|The Goliard Blog
Your destination for deep thoughts and alleged insights
10 May 2002
The Goliard has left the building (but only until Monday). This week brought record numbers of visitors to The Goliard Blog, due in large part to a mention by the great InstaPundit, and so I would like to once more bow respectfully in his direction, and also thank everyone who stopped by this week.
I'm off to the ballpark again on Sunday, so if you're making any wagers on the sports books in Vegas, I recommend betting against the Atlanta Braves. Ciao for now.posted by The Goliard | Link |
New shameless commerce division. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that I have added an electronic "Tip Jar" over there on the left. Like other weblogs, The Goliard Blog is entirely free, and the primary satisfaction your humble author gets from this venture is (and always will be) the simple joy of writing things that other people enjoy reading.
But cash is a nice reward too. I'm not talking about huge sums (unless, of course, you just happen to have a huge sum of cash on your hands and you don't know what to do with it). Just a few bucks from a satisfied reader now and then—a little tip for a job well done—would be most appreciated, and put to good use. Most of the funds raised, at least at first, will be used to make improvements that will benefit my readers as well as myself, such as purchasing a subscription to the Blogger Pro service, and moving my pages to a better server. (I can also promise, however, that some proportion of the total will always wind up in in the cash register down at Borders. Why oh why must I love books so much?)
That's probably enough of my "will blog for food" speech for now. Pretty painless compared to, say, a public television membership drive, don't you think?posted by The Goliard | Link |
ON OTHER PAGES
Never too many Catholic blogs. Sean Gallagher's Nota Bene has posted some interesting articles recently, including a reflection on Germain Grisez's submission to the USCC regarding sexual abuse, and a discussion of how deacons can become sources of renewal in the American Church.
Those who have visited Nota Bene before today will be pleased to note that the blog has been given a face-lift, featuring a wider main column for less scrolling. The tinkering was performed by yours truly, and Sean Gallagher was so pleased that he is declaring I ought to start charging for such services. Aww, shucks. Just happy to be able to help, pardner.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Update on new Friday feature. My apologies to readers who are here looking for my promised boffo new feature. There has been a slight change in plans, and I will not be publishing this item just yet. Sorry if that's vague; a fuller explanation will follow in time. Those who are really interested in what I have been working on are invited to e-mail me and I will be happy to share it with you on an individual basis. Again, apologies for the inconvenience.posted by The Goliard | Link |
09 May 2002
ON OTHER PAGES
Hard truths from Derbyshire. I love it when John Derbyshire comes out with a column bluntly stating things which other writers consider unsayable. Such as today's piece, "Why Don't I Care About the Palestinians?" Here's a sample:
Everywhere you look around the Arab world you see squalor, despotism, cruelty, and hopelessness. The best they have been able to manage, politically speaking, has been the Latin-American style one-party kleptocracies of Egypt and Jordan. Those are the peaks of Arab political achievement under independence, under government by their own people. The norm is just gangsterism, with thugs like Assad, Qaddafi, or Saddam in charge. It doesn't seem to be anything to do with religion: the secular states (Iraq, Syria) are just as horrible as the religious ones like Saudi Arabia. These people are hopeless. We are all supposed to support the notion of a Palestinian state. Why? We know perfectly well what it would be like. Why should we wish for another gangster-satrapy to be added to the Arab roll of shame, busy manufacturing terrorists to come here and slaughter Americans in their offices? I don't want to see a Palestinian state. I think I'd be crazy to want that.
Which is only the build-up to the truly unthinkable thing which good ol' Derb comes right out and says: that expulsion of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza "might be the best option."
When I say "the best option," I don't mean "best for the Palestinians". I don't think they have any good options. Being Arabs, they are incapable of constructing a rational polity, so their future is probably hopeless whatever happens. Their options are the ones I listed above: to be ruled by gangsters, or Israelis, or Jordanians, or welfare bureaucrats. Or to go live somewhere else, under the gentle rule of their brother Arabs. Would expulsion be hard on the Palestinians? I suppose it would. Would it be any harder than [the other options]? I doubt it. Do I really give a flying falafel one way or the other? No, not really.
