Thursday, January 31, 2008

on san francisco

the tenor of this town
is in step with my swing
but i can't help but wonder
is that such a good thing?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

it is already Wednesday

and all I can say is EGAD!


Must leave this coast for a 8-9 day respite in only 10 days!!!

All's well that begins, continues, and ends well.
That whole deal about simply wanting to end well never made sense to me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I love Hilaire Belloc,

and that is that. This quote will undoubtedly convince you of his greatness. If it does not, please leave me alone forever and ever. Amen.

"Then let us love one another and laugh. Time passes, and we shall soon laugh no longer--and meanwhile common living is a burden, and earnest men are at siege upon us all around. Let us suffer absurdities, for that is only to suffer one another." - Hilaire Belloc

On Dancing

The twirls and spins delight the mind
by binding, sealing, shutting fears
and as I twist to wind and wind
We leave the world with wines and beers

Oh thanks to God for days of fun
and rest from work that crushes mind
instead let's hope for brighter suns
and in peace see we can unwind.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

our weak world

My wife picked up a bookshelf from target today. She could put it into the cart and then into the trunk, but going any further would probably do damage to her ~ 24 weeks pregnant frame. As I went outside to carry it from the car to the apartment, I noticed a sign on the box that got me annoyed with whomever wrote it down.

To my disgust, it had an advisory saying that 3-4 people should carry it! Now, I'm kicking myself because I can't find the exact shelf on, but the point is, it wasn't more than 100 pounds. I carried from the car the 30 or so feet to the spot where it belonged in our apartment with no stress or worry that my back would be strained, and I'm a sissy boy intellectual!

Seriously people, do we need a sign to tell us how many people are needed to lift a particular box? And do we also need that sign to make it such that 3 people are lifting about 40 pounds each (and that's a maximal estimate--I'm guessing this thing was about 80 pounds)? I could see how maybe 2 people would be needed to hold the thing, but ultimately we should be big enough to know if something is too heavy for us. I'm sure it was a protective move to ensure that no lawsuits happen, but it really was laughable to think that 3-4 people would be needed to carry this thing.

We live in a society that is tailor made for weakness and litigious stupidity. It must end, and it will end when we start taking on more responsibility for ourselves.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Primary Colors (or the lack thereof?)

Has anyone else wondered why we should care about the presidential preferences of states like Iowa and New Hampshire, whose ethnic background is 91% and 97% white, respectively?

What sort of prognosticating power could such homogeneous lands have on a country that is much more of a melting pot in character?

This assignment of importance to those states that have caucuses or primaries earlier in the year reminds me of the ridiculous superstitiousness that pervades our society in other realms, such as Groundhog's day.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2007-The Year in Books

Because a good friend of mine has posted his reading list of 2007, I thought it would also be appropriate to step back and list the various books that I was able to get through before the ball fell down in Times Square. As I look at the list I am happy to have read or reread these various books (and I realize how much time I spent studying Roman Catholicism!) but wish I would have had the time to have finished others which occupy a huge pile throughout my home.

I'm not sure if this ordering is the best, but it is what it is. There are also some other books that I checked out from libraries, and since they're not around I can't rouse my memory to be sure that I read them in 2007. Combine that with the size of this list, and I chose to omit them. Maybe in 2008, I'll be more systematic and write
book reviews as I go.

Out of the Silent Planet - C.S. Lewis

This introductory book from Lewis' trilogy is great on so many levels-he sets the stage for a crazy dystopic future seen in That Hideous Strength. Due to time constraints and my own worries over this country's direction, I abstained from going past the next book.

Perelandra - C.S. Lewis

The world of spirits and planets is explained on a deeper level as Ransom travels to a second planet. I love the reflection on how different planets have different modes of expression. Is it sexist? Methinks not.

Till we have Faces - C.S. Lewis

My favorite book of all of Lewis, perhaps because in this Greek myth retold he comes closest to using his knowledge of the classics and applying it to his own writing, which is something that makes me love Tolkien so dearly.

The Four Loves - C.S. Lewis

This book which is also on audio is something I listened to as a young teenager, and now that I've experienced love and the lack thereof on deeper levels I find his insights all the more witty and telling of the human condition.

The Gambler - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I'm glad to say that I've read the gambler--here Dostoyevsky deals with the trivialities of society and the way in which those things can enslave people and ruin families.

