verses, ballads,
And heavy locks of hair enveloped in receipts,
Hides fewer secrets than my gloomy brain…

I am like the king of a rainy land,
Wealthy but powerless, both young and very old

When the rain stretching out its endless train
Imitates the bars of a vast prison
And a silent horde of loathsome spiders
Comes to spin their webs in the depths of our brains….

From “The Taste for Nothingness”:

And Time engulfs me minute by minute,
As the immense snow a stiffening corpse…
Avalanche, will you sweep me along in your fall?

From “The Self-Torturer”:

She’s in my voice, the termagant!
All my blood is her black poison!
I am the sinister mirror
In which the vixen looks.

I am the wound and the dagger!
I am the blow and the cheek!
I am the members and the wheel,
Victim and executioner!

I’m the vampire of my own heart….

From “The Seven Old Men”, about Paris:

Teeming, swarming city, city full of dreams,
Where specters in broad day accost the passer-by!

Everywhere mysteries flow like the sap in a tree
Through the narrow canals of the mighty giant.

From “Parisian Dream”:

This morning I am still entranced
By the image, distant and dim,
Of that awe-inspiring landscape
Such as no mortal ever saw.

Sleep is full of miracles!

Babel of arcades and stairways,
It was a palace infinite….

From “The Death of Artists”:

We’ll still consume our souls in subtle schemes,
Demolishing tough harness, long before
We see the giant Creature of our dreams
Whom all the world is weeping to adore.

Some never knew their Idol, though they prayed:
And these doomed sculptors, with an insult branded,
Hammer your brows and bosom, heavy-handed,

In the one hope, O Capitol of shade!
That Death like some new sun should rise and give
Warmth to their wasted flowers, and make them live.

If people want to talk spoilers in the comments, go to it.

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Inception character names and etymologies

Inception names. No spoilers, not much commentary.

Dom: Literally, “lord” or “master”. Nickname for Dominic. Derived from Latin name “Dominicus”, meaning “of the
Lord” or “of the Lord’s Day”.

Cobb: An old word with at least eight meanings. Probably the most relevant ones are “head”, “man in charge”, “male swan” (swans mate for life), “spider”, and the part of the corn that’s left after you eat the kernels.

Mal: French for “evil”, “ill-done”, or “bad”.

Moll: Slang for a gangster’s girlfriend. Derived from Molly or Mally, both nicknames for Margaret; which is
derived from “pearl”. The French version, “Marguerite”, can also mean “daisy”. Mal/Mald/Maud, etc.are
nicknames for Matilda/Mathilde, a Germanic name meaning “battle-might”. Mal could also be a nickname for “Marion”, a French diminutive form of Mary.

Mall: a shady, grassy enclosure. Ultimately derived from French “maille”, a mallet for playing a ball game.

Arthur: Welsh name, probably derived from “Arcturus”, a name for a star in Boote derived from the Greek “he-bear guard”, because it stands near Ursa Major’s handle. It’s the third brightest star in the sky and signals the coming of rough weather to the Greeks. We all know King Arthur, we all know he’s resting in Avalon and can come back any time when he’s needed most.

Ariadne: daughter of King Minos of Crete and Queen Pasiphae, Helios’ daughter. Advised Theseus on how to
conquer the Labyrinth and the Minotaur, and gave him a clew of thread to follow. She was left behind when the wind and tide swept the boat away, so Dionysus made her his bride. The story seems to be related to a goddess in old Cretan inscriptions, described there as “Mistress of the Labyrinth”. Derived from Greek “arihagne”, utterly pure/sacred.

Saito: Probably best known as a surname from the historical Shinsengumi leader and policeman Saito Hajime, who appeared as a main character in the anime Rurouni Kenshin. In the anime, he was very outwardly cold but inwardly had kind intentions, foresighted and difficult to fool, and always smoking. His motto was “Destroy evil immediately”. Historically he took several pseudonyms during his life, of which Saitou is one. The surname “Saitou” is written with the characters “correct wisteria”. (Wisteria denotes a connection to the Fujiwara, or in this case, probably the Fujita surname he had previously taken, and which is still borne by his descendants.

