Saturday, February 08, 2003

William Topaz McGonagall, poet and tragedian of Dundee, has been widely hailed as the writer of the worst poetry in the English language.

I may have to add this to Places Oft. See for yourself if the assessment of his opus is justly pronounced.

I'm thinking of translating the phrase above (currently plastered on every door of the Franciscan shrine here in Boston) into something that resembles the language of honesty. It might take a whole paragraph. Can anyone do it in 20 words or less?
J. Bottum at the Standard

on the poets vs the First Lady. A bit long, jeeyust a bit, this piece, but generally right on target.
Andy Borowitz at JWR

on the French, who remain unconvinced, pending further UN inspections, that there is sufficient evidence of Michael Jackson's having had plastic surgery. Still awaiting the Blix report. Willing to send more nose inspectors.
Bernard Basset, SJ

Not fifty years ago, the highlight of our Godly week was Church on Sunday, an operation demanding our best clothes. In Church, our prayer was worded by priest and choir, our contribution as good Christian children was to behave ourselves as best we could. This weekly Mass was a peaceful, innocent expression of our submission, less to the Almighty than to our innumerable aunts.

In more recent years, the slant towards informality has been increasing and the oldtime disciplines have disappeared. I myself have heard morning and evening prayer discouraged as a middle-class form of hypocrisy. The case against them ran like this, that they pinned our religion down to certain moments when we should be living our faith every minute of the day. This current, happy-go-lucky approach is found on the parish level in the redoubling of efforts towards community, commitment, Christian charity. The fashion is for group discussion, community singing, offertory processions, kissing, organized liturgically. As to words in prayer, the goal is spontaneity. We are back to the gift of tongues and the tongue is much in favor at the moment, with a slight preference for bad grammar and the use of not too many verbs. Silence is out and private prayer if not actually discouraged has slipped into second place.

Bernard Basset, Let's Start Praying Again (Image, 1973), pp. 21-22.
Untitled, 1999

The chancellor of coffee-cups
Is stout and wears a mask of wrath.

He blusters through his coffee-shack
Sentencing phantom miscreants.

Here is a law; there, a fast lock
To keep the knaves in check, forsooth.

This chancellor dispenses rules
Which work like watches, bend like steel :

This is the way the sun must spin.
Without a chuckle, cleansed of quip.

It is obscene that planets dance!
We must be studious, must be plain.

The coffee-kaiser treads the tile
And shouts his edict, heaven take heed!

Rain on the driveway, black as ale :
Sparrows come not to bring good news.

Angels refrain from singing grace
Anywhere near the chancellor's face.

© 1999, 2003 by dylan_tm618
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Prior to the Blizzard of 1978, most weather forecasters predicted 6 inches of snow for the Boston area. We got 27!

For yesterday's storm, we were hearing 1-3 inches, outside shot at 6. We got 12.

Anyway, here's Joe Fitzgerald lamenting New Englanders' lost hardiness when it comes to winter weather. With a fascinating side story about a photographer who didn't want to stay inside, for very good reasons.

Friday, February 07, 2003


If anyone knows the name of that plaintive song played at the beginning and end of last night's episode of Without a Trace, I'd really love to know its name and performer(s). Many thanks!
The Gen X Revert

gives us the Catholic version of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl."

Spotted the link at Eve Tushnet's.

Way cool. Way recommended!
Titles of poems that may soon appear here
with a brief description of each poem's approximate shape, mood & age

1. Mythology [2000. Obscure poem of dangerous emotion, sometimes flirting with pentameter]

2. Bad Weather [A turbo-dorky poem about heavy snow compared to homework. Written when its author was 16. Deliberately awkward enneasyllabic couplets]

3. Loitering with Intent [2001-ish. Exuberantly surreal prose-poem]

4. Kilmerish Rumination on the Infinite Creativity of the Good Lord God as Contrasted with the Somewhat Nifty but Noticeably Finite Creativity of Human-type Artist-Persons [Oh, I write one of these every day! A rhymed couplet of unimpeachable orthodoxy & metrical correctness]

5. Untitled Poem about the Chancellor of Coffee-Cups [1999. Unrhymed couplets of iambic tetrameter, trying to be Wallace Stevens]

Any preferences based on the titles? Any votes?