Notes from the Underground- Fyodor Dostoyevsky

This could be my new favorite by my Russian friend. He doesn't develop characters in this story the way that he does in the Brothers K, etc., but the depth of the emotion that is conveyed by the writer as he shares his frustrations and near insanity is beautifully done.

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

I mentioned above that taking legend and retelling it in a new light is beautiful to me--so I had to go through old faithful and read this with my son (again). Always a delight to read his work, and I'm looking forward to the movies in 2010 and 2011.

The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien

Every time I read these books, the little side stories grow in my mind for they can come into closer focus as the rest of the book is almost memorized by me. Just thinking about Barrow Wights was enough to make me so happy to reread this book.

The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien

Ditto on this one-thinking about Kreeft's analysis of this book was also on my mind as I read this, in just thinking that this book is ultimately about Sauron, who is the Lord of the Rings may sound like an obvious thing to you, but hey, I miss obvious points all of the time!

Christianity for Modern Pagans - Peter Kreeft

Speaking of Kreeft, I had seen this book at my church's book table which is purchased via the honor system. Then when I saw it at the library I got to check it out. It reminded me that I wanted to read Pascal, and brought a lot of important thoughts to mind about what it means to believe, and what should be said in sharing this faith with others. In this book he quotes portions of Pascal's Pensees and reorganizes them based on topics that he thinks, while he provides his commentary on the Pensees.

Pensees - Blaise Pascal

Wanting to get the words straight from the horse's mouth, I went to read the Pensees as Pascal wrote them, and I didn't skip the chapters that Kreeft skipped for the sake of clarity and brevity. At times I thought this concoction was a mad mess, and at other moments I saw how he would present the world from both the view of one who believes in God and from the view of the skeptic. The madness that exists in the text is merely the natural consequence of these different perspectives colliding, and when I looked at it that way, I saw the grandeur of the Pensees.

The Winter of Our Discontent - John Steinbeck

Steinbeck has been on my "to read" list, beyond Of Mice and Men, that is. Winter of Our Discontent was a great story about what it means to be a successful American, which is something near and dear to me as I pursue a career that seems to be both very successful and hopelessly underappreciated in terms of work vs. pay.

The Trial - Franz Kafka
I will admit that I do not like Metamorphosis, which is supposed to be his best. But this book was turned into a movie by Orson Welles, and while that one is a bit hard to follow, I had to read the book since my hero had made a movie of it. This was no Metamorphosis--I really enjoyed the paranoia and despair of a world beset in self-contradicting laws. The threat of a government that is so big that we can't be sure of what we are charged (habeas corpus, anyone?) is portrayed in a gripping way, and I have to say that the changes Welles made did not improve this great book. Definitely a must read.

Stonewall Jackson : The Black Man's Friend - Richard G. Williams Jr. and James. I. Robertson Jr.

Living in Maryland has put the War of Northern Aggression on my mind, and this analysis of how a religious man like Jackson could still support the South was a great read. Instead of casting things in light of national policy, in this book we see the world of Jackson and the local blacks in his town, as he sought to teach them to read in violation of laws, so that they would develop a heart and mind for the truth. The mere fact that there is a stained glass window dedicated to Stonewall Jackson in the local church that the freed slaves attended was enough for me to see that underneath the oppression of slavery, the goodness of humanity persisted and prevailed. That it would have prevailed without a war costing 600,000 lives is, of course, a matter on which we could debate, but it is a position that I maintain.

At The Helm - Kathy Barker

This book is a divergence from the others--it's almost a manual on what it means to be the boss of a lab. I enjoyed the stories on what it takes, but at the same time my fear and uncertainty on this career path grew.

Nothing Feels Good - Andy Greenwald
I was mailed this book by a friend who instructed me to burn it upon reading it. This analysis of "emo" as a genre and a state of mind had some interesting vignettes but was overall a silly analysis of culture where the blog as a medium was the apex of being "emo". Ending a few years ago he wrote as though there would be no new "emo" as personalization found its true expression on the internet. The point is--the book is well emoted (ha!) but not thought out well. Maybe he was truly being emo in so doing.......

