Old Oligarch's Painted Stoa

Past Posts of Note
Substantative, in chronological order
The Sunday obligation and illness: question, research & my answer

Denial of personhood: Dei Filius & Terri Schiavo

On Modesty 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Differing with Dulles 1 & 2 on pro-abort politicians

Mad About Manuals 1 & 2

Absinthe recherches early, required reading, 2, 3, 4.

First time at an abortuary

The Maundy

TPOTC impact & analysis and more

Contraception reflections 1, 2

Meiwes, propheta, übermensch

Headship Loggerheads 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

Matrix: Revolutions

Matrix: Reloaded
1, 2 & 3

Terrorist Attack Preparations, and follow-ups 1 & 2 & 3


Casuistry of Drinking

Review of Auto Focus

Parish Review 1

The Power of Shame

Biblical Hermeneutics

Ayoob on Guns

Against the Ordination of Women

Two Cents on Braveheart


Thematic Meditations

E-mail Me
oldoligarch @yahoo.com

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I Might Respond!

E-mail Policy
Any e-mail I receive is fair game for publication, with comments, unless you explicitly say so beforehand.

Gabriel Possenti

The WeatherPixie
Weather at Dulles Airport

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Have a minute? Want to tell someone about an out-of-print Catholic masterpiece you want to see digitized? (Preferably from the 17th cent. onwards?)


Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/31/2003 06:42:00 PM | link

I just ate cashew nuts, pretzels and jerky for lunch. Man, I gotta do better than that.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/30/2003 11:21:00 AM | link

This man's neck is so disgustingly long, I don't know why they use it for a personals ad. Perhaps if you're into kissing an anteater, he's the man:

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/30/2003 11:20:00 AM | link

Fr. Matthew sends the following interesting article from the Washington Times:

Study Finds Gay Unions Brief

The thesis:

A recent study on homosexual relationships finds they last 1-1/2 years on average — even as homosexual groups are pushing nationwide to legalize same-sex "marriages."

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/30/2003 11:11:00 AM | link

Oooh, theology question in the mailbag:

What do you do with a decrepit or damaged Bible? Can you throw it out? Do you have to bury it?

You have two options, besides repair:
1) Incineration, dispose of the ashes anywhere.
2) Wrap in newspaper, bury.

Same goes for any other sacramental.

Both methods are not easy for renters / city-dwellers. Some people say wrap in newspaper, dispose normally, on the logic that it all goes to the landfill or is incinerated eventually anyway. I am ambiguous about this and prefer to burn because that way I don't worry about the Bible and old rosary being covered in the worst forms of nastiness for years to come.

I recently burnt a small trove of items (a pocket bible, many palms, and a few worn-out scapulars) in my apartment, but the method wasn't great, and I don't advise it. I put them in a 13x9 pyrex baking pan, put that in the bathtub, covered the items with lighter fluid, dropped in a match, and BLAMMO!, a blazing inferno for a minute, followed by about 5 minutes of slower burn, with the shower ready at hand in case things got out of control. I do not advise this for anyone. It is potentially dangerous.

So, if you must burn and don't have a yard, I recommend: Get / find / borrow cheap hibachi. (I bought my one and only hibachi new for $15.) Have a cookout. At the end, scrape clean the grill, wrap your items with some newspaper to help them burn, throw on some more coals / fluid if necessary, and burn your items. Yes, for a non-yard-owner, incineration is a pain. That's why I save up my old religious goods and only burn them once a year, if that. It's also why I don't take palms on Palm Sunday.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/29/2003 03:33:00 AM | link

(Since I spent my mental energy on the debate, this is what you get today.)

1. Surf sites at random, or have a set list of regular reads?

Set list for the most part, although (a) I always surf my referrer log, and (b) I often surf Blogger's "link of the moment" and links to blogs from other blogs I read, which ads spice. This summer, however, I've been so dad-burned busy reading I'm usually too spent to read a lot of other blogs.

2. Do you visit mostly blogs, or news or other sites?

Blogs. I hate the news. The news is largely irrelevant. To use a Platonic metaphor that is too dualist to adequately represent my own beliefs, but appropriate here: News is like the sensory appearances in Plato: enough to occasion an interesting recollection, but completely vapid in raw form, and unnecessary if you're already thinking on a higher level. Read philosophy & lit, view art instead. Or to say it another way: If in 1 year it's irrelevant, it's already irrelevant. That rules out 90% of news.

3. Do you go online every day, or just a couple of days a week?
Every day, at least 1-2 hours every day. (Blog, e-mail, usually something I need to look up for study, buy, or do.) Some days much, much more. A big blog takes me a few hours, which is why I do it less than I originally planned. A day spent doing Biblical exegesis is often performed with six commentaries open on the desk and the linked scholarly websites open on the desktop.

4. Do you allow comments on your blog, or not?
I don't. This began as template laziness. Then it ossified into a preference: if someone were to leave a nasty comment or an opinion that really burns me, I'd be unable to resist smacking them down. But that would take a big chunk out of my online day, and I must jealously guard my time for my work, my home & wife, and my own peace of mind. So I don't allow comments because I don't want to hand hostile strangers a rope by which to yank me around.

I sometimes reconsider this because I get relatively few hostile e-mails and I've seen people defend Zorak in her comments when someone is rude.

5. Do you shop online at all, or at regular stores?
Online! Online ! Online! One thousand times online! I buy almost everything online, even groceries when I was in DC. (Now I go in the middle of the night to the store that's open 24-7). I bank online. I used to work online (teaching). I research online. I take care of my doctoral affairs 70% online.

Buying online means you can avoid interacting with the churlish, incompetent people who staff many brick-and-mortar establishments. It means no traffic. It means no crowds. It means a pure economic transaction unburdened by the human factor that is rarely more than just that . . . a burden. It means never having to call (basically, a crippled version of "online") to see if something is there: either it is, or it isn't. It means shopping a dozen competitors from the comfort of my Aeron chair. It means price transparency. It means, quite often, having the option to buy it new in pristine condition or used for a steal. It means a new level of purity of the free market which can only be obtained when translated into cyberspace.

