Friday, May 30, 2003

I remember a simpler, kinder, gentler time. A time when a man who brought a box of donuts to the office was hailed as a doer of good, a thinker of others, even--dare I say it?--a hero. Now, that man is reviled, spit on, treated as the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalyspe ("Flab, bringer of weight").

Honestly, you get a more favorable reaction farting in a meeting than bringing a dozen donuts these days.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

It was only in watching that Memorial Day concert that I realized for sure what I had been suspecting for a while: I am over 9/11. I don't mean it can't still set my blood to boiling, watching the footage of the second plane hit, or the fire at the Pentagon, or the hundreds of photos we have all seen thousands of times. I still think the enemy is out there, too, waiting to strike, and I'm still prepared to obliterate those who will not surrender. (As my friend in the Air Force in Qatar says, "Dude, you're getting a MOAB!")

What I mean is much simpler. The prolonged funk and anxiety and depression and so forth has lifted. I can still be brought to grief, but I no longer exist in it. This is mostly a good thing, but I'm worried that some desirable changes in me brought about by that grief (and anxiety) might slip away.
Was anybody else as surprised as I was to see the Our Father and the Ave Maria sung one after the other at the National Memorial Day Concert on the Mall on Sunday night? I have been to the concert half a dozen times, and watched nearly all the other 8 (it's 14 years old) and cannot recall such a religious display, even last year, 8 months after 9/11. It's especially remarkable considering that the show is produced by PBS, and they retain substantial control over its content.
Erosion by Emphasis

A good post at Kathy the Carmelite's blog, and some reaction and additional commentary by Alicia the Midwife. (I think I've started a trend of use the definite article for a middle name among bloggers.) The gist is this: many errors are not so much false as misleading. By changing the emphasis from the main point to a secondary one, a writer can undermine the primary point. To wit: the Eucharist as "celebratory meal" rather than "literal body and blood of Christ." Both are true, but one is obviously the purpose, and the other a nice secondary benefit. But if you emphasize the :celebration" long enough, you eventually forget the True Presence. (cf., Protestant Churches.)
A little bit of a conundrum

We have been told that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. On the other hand, none of us has ever succeeded in moving any, to the best of my knowledge. So, obviously, either mustard seeds contain a surprising amount of faith, or we are even more feckless and rotten that I normally start the day supposing.

But here's the conundrum: if one thinks "My prayer will be answered if only I have enough faith," it seemes likely (and obvious) one does not in fact have the requisite amount. On the other hand, in recognizing that fact, one might possibly overcome it. I'm trying to sort all this out, because I still have not won the Powerball, but on the other hand, some other prayers seem more efficacious.
I was digging in the archives, when I came across this post. I found it funny then, and I find it funny now. So I'm reposting it, whether you like it or not. My blog. My rules.

"What Would Jesus Eat?"

Let's see if I can stir up a new controversy.

"Self-help" Jesus books that can't be far away:

"What Would Jesus Shoot? A Christian Hunter's Guide to Firearms"
"What Would Jesus Boot? Computers that will make you Rapturous"
"What Would Jesus Invest In? 12 Can't-Miss Investments for the Christian Trader, Plus a bonus investment for the one that does go wrong."
"What Would Jesus Bake? A Recipe-filled Follow-up to the Best-Selling 'What Would Jesus Eat?'"
"What Would Jesus Abort? Planned Parenthood's New Translation of the New Testament, with a forward by Rev. Mark Bigalow"
"What Would Jesus Pay? A Christian's Guide to Negotiating Your Best Deal"
"What Would Jesus Sue? A Legal Guide to Christian Guerrilla Judicial Activism"
"What Would Jesus Design? Furniture and Interior Recommendations from the World's Most Famous Carpenter"
"What Would Jesus Cellar? Top Wine Recommendations from the Nation's Top Christian Oenophiles"
"What Would Jesus Sell? Amway's Biggest Catalog EVER!"
"What Would Jesus Use to Survive an Attack by a Weapon of Mass Destruction? Survival Gear for the Christian Who Already Has a Year's Supply of Food Stashed Away in a Plywood Structure The FBI Doesn't Know About"

Please note I hold the copyright to all these titles, and will gratefully sue the pants off anyone who actually publishes a book under these names.