One more thing. Derbyshire refers to two highly informative (and long) articles in other publications but fails to link to them. The New Republic piece on the post-Soviet republics is here, and the New York Review of Books article on AIDS in Mozambique is here.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Hooray for Anna Quindlen. I never thought I would have occasion to write these words, at least not until the day they start playing ice hockey in Hades, but here goes: Anna Quindlen has a wonderful column in the latest Newsweek that you really ought to read. An excerpt:
Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking at the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky. I don’t believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity.
And that, to me, is one of the saddest things about the lives of American children today. Soccer leagues, acting classes, tutors—the calendar of the average middle-class kid is so over the top that soon Palm handhelds will be sold in Toys "R" Us. Our children are as overscheduled as we are, and that is saying something.
The American cult of busyness has already robbed adults of so much, and now it's starting to steal childhood as well. How sad.
A related factor that Quindlen does not dwell on is the over-organization of youth activities, especially sports. I was thinking about this the other night at Turner Field. As I was filling in my scorecard with the starting lineups, a Tee Ball exhibition was going on down in the outfield. The little squirts got amusingly lost as they tried rounding the bases, and threw the ball in more or less random directions whenever they encountered it, reminding me of my own days as a hopeless, daydreaming right-fielder.
What was strikingly different from my experience—apart from the kids occupying a major-league outfield, of course—was the uniforms. I remember, as a grade-schooler, being issued a uniform consisting of: a t-shirt. That's it. A t-shirt, bearing the Parks and Recreation Department logo. Everyone's t-shirt was exactly the same (except for color, which was used to identify the teams), and no one dreamed of putting his name on the back. Most of the time, we didn't even have numbers.
The kids at Turner Field would never have been allowed to do something as reckless as playing Tee Ball without numbers. These little tykes were on teams named after Major League Baseball franchises, and they were dressed like the big-leaguers from head to toe. Replica caps and jerseys with the major-league logos on them. (And names and numbers on the back of the jerseys, of course.) Baseball pants and socks in the proper colors. Baseball shoes. Replica batting helmets. (Batting helmets! In Tee Ball!)
And all I could think was, "Shouldn't these kids be playing in a sandlot somewhere, in old, patched blue-jeans, and nary a grownup in sight?"posted by The Goliard | Link |
The beam in society's eye. Australian priest Fr. Ephraem Chifley, in an uneven piece for Melbourne's The Age, makes a few excellent points. He first disposes of one current canard with admirable efficiency:
The recent calls from within and outside the Catholic Church to abolish clerical celibacy in response to the paedophilia crisis are simply blind prejudice. (There's a sex scandal in the church. Priests are celibate - that's about sex too. We don't much like priests or celibacy. Celibacy must be to blame. QED.)
Fr. Chifley then makes mention of a much larger source of child abuse, to which far less attention is paid.
Considering that most instances of paedophilia involve not priests but live-in step-fathers, clerical celibacy cannot be considered a significant element in this tragedy. Strange, isn't it, that cartoonists and comedians don't make jokes about paedophilia and mum's new boyfriend, or that there are so few voices calling for a royal commission into marriage break-up and child protection? That, of course, would call for society to examine its substitution of personal fulfilment for duty - far easier to attack a large and slow-moving target, like the church, especially as it is apt frequently to say inconvenient and frightening things.
The frequent and serious abuse meted out by live-in boyfriends is the beam in society's eye. What makes the subject taboo is that taking notice of this source of child abuse might focus attention on the negative consequences of sexually-liberated behavior, and of the epidemics of divorce and illegitimacy. These are all sacred cows nowadays. Far better to save all the criticism and derision and ridicule for the Catholic Church, which dares to challenge and rebuke contemporary sexual norms.
