Friday, December 30, 2011

The Stones of an Tóchar

It is a fact well known among the countryfolk that once in a every year, at midnight on Christmas Eve, the beasts of the stable can speak and converse like men about their—and sometimes our—business. So it happened many years ago that a pedlar, taking shelter on that holy night in a rich farmer's barn, heard the beasts in conference.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In Defense of the Defense of Christmas

As I sit writing, two articles lie near me. One is by a regular blogger at First Things' "On the Square"—a Protestant pastor by the name of Russell Saltzman. The other is by Christopher Hitchens.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Deo et Sibi Similes

There are many, many setting for this carol, but my favorite is the one by T. Pasatieri, sung here by Thomas Hanson (note that Pasatieri's version uses the verses here numbered 1, 2, 5, 12, 3, and 11, in that order).

1. Puer natus in Bethlehem, Alleluia.

Unde gaudet Jerusalem. Alleluia.

Born is a boy in Bethlehem
For the joy of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Descendit Incarnatus

Disclaimer: This is the second post of this sort (previous one here). Because of the nature of this post, and some of the reactions to the earlier post, I feel I should say that (1) this conversation is FICTIONAL; but also (2) I think (as with everything I write) there's some truth in it (otherwise I wouldn't post it). With that in mind—and if it is not to perilous to steal the phrase—duc in altum!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Most Jealous God

My Dear Wumpick,

Of course, you must expect your patient to be excited about—that day. She is a Christian, and it is only natural that her Christianity should provide her with a reason for excitement.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


There are many things about people that puzzle me, but very few which I do not think I could, given a few years and sufficient resources, comprehend. Most of these things are not worth figuring out, e.g., Why does anyone eat pistachio ice cream? I'm fairly sure there's a gene somewhere that explains such insanity, but taking all those courses in DNA sequencing would really set me back in my frisbee game.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Season

Ah, the Christmas season ...

Yes, you read that correctly. No, I don't mean Advent. Christmas. Because, while it is liturgically still very much NotChristmas, it is, based on the decorations that have been up in my office since the Monday after Thanksgiving, the price of air flights, and the attitudes of shoppers everywhere, Christmas in our hearts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Third Day, There Was a Marriage

The Luminous Mysteries were not initially big favorites of mine. For starters, there was the name. Luminous? Seriously? With all due respect, Blessed John Paul, did it have to be something that reminds us of light sabers at best and glow-stick-wearing hippies at worst?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thank Goodness!

I was thinking about Thanksgiving, and how I ought to do some sort of Thanksgiving post. Thankful ... thankful ... I'm thankful for ... Hm.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

With Ever Joyful Heart

Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wumpick and the Abovitists

My dear Wumpick,

I do wish you would stick to your time table. The fact is that none of my advice will do you any good if you do not send in your reports promptly. You complain in your most recent report that my advice on the Slews "didn't apply" to your patient, because your patient was "an intellectual"!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Screwball Divorce

One of the repeated themes of the old Black and Whites was the divorced or alienated couple that gets back together again ("comedies of remarriage," Stanley Cavell called such films). The cynic could view these movies as pure propaganda from a less enlightened age, but that cynical view ignores the humane spirit of the movies themselves and (worse still) ignores the sheer fun that they are.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three Should-Be Thrice-Told Tales, Part 1

Being the sort of person who regularly makes outlandish claims like "Tangled is the best chick flick in the last fifteen years" and "The Incredibles is the most psychologically satisfying drama in the last decade" and "Inception is the most stultifying attempt at cinematic philosophizing since I can't think when," I don't enjoy many modern movies. Oh for the days when female stars could be feminine and tough!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Coming of the Monster

N.B. Title props to Owen Francis Dudley, whose novel of the same name has almost absolutely nothing to do with what I am going to write here.

For years now I’ve had to share my birthday with creeps, spooks, spirits (not of the medicinal kind, from which Scrooge lived “on the total abstinence principle”), specters, phantoms, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, hobgoblins, trolls, gnomes, imps, sprites, elves (oh! many elves), witches, warlocks, wizards (avaunt thee, Potter!), fiends, demons, devils, monsters (non-incorporated), aliens; and the occasional space man, cowboy, or fairy princess.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dead and Dying Thus Around Us

Last month on the St. Austin Review Ink Desk I wrote about "one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen"—and which I saw in, of all places, a train station.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wumpick and the Slews

My dear Wumpick,

I closed my last letter with a promise, you may recall, to look at the temptations your woman faces in living within the modern world—more precisely, those temptations that regard her femininity or, as the modern humans would put it, her "self-image." I said, and it is fortunately unquestionably true, that her perception of herself as a woman will be affected by the images of femininity around her, even if—mark you—even if she disapproves of, dislikes, or actually despises those images of femininity which the culture upholds.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Words Have Signification

We all should be able to blush. Dignity is not real apart from the possibility of shame.