Orson Welles:Hello Americans - Simon Callow

Callow's second book on Welles did not let down from his first great work on the earlier phase of Welles' life. Here the pace slows down dramatically and we spend about 400 pages reading about what transpired in 6 or 7 years or so. As you can guess, a lot of detail is put into this story, but it is done in a way that is exciting. As both a comment on one man's life and the overall culture of the world in which he lived, I commend this book to all. It also gave me ideas as to what movies of his to track down next. Having seen MacBeth and Jane Eyre since, I can say that I've not been let down by Callow's descriptions!

Orson Welles Remembered - Peter Prescott Tonguette

This book is a straightforward collection of interview quotes from people who knew Welles. It sounds boring but the subject is not, and so this makes for a great read.

The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism - Louis Bouyer

After Francis Beckwith's reversion to Catholicism, I began focusing on this matter with more seriousness. This book was bought for me by a friend in the summer of 2005, but I didn't touch it until the spring of 2007. This book is a very thought-provoking work, where Protestantism as an idea is described as in agreement with Roman Catholicism. Bouyer lays the charge that the things that are actually unique about us as Protestants are the very areas where the Spirit of Protestantism is choked out by varying forces such as nominalistic philosophy. A must read, in my opinion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church - The U.S. Catholic Church (I guess that's the author, if you trust

This book was hard to read all the way through, but I thought that if I wanted to be "fair and balanced" that it was necessary to do. It was an interesting endeavour.

The Roman Catholic Controversy - James White

This book was one by the author of a book that I formerly loved, and now I think may have been based on the fervor of angst towards an idea. I looked to see what his strongest points were, but am now convinced that any criticism of Rome must not come from this way of argumentation. That's all I'll say on this thread, at least.

Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences - Norman L. Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie

This assessment of the differences between Catholics and Evangelicals varies in terms the view of how much Protestants and Catholics have in common. I suppose that's why it was worth reading. Other than that it gets a bit tiring to read, though I suppose showing how many ways you can skin this cat of ecumenism is a worthwhile pursuit.

Called to Communion - Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (the theologian now known as the Pope)

Many people have told me that the current Pope is a great writer, so I sat down and read one where the issue of unity from the Catholic view would be a good way to start. The book is a very deep read that I think I'll reread in 2008.

Rome Sweet Home - Scott and Kimberly Hahn

This is a personal narrative by a former Presbyterian minister gone Catholic and his wife. It describes why he was interested in Rome, which helped me understand (I think) why many have done so through the years. No matter what they said, I still don't see the beauty of the Rosary, at least as it is expressed by most people who don't even know what the mysteries are about.

Hail, Holy Queen - Scott Hahn

Speaking of the Rosary, this book by Hahn is a defense of the Roman Catholic view of Mary. He presents her as a new Eve and the ark of the new covenant, which was an interesting concept. I have heard from some that elements of this book are not standard among Catholics, so I don't know what to think about this issue.

Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church - H. W. Crocker III

This popularized narrative of the history of the Catholic Church presents a defense of Roman Catholicism as it was followed by kings and princes and paupers throughout its inception up to the present day. I wanted to read this to have a grasp of how a Catholic looks at things like the Inquisition, and reading this was a good way to learn about it. He seems to come across as harsh to the Eastern Orthodox, but overall his defense is couched in asking whether a particular injustice was coming from the church or its followers--that's an important question to ask.

How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization - Thomas E. Woods Jr

Much like the previous book, this book analyzes history from the Catholic perspective. Its focus is more on concepts such as art, architecture, science, etc. I probably enjoyed each page of this book more, but it feels piecemeal at the end, whereas the Crocker book feels more systematic. Overall, these books written in defense of Catholicism remind me that as Protestants we have only been around in our form since the 1500's. 500/2000 means that roughly 3/4 of the Church's existence was lacking our presence, so understanding the good of Rome is I think a must for all Christians, despite our assessment of any of their wrongs-doctrinal, philosophical, or structural (or anything else).

Simply Christian - N.T. Wright

This is N.T. Wright's version of Lewis' Mere Christianity. I liked it but kept wondering what it means--where should I go to church in his opinion? Is he a relativist on the matter of Anglican vs. Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Eastern Orthodox, etc.? That's the big problem I have with ecumenism based on determining what our faith's lowest common denominator is.