Can I be any more enthusiastic?

6. Have you ever done online bill-paying/banking, or not?
I bank online, which is great. (No lines, no banker's hours, good interest rates because there's no brick-and-mortar overhead.)

I am skeptical of online bill-paying for two reasons: 1) While banks are set up such that payment accounts interact with each other in an established, uniform way (i.e. routing numbers, account numbers, ACH transactions, etc.), the businesses which are accepting online bill-paying are not nearly as uniform, which, to my mind creates the potential for chaos. It also introduces a third party into the payment process which is not responsible for the fine or derogatory credit rating that ensues when they screw up and forget to pay your bill. I am wary of that. I will pay companies through their website via credit card, however, because their web-interface is particular to the company, and I can contest billing errors on the credit card.

Moreover, I refuse to give certain businesses anything but a paper check every month. There's no way in Hades I'm giving the knuckle-dragging troglodytes at Verizon access to my bank account through direct billing. This company (in the DC area at least) is so bad I think they spend the bulk of their time trying to prevent outbreaks of cannibalism in their offices. When I got a flyer for donating to their "Verizon reads" program, my first thought was (honestly) that they were teaching their employees to read. I can only imagine the havoc they could wreak on my checking account with their carelessness, and the hours of pain dealing with their bureaucracy to fix it.

7. Which news site do you prefer... MSNBC.com or CNN.com? Or do you prefer some other one?
When I do glance at the news (about once a month, only if something major is happening), it's CNN online but FOX on TV. Zorak filters all my news for me. If there's something happening in the world, I usually get it through her. This is a great little marital economy. You married folks should try it sometime.

8. Live chat rooms, or message boards?
I used to go on IRC, but I have found you have to get a really good room on an off night to talk about anything productively. No dialog works when extended into a 10-way conversation. Thus, message boards if anything. E-mail list servers are better still.

9. Instant messaging or e-mail?
E-mail. I respond to you on my time, not your time.

10. Yes or no: have you ever met, or at least talked on the phone with, another blogger? If not, would you want to? Why or why not?

Yes. I'm married to one. I know a dozen others in real life. But I assume the gist of the question is: would I ever meet one I didn't know initially from somewhere else? Yes, again. I met Fr. Jim when we went to his church, although I first introduced us simply as "Zorak" and "The Old Oligarch," but largely because we forgot to get around to real first names in the hustle of the post-Mass reception-line thing where everyone wants to say hello to the priest. We've since met a few times.

Even better: In real life, I know two bloggers, who read me online and whom I've either e-mailed or sent comments to their blogs, who know me in person but don't know I'm the Oligarch. One, in fact, has talked to me at least 30 times. This little interaction adds tremendous fun to my day. And now that you're all wondering, no, I'm not going to give any more hints than that.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/28/2003 11:32:00 PM | link

Spent my mental energies this week in that fair town of New Haven. Saw shockingly little of campus, except for the Old Campus. Had a very good time at the debate, which despite its eclecticism, I thought had some very coherent and insightful moments throughout and ended well. I give it a 7 out of 10 for a summer debate. (The debate proper; not the "joke" topic afterwards, which was like a rhetorical version of Guernica.)

I was sad that our leader came down with a sudden illness and had to be brought to the hospital unexpectedly! (He is fine now after surgery.) It did provide a fun moment for 8 tipsy, tired, formally-dressed debaters to weasel their way into the hospital for a visit at 5am after we finished the debate and deposited our liquor horde. Despite the illness, anaesthesia, and frightfully late hour, our leader was in great form, greeting us with the usual indefatiguable energy, grasping a symbol of his office in his IV-catherized hand, in hospital dress.

I found that my utter aversion to hospitals is considerably diminished (like 80%!) while intoxicated. I am considering going to the doctor well-primed all the time.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/28/2003 10:38:00 PM | link

I'm heading off to New Haven to go debate the Middle Ages (indeed, all of them) with the Pythagorean brotherhood at Yale, accompanied by two Hypatian figures (one blogless, the other here) or possibly even three. Cacciaguida and I are sure to be wearing white shoes and seersucker, which has such limited venue these days.

Browsing around the web, I came across these memoirs from someone in my college, 55 years earlier. Even that far back, we share things in common, such as the fond memory of Beekman Cannon, who was still active in the college when I was an undergrad.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/24/2003 11:31:00 AM | link

Two new installments in the Yale song feature:

The first is all about sex in the thirties: Daddy is a Yale Man is pretty self-explanatory. This is about as bawdy as the genre gets. Consider it the upbeat version of that Hemingway story from Winner Take Nothing the title of which I forget. (My fiction is all in storage, or else I'd look it up.)

The second is the pious, venerable college song, Bright College Years. Try not to get carried away by the wrong kind of Gefühl, lest you end up singing "Fest steht and treu die Wacht! Die Wacht am Rhein!" at the end of each stanza.

The tune of Bright College Years is the same as Die Wacht am Rhein, a German patriotic anthem which you might remember being sung in the bar in Casablanca. The German lyrics, and a wimpy, inaccurate translation are here. (The translation is a good example of achieving something that rhymes at the expense of the feeling of the piece. For example, the English translation hardly captures the force of: "Und schwört mit stolzer Kampfeslust: Du Rhein bleibst deutsch, wie meine Brust!" "And swears with proud battle-lust: You, Rhein, remain German, like my heart.") Scroll down on the linked page for a modern translation of the song into rhyming Latin!

Yale has a proud Germanic heritage, of which, unfortunately, it has become somewhat embarassed since the 1940s.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/24/2003 11:14:00 AM | link

Reservoir Feds, or do I just have Tarantino on the brain?

"Traveling with President Bush, Governor Ridge tours a water treatment plant in Kansas City, Mo., with EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman, center left, and Education Secretary Rod Paige, center right, June 11, 2002." (from Whitehouse.gov.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/23/2003 11:18:00 AM | link

The St. Gabriel Possenti Society: A Patron Saint of Handgunners?

Sancte Gabriel, ora pro nobis!

