Sunday, April 30, 2006

Why to read Dostoevsky

Anyone that Nietzsche actually sorta likes has to be good.

Nietzsche was scornful of Dostoyevsky’s Christian stand and held him in contempt for his "morbid moral tortures," his rejection of "proper pride". He accused him of "sinning to enjoy the luxury of confession," which Nietzsche considered a "degrading prostration." Dostoyevsky was, in Nietzsche’s words, one of the victims of the "conscience-vivisection and self-crucifixion of two thousand years" of Christianity.

However, Nietzsche also described Dostoevsky as "the only psychologist from whom he had anything to learn." (1887)

Happy Walpurgis Night

Saint's celebration, and witching feast. I'll be keeping my door locked tonight myseslf. The Wikipedia article is a little short on the pagan aspect, but a little Lovecraft should set you straight on that.

Can anyone decipher this?

Facile, il a décidé de faire des featurings avec tout ceux pour qui il a fabriqué des grillz et puis d'en parler sur les morceaux, comme ça il peut replacer le "my mouth is similar to a disco ball" et plein d'autres phases sympathiques sur sa bouche...

Photo from a soldier in Iraq

My friend e-mailed me this from the US military base in Balad with the caption, "You might be a liberal if... you understand why this picture I took is so damn funny."

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Boycott DaVinci!

Archbishop Amato argued that the gross misrepresentation of Catholic beliefs and institutions in The Da Vinci Code would not be tolerated by other religious faiths. He said that Christians should be more vigorous in responding to "hatred and gratuitous defamation." The success of the novel by American author Dan Brown, he said, is due in large part to the "extreme cultural poverty" of many Christians, who are not prepared to recognize and reject anti-Christian propaganda.

With the film version of Brown's book due to appear in theaters around the world on May 19, Archbishop Amato suggested that a boycott could be effective. He said that in 1988, a boycott was successful in cutting revenues of The Last Temptation of Christ, the film by Martin Scorsese, which the archbishop described as "extremely annoying" and "historically false" in its representation of the Passion.

I'm gonna have to read the book just so people stop frowning at me whenever I try to discuss it, but I'm trying to acquire a copy in some way that doesn't show up on the circ records of a library or pays some bookseller. Anyone have suggestions?

Of new things

9. Here, again, we have further proof that private ownership is in accordance with the law of nature. Truly, that which is required for the preservation of life, and for life's well-being, is produced in great abundance from the soil, but not until man has brought it into cultivation and expended upon it his solicitude and skill. Now, when man thus turns the activity of his mind and the strength of his body toward procuring the fruits of nature, by such act he makes his own that portion of nature's field which he cultivates - that portion on which he leaves, as it were, the impress of his personality; and it cannot but be just that he should possess that portion as his very own, and have a right to hold it without any one being justified in violating that right.

Just to tweak Jesse's nose, in case he's reading ;-).

Friday, April 28, 2006

Chaos in Chad

It's upsetting that I didn't have the first idea about any of this. I probably don't have the first idea about most of the world.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mark Shea of the Day

Or, why it's a bad bad bad idea for laws to be different for bad Catholics than bad everyone else.

From my point of view, the first issue is the 14th Amendment. I really don't see why a part of the Constitution that provides for "equal protection" mandates abortion but doesn't mean that a statue of limitations law can be applied differently to those of different faiths or in different jobs. I suppose the Columbia education makes me focus too much on what the text says and not enough on the "spirit" of the law. I have the same problem with Vatican II sometimes, especially when I try to quote the Council's documents to someone.

Missing the point with Firefox

In attempting to move to open standards, they've created a proprietary standard. Perfect guys. Thanks to Infoworld for the link.

By George! I could be James Bond!

Britain's Secret Intelligence Service - popularly known as MI6 - has launched its first public recruitment campaign.

A half-page advert in the Times careers supplement offers jobs for "operational officers", technology experts and "thoroughly efficient administrators".

The MI6 website gives further details outlining the different types of jobs performed and providing profiles of people's work understood to be based on real individuals.

All applicants must be British, resourceful, in good health and able to keep a secret.

"Operational officers" also need a university degree, strong intellectual skills, an interest in foreign cultures and an "outstanding ability to persuade and to influence".

But there is also the need for people with IT skills to deal with the complex forms of data analysis involved in counter-terrorism, as well as expertise in areas like human resources, accountancy and management to support the organisation's work.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jane Jacobs has died

Long live her work, a mind on the level of Robert Caro. I found her books fascinating because they intuitively made sense of a vast body of experience I had living and putting around in New York, and gave me a reason to challenge on purely rational grounds the aesthetic unpleasantness of the project model of housing.

And while we're at it, for those who want to learn a lot about why New York looks the way it does:

I hate to jump on the bandwagon

But I will, because I always thought that Prof. Pagels' material was pretty sketchy.

We note that the last phrase is omitted and the order of the preceding clauses reversed to disguise the non sequitur -- and for a very good reason: Irenaeus actually says that the same allegations made against the orthodox by the Valentinians are made against the Valentinians by their fellow Gnostics, the disciples of Basilides, and that's an embarrassment to Pagels's notion of the Gnostic-Catholic divide. To recapitulate: Pagels has carpentered a non-existent quotation, putatively from an ancient source, by silent suppression of relevant context, silent omission of troublesome words, and a mid-sentence shift of 34 chapters backwards through the cited text, so as deliberately to pervert the meaning of the original. While her endnote calls the quote "conflated," the word doesn't fit even as a euphemism: what we have is not conflation but creation.