UPDATE: A few more. (Send your own, and I'll list the best ones.)
"What Would Jesus Pave? A Conservative Christian's Guide to Protecting Our Wilderness While Opening Up New Areas to Development"
"What Would Jesus Use? A Deeper Understanding of Christ Through a Deeper Understanding of Cannabis"
"What Would Jesus Join? Clubs and Associations That Won't 'Raise Eyebrows'"
"What Would Jesus Ski? A Vacation Guide for the Saved"

Friday, May 23, 2003

Charities Pledge $19 Million to Jesuit Model Schools
New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 20 — Impressed by the success shown by a network of four Jesuit high schools in working with urban teenagers, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and another major charity pledged $19 million today to bolster the schools and export the model to 12 additional cities.

The Cristo Rey schools, as they are known, began in 1994, and now include schools in Portland, Ore.; Austin, Tex.; Los Angeles; and Chicago. The new money is intended to expand the program to New York City, Cleveland, Denver, Tucson, the Boston area and elsewhere.

The thing of it is this: there are Jesuits involved, and the Gates Foundation gives a lot of money to Planned Parenthood. So I bet there are quite a few St. Blog's readers right now who are rooting for this program to fail.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

A link

Though I have known about this since late September 2001, I've never linked to it before. Nestor is a Jewish immigrant from Russia, a pilot and some kind of computer guy with an office in lower Manhattan. I got to know him through a pilot newsgroup on USENET, and everyone on the group got nervous when he hadn't posted for a few days after 9/11, because no one knew which building he had an office in. He was airborne over Manhattan in his Cessna the morning of 9/11, flying in the VFR corridor that goes over the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty. His photos taken from the air are all on this page. Nestor had actually invited me to fly the VFR corridor with him some time when I was in NYC on business, but I never took him up on it, and now I have very little occasion to go to NYC, so I doubt the flight will ever happen. And even though I have been to Ground Zero, I'm not sure I'm actually ready to fly over that site. So, we shall see. Click here, but only if you want to.
Thursday is Winesday…

I haven’t done a ton of tastings lately: life has had more important demands. But I did manage to find two nice summer wines a few days ago. Simple, refreshing and cheap are the essential qualities for summer quaffing, and Domaine des Nouelles 2002 Rose d’Anjou ($7-$8) possesses all of them. Unlike many pink wines, the Rose d’Anjou has no residual sugar, and so lacks the cloying sweetness of so much California “blush” wine. Made from the Cabernet Franc and Grolle grapes, the wine has a pleasant berry or strawberry scent, and a crisp, acidic, dry fruitiness that would match it well with many lighter summer foods, including mild grilled fish. This wine hails from the Loire Valley in France, which you may have noticed from the frequent reviews of Loire wines, is one of the best sources of value in wine today. The Loire generally produces straightforward, uncomplicated wines, but they are generally well-made and almost always very, very affordable. (An aside: my friend got mad at me for still drinking French wine. She even hinted at hypocrisy because I won’t buy Chinese-made products. Entirely different kettle of fish, I say. My disdain for France right now is entirely political, though it might someday grow into something worse. My disdain for Chinese made goods is entirely moral: until I can distinguish between those made by enslaved children and Christians, and those made by regular folks just trying to earn a buck—as well as not made in factories owned by the PLA—I will continue to avoid the “made in China” label to the maximum extent possible. Don’t want French wine? Great—there’s plenty of other good wine regions in the world.)

Speaking of wine made by good allies, check out the Northern Italian Gavi di Gavi ($9). Made from the Cortesi grape, this white wine is just a pleasure to drink, with a light body, pleasant crispness, and a lovely, green apple and floral nose that is delightful. There is nothing complex about this wine, but again, that’s essential in a summer white.
Final Point on moral idiocy

Some will no doubt at this point begin to tsk tsk at me, and sadly remind me to “let the one without sin cast the first stone.” Frankly, I find this an erroneous position, and the abuse of the story of the adulterous woman to be one of the most significant factors in the creation of the namby-pamby, “tolerant” Christian. When Jesus interrupted the Pharisees, he was not stopping the men from smiting the woman with a really good metaphor. The Pharisees had real stones in their hands, and the woman would have been bleeding and dying a horrific death within a very short time. And Jesus did not affirm her in her okayness at the end of it. He clearly identified her error when he told her to “go and sin no more.”