The Possenti Society is a Northern Virginia-based project of a Catholic handgun enthusiast John Michael Snyder to get St. Gabriel Possenti declared "Patron Saint of Handgunners."

Possenti was a Passionist priest, who as a seminarian single-handedly defended the citizens of his town Isola, Italy against 20 robbing, raping brigands using a pistol, but without killing anyone. A noted outdoorsman in his earlier life, Possenti was apparently quite a marksman. Read the short bio of the "Savior of Isola" here.

Their site has come a long way in the past year. They now sell a book and some religious articles. In particular, I like their medal because it depicts the instrumenta beside his head: the pistol and the lizard:

The guy who runs the society sounds like quite a character. I did not know St. Barbara was the patroness of those who fire artillery, nor was I even aware of St. Fiacre, who is invoked against venereal disease! One quote from Snyder might suffice: ""A lot of the Catholic bishops in the United States are out of line on this issue. They are pacifists up the wazoo." Wazoo, indeed.

I've seen the society advertised at a local range. Inquiry is pending regarding whether the members shoot together during the month.

The next time you're at the range and want to say a quick prayer for a safe day, or standing on the competition line, invoke St. Gabriel!

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/22/2003 07:45:00 AM | link

Sorry I haven't been blogging lately. Been under a cloud of depression and insomnia for the most part...and a ton of little errands during those waking, enthusiastic hours.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/21/2003 10:12:00 PM | link

I need to cash a check from the Government of Canada. (Canadian MIRC number, drawn in Canadian funds.) Does anyone have a clue regarding how I do this? My bank (E-trade) doesn't accept it. Recommendations? Please e-mail me.

Update: The answer is Travelex, which recently acquired Thomas Cook Financial Services. They have an 18th & K branch which cashes Canadian-drawn checks for $5. They need to advertise more. Even the website is vague about whether they do this or not.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/15/2003 01:49:00 AM | link

"But these girls, they're all Traci Lords."
-- Traci, referring to the recovering child prostitutes with whom she's worked.

Traci Lords was interviewed on Larry King Live tonight. I stumbled across this flipping through channels with Zorak after our return from Richmond. Apparently she has a new autobiography.

Lords was perhaps the most famous porn star of the 1980s, and became exceptionally famous when it was discovered she did most of her work between the ages of 15 and 18.

Raped at age 10 by her boyfriend, Lords lived with a violent, drunk father who then left her and her mother. She had an abortion at age 14, from consentual promiscuity. Then she was sexually abused by her mother's new boyfriend at age 15. The creep even introduced her into "modelling" (i.e. nude modelling) at which point she ran away from home, and continued with the modelling in Hollywood, which quickly translated into porn and drug abuse.

She managed to escape all that, and rebuild her life, and make a legimate acting career for herself. She also works with Children of the Night, which is an organization dedicated to helping teenage girls, ages 11(!) to 17, to leave their lives prostitutes. Lords claims she has never met a young prostitute whose biography did not resemble her own.

Complete transcript of the interview here.

Lords has a clean website, but it's not that detailed. Moreover, she seems willing to try to cash in on what remaining porn-star mystique she has, as you can see by some of the images on site, esp. the ones leading to the "members' section." (Or perhaps she doesn't realize the line between beautiful and slutty having spent so many years in pornography. In any case, she needs to be more covered up on the website. She herself admits she is just barely getting to the stage where she can think clearly and in retrospect about herself.)

Everyone should be able to draw the right conclusion about these data and the sex trade. If not, I'm sure Eve and The Rat will help.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/15/2003 01:38:00 AM | link

Spent the past few days in Richmond. Saw T-3, more later.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/15/2003 01:27:00 AM | link

Why?, Why?, WHY?
Promise me this, dear reader. If you ever write or translate a book which makes key points based on the distinction between the infinitive "Being" = "to be" / Sein / Esse and the present participle "being" / seindes / ens, please hit your head with the nearest brick if you get the following idea, which has occured to both Fr. Edward T. Oakes, SJ, translator of Von Balthasar's Theology of Karl Barth and Andrew Tallon, editor of the English edition of Rahner's Hearer of the Word. The monstrosity is as follows:

"I should mention that I have avoided the practice of translating Sein as "Being" with a capital B...."

Oakes then goes on to claim that to him, at least, it seems to make more sense the other way because Being is more like the name of a thing, seindes, than Act-of-Being, Sein. He then goes on to say, that wherever ambiguous, he retains the usual custom. So the book renders Sein half one way, half the other, where "ambiguous."

EE-DEE-OT! Why do people do this? 1) The uppercase-B / lowercase-b custom is a perfectly fine, nearly universal convention. 2) Now I have another scenario in which I must consult the original German if ever I am not sure about the precise meaning of a passage. Thanks, you just made me get, if not buy, one book instead of two, just because you, the translator mandated that I trust your judgment when you could have easily taken yourself out of the loop with a simple, uniform convention that already exists through the academic world.

Again, dear reader: If ever you think, for whatever reason, "hmmm, what about translating Esse as lowercase-B 'being'?" Calmly pick up brick -- whack! whack! whack! -- "duuuhh, now what was I thinking again?" All better.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/11/2003 06:32:00 PM | link

Traditional Yale Songs:
A new feature for all you Yalies who read the blog, and you others who don't mind vicarious nostalgia for a school you didn't attend.

Let's start with one you haven't heard before perhaps. The Battle of the Books concerns an obscure event early in the College's history, which makes it great for trads. You can buy it here.

Note: There is no statement whatsoever on the CD prohibiting reproduction or even requesting prior authorization, so I am assuming it's fine to post a link to the song. They offer several themselves on the aforelinked page. So I am immune from the recent witchhunt conducted by the luddite (R)etroactive (I)mpediment to (A)udio (A)dvances, which I hope collectively meets a painful end to its existence.

I've almost got the lyrics down with the exception of one line and two words, each marked with question marks below. I think it's "Saybrookers" but the proper adjectival form of "Saybrook" is "Saybrugian" not "Saybrooker." (I wonder if Nihil Obstat knew that?) Can anyone help with the remaining words?