Not too long ago I wrote about bad Christian art. Apparently lot of people share my distaste for the genre—in fact, four bloggers I follow have written on the same subject. Their critiques were all along similar lines; and while I differed with some of the detailed criticisms I found myself nodding my head, chuckling, and rolling my eyes with the other bloggers—

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Patience and Anger

I will be patient as my day is long,
Proverbially soft and quick to please,

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Joanne's Choice

A repost from the other blog.

It was California, in the autumn of 1954, and a graduate student named Joanne had a problem. She had been having an affair with a Muslim immigrant, a man her father did not want her to marry; and she was pregnant. These were the days before abortion was socially acceptable, and Joanne decided to give her child up for adoption.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Brown v. Williams-Bolar"

Once upon a time it could be difficult to get your children into a neighborhood school. It all depended on your parents: if they were one sort of people, your child walked a few blocks to the nearest school; if they weren't, your child went miles to attend a school that had people like you. There was no law—not anymore—saying things had to be that way; but on the other hand there was a long-standing custom that they should be. Any other arrangement would have been liable to make people uncomfortable. Better that everyone stayed with their own kind.

Then along came Brown v. Board of Education and the accompanying cases, "separate but equal" was revealed for the lie it was, and school busing began.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Wumpick and Woman

My dear Wumpick,

The one thing you must on no account forget is that your patient is a Woman. You must never assume that merely because a temptation or technique works well upon a man (I understand that your previous patients have all been men? It shows, Wumpick; it shows ...) that it can be applied with equal success to the opposite sex.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

For Their Own Sake

Everything you need to know is in the headline:

Pregnancy Expands Vision.

Trrrrry Pregnancy! It's good for you! The inevitable demise of Social Security will cease to be a subject of concern. Your wish-fulfillment dreams will be fulfilled. You'll be able to throw out those anti-depressants and hypertension pills. Your marriage will be more stable. You won't get breast cancer. You will have visions!! see angels!!! (Oh, wait ... not that kind of vision ... ) You will create great art! (Somehow less exciting, but still kinda nice.) See, see; pregnancy is good for you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The First Deadly Sin

This is (hopefully) the first pair of poems in a series on the Seven Deadly Sins and the virtues opposed to them. Ehhhrrrr . . . enjoy?

It's true the truth would little flatter me,
But still I loathe my half-true hidden state,
For fear that my acquaintances might see
Some stains upon my soul, nor care how great

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Paycheck from Peoria

Them evolutionists got me upset.

It's not because they're all atheists and materialists and other things that disagree with me. I don't mind disagreements in the form of rational arguments. In fact, my addiction to rational argument is only slightly less strong than my addiction to sarcasm, which is proportionally less strong than my preferred brew of coffee. If reductionary evolutionists argued rationally for their beliefs—if they took pot shots at the Five Ways, for example—I might still have bones to pick with them, but the picking would be pleasant. But reductionary evolutionists don't much care for philosophical argument.
(Yes, click the link. No, those are not reductionary evolutionists. No, it's not relevant, except for 1:40-1:56. What, you wanted me to find just that exact sixteen seconds on YouTube? Sheesh . . .)

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Problem with Perry

There are a number of "problems" with Rick Perry. He's Texan. He's friendly to creationists. He ordered mandatory HPV vaccinations for teenage girls. He fights a dirty campaign. Some of these probably will be problems if he gets nominated, and some of them probably should be. (As is typical in politics, the ones that should be problematic probably won't, and the ones that shouldn't be probably will.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Angelus ad Virginem

It's really a piece for March 25th, but I couldn't think of anything else for the occasion—and it seems shameful to let Our Lady's birthday go by without notice!

1.Angelus ad virginem
Gabriel the angel came
Subintrans in conclave.
To Mary's room so softly,
Virginis formidinum
Calmed the Virgin's humble fears
Demulcens inquit "Ave.
And spoke in sweetness lofty:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Dear Wumpick ...

In an admittedly dubious and belated homage to Labor Day, with respect to those who've done this sort of thing far better (including Mary Eberstadt, Peter Kreeft, the forgotten Joseph A. Breig, and the master of them all, C.S. Lewis):

My dear Wumpick,

I am a little perplexed by your statement that you patient is lazy. In what do you suppose laziness among humans consists? Surely you do not think that mere dissatisfaction with their labors is enough to make them lazy or, in the Enemy’s eyes, guilty of the capital sin of Sloth?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Knowing God's Will

I hate decisions. (If you really want to know how much I hate them, imagine that last sentence uttered with the spittle-spewing, rage-in-defeat-induced vigor of Mad Madam Mim.) Oh, how do I hate them? Let me count the ways . . .

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Ingenuous Pessimist

Props (and apologies!) to W.S. Gilbert.