Re-reading Pagels's putative quotation, you may have noticed that the word "unspiritual" corresponds to nothing in the Latin. It too was supplied by Pagels's imagination. The reason for the interpolation will be plain from the comment that immediately follows (page 44 in The Gnostic Gospels). Remember that she wants to argue that Irenaeus was interested in authority and the Valentinians in the life of the spirit:

Irenaeus was outraged at their claim that they, being spiritual, were released from the ethical restraints that he, as a mere servant of the demiurge, ignorantly sought to foist upon them.

Put simply, Irenaeus did not write what Prof. Pagels wished he would have written, so she made good the defect by silently changing the text. Creativity, when applied to one's sources, is not a compliment. She is a very naughty historian.

In other words, she made up a source. If I did that, I think I'd be kicked very hard. But we'll see what happens here.

Liberal Jews?

Doomed0 would be rolling over in his grave if he were dead.

Just as liberal Jews fear a resurgent Christianity despite the fact that contemporary Christians are the Jews' best friends, leftist Jews fear American nationalism despite the fact that Americans who believe in American exceptionalism are far more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel than leftist Americans. But most leftist Jews so abhor nationalism, they don't even like the Jews' nationalism (Zionism).

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

After all, they apparently rule the world

I'm not sure what's funnier about this document, that they think that Fr. Kolvenbach is the most powerful person in the world or that they think Blaine Pascal was a French Calvinist.

I mean, ok, some people hate Catholics and that's cool. But Pascal, a French Calvinist? A Catholic and possibly a Jansenist, sure. But what? That's not even a point you can argue with.

Perhaps the Jesuits could use that last link?

Vatican, Apr. 24 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) reminded Jesuits of their vow of loyalty to the Roman Pontiff, and urged them to meet "the Church's most urgent current needs" in the intellectual world, during an address to leaders of the Society of Jesus on April 22.

Decree? Constitution? What?

Impress your friends with knowledge of the difference between Lumen Gentium and Nostra Aetate.

Monday, April 24, 2006

What I'm up to tonight

The music and text of Dichterliebe, a song cycle by Schumann. I have to do some analysis. Highly recommended for depressed poets.

Bad words

When it comes to dealing with Europe's Muslim populations, the old "Sticks and stones ..." proverb is out, particularly the "words can never hurt me" part. These days, the update goes: "Say words that hurt me and I'll blow up a train." As an EU official explained non-emotively, "The basic idea is to avoid the use of improper words that could cause frustration among Muslims and increase the risk of radicalization."

I'm a little skeptical myself. Though I suppose one could say I've become radicalized by my experience at NYU, which is probably the closest I've come to being a repressed minority, white male that I am.

Hebrew for Christians

This site has lots of useful information for testing the waters of the Hebrew language. Check out the Lord's prayer in Hebrew!

Thank you Simona for the link!

Serving uprooted people on 2 sides of Rio Grande

An interesting article about the Maryknoll Border Mission which works to meet migrants' needs, both humanitarian and spiritual.

Also here are some interesting facts from the site:

The border between the United States and Mexico is 1,952 miles long, with 1,254 miles formed by the Rio Grande.

About 70 miles of the border is fenced.

* In the Border Area, 62.5 miles wide on each side, about 60 percent of the more than 10.5 million people live on the U.S. side.

* U.S.-Mexican trade amounted to $235 billion in 2003. Maquiladoras, foreign-owned factories set up in Mexico to take advantage of cheap labor, employed 1.1 million workers in 2,800 plants in 2004.

* About 800,000 undocumented migrants enter the United States each year, and an estimated 10.3 million are living in the country.

* The U.S. Border Patrol employs 10,060 agents on the border with Mexico, compared with 980 on the Canadian border, which is twice as long.

* In fiscal year 2005, 473 migrants died crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. An estimated 3,600 migrants have died since U.S. officials tightened enforcement 11 years ago. The Border Patrol arrested 905,000 people along the Southwest border last year.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Pope's reflections on Divine Mercy

Short and sweet.

For the geeks

Note the link in the previous post:ğca

Note the g. Is this the fruit of non-ascii domain names? Or is that only relevant for the hostname part of the equation?

What is Divine Mercy?

The message and devotion to Jesus as The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of Saint Faustina Kowalska, an uneducated Polish nun who, in obedience to her spiritual director, wrote a diary of about 600 pages recording the revelations she received about God's mercy. Even before her death in 1938, the devotion to The Divine Mercy had begun to spread.

A good website. Some of you will remember that John Paul II died on (Erev?) Divine Mercy Sunday (i.e. the evening Mass had happened in Rome already I think) which at the time seemed quite fitting, as he was indeed a man of mercy.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Something to think about entering Divine Mercy Sunday

Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te
(You made us for you and resteless are our hearts until they should rest in you)

- S. Augustine

Just made the mistake of listening to the words of Whenever, Wherever

Not that I thought of Shakira was a deep thinker, but dood, a little more subtle would be appreciated. Luckily, this post is actually about something else entirely, a little Vivaldi masterpiece that is, as far as I can tell, named "La Folia da camera no 12 pour 2 violons et . . ." according to Napster.

