Daily Archives: November 20, 2010

No, The Pope Didn’t Say Condoms Are Okay

He said in an interview book that, if you’re a person who carelessly sleeps around for money and has a disease, having the urge to use a condom to protect your customers is probably a moral step up from just carelessly doing whatever and spreading disease. Protective feelings and thinking about what’s right for you to do to others — that’s a sign of hope, even if your ideas or the way you act on them are wrong.

So he didn’t say condoms were a good thing for such a person to use, or even rightish-ish-ish. Using a condom in such a situation would be just as wrong as usual (not more wrong, not less). The Church’s teaching hasn’t changed on this topic since the days of ancient Rome.

The pope did say that just wishing to restrict oneself in order to protect others (albeit in a totally wrong way) is still some kind of attempt, and potentially opens the heart to turn toward what actually is right. (The right thing to do would be for this person to work to get off the street and respect his own body’s dignity, eventually finding a home and making a real life for himself. Obviously, not easy. So Christians should be helping people to change and grow, with material as well as spiritual and educational help.)

He also said that, all things being equal and the creek don’t rise, the real way to stop STDs from spreading is “humanizing” all people’s ideas of themselves and their sexuality, not “banalizing” it into something you put a Band-Aid on and forget. (Nobody should be satisfied to issue condoms and a pat on the head to people who have real needs and are in trouble. And obviously, if the only people spreading STDs were people happily married to each other and sadly unaware of a previous infection, the spread of diseases like AIDS would be a lot easier to fight.) Often, we wouldn’t treat a dog the way we treat ourselves and those we encounter. Humanization seems like a good idea.

Peter Seewald’s interview books are wide-ranging and interesting. But reading descriptions of excerpts (like mine) — that’s pretty useless. His conversations with the now-pope have been interesting because they are full of complicated thoughts, difficult to pare down into soundbites. You’re better off reading the book than trusting anybody’s synopsis.

Fr. Z on this topic.

Christopher McCamley explains this concept by using a different issue.

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Drawmij’s Instant Summons

Longtime TSR game designer James Ward, who created Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha, co-created the setup of the Pool of Radiance computer game, and wrote the novels of the Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe and Pool of Radiance series (and whose name was reversed to create the famous Greyhawk archmage Drawmij, after he noted that wizards should have an instant summons spell), is suffering from a serious chronic neurological condition, and the co-pays are something fierce.

If you’ve got any money to put in the kitty, or if you just can publicize the need, the website is Friends of Starship Warden. You can donate through their online donation page, or you can write a check and mail it to the bank address they give.

Every little bit helps.

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If It Tastes Bad, It’s Probably Good for You

Apparently, Fernet-Branca, the only myrrh-flavored drink I know that’s popular in Italy and Argentina, is also very big seller in San Francisco these days, and has been creeping around the US from there.

Like a lot of other mysterious concoctions (Chartreuse, Jagermeister), Fernet-Branca is a blend of secret herbs and spices with enough alcohol to potionize the ingredients and kill any germs that might be in your body. A sort of medicinal home remedy supposed to be good for your digestion and able to cure most of what might ail you, but not designed to taste like anything but palatable herbal medicine. Possibly this is why it was never banned in the US despite Prohibition, and despite being over 40% alcohol.

Chartreuse tastes like incredibly high-class and delicious cough medicine. Fernet-Branca, according to an old San Francisco Chronicle article, tastes like drinking cough medicine and then getting punched in the nose. But people agree that it wakes one up and stops pain and bloating from overeating.

Some say its original purpose was a home remedy for cramps at that time of the month; and it would probably work for that, especially if you drink a lot of it. :)

The modern solution to this is to drink medicinal liqueurs as shots (thus not to taste them), or to mix them with other stuff and then throw them down as shots (still not tasting them). But this is silly. Either acquire the taste, or don’t order it. (“I love Jagermeister” and “I wouldn’t let Jagermeister ever touch my tongue” are not compatible statements.)

Taking an exactly contrary position, the Fernet-Branca company website recommends that one take three sips in a row, holding each one in the mouth for several seconds, in order to experience the full herb flavor of this stuff, right down to “Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume”. They have recipes on the website to cook with it. They say it goes good with coconut milk.

Anyway, the descriptions I’ve found agree that Fernet-Branca has a strong mint/menthol taste, a strong licorice/fennel taste, and a whole bunch of bitter herb and alcohol. Known ingredients: saffron (of which the company is the major world buyer), aloe, myrrh, gentian root, orris (iris) root, cinchona bark (against malaria), and zedoary. (Yup, A to Z.) The Fernet-Branca website admits further to cinnamon, galangal (blue ginger), bay leaves, linden (European lime-tree), gentian root, rhubarb root, chamomile, colombo, and bitter orange. Some say there are 27 and others say forty ingredients, which are known to include fungi as well as roots, leaves, spices, and bark. Some think wormwood is one of them; but it sounds like gentian is bitter enough to account for the bitter side of the taste.

Anyway, the stuff’s got myrrh in it, so that means you should drink it on Epiphany, right? :) But I guess I’d better not, ’cause me and linden don’t exactly get along, and neither do several of the other ingredients. (The dark side of secret herbs and spices.) But it sounds like good stuff for everybody else, though obviously it would help to be somebody who likes the flavor of black licorice and doesn’t hate bitter tastes. At the very least, you can brighten a bartender’s day by getting down one of those dusty bottles.