Jesus and his disciples often used invective when it was the appropriate tool. With much less a claim to holiness than any of those people, I am sparing in when I use it. But I believe it to be a legitimate tool, especially when the objects of it have demonstrated that charity is taken for weakness.
What is a “moral idiot”?

You are owed an explanation for a term that has appeared here a few times: “moral idiot” (or “imbecile” or “retard.” It is obviously not a nice thing to say to someone, and so it gets used sparingly, but the fact that it does get used makes some comment necessary, as a few of you have indicated in comments or email. I know for sure I have used it to comment on anti-war celebrities who don’t like being criticized, and on so-called “volunteer human shields.” In general, below, I will call these people “perps” or “malefactors” during the explanation.

Several factors make someone a “moral idiot,” and they must all be present before the Kairos Guy will use the term.

First, the malefactor must identify a clearly understood moral principle. Second he must demonstrate his opponent’s non-compliance with that principle. Third, he must insist on his own compliance with it. Fourth, the perp’s actual behavior must in fact contradict the principle he claims to be upholding.

So, a person decides that the US is going to wage aggressive and illegal war on Iraq. Appealing to just war principles, the person makes at least a prima facie case for that thesis. So far, so good, as reasonable people can and do disagree on this subject. The perp believes that he has a responsibility to stop the Bush administration and thinks that civilian deaths, especially Western civilians, will do the trick. So he volunteers to go to Iraq to become a human shield.

It is as clear a violation of the rules of warfare to place civilians deliberately in harm’s way as it is to wage illegal aggressive war. Yet the antiwar westerner in this example thinks that the best way to prevent one war crime lies in the commission of another. That is, plainly and simply, moral idiocy. The malefactor believes that his recognition of a violation of a particular moral principle justifies his own violation of that same principle.

HOWEVER, there is one more critical factor that I have not discussed, and that governs my specific willingness to use the term at any particular moment. I reserve the public use of the term for people who intentionally make their moral idiocy a public spectacle. Celebrities who use every public appearance as an opportunity to show their moral superiority, but cannot stand criticism, need public rebuke. In fact, I would go so far as to say that in many instances, public rebuke is absolutely demanded of us. False prophets are to be scorned.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Victor Lams is an Evil genius

And I mean that in the nicest possible way. He is responsible for the excellent "blogtones" you see popping up all over, including here, in the upper rightt hand corner. I had NO IDEA I was so funky and hip.

Unless he's being ironic. (Now you see the "evil" in his genius.)

Thursday, May 15, 2003

In defense of the Society of Jesus

In spite of some heavy recruitment efforts out of High School and into college, I am not a Jesuit, and am not likely ever to be one. But they are the order that formed me in some important ways, and I need to speak up in their defense. The Jesuits are not a subversive monolith. Some of them, in fact, are the furthest thing from subversive. Many of them sound funny to politically and theologically conservative members of St. Blog's because they use a vocabulary that is attuned to their audience, who are generally not politically and theologically conservative members of St. Blog's. In many cases, the real subversiveness of Jesuits lies in subtly and quietly challenging the assumptions of the theologically wimpy and loosey-goosey.

OF COURSE a significant number of them arefairly subversive, liberal types. But I have yet to encounter more than a half dozen members of ANY order without encountering at least one or two subversive liberal types. And when you wind up with as large a number of intelligent smart-asses, as the Society's rigorous formation process weens out many of the rest, you are going to wind up with a large number of mavericks.

But please, stop slandering the entire society. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are protected by the clericalist mentality at the top of the Society's hierarchy. Why--it almost sounds like a microcosm of the Church! And some of the same people who put a snide, parenthetical "of course!" next to the word "Jesuits" in the scandalous news story they have just blogged, get outraged at the portrayal of the whole Church as a bunch of child-molesters.
Reacting to every Tom, John and Mark

This week seems to involve a lot of letting other people write my blog. Reacting once again to a discussion on Tom's and Mark's blogs, about a line from John's Gospel last Sunday. Mark pointed it out: "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again." Tom tried, in good Dominican fashion, to illuminate it: "I think there's an extended transitive relationship at work here. The Father loves the Son. Jesus is the Son Incarnate; His earthly life is the Son's eternal life projected onto humanity. The Father's love for the Son in His Divinity is an exact analog of the Father's love for the Son in His humanity. In this passage, Jesus explains that the Father loves the Son in His humanity because in His Humanity the Son lays down His life in order to take it up again." Now, there's definitely a bit of glossing going on in Tom's explication, since nowhere does the phrase "in my humanity" appear in Jesus statement, and, generally speaking, it is considered that Jesus' own Divinity was concealed from Him during most of his earthly life.