I could post the depressing one.
meaningless phatic utterance for its own sake
often polyglottal & polysyllabic

john ashbery
dharma & greg
any form of music video type channel
writing song parodies
the smiths

that's six guilty pleasures but well

Case you were curious. Don't want to affix the picture which won't show up.
An eagle-eyed correspondent

sends along this link from the Oxford Student of two Novembers ago. Chelsea blasts the Euroweenies!

"The idea that anyone believes America would enter into this conflict capriciously boggles my mind ... the notion that the United States is acting without regard to the Afghan people is offensive" she says.

I might have a bit more to stay about the current or imminent phase of the war, and my strongest qualm on the matter.

Also, might ruminate on why/how/when the Ecclesia, or many within it, developed an almost terminal dovishness. Perhaps with reference to the Spanish Civil War.

My opinion?

Instead of giving those interviews, he should have had some prolonged encounters with silence.
A celebrity theologian in a wintry season

How could Christians be led back to the sacrament of confession? Its practice appears now to be stuck in a serious crisis.

Certainly it is desirable that the sacrament of confession be more widely practiced again. The question is, of course, how. The simple exhortation to go to confession more frequently has to confront nowadays the argument (and the magisterium has to face up to this) that, according to the teaching of the Council of Trent, auricular confession is only necessary when a Christian has objectively and subjectively committed a really grave sin. And here the old practice of confession, which imposed on everyone the obligation to confess at least once a year, was based on a hasty and quite scandalous assumption that the ordinary Christian committed each year at least one mortal sin. Such an allegation is quite untenable.

From Faith in a Wintry Season : Conversations and Interviews with RENAL HARRK in the Last Years of His Life (Crossroad, 1990), pp. 187-8.

:: :: :: :: ::

And how would you define [yourself]?

I am a Catholic theologian who attempts in absolute loyalty to the magisterium of the Church to rethink Catholic teaching. This I can say in all modesty.

op. cit., p. 155

:: :: :: :: ::

If you could speak to President Ronald Reagan, what would you say to him?

I would say that I do not agree with the way he talks about atomic weapons. He speaks about them without shame and as if they were something natural and self-evident.

op. cit., p. 156

:: :: :: :: ::

How do you see the future of the Church in the year 2000?

The Church in the year 2000 cannot be a European Church exported to every imaginable country. It must be a Church in which Christianity has been inculturated according to the specific traits of each culture. So this Church must be decentralized to a much greater extent than the Roman officials now imagine. Speaking to Italians, I would say that that does not mean that the influence of the papacy in the world should disappear, only that the pope's important role (which can become even more important) cannot be developed according to the criteria of Roman centralism.

Canon Law too must be decentralized much more. Freedom must be given to the great churches of Latin America, Africa, and Asia to formulate their own canonical regulations in their own way. That requires much greater freedom than what is envisioned in the new Code of Canon Law. That code, despite some definitely praiseworthy modifications, has fundamentally only restored the old Canon Law.

The liturgy too must be much more decentralized. And finally, there are questions that are, strictly speaking, ethical ones for which answers must be formulated in a new way. To give an example: How in the context of Africa is marriage to be understood, if one is to remain faithful to the will of God and Christ? Such a question will certainly not be answered by those "poor Africans," if we try to impose upon them a pure and simple repetition of European moral teaching about marriage.

op. cit., p. 187
That's the ticket!
Court people's votes by callin' 'em dumb

From today's gossip column in the Herald :

Shades of Hillary Rodham Clinton - Teresa Heinz has become Teresa Heinz Kerry!

That's right. The first lady-wannabe, wife of presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, has taken a cue from the former occupant of the office and stuck her hubby's surname on her pricey letterhead.

As of today, the ketchup heiress will begin using the Kerry handle.

``She's not going to change her name legally,'' said Heinz Kerry's spokesgal, Chris Black. ``But as the senator campaigns outside Massachusetts and introduces himself to the rest of the country, people found it confusing his wife had a different name. This just makes it clear she's married to him.''