I feel I should note that I almost did not read this article after seeing the title, "Is anti-Catholicism the new anti-Semitism?" I believe that comparing the Church's current plight with that of the Jews is in very bad taste, and could harm relations with our Jewish friends, for obvious historical reasons. The comparison is also inaccurate in the limited context of the present day, since the last time I checked, there did not exist an entire region of the world dedicating itself to blowing up Catholics simply because they are Catholic. Finally, playing the "I'm a victim too" game is something that should be strenuously avoided, both because it is a cornerstone of the pernicious program of multi-culti leftists, and because it runs counter to the true Christian ethos. Part of the mystery of suffering and martyrdom is that they do not weaken the Church, but rather serve to build it up; and so if we are true to our heritage we will not, in difficult times, proclaim our victimhood but rather the ultimate victory of Christ.posted by The Goliard | Link |
I am confident that most readers of The Goliard Blog are already quite familiar with this poem. So why use the bandwidth to bring it to you yet again? Because it is my very favorite poem. Because I, for one, can never read it too many times. And because I simply cannot resist. Therefore, Mr. Keats, play on…
08 May 2002
Ballgame report #2. I went down to Turner Field again this evening. Once again the home team lost…but at least they managed to lose in a mere two and a half hours, less than half the time it required last night.
I have attended five ballgames so far this season. The Atlanta Braves have lost all five of them. I had a ticket for a sixth game, but wound up being too ill to attend. Without me in the stands, the Braves managed to win that afternoon…but it required fourteen innings, no doubt because holding an unused ticket was still enough to unleash my personal hex, if only at partial strength.
I wonder how much the Braves would be willing to pay me to stay home tomorrow night?posted by The Goliard | Link |
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss. This book, about a minor-league Italian soccer team, is written by the author of true-crime books such as Blind Faith, Fatal Vision, The Selling of the President, and The Last Brother. (Yes, I consider all of the above to be true-crime tales.) But don't let any of those details put you off this fantastic book; listen instead to the U.K. edition's front-cover blurb from Peter Mayle: "I found it touching, funny, and fascinating and I'm not even a football [i.e. soccer] fan. Bravissimo!"
The book is a wonderful tale of a soccer team from a small town, located in a remote corner of the Abruzzo region, that improbably finds itself playing in the second-highest division in Italian soccer, Serie B. It is full of characters—such as the local capo who lives on a hilltop estate featuring a zoo-full of exotic animals—and events that are so over-the-top that a fiction writer would not dare invent them. The author, acting as his own main character, has a bull-in-a-china-shop charm about him that leaves one alternately understanding why the Castel di Sangro team took him in as one of their own, and wondering why no one in town ever tried to kill him.
This is the most entertaining, and most true-to-life, book about Italy I have read in a long time. It is my very favorite soccer book.
The Miracle of Castel di Sangro is widely-available here in the United States, but if you happen to be in Britain in the near future, or ordering something from Amazon.co.uk anyway, I would recommend picking up the U.K. edition, which features 16 pages of photographs sadly missing from the American version, and also has a better cover. (What is more, I find it cutting-off-the-mattress-tags satisfying to sit in my Atlanta apartment holding a book which bears the words "NOT FOR SALE IN THE USA OR CANADA". Bwa ha ha ha ha.)
Advisory note: Since sports books are often popular purchases for teenage boys, I should note that a fair amount of this book takes place in locker rooms, and it thus features much of the language one would expect to hear in such places. Parental guidance recommended.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Ballgame report. Giovanni Carrara pitched five scoreless innings to earn the win in the Dodgers' 5-4 victory over the Braves. That sounds normal enough…but did I mention that Carrara came into the game in the eleventh inning?
My $5 ticket averaged out to less than a dollar an hour for live major-league baseball—hard to beat that!—as the sixteen-inning affair lasted five hours and nineteen minutes. My scoresheet looks like a failed attempt to keep score at a Marx Brothers movie, and I am tired and sweaty. (The humidity spiked after midnight, which apparently is common at Turner Field.) I must get some sleep. Now.