Deny them your attention and they'll claim it all the same,

These critics who decry the culture, placing all the blame

For misery on music and immodesty on dress;

Who regret our use of money but who earn it nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Let it first be said: I have not (knowingly) listened to a single recording by Amy Winehouse. I'm in no position to comment on her musical ability—which, if many of the obituaries are to be believed, was great—or on her style of music—which, I'm just going to guess, would not have pleased me at all. Her very public life, however, is another matter. Amy Winehouse was one of those people about whom you would hear even, and perhaps especially, when you'd rather not. Still, I would never have written about her had it not been for this piece in The Independent.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Meandering Towards the Perfect

Yesterday I attended an excellent talk on the cultural effects of social media. The speaker (John Mark Reynolds) unsurprisingly identified himself as a conservative, but went on to give a rather surprising definition of the breed to which he claimed to belong. Conservatives, said Dr. Reynolds, are people who “muddle through.” Between the easily defensible licentiousness of the libertarians and the equally easily defensible paternalism of the progressives, conservatives often find it hard to explain why they think some things should not be regulated by the government while others should. We tend not to see the policy world in black and white. (The moral world, of course, is another question.) And sometimes our apparent inconsistency (“Wait—you’re against abortion—but in favor of the death penalty??!!”) can make us appear . . . well, muddle-headed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Defense of Not Being Christian

Attention all Christian writers, bloggers, apologists, personalities, painters, sculptors, singers, musicians, composers, clock-makers, dress-designers, cobblers, DJs, plumbers, cooks, and chimney sweeps.
Just don't. You are so embarrassing me.

Friday, June 10, 2011

On "Dark Stuff"

I try not to be lazy, but it happens. I haven't been this lazy before—not lazy to the point of actually reposting something from the StAR blog here, or vice versa—but today is the day . . .

Laziness is only part of it, of course. This is an issue about which I care very deeply, as the following will hopefully make clear.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"The Gods Too Are Fond of a Joke"?

"Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit."

I have been remiss in writing for this blog lately, though not, I hasten to add, remiss in writing in general. Indeed, my general excess of activity in that area probably has something to do with my slacking here. Why spend the (little and it seems eternally shrinking) time I have to write in writing essays when song lyrics and snappy bits of dialogue are popping in and out the rabbit holes of the head? Why worry about the nature and destiny of man when the obvious problem at the moment is finding the right rhyme for "changes"?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our Mother Stood

For some time now, I've wanted to devote an essay to the laughter of Christ. Somehow, that just didn't seem appropriate during Lent! and as I procrastinated and the season grew later it became even less so. Hopefully come Easter week I will have something on the topic worth posting.

In the meantime, and in honor of the Holy Week we are about to enter, here are some thoughts on the "Stabat Mater."

Let me remind you briefly of how the hymn begins. In the Latin:

Stabat mater dolorosa
juxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The New Imperialism


From: Mork

To: Orson

Re: Speech given by President Obama, March 28th, 2011, concerning the conflict in Libya


What follows is a rough translation of the transcript of the American President's speech to his people. Although the speech was delivered in something that sounded like English, I found it perplexing at the time (despite my long experience among these people) and was forced to resort to a translator who interpreted the Fearless Leader's thoughts with Orkan clarity. I may say that I found his interpretation enlightening, and trust that Your Immenseness may think the same.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Of Difficult Answers

What on earth is the use of an anonymous (or semi-anonymous) blog if you can't occasionally sound off about something that has riled you to bursting point?

The world is full today of people who are wrong, terribly wrong, about all kinds of things—things as important as abortion and as trivial as the number of piercings a woman should tolerate in her young man. (Answer to the last, in case you were wondering: None.) People who are wrong don't usually trouble me; at least, they don't put me out of temper. You can pray for them, laugh at them, argue with them or about them. You may not change their minds, but you can try. People who are wrong are rarely occasions of sin, qua being wrong. The ones who are intolerable are the ones who are sure they're right.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Foresight of One Gabriel Marcel

Recently (through a chain of circumstances that is probably completely irrelevant to anyone reading this blog) I found myself embarked upon a first reading of Homo Viator, the large, wordy, and occasionally weighty tome of the Christian existentialist Gabriel Marcel. (I believe, having gotten perhaps a third of the way through, that he deserves the name "existentialist," his own protests to the contrary not withstanding.) I call this a first reading, and it has been worth while; but I find myself rather hoping against ever having to perform a second: existentialism is neither psychologically nor philosophically appealing. It also seems to me that with Marcel, as with Kierkegaard and Pascal, this ceding to the enemy of huge territories at the start—this refusal to fight for the premises upon which older western philosophies were based—is a rhetorical and tactical mistake of the first order.

But I come not to bury Marcel, but to praise him—praise him in a limited way, but praise him nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Noblesse Oblige

Among my many debts to Dorothy L. Sayers I must include my introduction to the phrase “noblesse oblige.” I was reading her novels as a young teenager, and the concept was as new to me in reality as the name was. It was only in college that I ran suddenly up against (and became convinced of the reality of) class distinctions.