It’s a pretty interesting corporate website. The “Fernet-Branca: The Story” section includes a sort of advertising archive that goes back to the late 1800′s. If you like art deco and art nouveau posters, it’s your kind of website.

People seem pretty divided about this one. Here’s a description from a first-time taster who drank it neat: “I rather like the ‘grown up’ taste. Maybe not cigarette ashes, but certainly the kind of taste favored by the coffee, cigarette and steak crowd.” Other favorable opinions: “It’s sure not a chocolate milkshake, but it has its own appeal. I like the scent of it also, and the thought of all those herbs, nuts etc. that went into making it.” Then there’s this full-length article by an Argentinean on the glories of Fernet con cola, and another on The Miracle, which combines Fernet and creme de menthe.

Other descriptions of the taste from first-time tasters: “somewhere between pine-scented Lysol and baking soda toothpaste, with hints of anise, molasses, and ashtray” and “a cross between medicine, crushed plants, and bitter mud.” The latter is softened with “when diluted substantially with Coca-Cola it is really quite enjoyable, the coke somehow softening the bitter, mud-like flavors I’d found so horrific when taken neat.” However, there’s people out there who don’t even like the taste of Chartreuse, so it’s one of those things. Often people’s tastes broaden as they grow older, so don’t say any definitive no.

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Well, This Is Stupid.

Apparently the FDA is covering their butts by insisting that their warnings about “caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CAB)” are not directed at “alcoholic beverages that only contain caffeine as a natural constituent of one or more of their ingredients, such as a coffee flavoring.” Because their friends drink kahlua and Irish coffee and Long Island iced tea.

So if you were selling Long Island iced tea in a can, that’s okay. Or if you concentrated down enough mate or coffee or cocoa to take your head off with caffeine and mixed it with Everclear, that would just be a completely natural indigenous flavoring. But Four Loko, now, that’s scary dangerous. Sheesh.

Personally, I think “malt beverages” are disgusting and nasty, and adding caffeine doesn’t help. But people drink all kinds of disgusting crud that’s perfectly legal; and we don’t blame the existence of Strawberry Surprise if they keel over and die. We blame their own stupidity.

This essay points out that people who go to expensive cocktail bars drink a heckuva lot of Red Bull and vodka mixed together, which not only sounds a lot more lethal and disgusting, but is apparently making a lot more money off wideawake drunks than some silly canned thing. But nobody is banning that.

As for Four Loko’s nickname of “Blackout in a Can”, apparently this is the sort of nickname approved by people who routinely drink way too many shots or jello shots. They are idiots who don’t appreciate the real joys of alcohol with taste, but it’s legal to throw down drinks and not remember much in the morning. Goodness know that the respectable ladies at work even do such things on special occasions, so it’s a bit hard to tell legal-drinking-age college kids that their jokes about blackouts get their stuff banned, but ladies their mom’s age doing the same thing are good and pure. More oppressive, fascistic idiocy we don’t need.

Other popular alcohol/caffeine blends: Rum and coke; red wine and coke; mate and red wine; Kahlua (though that’s about as caffeinated as tea) and all its offspring, like White Russians; Bailey’s Irish Cream and all other chocolate-flavored drinks; Irish coffee; all those bits in old novels where somebody puts a nip of brandy into somebody’s tea. This elegant drink called “The Awakening”. Fernet-Branca and cola, or any other liqueur and coffee. And so on.

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Titular Churches

Every cardinal gets a “titular church” to care for. This goes back to the days when cardinals were drawn from the ranks of clerics from Rome, almost exclusively. Giving non-Roman guys a church in Rome gave them a sort of “in” with the possibly hostile Romans, a job that gave them a right to be there and have opinions. There used to be a very small pool of titular churches inside Rome; but the huge number of cardinals these days means that pretty much every church in Rome’s diocesan purview is eligible. :) Some of this stuff is laid down by tradition and association, some of it isn’t.

Cardinal Marx, the archbishop of Munich and Freising (the same see that the Pope once held) got the church of San Corbiniano (St. Corbinian, patron saint of Munich).

Apparently the Holy Father wants his chief canon law judge to have a good excuse to get out of town, every once in a while. He gave the now-Cardinal Burke the titular church of Sant’ Agata de’ Goti (St. Agatha of the De Goths). It’s way outside Rome, in a little town of the same name.

UPDATE: The commenter below is correct and I am wrong. The town and church of “Sant’ Agata de’ Goti” are not the right one! TOTALLY different! Even though the Pope did own big chunks of it! So I apologize abjectly for my pathetic lack of accuracy.

Cardinal Burke has “Sant’ Agata dei Goti”, which was built by actual Arian Gothic tribesmen Goths and is in Rome. Its Latin name is even “S. Agathae in Urbe”, St. Agatha in the City, and used to be “S. Agathae in Suburra”, St. Agatha in the Subura (a bad part of town, in Roman times). It’s actually the only Arian-built church still existing in Rome, but big parts of it were rebuilt in the 9th century, in Baroque times, and in the 19th century. The Goth Ricimer, the “Roman general” and puppeteer of “Western emperors” who built it, is buried in it. It used to belong to the Irish College for a while, so it’s appropriate for a Burke. :) The Churches of Rome Wiki, which is where I should have gone first, has a big ol’ page all about it.

Cardinal Wuerl of DC got the original St. Peter in Chains, which is an interesting and/or pointed choice for somebody serving in the capital of a powerful nation.

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