Just as soon as I check to see who's pitching tomorrow night…posted by The Goliard | Link |
07 May 2002
I'm outta here. Shall I stay home and blog this evening? Let's see. The Dodgers are in town. Nomo versus Glavine. The game won't be on free TV. The weather is beautiful today. And a hot dog sounds awfully good right about now.
See ya tomorrow.posted by The Goliard | Link |
ON OTHER PAGES
Silence is golden. The new blog Catholic Light, which has already had many good things to say about Church music, has some excellent thoughts about silence:
Silence forces us to acknowledge the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit within us. And that's exactly why some people are uncomfortable with silence - it forces us to acknowledge that outside of our distractions and the general hub-bub of our lives we need to take time to listen to God. And God might be telling us something we really don't want to hear but need to hear in order to grow in our life with Him.
I once took a fiction-writing course from a professor who, at the beginning of the semester, always advised her students to cut out the noise in their lives. She said that in order to be capable of writing anything worthwhile, one must go home and turn off the television, and the radio, and the computer, and unplug the telephone, and encounter the silence, which ideas and insight and art require to grow. (Young children, of course, are a bit harder to "turn off"…but there is that wonderful thing called nap-time.)
I believe that many, many people today are not getting a healthy dose of silence in their daily lives. I believe that two major reasons for this are America's cult of busyness, and the almost-instinctive fear of what the silence might reveal. I strongly believe that not only these individuals, but friends and family who are close to them, are much the poorer for it.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Commentary on Fortuyn. Today's editorial in The Daily Telegraph on the Fortuyn assassination concludes with a terrific explanation of how Europe arrived at this pass:
The truth is that Mr Fortuyn, like other politicians around Europe, was chiefly protesting against the governing cartel. The political systems of most EU states - based as they are on proportional representation, state-funded political parties and consensus - tend to create a "club" of establishment parties.
The Netherlands was typical in that most of its politicians could expect to be in power most of the time. The governing coalitions set out to create a consensus on all the big issues: immigration, European integration, corporatist economics. Those outside the tent found themselves isolated and stigmatised.
The 20 per cent of Dutch voters who had planned to back Mr Fortuyn were protesting against all this. Ten years ago, as Maastricht was rammed through, we predicted that voters would turn, in frustration, against their political systems. We take no pleasure in being proved right.
Meanwhile Andrew Sullivan offers these stirring words:
Fortuyn was not a threat to liberalism. His assassination is. What Fortuyn dared to say is that Islam itself, when converted into a political agenda, is a direct threat to the values and tolerance that are the signal achievements of the West. This is not racism; it is a cultural fact. Islam deserves respect as a great religion, but its attitudes toward women, toward homosexuals, toward the freedoms and privacy and social experimentation that are one of the guiding triumphs of Western culture, is a danger to liberal democracy and a free society. Fortuyn was brave enough to say this. One way to respect his legacy and defy the violence that felled him is to follow his example and keep stating what we know to be true.
Amen to all of it…though I must confess that I am growing a bit wobbly on the "Islam deserves respect as a great religion" part. I'm sick of respecting Islam as a great religion. How could a great religion have produced today's Middle East?posted by The Goliard | Link |
Introducing the Tuesday Quotation. Poor old Tuesday has not had its own feature here on The Goliard Blog…until now. Today's is short and sweet; future ones may not be.