Confusing? You mean, to those dumb reactionaries in the hinterland?

Well, not exactly, but perhaps just atypical of a possible first lady, and slightly off-putting in the echoes of Hillary. It shouldn't matter, but it does. Something akin to bachelorhood being an impediment, or looking as un-Pierce Brosnanish as Steve Forbes.

Remember the sun test of Chris Matthews (finished his book! maybe more to say), and the Wayne/Mellencamp test of d to tha illin'. This JFK doesn't have a ghost of a chance.
Big time personality vibe

from the RENAL HARRK book I took out of the library today, Faith in a Wintry Season, a collection of interviews with the sleb theologian whose name has appeared here too often of late.

The world according to RENAL. Roman centralization : Bad. President Reagan : Needed to be told that atomic weapons are bad. Mind-numbingly boring stuff, sicklied o'er with the pale cast of progressivism. The only attractions are those unintentionally comic moments where he says something absolutely ridiculous with a straight face. A man enamored of his celebrity, all too willing to hold forth to genuflecting reporters on the topic of what the Church should be.

At the beginning of the week, I had no quarrel with RENAL HARRK. Had heard some things, read some things. On balance, good; mistaken on Humanae Vitae. But no quarrel with the man himself. Rather, my primary quarrel was with the petulance of one of his idiotic partisans. HARRK had a more decorous defender, who did not convince me. Reason being, he quoted all these documents, had all the right terminology, but seemed to believe (as some conservatives and all progressives do) that the Church is all about legislation. (The cartographer decides that Vermont is west of New Hampshire.) It's what we say about God that matters, not what God says about us, or hopefully does within us.

Legislation. Why can't we just legislate certain things, and everything will improve, and there will be this bright new springtime after the bitter winter of Roman orthodoxy? See, there's just not enough play in the church, not enough happy mischief. So once we decentralize, whatever that entails, we will have heaven on earth.

This progressive parody of the Holy See as all-intrusive and omni-manipulative. Where does it come from? Does it come from anyone who has really looked at the Church in America in recent years? I can only go, as Meryl Streep said in the dingo movie, on the evidence of my own eyes. And we're not exactly suffering from a surfeit of heavy-handedness, nor from an absence of silliness, of mischief, of trendiness, of -- forgive this rather strong pejorative -- democracy.

After reading, oh, two or three of the interviews in this book, I've got the urge to exorcise my memory with a dose of Fr Straub. Whom I don't especially admire, but I do need a strong antidote.

But while we're on the subject of Roman centralization, why do we have so many problems when we've got a Pope, and Eastern Orthodoxy, without a pope, seems relatively free of the mischief and the dissent and the urge to "update" or to accommodate hoi polloi? Why, if there's this oppressive central government on the RC side, do we have the pastel palazzi and the ALL ARE WELCOME signs? Or is there an oppressive AmChurch government of woolly-headed progressivism where evangelization for the timeless truths is a hanging offense, and should be replaced with "doing community" and the like?

The thoughts of all are invited. The thoughts of many will be entertained.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Write a short poem

using the word "jussive."
Also maybe possibly probably

What the heck, I'll do it now. A few of my least favorite things about a few of my favorite things.

I liked the movie Arthur. And I liked A Fish Called Wanda. And I like Frasier.

But I suspect that Arthur was Hollywood's love-letter to a fellow who had run for president the year before, & was seeking reelection to his Senate seat the following year. Plus, it glamorizes addiction. But it's got Gielgud, and it's funny.

Wanda is objected to on political grounds -- all the pro-commie stuff; America as Otto as Rambo-without-a-jockstrap. A few tweakings of the catholica, as well.

Frasier has as a recurring character very effeminate fellow named Gil Chesterton. Why that name?

Oh, I'm just being hopelessly stuffy ... or not?