The Battle of the Books

Draw nigh, all Yale men who would dwell in Veritas et Lux,
And hear the tale we have to tell of The Battle of the Books.
Our College was in Saybrook town 'till 1718,
When votes were cast to move it down 'longside New Haven's Green.

With oxen, clods and trusty men, the Sheriff took away books
Though every local citizen cried, "Leave those be! They're Saybrook's!"
The Sheriff was a stubborn wight and not to be dissuaded,
But when he stopped to pass the night by Saybrook he was raided.

"Stand!" rang the chorus. "Give back that Thesaurus!
"Deliver those folios; essays restore us!"
Saybrookers(?) fought him like Saint George the dragon,
Drove off the oxen, seized books from the wagon.

O, that battle of books, of the books
To rattle the cattle and battle with books!

Tattlers and Spectators hurled through the blue,
The author was stealing, they felt like it too. (?)
Newton's Principia, all about gravity,
Proved he was right, in the head made a cavity.

Tomes of theology, Hebrew philology,
Fluid reflections on one genealogy,
Sermon or tract, whom many had whacked,
They never cracked books, but by books they were cracked.

Chaucer and Spencer dealt many a blow.
Never did libraries circulate so!
Almost a fourth of the volumes was taken,
But Milton was saved, and they brought home the Bacon.

O, that Battle of Books, of the books,
No prattle or tattle that Battle of Books!
Of the books, of the books, of the books, of the books,
No prattle or tattle that Battle of Books!

If ever in the library today a Yale man looks,
He'll chance upon there, naturally, a lot of ancient books,
The books they battled for that day, and(?) on a seal engraven
Is "Novus Portus," which they say is Latin for "New Haven."

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/11/2003 04:43:00 AM | link

I rank 120th in a Yahoo search for "beardless medicine." Well, friend, neither are here.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/11/2003 04:19:00 AM | link

It's not every day you go a mall and see an enormous picture of Mother Theresa:

Indeed, I was at the eighth largest mall in North America, at Tyson's Corner, and the sign said "Compassion: Pass it on." So obviously I was intrigued.

It turned out to be The Foundation for a Better Life, a secular organization aimed at increasing "good values" in people, and by that, they mean basically, an Aristotelian type of virtue with a little caring & sacrifice thrown in from Christianity, and some communitarian ethos from wherever.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/11/2003 04:15:00 AM | link

Pray for Fr. Zigrang, who seems like he basically snapped one day and decided he had enough of the Novus Ordo mass, announcing that in his parish, from then on, it would be Tridentine Rite only. This is, of course, turning on a collision course with his bishop, who suspended him the next day.

At the same time, Bishop Fiorenza is at fault. 1 Latin Mass in 1 church per Sunday in a diocese of 1.5 million Catholics is a completely inadequate and utterly dishonest episcopal response to the Pope's repeated instructions that the indult be granted broadly. For all his love of quoting the wishes of the Holy Father, the bishop needs to be honest with himself about his intense dislike for the traditional Mass and convert his heart.

Pray, too, for the universal indult. This would be the best thing for liturgical renewal in years. Liturgy will get honest with itself when forced to compete with something truly beautiful.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/09/2003 07:15:00 PM | link

You morning people, whether single or married to other morning people will never know the pure joy of driving at 4am through the deserted streets of normally buzzing downtown Vienna to buy stamps at an equally deserted open-all-night Post Office and a can of Spam at the open-all-night 7-11, peopled by two Vietnamese clerks who speak so little English they might as well not have been present either.

I hand the guy my cash, saying "There you are." He looks on in gentle but complete confusion, able only to articulate the total displayed on the cash register. That fleeting, futile attempt at interpersonal relation only serves to heighten the absence of any real humanity more than the stark emptiness everywhere else could have done if it were total. If the desertedness of my late-night wanderings had been yet a little starker -- subtract the clerks, the man I passed on the road, and two other cars -- it would have been like walking in a world post neutron bomb. But it wasn't a surreal moment, or one in which humanity had been erased, violently. That wouldn't have captured the sensation of walking around in a world of men, for men, with other men, but really, in effect, they are completely absent: I do not interact with them, they do not interact with me, yielding an almost ideal resource-o-rama of a town.

I like the emptiness of such encounters because it is more genuine. Call me a misanthrope, a romantic anachronist, a soul prone to melancholy . . . whatever you should have come to expect already from reading this or knowing me: I like the complete lack of all human interaction because in the daytime, when the place is bustling with people, any genuinely human interaction is functionally just as absent. It shouldn't be, night or day, but it is. Except, in the daytime, the absence is surrounded by a lie, facade of polite rules by which we avoid each other . . . strike that, wrong decade . . . by the boorishness of self-centered, incompetant men, or the rank resentment of so many who hate their lot in life yet somehow manage not to completely destroy the business they are engaged in while emoting enough of their despair to make all human interaction painful; or men with obnoxious worldviews which I utterly despise, or men so hollow you wonder why they don't just buy a gun and pull the trigger; or men which, on better days, I pity, and marvel at what's become of the West.

In the day, meeting someone is an anonymous and pragmatic exercise. You don't care if you don't connect. In the night, you care. It's either absurd when you don't connect (like the clerk), or a significance encounter and cause for reflection when you do.

There. I got it off my chest. Wait, not quite:

The night itself is different than the empty world which is set in its background. The night is profound, immense, undisturbed, meditative. (The night is immense in the same sense that deus immensus is found in early creeds, before the word was seen as too prone to materialist interpretation or misunderstood as the apeiron of the Greeks.) The absolute rest of everything at 4am insists that one meditate on it, and moreover, on what it is, in itself rather than what it does. Wandering at night in a desolate town forces us to "think being" outside the rubric of "productivity" if you want to put it in Heideggerian terms. And his point is not simply about not thinking pragmatically, but about appreciating things in the fullest sense of their mysteriousness and the fact that they are there, rather than not at all, and the fact they are here in the way they are, rather than a million other possible ways. The restfulness of all things late, late at night -- together with the fact that they barely emerge from the all-encompassing, numinous night which enworlds them -- makes us think of their ultimate relationship to their Ground Of Existence. (Dawn and dusk can do this, too, to some extent, but because of the heightened temporal aspect of these transitional times, we tend to make historical / eschatological analogies instead.)