For some reason, listening to it makes me feel ready to die. Like I've gone on a missions and come home, Frodo style, and there's nothing left in the world for me. Very strange feeling.

And this is why Cardinal Martini is not the Pope

Cardinal Martini-- who is now living in retirement in Jerusalem, after 23 years at the helm of Europe's largest archdiocese-- tackled a number of controversial issues during his interview with Italian bio-ethicist Ignazio Marino. The cardinal directly questioned whether it is morally obligatory to defend "every human life from conception until natural death, with no exceptions." Immediately after conception, he argued, the fertilized ovum "is not an embryo yet, and therefore it can be manipulated without formal moral objections."

Germany's most successful law

Not to mention national holiday.

On April 23, 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV proclaimed a law that would outlast all others in German history: the beer purity edict. The decree declares that German beer may contain just four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water. And on the basis of these select ingredients, German brewers have succeeded in crafting the finest beers, emulated the world over. On April 23 each year, beer lovers everywhere celebrate German Beer Day.

Who's up for a little celebration tomorrow after Mass?

Thanks to Mr. Sperl for the heads up.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A slew of important things Mark Shea has found

Government torture, dumb musicals, and Chinese silliness. Recommended reading. Especially the deal about the Voscoization of a parish.

Hope in Iraq?

Let's pray so.

AGHDAD, Iraq, April 21 — Shiite leaders selected Jawad al-Maliki, a hard-line and outspoken Shiite leader, to replace the outgoing prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The move could resolve a two-month-long political deadlock that has worsened Iraq's precarious security situation and contributed to an increase of sectarian killings across the nation.

Officials with rival political blocs said tonight that despite earlier misgivings about Mr. Maliki they intended to support him when the Iraqi Parliament convenes on Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Data Transformations


Last weekend I helped a friend categorize her Schedule C expenses. All of her business income is in QuickBooks, but the expenses aren’t. I would have to reconstruct those from bank and credit card records. Although this friend has online accounts at both institutions, my Spidey sense was tingling: I knew there was going to be trouble.

Quite a story.

Church allowed to be Church

Boston, Apr. 17 ( - Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts will not face legal penalties for refusing to place children with same-sex couples, the Boston Globe has reported.

On March 10, the Boston office of Catholic Charities announced that it was dropping adoption services, in order to avoid a direct conflict between Catholic social teaching-- which sees adoption by same-sex couples as a form of violence against children-- and Massachusetts regulations, which forbid adoption agencies from discriminating against homosexuals. But Catholic agencies in the other 3 Catholic dioceses of Massachusetts-- Worcester, Fall River, and Springfield-- will continue to provide adoption services.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

No free speech!

David Dreier (R-Calif.) explained, sort of. He said he voted against McCain-Feingold because "dictating who could give how much to whom" violated the First Amendment, but now he favors dictating to 527 contributors because McCain-Feingold is not violating the First Amendment enough: It is not "working as it was intended." That is, it is not sufficiently restricting the money financing political advocacy.

Candice Miller (R-Mich.) said that restricting 527s would combat "nauseating ugliness, negativity and hyperpartisanship." Oh, so that is what the First Amendment means: Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech unless speech annoys politicians.

Ugh. It's times like this when I'm glad I hate all politicians.

The US at war?

Since the September 11 jihadist attacks on the US mainland, President George W. Bush has stated repeatedly that the greatest threat to global security is the specter of rogue regimes and terror groups acquiring weapons of mass destruction. At his January 2002 State of the Union address, the president declared that the regimes of Iran, North Korea and Iraq comprised an axis of evil and a central goal — indeed the most crucial goal — of the US-led war was to prevent them from acquiring or maintaining arsenals of weapons of mass destruction.

If we accept Bush's definition of the aims of the war, then five years on, the inescapable conclusion is that the US and its allies, such as they are, are losing this war and losing it badly. Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction was not captured by US forces who heroically brought down Saddam Hussein's regime three years ago this week. It vanished before they arrived.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Happy Anniversary!

Vatican, Apr. 18 ( - St. Peter's basilica, the largest and most important church in the Catholic world, marks its 500th anniversary today: April 18.

Despite it is the center of liturgical life at the Vatican, St. Peter's is not a cathedral; the cathedral of the Rome diocese is the basilica of St. John Lateran. But St. Peter's holds pre-eminent place because it is built on the tomb of St. Peter, at the site where the first Pontiff's martyrdom.

Let's all drink to 500 more!

Monday, April 17, 2006

God OR the Girl?

In my idleness, I stumbled upon this docu-relatity tv show on A&E. The show follows the lives of 4 Latins debating enrollment in seminary. It's surprisingly and refreshingly real. It explores the doubts and triumphs of these men in their faith. One, Steve, is working as a missionary in Guatemala. He speaks little Spanish. He used to be a consultant and has given up to discern his vocation. Dan is a college student who is carrying an 80 lb cross several miles to a church. He has an on-off relationship with another college student. He lives in a house with a few other Catholics. Like a frat house, with chastity as a virtue. And Joe is a man pressured by his family to becoming a priest. He's on a pilgrimage to Niagra. He carries no money, and no cell phone! They all have such true realizations about faith and God and humility and charity.