The Shape of Sola Scriptura - Keith Mathison

Because of my readings on the Catholic view of Scripture, I gave this book a read. I was disturbed by what seems to me like an arbitrary distinction between Sola Scriptura and what he terms as Solo Scriptura. Ultimately, the importance of creeds comes to mind, as Mathison and others have attacked heterodox views such as hyperpreterism by appealing to the Apostle's Creed. If the Scripture alone is our rule of faith, why seek to find historical precedent outside of Scripture? Either we are not consistent, or our true rule is bigger than Scripture.

Orthodoxy - G.K. Chesterton

I grew in my love for British wit as I read this Catholic luminary's view of the Apostle's Creed and faith in general. 2008 will be full of this man's work, as I loved the way he could turn a phrase and cast things in a new light as his argument developed. A MUST READ!

The Language of God - Francis Collins

This book, by the director of one of the NIH's Institutes, presents the case for a version of theistic evolution that gives evidence of God via a principle that he terms as Biologos. Overall, I think it strange that the same sort of design arguments that are used by Paley and his modern associates seen in the Intelligent Design Movement are not palatable, whereas cosmological arguments for design that have the same logical construction are all well and good. I'd like to talk to him about the differences between biological evolution and cosmological evolution, and why one points to design while the other doesn't.

Darwin Strikes Back - Thomas Woodward

This book details the way in which mainstream scientists have responded by and large to intelligent design proponents. The main question I have after reading it is, so what are the ID proponents going to do to show that they practice science? I have heard a lot of rhetoric and discussion of ID's foundations, but "publish or perish" must drive that movement if it wants to gain credibility.

The Edge of Evolution - Michael Behe

Speaking of gaining credibility, Behe did make a good stride in defending his position with this book. He discusses exactly what has been observed in experimental analyses of evolution, especially with the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The results of such reflection leads one quite underwhelmed by what has been seen. His argument that evolution fills in the gaps of the structure of life in a manner similar to the spandrels of a cathedral is especially interesting. Sure to bother creationists and Dawkins-style evolutionists alike, it was an interesting read.

WHEW!!!! So that was 2007 in books for me. 2008 is already off to a good start!

2007--a year surveyed using silly questions....

I posted this within a comment box on a friend's blog, but I spent so long on it (and I wouldn't mind reading someone else's responses), so I decided to put this here too....

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before? Truly enjoy sushi.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? To a degree, but those are made privately so I shall divulge no further.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Physically, no.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Yes-both emotionally and physically.

5. What countries did you visit? Canada--Banff was a great town, and I must say that their Rockies are superior to ours.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?

7. What date from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Hm....083107-my last birthday in my other day sticks out in my mind.

8. Did you change? For the better, (super)naturally.

9. Are you happy with the year over all? I can't be happy with a period of time as large as a year---too much injustice and hatred to cloud out my thoughts of joy that can be seen on a day to day basis.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Only emotional wounds.

11. Are you going to change something about yourself next year? I'm going to work out again.

12. Do you think 2008 will be a better year than 2007? Year, shmear. Who knows who will be be elected, etc. I am a mere butterfly.

13. Did you go to an amusement park? Went to Disneyland--the 29 year streak is still on, despite living in Maryland.

14. Where did most of your money go? Paying off the seemingly insurmountable debt that crushes my will to live when I give it a moment's thought.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Ron Paul, great literature, great music, great movies, etc.

16. What song will always remind you of 2007? "All I Need" by Radiohead-it's more proof that C is the best chord in the galaxy.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:happier or sadder? Every year I feel both emotions on a deeper level than the year before.

thinner or fatter? definitely fatter, but the rollercoaster is at the top of the hill and we are getting ready for an exciting drop and hope for no more hills in the future!

richer or poorer? richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I'd spent more time with my kids.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Working jobs that mean nothing to me.

20. Did you go on a summer vacation? We went to California-it was decent.

21. Did you fall in love in 2007? No, my wife would kill me if I did.

22. 23. What was your favorite TV program? My Name is Earl, The Sopranos.

24. Do you dislike anyone now that you didn’t dislike this time last year? I'm always meeting new people, so yes.

25. What was the best book you read? This is tough to answer. I think I'll go with Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky or Orthodoxy by Chesterton.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Another tough one...I guess it would have to be Belle and Sebastian, though I speak of the fervency of my appreciation of them, as they're not new to me.