Day is just awful. Day is when the intense rays of the sun cast a sterile crispness on everything that forces you to think of the world as a collection of cleanly distinct objects. It reifies things the way one of those big hospital lights helps the surgeon see the boundary between the pancreas and gall bladder clearly . . . so he can cut. It suggests the equally sterilized ontological environment of the essentialist or materialist, wherein there the relationship between creature and Creator, if it is thought of at all, is thought of as a past fact -- a fact of which the creatures now stand completely independent. How can one not think of day-lit objects as radically individual? Each is so bright, one's attention is called to it exclusively. Each jostles for attention so energetically, they practically stab you in the eye. Don't believe me? Try sleeping days for a week, and staying up nights. When you see the sun come up, sleep; when it's still light out, keep sleeping. Try it in the winter, it's easier. (The Sufis, I might add, discovered coffee precisely for this reason: they liked reversing "normal" patterns of behavior for the sake of meditation.)

Now I know the obvious response: Day forces us to think of the sun, by which all things are illuminated to human vision. How can it not be a theological moment? This hoary chestnut has some worth to it, but nighttime, as I've hinted already, is superior. The present form of the maxim about the sun is the Medieval incarnation, one which focuses on the intelligibility of the things, man's need to see, and the gracious, providential role thus played by the sun. This maxim downplays the emphasis of the original Platonic maxim, which starts by reminding you how much the sun hurts the eyes. If day-lit objects force theological reflection, it does so in a precarious way, on all the wrong terms: beginning with by force, by the fact of the sun's overwhelming intensity. Such reflections usually frame God as Transcendent Power over-against man. I have no problem with Transcendent Power; it's the over-against man part that's dangerous. On occasion, I myself enjoy looking directly at the sun, when when I want to glory in the overwhelming transcendence of God. (Zorak has since forbade me to do this.) But, for me, these are Neoplotinian moments. I am usually trying to remember how, once in 1997, I thought my way to a fleeting grasp of how The Many proceed from The One in the Enneads. (A graced moment, even by Plotinus' own admission, so I don't know why I'm trying to repeat it.) I am sure most people aren't thinking about that if they are waxing ontological about the sun. Perhaps they are thinking of the aforementioned Medieval graciousness of the sun. That would be good. But I bet their thinking is primarily about contrast, about the radical gulf between visible objects and the source by which they are seen, a source which burns the eyes, and in such a way that the sun ends up being utterly remote, unapproachable and harsh, like the God of Verdi's Tuba Mirum rather than Palestrina's Sanctus. And if the Barthian heteronomy of the God of Verdi's Tuba Mirum is good for some pious Catholic folk, that's fine, but in the hands of anyone else (Barth himself, any atheist), it's just "baggage" that discourages them from thinking about God.

Moreover, because of the ultimately agricultural origins of human economy everywhere, day is never free from the suggestion that just because it is day, one should do something; or more virulently, that if one does anything at all, it must be done in the day. (This is the fundamental problem with "morning people," who, despite their best efforts, never seem to be remotely capable of abandoning the conviction their lifestyle is exclusively, uncritiquably correct. They are activity-fascists: tyrants of the amoral will-to-activity-just-because-one-can.) Day has the tendency to subjugate any good metaphysical insights derived from waxing ontological about the sun's transcendence to pure pragmatism. Any good metaphysical insights tend to be subjugated to the view that what is revealed by daylight is so revealed so that it can be made subject to human ends. Thus, whether its origins are through historical association of daylight with work, or with the more subtle fact that the intensely crisp light of day tends to make us reify objects separate from their Source, or to misconstrue their relationship to their Source, daytime can give you a bad attitude about the world. As Caputo (Heidegger and Aquinas), Pickstock (After Writing) and even the Pope (in the days when he was only Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow) have pointed out, un-objectify-ing the object is vital not only to good metaphysics, but to ethics and religion as well (see Kenneth Schmitz, At the Center of the Human Drama, chapter five, "The Project" -- amazing work.)

That is why I like night. It is not only meditative, it helps us to un-objectify the object. We think of the object deeply, no matter what it is, in connection to the source from which it emerges. But we do not think of the object as so completely, finally emerged that it is separate from its all-enveloping source. Night is like the existential Thomism of Gilson in this regard, in his insistence that esse is intimately connected to the ens of every ens creatum, and that the existence of the thing cannot be explained by its essence. Try thinking that in the daytime, when the what of everything is so high-contrast that it dominates one's attention, rather than the fact that it is. In the night, the that it is of the object is offered, gently, and in the context of meditation. Moreover, the night might make a good meditation on what Heidegger called Auf-trag, the unintelligibility of that from which objects emerge, although I think old Martin was totally wrong here, and Gilson is right.

Lastly, night encourages us to think of the presence of the other individual as a singular, important appearance, to be meditated upon with the same depth as the other night-dwelling objects: with reference to their fullness and mystery, rather than as obstacle to the resources you are trying to get. In the day time, wild hordes of people scramble over each other anonymously to get at resources (and in large cities, this happens 24-7, on streets artificially as bright as day; there is no night in the city; which is one of the many reasons why I hate large cities.) In the night, people are humane to each other. Or if they are going to be inhumane, it's in the fully honest monstrosity of a felony. But felonies like this prosper in cities, not in Vienna, where night-dwellers take each other as individuals. That's also why no one comes over for drinks and to talk at 6am before work. Night alone encourages socializing for the sake of communing with the other. (All you day people who are incredulous: the sun rises at 5:30! Surely you have enough stamina to socialize before work, no? See...the time of day is emblematic of something. Or, what?, you now feel oppressed by an irrational convention forbidding perfectly normal behavior? Heal thyself.) The night encourages us to think of each other while suspending our pragmatic concerns; to think of each other with respect to our mutual places before that immense, numinous, mystery that envelops us. And the night, especially after a drink or two, makes us enthusiastic again that we can hop over the walls of modern anonymity and pragmatism and share souls with someone, which I believe was Plato's definition of true friendship.