My only question is- why does it have to be God OR the girl? God doesn't mind a man in the married life. He in fact rejoices in it. In fact, there are priests who are married. My issue is that the rest of the world is so focused on sex that people see the priesthood as no sex vs sex. The thing is, sex is a thing only for marriage so it's not like something one would be missing, so to speak. Besides, marriage is no way a cake walk. There are benefits to all vocations, and their are challenges. But the imporant thing is that whatever vocation it is, that it is yours. And there is nothing more wonderful that in knowing you are where you belong.

My apologies to TWA for a slow response time

Finals and final projects for the next few weeks :-(. But I have answered as best as I know (not very well) the question about Easter and Palm Sunday.

Mausoleums are big

I'm not quite sure why. It's not like you'll be better off if the worms don't get to you. But apparently they're something of a status symbol, or so says the Times.

"The mausoleum says, 'I'm really significant in this world, I think I'm really significant to my family,' and this is one way to communicate that to the community," said Nancy Lohman, an owner along with her husband, Lowell, of this and several dozen other Florida cemeteries and funeral homes.

Are you really significant to the world, is the question. I tend to doubt anyone will remember Mr. Peck in a century, no offense, I'm pretty sure no one will remember me a century after my death either.

A little angry programming this week :-)

What's up with this? I mean, I thought feminists and the UN were tight. Shows how much I know.

In an open letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on International Women’s Day last month, the coalition of international women’s groups wrote, “We are disappointed and frankly outraged that gender equality and strengthening the women’s machineries within the U.N. system are barely noted, and are not addressed as a central part of the UN reform agenda.”

There are already several UN bodies that focus on issues affecting women, including the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI). and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). The women’s groups complain that none of them, with the exception of UNFPA, is a principal agency that could equate to the fully-resourced agencies such as UNICEF, the UN Development Program, or the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Apparently they're thinking of putting the same people who turned UNICEF into an anti-child type of organization in charge. Party.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Christ is Risen!

He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Holy Saturday

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: "My Lord be with you all". Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light".

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

(image from Icon History - The Descent Into Hell)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Good Friday, called Feria VI in Parasceve in the Roman Missal, he hagia kai megale paraskeue (the Holy and Great Friday) in the Greek Liturgy, Holy Friday in Romance Languages, Charfreitag (Sorrowful Friday) in German, is the English designation of Friday in Holy Week -- that is, the Friday on which the Church keeps the anniversary of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

. . .

There is, perhaps, no office in the whole liturgy so peculiar, so interesting, so composite, so dramatic as the office and ceremonial of Good Friday.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Wondering what's going on at the Mass of the Lord's Supper tonight?

Scholars have often wondered how the practice of Christian Eucharist could have arisen from the Lord's Supper, which occurred in the context of the Jewish Passover. Since Passover occurs only once a year, how is it that the Christians got the notion that they could celebrate Jesus' sacrificial meal weekly, if not daily?

The answer is found in the ancient Israelite sacrifice called the todah.

While most people have heard of Old Testament sacrifices such as the holocaust offering or burnt offering, those who have heard of the todah sacrifice are as rare as lotto winners. Today's ignorance concerning the todah, however, should not imply that it was unimportant to the Jews. Far from it. The todah was one of the most significant sacrifices of the Jews.

Indeed, an old Rabbinic teaching says: "In the coming Messianic age all sacrifices will cease, but the thank offering [todah] will never cease."(1) What is it about this sacrifice that makes it stand alone in such a way that it would outlast all other sacrifices after the redemption of the Messiah?

From here

Why Should the Fire Die?

Why think about music at all today? Because the song Doubting Thomas is something to think about-

what will be left when i've drawn my last breath,
besides the folks i've met and the folks who know me,
will i discover a soul cleansing love,
or just the dirt above and below me,

i'm a doubting thomas,
i took a promise,
but i don't know what's safe,
oh me of little faith,

sometimes i pray for a slap in the face,
then i beg to be spared 'cause i'm a coward,
if there's a master of death i'll bet he's holding his breath,
as i show the blind and tell the deaf about his power,

can i be used to help others find truth,
when i'm scared i'll find proof that its a lie,
can i be lead down a trail dropping bread crumbs,
that prove i'm not ready to die,

If you have any liking for bluegrass-influenced folk-pop, this album is perfect. Nickel Creek has always been a favorite to those who follow the skillful pop/country icon Alison Krauss, who has been their producer for the past couple albums. This work, however, does not include Ms. Krauss, and surprisingly, they have thrived. They have truly grown up, dealing with issues such as imperfect love, loss, age, purpose, and faith. Their song, Doubting Thomas, intimately, deftly and carefully tackles the intrinsically human challenge of faith, with a freshness that is eye-opening and penetratingly personal. It is perhaps the most thoughtful. Anthony is a wonderfully simple ditty with an old country feel, playfully syncopated with and ukulele. The album combines a deep rooted feel of an old favorite record with a fresh luster, transitioning between the two in each song; I believe I heard in an interview that the title track was recorded using only one microphone, giving it a live integrated feel. Other tracks of note include the group's ethereal cover of Dylan's Tomorrow is a Long Time, the dark, percussion heavy pop song Best of Luck, the ballad Jealous of the Moon, the intensely sensual and tragic Can't Complain, and the gritty When in Rome. The musical skill from their lyrics, to their arrangements, to their execution is an astonishing combination of creative youth and wisdom. I can only wait to see what they come up with next.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

No letter this Thursday!