Yusuf: Arabic for “Joseph”. In the Bible, a younger son favored by his father and betrayed by his brothers
into slavery, because they are offended by his prophetic dream of lording it over them. Despite troubles and
dangers, his ability to interpret dreams eventually makes him Pharaoh’s chief counselor, enabling him to
save Egypt and his own family from famine. Later in the Bible, another Joseph is engaged to marry the Virgin
Mary when he learns she is pregnant. While planning a quiet divorce, he learns in a prophetic dream
that he is to become foster father to God’s son, the Messiah, and thus protector to His mother Mary. He
eventually takes them to Egypt and back again. Joseph’s Hebrew meaning is “May Yahweh add/increase/enlarge” or “May Yahweh remove [a bad thing]“.

Eames: patronymic surname derived from Old English “eam”, uncle. Need we say more.

Maurice: from Latin “Mauritius”, Moorish. The Moors were a tribe of black Berbers who lived in North Africa.
Nowadays they’re Muslim and have Arab genes in them, but that wasn’t until after their great queen Cahena
was conquered during the Muslim invasion of Africa in late Roman times. St. Maurice was a Roman legionary
martyred by being forced to stand overnight naked on a frozen Alpine lake with the rest of his Christian
squad of soldiers, unless he would give in — which he didn’t. The ski town St. Moritz is named for him.

Fischer: Fisher. Probably associated with the Fisher King of Arthurian legend.

Robert: from the Germanic “Hrodeberht”, “fame-bright”. Sounds a lot like “robber” or “robbed”, if you want
to get all shrinky-dinky.

Peter: from the Greek “petros”, rock. Peter was the right hand man of Jesus and the keeper of the keys. Known for impulsiveness, and for doing the wrong thing first and then the right thing.

Browning: the name of a gun company. Patronymic name from Old English, meaning “son of Brown”.

Nash: firm, stiff, hard, chilly, a headland or cliff. Possibly related to the historical protagonist of
A Beautiful Mind, the mathematician Nash.

Miles: from the Latin “miles”, soldier. Obviously Miles and Maurice are related thematically and by assonance.

James: Greek form of Hebrew “Jacob”, supplanter. In the Bible, he was the younger son of Isaac, but favored by his mother and by God. Later, there were two apostles named James: one was the brother/cousin of Jesus, and the other was a fisherman, John’s brother.

Phillipa: Should be Philippa, but eh. Derived from Greek “Philip”, phil + hippos, meaning “friend of horses” or
horselover. In the Bible, Philip was an apostle. He was teleported away by the Holy Spirit after teaching and
baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch and court official of the Kandake.

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Actually Urban, Actually Fantasy: Enchanted Inc. by Shanna Swendson

I came across Enchanted Inc. on Amazon, mostly by chance and by futzing around with some reprints of thirties and forties funny romantic fiction. It turned out to be an urban fantasy more on the Chick Lit side than anything else, but also has a refreshing lack of goopiness and Inappropriate Behavior. (Not to mention that the heroine actually has thoughts, instead of lapsing into panted italics every time a cute guy comes into view.)

More to the point, it’s a fun fantasy story set in the corporate magical world. Heck, it’s actually set at a fairly realistic version of a good company whose employees are glad to work there. Corporate fiction of any kind usually has: everyone but the hero/heroine being evil. Sometimes the hero/heroine is evil too. Other times, the company is so impossibly full of perks and perfect people that you start to lose your cookies. This one is sprinkled with a certain amount of corporate wish fulfillment — the other kind of fantasy! — but balanced nicely by giving the heroine a lot of (entertaining) trouble to deal with, both at work and in the rest of her life. There’s also a good helping of New York flavor.

The endearing bit is that the heroine is a pretty normal person with a good head on her shoulders, a decent attitude, and not much else in the way of special talents. She doesn’t sport tattoos or skimpy clothes and isn’t sleeping around; she’s not a perfect angel, either, and makes mistakes. But she’s reasonably pro-active and resourceful, instead of having superhuman abilities and looks.

In short, this is a good read — maybe even a future “comfort book”. Certainly it’s fun and funny. You also won’t feel too worried if you find your kids reading it.

There are three other books in the series, so there’s a good amount of reading for you.

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