That's what goes through my head at 4am, driving back from the 7-11 through deserted Vienna. I had to write at least one stream-of-consciousness entry this year. See, it's not a waste of time to go get Spam. Gotta go. Sun's coming up.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/09/2003 06:12:00 AM | link

Your Results:

1. Bush, George W. - US President (100%)
2. Buchanan, Patrick J. – Reform/Republican (58%)
3. Libertarian Candidate (58%)
4. McCain, Senator John, AZ- Republican (51%)
5. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (50%)
6. Bayh, Senator Evan, IN - Democrat (48%)
7. Gephardt, Cong. Dick, MO - Democrat (46%)
8. Clinton, Senator Hillary Rodham, NY - Democrat (45%)
9. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (44%)
10. Lieberman Senator Joe CT - Democrat (42%)
11. Biden, Senator Joe, DE - Democrat (40%)
12. Dodd, Senator Chris, CT - Democrat (40%)
13. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (39%)
14. Kucinich, Cong. Dennis, OH - Democrat (39%)
15. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (38%)
16. Daschle, Senate Minority Leader Tom, SD - Democrat (37%)
17. Feinstein, Senator Dianne, CA - Democrat (32%)
18. Kaptur, Cong. Marcy, OH - Democrat (32%)
19. Leahy, Patrick Senator, Vermont - Democrat (31%)
20. Graham, Senator Bob, FL - Democrat (27%)
21. Bradley, Former Senator Bill NJ - Democrat (19%)
22. Jackson, Cong. Jesse Jr., IL - Democrat (19%)
23. Gore, Former Vice-President Al - Democrat (19%)
24. Feingold, Senator Russ, WI - Democrat (17%)
25. Hagelin, John - Natural Law (13%)
26. Green Party Candidate (12%)
27. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol IL - Democrat (12%)
28. Socialist Candidate (8%)
29. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (2%)
30. Clark, Retired Army General Wesley K "Wes" Arkansas - Democrat (0%)
31. Vilsack, Governor. Tom IA - Democrat (-2%)
32. Hart, Former Senator Gary, CO - Democrat (-2%)
33. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (-6%)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/08/2003 10:32:00 PM | link

Imagine a quadrapeligic who has been in a coma for 19 years, requiring constant care and interacting with no-one, in a hospital bed. Perfect candidate for euthanasia, no? Well, that describes Terry Wallis, and he woke up last month, greeting his mother, and pledging to walk so that he can do things with his 19 year-old daughter, conceived shortly before the accident that left him comatose and cost him his limbs in 1984.

AP Story, from today, is here.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/08/2003 10:08:00 PM | link

Had a good time yesterday talking Gadamer, the married life and Greek Orthodoxy with my two grad student friends, one of whom was Joshua Jericho from Little Latin, Less Greek.

Ate a great little Ethiopian restaurant called "Lalibela Ethiopian restaurant" on Columbia Pike in Arlington. I am not a connoisseur of Ethiopian food, and haven't eaten it that often, but we got a great meal at an excellent price with friendly service. Yummy injera (teff sourdough flatbread) and one generously-sized sampler platter with four styles of meat and two vegetables fed three of us, along with an appetizer and two beers, for $24 total. We wanted a light lunch, so it was a real steal for the three of us guys, but even $24 for a two-person meal is a deal.

The place apparently has relocated once, so yes, it is the same people who ran the restaurant on S. Walter Reed road. They've also spawned a "Lalibela II" elsewhere in Arlington. I don't think they have a website, but I didn't look hard, since many Ethiopian restaurants seem to be named after this historical town. One possible online review of the place said it looked "stark" but I don't think that's the case now that they've been there for awhile and have decorated a little. It's not a beautifully decorated environment by any means, but it's clean and comfy. The majority of the clientele seemed to be of Ethiopian descent, another good sign.

Lalibela is just East of S. Glebe Road on Columbia Pike. (North side of the road, look for the white and green facade.) Give it a try sometime.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/06/2003 05:30:00 PM | link

Dissemble, Disregard, and Damn Yourselves, Notre Dame.
(That's a warning, not a wish.)

“She held her ground, reiterating that Christ was just as present in the assembly during Mass,” he recounted.

“I was worried that perhaps this was what the entire theology department was like,” MacMichael said.

No, Mr. MacMichael, only half of the theology department. Move over to the philosophy department or drown in the detrius of an erstwhile theological tradition.

The consolation, of course, is that such places will be irrelevant in 50 years, when places like Steubenville and Christend0m become the new centers of genuine Catholic education.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/03/2003 11:06:00 PM | link

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/03/2003 10:58:00 PM | link

If it didn't drive my blood pressure through the roof, I would be this full-tilt about the death of the enemy as well.

According to your linked "Planned Parenthood Operating Budget for 1992," you need to eat again because Gregory Peck's on the list, and he died in the past month, too.

(While the Old Adam in O.O. fully resonates with T. Crown's joy over the destruction of the wicked, he reluctantly notes that if someone is roasting in hell, it's nothing to celebrate. That doesn't mean the person isn't getting what they deserve, nor that it is wrong to take some form of solace in divine justice.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/03/2003 10:07:00 PM | link

Fun concept:


Invest and trade in blogs like stocks, as idea-commodities. IPO your own blog and watch its value increase or decrease with "investor" interest and "revenue" gained by incoming links. Even execute hostile take-overs and start panicky sell-offs of certain blog-sectors.

(It's all done with fictional cash, of course, but boy would this make a fun kind of gambling with real money.)

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/03/2003 04:06:00 AM | link

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/03/2003 03:51:00 AM | link

Revenge of Domestic Quotes:
O.O. to Zorak: You just compared women to pigs and dogs.
Zorak (shrugs): Eh, yeah, whatever...

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/03/2003 03:49:00 AM | link

Regarding my earlier search to find a top-quality Vodka that supports family values, Chris from Texas writes to say:

I've been drinking Monopolowa for a couple of years now. Smoothest vodka I've found -- Polish, potato, and dirt cheap. I'll put it up against Ketel One, Grey Goose, and the Belvedere any day. Give it a try, for "medicinal" purposes.