The Holy Father thus breaks with a pattern set by Pope John Paul II (bio - news), who issued his first Holy Thursday letter to priests on 1979, then provided a new message each year from 1982 to 2005.

In recent years the Vatican has held a press conference before Holy Week to release the papal text. The Pope's letter to priests was introduced by the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy. This year, no such press conference was scheduled.

"It certainly seems that the letter will not appear," said one informed Vatican official. However, the Congregation for Clergy is not ruling out the possibility that some other papal text, of interest to priests, could be released this year on Holy Thursday itself, April 13.

Israel and Soccer

The international governing body for soccer condemned the Jewish state, and announced that it was considering possible action over the Israeli air strike last week on the Gaza soccer field that had been used for terrorist training exercises. The field, which had also reportedly served as a missile launching pad, was empty at the time; the strike itself came in response to the continuing barrage of Qassam rocket attacks directed at Israeli towns and villages.

. . .

When Saddam Hussein's son Uday had Iraqi soccer players tortured in 1997 after they failed to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in France, FIFA remained silent. Uday, who was chairman of the Iraqi soccer association, had star players tortured again in 1998. And in 2000, following a quarterfinal defeat in the Asia Cup, three Iraqi players were whipped and beaten for three days by Uday's bodyguards. The torture took place at the Iraqi Olympic Committee headquarters, but FIFA said nothing.

. . .

The outrage felt in soccer-mad Israel at these astonishing double standards is all the greater since FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made it clear that FIFA should not become involved in politics. Following calls last December from German politicians that Iran should be banned from participating in the forthcoming World Cup (which starts in Germany on June 9, 2006) because of repeated Holocaust denial by the Iranian president, Blatter said "We're not going to enter into any political declarations. We in football, if we entered into such discussions, then it would be against our statutes. We are not in politics."

Theme Seders?

I like that idea about as much as the fameous Clown Eucharist. Both are kind of missing the point. Or really missing the point.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Moral relativity for computers

If you really need to make false true, I guess this sort of works. But if you don't . . . yikes.

Passover FAQ

For those with questions which have been frequently asked.

And now the fifth question — when do we eat?

While central to meaningful human experience, the ability to delay gratification doesn't come easily. We don't naturally graduate from childhood into mature and disciplined altruists. What we gain at adulthood is the capacity to control ourselves, but development in this area is a lifetime's work. One need look only at advertising and the media to see that immediate gratification with no consideration for the consequences is very much in vogue. High-risk sports, sexual exploration and many other activities that focus solely on immediate gratification are as popular as ever. The descent into instant fun and the consequential move away from the development of quintessential human sensitivities is all too easy. And we have all experienced people consumed with physical needs of one sort or another — they are unstoppable until they have what they want. In position as major leaders, such people can quite literally destroy the world; they nearly have on a number of occasions.

The Jewish people are expected to be the world experts in the field of delaying gratification, when necessary, to achieve higher goals. All humanity was originally destined to be proficient in this area, as evidenced by the prohibition of eating from the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Seen through Kabbalistic eyes, G-d did not demand that Adam and Eve forever deny themselves the fruit, only that they wait to eat it until after the first Sabbath. Had they demonstrated their ability to postpone their desire to eat it in order to fulfil G-d's will, they could have enjoyed the fruit legitimately. Instead, they were expelled from the Garden, forever changing the course of history.

Or, the relationship between self control and grace.

I just got an email advertising an "18% Afikoman special"

Probably the strangest subject line I've gotten in a while, though I suppose it's a seasonal thing.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Need to get in the mood for Holy Week?

Why not listen to The Most Frightening Music in the Universe? We have Bach, Hermann, Wagner, Berlioz, and that key classical composer Dukas.

Or not. I found this for Music Hum. But the Symphony Fantastique of Berlioz is excellent.

The decline of monestaries in England

Something to pray about this Holy Week. Thanks to TWA for this.

It is an ironic phenomenon. The cradle of Christianity was occupied by Islam, following which the Christian faith has largely been eliminated. Now, in historic Christendom, the Christian faith has largely been eliminated, followed by the real possibility that it will be occupied by Islam in a generation or two. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, the Church grows like – well, like seed sown on rich soil.

It said the gospel must be proclaimed to all nations before the end of days. I guess it never said it had to be proclaimed to all nations simultaneously. People make their individual choices, but whole cultures make their choices as well.

Someone asked me a very good question yesterday

The question was, from a Unitarian, why do we do Passion Sunday before Good Friday?

I think it's because the order used to be Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, and the Triduum wasn't big for the laity, so we did Palm Sunday on the right day, Passion Sunday way too early, and Easter on the right day. Now we're just confused, which is why we don't do the entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Is that right?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The ACLU comes out against free speach

Good to see where their loyalties lie.

Mr. Volokh said one problem with the law is that it attempts to regulate speech that is arguably misleading or deceptive, but not necessarily false. "The same logic would justify regulating a broad range of political or historical statements," he said. "I think that's a pretty dangerous policy."