On the other hand, I love listening to the anchors of WCVB attempt to pronounce Jesuit. It's permissible, I think, not to zhuzhify the "s," but only if, in the British fashion, you make next phoneme is a "y" -- jez you wit. But of course, that sounds a little like iss yew for ishoo. So, here in the colonies, we say jeh zhoo wit. But jeh zoo it is, it seems to me, heterodox.
Recommended reading

A book by John Cardinal Wright (1909-79) called The Church : Hope of the World (Kenosha : Prow, 1972). Especially for an essay to be found therein, entitled "Faith and the Theologies" (pp. 42-49). Maybe some excerpts upcoming. Among other things, it explains why we don't have to read RENAL HARRK. We may, if we choose, but it's hardly a necessity.
Possibly probably

Am thinking of starting a new recurring feature called Fun with Theologians! or, Stop Playing with your Food for Thought ...

Am still pondering what to say in my post on formalism & personality. Which has been "imminent" since the fourth century. But am also thinking of a post on surrealism. (As you might have guessed, I'm sometimes pro-surrealist. But why? I'm not sure myself.)

Almost posted a disgusting & hilarious excerpt of Stephen Fry yesterday.

I don't like overpriced guppy food.

I do like exuberant Vikings in plaid.

I'm quite tired.
Vermont! Vermont! Vermont!

In the comment box of someone else's weblog (a great weblog, by the way), there's a fellow who says that the Church had better "liberalize" its moral theology, or people will stop coming to church. The Spongian "Christianity must change or die" bit. "Well, no one listens to the Church, everyone dissents from teaching A or B or C." That sort of thing. In an attempt to instruct the uninstructable, I posted the following comment as a reponse to his :

100.0% of Catholics are, in some way, sinners. The Church says : Your purpose in life is to be a saint. She even says : You have the right to be a saint! To be free of the slavery of sin. If the Church were ever to stop saying that, it would cease to magnetize, to energize, to inspire, to encourage. (The word-limit on the comment-box prevented me from saying further : In the last century alone, we saw thousands upon thousands of people giving their lives for this Church which some would have us believe is dying. Is this the sort of ardent faith and holy zeal we find in the progressive churches?)

Now, let's suppose that many Catholics are dissenters. So what? Belief in the existence of God would seem to presume that there's a difference between right and wrong, & that we don't decide that difference. Therefore, when the Church tells us that something is wrong, she's not doing so because some hierarchs decided that the thing was wrong. Any more than a cartographer decides, "Hey, why don't I put Vermont just west of New Hampshire!" Vermont is just west of New Hampshire, and certain things are wrong. The Church won't, & shouldn't change to suit demotic whimsies.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Psalm 6. Domine, ne in furore.

O LORD, rebuke me not in thine indignation, * neither chasten me in thy displeasure.

2 Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am weak; * O LORD, heal me, for my bones are vexed.

3 My soul also is sore troubled: * but, LORD, how long wilt thou punish me?

4 Turn thee, O LORD, and deliver my soul; * O save me, for thy mercy's sake.

5 For in death no man remembereth thee; * and who will give thee thanks in the pit?

6 I am weary of my groaning; * every night wash I my bed, and water my couch with my tears.

7 My beauty is gone for very trouble, * and worn away because of all mine enemies.

8 Away from me, all ye that work iniquity; * for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.

9 The LORD hath heard my petition; * the LORD will receive my prayer.

10 All mine enemies shall be confounded, and sore vexed; * they shall be turned back, and put to shame suddenly.
Written in the dark

The House of Life,

An avarice of sleep.
Of bright regard.

Had tender eyes,
        the demoiselle of dusk.

Rehearsing love, the beads of avenir.

We seek, forsooth.
Lost solace, stripped of crimp.

Vesper obsidian, mark you,
        this be wise.

        minuit, a single

To make matters worse

Eve hasn't blogged in six days !! (As of 7.36 am today.)

Where have you gone, signorina T? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you!

Update, 3.05 pm : The Lord hears the cry of the poor! Blessed be the Lord!

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

A greater sin than being heretical

is being boring.

And this is definitive, infallible teaching, to which all the faithful (readers of & visitors to this weblog) must assent -- because I, Pope Dylanissimus the First and Very Likely the Last, have proclaimed it!

And it is so.