Later we amended the description to note that the Vodka was Austrian, rather than Polish, in its provenance, although it is distilled by someone of Polish heritage. All the better, since your Oligarch is more than 50% Austrian in his provenance, yet also of Polish heritage.

Unfortunately the Virginia State Politburo of Alcohol doesn't carry it, but online dealers like Bevmo.com do. (This is not an endorsement for Bevmo, just the first thing that came up on Google which had a good pic of the Vokda.)

Better than Skyy or Luksosowa?

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/02/2003 02:06:00 PM | link

Welcome to my 30,000th visitor, who arrived at 9:52:32 am today on the main page, surfing from an IP leased to the State Gov't of South Carolina.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/02/2003 01:59:00 PM | link

Thanks, Bernard!, who writes:

Dear Oligarch,

You don't know me, but I've enjoyed reading your 'blog' for some time.

I just wanted to drop a note to let you know that the Kierkegaard quote
cited by Buber comes from 'The Crowd is Untruth' -

"everyone should cautiously have dealings with "the others," and
essentially only talk with God and with himself"

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/01/2003 02:50:00 PM | link

Ben writes:

I read your blog post on this with interest. I disagree.

Go[ing] back to Kant, God could easily adjust our schema such that 1+1 did equal 72 as a phenomenon without changing the underlying noumenal reality. While mathematical truth may be a priori rather than a posteriori, it is still not the in-itself.

First, strictly speaking, Kant doesn't have anything to say about God.

But putting that aside, Kant makes things worse, not better. He says, in effect: If we accept that our phenomenonal reality has no connection to reality in-itself, then we can make 1+1=72 without any problem. In other words, if we accept that our concepts have nothing to do with reality, then Look! the problem goes away. But it is a bad thing, I maintain, when concepts have nothing to do with reality. Or a third permuation. Kant says: If our concepts are basically cognitive signs without any extra-mental referent, then they can mean anything we want them to mean in some alternative world. Well then sure: that which is so arbitrary as to be meaningless can be rearranged in amazing ways, so that 1+1=72.

This proposed solution basically repeats the same two options I mentioned earlier. Let me explain. When we think about how a "phenomenal 1+1=72" relates to a noumenal "1+1=72", we have a few options. Either:

1) It is wrong to think of any noumenal number existing in-itself. There is no number in noumenal reality. But if this is true, there is no extra-mental referent for the phenomena of number. I.e. there is no connection between the appearance of numerical things in experience and reality in-itself. If there is no such thing as number in-itself, then:

a) The phenomenal concept of number is no better than a meaningless semantic game. While we are dealing with concepts here, and not merely signs in the usual sense, the situation is the same: the phenomenal concepts bear no relation to any reality, and so they can mean whatever they want, as long as they are used consistently.

While this gets us to the (un-)desired result (i.e. 1+1=72), I don't think a true Kantian would say that phenomenal concepts are quite so empty or arbitrary. Phenomenal concepts must bear some relationship to something in Schein (=that which appears) even though there is no relationship between Dinge an sich and the Schein occasioned by them. And this Schein has non-negotiable, given, intelligible content. Thus:

b) Our phenomenal concepts of number must bear some relationship to numerical qualities manifest in appearances. We extract from our experience some features of this experience which become the basis for our abstract concepts of the various numbers and other ideas like "addition." Regardless of whether we call it one or ein or gzack, the concept of one bears a certain necessary relationship to the concept of two, whether we call it two or zwei or fgeg. This relationship is more than semantic. It is rooted in the givenness of what appears in phenomenal experience.

Yet this phenomenal experience bears no rationally discernable relationship to the noumenal reality which occasions it according to Kant. In light of this fact, you make your suggestion that God could somehow change this noumenal-->phenomenal connection and "make" the phenomenal concept of "1+1" equal the phenomenal concept of "72" rather than "2."

But look at what such an assertion implies! It implies that you, as the assessor of the possibility of this claim, can conceive of some relationship between erstwhile phenomenal concept of "2" and the new phenomenal concept of "72" which replaces the former as the sum of "1+1." In order for this idea of a replacement of one phenomenal concept by another to be meaningful, one must be able to make some kind of comparison or contrast between the former and latter phenomenal concepts.

In order to make this kind of assessment of identity or difference about erstwhile phenomenal concept of "2" and its relationship to the new phenomenal concept of "72", you presume to have some extra-phenomenal standpoint by virtue of which you can compare and contrast them: i.e., some footing in the noumenal. If you do not presume this, you wouldn't be able to make the mental move of imagining erstwhile "2" being replaced by new "72" which must have different conceptual content than erstwhile 2 in order to be considered a "replacement."

While Kant says that we can have knowledge only of the existence of a noumenal reality (because it is the condition of the possiblity of phenomenal experience), Kant does not admit that we have any ability to make rational comparison between phenomenal concepts and some extra-phenomenal reality. But to image "1+1" becoming "72" in the sense of option (b) above, we must do precisely this. So we cannot be Kantian.

Therefore, our other remaining option is correct:

2) We must think of some noumenal number-in-itself, i.e. an entire noumenal reality of number. And therefore, we must consider the relationship between this noumenal numerical reality and the concepts we have of numerical reality -- i.e. whether our concepts really and truly relate to how number exists in-itself. Now we are back in realism, and the state of the problem returns to the two options given in my previous blog.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/01/2003 02:36:00 PM | link

The forthcoming movie from Deangelis, about Pope John XXIII sounds just awful. Look no futher than the group's own description of the pontiff:

"Bob Hoskins will star as Pope John XXIII in “The Good Pope” a miniseries budgeted at $ 10 million. The mini, which will start principal photography in January in Rome, follows the life of the pontiff who, during the late 1950s and early 60’s became world renowned for his efforts to transform the Catholic Church and his fight for the peace. His second Vatican Council convened in 1962, has been compared with Martin Luther’s Reformation in the effect it had on Christianity worldwide. The English language project focuses on the last year of Pope John’s life."