But I'm going to bail on the gloss at this point. John's proto- and crypto-gnosticism make him very hard for me to come to terms with. There's a lot going on in John that is just barely this side of things that became heresies, and as much as I love slicing words to an onion-skin-thinness, I am not smart enough in many cases to see the difference between John's non-heresy and the Gnostics' actual heresy.

Statements like "This is why the Father loves me" fall into this category for me. It sounds so much like the "secret knowledge" the Gnostics were always chasing after. I'm sure there's value in there for people who have eyes to see, but I am as blind to John as a sightless man is to Monet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Feeling epigramatic

Piety does not begin with pretending you are better than you are. It begins with acknowledging how good you are not.
You know what makes me mad at God? the fact that "being a Christian is hard work, and that God intends it to be that way for almost everyone," is not true.

1/4 to 1/3 of all pregnancies result in miscarriages. Some larger number of fertilized eggs apparently never implant. Historically, (and in many parts of the world still) infant and childhood mortality rates meant a large number of live births never resulted in an adult who could be called to account for his or her action or inaction. The overhelming majority of the human race has never had to confront its broken nature, nor do the hard work of accepting sometimes seemingly fleetingly offered help. Most of the people God has invested with life have taken the express lane to the Beatific Vision, while I'm stuck in traffic, with the gas gauge riding the "E", radiator fluid cascading onto the pavement, and a cop who never learned how to manage traffic, directing the flow of cars at the head of the line.

Of course, maybe if I took my car in for scheduled maintenance now and again...
Wine quick hits

Since I have blown off the last couple of weeks, let me just throw a few quick recommendations at you, with only minimal commentary.

For those with a Trader Joe’s nearby, I heartily endorse a wine they stock. (No, not Two-Buck Chuck. I tried it, and it is better and cheaper than “cooking wine” but that is the only purpose to which I would put it.) Marchesi di Montecristo Nerello del Bastardo 1999, at $7/bottle, is a delight. Ripe, medium-bodied, fruity-flavored (if a little one-dimensional), it is a fine accompaniment to many week night meals, or an informal weekend gathering. In terms of value, I’ve had few better cheap Italian wines (though “good-value” and “Italian” are increasingly easy-to-find.)

For those in climates where summer has already arrived, look for South Africa’s Brampton Sauvignon Blanc 2002, $9-$11,which was one of the most popular wines at the wine tasted Mrs. K-G and I hosted last Friday (about which more another time). Nicely fruity, with an absolutely luscious nose, this is a great accompaniment to shrimp of other mild-flavored seafood. The finish is a little wimpy, but that won’t matter if you keep refilling the glasses of your guests.

Finally, for those of a more fortified disposition, you will hardly go wrong with a bottle of Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Porto 1996 at around $15-$18. A friend and I went to a Port tasting at a local retailer a couple weeks ago, and we were both most impressed with this one. Full-bodied, nicely aromatic, smoothly-wooded. There was a ten-year-old Port we both also liked, but at more than twice the price, we both bought this one. When you go to Trader Joe’s, get yourself a bar of their “Pound-Plus Belgian Chocolate,” a bag of almonds, and skip dinner. Go straight for those plus this Porto.
Working in Hollywood these days

[Okay, so I’m not actually IN Hollywood, and I really don’t have anything to do with movie production per se. But I am employed as a contractor by a company that produces movies (including “Holes” and “Ghosts of the Abyss”) so I think that pretty much makes me an expert on the movie biz.]

One of the challenges the movie company for which I work faces, is making entertainment that is both “family friendly” and has something meaningful to say. Few things could be simpler than cranking out more mindless pap, lacking swear words and sexual suggestiveness and any but vaguely implied violence. But, as Kirk Cameron discovered a few years ago, no one is actually interested in paying money to see that sort of thing.

But as soon as you show foul language, or sexuality, or violence—even when you cast those things in a negative light, and glorify them not at all—you immediately arouse the ire of a group who should know better: Christians.