Told of the ACLU's stance on the bill, a former member of the organization's board, Nat Hentoff, exclaimed, "My God, what about the First Amendment?"

Mr. Hentoff, who is anti-abortion, said the Federal Trade Commission should not wade into the perilous waters of the abortion debate. "When you have the state, with its power, deciding what is deceptive on something as thoroughly controversial as this, it goes against the very core, it seems to me, of the First Amendment," he said.

Mr. Hentoff, who called ACLU's endorsement of the legislation "a really extraordinary mistake," said the organization has become so protective of abortion rights that it has lost sight of free speech issues. "It's the problem the ACLU has had for years," he said.

Zorak highly recommends this site

With this line:


So it must be good.


But there is something incredibly exciting about watching a new business grow. It’s the joy of watching the organic growth that every healthy business goes through. By "organic," I mean, literally, "of or designating carbon compounds." No, wait, that’s not what I mean. I mean plant-like, gradual growth. Last week you made $24. This week you made $26. By this time next year you might be making $100.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Almost forgot

Welcome to Sancta Hebdomada

VEXILLA Regis prodeunt;
fulget Crucis mysterium,
quo carne carnis conditor
suspensus est patibulo

Confixa clavis viscera
tendens manus, vestigia,
redemptionis gratia
hic immolata est hostia.

Quo vulneratus insuper
mucrone diro lanceae,
ut nos lavaret crimine,
manavit unda et sanguine.

DNA of your loved ones

Not something I really want around the house, but apparently it's available . . .

Eiwa Industry Co. in Japan started this idea with pet DNA, but received numerous requests for similar pendants for human DNA, and has now started to sell the items.

I hate to say it, but let 'em go in peace.

Australia's Christian fundamentalism?

Of course this title is nonsense. Thus, I find it interesting that the concept of no-fault divorce is anathema to the Australian legal system, which admits only the irreperable breakdown of a marriage as grounds for divorce. Shoulnd't this be an issue with the UN Human Rights Comission or something? At any rate it seems to be working fine for them, so I don't see why we can't do it too.

Note: sourced from the 2006 Year Book Australia, published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Thank you St. LaSalle!

Just a personal note: On today the feast day of Saint John Baptiste de la Salle I found out I was accepted into the Lasallian Volunteers! I have long been praying for this! How appropriate to discover the news on the same day that is the feast day of the saint who founded the order and to whom I have on this day promised to devote myself to in a special way.

I just wanted to share the happy news!

Swiss Guards marching south

Apr. 07 ( - Members of the Swiss Guard today began a ceremonial march from Switzerland to Rome, retracing the route followed by the original members of the Vatican corps when they were recruited by Pope Julius II 500 years ago.

I would like to join. Sadly, however, I'm not Swiss.

The Pope in Israel?

Could be.

During a papal audience today, Peres, a senior Kadima party politician and Nobel Peace Prize winner, transmitted to the Holy Father the invitation presented by interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls published a statement after the audience, confirming the invitation but making no mention of a date for the trip.

"In the talks there was an exchange of opinions on the topic of peace in the Holy Land, in respect of the United Nations resolutions and agreements reached to date," the Vatican spokesman said.

I wonder what that does to Shabbat times

I was reading the Statistical Abstract of the US, and it turns out that there are three times as many Jews in Alaska as in Idaho.

First of all, I don't understand that.

Secondly, If the sun never goes down, or always stays up, does the datecard ever flip on the Jewish calendar?

Answers. I need answers.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

What are you going to be eating on Passover?

Something tells me I'll be fasting . . . though I could go for some veal and mushroom stew or brisket . . .

Would you want to do business in France?

The new law, which would allow employers to fire people under age 26 during a trial period without cause, was intended to encourage companies to hire young people. It has tipped the country into a political crisis instead, battering the career of its sponsor, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Mr. Chirac ratified the law but asked Parliament, rather than his administration, to draft a new law amending the first. That gives Parliament the power to modify the law, according to Mr. Chirac's wishes, or to go further, by revising it in a way that would effectively kill it. Few expect the law to emerge as anything close to what Mr. de Villepin intended.

The main opposition Socialist Party introduced a bill on Wednesday in Parliament to repeal the law and called for it to be passed before the Easter holiday.

My econ professor was ruminating on the strangeness of French labor law recently and reminded us that in the US anyone can be fired at any time for no reason, which is why people get hired. If they don't work out, you can just fire them. Seems pretty simple to me . . .


We all do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking.
- Mark Twain

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

As the Orthodox call for abrogation of universal jurisdication

The Russian Orthodox hierarchy has frequently complained about the activities of the Catholic Church in countries that are traditionally Orthodox. Ironically, Bishop Hilarion presides over the Orthodox community in historically Catholic Austria.

Yes, telling archbishops what to do is usually considered government involvement in religion

ANN ARBOR, MI, April 4, 2006 ( - A virulently anti-Catholic resolution (see coverage ) unanimously passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has prompted a federal lawsuit by the Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Board resolution condemned Catholic moral teaching on homosexuality and urged the Archbishop of San Francisco and Catholic Charities of San Francisco to defy Church directives prohibiting gay adoptions

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and two San Francisco Catholic citizens, challenges the anti-Catholic resolution as a "startling attack by government officials on the Catholic Church, Catholic moral teaching and beliefs, and those who adhere to the tenets of the Catholic faith, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution."