VCII as bringing the Reformation inside the walls. Talk about far left meets far right! The sedevacantists couldn't ask for a better description of the council...

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/01/2003 03:01:00 AM | link

Watched Deangelis Group's Caesar on TNT tonight

(There are spoilers ahead only if you are ignorant of ancient Roman history.)

This four-hour, two-part drama gets a B overall. You can get trailer and cast information at the Deanglis website.

I have not seen Jeremy Sisto play his previous roles as Jesus or the crazy redneck Billy, so I didn't have any problem seeing him act beside a very convincing Noth as Pompey and Harris as Sulla. I did struggle, however, to image Christopher Walken as Cato after seeing him in so many other roles. (I guess it's just the accent, which never leaves him, and always reminds me of the pocketwatch scene in Pulp Fiction and the "Goodnight, Moon" skit on SNL. That said, Walken did deliver a convincing last speech before his suicide, and has good presence when he's not speaking.)

Sisto as Caesar, in background.  Noth as Pompey, in foreground

Deangelis' Caesar humanized the political relationships between the main characters by an excellent presentation of their personal histories and family interrelationships. Moreover, the film did so concisely, given the 4-hour constraint with which it had to work. These relationships are often obscured when one reads accounts of ancient history. For example: One can easily remember that Caesar's daughter Julia became Pompey's wife, and the political import of such a marriage is clear. But how many are likely to remember that Brutus is Cato's nephew? Or put that in political context as the history unfolds? In this regard, Caesar would be an excellent film for a high-school class in ancient history.

Rather than do an entire review, I'll post a few reviews which I think have some merits, and steal a picture from the New York Post, since their picture is good but their review is idiotic.

Hail, Caesar!

The Houston Chronicle is right that the movie does spend a good amount of time on Caesar's early years -- years often overlooked in the film-maker's rush to get to the material of Caesar's mature career which is rife with material for Hollywood spectacles.

It's also right that the women are strong characters -- that is to say, as Roman matrons (and one Egyptian princess). Nicole Grimaudo plays Julia well, combining dignity and reserve, intellectual interests and political sense in her few key performances. We know from history that Julia was the apple of daddy's eye, but Edel (the director) does not reduce the whole relationship to the simple fact that Julia was his daughter. Edel's Julia has depth, and that depth highlights a motif of the film's psychological assessment of Caesar himself. Edel's Caesar only has emotional commitments to those who impress him because of some profound mark of character, and Julia and Calpurnia (Caesar's second wife) both evince that. Calpurnia's honesty, integrity and long-suffering humility in service to her increasingly hard-hearted husband is also a key theme in the film, and Valeria Golino plays this role well.

The exception to the foregoing is Samuela Sardo, a beautiful Cleopatra who is better as a silent and mysterious Egyptian princess than a sophisticated seductress. Her acting in the seduction scene falls flat, but then again, she did have a truly corny line to deliver:

Sardo as Cleopatra

The Philadelphia Inquirer blames actress more than script for that exchange. Quoth the Inquirer:

"Are you trying to seduce me?" Caesar asks the luscious Cleopatra, played by Italian soap-opera princess Samuela Sardo.

"I don't try," she replies. "I seduce - or I don't."

She acts - or she don't.

The Inquirer is also right in observing that the film is an international collaboration, and thus there is a strange panoply of subtle undertones of accent.

The Houston Chronicle has an unreservedly positive review.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an overly severe review, but it does make one very good criticism: Despite the strong emphasis on humanizing the men behind the history in the first part of the film, little light is shed on Caesar's psychology as he matures. Edel's Caesar becomes a cold, impenetrable mystery; this is disappointing. Somewhat like Michael Corleone in Godfather II, we see Caesar harden into a masterful politician who does great things, but we lose sight of the great man who does them. For example, the exact nature of Caesar's "vision" for Rome, alluded to throughout the first part of the movie, and presented as the underlying motivation for all of Caesar's political ambition, is never revealed in part two. If Caesar's a visionary as a young man, that vision evaporates in the harsh political climate of his later years. But even if depicting "the evaporation of Caesar's vision" is a point of the movie, we need to see more of what this vision is early on in order to fully appreciate its loss later.

Likewise, we see that Caesar (like Michael) must sever his ties to the people and ideas which evoked responses of love and passionate commitment from him in his youth. Moments of tragedy (the needless assassination of Pompey and suicide of Cato) and loss (when his wife insists on living alone because of his affair with Cleopatra) show us how Caesar's pursuit of power actually makes him less powerful, i.e. less free as a man. This is a great theme of the movie, and the deaths of Appollonius, Vercingetorix and Caesar himself provide a nice study in human freedom and political power. But we do not get any insight into what Caesar himself thinks about the fact that his hands are more fettered the higher he rises in his political power, or what drives him to make certain key decisions throughout the film (to cross the Rubicon, to go to the senate on the Ides, to kill Vercingetorix privately, etc.)

I agree that the portion of the movie devoted to the eight-year campaign in Gaul was overly long, and the epilogue to the movie therefore seemed rushed.

If I had more time, I'd go into the accuracy of the historical details of the film. And if Fr. Jim had more time, he could probably do it better than I. But we do see some nice glimpses of Roman marriage, the giving of the imperium, a surrender and prostration, augury and all sorts of period dress and army regalia. The movie has some all-out epic scenes which add the necessary panorama of splendor and a few large-scale battles.

A decent amount of effort was put into the speeches, but only a few of them really soar. More could have been drawn from the real drama of Roman rhetoric and Caesar's own writings. The writers were very cautious to avoid any cliches, especially in the expected lines, none of which are rendered literally, but merely by sense. At the same time, these work. Alia iacta est is delivered as "Let the dice fly!" and Et tu, Brute? is a choking, devastated "Brutus?!" in a dying gasp.

TNT debuted the film to American audiences yesterday and today, but many more encore presentations are scheduled, I believe. Check your local listing; it's worth a view.

Posted by Old Oligarch on 7/01/2003 02:53:00 AM | link


Friends Outside the
Prophetes Viatoresque:
(but still worth reading)

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