    Eftsoones they heard a most melodious sound,
    Of all that mote delight a daintie eare,
    Such as attonce might not on living ground,
    Save in this Paradise, be heard elswhere :
    Right hard it was, for wight, which it did heare,
    To read, what manner musicke that mote bee:
    For all that pleasing is to living eare,
    Was there consorted in one harmonee,
Birdes, voyces, instruments, windes, waters, all agree.

    The joyous birdes shrouded in chearefull shade,
    Their notes unto the voyce attempred sweet;
    Th' Angelicall soft trembling voyces made
    To th' instruments divine respondence meet :
    The silver sounding instruments did meet
    With the base murmure of the waters fall :
    The waters fall with difference discreet,
    Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call :
The gentle warbling wind low answered to all.
estlin : 7th of the 95

because you take life in your stride(instead
of scheming how to beat the noblest game
a man can proudly lose,or playing dead
and hoping death himself will do the same)

because you aren't afraid to kiss the dirt
(and consequently dare to find the sky)
because a mind no other mind should try
to fool has always failed to fool your heart

but most(without the smallest doubt)believe
no best is quite so good you don't conceive
a better;and because no evil is
so worse than worst you fall in hate with love

--human one mortally immortal i
can turn immense all time's because to why

Monday, February 03, 2003

Karl Rahner and Humanae Vitae

A review from The New York Review of Books, dated 21 years ago tomorrow, of the twentieth volume of Theological Investigations. The reviewer, Thomas Sheehan, finds Fr Rahner to be a very sympathetic figure, indeed -- a congenial antidote to "the fundamentalist vigilantes who each week fill the pages of the National Catholic Register with field reports on what they call the 'guerrilla warfare' that faithless liberal theologians are waging against the Pope."

In the third-to-last paragraph of the review, excluding notes, Mr Sheehan quotes Fr Rahner on "birth control and the ordination of women" and notes that the theologian "is quite emphatic" : "I do not see either in the arguments used or in the formal teaching authority of the Church...a convincing or conclusive reason for assenting to the controversial teaching in Paul VI's Humanae Vitae [encyclical against birth control] or to the Declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith which seems to exclude the ordination of women in principle and for all time."

We proffer this review to suggest that those who have raised doubts about the orthodoxy of Fr Rahner are not to be regarded as hypervigilant.

Perhaps the discussion is hampered somewhat by my being underinformed. But there are those who have taken the trouble to inform themselves adequately, and who have come to the conclusion that -- on certain points -- Fr Rahner's position deviates from that of the Magisterium, and could be considered heterodox. To this untutored layman, the conclusion does not seem eccentric.

Further, we might contrast the ostensible scruple of loyalty which Rahner proferred to the See of Peter, as noted in the Shaughnessy article ("part of [the Jesuit] heritage to a special degree" followed by a qualifying "but") with the enthusiastic proclamation of the Church as a whole that the Roman pontiff is, in fact, the Vicar of Christ. The Pope has been lauded as the visible sign of the unity of all Christians by Billy Graham and Mikhail Gorbachev and just about everyone in between. Others have spoken of an ultimacy of moral authority in the Holy See. Fr Rahner was willing to concede merely that loyalty to the Pope was, to a degree, part of the Jesuit heritage. There is, shall we say, a salient difference.

We concede that the German theologian may have made (and if report be true, did make) many valuable contributions -- but we suggest that others have made contributions, as well. We suggest that it is not eccentric to have a preference for those theologians, apologists, and spiritual writers whose orthodoxy is not in doubt.

And it goes without saying that there are those whose "theological investigations" did scarce progress beyond the prayers learned in childhood -- who are among the saints in heaven.
Dave Barry

gives us his take on The Lord of the Rings II : a LOT More Stuff Happens. Why couldn't they just lose the ring down the sink?
Fred Reed's against the war

You know, the war we're rushing into. The war that hasn't happened yet. The war with Iraq, that's been "imminent" since last summer. The war that gives pastors in the People's Republic of Cambridge auditory hallucinations -- The drums !! The drums !!

Fred is a card, et demi. But in his most recent "diseased ranting; guaranteed reprehensible!" he makes the three mistakes of a good numbra people on his side of the issue :

1. Personal disdain for "George."

2. Oil! OIL! OOOIIIIILLLL !! (Scream the word "oil" loud enough, and it'll be apt compensation for not having a fraction of a point to make. But while we're on the subject, can we please start drilling Alaska?)