27. Who do you think you were on the phone with the most? I try to distribute minutes freely, with a bias towards fellow T-Mobile customers. Those that come to mind most in that sub-fraction would be Ben and Jim.

28. What did you want and not get?
A house.

29. What was your favorite film of this year? The Darjeeling Limited

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? If I remember correctly, we just hung out at home on the day when I turned 29 and Jonathan X. turned 7.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Having the NIH move to California.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007? Old Faithful

33. What kept you sane? A sense of connection to history, and a generous set of drinks after a hard day's night.

34.Did you ever go to the hospital ? Just once, outside of visits to Building 10 of the NIH.

35. What political issue stirred you the most? Ron Paul for president!!!!!!!!!!!!!

36. Whom did you miss? Christopher Dallas Helwig

37. Who was the best new person you met? No one really comes to mind there.

38. Did you get a tattoo? NO, and I think I'm done.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

If your right hand is causing you pain
Cut it off, cut it off
If your colours have started to run
Let them all run, run away from you

There is lightning in this room
Above our heads, waiting to strike
I'm a thinker not a talker
Put your faith, your faith in God

We were hoping for some romance
All we found was more despair
We must talk about our problems
We are in a state of flux

I'd kill for an adventure
Just you and I, in the Curzon Bar
Dancing till we knew
So all that we've learnt disappears

When you shouted at me
I saw my father in the second grade
Concerned and kind
Yet unable to reach me

We were hoping for some romance
All we found was more despair
We must talk about our problems
We are in a state of flux

State of flux

We need to talk

We were hoping for some romance
All we found was more despair
We must talk about our problems
We are in a state of flux

Monday, January 7, 2008

long time no ramble

This being the first week that is 100% 2008, I think I can begin to post again.



Let's get ready to ramble!!!

Friday, January 4, 2008

21st century heaving men - part one of one

The pain was unbearable. He grasped his chest and felt the tell-tale numbness in his arm. It was over, and he knew it. Or at least, he feared it.

A lifetime of ignoring prudence had him smoking, drinking, consuming fatty foods, and taking every available opportunity to lounge about his home watching reruns, sports, infomercials, you name it.

As the paramedics bravely crossed the threshold to take him to the doctor, he lost consciousness.

The fuzz in his sight did not erase the heartless clarity that can only be found in the lights that illuminate a place such as an Emergency Room. The attending entered and said, "I'm sorry, sir. Your arteries are blocked. Do you know the best way to end this blockage? A lifetime of dieting and exercise such as running, of course. Since this is ideal, we have brought this." He wheeled around in perfectly imitated Vanna White fashion to show that our corpulent crusader had won the grand prize of a treadmill.

"Up you go, Mr. X. We'll start you off at a smooth pace of 9 minute miles, and see how you feel."

Shocked and in utter disbelief, our friend looks at the doctor with a smirk of hatred and incredulity. "If you say so. I'll do my best, but it's been a while since I've been to the gym."

He ambled slowly onto the treadmill, and the doctor turned it to the speed of 9 minute miles.

He struggled to accelerate in perfect synchrony with the unfeeling machine, and as he did, he stumbled to the floor.

Flatline. Say your prayers, pay your respects, or mumble something about the futility of our human existence, just don't expect to see this man walking on the earth again. The cure was worse than the disease, and now he has left this fragile plane of existence.


Postlude I

Now dearest reader, what do you have to say to our attending physician? Could Hippocrates' oath have been trampled on with any more ferocity than to be so callous and unmindful of the situation? Perhaps, but I've never witnessed something on that scale.

But then again, I'm a sheltered lad.


Postlude II
Like my other posts entitled "fictitious fiction for foul figments", where I discussed a fake war and a fraudulent syndrome, this story completely contrived. Any resemblance to those living or dead is regretful and inevitable, but most importantly, coincidental. In this instance, I think it's worth considering a medical practice that operates in this fashion because it illustrates the insanity of curing a country through immediate application of good principles. It's a big reason why I think the majority of voters cannot understand the greatness of Ron Paul. They are seriously ill with a disease of consumerism and dependence upon the government. It would have been prevented by following the Constitution. The question that I have, which I think is illustrated well in this brief allegory, is how can we go from our political philosophy that has more in common with a couch potato than George Washington, and return to the greatness of our founders? Are we doomed to die, or is there a sensible road back that people can embrace? God, how I hope that the latter is true.