The March 21, 2006 resolution alludes to the Vatican as a foreign country meddling in the affairs of the City and describes the Church's moral teaching and beliefs as "insulting to all San Franciscans," "hateful," "insulting and callous," "defamatory," "absolutely unacceptable," "insensitive[] and ignoran[t]." The resolution calls on the local Archbishop to "defy" the Church's teachings and describes Cardinal William Joseph Levada, the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is responsible for safeguarding the doctrine on the faith and morals of the Church throughout the Catholic world, as "unqualified" to lead.

According to Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, "The demagoguery and virulent words of this resolution are reminiscent of the anti- Catholic bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan and the Know Nothings, which marred our Nation's earlier history. San Francisco may as well have put up signs at the City limits: 'Faithful Catholics Not Welcomed."

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


I have to go help a user who lost mail she had been storing in her deleted items folder.

Some people really don't get it.

Quote of the Day

"The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms."

From Blair

On Wednesday of next week, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in
the morning, the time and date will be 01:02:03 04/05/06.

That won't happen again for 1000 years.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ought we to snitch?

Q: My workplace has a "zero tolerance" policy for visits to inappropriate web sites. All employees are supposed to immediate report such behavior to management. Should I go straight to management with such cases?

A: It's a good thing your workplace is sensitive to the damage these immodest websites can do to the worker's own moral fiber, to the offense they can cause to fellow workers, and to the disruption they can cause to performance. However, the policy you describe to fight the phenomenon does not sound like a wise one.

In Jewish law and tradition informing on someone is generally a last resort. The preferred first line of action is to turn directly to the wrongdoer with a gentle reminder. There are two different ethical principles behind this preference.

What went on yesterday

The central event at the Vatican will be a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square in the evening of April 2, recalling the vigil held there on the night Pope John Paul died. Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) will participate in that prayer session, and then preside at an anniversary Mass the following day.

The evening ceremony will begin at 8:30 with the reading of several texts written by the late Pontiff. These readings will be interspersed with hymns performed by the Rome diocesan choir, led by its director, Msgr. Marco Frisina.

At 9, Cardinal Camillo Ruini (bio - news)will led the Rosary, with meditations taken from the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, promulgated by Pope John Paul in 2002. Pope Benedict will join in the prayer, from the window of his apartment. At 9:27, the time at which the death of the Polish Pontiff was announced, Pope Benedict will address the faithful. The crowd in St. Peter's Square will be linked to a gathering in central Krakow by a live television broadcast. Earlier on April 2, Archbishop Szczepan Wesoly-- the retired head of the Dragonara archdiocese, who now oversees pastoral care for Polish Catholics living abroad-- will celebrate Mass in the basilica of St. John Lateran for the Polish community in Rome.

In Poland, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, who served for years as personal secretary to the late Pontiff, will led the Stations of the Cross, then celebrate Mass, at the shrine of the Divine Mercy. And in Wadowice, the boyhood home of the Polish Pontiff, about 20,000 people are expected to attend anniversary Mass.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world

Francesco Vezzoli's Caligula

This Saturday I spent the lovely afternoon at the Whitney surveying the treasures of the Biennial, a special collection of the latest (and best?) of contemporary American art. It was to say the least a very interesting exhibit. A lot of it was edgy and provocative and challenged viewers to encounter art in new ways. On the whole I found it quite intellectually stimulating. It is hard to comment on the exhibit on the whole, because it was so large. I found much of the art interesting, engaging, and entertaining, but much of it I also found depraved, chaotic, juvenile, and alienating.

The one installation that made the biggest impression on me, and was also probably the most expensive to create, was a faux-trailer remake of the 1979 movie "Caligula" possibly one of the most controversial movies ever made. The trailer was made by Francesco Vezzoli and starred such Hollywood actors as Benicio del Toro, Courtney Love and Karen Black, and costumes by Versace. The focus of the trailer is on the orgiastic lifestyle of Emperor Caligula. There are lots of quick takes of orgies, young boys led on chains, and acts involving golden dildos.

To be frank, I've become desensitized to this sort of thing and the trailer failed to shock me. I actually found it quite funny. I think it was meant to be a sort of elaborate joke. From the moment Courtney Love claims to be the embodiment of Caligula I had to chuckle. But in all the explicit content of this five-minute trailer, there was one image that disturbed me. It appeared for only a split-second, but it was the last image to appear, that of a pope.

At that instant the movie ceased to be a perverse joke and became an anti-Catholic statement. By placing the image of a pope as the last to a series of climatic orgiastic images, the movie stops being about Caligula and seems to be a statement equating the perversion and corruption of that emperor with the papal state. (I didn't get the chance to see which pope it was and I didn't stay to watch it a second time. I couldn't find out on the internet who it was. Some saw Pope John Paul II, others our current Pope, Benedict XVI.) Perhaps Vezzoli intended it to be an anti-Catholic or a message about the problem of a concentration of power in any one figure, be he state or religious. Or maybe he just wanted to create a stir and see if conservative religious Americans would call for the removal of his film from the museum. But as a quick search of the internet reveals, if that was the case, he failed. Either conservative Catholic folk aren't going to the Whitney, don't care about anti-papal statements, or simply don't think this is something worth taking on.