The New Testament, and to a very large extent the Old, is the soul of man. You cannot criticize it. It criticizes you. — John Jay Chapmanposted by The Goliard | Link |
06 May 2002
ON OTHER PAGES
Do not be afraid. Do not despair. Do not give up. Michael Dubruiel (husband of the inestimable Amy Welborn) has posted a wonderful meditation entitled "How Not to Lose Your Faith During the Present Crisis". If I could press a printed copy of this essay into the hands of every distressed Catholic in America I would do so.Link |
In praise of the "Generic God". Mark Byron has posted an excellent piece today commending the "Generic God" of Western civil religion, and contrasting it with the more virulent strains of Islam, such as the Taliban's (and Saudi Arabia's) Wahhabism. As problematic as it can sometimes be to have a polity rooted in a post-Enlightenment political deism, Byron shows that it sure beats the Islamic and atheistic alternatives.posted by The Goliard | Link |
A hopeful letter. Reader Tom Harmon writes me to say that encouraging signs can be seen in the diocese of Spokane, Washington where he resides, including "a seminary brimming with good, holy, orthodox seminarians and…a university tranforming itself (slowly but surely) along the lines set out by Ex corde ecclesiae." It is because of this that he wonders "whether such a drastic, intrusive, divisive measure such as an inquisition is merited quite yet."
While our current crop of bishops have so far proven incapable of dealing with the problems of the day (and, in fact, many of whom are the problems of the day), it also may be the case that they are nurturing a generation of Catholics who will be able to deal with the crises of orthodoxy. The new springtime of the Holy Father's New Evangelization might be around the corner. A whole broad assortment of lay movements, independent organizations, and and new religious orders are just beginning to form and the seminaries are starting to clean up their act.…I am hopeful that the American Church can extract itself out of the the quagmire of infidelity and lite religion without a great deal more interventions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I propose waiting thirty years, about the time when this current generation of seminarians will start to yield up its priests to be bishops. Then, I think we will see change.
I am thankful for this note of optimism, and I happen to agree that the Church in America is likely to right itself—or begin to at least—in thirty years or thereabouts. Though I did not make it explicit before, I do envision the Internal Affairs operation I outlined to be a temporary measure, which can be allowed to gracefully fade away as more orthodox days arrive. I am concerned, however, that an awful lot of souls can be led astray in thirty years, which is why I believe it preferable in this case to disregard the Goldbergian dictum of "Don't just do something. Sit there."
I also believe that the description of the Internal Affairs project as "divisive" is actually an argument in its favor. Few things are more sorely needed in American Catholicism today than the dividing of the faithful from the dissenters, the orthodox teachers from the heterodox, the penitent sinners from the impenitent who promote their favorite sin, and so forth. The Church's job is not only to help unite the faithful with Christ but to help keep them separated from sin. It will be an encouraging sign indeed when the shepherds of Christ's flock once again show an awareness of both sides of this equation.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Welcome InstaPundit readers. I am honored that InstaPundit found me worthy of quoting on his justly popular site, and offer a welcome to all of you who have followed his links here. I have been writing on a wide variety of topics, and so in the archives you will find everything from my April LePen piece to a proposal to move the Expos to San Juan to my modest recommendation for addressing the crisis in American Catholicism, "An Inquisition for the 21st century". Please do scroll up and down to your heart's content. I hope you enjoy your visit to The Goliard Blog.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Kudos to NPR for Fortuyn report. This evening's story on All Things Considered about the Pim Fortuyn assassination was more accurate and balanced than anyone could have expected. After getting the obligitory reference to Fortuyn's "right-wing anti-immigration party" out of the way, freelance reporter Gregory Crouch noted that Fortuyn's "positions were more complicated than the label 'right wing' might suggest", and went on to explain why.
Thanks also to NPR for giving this story three minutes of airtime—it deserves at least that much attention, even here in the "Netherlands? Wasn't that a place in Lord of the Rings?" United States. I have a hunch, you see, that aftershocks from this event will be felt across the European Union for some time to come.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Demonization has consequences. Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn has been shot dead. Reports indicate that he was shot six times as he left the studios of a Hilversum radio station where he had just been interviewed.
The controversial party leader is invariably described as "far-right", "extreme right", and suchlike in the world press, and made out to be the Dutch equivalent of Jean-Marie Le Pen. As Dave Kopel conclusively demonstrated in his Sunday article for the Rocky Mountain News, the portrayal of this gay Dutch sociology professor—take in carefully all four words: "gay Dutch sociology professor"—as some sort of neo-fascist extremist is a ridiculous slander.