3. Confusing clever quips with a thorough knowledge of the issues.

Still, he's almost convincing me.

And more : it'd be entertaining as hell to have Fred in some precinct of the dreaded feddle gummint. Ambassador? Press secretary? State Department?

And, yes, why not go after Bobby Mugabe?
Owen Chadwick
in Michael Ramsey : A Life

[A passage treating of an issue which the Anglican primate Arthur Michael, Lord Ramsey (1904-88, Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-74) was compelled to confront during his primacy, that of women's ordination. Some in the Anglican Communion looked to Roman Catholicism to see if Catholic thinking on this issue was about to evolve.]

In the same year [1970] the Dutch Roman Catholic bishops accepted a resolution that their Church should consider whether women could become ordained. The resulting quarrel was discouraging. Yet three years later one of the two or three most respected theologians in all the Church, Karl Rahner, said that the practice of the Church in not ordaining women had no decisive theological reasons. He did not expect any quick change in the practice of the Church, but the practice was not a dogma and was based simply on a social structure which used to exist and was changing fast. If the next decades made Ramsey look naïve in expecting that the Pope would soon change, he then had reason for his expectation.

Chadwick, op. cit. (Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 283

Sunday, February 02, 2003

And so to bed

... with a wee bit of pre-slumbrous reading, to be sure.

Possibly appearing tomorrow : Surreal, upbeat prose poem. Other good things. Eftsoons.

Flax seeds; or, a meditation on having really cool friends in far away places.

Maybe a snippet (oh, eighteen lines long) of the Sixteenth Century.

Maybe some Dylan Thomas. It's been a while.

Oh, yes, formalism & personality. Where did the idea arise that writing poems with a discernible meter is somehow stifling of a poet's individuality? Examples to be provided.

But this will be tomorrow, at the earliest. Good night, all.
Moon Landscape

A page at about Col. Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut who died yesterday, and about Petr Ginz (1928-44), the young artist killed by the National Socialists at Auschwitz. Including a reproduction of the drawing "Moon Landscape," by Petr Ginz.

Many thanks to The Blog from the Core for directing our attention to this page.
a poem by estlin

crazy jay blue)
demon laughshriek
ing at me
your scorn of easily

hatred of timid
& loathing for(dull all
regular righteous

thief crook cynic
fragment of heaven)

raucous rogue &
vivid voltaire
you beautiful anarchist
(i salute thee
Las Vegas

There's a marathon road race in that fair city this day. I know someone who's running it. Here's hoping she completes the race safely, successfully, and happily.

Update : Mission accomplished! And within two minutes of her target time. Huzzah!
Non in commotione Deus

God does not dwell in turbulence. Found on p. 27 of Let's Start Praying Again by Bernard Basset, SJ (Image Books, 1973).
The W-haters

I'm really getting sick of them. Not many in St Blog's, but they turn up in other explorations. There are, of course, weblogs constructed by junior lieutenants in the pomo Poetburo whose main purpose, it seems, is to abrade.

In terms of the White House cancelling that poetry event when it became clear that it would merely be a forum for sexagenarian adolescents to engage in nose-thumbing, otherwise sharpish souls can't seem to see that Sam Hamill's or Adrienne Rich's opinions on geopolitics might be as, uhm, underinformed, as Donald Rumsfeld's or Colin Powell's opinions on matters prosodical.

Then there's the professor who speaks of "the illegitimate President." Let's suppose for a moment, for the sake of not wanting to wreck Virginia's belief in Santa Claus, that the Y2K election was fixed.

Good! Splendid! Three cheers for the Republican fixers!

We've gotten even for 1960!
Vaclav Havel

The blogger at Summa Minutiae posts an essay by the exiting president of the Czech Republic, and it is a marvel. In "Summer Meditations," Havel speaks of "politics subordinated to conscience" and offers his opinion -- few, if any, would be inclined to quarrel! -- that for any leader "good taste is more useful than a post-graduate degree in political science."