I've been thinking about this film in relation to previous discussions on this blog about art, beliefs, and morals. Suddenly the question of intent is raised. Is the film a joke? Was the image of the pope thrown in as an afterthought or was the film intended to have this political statement from the beginning? Should I be surprised that something possibly anti-Catholic would come from the studios of pornography?

Let me start with my first question. If it is a joke, I don't believe that excuses it. Jokes can be offensive, and I believe art can be offensive too. Just as I don't believe in excusing racial jokes as harmless on the grounds of comedy, I don't believe in excusing offensive art on the grounds that it is art. Of course determining what is offensive is subjective and so the issue is tricky.

I have a feeling the image of the pope was thrown in as an afterthought. I think simply remaking Caligula for the sake of remaking Caligula in a humorous, slick-Hollywood fashion was the original intent and heart of this film. However afterthought or not, that doesn't diminish the fact that it is there. I have no problem with art expressing anti-religious or anti-papal themes. That's freedom of expression. However this manifestation seems particularly vicious. Having one's loving and celibate religious leader compared to one of the most licentious and depraved Roman emperors simply seems rather uncalled for.

Okay, well somebody might argue, what was a morally sensitive Catholic person doing watching this pornographic film anyways. In my defense let me explain the setup: The movie is shown on loop in a room with theater-like seating. There are perhaps a dozen film-installations going on in the Whitney this Biennial. I wandered into many film installations that day without reading the titles or captions that go with them. There was no warning about explicit content. True, I did stay for the entire film. In large part it's because I've already become desensitized to sexual imagery. As I mentioned earlier, it failed to shock or surprise me. But I ask, what is the role of the Whitney in showing this film as part of the most acclaimed achievements in art the past two years? I'm not sure I saw the artistic value. In fact there didn't seem to be anything new or unusual about it. I also ask about the Whitney's responsibility for how the film was shown. I don't expect the secular art world to censure itself, but what about individuals who want to shield children or themselves from such content? Shouldn't there have been some warning?

I walked out of the museum that day mostly disenchanted by what I had seen. A few things struck me as interesting and innovative, but mostly I was let down. If this is the direction art is heading and if this is the legacy of art for our time I'm afraid I'll have to steer clear of it in the future.

I recently went to the Dada exhibit at the National Gallery in DC. While Dadaism celebrates the absurd, I would still argue that a lot of the art had a purpose. It was a cohesive movement, a response to the absurdities of man that had arisen in the past two World Wars. It deconstructed language, movement, light, color, and sound. It deconstructed our systems of sense and showed them to be senseless. It was a voyage in existentialism.

But the Biennial art seems beyond existentialism, beyond relativism. We have entered in a strange new world of chaos and dare I say depravity. It is a world of total alienation from any meaning.

The one room I enjoyed the most in the exhibit was the political room full of anti-Bush and anti-war and queer political artwork. While I often did not agree with the politics behind the art, at least these works had a dialogue. They conveyed some of the urgent issues of our time in tangible ways. There were assumptions behind the works, and the most common assumption was that people mattter. This room alone gave me a space to breath, to remind myself that these works are fashioned from human hands and I wasn't just on some bad acid trip. I could stop and mourn with my fellow men at the harrowing atrocities of war and weep at what darkness the human heart is capable of. At least there I was centered in humanity and not lost in abstractions of space and objects.

Vezzoli's Caligula disturbed me most, as much porn does, not so much because of the explicit sex, nudity, or because of the image of the pope, but because it seemed to reflect the depravity and alienation of our society today. Or where it seems to be heading anyways. Even though so many people were having sex together the film seemed to be devoid of human contact. The individuals were wrapped up in their own pleasures and experiences and could only view others as a conduit through which those pleasures could be obtained. There was no hint at any subplots about friendship or relationships, it was simply about madness and sex. As long as we have the capacity to form relationships with others we are still sane. When we have lost that and devalue meaningful relationships we have lost the core of our humanity and become like the terrible Caligula.

Ioannes Paulus II

His pontificate, his life, photos, videos, documents. Most impressive is the Regina Caeli that he wrote but was never able to read. I can't believe that a year ago tomorrow was Divine Mercy Sunday . . .

That's a word?

"Our over fourty groups and projects offer opportunities for students to get involved Jewishly . . ."

I mean, I guess the concept of being involved in something in a Jewish manner makes sense. But wouldn't it make more sense to talk about getting involved in Jewish activities, rather than getting involved in (goy?) activities jewishly? Jewishly? Do you capitalize that?

I guess this probably doesn't really warrant a post. But it's so weird?!?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The mobile homeless

People who live in their cars. Hiding from suburban cops. Oy. Surely we can do something better for these people. They're able to have jobs, but not to live somewhere. Something's very strange about that.

Say word

As Scalia flips off the Boston Herald. Awesome.

Message of a personal nature censored

I was just going to blog something when I realized it would probably be a great point for identity theft. I was about to wax idyllic about how no one in the 1800s would have worried about such hogwash when I realized that there was a case of identity theft in Huck Finn with the Duke and Dauphin . . .

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