Now, it doesn’t surprise me when the NEA complains about that sort of thing, because the NEA is a secular organization. As such, it has bought fully into the Materialist idea that we are nothing more than animals, and that we, like animals, can be trained to behave in certain ways, and that if we merely avoid showing our children racism, sexism, homophobia, drugs, violence, etc., etc., that these ideas will never occur to kids on their own. (I fully expect an “amygdala removal certificate” to be a school requirement, like vaccinations, before I die.)

But I am appalled, honestly, to find Christians in general and Catholics in particular buying into this nonsense. It is nothing less than heresy.

Christ came not because we were modeling the wrong behavior (hardly any need for him to die on the Cross, if that were the case). He came because we are broken, and no amount of effort on our own part is going to fix us. (Here’s an interesting thought experiment: if time travel becomes possible, how many “Christians” would watch—or let their children watch—the inevitable videotape of the Crucifixion one could buy? Would the USCCB movie guidance page suggest the video be shown or banned?)

Now, I agree with Christians who say that the glorification violence, sex, etc., is something to be condemned. But portraying it is not inherently glorifying, in a well-told story. And portraying it is one of the only ways of reminding people that it is not by our own efforts—not by the efforts of the Materialist circus trainers among us—that we overcome the problems of humanity.

The value of a thing, according to St. Thomas, rests to a large degree in the use to which you put it. (I’m paraphrasing.) A thing used for its intended purpose (intended by God) is good. Used contrary to God’s intentions, in abuse of free will, imparts a negative quality to the act and the actor—but not to the tool.

Violence, sex, language, drugs, alcohol. Admit it: when you see that list, you react negatively. “I’ll stay away from that movie,” you think, even though I merely put the words down on paper. But each of these things has a positive use. Violence in a football game can be magnificent to behold, and entirely blameless. Sex is a gift of God with an entirely blessed purpose. Language is a means of communication, and some communication is entirely appropriate. Heroin is potently addictive, but it also soothes the wounded. Alcohol is a social lubricant, seemingly approved by Christ himself, by its important role in the revelation of his miraculous abilities.

Hollywood’s problem is not the portrayal of these things, but the dishonesty of the portrayal. Their abuse does not usually connect with their inevitable consequences, and I will gladly join anyone who cares to protest this fact. But Christ hung around with the people who made the bad decisions, who abused their free will and had enough sense to see it, and regret. “Family” entertainment needs to be able to show the tax collectors and prostitutes sometimes, if only to be able to show even their salvation.

It is a horrible mistake for a Christian to make, to fail to see the denial of the necessity of Christ that the Materialists have sold us.
I'm baaaaack

Well, at least for the moment. And before I forget (again) I need to tell you what you already know: Dave Pawlak is back on the air as well, at a new blog site, which I will someday update in the margin, but at least post here for now. Pawlak Improv is where you should be going.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

It occurred to me today, after reflecting on the link to the "two genetic fathers" technological idea the other day, that the concept is even more hateful than I first thought. Since a Male is an XY, half the "eggs" "produced" by this technology would have a Y chromosome in them. This could lead to some fertilized eggs having a YY combination. So far as I know, such a thing never occurs in nature, and so perhaps we finally know how the antichrist will come to be....

Friday, May 02, 2003

[aggravated vent mode] It is frustrating to have friends who think that an accepted invitation is a mere placeholder, to be weighed against other, more desirable opportunities. I get really tired, from some younger friends, of this tendency to say "yes" then back out. "I will attend" means "I will attend, unless a funeral, serious illness, or other family emergency arises" not "unless I decide not to." I didn't used to think I was raised any better than most people, but I am increasingly unsure if this assumption was accurate. [/aggravated vent mode]
Wow. The amazing thing is, this appears to be considered a good thing, rather than a horrifying abomination.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

A while ago, Mrs. K-G had a student I mentioned, "in a little bit of difficulty." Unfortunately, that difficulty came to a sad end, but not the sad and immoral kind. Nature tooks its own course, praise be, and spared that child a horrible decision.
Our parenting plan keeps backfiring. We have been so successful teaching T to let go of diappointments and setbacks, and not to be dragged down by them, that we have a hard time getting through to him with the consequences of his actions. He misses out on a baseball game because of rain: "That's ok. This way we get to play together, Dad!" We take away TV/Video privileges for a few days: "That's ok. I watch too much TV anyway."

I think, if he survives adolescence, I'll be happy about this. But I think this attitude also increases the chances I will wring his neck someday. :-(