And now it has proven a deadly slander.
If the Europeans truly value democracy, they ought to start demonstrating in the streets. Not in protest of the affrontery of people like Fortuyn for daring to question the Continent's political orthodoxies, as they have been up to now, but rather against the European political and media elites for ensuring that Fortuyn and others who agree with him are demonized and denied a fair hearing.
This process of character assassination is profoundly anti-democratic, and appeared dangerous enough before, as I explained in "Understanding Le Pen's triumph". How much more dangerous it appears now, after today's demonstration that character assassination can incite the more deadly kind…even in a place like the Netherlands.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Today's helpful transatlantic usage tip. This is the first in an occasional series of helpful hints for American readers who may suddenly find themselves needing to blend in smoothly with a crowd of Brits—or vice versa. (At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)
When referring to a certain sort of accomodation, an American will use the phrase "home away from home". The British use the same expression, but usually leave out the second word, as in: "Welcome to your home from home." (Bonus points to readers who catch the classic television reference.)
Be sure not to miss the next installment, when we shall discuss variant spellings and pronunciations of certain popular but very rude words, in an amusingly delicate manner.posted by The Goliard | Link |
Advice for attention-hungry bloggers. Traffic to this website increased tenfold yesterday over the Sunday prior, and a quick glance at the referral log shows the primary reason why. Ever since Friday, a lot of people running Google searches for various members of Frontier House's Clune family have wound up at my blog, because of the piece I wrote last week on the PBS series. (The funny thing is, I only decided to throw in the Clunes' full names at the last minute. Gotta love those barely-conscious strokes of genius.)
So, for fellow bloggers out there who are desperate for hits, I recommend submitting your site to the major search engines, then writing insightful articles about popular television programs, making sure to include full names of people appearing on said programs. Then watch the hits come rolling in.
As for me, well, it only makes sense to try to take the game to the next level. I look forward to seeing my hit-counter explode when I post my blockbuster essays discussing Jennifer Aniston, Ozzy Osbourne, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Britney Spears.posted by The Goliard | Link |
What do you get when you cross a products-liability lawyer with a quantum physicist?
PUBLIC NOTICE AS REQUIRED BY LAW: Any Use Of This Product, In Any Manner Whatsoever, Will Increase The Amount Of Disorder In The Universe. Although No Liability Is Implied Herein, The Consumer Is Warned That This Process Will Ultimately Lead To The Heat Death Of The Universe.
NOTE: The Most Fundamental Particles In This Product Are Held Together By A "Gluing" Force About Which Little Is Currently Known And Whose Adhesive Power Can Therefore Not Be Permanently Guaranteed.
NEW GRAND UNIFIED THEORY DISCLAIMER: The Manufacturer May Technically Be Entitled To Claim That This Product Is Ten-Dimensional. However, The Consumer Is Reminded That This Confers No Legal Rights Above And Beyond Those Applicable To Three-Dimensional Objects, Since The Seven Additional Dimensions Are "Rolled Up" Into Such A Small "Area" That They Cannot Be Detected.
PLEASE NOTE: Some Quantum Physics Theories Suggest That When The Consumer Is Not Directly Observing This Product, It May Cease to Exist Or Will Exist Only In A Vague And Undetermined State.
COMPONENT EQUIVALENCY NOTICE: The Subatomic Particles (Electrons, Protons, et cetera) Comprising This Product Are Exactly The Same In Every Measurable Respect As Those Used In The Products Of Other Manufacturers, And No Claim To The Contrary May Legitimately Be Expressed Or Implied.
HEALTH WARNING: Care Should Be Taken When Lifting This Product, Since Its Mass, And Thus Its Weight, Is Dependent On Its Velocity Relative To The User.
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO PURCHASERS: The Entire Physical Universe, Including This Product, May One Day Collapse Back Into An Infinitesimally Small Space. Should Another Universe Subsequently Re-Emerge, The Existence Of This Product In That Universe Cannot Be Guaranteed.posted by The Goliard | Link |